The Ten Commandments are listed in Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21. There is universal acceptance that the number of the commandments which God gave to us, is ten. In fact, the Bible calls this set of commandments from God, “…the Ten Commandments” (Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 4:13; 10:4).
There is, however, disagreement as to HOW to number the Ten Commandments. Many professing Christians count the Ten Commandments differently today than the Jews do–and the early New Testament Church did.
For instance, the Jews count Exodus 20:2-3 as the First Commandment, which reads, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.”
The Jews count Exodus 20:4-6 as the Second Commandment, which reads:
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image–any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve [margin: worship] them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”
Many professing Christians count the entire passage of Exodus 20:2-6, as quoted above, as just ONE commandment, believing that all these verses describe just the First Commandment. However, the early Church understood Exodus 20:2-6 as describing TWO commandments, not just one.
It was Augustine, a Catholic bishop of Hippo in North Africa, who, in the fourth century, combined the First and the Second Commandment as just ONE commandment, so as to allow the worship of images. In order to reach the number ten, he divided the last or the TENTH Commandment into two.
However, the Jews and the early Church correctly understood that the entirety of the TENTH Commandment reads: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, not his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s” (Exodus 20:17).
This is clearly just ONE commandment. Augustine, by dropping the Second Commandment and still wanting to reach the number “ten,” divided the Tenth Commandment into two, claiming that the first part of verse 17 (“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house”) constitutes the Ninth Commandment, and that the second part of verse 17 (“…you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s”) constitutes the Tenth Commandment.
Anyone should be able to see that this distinction is highly arbitrary. Why would God give one commandment against coveting our neighbor’s house–and another commandment against coveting our neighbor’s wife, his servants, his animals and ANYTHING that belongs to him?
For further proof that Augustine’s renumbering of the Ten Commandments must be rejected, please note that Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, made no distinction between coveting our neighbor’s house or his wife. There is only ONE commandment against coveting, as Paul clearly explains.
He said in Romans 13:9: “For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'”
He also wrote in Romans 7:7: “… for I would not have known covetousness [i.e., that it is wrong and a sin] unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet.'” Again, no distinction is made between coveting our neighbor’s house and coveting our neighbor’s wife, servants or animals.
As mentioned, the reason why Augustine renumbered the Ten Commandments (by counting the First and the Second Commandment as just one commandment) was a strictly “political” one. It was done for the purpose of allowing the worship of images and statues as part of the worship of God. But THAT is EXACTLY what the Second Commandment prohibits. While the First Commandment prohibits the worship of anything else BUT God, the Second Commandment prohibits the worship of statues in connection with the worship of God. This means, it is wrong to bow down and worship in front of a statue which supposedly depicts Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary or a “departed saint.”
The Bible is very clear that neither Mary, the mother of Christ, nor any of the dead Christians, such as the Apostles Peter, Paul and John, are alive today. Rather, they are in their graves, awaiting the resurrection from the dead. It is therefore useless, for that reason alone, to bow down in front of a statue allegedly representing or depicting them, and pray to them for help. It is also clearly prohibited in the Bible to do so.
In addition, Jesus Christ is GOD (Hebrews 1:8), and to make a statue of God and to worship IT is also in clear violation of the Second Commandment. This is even true apart from the fact that virtually all pictures or statues, which purportedly represent Christ, are in total opposition to every description given of Him in the Bible, when He was on earth in the flesh. For instance, Christ did not wear long hair (compare 1 Corinthians 11:14); and He was a carpenter, working outdoors (Mark 6:3), but virtually all statues and pictures portray Christ as a feminine looking man with long hair.
In conclusion, Augustine’s renumbering of the Ten Commandments, which has been adopted today by so many professing Christians, is in DIRECT CONTRADICTION to God’s inspired Word. Correctly numbered, here are the Ten Commandments in an outline format (for the complete presentation, compare Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21), as inspired by God Almighty:
1) I am the LORD your God. You shall have no other gods before Me.
2) You shall make for yourself no image to bow down to it and worship it.
3) You shall not take the name of your God in vain.
4) You shall keep the Sabbath day holy.
5) Honor your father and your mother.
6) You shall not murder.
7) You shall not commit adultery.
8) You shall not steal.
9) You shall not bear false witness or lie.
10) You shall not covet anything that is your neighbor’s.
Lead Writer: Norbert Link