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William H. Sanford wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • Why has the Second Commandment actually been deleted from Catholic doctrine?

You can find evidence for this in the current day text of the Saint Joseph's Catechism.

William

  { Why has the Second Commandment been deleted from Catholic doctrine? }

John replied:

Hi, William —

Thanks for your question.

There are two different sets of numberings of the Ten Commandments.

They are found in Exodus, Chapter 20.

Below is the entire text:

Exodus 20:1-17

1 And God spoke all these words, saying:
2 "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
3 "You shall have no other gods before Me.
4 "You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or 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;


5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me,
6 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
7 "You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
8 "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work,
10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.
11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
12 "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.
13 "You shall not murder.
14 "You shall not commit adultery.
15 "You shall not steal.
16 "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

17 "You shall not covet your neighbor's house; 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."

So as you can see, they are not exactly as we have memorized them. We have in fact, abbreviated many of them.

As Catholics, we consider verses 2, 3 and 4 all of the First Commandment:

2 "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
3 "You shall have no other gods before Me.
4 "You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or 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;

But the Protestant churches split them into the first and second.

Also, we treat verse 17 from Exodus 20:

17 "You shall not covet your neighbor's house; 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."


as two commandments:

Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's wife.
Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's goods.

Whereas Protestant churches call this one commandment.

Commandment 10: Thou shall not covet.

So if you read an abbreviation of the Catholic numbering, that is, I am the Lord your God,
you shall have no other Gods before me, it appears that we have deleted the part about not making engraved images and worshiping them.

Of course, we don't make images for the purpose of worshipping them, but as you know, we are often incorrectly accused of this.

This misunderstanding pre-dates the Reformation and is seen in the early centuries when issues over icons arose.

As for how the different numbering occurred, it is possible, but I have no actual evidence at hand, that Luther or one of the Reformers may have renumbered them for the purpose of emphasizing the prohibition of worshipping statues. Since they were accusing the Church of this practice, this would have served their purpose.

On the other hand, the splitting of covet commandments into two seems a bit odd on our part, whereas, the way the text is written, your neighbor's wife is thrown in with his servants and live stock, and preceded by a prohibition to covet his house.

So it does appear to be one commandment prohibiting coveting.

The point is that someone, probably a bunch of Rabbi's several hundred years ago, figured they should number these commandments found in Exodus in a manner that would be easy for the people to remember. So they picked 10; it's a round number, that is easy for people to remember.

We could have easily grouped this text into nine Commandments, eleven or more.

It really has no bearing on what God told Moses. It's all found in Exodus Chapter 20. You are not to covet your neighbor's goods or wife, you are to worship the one true God and not images nor statues, you shall not steal, etc. If one breaks these laws, one sins against God, it doesn't matter how they are numbered.

If you visit the Nazareth Resource Library web site, Jim Akin has a far more scholarly explanation then I can give you at 3:00 A.M. in the morning.

Hope this helps,

John DiMascio

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