Thou shall not number the commandments

Spot the difference!

So we are having a little discussion on Facebook on the discrepancy of the numberings of the so-called Ten Commandments for the Catholics and Protestants (in general). The first and second commandment for the Protestants are combined to become the first commandment for the Catholics, and the tenth commandment for the Protestants is split into the ninth and tenth commandment for the Catholics. Thus, “Thou shall not kill” is the sixth commandment for the Protestants and the fifth commandment for the Catholics. Yeah, it is pretty confusing, especially if you have gone through both Protestant and Catholic schools. Although I think in general we get the idea: you shall not kill.

(Correspondingly, to be fair, you could say that the first commandment for the Catholics are split into the first and second commandment for the Protestants, and the ninth and tenth commandment for the Catholics are combined to become the tenth commandment for the Protestants.)

Because of the discussion that we had, I just knew that the difference was due to the different sources of numbering. The Catholic (and Lutheran) numbering system was based on Augustine’s, while the other system (adopted by the Orthodox churches and other Protestant sects) was based on the Greek Fathers. There might be a political reason for this, as the Orthodox churches and other Protestants do not want to be associated with the Catholics as much as they can.

What might be interesting is why Augustine put the ninth and the tenth commandment as follow: “Thou shall not covet your neighbor’s wife” and “Thou shall not desire your neighbor’s house, or field, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” It could be as simple as differentiation between familial/filial rights and property rights (via Duncan). But, you could argue as well that Augustine’s numbering was perhaps influenced by his well-known history with and attention to sexual sins. Give me chastity and continence, but not yet.

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