Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Ten Commandments

One of my pet peeves in Catholic Catechesis is the Ten Commandments.  In our local Catholic school, they teach the wrong version of the Ten Commandments.  Every Ten Commandments display submitted for the "Religion Fair" at school was the wrong version of the Ten Commandments.  In the parish bookstore, whenever they sell a plaque with the Ten Commandments on it, it is invariably the wrong version of the Ten Commandments.  Whenever I've been to other Catholic Churches and have seen the Ten Commandments displayed, it has been the wrong version of the Ten Commandments.  Why such ignorance of our own Faith?  I'm sure one of the reasons in the Catholic school is not only the lack of teaching nuns, but also the fact that you don't have to be Catholic to teach there.  Does anyone see a problem with an elementary school teacher teaching religion class in a Catholic school when they are not Catholic????  I don't get it.  Not only are we not properly catechizing adults and children but we are allowing those who have never learned the Faith to teach it.

Anyone who has read and loved the Scriptures all his life should, in my opinion, can see the significance of the signs of numbers in Scripture and in our Christian Faith.  Let's just look at the numbers first, then we'll talk about the significance of the redivision of the Commandments by Protestants (protesters against His Church).  The Catholic Ten Commandments are divided this way:

THREE for God: 
1. I am the Lord your God: You shall not have strange Gods before me.
2. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
3. Remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day.

What is the significance of THREE?  That's a pretty easy one.  Three represents the Blessed Trinity, the Christian Godhead.  There is also the three days Christ was in the tomb, the three days of Jonah in the whale's belly as a sign of the aforementioned, and the Three Kings who visited the Christ Child. 

SEVEN for man: 
4. Honor your father and mother.
5. You shall not kill.
6. You shall not commit adultery.
7. You shall not steal.
8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
9. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.
10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods.

What is the significance of seven?  It is the number of the completion of creation.  On the seventh day "God rested," not because of fatigue but because it was complete.   We divide our week into seven days for the same reason.

Now, let us look at the Ten Commandments changed by some Protestants.

1. I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt have no other gods before me.
2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.
3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
4. Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.
5. Honor thy father and thy mother.
6. Thou shalt not kill.
7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
8. Thou shalt not steal.
9. Thou shalt not bear false witness.
10. Thou shalt not covet.

Moses and Serpent image
You will be hard pressed to find any significance to a division of 4 and 6.  One will note that the first commandment (Catholic version, 2nd in the Jewish version) has been divided into two, giving protestants an excuse to accuse the Catholic Church of idolatry.  The problem with this accusation and division of the commandments as its "proof" is that not all "graven images" (ie, statues) were condemned by the 1st (now protestant second) commandment.  In fact, God commanded Moses to carve an image of  a snake for the people to look at and be healed.  Just look at the instructions for the building of the temple given by God to Solomon.  These instructions included the construction of twelve bronze oxen and golden cherubim to be displayed prominently in the temple complex.  "Don't make any graven images" obviously does not apply in these circumstances.  God was speaking about things like the "golden calf" that the people had constructed to worship as a god.  They did not worship the snake on the pole as a god but it is a "graven image."   They did not worship the golden oxen or cherubim in the temple as gods but they are "graven images." 
Our Lady of Grace
   In the same way the Protestant second commandment cannot apply to the images of Our Lady, or the Saints in Catholic Churches.  These images are not worshipped as gods.  These "graven images" are pictures of our family, our loved ones.  They are no more worshipped then the Protestant who has a picture of her mother on the wall worships her mother.  Many people find pictures, mementos, or even urns a comforting way to remember their loved ones and have them close to them.  It is the same with the Church.  Now, do some people go over board with their zeal for Our Lady or a Saint?  Of course.  That does not mean the Church is doing anything wrong. Sin by one individual does not make God wrong, nor does it make His Church wrong.

I read somewhere that there are actually 27 commands given by God in Exodus and Deuteronomy, but the Jews compacted them down to 10 because that way they could be easily memorized on two hands.  The Church kept to this tradition but changed the Jewish numbering slightly.  There is evidence that the numbering Catholics, Orthodox, and Lutherans use today may have been developed by St. Augustine in the late 4th or early 5th century.  The list of the Ten Commandments we use today was confirmed by the Council of Trent in the 16th--for what should be obvious reasons.  The protestants (except Lutherans, ironically) later changed the Ten Commandments to what they thought was closer to the "original", along with removing seven books from the Christian Bible.  As you can see by the chart below (sorry about the quality), the protestant version only matches the Jewish one on the last 6 commandments.  The 1st commandment differs and 2-4 of the Jewish commandments actually match 1-3 of the Catholic version.  I conjecture that St. Augustine saw the first (Jewish) commandment as too specific to God's People, the Jews and decided to leave it out.  I have also heard the accusation that Catholic 9th and 10th commandments were insulting because it looks as if wives were property.  Actually Catholic teaching helps us understand that the separation of wife from property in the 10th commandment proves just the opposite.  The Ten Commandments are in order of importance, as taught by the Church, and coveting someone's wife would be a much graver sin than coveting his property, and since lusting after someone's wife (and the strange marriages and remarriages in Rome of the 1st century) was a big problem for man, it was emphasized as a separate command.

The Three Current Versions of the Ten Commandments
 Did the Catholic Church change the Ten Commandments?  Yes and No.  The Christian version, like the Christian version of Scripture, varies slightly from the Jewish version.  The original Christian Church, the Catholic Church, has had the same version of the Ten Commandments (and Scriptures) since at least the 5th century. 

A case can be made that the reason Christ summed up the Ten Commandments into the Great Commandment(s) was just for this problem of division.  "Love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength [covers the first 3 commandments], and love your neighbor as yourself." [covers the last 7 commandments]  No more worrying about numbering.  However, when we teach our children and catechumens about how to use the Ten Commandments as a tool for confession and a faith filled life, we need to make sure we are giving them the correct Catholic education and catechesis.

Further reading:
The Ten Commandments - Catechism of the Catholic Church.
The True Ten Commandments -- Catholic Answers Article by Fr. Wensing
The Catholic Church Changed the Ten Commandments?
The Ten Commandments -- A Comparison from EWTN's website
Word for word comparison of the different Scripture versions of the Ten Commandments in Exodus and Deuteronomy
Dave Armstrong's article on the same subject.

1 comment:

kkollwitz said...

In my class, I read the commandments from Exodus and Deuteronomy and the kids tot up how many there are. Usually they come up with 13 or 14. Then they figure out 10 fingers = 10 commandments. We discuss the Catholic list of 10, but they also learn that other Christian count them in a different way.