Why Are the 10 Commandments Listed the Way They Are?

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The Ten Commandments are taken from Exodus 20:1-17, and are listed in order as found in that passage. Protestants, Catholics and Jews all recognize the Ten Commandments as stated in this passage, but each religion defines and numbers the individual commandments somewhat differently than the others do.

The Ten Commandments listed in Exodus 20 generally include recognizing God's supremacy by not having any other gods before him, not misusing God's name, and keeping the Sabbath day to honor God. The remaining commandments include a command to honor one's father and mother, and that people must not murder, commit adultery, steal, testify falsely about a person, or covet a neighbor's wife or things. The difference in numbering occurs primarily in those commands found in verses one through six. The biblical passage itself contains 13 to 17 sentences, depending on the version, and each of these three religions divides the sentences into numbered commandments with some variation.

The Jewish Ten Commandments use the first sentence of verse two, "I am the Lord your God . . ." as its number one commandment. The Catholic and Protestant versions begin with verse three, "You shall have no other gods before me." The Protestants then use verse 4, "You shall not make for yourself an image . . .," for its second commandment, whereas the Catholic version skips to verse seven, "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain." Protestants use this verse seven as their third commandment. Protestants combine the Catholic numbers nine and ten into one commandment. The Jewish second commandment is the same as the Protestant numbers one and two combined.

However, all three religions do go in order as the commandments appear in the passage, and all three have 10 total commandments.