Why Do Catholics And Protestants Have Different 10 Commandments?
When listing the 10 Commandments, Catholics and Protestants have slight differences. While very similar, the difference is instantly noticeable. And even though both listings have solid biblical support, some Protestants use the difference as an opportunity to accuse the Catholic Church of changing the 10 Commandments to support their “idolatrous worshipping of statues”.
So which numbering is correct? Did the Catholic Church change the 10 Commandments to support having statues?
First, it’s important to note that nowhere in the Book of Genesis is there any formula for numbering the Commandments given. The assigning of numbers to the Commandments developed over the centuries as a tool to make them easier to teach and remember. Two of these important early teachers were Saint Augustine and Origen. In their writings, each developed and favored a particular way of numbering the Commandments. It is roughly along these lines the Catholics and Protestants split. Catholics (and Lutherans) generally use the 10 Commandments as listed by Augustine, while the Eastern Churches and Protestants list the 10 Commandments set out by Origen.
The Catechism 2066 reads: “The division and numbering of the Commandments have varied in the course of history. The present catechism follows the division of the Commandments established by St. Augustine, which has become traditional in the Catholic Church. It is also that of the Lutheran confessions. The Greek Fathers worked out a slightly different division, which is found in the Orthodox Churches and Reformed communities.”
The accusation that the Church changed the Commandments is simply slander that grew out of the vitriol of the Reformation, and the listing 10 Commandments was an opportunity seized on by some to try to undermine the Church. But the fact remains that the numbering of the 10 Commandments is not a rigid Biblical concept, but one developed by scholars and theologians, so regardless of which method is used, the duty to obey them is not changed, and could never be changed.
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“Sacred Scripture must be read and interpreted in the light of the same Spirit by whom it was written” (DV 12 #3). The Second Vatican Council indicates three criteria for interpreting Scripture in accordance with the Spirit who inspired it (cf. DV 12 #4): 1) Be especially attentive “to the content and unity of the whole Scripture” (cf. Lk 24:25-27, 44-46); 2. Read the Scripture within “the living Tradition of the whole Church”; 3. Be attentive to the analogy of faith (cf. Rom 12:6; CCC: 111-114).