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Decalogue

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(Δεκάλογος ), the name most usually given by the Greek fathers to the law of the two tables given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai, called in Scripture "the TEN COMMANDMENTS (הִרְּבָרַים עֲשֶׂרֶת, the ten words; Sept. οἱ δέκα λόγοι and τὰ δέκα ῥήματα· Vulg. decem verba; Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 4:13; Deuteronomy 10:4); and embracing what is usually termed "the Moral Law" (Exodus 20:3-17; Deuteronomy 5:7-21). The Decalogue was written on two stone slabs (Exodus 31:18), which, having been broken by Moses (Exodus 32:19), were renewed by God (Exodus 34:1, etc.). They are said (Deuteronomy 9:10) to have been written by the finger of God, an expression which always implies an immediate act of the Deity. The Decalogue is five times alluded to in the New Testament, there called ἐντολαί, commandments, but only the latter precepts are specifically cited, which refer to our duties to each other (Matthew 5:17; Matthew 5:19, etc.; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20; Romans 13:9; Romans 7:7-8; Matthew 5; 1 Timothy 1:9-10). Those which refer to God are supposed by some to be omitted in these enumerations, from the circumstance of their containing precepts for ceremonial observances (Jeremy Taylor's Life of Christ, and Ductor Dubitantium; Rosenmü ller's Scholia in Exod.).

The circumstance of these precepts being called the ten words has doubtless led to the belief that the two tables contained ten distinct precepts, five in each table; while some have supposed that they were called by this name to denote their perfection, ten being considered the most perfect of numbers: so Philo-Judaeus ( δεκὰς παντελεία . . . ἀριθμοῦ τέλειον, De Septen. c. 9). This distinguished philosopher divides them into two pentads (De Decalogo), the first pentad ending with Exodus 20:12, "Honor thy father and thy mother,' etc. or the fifth commandment of the Greek, Reformed, and Anglican churches; while the more general opinion among Christians is that the first table contained our duty to God, ending with the law to keep the Sabbath holy, and the second our duty to our neighbor. As they are not numerically divided in the Scriptures, so that we cannot positively say which is the first, which the second, etc., it may not prove uninteresting to the student in Biblical literature if we here give a brief account of the different modes of dividing them which have prevailed among Jews and Christians. The case cannot be more clearly stated than in the words of St. Augustine: "It is inquired how the ten commandments are to be divided whether there are four which relate to God, ending with the precept concerning the Sabbath, and the other six, commencing with Honor thy father and thy mother,' appertaining to man or whether the former are three only, and the latter seven? Those who say that the first table contains four, separate the command, Thou shalt have no other gods but me' (Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 5:7), so as to make another precept of Thou shalt not make to thyself an idol' (Exodus 20:4; Deuteronomy 5:8), in which images are forbidden to be worshipped. But they wish Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house' (Exodus 20:17; Deuteronomy 5:21), and Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife' (Exodus 20:17; Deuteronomy 5:21), and so on to the end, to be one. But those who say that there are only three in the first table, and seven in the second, make one commandment of the precept of the worship of one God, and nothing beside him (Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 5:7), but divide these last into two, so that one of them is Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife,' and the other, Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house.' There is no question among either about the correctness of the number ten, as for this there is the testimony of Scripture" (Questions on Exodus, qu. 71, Works, 3, 443, Paris, 1679).

1. The Talmudical Division, or that contained in the Talmud (Makkkoth, 24, a), which is also that of the modern Jews. According to this division, the firse commandment consists of the words "I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage" (Exodus 20:2; Deuteronomy 5:6); the second (Exodus 20:3-4), "Thou shalt have none other gods beside me; thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image," etc. to Exodus 20:6; the third, "Thou shalt not take God's name in vain," etc.; the fourth, "Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day," etc.; the fifth, "Honor thy father' and thy mother," etc.; the sixth, "Thou shalt not kill;" the seventh, "Thou shalt not commit adultery;" the eighth, "Thou shalt not steal;" the ninth, "Thou shalt not bear false witness," etc.; and the tenth, "Thou shalt not covet," etc., to the end. This division is also supported by the Targum of the pseudo-Jonathan, a work of the sixth century, by Aben-Ezra, in his Commentary, and by Maimonides (Sepher Hammizvoth). It has also been maintained by the learned Lutheran, Peter Martyr (Loci Communes, Basle, 1580, loc. 14, p. 684). That this was a very early mode of dividing the Decalogue is further evident from a passage in Cyril of Alexandria's treatise against Julian, from whom he quotes the following invective: "That Decalogue, the law of Moses, is a wonderful thing: thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not bear false witness. But let each of the precepts which he asserts to have been given by God himself be written down in the identical words, I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt;' the second follows, Thou shalt have no strange gods beside me; thou shalt not make to thyself an idol.' He adds the reason, for I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God, visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children.' Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. Remember the Sabbath day. Honor thy father and thy mother. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods.' What nation is there, by the gods, if you take away these two, Thou shalt not adore other gods,' and Remember the Sabbath,' which does not think all the others are to be kept, and which does not punish more or less severely those who violate them?"

2. The Origenian Division, or that approved by Origen, which is that in use in the Greek and in all the Reformed churches except the Lutheran. Although Origen was acquainted with the differing opinions which existed in his time in regard to this subject, it is evident from his own words that he knew nothing of that division by which the number ten is completed by making the prohibition against coveting either the house or the wife a distinct commandment. In his eighth Homily on Genesis, after citing the words, "I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt," he adds, "this is not a part of the commandment." The first commandment is, Thou shalt have no other gods but me," and then follows," Thou shalt not make an idol." These together are thought by some to make one commandment; but in this case the number ten will not be completed where, then, will be the truth of the Decalogue? But if it be divided as we have done in the last sentence, the full number will be evident. The first commandment therefore is, "Thou shalt have no other gods but me," and the second, "Thou shalt not make to thyself an idol, nor a likeness," etc. Origen proceeds to make a distinction between gods, idols, and likenesses. Of gods, he says, "it is written, there are gods many and lords many" (1 Corinthians 8:5); but of idols, "an idol is nothing;" an image, he says, of a quadruped, serpent, or bird, in metal, wood, or stone, set up to be worshipped, is not an idol, but a likeness. A picture made with the same view comes under the same denomination. But an idol is a representation of what does not exist, such as the figure of a man with two faces, or with the head of a dog, etc. The likeness must be of something existing in heaven, or in earth, or in the water. It is not easy to decide on the meaning of" things in heaven," unless it refers to the sun, moon, or stars. The design of Moses he conceives to have been to forbid Egyptian idolatry, such as that of Hecate, or other fancied demons (Opera, 2:156, De la Rue's ed.). The pseudo-Athanasius, or the author of the Synopsis Scripturae, who is the oracle of the Greek Church, divides the commandments in the same manner. "This book [Exodus] contains these ten commandments, on two tables: first, I am the Lord thy God. Second, Thou shalt not make to thyself an idol, nor any likeness. . . Ninth, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. Tenth, Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor any thing that is thy neighbor's" (Athanasii Opera, fol. Paris, 1698).

Gregory Nazianzen, in one of his poems, inscribed "The Decalogue of Moses," gives the following division (Opera, ed. Caillaud, Paris, 1840):

These ten laws Moses formerly engraved on tables Of stone; but do thou engrave them on thy heart. Thou shalt not know another God, since worship belongs to me. Thou shalt not make a vain statue, a lifeless image. Thou shalt not call on the great God in vain. Keep all sabbaths, the sublime and the shadowy. Happy he who renders to his parents due honor. Flee the crime of murder, and of a foreign Bed; evil-minded theft and witness False, and the desire of another's, the seed of death.

Jerome took the same view with Origen. In his commentary on Ephesians 6, he thus writes: " Honor thy father and thy mother,' etc. is the fifth commandment in the Decalogue. How, then, are we to understand the apostle's meaning in calling it the first, when the first commandment is Thou shalt have no gods but me,' where some read thus, which is the first commandment with promise,' as if the four previous commandments had no promise annexed, etc.... . But they do not seem to me to have observed with sufficient accuracy that in the second commandment there is also a promise: Thou shalt not make to thyself an idol, nor the likeness of any thing in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth; thou shalt not adore them, nor sacrifice to them; for I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God, visiting the sins... but showing mercy unto thousands...' (observe these words of promise showing mercy unto thousands, etc.)" (Hieronymi Opera, vol. 4, Paris, 1693).

The pseudo-Ambrose also writes to the same effect in his Commentary on Ephesians: "How is this the first commandment, when the first commandment says, Thou shalt have no other gods but me? Then, Thou shalt not make a likeness of any thing in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, etc. The third, Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; the fourth, Keep my sabbaths; the fifth, Honor thy father and thy mother. As the first four appertain to God, they are contained in the first table; the others, appertaining to men, are contained in the second, such as that of honoring parents, not committing murder, adultery, theft, false witness, or concupiscence. These six seem to be written in the second table, the first of which is called the first with promise" (Ambrosii Opera, vol. ii, Paris edition, Append. p. 248, 249).

To these testimonies from the fathers may be added that of Clemens Alexandrinus (Stromata, vi, p. 809); but this writer is so confused and contradictory in reference to the subject, that some have supposed the text to have been corrupted. "The first precept of the Decalogue," he observes, "shows that one God only is to be worshipped, who brought his people out of Egypt... and that men ought to abstain from the idolatry of the creature. The second, that we ought not to transfer his name to creatures; the third signifies that the world was made by God, who has given us the seventh day to rest; the fifth follows, which commands us to honor our parents; then follows the precept about adultery, after this that concerning theft; but the tenth is concerning coveting."

But the strongest evidence in favor of the Origenian division is that of the learned Jews Philo and Josephus, who speak of it as the received division of the Jewish Church. Philo, after mentioning the division into two pentads already referred to, proceeds: "The first pentad is of a higher character than the second; it treats of the monarchy whereby the whole world is governed, of statues and images (ξοάνων καὶ ἀγαλμάτων ), and of all corrupt representations in general (ἀφιδρυμάτων ); of not taking the name of God in vain; of the religious observance of the seventh day as a day of holy rest; of honoring both parents. So that one table begins with God the father and ruler of all things, and ends with parents who emulate him in perpetuating the human race. But the other pentad contains those commandments which forbid adultery, murder, theft, false-witness, concupiscence" (De Decalogo, lib. i). The first precept, he afterwards observes, enjoins the belief and reverent worship of one supreme God, in opposition to those who worship the sun and moon, etc. Then, after condemning the arts of sculpture and painting, as taking off the mind from admiring the natural beauty of the universe, he adds: "As I have said a good deal of the second commandment, I shall now proceed to the next, Thou shalt not take the name of God in vain.'... The fourth commandment respects the Sabbath day, to be devoted to rest, the study of wisdom, and the contemplation of nature, with a revision of our lives during the past week, in order to the correction of our transgressions; the fifth speaks of honoring parents. Here ends the first, or more divine pentad. The second pentad begins with the precept respecting adultery; its second precept is against murder; its third against stealing, the next against false-witness, the last against coveting" (lib. 2). This division seems to have been followed by trenseus: "In quinque libris, etc.; unaquaeque tabula quam accepit a Deo precepta habet quinque." Josephus is, if possible, still more clear than Philo. "The first commandment teaches us that there is but one God, and that we ought to worship him only; the second commands us not to make the image of any living creature, to worship it; the third, that we must not swear by God in a false matter; the fourth, that we must keep the seventh day, by resting from all sorts of work; the fifth, that we must honor our parents; the sixth, that we must abstain from murder; the seventh, that we must not commit adultery; the eighth, that we must not be guilty of theft; the ninth, that we must not bear false-witness; the tenth, that we must not admit the desire of that which is another's" (Ant. 3, 5, 5, Whiston's' translation).

This division, which appears to have been forgotten in the Western Church, was revived by Calvin in 1536, and is also received by that section of the Lutherans who followed Bucer, called the Tetrapolitans. It is adopted by Calmet (Dict. of the Bible, French ed., art. Loi). It is supported by Zonaras, Nicephorus, and Petrus Mogislaus among the Greeks, and is that followed in the present Russian Church, as well as by the Greeks in general (see the Catechism published by order of Peter the Great, by archbishop Resensky, London, 1753). It is at the same time maintained in this catechism that it is not forbidden to bow before the representations of the saints. This division, which appeared in the Bishops' Book in 1537, was adopted by the Anglican Church at the Reformation (1548), substituting seventh for Sabbath-day in her formularies. The same division was published with approbation by Bonner in his Homilies in 1555.

3. We shall next proceed to describe the two Masoretic divisions.

(1.) The first is that in Exodus. We call it the Masoretic division, inasmuch as the commandments in the greater number of manuscripts and printed editions are separated by a פ or ס, which mark the divisions between the smaller sections in the Hebrew. According to this arrangement, the first two commandments (in the Origenian or Greek division), that is, the commandment concerning the worship of one God, and that concerning images, make but one; the second is, "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain;" and so on until we arrive at the two last, the former of which is, "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house," and the last or tenth, "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his servant," etc. to the end. This was the division approved by Luther, and it has been ever since his time received by the Lutheran Church. The correctness of this division has been at all times maintained by the most learned Lutherans, not only from, its agreement with the Hebrew Bibles, but from the internal structure of the commandments, especially from the fact of the first two commandments (according to Origen's division) forming but one subject. If these form but one commandment, the necessity of dividing the precept, "thou shalt not covet," etc. into two is obvious. (For a learned defense of this division, see Pfeiffer, Opera, vol. 1, loc. 96, p. 125). Pfeiffer considers the accentuation also of the Hebrew as equally decisive in favor of this division, notwithstanding the opposite view is taken by many others, including the learned Buxtorf. This division is also followed in the Trent Catechism, and may therefore be called the Roman Catholic division. The churches of this communion have not, however, been consistent in following uniformly the Tridentine division, having revived, as in England, the second Masoretic division, to which we shall presently allude. In the Trent Catechism the first commandment is, "Ego sum Dominus Deus tuus, qui eduxi to de terra AEgypti, de domo servitutis; non habebis Deos alienos coram me. Non facies tibi sculptile," etc. "Ego sum Dominus Deus tuus, fortis, zelotes," etc. to "praecepta mea." The last two commandments (according to the Roman division) are, however, in the same Catechism, combined in one, thus: "Non concupisces domum proximi tui; nec desiderabis uxorem ejus, non servum, non ancillam, non bovem, non asinum, nec omnia que illius sunt. In his duobus prmeceptis," etc. It had appeared in the same form in England in Marshall's and bishop Hilsey's Primers, 1534 and 1539.

Those who follow this division have been accustomed to give the Decalogue very generally in an abridged form: thus the first commandment in the Lutheran Shorter Catechism is simply "Thou shalt have no other gods but me;" the second, "Thou shalt not take the name of thy God in vain;" the third," Thou shalt sanctify the Sabbath-day" (Feyertag). A similar practice is followed by the Roman Catholics, although they, as well as the Lutherans, in their Larger Catechisms (as the Douay) give them at full length. This practice has given rise to the charge made against those denominations of leaving out the second commandment, whereas it would have been more correct to say that they had mutilated the first, or at least that the form in which they give it has the effect of concealing a most important part of it from such as only had access to their Shorter Catechisms.

(2.) The last division is the second Masoretic, or that of Deuteronomy, sometimes called the Augustinian. This division differs from the former simply in placing the precept "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife" before "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house," etc.; and for this transposition it has the authority of Deuteronomy 5:21. The authority of the Masorites cannot, however, be of sufficient force to supersede the earlier traditions of Philo and Josephus.

This division was that approved by Augustine, who thus expresses himself on the subject: Following to what he had said (ut sup. p. 538), he observes, "But to me it seems more congruous to divide them into three and seven, inasmuch as to those who diligently lock into the matter, those which appertain to God seem to insinuate the Trinity. And, indeed, the command, Thou shalt have no other gods but me,' is more perfectly explained when images are forbidden to be worshipped. Besides, the sin of coveting another man's wife differs so much from coveting his house, that to the house was joined his field, his servant, his maid, his ox, his ass, his cattle, and all that is his. But it seems to divide the coveting of the house from the coveting of the wife when each begins thus: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house,' to which it then begins to add the rest. For when he had said Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife,' he did not add the rest to this, saying, nor his house, nor his field, nor his servant, etc. but these seem plainly to be united, which appear to be contained in one precept, and distinct from that wherein the wife is named. But when it is said Thou shalt have no other gods but me,' there appears a more diligent following up of this in what is subjoined. For to what pertains, Thou shalt not make an idol, nor a likeness; thou shalt not adore nor serve them,' unless to that which had been said, Thou shalt have none other gods but me.'" The division of Augustine was followed by Bede and Peter Lombard.

The learned Sonntag has entirely followed Augustine's view of this subject, and has written a dissertation in vindication of this division in the Theologische Studien und Kritiken (Hamb. 1836-7), to which there was a reply in the same miscellany from Zillig, in vindication of what he terms the Calvinistic division, or that of Origen, which is followed by a rejoinder from Sonntag. Sonntag is so convinced of the necessity of that order of the words, according to which the precept against coveting the wife precedes (as in Deuteronomy) that against coveting the house, etc. that he puts down the order of the words in Exodus as an oversight. The order in the Septuagint version, in Exodus agrees with that in Deuteronomy. The Greek Church follows this order. Sonntag conceives that the Mosaic division of the Decalogue was lost in the period between the exile and the birth of Christ. See Heinze, De ratione praecepta Decalogi numerandi varia et vera (Viteb. 1790); Pflicke, De Decalogo (Dresden, 1788); Thorntonl, Lectures on the Commandments (Lond. 1842). For a list of Expositions, sermons, etc., on the Decalogue, see Darling, Cyclopoedia Bibliographica, 3, 222 sq. (See LAW).


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Decalogue'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/d/decalogue.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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