Numbering the Ten Commandments


Q. Why do Lutherans not number the commandments like the other Protestants?

A. The differing enumerations of the Ten Commandments among various religious traditions is not generally regarded as a doctrinal matter dividing the churches. The Oxford Companion to the Bible (Oxford, 1993) is correct when it states: "The contents of the Ten Commandments are . . . the same for all of the religious communities, despite the differences in their enumeration."

The Lutheran Cyclopedia notes in its article on the "Decalogue" that the Bible neither numbers the commandments nor determines their respective position, and for this reason divergent enumeration has occurred. The Jews make Exodus 20:2 the 1st Commandment, Exodus 20:3-6 the 2nd, and Exodus 20:17 the 10th. The Eastern Orthodox and the Reformed churches make Exodus 20:2-3 the 1st, Exodus 20:4-6 the 2nd, and Exodus 20:17 the 10th. The Lutheran and Roman Catholic churches regard Exodus 20:4 as a part of (or commentary on) the 1st Commandment (Exodus 20:3). They then draw the 2nd from Exodus 20:7, the 3rd from Exodus 20:8-11, and make Exodus 17a the 9th and Exodus 17b the 10th. The Jews divide the Ten Commandments into 2 groups of 5 each. Lutheran and Roman Catholics assign 3 commandments to the 1st table and 7 to the 2nd. Eastern Orthodox and Reformed churches assign 4 to the 1st table and 6 to the 2nd.

  November 2020  
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