The 10 Commandments

edited December 1969 in Coptic Orthodox Church
Does the order of the 10 commandments purpose any system? As in the most important being first and so on?


  • [quote author=Fr. Tadros Y. Malaty, "Commentary on Exodus"]The ten commandments, in the Holy Book, did not have designative numbers; That is why two ways of classification appeared:

    (1) The old classification, is known by the Jews, mentioned by Josephus and Philo, adopted by the scholar Origen, and still followed by the non-Lutheran Protestant Churches. It is based on the differentiation between the commandment concerning forbidding the worship of other gods (Ex. 20: 3), and that concerning forbidding the making of any carved image or idols (Ex. 20: 4); considering them the first and second commandments; beside considering “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife”, an integral part of that forbidding to covet “your neighbor’s house” (Ex. 20: 17).

    By this classification, the first four commandments, would concern man’s relationship with God; while the other six would concern that between man and his neighbor. As each of the two tablets carried five commandments; the fifth commandment concerning honoring the father and the mother, is engraved together with those concerning the relationship between man and his God, on the first tablet. Those adopting t justify it, by the fact that the Jews considered honoring the parents as something absolute and unconditional; as though that commandment is an extension of those concerning man’s relationship with God. It is to be noticed that the apostle Paul, as he amalgamated together, the five last commandments, he did not include in them the commandment under consideration; while the Lord Christ included it in that same group (Mark 10: 19).

    (2) The classification adopted by the Catholic and the Lutheran Churches, is based on the point of view of St. Augustine, that the commandment forbidding the worship of other gods, embraces with it, that forbidding making carved images and idols; yet, he considered the commandment concerning not coveting your neighbor’s wife, as independent of that of not coveting his house. By this he believes that the commandments concerning the relationship of man to God are three; while those concerning his relationship with his neighbor are seven; The first tablet includes the first three, and the second one includes the seven last commandments.

    It is noteworthy that the ten commandments carried a negative aspect, except the two commandments of keeping the Sabbath and honoring the parents; and that the later commandment is the only one with a promise.

    The Lord Christ has summarized all these commandments in one, which is “love of God and of neighbor” (Matthew 22: 37; Romans 13: 9; Galatians 5: 14; James 2:8 ).

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