Catholic Culture Solidarity
Catholic Culture Solidarity

Catholic Dictionary




The Ten Commandments as an essential part of the Jewish religion. Containing only 120 Hebrew words in all, the Decalogue has exercised more profound influence on the moral and social life of humanity than any other group of laws in history. There are two versions of the Decalogue in Scripture: the priestly version (Exodus 20:1-17) and the Deuteronomic (Deuteronomy 5:6-21). They differ mainly in two ways. In Exodus the observance of the Sabbath is based on religious motives, namely the fact that God rested on the seventh day after creation; in Deuteronomy the motive is rather humanitarian. Also in Exodus the prohibition of covetousness classes a man's wife with his other domestic property, whereas in Deuteronomy the wife is treated separately. The first four commandments (in the Catholic version the first three) refer to the people's duties toward God; the last six their duties to others. In Temple times, they formed an integral part of the religious service, being recited daily just before the Shema. They are highly honored in modern Judaism. When read in the synagogue, the congregation rises and the commandments are intoned by the reader to a special solemn tone. The Jewish festival of Shavuot (seven weeks after the first day of Passover) commemorates the revelation of the Decalogue on Mount Sinai, and the solemn reading of the Ten Commandments is the highlight of the religious service on that day.