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The Ten Commandments of God! In the Bible! But Not Really!

Jesus Saves Ministry posts the following under “The Ten Commandments of God in the Bible” on its 10 Commandments bumper sticker page:

Deuteronomy 4:13
And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone.

Deuteronomy 4:40
Thou shalt keep therefore his statutes, and his commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the earth, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, for ever.

Deuteronomy 7:9
Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;

How long shall we obey the Commandments, and will they become no longer valid or obeyed?

Deuteronomy 7:9
Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;

The Ten Commandments of God As Given By Moses

1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.
3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
5. Honour thy father and thy mother.
6. Thou shalt not kill.
7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
8. Thou shalt not steal.
9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
10. Thou shalt not covet.

Hmmm. Why do you think there was a change in format there in the last paragraph?

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that there is no set of ten commandments specifically enumerated in the Bible.

Or maybe it was a typo. You tell me.

18 thoughts on “The Ten Commandments of God! In the Bible! But Not Really!”

  1. Vegas says:

    Well, I don’t know. What’s the proper form for citing your own ass as a source of information?

  2. Jim says:

    Buttock, Left, Right Buttock and Ass Crack. I Made It Up My Own Damn Self. New York: Basic Books, 1996.

  3. Layla says:

    Jim, Jim, Jim, what am I going to do with you? The ten commandments not in the Bible? Then where do you think they’re from? the Koran? the Rig Veda? Heimskringla? Maybe from Secrets of Voodoo? I fear your religious indoctrination has been sadly neglected. They are indeed from the Bible, the Old Testament, in particular, and you may find them at Exodus 20:1-17. There they are. Count ’em. Ten.

    And that is the second thing you forgot to mention. The ten commandments are in the OLD Testament. That’s right, the JEWISH part of the Bible. Now why is a nice CHRISTIAN website, and the ones you dig up are always so choice, going on about the old Jewish law? The Christain message is about the words of Jesus, as in the Sermon on the Mount, for example: “…Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy…Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God…” (Matthew 5:3-10)

    For Christians, the 612 Jewish laws have been replaced by the two Great Commandments. 1) Love God 2) Love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:31) All of the law and the prophets is based on these two principles. So why on god’s green earth are nice Christians dragging those commandments of Moses in and out of courthouses and all over websites. Haven’t they heard of Jesus?

  4. Tom says:

    It’s mainly because they (the so-called Christians) suffer from selective reading dementia, Layla. They see what they want to see, hear what they want to hear, and believe what they want to believe. Then they go out and proclaim it as LAW, that EVERYONE MUST follow.

  5. Jim says:

    Layla, read carefully what I wrote.

    There is no set of ten commandments specifically enumerated in the Bible.

    I stand by my statement.

    Exodus was not originally written, as I’m sure you know, in chapters and verses. These were applied in quite recent centuries (13th, I believe) by editors, as I’m also sure you know.

    This is important because it’s not like God starts commandmenting in the beginning of Exodus Chapter 20 and stops commandmenting at the end of Exodus Chapter 20. No, God is a profligate commandmenter, just keeping right on with His commandments right at the beginning of Exodus Chapter 21 with the words “Now these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them.” That’s a pretty commandmenty phrase if I’ve ever read one. And what’s the very first commandment (the eleventh commandment, we might say) God sets down in his Exodus Chapter 21? Why, a rule on how to morally keep slaves.

    Here’s the Eleventh Commandment set out by God on slave-keeping:

    1. If you keep a male slave, you have to set him free after six years.

    2. If he was married when he came into servitude, then he can take his wife with him.

    3. But if he gets married during his six years of slavery, you get to keep the wife in slavery (and the kids, if there are any — bonus!). If the slave protests this and wants to stay married with his wife and all, why then, as master you get to ram an awl through his ear and keep him, the wife, and the kids in slavery for ever!

  6. Jim says:

    Also, if we look at just Exodus Chapter 20, it doesn’t say: these are my ten commandments, which is funny, because gee, you’d think God would want to be clear about the whole thing. Depending on how you count, you can get more than Ten or fewer than Ten. Because what the Ten Commandments are is not specifically enumerated in the Bible, the nature of the “Ten Commandments” has been historically identified in various ways throughout history by different groups of Jews and Christians. The Catholics, for instance, cut out the bit about God telling us to not make any graven images. If you’ve ever been inside a Catholic Church and checked out the statues, you know that little editing job turned out handily for them.

    And if the commandments are found in Exodus Chapter 20:1-17, really Exodus Chapter 20:3-17, that’s a funny delineation — one might say an artificial editor’s one constructed by someone looking for Ten Commandments. I mean, the thing is that God keeps right on going, right after a sentence in which the author basically says “and the people were scared shitless when they looked up at the mountain where God and Moses were chatting.” Why not Exodus Chapter 20: 22-26, in which God keeps right on commandmenting?

    And commandmenting, and commandmenting. Move into Exodus Chapter 21, 22, etc. etc. ad mysterium infinitum gloria in exelcis deo with a coke and chips.

    What, you’re going to say that oh, you can tell because Exodus Chapter 20 has general guidelines, principles you might say, while the other commandmenty thingies God tells Moses are pickly niblets?

    Well, come on. “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” is a pretty particular command, about how to worship. But “make me an altar” later in Exodus 20 isn’t a commandment?

    “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass…” is getting kind of listy there, and it’s a commandment, but the general “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe” (more God-Moses talk!) isn’t?

    And how come Christians have cut out the whole bit about God saying that your slave is your property (Exodus 20:17) from the commandments? They’ve edited God’s Word: now it’s just Thou Shalt Not Covet. God is pretty clearly saying that people can be property of other people, but gosh and crickets, that’s not in the “Ten Commandments” they put on the posters. I guess they just ran out of ink.

    Bottom line — there just ain’t no set of Ten Commandments enumerated in the Bible. People have decided to create the Ten Commandments out of some cherry-picked language with some highly creative editing and selective blindness.

  7. Kevin says:

    Jim: Maybe someone just decided to put all the commandments together for convenience, kinda like the dictionary. I mean, we had “words” before Webster came along, right? Does his organization of those words into a book that people can use for reference somehow denote a “cheapening” of the language? Does it mean that there never really was an English language, that Webster somehow made it up? Please explain.

  8. Jim says:

    Your analogy to Webster’s is fitting. There was an English language before Webster, one with a wide variety of confusing and conflicting spellings. Webster weeded them out and created a canonical set of “correct” spellings out of the huge number of actual spellings used in his time. From Webster’s forward, we had our language’s Canon.

    So Kevin, I agree with you, if what you mean is that the “Ten Commandments” are an attempt by Christian scholars to codify in one place what they consider to be the Bible’s moral lessons. That, and to match up with Deuteronomy, which mentions the existence of Ten Commandments but doesn’t enumerate them.

    People interested in language might be really interested in figuring out how Webster decided which spellings out of the wide variety of possibilities would be “correct” and which “incorrect;” his decisions tell us a lot about who Webster was. Similarly, the Bible is really a jumble of a whole heckuva lot of commandments. Which ones are paid attention to, and which ones are ignored, tells us much more about who Christians (or at least their institutional leaders) are today than what Christianity Really and Truly Demands Of Us.

  9. Kevin says:

    Jim: Thanks for the response. I think that you are correct in saying that the Bible is full of commandments. I feel that the 10 Commandments are, at least to Christians, are the most important, and I agree with you that they are an attempt to Codify the “important” ones. Sort of like having a choice between an abridged version of the dictionary or an unabridged version; both versions contain everything you need to get by with English spelling, meaning, etc., but one is more thorough than the other.

    I would, since you brought it up, like to find out how Webster decided spellings, etc. I probably learned the reason(s) in college, but that was many moons ago.

    Would you agree that MOST of the Commandments- not all- are pertinent to us all, regardless of what you believe or don’t believe?

  10. Jim says:

    Well, they’re certainly pertinent, since they pertain to efforts by a subset of Christians to shove their standards down everybody else’s throats, and they pertain to problems of internal inconsistency with the biblical literalism to which this subset tends to subscribe.

    Here are a couple of links on Webster’s:


    These links remind me that Webster codified American English and distinguished it from the Queen’s English, which I hadn’t said above. Whoops.

  11. Layla says:


    Neither one of us regards the Bible as the literal word of God. I don’t think Kevin does either. So why are you inside the box of using the Bible to argue your position? As a history major, I can’t help but read the Bible first as a ‘primary source.’ Can we look at it as a historical document of great richness and information about how our value system developed?

    As far as the commandments, we find that they were written with the finger of God (Ex 32:15), exactly ten commandments were placed in an ark (Deut 10:1-5). Also (Ex. 40:20). Talmudic-Midrashic sources also tell us they were 1) made of a sapphire-like stone; 2) they were ‘not more than six hands in length and as much in width’ but were nevertheless enormously heavy; 3) though hard they were also flexible; 4) they were transparent. Many believe these tablets are now at the church in Axum, Ethiopia. For some interesting scholarship and entertaining conclusions read Graham Hancock’s, “The Sign and the Seal.” Even better, buy the book in Ethiopia and read it while traveling.

    If you want to talk about slavery in the bible, you will also have to mention the year of the Jubilee (Lev. 25:55) It is clear the Israelites as well as the land belong to God and are not owned as property. Then you will have to talk about Paul in the New Testament. And does Jesus ever come into the picture? Don’t forget Jesus trumps everything.

    Kevin, you can not, not, not say the ten commandments are the most important to Christians. Our denomination regards the Two Great Commandments as foremost, and also has a longstanding tradition for the Sermon on the Mount.

    Many denominations split over the question of slavery. Mine was one of them, but the denomination was reunited in the 40’s. Baptists are still divided. And it is the Southern Baptist that is the fastest growing denomination in the U.S. right now. I don’t have to tell you what this means politically.

  12. Jim says:

    Fine, Layla, you go ahead and do “look at [the Bible] as a historical document of great richness and information about how our value system developed,” and not as the literal truth. But also recognize that a significant number of conservative Christians — the crowd with the Ten Commandments lawn signs you’ll see in Middle America — do.

    Jesus himself (in Matthew) and Deuteronomy both make clear, if you take the Bible to be accurate, that the Commandments do NOT fade away or get trumped. Not one jot or tittle. Not at least for a thousand generations. If you don’t want to take the Bible to be accurate in this regard, fine. But also recognize that a significant number of conservative Christians — the crowd with the Ten Commandments lawn signs you’ll see in Middle America — do.

    I note that you do not deny that slavery is specifically sanctioned in the Bible, but just note that it’s regulated. If you don’t want to take this part of the Bible to lay down a definitive morality, that’s fine. Just don’t quote me the very same part of the Bible to talk about a definitive “Ten Commandments” that manages to leave out the slavery bit.

    My point is not that there aren’t Christians who don’t take the Bible as law. My point is that there are a significant number of Christians, with a growing voice and influence in America, who DO take the Bible as law, even though the Commandments they cite are not a specifically enumerated set, and even though the same Bible verses institute slavery.

    That’s what I take the last point of your latest comment to be. And I agree with you that the prospect is frightening.

  13. Layla says:


    I’m certainly not a Biblical scholar, but I don’t agree with your rendering of Matthew 5. Parse the whole thing–“until ‘everything is accomplished'”? (crucifiction? resurrection? the end of time?)…whoever breaks a commandment will be ‘least in the kingdom of heaven’, whoever practices one ‘will be called great in the kingdom of heaven’ (and in heaven we know the first will be last and the last will be first)… and don’t forget Jesus is presenting hiself as the foretold messiah– coming to “fulfill” the prophets as the promised one, not abolish them.

    You can’t look at one sentence without looking at the surrounding ideas, becasue this whole speech is one idea building on another.

    Jesus seems to be saying that the law will not go away–and don’t forget the crowds were full of Pharisees and Sadduccees who wanted to catch Jesus in something treasonous or blasphemous so they could kill him–but Jesus says obeying the law is not enough; you have to go beyond the law. The law says do not murder but Jesus says anyone angry with his brother is subject to judgement. If someone forces you to go one mile (Roman soldiers could do this legally), go two miles; it is not enough to love those who love you, you must love your enemies, and so on. Jesus says the letter of the law kills, but the spirit of the law gives life.

    We also have the example of Jesus who was said to gather food with his disciples on the Sabbath, heal the sick on the Sabboth and eat without performing the ritual washing. At every turn, Jesus chose compassion over mindless rules.

    Since you enjoy leafing through Bibles so much, here is a little joke for you. There used to be a practice of divination based on the Bible, so one day this guy decided to use this to ask the Bible for advice. He closed his eyes and put his finger on a page of the bible, then read “And Judas went out and hanged himself.” This seemed like incomplete advice and a little puzzling, so the guy said, okay, I’ll try it again and see if I can get a better explanation for the first message. So he closed his eyes and opened the bible again , this time to the passage that says”go thou and do likewise.”

  14. Vegas says:

    If the Bible is not literally true, how can it be a historical source?

  15. Layla says:

    Bible is a source in the same way that Herodotus was a source. Herodotus lived from 484-425 BCE and witnessed the fall of the Persian empire. As a disgraced general, one might assume the purpose of his writings was to rehabilitate his reputation and justify his role in world events, however his writings are also an eyewitness account of some events, and secondary stories of other events along with discriptions of sources, so the readers could make their own judgments about the veracity of the stories.

    Oddly enough, the Bible contains quite a record of paganism, when much information about competing religions was systematically destroyed by Christians at various times throughout history. Barbara Walker’s “The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets” quotes Bible extensively on everything from the goddess Astart (Biblical Asherah or Ashtoreth) (1 Kings 11:5) to Leviathan (2 Kings 18:4) to Sophia (Proverbs Chapt. 8 & 9)

    You can also read the Hebrews’ quite moving creation myth, the history of their migrations and Kings, the story of the Babylonian captivity with a lot of lamenting and prophecy, some songs for religious occasions (like how King David danced with the Ark), the political and doctrinal challenges of early Christians trying to differentiate their religion from Judaism and spread it thoughout the Greek world, and even love poetry.

    In short, if every page was not written by the exact hand of God, or dictated by God verbatim to some unnamed all-truth-discerning scribe, at least it was written by SOMEONE, and probably someone with a unique view of a time that is now lost to us except for that written record.

  16. Vegas says:

    Sure, you can use the Bible as a historical source in the same way you can use any other work of fiction, but that’s not the way Ten-Commandment-quoters read the Bible. What kind of “historical” method do you use to get Ten Commandments out of Exodus 20?

  17. DON says:


  18. Geoff says:

    Gosh Don, how does calling someone an idiot help you get Ten Commandments out of Exodus 20?

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