With the exception of Lutherans (who apparently use the same numbering system for the Decalogue as Catholics) Do other Protestants have a consistent method for numbering the 10 commandments?

Catholics say the first 3 are about God. Then the last 7 about Man. Whereas, I've seen Protestants refer to this as the 4th commandment and then top it off with "thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's stuff, and by stuff we also mean wife".

Also, other than keeping the Dec in the Decalogue, what is the reason behind munging the two separate commandments that are against adultery and expanding on the one commandment against profaning God? Is there something in the Catholic teaching that favored the 3/7 split as a couple of the more beautiful numbers in Creation that was rejected by Protestants?

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    The Beginner's Bible (yes, scholarly, I know) shows keeping the Sabbath holy as the fourth commandment. (Although this is fairly unrelated to the question, I suppose.)
    – Richard
    Nov 14, 2011 at 15:50
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  • @Richard, thanks I forgot that old question. I suppose this is a nuanced dupe, but a bounty didn't help the first question so hopefully this stands on it's own.
    – Peter Turner
    Nov 14, 2011 at 16:13
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    We also have to keep in mind that duplicates are not necessarily bad (per Jeff Atwood)
    – Richard
    Nov 14, 2011 at 16:17
  • I don't really think it proper to call it "munging." While we are combining all of the "no other God stuff" into one, they are combining all of the "do not covet stuff". Feb 29, 2012 at 16:21

1 Answer 1


It basically comes down to tradition.

There are three major divisions of the Decalogue, in order of date. To compare these divisions, see Wikipedia. The dates are from this article.

  1. Philonic (first century), in the writings of Philo and Josephus.
  2. Talmudic (third century), in the Talmud.
  3. Augustinian (fifth century), in the writings of Saint Augustine of Hippo. Also found in Codex Alexandrinus, which was first noted in 1886. (Codex Alexandrinus dates to the fifth century, too)

The Philonic division is used by most Orthodox and Protestant churches, except for Lutherans. It's the earliest recorded division, and very similar to the Talmudic division. The Talmudic division is the one adopted by Jews, and is probably based on earlier rabbinic tradition.

The Augustinian division came centuries later. It was chosen as the official Catholic division by the Council of Trent in the 16th century, and also by Luther at about the same time.

It's probable that the Early Church used the Philonic or a similar division of the Ten Commandments. That's probably also why most Protestants choose to follow it.


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