We have on Wikipedia, a tabular statement of the numbering systems adopted in regard to the Ten Commandments, by different traditions. One can see a telling difference in the numbering pattern. For instance, the Commandment against adultery appears at No.6 in the Augustinian division followed by Roman Catholics, Lutherans, etc. whereas it appears at No.7 in the Septuagint version followed by Eastern Orthodox and Reformed Christians. With more communication and dialogue taking place not only between various denominations , but between Christianity and other religions in the modern era, it is expedient to draw up a unified numbering of the Commandments.

Has anyone ever attempted a unified numbering of Ten Commandments, applicable to all traditions and denominations?

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    This is a major point of contention among many Protestants against Catholicism. Specifically, Protestants claim that the Catechism and other Catholic Church teachings intentionally obscure the "graven image" commandment inside Commandment 1, and then split the covetousness commandment into 9 and 10. The Protestants will never give on this issue, and the Catholics almost never compromise on traditions that are so old. So, knowing that, who would really try? They've been having a dogmatic argument about it for centuries.
    – user3961
    Sep 24, 2023 at 17:27
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    Does it matter? Surely it is more important to avoid committing adultery than to haggle about whether it is really the 6th or the 7th commandment?
    – user59106
    Sep 24, 2023 at 19:12
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    @fredsbend If a Catholic and a protestant commit adultery, they won't be able to agree which commandment they are breaking;-)
    – user59106
    Sep 24, 2023 at 23:32
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    A simple solution would be to quote the verse with the command one has broken, with no reference to numbers or even verse numbers! The Bible had no verses or chapters to begin with! Trouble is, how many people today can accurately quote a verse or two?
    – Anne
    Sep 25, 2023 at 9:52
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    @KadalikattJosephSibichan I do understand how hard it is to talk about such things, but "sinned against commandment X" means nothing. A priest should normally first ask "What do you mean by that?". Thinking sexually about other person, masturbation, pornography, adultery out or in marriage all fall into one commandment, but they are all different sins. And even if such a misunderstanding occur, that's something you normally solve in normal conversation within confession: "Oh, sorry, I'm used to Protestant numbering. I meant 6th commandment/the adultery". Sep 25, 2023 at 9:56

3 Answers 3


Has anyone attempted a unified numbering of Ten Commandments?

This has, I believe, never been really seriously attempted because of the various ways in which Christians interpret the Sacred Scriptures.

Different religious traditions will categorize the seventeen verses of Exodus 20:1–17 and their parallels in Deuteronomy 5:4–21 into ten commandments in different ways. Some scholars suggest that the number ten is simply a choice to aid memorization rather than a matter of theology.

The diverse Christian traditions are too far apart to have an unified common numbering of the Ten Commandments.

The Division of the Ten Commandments

One dispute concerning the Ten Commandments concerns how they are to be divided. We are told in Scripture that there are ten of them (Exodus 34:28, Deuteronomy 4:13, 10:4), but we are not told exactly how the text should be divided.

This is a problem because there are actually more than ten imperative statements in the two relevant texts (Exodus 20:1-17, Deuteronomy 5:6-21). Here is a count of them based on Exodus 20:

1 You shall have no other gods before me.

2 You shall not make for yourself a graven image...

3 You shall not bow down to them or serve them...

4 You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain...

5 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

6 Six days you shall labor...

7 In it [the seventh day] you shall not do any work...

8 Honor your father and your mother...

9 You shall not kill.

10 You shall not commit adultery.

11 You shall not steal.

12 You shall not bear false witness against your

13 You shall not covet your neighbor's house

14 You shall not covet your neighbor's wife...

Obviously, in order to get these to total ten commandments, some imperative statements must be grouped together. Fortunately, most of the groupings are obvious, but there are still two groupings which are disputed. There is also one other issue complicating matters. The passages which refer to the Ten Commandments, do indeed specify that there are “ten” of them, but they don't actually say that they are “commandments”. - The Division of the Ten Commandments

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    There's also the question of where the missing five should number.
    – user3961
    Sep 24, 2023 at 17:43

There have indeed been attempts unify or recover the "original form" of the Ten Commandments but no such effort has gained much traction in the Ecumenical Movement. Here is one such attempt by G. Wildeboer, cited by the editors of the Jewish Encyclopedia.

  1. "I am Yhwh, thy God," etc.
  2. Thou shalt have no other gods before Me [beside Me].
  3. Thou shalt not take the name of Yhwh thy God in vain.
  4. Remember the Sabbath-day.
  5. Honor thy father and thy mother.
  6. Thou shalt not murder.
  7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
  8. Thou shalt not steal.
  9. Thou shalt not bear false witness.
  10. Thou shalt not covet.

Several other approaches are discussed in the article linked above.


It would be hard to proof nobody ever tried. But I haven’t heard of such an attempt in my lifetime.

I do think such an attempt would be rather futile by the way. You can decide that one numbering or the other is the right one. And the “other” group would have to accept that. Why would they?

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    Indeed. xkcd.com/927 Sep 24, 2023 at 18:25
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    Traditionally the way for one part of the Christian faith to get another part to accept their opinion is to brutally murder them, thus winning by default
    – Valorum
    Sep 24, 2023 at 18:27
  • @Valorum Traditionally, it is the murdered that get their way eventually.
    – user3961
    Sep 24, 2023 at 23:12
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    It's quite hard to claim a 'moral victory' if you're dead, your followers are dead, your ideas are suppressed and nobody's heard of you.
    – Valorum
    Sep 24, 2023 at 23:17

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