Examples of the Ten Commandments
Examples of the Ten Commandments
Where does the Ten Commandments come from?
Also known as the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments come from the Old Testament of the Bible, where they are revealed to Moses on Mt. Sinai and carved into two stone tablets. The commandments are mentioned as laws in Exodus 24:12-13 and named as the Ten Commandments in Exodus 34:28. The phrase appears in English as early as 1280. The seminal 1611 King James Version of the Bible renders the commandments in the now familiar and widely quoted Thou shalt not formula and are summarized as follows:
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 neighbour.
10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house (wife, servants, and animals).
Forming the basis of Judeo-Christian morality and ethics, the Ten Commandments are widely taught, memorized, cited, and displayed by Jews and Christians, referenced in everything from Sunday School to bumper stickers.
Their massive influence in Western society has led to their popular depiction in the media. The biblical story of God’s delivery of the Ten Commandments has notably been told in film, from a 1923 silent film by Cecil DeMille to Charlton Heston’s 1956 treatment, both called The Ten Commandments. Popular songs have also taken inspiration from them, from Johnny Cash’s 1969 “Ten Commandments” to the Notorious B.I.G.’s 1997 “Ten Crack Commandments.”
In the US, displaying the Ten Commandments at courthouses has sparked controversy. Critics argue that, due to the overtly religious nature of the Commandments, featuring them in government buildings violates the principle of separation of church and state implied by the US Constitution. In 2005, the issue went to the Supreme Court over citizen Thomas Van Orden’s lawsuit against the Texas State Capitol for exhibiting a large stone monument bearing the Ten Commandments. In a 5–4 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that the display was constitutional, as the Ten Commandments represented both religious and secular moral codes.
Who uses the Ten Commandments?
The Ten Commandments are widely used in formal contexts, including religious instruction, academic work, and philosophical and ethical considerations. Faithful Jews or Christians may cite the Ten Commandments as authority. Given their pervasive presence in Western culture, the Ten Commandments are also referenced in everyday speech and writing and are familiar to secular, non-Western, and non-Judeo-Christian people.
The Ten Commandments are so familiar that they provide a common way to frame guidelines and directives in various field (e.g., the Ten Commandments of Dating, the Ten Commandments of Business).
The biblical language of the Ten Commandments has also entered pop culture, especially the King James construction of Thou shalt not. People often use the phrase to allude to the authoritative force of the Ten Commandments in a humorous fashion (e.g., “Thou shalt not stay up until 2 am” or “Thou shalt not kiss thy sister’s boyfriend”).
Be mindful that discussion of the Ten Commandments in public settings may offend people who are not Jewish, Christian, or religious.