What are the Ten Commandments?
Also known as the Decalogue, the so-called “Ten Commandments” are based on Exodus 20:1-17, in which God speaks to Moses at Mount Sinai and reveals his “Ten Words” on inscribed tablets. Various denominations of Jews and Christians alike have boiled down a relatively lengthy message into their own renderings of ten brief and direct statements. For the most part, they embody the following ten directives:
- You shall have no other gods before me.
- You shall not make unto yourself any graven image.
- You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
- Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
- Honor your father and your mother.
- You shall not kill.
- You shall not commit adultery.
- You shall not steal.
- You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
- You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.
The Decalogue is followed by scores of more specific regulations concerning every conceivable area of ordinary life that further interpret the details implied in the Ten Commandments. Thus the Ten function as a kind of minimum ethical standard. Following them carefully even in a general way is challenging enough, but to observe them in the full detail given in scripture is another matter altogether.