Why Are There Different Forms of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1)?
The answer to this question becomes clear when we allow God's Word to guide us. No one doubts the number of the Commandments, ten (Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 4:13; 10:4). It is their content that has been disputed, and this is of vital—eternal—concern.
It was not until the fourth century AD that this confusion even began to exist. At that time, Augustine (Catholic bishop of Hippo in North Africa, 354-430) devised a new way of presenting the Ten Commandments in order to allow the use of images and statues in religious worship. He dropped the second commandment altogether, divided the tenth into two "commandments," and then renumbered his revised list of ten.
Dropping the second commandment makes it appear that there is only one commandment against idolatry. However, God makes it clear that there are two kinds of idolatry, and thus a need for two distinct commandments to prohibit these two major sins. The first commandment forbids worship of anything in the place of God (Exodus 20:3). The second commandment is altogether different, forbidding making, bowing down to, serving, or otherwise using statues in the worship of God (verses 4-6).
As mentioned above, to retain the correct number of commandments, Augustine made two "commandments" out of the tenth (verse 17). According to Augustine's mistaken idea, the ninth commandment is, "You shall not covet your neighbor's wife," and the tenth is, "You shall not covet your neighbor's house."
Notice how the apostle Paul was inspired to quote five of the Commandments, including the tenth: "For the commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery,' 'You shall not murder,' 'You shall not steal,' 'You shall not bear false witness,' 'You shall not covet,' and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself'" (Romans 13:9). Unlike Augustine, Paul makes no distinction between coveting a neighbor's wife and his house. Elsewhere, he says, "For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, 'You shall not covet'" (Romans 7:7). Clearly, only one principle is involved, and only one commandment governs it.
The King James and New King James versions of the Bible contains two complete lists of the Ten Commandments, found in Exodus 20:1-17 and in Deuteronomy 5:6-21. The church of God uses and practices the Ten Commandments in this inspired form.
Was God's Law Nailed to the Cross?
The Tenth Commandment (1998)
The Second Commandment (1997)
The First Commandment (1997)
Have the Ten Commandments Passed Away?
The Ten Commandments
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Exodus 20:1: