Did Catholics change the Bible?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Someone emailed me and wrote:

The Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 in the Torah match the Ten Commandments in the KJV and all the protestant bibles. That in itself is proof that the Catholic Church changed the Ten Commandments.

One needs to compare the 10 Commandments in the Torah and the KJV to the Catholic Bible too. And when you do, what happens? The passages containing the 10 Commandments are all right there, the same as in the Jewish and Protestant Bibles.

That is proof that nothing has changed.

10 Commandments

10 Commandments

The difference is in numbering – and the Jews number them differently to Protestants and Catholics, and most Protestants number them differently from most Catholics … since the numbers are not assigned in the Bible, that really doesn’t make a difference. The content is the same.

As the discussion went on, he raised the issues of the numbering of the 10 commandments, and the claim that the Catholic Church has changed the 10 Commandments.

Catholics and Protestants numbering the 10 commandments differently, something I’ve discussed before. The point was raised that the Jews have one commandment for coveting, and so the Protestant numbering system, which does the same, must be right.

The Jews do indeed have one commandment for coveting – but, just like Catholics, the Jews differ from Protestants in their first and second commandments. The Jews combine verses 3-6 into one commandment, while Protestants split them into two commandments (first and second). For the Jews, verse 2 is a separate commandment, the first, and verses 3, 4 and 5 make up the 2nd commandment. For Catholics, verses 3-6 are one commandment, the first.

Let’s look at the start of the 10 Commandments in Exodus, with the Jewish, Protestant, and Catholic divisions explained:

Jewish numbering:

Exodus 20:1-5 (KJV) – [1] And God spake all these words, saying,
First commandment: [2] I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
Second commandment: [3] Thou shalt have no other gods before me. [4] Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: [5] Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; [6] And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
Third commandment continues with verse 7.

Protestant numbering:

Exodus 20:1-5 (KJV) – [1] And God spake all these words, saying, [2] I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
First commandment: [3] Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Second commandment: [4] Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: [5] Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; [6] And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
Third commandment continues with verse 7.

Catholic numbering:

Exodus 20:1-5 (KJV) – [1] And God spake all these words, saying, [2] I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
First commandment: [3] Thou shalt have no other gods before me. [4] Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: [5] Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; [6] And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
Second commandment continues with verse 7.

Still life with Bible, Vincent van Gogh

Still life with Bible, Vincent van Gogh

In Exodus, the commandments against coveting are joined in one, whereas in Deuteronomy, they’re split between wife and possessions, as a parallel to the commandments against adultery and stealing.

Let’s look at how the commandments on coveting finish off the counting:

Jewish numbering

Deut 5:21 (KJV) –
Tenth commandment: Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour’s wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour’s house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

Protestant numbering

Deut 5:21 (KJV) –
Tenth commandment: Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour’s wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour’s house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

Catholic numbering

Deut 5:21 (KJV) –
Ninth commandment: Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour’s wife,
Tenth commandment: neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour’s house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

So we’ve really got 3 different ways to count the commandment, and unless someone can show me where in the Bible (Jewish, Protestant, or Catholic) the numbering is given, no one system of counting them is superior to the others.

In fact, there is no “Catholic” numbering system and no “Protestant” numbering system, because Catholics officially use both, and both are used by different Protestant churches. Western Catholics and Lutherans, for example, use the numbering commonly considered Catholic, while Eastern Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and most Protestants use the numbering commonly considered Protestant.

Those who gripe about numbering are not basing their complaint on the Bible, which doesn’t assign numbers, but rather they dislike one numbering system amongst others based on it seeming to be Catholic.

Summarising the commandments

When Catholics draw up a summary of the 10 commandments, the first commandment is usually abbreviated and cut to the first words – “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Some people use this to accuse the Catholic Church of simply snipping out Exodus 3:6 and Deut 8-10.

10 Commandments

10 Commandments

They are not able to (or don’t want to) differentiate between the 10 commandments themselves and a summarised list to make them easy to remember. This seems to be because of an anti-Catholic bias they have. The full 10 commandments are found, in full, in the Catholic Bible and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. What they seem to think is the Catholic 10 commandments is simply an abbreviation intended to allow easy memorisation of them.

Take a look at Protestant lists designed to make memorisation of the commandments easier. They generally say “Thou shalt not covet” instead of citing the entire Exodus 20:17 or Deut 5:21. They generally say “Keep the Sabbath day holy” instead of citing the entire Exodus 20:8-11 or Deut 5:12-15.

Ironically, Adventists themselves have got abbreviated versions that are a) easy to memorise, and b) easy to fit onto images of stone tablets, and they frequently make these same claims, accusing us of changing the 10 commandments, when they can really only accuse us of having a convenient summary of them, just as they do.

Ángel Manuel Rodríguez of the Adventist church’s Biblical Research Institute has the following to say in an article, Counting Commandments:

In conclusion, it really doesn’t matter how we count the commandments as long as we do not modify in any way their sacred content.

Most people voted: I agree
Your reaction to this post:
  • I agree 
  • I disagree 
  • I am not sure 
  • Awesome 
  • Interesting 
  • Boring