DWISE1's Letters to the Editor:

Posting The Ten Commandments

circa November 1988

The Orange County Register
Post Office Box 11626
Santa Ana, California 92711

If John L. McCreary wants to know how the Ten Commandments differ in different religions ("The same commandments," 21 October 1988), he needs only to look it up.

The text of the commandments are found in Exodus 20:3-17 and Deuteronomy 5:7-21. According to the World Book Encyclopedia, the Roman Catholic version of the Bible combines the first two commandments of the Protestant version, considering them to be the first commandment, and splits the last one into two. The Jewish version begins with the words, "I am the Lord thy God" (Exodus 20:2 and Deuteronomy 5:6) and then combines the first two commandments of the Protestant version, considering them to be the second commandment.

So if we were presented with printed copies of the Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant versions of the Ten Commandments, they would indeed be different even though they were each derived from similar sources. This is not a new revelation, but has been known for centuries and would have been known to McCreary and his friends if they had only looked. The differences may seem minor, but there is no such thing as a minor difference in religion; during the Russian Reformation of 1668, over 20,000 Old Believers were martyred basically over the "minor" question of whether a priest should perform a blessing using two fingers or three.

So the question remains: which version of the Ten Commandments should be chosen as the official government version for posting in the public schools and why choose that one to the exclusion of the others? The answer is still the same: none of them. The government has neither the authority nor the competence to establish religious practices and doctrines and is forbidden to do so by the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Religious instruction is the duty of the family and of the churches, not of a government agency, such as the public school system.

David C. Wise
[address removed]

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First uploaded on 2001 November 01.
Updated on 2011 August 18.