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Why Was “Thou Shalt Not Bring Unto Thee Any Graven Image” Replaced With “Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Wife?”

Mar 25, 2018

I was watching the Ten Commandments and I saw that “Thou Shalt Not Bring Unto Thee Any Graven Image” was a commandment, however “Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Wife” was not. “Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery” was but I am Catholic, 38 years of age and I was taught “Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Neighbor’s Wife” was a commandment and I never learned “Thou Shalt Not Bring Unto Thee Any Graven Image.” What happened to that commandment. Here’s the ones I learned:

1. “I am the Lord Thy God, Thou Shalt Not have any other a Gods before me.”

2. “Thou Shalt Not take the name of the Lord the God in Vain”

3. “Remember the Sabbath Day and to Always Keep it Holy”

4.”Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother”

5. “Thou Shalt not Kill”

6. “Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery”

7. “Thou Shalt Not Steal”

8. “Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against Thy Neighbor”

9. “Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Wife.”

10. “Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Belongings.”

Nowhere did I ever learn about a “Graven Images” commandment, and when I watched the film, it removed the coveting thy neighbor’s wife commandment for that one. Why? What ever happened to that commandment?

Asked at 01:08 am on March 25th 2018

Hi John, there are two, slightly different versions of the Ten Commandments, one in Exodus 20, the other in Deuteronomy 5. Both of them have the same 1st commandment you have, and both have as a 2nd commandment the prohibition of making graven images. Since they count the graven images prohibition as a separate commandment, they both have as their 10th commandment the general prohibition of coveting, with slightly different order in Ex and DT to what’s not to be coveted.

I guess because God became man in the Incarnation, Christianity does not, unlike Judaism and Islam, prohibit images of God. That’s because the Incarnation gives a whole new perspective on matter, and more importantly on how, in the Incarnation and the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, God raises matter to a whole new level. So that 2nd commandment wasn’t considered as important in Christianity, and dropped from the list of commandments.

And what in Ex and Dt was the 10th commandment, was separated into the two prohibitions on coveting you list – the 9th against wrongly desiring people and that 10th against wrongly desiring things. According to my Jerusalem Bible, it was St Augustine that gave us what became for the Church this later version of the 10 Commandments we all learnt at school and is still basic Catholic teaching, clearly and brilliantly set out for example in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part 3, Section 2. Very best, Fr Brendan

Replied at 11:23 pm on April 04th 2018