Decalogue (Gr. , ten, and , word), the ten commandments, or more properly, the ten words or sayings which God delivered to the Jews through Moses, according to Exod. xx. 3-17, and Deut. v. 7-21. The two versions are almost identical, except in the reason assigned for the fourth commandment, which is totally different in the two. They were written, as it is said, "by the finger of God," upon two tables of stone, and given to Moses upon Mount Sinai. They contain the fundamental precepts of religion and morality, and are almost universally regarded as the golden rules for every society, age, and people. The division of the commandments has elicited a manifold difference of opinion. Of the various modes of dividing them which have found numerous and weighty defenders, the following may be regarded as historically the most important: the Origenian or Philonic, the common Jewish or Talmudic, and the two Masoretic. According to the Origenian division, which is supported by the Jewish testimony of Philo and Josephus, and the authority of Origen, Gregory Nazianzen, and Jerome, the first precept consists mainly in the words: " Thou shalt have no other gods but me;" the second forbids images of God; the third forbids taking the name of God in vain; the fourth commands the sanctification of the sabbath day; the fifth, to honor one's father and mother; the sixth forbids murder; the seventh, adultery; the eighth, theft; the ninth, bearing false witness; and the tenth, concupiscence.
This division has been adopted by the Helvetian and Anglican churches, by the Lutherans of the school of Bucer, and by the Socinians. The Talmudic division, which is also that of the modern Jews, being supported among other authorities by Maimonides's "Book of the Commandments," and Aben Ezra's commentary on the Pentateuch, differs from the preceding only in making the words "I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage," the first commandment, and in considering the prohibition of the worship of other gods and of images as the second. This division is proved by a quotation from Julian in Cyril of Jerusalem to have been generally known in the early centuries of the Christian era, and through the authority of Pseudo-Athanasius has also been adopted by the Greek churches, including the Russian, which has sanctioned it in its catechism. The Masoretic division, in both forms, so called on account of its being based on the Hebrew text as revised according to the rule of the Masorah, unites the passage on the exclusive worship of God with the prohibition of images to make the first commandment, and restores the number ten, which is distinctly specified in the Scriptures, by dividing the last into two; the text of Exodus separating by the mark of division (d) the prohibited coveting of a neighbor's house, as the ninth commandment, from the prohibited coveting of all other objects as the tenth, while the text of Deuteronomy separates and gives first the commandment against coveting another's wife.
The division according to Exodus has been adopted by the Lutheran church, and also by the council of Trent; the other Masoretic form, which is supported by the Septuagint, is adopted by St. Augustine, Bede, and Peter Lombard. The question, how many of the commandments were engraved on each of the tables of Moses, has been agitated, mostly on philosophical grounds. Philo, and after him Irenseus, are for two pentads; others believe the commandments on worship alone to have been engraved on the first table, which is regarded by some as the more divine of the two.