Normally I talk about the commandments being problematic in relation to our ability to keep them. God knew Israel, and all mankind for that matter, would fail to keep the Law. What we need is an all sufficient savior. The commandments have a purpose, but they cannot make a person righteous. Think of them as a ruler used to measure how far we fall short. Jesus told the Pharisees they kept the letter of the Law but did not understand the spirit of the Law. Paul calls the Law a burden we are not able to bear. Moses was the first person to break all ten commandments; wait for it…
Chaplain Mike of Internet Monk points out a different kind of problem. Counting the Commandments is about how different traditions number the list. It makes a difference in the interpretation. Did you know the list Catholics use has no command to not make a graven image? By combining “graven image” with “no other gods” you end up with two coveting commandments. On the other hand, keeping the command to covet together as one separates “make no graven image” from “no other gods.” That seems to be two different commands requiring the same thing. Mike offers an alternative, click over and see what he has to say about the Talmud.
I thought perhaps the reason we have a numbering problem was that the scriptures do not list any numbers. Does the Bible actually say there were ten commandments? And the answer is yes, it does. Deuteronomy 4:13 says “And he declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments, and he wrote them on two tablets of stone.” ESV, NIV and KJV all say ten commandments, I checked. So add to our other problems with the commandments… a math problem.
Ultimately the discussion is academic. No matter how they are numbered we will read the list and then fail to keep them. But it is interesting. Check out Mike’s post and then tell us: How do you count the commandments?