Code given by God to Moses on Sinai Ex 19:1ff. at the moment when the second covenant was established, a summary of the Mosaic Law. We know two versions: Ex 20:1-17 and Dt 5:6-21, both of which go back to a probably shorter original. Jewish tradition considers it a jewel of ten pearls in which the Torah is summed up, and that it was already observed by the patriarchs. Its daily recital in the Temple was later prohibited, so as not to endorse the heresy that only the Decalogue was revealed by God at Sinai. In some communities it is read at Pentecost, a feast which, according to a postbiblical tradition, commemorated the Sinaitic theophany. From the beginning, the church gave the Decalogue a special place in catechesis, as a privileged and universally valid expression of the divine will.
For the Fathers it was the focus of Christian moral purity, in contrast to the grossness of polytheism which at times was atheistic and pagan moral dissoluteness; the permanent elements of Jewish Law are still based on it. The Decalogue contains the basic requirements of natural morality, and was written in the human heart before being written in stone. To the stages of salvation history creation, old covenant, new covenant corresponds a progressive revelation of the divine will: natural law, old law in which the Decalogue occupies a special place, new law. The latter neither abrogates nor contradicts the first two, but assumes and completes them: the Decalogue came to be considered an anticipation of the law of Christ. The prologue of the Decalogue was rewritten to place it at creation rather than at the exodus, thus extending its validity to all people.
J.J. Stamm, Der Dekalog im Lichte der neueren Forschung, Bern 21962: Eng. tr. with additions by M.E. Andrew, The Ten Commandments in Recent Research, Studies in Biblical Theology, 2nd series, 2, 1967; G. Bourgeault, Décalogue et morale chré- tienne, Enquête patristique sur l’utilisation de l’interprétation chrétiennes du décalogue de c. 60 à c. 220, Paris 1971; B. Reicke, Die Zehn Worte in Geschichte und Gegenwart, Tübingen 1973; H. Schüngel-Straumann, Der Dekalog – Gottes Gebote, Stuttgart 1973, It. ed. F. Montagnini ed., Decalogo e comandamenti di Dio, Brescia 1977; J. Schreiner, I Dieci Comandamenti nella vita del popolo di Dio, Brescia 1991; R.M. Grant, The Decalogue in Early Christianity, in E. Ferguson ed., Christian Life, New York 1993, 1-17; A. Orbe, Estudios sobre la teología cristiana primitiva, Madrid 1994, 287-322; M. Lluch-Baixauli, El Decálogo en los escritos de S. Agustín: Anuario de Historia de la Iglesia 8 1999 125-144.