Precepts divinely revealed to Moses on Mt. Sinai and engraved on two tablets of stone. The text is preserved in two closely similar versions (Exod. 20: 1–17 and Deut. 5: 6–21). Their dating has been a matter of controversy. It is now regarded as an open question, with many critics accepting the possibility that in a primitive form they may go back to Moses himself.
The Ten Commandments have played a substantial part in the teaching of the Church. By the time of St Augustine they had gained a prominent place in the instruction of catechumens; they again came to the fore in the development of the penitential system in the 9th cent. and in the popular teaching of the 16th-cent. Reformers. In the 1552 BCP their recitation was introduced into the Communion Service, but in modern practice they are usually omitted or replaced by the Kyrie Eleison or by the Lord's Great Commandments (Mk. 12: 29–31); provision is made for these and other alternatives in CW.