Biblical Archaeology Review 43:3, May/June 2017

Early Copy of the Ten Commandments Auctioned

An early copy of the Ten Commandments sold for $850,000 last November.

Dated by some to c. 300–500 C.E., this tablet may be the oldest stone inscription of the Ten Commandments—even though it displays only nine of the traditional Ten Commandments from Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5.a The tablet omits the command to not take the Lord’s name in vain (Exodus 20:7; Deuteronomy 5:11) and includes instead a charge to build a temple on Mt. Gerizim. Although this addition is likely unfamiliar to many Christians and Jews, it reflects the particular religious beliefs of the Samaritans. The tablet, which is written in the Samaritan script, likely adorned a Samaritan synagogue.

About 115 pounds and 2 feet tall, the marble slab entered the collection of the Living Torah Museum in Brooklyn, New York, in 2005. According to the museum’s founder, Rabbi Shaul Deutsch, the tablet was first discovered in Yavneh (near Tel Aviv in modern Israel) during the construction of the Palestine-Egypt railway in 1913.

The Living Torah Museum auctioned the piece in November with an opening bid of $250,000. It sold for more than three times that amount.

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