Perspective is a wondrous thing. It can affect your research without you even knowing it. I was consulting with two friends on their family history. They are Roman Catholics. We were looking at some old New England Congregational registers on microfilm, and became fascinated by the disciplinary registers.
In these registers were a lot of men and women being disciplined in the 1750s for “breaking the Seventh Commandment.” Now I’ve done my share of sleeping in Sunday School but I was pretty sure the Seventh of the Ten Commandments was about not committing adultery. To me that made these Congregational registers a candidate for a juicy upcoming blog.
My friends swore the Seventh was about not stealing. I vaguely remembered that Catholics break out the Ten Commandments differently than Protestants, although the verses are the same. So we had a dilemma. Either the parish was fully of adulterers or thieves.
We pulled out the smart phones, Googled the “Ten Commandments,” and yes, Catholics and Protestants split them up differently. Catholics traditionally see the Seventh Commandment stealing, and Protestants traditionally see it as adultery. I won by the simple fact we were at Protestant records!
The moral of this strange tale is perspective. In genealogy, we need to always be careful to look at the context of the records we are exploring. In this case, a Protestant disciplinary record meant the parish had an adultery problem as opposed to a five-finger discount problem!
In case you may have slept through Sunday School, here’s the rundown of the Ten Commandments which appear as Exodus 20: 3-17. To be totally honest, I had to cheat off the chart on this subject as found on page 110 of The New Oxford Annotated Bible (NRSV) with the Apocrypha: An Ecumenical Study Bible (fourth edition):
The Catholic Study Bible (NAB revised edition)
First: You shall not have other gods beside me. You shall not make for yourself an idol.
Second: You shall not invoke the name of the Lord, your God, in vain.
Third: Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy…
Fourth: Honor your father and your mother…
Fifth: You shall not kill
Sixth: You shall not commit adultery
Seventh: You shall not steal.
Eighth: You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Ninth: You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.
Ten: You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife… or anything that belongs to your neighbor
The English Standard Version Study Bible (ESV)
First: You shall have no other gods before me.
Second: You shall not make for yourself a carved image…
Third: You shall not take the name of the lord your God in vain…
Fourth: Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Fifth: Honor your father and your mother…
Sixth: You shall not murder.
Seventh: You shall not commit adultery.
Eighth: You shall not steal.
Ninth: You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Tenth: You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife…or anything that is your neighbor’s.