US & Canada

Oldest Ten Commandments carving auctioned for $850,000 in US

The marble slab of the Ten Commandments Image copyright AP
Image caption The marble slab of the Ten Commandments was discovered in 1913

The world's earliest-known stone carving of the Ten Commandments has sold in a US auction for $850,000 (£680,000).

The marble slab, which is just over 60cm (24in) high, is inscribed in an early Hebrew script called Samaritan.

It only includes nine of the original Biblical commandments; the 10th is a local Samaritan rule.

It was sold at a Los Angeles auction house on condition that it will be displayed in a public museum.

The carving was discovered in 1913 during the excavation for a railway line near the city of Yavneh, an historical Jewish centre of learning, now in present-day Israel.

The auctioneers, Heritage Auctions, said it probably dates from between 300 and 500 AD, and could have marked the entrance to a synagogue.

The missing commandment - "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain" - has been replaced with call for Samaritan worshippers to "raise up a temple'' on Mount Gerizim, a holy site above the city of Nablus, in the present-day West Bank.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Members of the Samaritan community praying on Mount Gerizim, above the city of Nablus

The buyer has not been identified.

The seller, Rabbi Shaul Deutsch from New York's Living Torah Museum, insisted that the new owner display the ancient artefact publicly, according to Heritage Auctions.

The Samaritan community has a long history in the Middle East, although its population has dwindled to fewer than 1,000 people in recent times.

The 10 Commandments, translated from Samaritan Hebrew

The US auctioneers provided a translation of the 20 lines of Samaritan text on its website:

  • Dedicated in the name of Korach
  • I will call you to remember for goodness forever
  • God spoke
  • all these words
  • saying I am the Lord
  • your God you shall not have
  • for yourself other Gods
  • besides me; you shall not make
  • for yourself a sculptured image or any likeness;
  • for I the Lord
  • your God am an impassioned God;
  • Remember the Sabbath day
  • keep it holy; honour
  • your father and your mother;
  • you shall not murder; you shall not commit adultery;
  • you shall not steal; you shall not bear [false witness] against your neighbour
  • you shall not covet; you shall erect
  • these stones that
  • I am commanding you today
  • on Mount Gerizim rise up to God