The Decalogue in the Reformation Liturgies


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Joint Liturgical Studies 82

The Ten Commandments, regularly called the Decalogue, derive from the account in the book of Exodus of Moses bringing the tables of the Law down from Mount Sinai. They were reaffirmed and deeply applied by Jesus, not least in his Sermon on the Mount. They thus became part of the Christian inheritance for the next 1,500 years, but, as this Study shows, were rarely if ever prominent as a major source for teaching or morality.

The Reformation saw a great change in the Decalogue’s standing. Lutherans, Reformed and Anglicans alike saw it as of central importance in the lives of their congregations, and in different ways gave it that central place in their catechisms, their liturgies and the ornamentation of their buildings. Anglicans in particular can today find the Commandments continued from the Reformation in their 1662 Book of Common Prayer, in both the communion service and the catechism. In the 16th and 17th centuries they were inscribed in central place on the walls of church buildings, in many of which they remain to this day. This Study brings into view the different ways in which the Decalogue impacted the very beginnings of the separate denominational lives of the various Protestant Churches during the Reformation.

David Wallingford as a Christian and a history graduate embraced church history eagerly. While working for 34 years as an accountant in public service industries, he was always looking for opportunity to follow up his Christian academic interests. He then took early retirement and enrolled for a research degree, and the present Study is an edited version of his thesis, commended to the Editorial Board by his examiners. He accepted the invitation to provide the Study, and then within days was diagnosed with terminal cancer. With his own consent, the task of editing his original work passed to Gordon Jeanes, a member of the Board and himself a contributor to the series. David Wallingford died in June 2016, and Gordon Jeanes has brought a skillful and careful editing hand to bring the original work within the compass of this series.