1,500 to 1,700 years old Chiselled tablet with commandments sold at auction

Last November a 1,500 or up to 1,700 years old stone tablet with the earliest known chiselled inscription of the most important rulings man should take at heart. You could even say it has the main commandments also for those who do not believe in the One True God. It are the inscriptions of what the ethics are for mankind, not having to be disrespectful to others and leaving their belongings to them and not cheating on them or telling lies.

The world's earliest-known stone inscription of the Ten Commandments

The world’s earliest-known stone inscription of the Ten Commandments Credit: Matt Roppolo/Heritage Auctions/AP

Four years ago already a 2,000-year-old copy of the Ten Commandments had been released for the first time in digital versions. Last month somebody could take the Ten Commandments at home for  $850,000 on Wednesday the 8th of November.

The two-foot (61 cm) square slab of white marble that weighs about 115 pounds (50 kg) was sold in Beverly Hills, California, by Dallas-based Heritage Auctions to a buyer who not to be immediately identified.

The chiselled tablet, with 20 lines of Samaritan script with principles that are fundamental to Judaism and Christianity, was put up for sale by the Liozna Rebbe Shaul Shimon Deutsch , founder of the  Orthodox Jewish Living Torah Museum, opened in 2002 in Brooklyn, New York, with the stipulation that the buyer must put it on public display, the auction house said. The museum was home to the world’s oldest known example of a stone tablet inscribed with the Ten Commandments until it was sold at auction for $850,000 in November 2016.

Noticing that the Living Torah museum a few times had to move places, facing financial difficulties, with its third location, which was open year-round in Lakewood, New Jersey, having been closed in 2014, the request to the buyer to put in on view, may give it an other chance to come to the public again. The tablet must be displayed publicly, according to the terms of the sale dictated by the Israel Antiquities Authority, which considers the slab a national treasure.

It was not the only artefact from Rabbi Deutsch his collection chronicling Jewish life and history back to antiquity. But for him it is a way to raise money for a makeover of his museum.

The tablet has “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain” omitted. Instead of that text mentioned in the Book of Exodus there is a rule for Samaritan worshippers.

It was probably chiselled during the late Roman or Byzantine era, between 300 and 500 A.D., and marked the entrance of an ancient synagogue that was likely destroyed by the Romans, according to the auction house.

The tablet was discovered in 1913 during excavation for a railroad line near the modern city of Yavneh in Western Israel.

Someone, possibly a construction worker, acquired it and set it in a courtyard where decades of foot traffic wore down the inscriptions. There it remained until 1943 when it was purchased by a man named Y. Kaplan. This archaeologist owned it until his death in 2000. The tablet then changed hands a few more times, to be last purchased in 2005 by Rabbi Saul Deutsch for the Living Torah Museum in Brooklyn, New York for temporary display through an agreement with the Israel Antiquities Authority and then bought it outright after a legal settlement, Heritage officials said.

David Michaels, director of antiquities for Heritage Auctions, said in a statement

“The new owner is under obligation to display the tablet for the benefit of the public.”

Whereas the Dead Sea Scrolls include parchment and papyrus versions of the Decalogue that date to the first century B.C.E., the stone tablet versions of the Ten Commandments were created in the few hundred years after the birth of Christ. There are just four such stone tablets known today, but the others are either in fragments or located at less accessible sites in the Middle East, Michaels said.

“The Living Torah example is among the earliest of these Decalogues, and certainly the most complete,”

Michaels said.

“It is also the only example that can be legally obtained for private ownership.”

The tablets have nine of the most well-known commandments, but have swapped out “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain,” for an alternate injunction to raise up a temple on Mount Gerizim, which Samaritans believe was the true spot God ordained for the Temple.

The tablets likely hung over an ancient synagogue that was either destroyed by the Romans between C.E.. 400 and 500, or by the Crusaders five to seven centuries later, Michaels said.


Further reading

  1. The Ten: Lesson 1
  2. Summaries of Catholic Teaching Topic 31: The first commandment
  3. Ethical Implications in the Ten Commandments
  4. God of Our Relationships
  5. Continuity and Sanctity of the Sabbath Today




7 thoughts on “1,500 to 1,700 years old Chiselled tablet with commandments sold at auction

  1. The Jewish community should be ashamed having not avoided that the Living Torah Museum had to close.

    I sincerely hope the stone table shall soon be on public again, because mankind has to know about those writings and has to get to know the importance of it.


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