At church this week a slight variation in translations of 2 John made us wonder at the difference between the nouns command and commandment. These different translations were using the words interchangeably, but then…why are there two different words?

Both have a very long history in the English language. Interestingly, commandment is the oldest, dating from the 1200s. It was taken immediately from the French comandement, which is taken in turn from Latin commandamentum, which was a noun form of commandare. And carried a very particular meaning–“and order from an authority.”

The verb command then came into English right around 1300. Pretty interesting in my mind that the verb was at all behind the noun!

Then we have the noun version of command. Also old, but they date it to the 1400s, which makes it a couple hundred years newer than commandment. And at the time there was a slight variation in the meaning–this was any order, not necessarily from an authority. 

So while translators today no doubt use them interchangeably, any time it’s coming from God I daresay the original translations would have taken care to use that -ment ending. 😉

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