Jon Kennedy
Jon Kennedy

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The Noahides and today's news

On Wednesday I introduced author Mark Braham and what he describes as the seven commandments received from Noah, the first human savior of the human race through his obedience to God in building an ark which was the means of his and his family's escape from destruction in the Genesis flood. Though I find no mention of these seven commandments, known in Judaism as the "Noahides," in either the Catholic or intedenominational Christian encyclopedias linked on my Xnmp website, they are described in the Wikipedia thus:

The Noahide laws, also called the Brit Noah (Covenant of Noah) are the mitzvot (commandments) and halakhot (laws) that Judaism teaches that all non-Jews are morally bound to follow. They are listed in the Talmud and elaborated on by post-Talmudic authorities. Opinions differ on the reach of these commandments and the laws derived from them, but all contemporary authorities agree that there are seven commandments. These commandments and laws are based on exegesis of Genesis 2:16 and 9:4-6.

The exegesis (which means a technical process of interpreting writings, especially by considering the root meanings and nuances of the words) must be quite "advanced," because Genesis 2:16 is merely the prohibition God gave Adam and Eve to refrain from eating of the Tree of Knowledge, and chapter 9:4-6 prohibits eating animal flesh while the blood is still in it and warning that any man who kills another human being will be required to give his blood, or life, in retribution. Thus it's a stretch to find all of these "Noahides" in those passages, as listed by Braham and quoted here on Wednesday:

The Seven Noahide Laws prohibit: (1) idolatry, (2) blasphemy and cursing the name of G-d, (3) murder, (4) robbery and theft, (5) immorality and forbidden sexual relations, (6) removing and eating the limb of a live animal, and require: (7) the establishment of a justice system and courts of law to enforce the other six laws.

The Talmud, then, as the Wikipedia claims, must be fhe source of the seven Noahides. And Braham describes the Talmud thus: "the the oral Law given to Moses by G-d, passed down from teacher to disciple until it was written down about 125 years after the destruction of the Second Temple. The Talmud contains over 2,700 pages, foolscap size, each page containing about 2,500 words on an average, so we are looking at nearly seven million words or over 70 fat volumes of normal books." Interestingly, Christians never cite the Talmud as a source for our religion, which is understandable as the Talmud wasn't put into writing until after almost 200 years after the time of Christ. But Christ and the Apostles drew constantly from the Torah, the Jewish holy book that is now the Old Testament in the Christian Bible. To Jewish theologians like Braham, this is the Christians' folly, as they maintain that the Old Testament can't be interpreted rightly without the Talmud. But it seems a moot point because he says Jews are not motivated to convert Christians or members of any other religion, teaching that this is not necessary for their entrance into the presence of God after death, because conforming to the seven Noahides are sufficient for any non-Jewish people's salvation from eternal condemnation.

Most of Braham's article is of only passing interest to Christians, I think, because it goes into issues that exclude non-Jews from full participation. But the first third of it, the expostion of the Noahides, is fascinating in light of the current discussion in America about the Christian right and the secular left because, though the Noahides are not Christian teaching, they reinforce the social platform of the Christian right in most particulars and imply that orthodox Jews, or Jews believing in the Noahides, would be allied with right-thinking Christians as what could and most likely would be called a "Jewish right." To elucidate, let me define what I think the seven Noahides are saying to today's political debate.

1. Idolatry. In Western civilization, the great idolatry is science and the Enlightenment approach to knowledgte, which are consistent with Jewish and Christian world views but become an end in themselves to those western scholars who make them the final word or the ground of their being (a phrase that is other words for "religion"). 2. The great blasphemy and cursing of the name of God in contemporary western secularism is replacing the creator with the created thing. Humanism is the secularists' alternative to theism, or "God-ism." 3. Murder precludes the taking of innocent human life, the most egregious example of which in our generation is abortion. 4. Robbery and theft, many say, is what the modern liberal government is in business to perpetrate through unjust and unrepresentative taxation. 5. Immorality and forbidden sexual relations speak to today's generally condoned lifestyles of cohabitation without marriage, sodomy, and divorce/remarriage. 6. Removing and eating the limb of a live animal is the only prohibition in the six negative Noahides that I can't find widely practiced in modern secular cultures.

7. The one positive and most complex Noahide is the one that doesn't prohibit a negative but rather requires a positive of non-Jewish peoples who want the Lord's favor: establish a justice system and courts of law to enforce the other six laws. Today, we would calls such a "justice system" a government. And though "the other six laws" are not literally planks in the conservative platform, there is a great deal of common ground and, I would say, even more spiritual mutuality between their social goals.

—Webmaster Jon Kennedy


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