Nazarene Space

THE SEVEN LAWS OF NOAH - A Betrothal


Israel and the Nations

A fundamental truth that one must understand is the clear distinction between Israel and the nations (goyim). Now in the book of Numbers we read concerning Israel:

From the top of the rocks I see him,
And from the hills I behold him:
Behold it is a people (AM) that shall dwell alone,
and shall not be reckoned among the nations (GOYIM)
(Num. 23:9)

In fact one major difference between these two Hebrew words for “people/nation” is that AM can refer to Israel but GOY refers to the OTHER nations. GOY is the word which can also be translated “Gentile”. So from this passage we see that there are two logical categories: Am-Yisrael (the People of Israel) also known as the Assembly of Israel and the GOYIM (Gentiles).

The Assembly of Israel are not to be like other nations:

For you are a set-apart people unto YHWH your Elohim:
YHWH your Elohim has chosen you to be his own treasure,
out of all peoples that are upon the face of the earth.
(Deut. 7:6; 14:2)

As the Psalmist says:

For Yah has chosen Ya’akov unto Himself,
and Yisra’el for His own treasure.
(Ps. 135:4)

The Assembly of Israel are a nation of priests to the Gentiles (Ex. 19:6; 1Pt. 1:1; 2:5, 9).

This may come as a shock to you, but the Torah was given only to Israel and not to the goyim:

For what nation is there so great, who has Elohim so nigh unto them, as YHWH our Elohim is in all things that we call upon him for?
And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this Torah, which I set before you this day?
Only take heed to yourself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest you forget the things which your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life: but teach them your sons, and your sons' sons;
(Deut. 4:7-9)

19: He shows his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel.
20: He has not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them. Praise you YHWH.
(Ps. 147:19-20)


The First Step: Seven Laws

Now when Israel failed to keep the Torah, YHWH chastised Israel not only for not keeping the Torah, but for failing to even keep “the judgments of the nations”:

Therefore thus says Adonai YHWH; Because you multiplied more than the nations that are round about you, and have not walked in my statutes, neither have kept my judgments, neither have done according to the judgments of the nations (goyim) that are round about you;
(Ezek. 5:7)

So it seems that YHWH has a set of laws for the nations (goyim), something short of the Torah, expressing at least a minimum level of righteousness.

Traditionally in Judaism this minimum standard of righteousness consists of what is known as the Seven Laws of Noah. These are seven basic laws that are said to have been given to the Sons of Noah as part of the Noachedic Covenant and are drawn from Genesis chapters 1-9. These Seven Laws of Noah are listed out in the Talmud in b.Sanhedrin 56a, however the lists which have been circulated in English have been badly translated. They translate literally in English as follows:

1. Judges/Justice
2. Blessing the Name
3. [Against] Idolatry (literally “Idolatrous Seed” a common idiom for Idolatry)
4. [Against] Uncovering Nakedness (idiom for sexual immorality)
5. [Against] Shedding Blood (idiom for murder)
6. [Against] Theft
7. [Against] Limb of Living [Animal]

In every list I have seen published in English, the second law has been mistranslated as “Against Blasphemy” creating six negative commands and one positive command. In fact the second command is “Blessing the Name” a positive command. This also means that Rabbinic Judaism does not even keep the minimum standard of the Noachide Law, because they not only do not bless the Name, they do not even speak it.

Each of these basic laws is drawn from Genesis 1-9 as follows:

1. Judges/Justice (Gen. 3:8-19; 6:5)
2. Blessing the Name (Gen. 3:1; 9:6)
3. [Against] Idolatry (literally “Idolatrous Seed” a common idiom for Idolatry) (Gen. 3:5)
4. [Against] Uncovering Nakedness (idiom for sexual immorality) (Gen. 6:1-14; 9:1, 7)
5. [Against] Shedding Blood (idiom for murder) (Gen. 4:1-24; 9:5-6)
6. [Against] Theft (Gen. 2:17; 3:6)
7. [Against] Limb of Living [Animal] [and Blood] (Gen. 9:1-4)

Now in Acts 15 the Jerusalem Council makes a ruling as to a minimum standard for goyim coming into Nazarene Judaism. The question put to the Council was “do goyim have to be circumcised to be saved”.

Circumcision is the means through which a non-Jew (goy) is initiated into the Assembly of Israel. This is because all members of the "Assembly of Israel" must eat the Passover (Ex. 12:47) and no uncircumcised man may eat the Passover (Ex. 12:48). If all members of the Assembly of Israel must eat the Passover and if no uncircumcised men may eat the Passover then all male members of the Assembly of Israel must be circumcised. Therefore all male members of the Assembly of Israel are circumcised. Once a man is circumcised he has become part of the Assembly of Israel and is thus obligated to keep the whole Torah. “…every son of man that is circumcised is a debtor to do all the Torah.” (Gal. 5:3)

Up until that point he, as a Son of Noah, is obligated to keep to the conditions of the Noachedic Covenant.

Thus the Jerusalem council ruled concerning these goyim:

… that they should separate themselves from the uncleanness
of that which is sacrificed [to idols] and from sexual immorality,
and from that which is strangled and from blood.
(Acts 15:20, 29; 21:25)

Most people do not know that the very authoritative Western Type text of these passages added an additional commandment (which may have never before been translated into English):

…and that which is undesirable to yourself,
do not do to others.
(Acts 15:20b, 29b; 21:25b Western Text)

(For detailed and documented information on why the Western Text is so authoritative and often expresses most correctly the original Hebrew and Aramaic, see my book The Hebrew and Aramaic Origin of the New Testament at http://www.lulu.com/nazarene)
(By the way this fifth precept is essentially identical to one given in the apocryphal Book of Tobit 4:15 which Hillel quoted as a sum of the Torah in b.Shabbat 31a and is a negative form of Yeshua’s own summary of the Torah (Mt. 7:12))

These five precepts are actually a summary of the Seven Laws of Noah. They were not intended to be an exhaustive list. Instead we are told “that a greater burden should not be placed upon [goyim]” (Acts 15:28) so that any lesser burden might be. In other words these five points were defining only the outer limits of the Seven Laws of Noah. No one was questioning whether or not gentiles (goyim) could steal or murder, for example, so there was no need to include them in the list. That does not mean, however, that goyim may steal and murder.

We may examine the Seven Laws of Noah and the Five Precepts of Acts 15 together as follows:

1. Justice – That which is hateful to yourself, do not do to others.
2. Blessing the Name – (not included in Acts 15 because it is assumed that goyim following YHWH will bless the Name and not be permitted to curse the Name.)
3. Against Idolatry – This law is clarified so as to even exclude partaking of that which is sacrificed [to idols].
4. Against Sexual Immorality – Abstain from Sexual Immorality
5. Against Shedding Blood – (not included in Acts 15 because it is assumed goyim should not murder*.)
6. Against Theft – (not included in Acts 15 because it is assumed that goyim should not steal.)
7. Against Eating the Limb of a Living Animal and Blood – ({abstain]from that which is strangled and from blood*.)


Not the Final Step

Now for many in Rabbinic Judaism, in the B’nai Noach movement and of the One Faith Two Expression theology prevalent in some Messianic circles, teach the Noachide Covenent as an end game, a goal in and of itself. This was never intended to be the case.
In Acts 15 we read of the goyim in question that it was presupposed that they would be going to a synagogue on Sabbath and being taught the Torah of Moses (Acts 15:21).

Yeshua commissioned his Talmidim as follows:

Go you therefore, and teach all the Goyim,
and immerse them in the name of the Father,
and the Son, and the Ruach HaKodesh.
and teach them to observe all that I have commanded you,
and here I am with you all the days, to the end of the world.
(Matt. 28:19-20)

Water immersion is a ritual which is tied to and follows circumcision in a conversion to Judaism. Yehsua was instructing his Jewish Talmidim (disciples) to make converts of the goyim and to teach the goyim to observe all that Yeshua had commanded his Jewish talmidim to observe (all 613 commandments of the Torah).

Yochanan writes to us concerning Messiah

He who says, I am in him, out to conduct himself
according to his conduct.
(1Jn. 2:6)

Messiah was a Jew, he kept the whole Torah, not just the Seven Laws of Noah.


Get Ready to Get Married

The Assembly of Israel is set apart from the nations because YHWH has chosen Israel as His bride. The allegory of YHWH as bridegroom and Israel as his bride is found throughout Scripture. (Rev. 19:7 for example). It has long been recognized that following this allegory, the Torah is our Ketuvah (marriage contract) and the Sabbath is the token or sign of our marriage. In ancient times something of value was given to the bride by the bridegroom as a sign of their marriage, in modern times this is the wedding ring. The Sabbath is the token and sign of Israel’s marriage to YHWH and the circumcision is the consummation of the marriage.

But in ancient times the Jewish wedding ceremony was preceded by a betrothal ceremony. The betrothal preceded the wedding, usually by a year or so, though in modern Jewish weddings the betrothal is performed seconds before the actual wedding as a combined ceremony, The betrothal was roughly equivalent to our “engagement” but was much more binding. A betrothal required a Bill of Divorcement to get out of, but it was not consummated. It was therefore a binding covenant, but it did not have all of the provisions of the actual Ketuvah entered into at the wedding itself.

Now following the Scriptural allegory above, the Noachedic Covenant is the betrothal, and as such is a binding covenant. As such it puts one in a covenant relationship with Elohim thus making one “saved” (I have explained the Blood Covenant and salvation in my book Nazarene Theology http://www.lulu.com/nazarene and will explain in a future blog article). It is important to note that a betrothal is never an end itself. No one should get betrothed unless they honestly plan to get married. In fact for a woman to be betrothed to a bridegroom when she has absolutely no intention of moving forward with a marriage would be an act of fraud upon her bridegroom.

People who are new to Torah are always asking us “where do I begin”, well now we have a good starting place, the Seven Laws of Noah. But it is important to stress that this is only a first step as you go to synagogue on the Sabbath and hear the Torah of Moshe taught, as you work your way toward taking that step of accepting the Ketuvah (Torah) upon yourself and becoming the bride (The Assembly of Israel) by consummating the marriage (circumcision). As such a person studies with us they should be encourages to implement more and more commandments in their life until they feel ready to take that final step into the Assembly of Israel. For some that process may happen all at once (as it does in the modern Jewish wedding) and for others it must take time. But we must not discourage them, but only encourage them and give them a starting point.

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* It should be noted that there could be a parallel between “[against] blood” in Acts 15 and “[against] shedding blood” in the Seven Laws.

Views: 205

Comment by James Trimm on January 7, 2009 at 4:43pm
There is a claim made, usually in anti-Semitic "Jewish Conspiracy" circles that the Seven Laws of Noah will replace the ten commandments as a one world inter-faith religion. The problem is that the Seven Laws of Noah are nothing new. Lets assume for a moment that they don't really go back to Noah (though I have shown how they may be extracted from the Torah in Gen. 1-9). They go back to the Talmud, (c.500 CE) and since the Talmud stretches the commandment to "Bless the Name" to argue a case that Gentiles cannot blaspheme (a fair inference BTW) it appears that the Talmud is quoting the Seven Laws from a prior source. If the Talmud was just making them up, it would have made that law to be "against Blasphemy" (in fact most Talmud translators wrongly translate it that way). Moreover a close parallel to the Seven Laws appears in the Book of Jubilees that predates the first century. So if the Seven Laws are part of a "new" one word religion invented by evil Jews (tongue in cheek here) then it isn't very "new" and it sure is moving slow. In either case the use of the Seven Laws above is NOT as a replacement for Torah, but as a starting point to learning and keeping the reast of the Torah. If there is an actual flaw in my exegesis above, please show me where it is, don't (as one person did) point me at someone else's rehearsal of the "Evil Jews with a New One World Religion Conspiracy").

BTW sadly modern Rabbinic Jews STOPPED teaching Gentiles Torah and made the minimum standard of righteousness of the Seven Laws of Noah as a goal of its own in place of seeking actual converts to THEIR religion because Gentiles were MURDERING Jews for proselytizing. Its a bid ironic for those same anti-Semite Gentiles now to claim that very doctrine is itself a Jewish Conspiracy.
Comment by Shawn on October 2, 2009 at 2:38pm
James I dont know if you had a chance to read my thoughts on Acts 15. But I dont think Acts 15 is a Noachide ruling. It is a ruleing on the northern kingdoms return as fully instated Israelite citizens. Acts 15 has nothing to do with gentiles or Noachide (Although I think Noachide is a kosher concept, but thats not what Acts 15 is about). Here is a link to the blog I wrote showing strong evidence that Acts 15 is speaking about the cardinal sins of Judaism and being reinstated into the nation of Israel.

http://nazarenespace.ning.com/profiles/blogs/acts-15-a-mission-to
Comment by Shawn on October 2, 2009 at 2:39pm
I have heard people say that Acts 15 is a mission to turn gentiles into Noachides. And that the four laws given in Acts 15 are an example of the limited amount of Torah the gentiles/Noachides have to do. While this is an interesting concept and attempt at reconciling Jewish and Christian theology, I believe there is another more likely scenario at work. I believe Acts 15 is not talking about "gentiles" at all. It is talking about Israelites, in particular the 10 northern tribes who had absorbed into the gentiles.

1 - How the whole thing got started. verse 5 "And some of the believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees, rose up, saying, it is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the Torah of Mosheh."

From the outset the conflict at hand is the process of making Israelite converts and not Noachides. These Pharisees (in particular) would never ever demand that Noachides be circumcised nor would they demand that Noachides keep all "the Torah of Moshe". Both of these acts are acts of becoming Israelite citizens. If the question at hand was, what laws shall we decree upon gentiles/Noachides, then the seven laws would have been given and circumcision would never have been brought up (nor the keeping of all the Torah of Mosheh).

2 - Not talking about gentiles at all. verse 14 "Simon has declared how Elohim first visited the gentiles to TAKE OUT OF THEM a people for his name."

Notice that Elohim is not taking gentiles, he is taking OUT OF THE GENTILES. What is in the gentiles that he must take out?

Devarim 4:27 "and Hashem shall scatter you among the peoples, and you shall be left few in number among the gentiles where Hashem drives you."

This is a prophecy by Mosheh wich sums up the whole of prophecy. This is perhaps the most talked about concept by all the prophets. That the tribes of Israel would be cast IN TO THE GENTILES and then one day Hasem WOULD TAKE THEM OUT FROM AMONG THE GENTILES. Here is an example of this all important concept of Israel being cast "among the gentiles" and then one day being taken "out of them/gentiles"

Hoshea 8:8-10 "Yisrael has been swallowed up, they have now become among the gentiles as a vessel in which is no pleasure...Also, although they sold themselves among the gentiles, this time I shall GATHER THEM, when they have suffered or a while the burden of a king, of rulers."

This phrase "among the gentiles" is used many times through out the Tanak and it is a reference to Israelite who live as if they were gentiles, among the gentiles.

Acts 15 uses this terminology also in verse 19 "Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those FROM AMONG THE GENTILES who are turning to Elohim."

This statement is based upon the parable of the prodigal son in which the older brother (Judah) is troubling the younger brother's (Joseph) return.

Further still verse 16 speaks of rebuilding Israel. "After this I shall return and REBUILD the booth of David which has fallen down. And I shall rebuild its ruins, and I shall set it up..." This verse tells us that the motives of Acts 15 is to rebuid the nation of Israel as it was in the times of king David, when both houses were united in one kingdom. The motives are not to create a brand new church of gentiles or assembly of Noachides, but to restore all the tribes of Israel, even the ones who had been cast "among the gentiles".

3 - The three cardinal sins of Judaism or the seven laws of Noach?

Acts 15 decrees

Abstain from the defilement of idols
Abstain from whoring/sexual immorality
Abstain from what is strangled
Abstain from blood

Law of Noach

To behave justly in all relationships, and to establish courts of justice.
To refrain from blaspheming Gods name.
To refrain from practicing idolatry.
To avoid immoral practices, specifically incest and adultery.
To avoid shedding the blood of ones fellow man.
To refrain from robbing ones fellow man.
To refrain from eating a limb torn from a live animal.

If Acts 15 is the establishment of Noachides then they failed to issue the decrees of establishing courts of justice, Blaspheming the name of Elohim, and to refrain from robbing ones fellow man.

Three cardinal sins of Judaism

"As a general principle, a Jew whose life is endangered as a result of Torah observance is commanded to violate the laws of the Torah rather than perish. However, there are three exceptions to this rule; no matter what the circumstances, even to save his life, a Jew is never permitted to engage in idolatry, illicit sexual relations or homicide. These commandments represent the core values of Judaism - the Unity of God, the intrinsic sanctity of human life, and our mandate to transcend our base instincts so as to promote those ideals."

If Acts 15 is explaining the cardinal sins of an Israelite then they have covered all the bases, where as if it is covering the laws of Noach they failed to mention 3 out of 7. In addition it could be said that when Acts 15 is speaking about abstaining from what is "strangled and blood" that this is one concept...murder. Or that eating what is "strangled" was so common that it had to be mentioned in addition to the 3 cardinal sins.

4 - You were still expected to go and learn Mosheh on Shabbat. Acts 15:21 "For from ancient generations Mosheh has, in every city, those proclaiming him - being read in the congregation ever Shabbat."

These individuals were expected to go and learn the Torah of Mosheh and attend synagogue on Shabbat, niether of which is expected of Noachides.

I believe there is more evidence proving that Acts 15 is talking about the reinstating of the Northern kingdom of Israel as "official" Israelites once again, rather than creating a Noachide church.
Comment by Rabbi Yochanan ben Avraham on July 8, 2010 at 11:10am
Another excellent study James.
Thanks for linking me here.
I'll try and be brief (not one of my strong suits).

The point about "Birchat HaShem" is one I had wondered about as well. I spoke with a couple of Orthodox rabbis about that and the answer I got from both was interesting. Both said that Birchat means bless or honor as you point out however that part of the way we bless the Name is by not using it improperly, by reserving it for special and holy use. We bless the Name of Adonai by acknowledging it is too holy for ordinary use. This is why I as most others I've seen list this as: Prohibition on blasphemy and cursing the Name of God. This honors the Name by acknowledging its sanctity.

I see people everyday using the Holy name as a screen name, as a url address, using It in general conversation as though It were the name of a mere mortal and I have to shutter. Such pedestrian usages are certainly not "blessing the Name" of Adonai.

Your thoughts?

As for the decision of the emissaries to place 'no other burdens on the goyim converts' to Y'shua's reform movement, I agree with your take. We tend to carefully categorize everything today however it was not until Maimonides (Rambam) in the Mishneh Torah that the standard of 613 mitzvot (by that number) was determined.
From the text it seems the emissaries knew of the Sheva Mitzvot conceptually, whether they would have defined it as "seven commands" or not and, as you say, didn't bother mentioning the obvious ones.

From my reading of the Torah I believe HaShem entered into the Noach Covenant with everyone (who agreed to abide the Seven Laws) and then entered a separate covenant with the Hebrews/Jews whereby they would be a nation of priests (Exodus 19:6) for the Goyim, a specially ordained and called out people obligated to observe the 613 mitzvot as part of their service. The goyim, as congregants, have the 7 to obey under the direction of the priests.

If I am understanding you correctly, your point is that everyone is obligated to observe the 613 and all who do are "Jews." I don't see that. I see the Noachide covenant for one people (the goyim) and the Mosaic covenant for another (Israel). For instance:

Exodus 12:47 The whole community of Isra'el is to keep it. 48 If a foreigner [i.e. a Ger Toshav] staying with you wants to observe ADONAI's Pesach, all his males must be circumcised. Then he may take part and observe it; he will be like a citizen of the land ["like a citizen" not one]. But no uncircumcised person is to eat it. 49 The same teaching is to apply equally to the citizen and to the foreigner living among you."

There are certain things the B'nei Noach must do if they live among the Israelites (for instance they must honor Shabbat -- Exodus 20:10) and things they are forbidden to do with the Israelite so long as they are aw-rale or uncircumcised.

To be regarded as a Ger Toshav or resident alien Rambam says (Hilchot Issurei Bi'ah 14:7) he "makes a commitment not to worship false deities and to observe the other six universal laws commanded to Noach's descendants. He does not circumcise himself nor immerse. We accept this commitment and he is considered one of the pious gentiles. Why is he called a resident? Because he is permitted to dwell among us in the land of Israel."

Clearly these were not people who were expected to convert to Judaism (by whatever name it was known at any given time). They were observing their own covenant with HaShem and the Israelites were to accept them as B'nei Noach ("LIKE" Israelites in certain situations).

The question then comes to the goyim who embrace Adon Y'shua. Are they "becoming Jews" or are they becoming Ger Toshav. I believe they are becoming Ger Toshav and that this is why Paul explains that they are not all Israel who are of Israel as he explains in Romans 9.

Even as not all of Avraham's descendants were included in the Blessing, so too He has included others, the talmidim of Y'shua (Romans 9:7) that His House may be called a House of prayer for all people (Isaiah 56:7). I.e. for both the Jews and for the Ger Toshav. Two people, two covenants, one Torah. The Ger Toshav are allowed to become "like Israel" and go beyond the 7 Laws for a deeper relationship with HaShem. This is what Adon Y'shua is calling us to do.

Romans 11:28 seems clear that the two groups will continue to exist until Mashiach establishes the Kingdom (New Covenant). Then, referencing Psalm 110:

I Corinthians 15:27 ..."He put everything in subjection under his feet." But when it says that "everything" has been subjected, obviously the word does not include God, who is himself the one subjecting everything to the Messiah. 28 Now when everything has been subjected to the Son, then he will subject himself to God, who subjected everything to him; so that God may be everything in everyone.

Shalom
Comment by Wayne Ingalls on March 20, 2011 at 8:51pm

Another of the things that has changed or misinterpreted by the Rabbi's (generally) since the time of Acts 15 is that "Noachides" or diaspora Israelites returning to Torah -- I am partial to Shawn Barfield's analysis below -- are expressly forbidden from resting on Shabbat, citing Talmud Bavli, Sanhedrin 58b:

http://www.mesora.org/noachide-shabbos.html

 

blessings,

Wayne

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