Monday, June 9, 2008

 

The Seven Noachic Laws

From Roeber's article about German Jews in early America:
For Jews, the commands given to Noah and his sons after their rescue from the deluge were revealed truth and laid down a clear set of requirements: to establish a society based on laws; to prohibit idolatry; to prohibit blasphemy; to prevent the careless taking of human life; not to tolerate adultery, incest, homosexuality, and bestiality; to prevent robbery; to avoid eating the limb torn from a living animal. These seven basic laws, applicable only to the people of the Covenant, had become the focus of a written tradition by the second century of the Common Era. The body of writings (the Tosefta) that commented on Noachic law began gradually to extend the applicability of the Noachic commands.3 Much later--not before the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries--Jewish commentators who followed Maimonides firmly maintained that gentiles also had to observe these laws. Maimonides believed that this was so not because humans could reason themselves toward the right conclusions, but rather because revelation at Sinai had codified them into the Decalogue. Maimonides assumed that non-Jewish access to the universal truths expressed here brought obligation in its train.

His footnote is useless. Other sources point me to Maimonides's Mishneh Torah, which is not in English on the Web. See also the useful though opinioned "Comments Concerning the Noachide Law, the Mosaic Law, Judaism and Christianity", http://www.auburn.edu/~allenkc/7lawcomm.html

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