Nevertheless, the decree of Shem’s court that one should not marry an idolater still stands, whether it would be the wife or the husband as the idolater. It appears that even if two people are already married, but one begins to serve idolatry and is not willing to give up these ways, the other partner is obligated to divorce and separate.Part VI, chapter 4, topic 16. The Divine Code, by Moshe Weiner
So according to rabbi Weiner, it is forbidden for a person to marry an idolater based on a decree from Shem’s court. The decree is so serious that if someone starts to worship idols while married to another, the idolator should be divorced.
Now I’m gonna interrogate this “command” from different angles because I believe there are substantial weaknesses in including this in a book for the education of Gentiles about their divine responsibilities.
So, this “command,” is it part of the seven laws, the actual seven laws as related in the Talmud in Sanhedrin 56a, the prohibitions that would bring the liability of the death penalty if a righteous court found a person guilty of breaking them? Is it part of the seven laws, the laws summarised by Maimonides in Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings, Chapter 9? Let me list them now.
- Cursing God’s Name
- Worshipping idols
- Forbidden Sexual Partners
- Eating meat taken from a living animal
Well, there’s a law against worshipping idols. Is that command from Shem included there? That law amongst the seven only prohibits an individual from active idol worship. The Talmud limits this to acts of idolatry that would get a Jew the death penalty according to the Jewish law of idolatry. Being married to an idolator does not fall under that Talmudic limitation and isn’t idol worship in and of itself. Maimonides tries to expand that to say any act of worshipping idols is forbidden to Gentiles. Under what authority, I know not. But even if I assumed he had such authority, then being married to an idolator is not idol worship in and of itself. So Shem’s command does not fall under the law of idolatry.
It is noteworthy that rabbi Weiner does not include that “command” in his chapter concerning idol worship.
Does Shem’s command fall under the law of forbidden sexual partners? Well, the Talmud, Rashi and Rambam limits who the sexual partners are referred to in this command. Those sexual partners include and are limited to as follows:
- a man’s father’s wife;
- a man’s biological mother;
- another man’s wife;
- another man (male homosexuality);
- an animal; and
- a man’s maternal sister.
None of these sexual partners are “an idolator.”
Added to this, the law concerns sexual partners, in that penetrative sex should not occur. But since the verse used to derive these commands relates to marriage, other rabbis, like, I believe, rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, relates this to forbidden marriages. The problem still is that “idolators” are not included.
So Shem’s “command” doesn’t fall under the prohibition of forbidden sexual partners or forbidden marriages. I can also conclude that it doesn’t fall under any of the other laws of the seven commandments either. Therefore Shem’s “command” is not part of the divine seven laws. Shem’s “command” does not have the universal divine authority of the seven commandments.
This leads to jurisdiction. Lacking the backing of the seven commandments, what exactly was Shem’s jurisdiction? Let’s imagine he had a court. Let’s look at the law of Justice which includes courts. Talmudically, the command is that each Gentile community or town should set up its own court. Maimonides says that it is obligatory for Gentiles to set up judges and officials to judge concerning the six (or seven) laws.
So, being a non-Jew, Shem sets up his court to govern his people. What made any other court in his day subservient to the judgements and edicts of his court? There’s no law in the seven laws that grants him universal and ubiquitous jurisdiction. To compound on that significant question, what made any court after his day up until now and onwards subservient to the judgements and edicts of his courts? Again, anyone zealous for their own tribe whilst honouring the seven commandments should question this. Why does a foreigner from one tribe have any authority over another in a matter that is not part of the actual seven laws (as I defined the seven laws above)? The simple answer is that he does not without previous agreement. I know no one who has made such an agreement with Shem or his court.
That’s why I keep reserving my language, only referring to Shem’s “command” in quotation marks, suggesting that it is only supposedly or purportedly a command, but not actually such. Why? Because Shem only has the authority to deal with his court and his town/community and those that have agreed to it. He has no standing elsewhere. Hence, he can give no command to any other court as he has no authority to do so.
So, in real terms, realistically, it is false to say that all Gentiles are forbidden to marry idolators. That’s the principle. There is no such universal prohibition.
Now I’m not a rabbi. And I’m not declaring that anyone obey me. That’s why I only use arguments based on principles, take it or leave it.
Let me add another dimension. So this principle states that it’s forbidden to marry an idolator. Isn’t there something a bit uneven about this? Why are idolators singled out? Aren’t there seven laws, seven basic standards shouldn’t go below? So it’s ok, due to Shem’s neglect of other laws, to marry a thief or murderer? It’s ok to marry someone who curses God or who is known for breaking the law concerning sexual partners? If I have a spouse, and that spouse choose to help set up unjust courts and unrighteous legal systems, who perverts justice? What about the spouse who regularly buys and eats meat taken from a living animal? That’s all permissible??? Each of these types of spouse can affect the upbringing of children or impact a community. Is there any just basis for singling out the idolator?
I’ll be blunt. This “command” stinks of the unjust bias religious Jews and religious Gentiles have for the law of idolator as if it is the most important. Ex-christians seem most susceptible to this bent as well as too many Jews. A person can be a damned tyrant, unfair, unjust, but to some, as long as he claims belief in God, that’s a redeeming quality. I say, NO! It reminds me of those people that say idolators can’t study the seven laws. I retort, “so a murderer can???” No. If there are seven basic laws and a person repeatedly and unrepentantly breaks any one of them, they are equally condemned.
So when it comes to whether a Gentile can marry an idolator, it’s not one of the seven commandments, nor is it part of the seven commandments. It’s not a divine command and if it’s sourced from Shem’s court, there’s no evidence of jurisdiction.
Reality, however, … In reality, marriage is not an easy road. It comes with challenges, with highs and lows. People, for one reason or another, choose to spend their lives together. At least they aim to do so. The journey can be much more difficult if there are significant differences between the married couple in terms of moral standards. Conflict and pain can ensue if not enough forethought is put into such a crucial decision that affects families and children.
Since there is no commandment against it, a Gentile can marry any other Gentile that are not among the forbidden six. But that does not mean it’s wise or even good to marry simply anyone. It’s not about commands and prohibitions. It’s about doing what is best for you and the people around you, the potential spouse and any hopes for children. Making an unwise decision is costly in so many ways.
If you want as happy or as fulfilled a life as possible, think long and hard about such a weighty decision.
In a way, the title says it all.
I became a christian at the end of the previous century. Sounds like a long time ago, right? GRIN! At first I was lax about the commitment I had made to the faith, but going to university challenged me to me to take my choice a lot more serious. I had simply settled with the doctrines of my sect without actually studying, and I was challenged by other christians that had stances that conflicted with mine, yet we call claimed it was biblical. So I chose to start to make sure I had a biblical reason for what I believed.
My relationship with the Bible grew as I used it to study and to worship, really enjoying the word. It was partly due to reading the whole Bible that I started to see the cracks in the foundation of christian central doctrines. Reading the whole thing, I realised that the sacrificial law didn’t match Jesus’ death at all and that Ezekiel makes prophecies that flat out contradict Jesus’ presumed role. Reading the Psalms was a joy. I spent years studying the book of Genesis, going through it. I learnt Hebrew and Greek so as not to put total trust in translators. Studying the Jewish Bible for me, reading it and thinking about it, was a joy, a real joy. I may not have smiled while I did it, but my joy wasn’t really expressed on my face. It was just a place of solace for me.
But one of my greatest weaknesses seems to be that I think a lot. I left christianity and I ended up learning about the seven laws and that there is a sharp distinction between Gentile and Jew. I’ve made it plain that I’m not a Jew and I’m happy not to be one. The seven commandments are for Gentiles, not the law of the Jews. We Gentiles are supposed to rule ourselves, not have some Jewish overlord, something I understood from the law of Justice. I don’t really care that some rabbis and their followers think that Gentiles need constant hand-holding and leading from the Jew. It’s neither realistic nor do I think it’s good. Anyway, …
It should have been obvious by the fact that the Jewish Bible is in Hebrew that the Jewish Bible belongs to the Jews; the Hebrew Bible was given to the Hebrews. Their whole tradition is for them, both oral and tradition. Sure the Hebrew Bible is much more widely available and easily accessed than the oral tradition. And with regards to the oral tradition, when I accepted it, one of the conclusions of my consideration of the topic is that the Bible, especially the law of Moses, the five books of Moses, needs authoritative interpretation so there can be a true understanding. There may be a serious weakness in personal interpretation because of that existence of a true divinely-given understanding that the Torah-true Jews are supposed to have.
Certain events recently have caused me to ask myself the question about how I’m supposed to interact with the Jewish Bible now? I’ve been using the book of Proverbs to teach my son some useful principles of reading, understanding and applying wisdom to his life to make it better. But I don’t use a commentary or some oral thing off the Jews. Yet I still ask myself, if they have the tradition, the proper understanding, access to all their commentaries, yet all I have is the book, and it’s their book in their language, then is it better that I simply leave their book alone? Should I simply take what they have which is mine, namely the seven commandments, and then just leave them to it? Maybe if I want wisdom I should just look for the wisdom of the culture I’m in that I can actually access rather than some teaching that is afar from me in many ways. Even the Jews have the teaching that even though they have Torah and the other nations don’t, wisdom itself is everywhere and amongst the nations.
Now I know some have said that the Jewish Bible is for everyone, that there are universal truths in there. The fact that it is authored and inspired by the source of objective truth, and it includes the history of all nations before it narrows down to being more focusing on Israel, makes it inevitable that there are universal truths in that tradition. But if it’s true that there is a barrier between me and the proper understanding of the book, and that I need access to some rabbi or well-enough trained Jew to learn the book, two things I don’t have easy access to, then what am I doing messing around with somebody else’s property?
“Well, you’re allowed to read it. They said so!” Yeah, they did, right? Let me counter some of my previous thoughts with some experienced facts. I didn’t leave christianity because of the oral tradition, only the written one, namely the Jewish Bible. The joy that I got from the Jewish Bible, I didn’t get the vast majority of that from the oral tradition but from reading the text. On a good number of topics, when I’m approached by God-rejectors, christians or muslims about claims about the Jewish Bible, I’ve not needed to ask a rabbi first before using the translation of the text and the context to refute their point. And, as I said, my son and I get a lot from just reading the words we see, no Jew involved whatsoever. Even if the “proper understanding” is out of my reach, the understanding that I get is very powerful and really relevant to me.
So maybe that’s how I should take it. It’s not as if, because I realise that the tradition is theirs and not mine, that they are more or less separate from my life and their tradition is mostly inaccessible to me, I can no longer touch or read a Bible. I’ve never pretended to be an authority or expert or someone even to be listened to. All I can do, in my position, is, if I read it, I take what I can from it and just move on with my life. I’m not claiming the tradition to be mine. If what I learn is useful to me, then I take it. You can’t really copyright an idea, as much as some claim so.
I see those pictures of the solar system belief, of circles representing planets, orbitting a yellow circle, with no physical mechanism to bind the pretended bodies to the centre of the rotation. Really, it’s like being asked to believe in magic. Oh, the balls just orbit the middle one through some magical influence.
The people who are ignorant of the fact that Einstein’s speculations superseded the mass attracting mass notion falsely attributed to Newton, those people will declare that the sun is so massive that some invisible force causes the balls to fall around it and have been falling around it for billions of years. Those people use the terms “mass” and “massive” as if they know what they’re talking about in physical terms. I don’t believe they have a clue.
Others who received Einstein’s mathematical unscientific theories into their bosom imagine that the maths are somehow physically real (“reification fallacy”) so as to see in their mind (not reality) some invisible, non-physical fabric called space-time, bent and distorted by the sun’s “mass” causing the other balls to fall perpetually around it. Again, they talk with the confidence to make it seem as if the mathematical concept is real. I’m not even gonna attempt to point out the stupidity in that.
Recently I witnessed the wisdom of a modern acolyte of scientism when a person told me that some guy called Cavendish proved the gravity ascribed to Newton, the gravity now superseded, replaced. I questioned him as to whether Cavendish’s experiment was scientific which he affirmed. I followed up by asking whether a scientific experiment can be done without a hypothesis, to which he correctly answered “no.” I then asked him to quote me Cavendish’s stated scientific hypothesis. This guy had better character than most globe believers I encounter. He admitted that he both didn’t know of any such hypothesis and didn’t even know what a scientific hypothesis was. That was another learning experience for me.
It was recently reaffirmed to me that Newton’s work where he supposedly proposed mass attracting mass was written in Latin. That poses a significant problem in my mind about the presumed link between Newton and this invisible “gravity,” that problem being that there is no Latin word for a force attracting one mass to another. I strongly doubt that those ancients who originally wrote and spoke Latin held such a concept. So how is it ascribed to a book written in Latin? For me personally, both the history and concept of gravity is an unholy mess based only on the mental and imaginative and not on the physical or the scientific method and therefore not based on science proper.
In my searches, no one has proposed a scientific experiment that Newton used to prove mass attracts mass by means of a force. In the same way, no one has shown me the scientific experiment Einstein used to prove his type of gravity and the existence of space-time, a concept that seems to have no physical reality, and seems to be only mathematical or conceptual.
Added to this, mass is simply a different form of inertia, described as a resistance to change in the state of motion or rest.
I have no personal experience of something that doesn’t want to change its speed generating a force just because it resists a change in speed. In fact, it makes no sense. A big mass is just something that more strongly resists a change in motion. There is no reason or mechanism for that resistance, for inertia, to generate an attractive force, not even a medium (“space-time”) that only exists in the mind or on math papers.
Because of this, I conclude that there is no scientific basis and no basis in reality for either form of “gravity,” either inertia attracting inertia(???) or distortions in maths (“space-time”).
In brief, “gravity” is bullshit!
So I’ve summarised where the seven laws come from and explained why I accept the oral tradition of so-called “Orthodox Judaism.” They are God-given laws that are the baseline moral/legal standard for non-Jewish humanity. The Jews have their own laws to keep and the rest of humanity has its laws.
But how relevant are those basic laws? Why do I keep referring to them? I’ll just list them again.
- Cursing the name
- Forbidden Sexual Partners
- Meat taken from a living animal.
How are these laws relevant to life today?
On various levels, for me, the basic laws of mankind show their relevance. In fact, since I can mention the applicability of some aspect of the seven laws in so many of my articles demonstrates their relevance.
Since the seven laws are basic obligations on mankind, and meant to be the basis of international secular law, they provide a bar, a standard, with which to judge the state of communities, nations and individuals and oneself. They are the general guide for how one lives and how one relates to those who claim to be in positions of power. Bodies of law and constitutions can be measured to see if they even meet with these basic standards, exceed or fall below such standards.
Three clear and simple examples are justice, murder and idolatry. Murder, according to the seven laws, includes abortion as a forbidden act. How does the government handle the killing of the unborn and how does it measure up to the divine standard? Most western governments fail since they legalise the practice of slaughtering the unborn with some industries profitting and benefitting from the killing. I only say “most” because I don’t know if there is a place that still forbids it. It could be that all western governments fail in this way. The law of justice includes that command that courts are supposed to uphold this minimum requirement. Yet, since government edict is upheld by courts in defiance to the seven laws, then both the law of murder and justice are ignored and thrown aside.
With regards to the law of idolatry, the active worship of false gods is forbidden. Yet in bills of fictitious “human rights” and in constitutions, it is explicitly written that the government and courts can’t interfere with a person’s worship. In fact, it is widely believed that worshipping any god is a basic human “right.” Again, contradiction between the divine standard and God’s law.
It could be argued that since God’s laws are being ignored, then they are not relevant. On a subjective level, that may well be true. But when it comes to objective reality, ignoring objective principles do not make them irrelevant. If I ignore the fact that things heavier than the air tend to drop, that will not stop me falling to my death if I jump off a cliff. Ignoring the fact that there are objective standards of morality doesn’t impact the fact that, since there is an objective Judge, then there will be consequences. In fact, the world’s very lack of moral fibre may be one of the significant causes to its current decline and moral and intellectual deplorable state, and its apparent acceleration into the abyss.
The seven laws are also a general guide for how one lives. Avoiding acts of theft, idolatry and injustice, for example, is keeping in line with the divine laws whether acknowledged or not. Some have said that the laws are much too basic for such a guide. Unfortunately the current sorry state of the world is evidence that this is not true, that even basic morality is too high a standard for people.
But this is just at a superficial level of the laws, just reading what the basic laws state and living by them or seeing the world through their lens. Personally, once I started to actually think about them and ponder them, then I saw a lot more relevance to what they point to and what they challenge a person to do and think.The basic level of the law of idolatry simply states not to actively worship idols. A person can simply avoid bowing down to statues, which is good. But for me, I see something deeper that is not legal but is just moral. Close to the surface of that law is the principle of not being led to idolatry or putting oneself in the position to break the law. One what I see as a deeper level, I see the law is about avoiding devotion to falsehood, or having excessive adoration for people or ideas. Just that principle, that simple statement, tells me so much about dealing with life in general. No one would consider celebrities, sports athletes or politicians as literal idols. A person can be a fan(atic) of a certain figure, following them and hanging on their every word. They would never be considered to have broken the superficial law of idolatry, but the deeper aspects and morality it points to does warn a person against such excesses.
And that is only one aspect of the deeper morality of the law against idolatry.
What about the law of eating meat taken from a living animal? What could be the deeper understanding of what seems to be an obscure law? Some people see this as teaching against cruelty to animals, to make sure the animal is dead before eating so as not to cause it prolonged suffering. I personally see the importance of delayed gratification, to not simply act on impulse and instinct to devour. Again, that principle has a lot of application in this world.
The laws concerning forbidden partners, theft, murder and justice also have so many deeper applications regarding how to deal with people and institutions.
So the seven laws have plenty of relevance to real life both on a superficial level and especially on a deeper level.