I was given another inspiration by … you know what? I’ll say his “name.” I hope he doesn’t mind.
So I was given another inspiration by a commenter called “Donkey of Balaam.” I revisited a recent article about anarchism. He gave me the idea of revisiting another article from just over 5 years ago. Since my views are different to what they were then, it’ll be interesting to go through that argument and disagree with myself.
Now in that article, I state some things that I couldn’t agree with today. That article was about how atheists break and undermine the seven laws. Let’s see if or how it holds up to scrutiny.
So I claimed that the atheist broke the law of idolatry. Before I deal with that claim, let me state two aspects of the seven laws, namely the actual law of idolatry and what is contained in the actual law.
The law prohibits active divine service to an aspect of creation, worshipping it as if it were a god. So to give divine service to an idol according to its customary rites or service, or to worship it using certain forms of worship done in the Jewish temple, specifically: prostrating, ritual slaughter, incense burning, and libation, doing any of this makes one liable for the punishment for the act. Also, to state that “so and so is my god” or something to that effect makes one liable.
The other aspect is what the (maximal?) punishment is for breaking a law that is part of the actual 7 laws. According to the Talmud, Rambam and Ramban, the (maximal?) punishment for doing an act prohibited in the seven laws is the death penalty.
Rav Naḥman bar Yitzḥak says: Their prohibition is their death penalty. Since the only punishment mentioned in the Torah for transgressing a Noahide mitzva is execution, any descendant of Noah who transgresses is liable to be executed. (from the William-Davidson translation of the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 57a, from sefaria.org)
A non-Jew who violates one of the Seven Commandments is executed by means of the sword. (law 14, chapter 9, Laws of Kings and Wars, Mishneh Torah, translation from sefaria.org)
However, if they don’t do this (i.e., set up courts and judges), they are not put to death, for this is a positive commandment for them, and [the Sages] said only, “their admonition not to do a particular act is what leads to their death (i.e., the Torah’s warning that something is forbidden is sufficient to warrant the death penalty for Noahide laws)” (Sanhedrin 57a), … (pg 225, The Torah: with Ramban’s commentary translated, annotated, and elucidated, by Rabbi Yaakov Blinder, where Ramban comments on Genesis 34:13)
So in light of the actual law and its punishment, is atheism … Oh! I forgot something.
According to the Talmud, all the seven laws are prohibitions, or, in the Talmud’s clearer wording, they are laws to “sit down and not act.” You keep the law, you accord to it, by not acting. These are laws about behaviour not thought. (As usual, I’ll clarify that I’m not talking about some wider, rabbinically crafted ,”noahide code [of conduct].” I’m only talking about the core 7 laws. When I wrote the original article, I conflated the artificial “code” with the actual laws.) So there is no law to believe in, acknowledge or revere God for Gentiles.
Yes, I know I’m disagreeing with some experts.
So in light of all these things, the actual law and its punishment, does atheism break this law?
Does atheism include acts of divine service, rites and ceremonies used to acknowledge the lordship of some creation? The answer is “no!” As it is a statement of rejection of any god, it doesn’t include such rites in and of itself. So an atheist, in reference to his atheism, cannot break this law. The atheist, in reference to his atheism, wouldn’t likely do an act concerning idolatry that would be a capital offence. As there is no law upon Gentiles to act in any way towards God or even believe in him or acknowledge his truth – as the law of idolatry is a law commanding inaction and concerns actions, not beliefs or thoughts – then the atheist would accord with this law and be innocent.
So where did I go wrong with this law and how I applied it to atheists?
As I said before, to use rabbi Israel Chait’s terminology in his audio series on the seven laws at mesora.org, I conflated law with philosophy / ideal. You see, there is a difference between a law governing action and the philosophical principles it may contain or that can be learnt from it that can improve one’s thinking. One is primarily about the realm of a certain set of actions and the other is about the realm of ideas that can spread to a wider scope of actions not covered by the law.
So, as I wrote before, “philosophical idolatry” or “conceptual idolatry” is not part of the actual law prohibiting idolatry, but understanding the actual law and the philosophy of it can help one understand why such beliefs can and should be condemned as delusions. They cannot be condemned for breaking any law but they can for going against a wider morality.
So, to be blunt, atheism does not break the law against idolatry or any core law among the seven.
I had claimed that atheists break the law of “blasphemy” as I then called it. I said that blasphemy was deprecating (the truth of) God and thus atheists broke this law.
Once again, it’s important to state what the law actually states and compare it to just the stance of being someone who says God doesn’t exist.
The law of, properly said, cursing the name states that a Gentile is liable if he curses God using his name. To curse God means to verbally wish harm upon him. To do this using his name means a person would wish that God would harm himself by means of himself. For a Gentile, this covers the use of any title for God in the relevant Gentile language, when the title is known to apply to him.
For example, if there’s a fictional guy called John who is the only king and ruler of a land, such cursing would occur if a person said, “May John strike down John,” or, “May the king injure the ruler.”
Now that’s the actual law, part of the seven laws. (Before anyone goes on at me to say how unrealistic such a command would be, please look at my other article on this topic.)
So the law states what action is forbidden according to the seven. Good. Now, does a person’s atheism fall into this forbidden act? And the answer must be “no!” Why? Because simple atheism, denying the existence of any god, is not, in and of itself, the action of vocalising a wish for God to harm himself using his name. It’s that simple.
So the atheist, in reference to his atheism, does not break this law!
So where did I go wrong?
Once again, I did not go with what the law states. I took an understanding that was not part of the law, and used the word, “blasphemy,” to describe what the atheist worldview and premise does. But the English word, “blasphemy,” is much wider with regards to semantic scope than the law of cursing God’s name. I was using a vague understanding of insulting God and rhetorically asking what bigger insult there could be than to not just ignore his existence but to deny it. The problem is that this is not an act covered by the seven laws and the law against cursing God’s name!!! In addition, beliefs are not covered by the core 7 laws.
Once again, due to the teaching I had received from both a Christian past and the stance of some Jews teaching the seven laws, I had conflated law with philosophy / ideals. Now the law can teach philosophically that hatred against God and defiance against him should be condemned as wrong – and sure, denying his existence is such a stance – but this teaching is not law.
So again, I was wrong on that point.
Now I come to my third argument of how atheism or the atheist breaks or undermines the seven laws.
I claimed that the atheist undermines the law of Justice. I claimed that the law of Justice included three aspects, quotingthe Talmud, Sanhedrin, 56b, these aspects being: not to exchange God with anything else; not to curse God; and that the fear of God should be upon people. I said that commands necessitate a commander, that the atheists don’t keep the “Noahide Commandments” but just his own whims. I also said that removing God leaves the atheist morality on shaky ground, uncertain if it will be changed by a wind of internal or external change, lacking an objective standard.
So I can’t use the tactic or approach I’ve been using before because this point was not about breaking a law but rather undermining it. So, based on everything I’ve said in this article so far, an atheist, in specific reference to his denial of the existence of any gods, does not break any of the seven laws! So let me deal with claims regarding undermining the laws.
I quoted the Talmud to state that three things are part of the law of Justice. Let me quote what I said.
According to the Talmud, the following laws or principles are part of the law of Dinim:
With whom does the following statement of Rab Judah in the name of Rab agree: viz., [God said to Adam,] I am God, do not curse me; I am God, do not exchange me for another; I am God, let my fear be upon you?25 – This agrees with the last mentioned [who mentioned the law of Dinim].” (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 56b)
Now do you see what I (now) see? Well, I’ll just say what I see.
I claimed that the laws or principles in that quote were part of the law of Justice, those laws being not to exchange or curse God and that his fear should be upon people. The problem is clear: the text does not say these three laws are part of the law of Justice! That is a significant problem to my claim.
But the main question for me is whether this passage is actually one of or part of the seven laws. Here a rabbi is sharing his view that he derives three teachings or laws from words in the written Torah as is shared in the various editions of the Talmud. For example, the William Davidson Talmud from sefaria.org states the following.
The Gemara asks: In accordance with whose opinion is that which Rav Yehuda says that Rav says, in interpretation of the aforementioned verse: Since I am “God,” do not curse Me; since I am “God,” do not exchange Me with another god; since I am “God,” My fear shall be upon you? The Gemara answers: In accordance with whose opinion? It is in accordance with what some say, i.e., that the phrase “and the Lord God commanded the man” includes the prohibitions against cursing God’s name and idol worship, as well as the mitzva of establishing a system of law and justice, so that the fear of God will be upon the people. (https://www.sefaria.org/Sanhedrin.56b?lang=bi)
So this interpretation is what “some say.” Great. What does that mean to me? That there is actually a command to fear God? Or that there is a law concerning justice so that people fear God?
But it says later that the seven laws carry the death penalty in Sanhedrin 57a. And even later in 58b-59a, it says that the seven laws only carries prohibitions, laws that command inaction, except for justice that had an active and inactive element.
So is it an overt fact that Gentiles are commanded under the seven laws to fear God or else we face death for not doing so? Based on what I’ve read, I don’t believe so. So this makes the notion of atheists undermining the seven laws questionable at least.
And outside of some explicit statement of that kind, I’m only left to my conclusions. And I know that atheists uproot the objective nature of the law by rejecting God and that would place their morality in a hazardous position. Even if they stay good and consistent for their own reasons, not going against God’s law or the righteous courts, he’s still in a precarious position.
I did say in that previous post that the atheist doesn’t keep the seven laws because there is no command without a commander. I’m not so sure the logic holds anymore. Why not? Because the written and oral tradition show that humans are obligated to have a morality and be responsible for one regardless of whether they accept God or not. The fact is that God’s standards are objective, so he is commander regardless of an atheist’s subjective renunciation of his existence. Therefore his commands have an objective existence and obligation.
Added to this, Rambam teaches that people can perform the laws for their own reasons other than God commanding them.
Anyone who accepts upon himself and carefully observes the Seven Commandments is of the Righteous of the Nations of the World and has a portion in the World to Come. This is as long as he accepts and performs them because (he truly believes that) it was the Holy One, Blessed Be He, Who commanded them in the Torah, and that is was through Moses our Teacher we were informed that the Sons of Noah had already been commanded to observe them. But if he observes them because he convinced himself logically i.e., by his own intellect and conscience, but he does not agree that they were commanded by G-d., then he is not considered a Resident Convert and is not of the Righteous of the Nations of the World, but merely one of their wise. (https://www.sefaria.org/Mishneh_Torah%2C_Kings_and_Wars.8.11?with=all&lang=bi, emphasis mine)
This version incorporates commentary in its text, but its conclusions are the same as mine. The seven laws can be observed by a person who just convinces themselves that each one agrees with his inclinations, whilst rejecting God.
I’ve been in a number of disputes where the person opposing my stance claims that a person must knowingly accept the seven in order to really keep them. I’ve yet to hear firm evidence to back this up. Since God has set the objective standard for all Gentiles, as the Talmud clearly states and as the Jewish Bible shows, then a Gentile can abide by the law by being innocent of breaking it, avoiding the prohibited acts.
All this is to say that my previous view that since a command needs a commander, atheists don’t keep the seven laws, only whim, I see now as incorrect.
So this whole part about an atheist, simply by means of his atheism, undermining the law of Justice is, at best, questionable, but definitely not conclusive to me any longer.
So there you have it. I just refuted myself. What fun! Whatever could I write about next?
I say a bit more in the audio version.
So, you see, you may read my blog posts. You may see me quoting rabbis or their books. I try to find facts, as clear a statement as possible to get as defined a picture as possible to help me negotiate life in a correct manner, a moral manner.
But I recently caught myself in a conversation trying to give evidence for a certain stance I had.
Now stick a pin right there. I’ll get back to that.
So I’m not a Jew. I realise that. I’m not fluent in Hebrew, Yiddish or Aramaic. Those are foreign languages to me. I’m not involved in the Jewish oral Torah, the ongoing centuries-old, millenia-old discussion of the Jews about the revelation and law God gave to them. I’m not one of those Gentiles who craves to be part of their nation to one extent or another. I’m from another tree and branch entirely.
And I’m happy to stay that way.
Is that the problem?
Anyway, going back to what I was talking about … So I’m in this discussion about the seven laws, and I catch myself trying to prove things from the Talmud, from Rambam, from other Jewish sources … Jewish sources. I’m a non-Jew – nationality, British; ethnicity, Caribbean – and I’m trying to prove stuff from Jewish sources.
Does that sound right to you? Does that sound right to me?
I’m not of that world. I’m in someone else’s property, someone else’s conversation. I’m taking bits here and there, trying to make a solid point. But am I even on a solid foundation?
When the guy, whoever he was, collated the Talmud, was he intending to communicate with a British Caribbean? Or with a fellow Jew? When Rambam wrote his Mishneh Torah, was it written for a universal audience or his own people? How would I even know when there are different opinions amongst his own people?
But they’re communicating God’s message, right? The God of all creation. That’s universal, objective, something applying to everyone. So there is something there for me too, right?
But how can I be arguing using parts of their discussion? I talk about disputing with rabbis, but that is their heritage, their discussion, their tradition. Who am I?
But then again, I’m the stranger, the foreigner. How can any one of them come to me and tell me how I should live and expect me to just accept it knowing that there is disagreement in their ranks?
And I’m not a trusting person.
But I’m already convinced that God spoke to them at Sinai.
What was funny too is that I was discussing with another Gentile, another stranger. Odd.
Anyway, what does all this mean? Not sure.
Does it make sense that I learn like a Jew to understand things … No, that idea made no sense to me before and it makes less sense now. Why cut myself even more from the people around me? That reminds of a saying, “don’t be over-righteous, why destroy yourself?” I know, I know, it may not exactly fit but I did say it reminds me of it, not that it exactly fits my situation.
Hmmm … so where’s all this going? Don’t know yet. I just think that sometimes, when it comes to understanding God’s revelation relevant to me, I’m a stranger in a strange land, with little real security. What would I expect wandering in another man’s garden?
So by the title, you should see that this is a(nother) subjective piece / post. If something doesn’t make sense, it can only mean it doesn’t make sense to me. Whether it is objectively cogent or not is another question. It just may need explication, elucidation, explanation or some other “e” word. Oh, it could actually be incoherent. It may even be flawed and wrong. But this post is only about the fact that a certain position or idea doesn’t make sense to me.
Let’s see if I can unpack my quandary.
It’s the position of some that:
- God enjoined 7 commandments upon all humanity.
- The Jews hold the codification and details of the 7 Commandments.
- The oral Torah is a tradition unwritten, held exclusively by the Jews, more properly, the Torah observant Jews and their rabbis.
- That oral tradition, the one held exclusively by the Torah observant rabbis, one of the smallest minorities in the world, is needed to fully understand and keep and make decisions and rulings (authoritative judgments) concerning the seven laws.
- We Gentiles, according to our 7 Commandments, are obligated to set up our own righteous courts and make rulings.
Now, to me, I struggle to see soundness in these positions when held together.
That sounded too conciliatory, too nice. I’ll try again.
I don’t see soundness in holding these positions together.
You may see that one or two of these points are part of one another. For example, points 1 and 5 are intrinsically linked. God commands 7 laws, one of which is to set up our own courts and therefore Gentiles should make rulings in those courts.
As I shared a number of times, Jews have no authority in Gentile lands. And the 7 laws themselves afford them no authority as well.
So then comes the confounding part. If we Gentiles are supposed to keep the laws, and rule in our own courts, why would the means and knowledge of how to rule, make rulings, according to the seven be locked in the oral law which is the exclusive possession of the Jews?
Or, removing the assumption / presumption, is it true that the means and knowledge of how to make rulings according to the 7 laws are in the oral law, the exclusive possession of the Jews?
To me, it seems irrational, as irrational as the Christian doctrine of original sin, that God gave man / the Jews a law that they did not have the ability to keep. And remember, the issue of such an idea is not the possibility of it, but rather the morality of it, that God would inflict harm and death on those literally unable to do what he demands of them.
So what’s the situation here?
God gave Gentiles demands, seven commands, and mandated that we judge ourselves over these commands. Yet, apparently, he placed the means to do so out of our reach.
I know that such a thing is possible as an all-powerful universal creator can do what he wants. But this isn’t an issue of possibility but rather one of internal moral / rational cogency or soundness. As I’ve said before, if the obedience of a Gentile to the 7 laws is wholly dependent on sufficient time, education and the presence of a knowledgeable Jew, most of the world throughout history, even today, is doomed. It is not much better than the idea that only faith in Jesus gives salvation. In fact, it may be worse than that since at least that idea of Jesus is more widely known and easier to access. If God commanded us Gentiles to create courts and avoid injustice, then I believe it naturally follows that we Gentiles must be able to access and learn the information necessary for us to make rulings, defined as “an authoritative decision or rule of a judge or court,” with no such authority given to Jews. Again, I must clarify with the statement that Jews are in the place to tell us what has been revealed to them clearly about our commands, our divine laws, but not to decide or make rulings concerning them as there is no evidence that they have such authority over those outside of their national jurisdiction.
But then I might get the retort that the rulings that Jews are justifiably able to give to us Gentiles are something called “halakhah.” Unfortunately, searching for a definition, an English understanding, of that Jewish word throws confusion on the issue. Many places define “halakhah” as “Jewish law.” The observant reader of such a definition should see the obvious problem when it concerns the divine laws for non Jews, for Gentiles, the problem being that Jewish law would not be Gentile law.
The dictionary I typically install on my phone says that “halakhah” is the general term for Hebrew traditional / oral law, whilst other resources says it refers to the legal side of “Judaism,” as opposed to the “story” side or “narrative” side.
For me, the root of the problem is that this is once again an attempt to use a mystifying Hebrew term instead of using concepts and words native to the Gentile audience, which, for me, means using English words. It’s like the Hebrew word “ger” which certain people refuse to translate although it has been translated into different languages throughout history. Keeping it in its Hebrew transliterated form helps make its meaning pliable for those wanting to take advantage of it. It’s like the Hebrew term “Hallelujah” that certain Christians have injected a similar mystification, claiming it’s the highest praise when it’s been translated into many languages and is just the Hebrew way of saying “celebrate God” or “praise the Almighty.” As it relates to the word “halakhah,” going from one Jewish resource to another, it is repeatedly talked about with regards to how a Jew should live.
Let me try the lowest common denominator of how this Hebrew word is translated. There is one Hebrew word that is translated as “commandment” (mitzvah) and “halakhah” refers to how it is kept, the procedure for keeping the law. Now that makes sense. Now I’m told that this legal procedure has three sources: from God to Moses; from the (ancient) rabbis; and from custom. Tradition has it that God gave laws to Gentiles which is evident in the Jewish Bible. But the legal procedure, the details, how the laws are kept, if that too comes from God, that claim is ok as long as there is evidence. If the procedural details are from rabbis or custom, then we have a problem. Rabbis, especially modern ones, have no basis for authority in Gentile lands or over Gentiles outside of their national jurisdiction. A custom, … I believe that we can only be talking of Gentile custom, not Jewish ones, for similar reasons that Jews / rabbis don’t have any authority in Gentile lands. From all this, it is clear to me that rabbis can only describe Gentile Torah laws that come from the God-given / revealed tradition and not command, innovate or proscribe laws for Gentiles, e.g., make rulings.
This brings to mind a recent negative reaction that one of my articles elicited. Is that true? Do my articles evoke emotion? Do my articles control the heart of a person? Aren’t people responsible for their own feelings? Hmmmm … being real, words can play a part in how people feel, if they allow it. Can’t be too reductionist.
Anyway, where was I?
So, one of my articles received a negative response. The complainant, assuming that I’m a nationalist, thought / wrote that I rejected following the Jews as I would be happy if an English or Scottish man ruled me. As I make it plain where I live, where I was born and raised, it makes it easy to conclude that I have enough kinship with the people of this country to prefer a neighbour rule me rather than the foreign Jew!
In today’s over-racialized climate, it seems irritatingly easy to be labelled racist or anti-semitic.
Aside from my own individual antisocial world, I believe I see something that seems to have a lot of historical precedence. I feel like I’ll be repeating myself but, hey, it gives me something to do.
Many people prefer their own, especially when it comes to leadership and places of accepted authority. Nations and nationalism would not exist if such was not the case. Do you see the way many Jews cherish their national independence and prefer a king to come from their own? Many in all countries do not want their lives controlled by others. It just seems like a persistent trend in humans.
Now despite the fact that the Jews possess the Truth of Torah, God’s revelation to man, a certain trend I’ve seen amongst those who have learnt and accepted the seven laws seems to contradict the historical “nationalist” trend, seems to even contradict the nationalistic mindset amongst the Jews themselves. To various extents, these Gentiles have cut themselves off from their own countries and people groups to “follow the Jews.”
On one side of the spectrum is the “noahide,” typically some ex-Christian who essentially lives the life of “I’ll do what the Jew tells me.” They may still see themselves as non-Jewish, may still be politically affiliated to the national government or not, but their morality and spirituality or religiosity is rabbinical crafted, not simply a basic set of 7 laws with the rest to be based on one’s cultural rationality, but rather a comprehensive list crafted by a rabbi or a group of them of what is moral or not with little criticism of whether that morality comes from God or the rabbis, as if the distinction even matters to such a person (it doesn’t seem to). The Jew is the closest to God a person can get so woe betide anyone who doesn’t want the rabbinically dictated “noahide code.” That Gentile, that noahide, has given sovereignty of his life to the Jews. And normally he will be happy about this. Remember, this is the closest thing he has to God’s revelation.
On the other side of the spectrum is the modern “ger,” one who wants to be part of Israel, who wants to recite “shema yisrael” (meaning “Listen, Israel” from Deuteronomy 6:4) as if they’re included, those who want to cleave to Torah-national Israel, to sojourn in their gates, in their midst. The most extreme amongst them are almost bilingual (at the very least) talking or writing in transliterated Hebrew to the point of incoherence to a typical Gentile reader, more versed in kabbalah, eschewing English and preferring Hebrew at times because, according to one of their rabbis, if you want the truth, go to the Hebrew!
Although both groups, noahide and ger(ring), rely on rabbis, … hmmm … there’s nothing with which I can finish that thought. Both depends on the rabbis in a consistent way, but, to me, the self-proclaimed “ger” is more likely to be more severed, in one way or another, from his native people.
And all the time, while the noahide and “ger” have cut themselves offfrom their people to various extents for the sovereignty of the Jew, the Jew himself is or should be more nationalistic or possessive of his own people. There is no cutting off from his people, his nation. His authority is another Jew. His judge and king will be another Jew. While the word, “Gentile,” blurs the whole world of widely differing people into one whilst the Jew is more singular, unique.
Speaking of being cut off from a nation or a people, where do I fit in all this? I talk of “noahide” and “ger” as the outsider that I am, yet I have no deep allegiance with or love for the country of my birth, the people amongst whom I have habitually lived. I have no knowledge of my ancestry and have been much more interested in ideas and morals than race, which I’m finding to have an objective reality in this world. Although I am a branch cut off from my roots, I have no desire to simply follow anyone, be it Brit or Jew. I don’t wish to place my faith or confidence fully in anyone. If a rabbi was to tell me firstly that x is one of the seven laws but that y is a seven law obligation, I would not simply take his word for it; I could not say he is right and true because he and his people have God’s truth because they’re not prophets. The plethora of rabbinical opinion makes such trust impossible. The more the human element, the less natural authority they possess.
I know this post seems a bit meandering but it’s just a way for me to process and order my thoughts.
Almost a separate issue is my constant referring to “the Jew” or “the Jews.” Although I don’t share, no longer share, the adoration or high opinion noahides tend to have for them, I don’t dislike or hate them. I’m just not much of a collectivist and I don’t mix the awe I have for the way God set that people apart and the way a core element of them have cherished and protected the Torah tradition with how I view an individual Jew or a group of their rabbis. But even I must admit that constantly referring to them as “the Jew” and “the Jews” seems almost negative, standoffish. But would the same be true if I consistently referred to the Brits and the British, the Pole and the Polish, the American and the Americans, the Chinese man and the Chinese?
In that light, I don’t think it can be avoided that I refer to the Jew as such. Despite how it can sound, there is no maliciousness in such a reference.
So going back to the original thought of this post, just because a small set of Gentiles associate themselves more with the Jews in a certain sense than their own people, can there be any real grounding in the idea that only Jews should rule Gentiles or make rulings for the nations due to their unique possession of the oral tradition? Because the general description of the codification of our law is in their tradition, does that necessarily mean that they are in charge of the Gentiles? Did God really place the entirety of our moral matters in their hands? Undoubtedly, for me, they are priests for the nations, but did God also make them lawgivers and thus controllers of the nations? Are the specifics of our laws a matter of revelation, or rather revelation based or revelation-accordant human rationality? In light of the fact that normally people don’t like another group, a group not from their own, telling them how to live, Jews included and emphasized, does it really makes sense that God would ensure that his people, the Jews, would be placed in harm’s way by teaching that the Gentile land must have Jewish oversight and Jewish legal control, thus reinforcing the anti-semitic idea that Jews want to control the world? Does it make sense that, similar to the teaching of original sin, God places morality out of the reach and the ability of the vast majority of humans throughout history?
I have yet to be given the basis for the soundness of such teachings. And such teachings does exist among the rabbis, as can be seen in “The Divine Code” of rabbi Moshe Weiner.
Here’s another question that comes to mind. It may … no, it is related because it relates to a form of tribalism, the emotional bond with a people group one considers one’s own, that exists even today. It is promoted amongst some noahides and rabbis (and most likely, no, inevitably, the modern gerrings) that a righteous Gentile will both love God and love Israel. Let’s assume that Israel refers to a currently extant nation – I don’t know if the current state of Israel is that Israel – is it possible to love one’s own people group and to also love Israel? It makes sense for a Jew to love Israel as he would have emotional ties with his own tribe. But a Gentile? One from the many other people groups out there? Is it realistic for them to love Israel and their own people group? Must a Gentile have a dual love where the Jews have only one? It’s logical, reasonable, to love God, the source of my everything, who gives the potential and ability to have happiness. I can respect Israel, the Torah-true among them. I can be grateful to them, those faithful, for being the pinpricks of starlight in this dark world, burning bright against the cold darkness that has always sought to subsume it from both without and within. But to love the nation, an alien people group who are still essentially strangers to me and who would or could treat me the same, as a stranger? Maybe the phrase “love Israel” needs either rewording or better definition.
As you can see, there are a number of things that make no sense to me, that I both doubt and question. Guess I’ll just have to keep learning, maybe find an answer.
That’s if there is an answer.
There may not be.
I love writing about God and his truth. Every opportunity I get to do it, while I’m doing it, I feel direction, purpose, fulfilment. That’s a rare thing for me.
I work in a school for autistic children.
What a way to start an article, huh?
So yeah, I’m there. I work with some kids who are at such a low level of awareness, who don’t comprehend a lot, who can hardly speak even though they are above 10 years old, who are so into themselves, locked in their habits, motions and compulsions …
I ponder and think while I’m at work. I think about the seven laws. And something hit me when I considered how low level they were.
Man is made in God’s image. That’s the basis of our very creation, it’s the reason for the prohibition against murder.
The person who murders a man should be put to death by men, because each person is made in God’s image. (Genesis 9:6, my paraphrase)
A man I respect wrote an article articulating the respect he had for this image. You can find it here.
Now I had formed an opinion, possibly a personal one, although I’m sure I learnt it from somewhere else, that being in the form of God had something to do with our unique faculties for discernment and understanding, to master our environment, or at least the potential for such discernment. The Hebrew word from which the word “God” is translated has connotations of power and judgement.
Add to this the fact that God is intangible, so being in the image of God could not refer to a physical characteristic.
So … do you see my self-created problem? I see these kids who barely have these faculties, and I imagine that there are adults who lack such a mental development, and I’m stuck. Just where is this image of God? Surely these low level kids, those low level autistic adults, surely they must be made in God’s image. I add the words “low level” because some autistic people are higher level with much better awareness and who can talk and can maintain conversations and critical thought. But my focus here is on the low level ones. I guess this quandary I have can be widened to any person with significant loss in understanding and mental faculty.
It may just be that I’ve misunderstood what being made in the image of God entails. But I’m at a loss. Where is the image of God in such people.
I say all this in the knowledge that even someone very close to me is autistic and could be seen as low level. So this question impacts my view of those I love.
I just don’t have an answer yet.
It’s about this time of the Jewish holy days that I choose to make a further declaration of my distance from the Jewish people. Yes, I do this because I feel it’s important. It’s important that, although I respect the Jewish tradition, I maintain the specialness and unique nature of the Jewish relationship with God as opposed to the Gentile path of life. For me, this clarification is needed in the midst of opinions and views that encourage the continuing intermingling of Jews and Gentiles and the continuous rule and intervention of Jews in Gentile life, speaking specifically about the teaching of and deciding upon the seven laws and their applications.
I’m not a Jew. And for me, that means a lot. I reject religious Hebraistic labels like “noahide” that further separates me from other Gentiles and is, to me, an unnecessary term. I’m just a Gentile, a non-Jewish human being. I reject Torah labels that don’t apply to me in a natural sense, such as the Hebrew term, “ger [toshav],” which means a foreign resident of (Torah-governed) Israel. I habitually reside outside such a land, outside of Israel, and have no plans to move there. Not being a native Jew nor someone who regularly communicates with Jews in their language, I prefer to communicate in terms I understand, thus I tend to stick to my native tongue, English, and avoid Hebrew and Hebraisms unless I feel it necessary and I have a sufficient well-evidenced or -learnt understanding of the term(s).
So that’s one way I’m not a Jew.
The commandments God enjoined upon me, and all other Gentiles, are seven “broad precepts,” no more, being the basic Divine laws for Gentiles, containing only laws that are capital offences. They enforce against idol worship, but not concerning belief in, faith in or fear of God. They enforce against cursing God’s name but not concerning whether God is worshipped or not. They prohibit murder and theft, and the sexual relations between males, between man and beast, between a married female and men not her husband, and relations between close relatives. Eating meat taken from a living animal is likewise forbidden. And, acts of perverting justice are forbidden and courts must be established with the combination of those two points making righteous courts with a surrounding legal system mandatory.
With the potential expanse of these broad laws and the responsibility that comes with humans being stewards of the world and made in God’s image, there is an expected morality that is wider than the legality of the seven core laws, meaning we’re still meant to be decent people. So although there is no divine commandment upon the Gentile to honour one’s parents, it’s still important and objectively praiseworthy to do so.
But as a Gentile, unlike a Jew, I have no Divine command to honour my parents, not to hold grudges, to circumcise my sons, etc. I’m not a part of the Mosaic covenant and not under its stipulations. The body of Divine law I follow is different to and separate from the laws that God gave to Moshe for the Jewish people. I don’t keep the prohibition against theft because God commanded a similar sounding law to the Jews thru Moshe at Sinai. I don’t keep that law because it was one of the “10 commandments.” I keep it because God commanded Adam and Noah beforehand as revealed in the Torah. The law against murder that I, as a Gentile, must keep is different in detail to the law against murder that the Jew must keep.
Although there are laws and commandments that God obligated the Jews that teach morality, the sort of morality that I should keep out of rationality not out of commandment, if my behaviour conforms to such a law or I observe the details of a Jewish command, I don’t add to the seven. If I obey my parents, I don’t now have 8 commandments. Even if I offered a burnt offering or an ascent offering to God according to its detail, I don’t increase the number of Divine laws enjoined upon me.
God’s laws for humanity is bereft of ceremony, holy days, ritual and worship. There is no Sabbath, sacrifice or prayer, not even faith or love that is commanded in the seven laws. The Sabbath and its details was only given to the Jewish people, not the nations, as were the commands regarding their other holy days. This is especially relevant now in this season where 3 Jewish festivals are clustered in the same month. As a Gentile, as a dude born and raised in the UK and still living there, their months and special times have literally nothing to do with me and their holy day commands are irrelevant to my day-to-day life. And that’s ok.
While the Jews enjoy the blessings and duties that come with adhering to a more stringent God-ordained lifestyle, I, as a Gentile, enjoy the other freedoms and liberties that God has granted. The Jews get their fulfilling times partaking in the commands and worshipful activities on their sabbath. And I can enjoy getaways, travelling, and activities forbidden to Jews on that day. The Jew can enjoy the sanctity that comes from a restricted diet that comes from God for a divine purpose, negating self. A Gentile can enjoy and be thankful to God for the more diverse tastes he gets to experience with a much wider diet. God has given each people its gift for a divine purpose which we can all enjoy. Each role has its fulfillment and its restriction.
For me, the rabbi has a different place for the Gentile and the Jew. In fact, I believe that the relationship between Jews and Gentiles should be handled a lot more delicately than they have been.
A rabbi is a Jew who has sufficiently learned “Torah” enough to teach it and make decisions concerning it, especially when it comes to disputes about it, enough to issue rulings. It should be seen by his title (being a Hebrew one) that his natural setting is amongst Jews, within the Jewish community. Although I’ve seen it said that Jewish law gives him no power, the fact that he is said to be able to “issue rulings” necessarily implies that he has some authority … at least amongst Jews. Some say his role is simply that of teacher. Others give the impression that he’s like a “Judaism Lawyer.” But whatever his role, it fits most naturally amongst the Jews.
The question for me is this: what is he meant to be for me as a Gentile? And what is this “Torah” he is supposed to be sufficiently learned in?
Now look at this. For me, my easiest access to Jewry or at least some parts of its history is the Jewish Bible. And there I see a lot of focus on the Jews and their law. How many times have I seen a “noahide,” one of those ex-christians who love the Jewish Bible complain that there’s almost nothing for him and so much for the Jews? The fact that their law is codified in the written text whilst ours is alluded to or stated in fragments at best is quite obvious. The oral tradition, the Mishnah and Talmud has been with them and has focused much on how they keep their law. There are even websites that will say that “Torah” refers to their 613 laws whilst our seven laws is a separate body of law.
So what do you think most of a rabbi’s knowledge, normally, is going to be in? Of course, the Jew and how he or she keeps their law.
Add to that, although there may be a question about the authority of a rabbi within Israel, some saying he makes rulings or can do that and others saying he has the same authority as any other Jew, outside of Israel, when it comes to the typical non-Jew living in his non-Jewish land, the rabbi has no jurisdiction, no authority. The question of authority doesn’t even exist.
Even our seven laws give them no authority. We Gentiles are to set up our own courts in our various communities. The rabbi doesn’t have a natural place in the Gentile community. And, based on the small proportion of Jews there are, much less rabbis, I don’t believe they will ever have such a place.
So what is a rabbi for me? To me?
Added to this, despite the current Jewish diaspora and the self-continued exile of many of them, I believe that Israel is the God-given home for Jews. I feel despondent when I hear a Jew, at worst a rabbi, being so assimilated in a foreign culture … I hear it most from American Jews, but then again, America is just loud compared to other nations. But assimilation is easy universally. God gave them a land, the holy land, and they’re making home in other lands? It’s almost like it takes threat and persecution to remind them of where “home” is supposed to be, for example, the Jews of Europe.
Add to this the history of both nationalism and anti-semitism.
Think about the fact that people tend to want to rule themselves and don’t like to be ruled by others. The Jews should know of this sentiment based on their history in their land and those of others. Foreign rulers are viewed negatively. So it’s crazy to see “noahides” making rabbis their leaders and authorities and then be surprised when other Gentiles (and, as I recently found out, some Jews) start to view the seven laws as a Jewish conspiracy to dominate the world. The “ger” phenomenon is even worse with this with Gentiles learning so much Hebrew and communicating in the language that it’s hard to follow what they’re saying.
I look at various social media platforms and the anti-semitic comments are easy to find, the belief amongst Gentiles that the Zionist banking elite or the Jewish control of the media. There are already multiple sites going on about the “Talmudic Noahide Laws” that are like a form of rabbinical dictatorship. And then up come the “noahides” who have essentially become the followers of the rabbis, some of whom struggle to speak English to make points, even though they’re native English speakers. It doesn’t help.
I see the rabbi interactions with the Gentile who knows of the seven laws as a lot more hands off, and the groups they interact with a lot less “churchy,” … no, I need a better word. “churchy” is too vague and “cultic” seems too harsh. It’s just a sense of this separate religious group under a religious authority. And unfortunately, “noahides” tend to separate themselves religiously with that label, and are under Jewish authority, that of the rabbi.
So, to me (always gotta say that to make sure a reader appreciates these are my non-authoritative personal views), a rabbi would have less contact with Gentiles and Gentiles would have less contact with a rabbi. It would not be the rabbi’s job to figure out the details of our laws through the laws that applies to Jews. He would give us the generalities that are clearly said to apply to Gentiles and then leave us to figure the rest out as Gentiles. I agree with someone who said that if a Gentile wants to learn at the feet of a Jew, he may as well become one. I don’t believe we’re supposed to be relying on them so much, much less relying on their “rulings.”
Of course, this means that I disagree with the idea and teaching that states,
If a Gentile does not understand what is permissible for him, he should ask an observant Jewish Torah scholar to explain it to him. (pg 88 of “The Divine Code” by rabbi Moshe Weiner)
Maybe it’s the human thing of preferring to be part of a group and the familiarity with religions that causes the seven laws to be made into a religious creed that needs rabbinic guidance rather than a moral-legal body of law that needs Gentiles to independently get it going, we Gentiles taking care of our garden in our various nations and the Jews taking care of theirs. Right now, both are a mess and I don’t believe this religious approach is doing much more than creating a Jew-controlled sect of Gentiles called “the noahides,” another alternative in the full and packed marketplace of religions.
“But, David, I need my spirituality cultivated.”
Ugh! To each their own.
Anyway, I’ve written enough. So to summarize, I’m a Gentile and happy to be one. I’m happy with all the blessings, principles and laws God has given me as a Gentile. I have no need or longing to become a Jew in any way, not to keep their commands, adopt some for myself. No special days or ceremonies.
I’m thankful that they preserved God’s law for Gentiles and I hope they flourish in obedience to God’s law for them. And I’m glad there are ways they can show us the laws we’re obligated to keep. But once that teaching has been given to a Gentile, the “Jewish Torah scholar” no longer has the monopoly on answering the questions of Gentiles on “seven laws” issues. And no authorisation is needed by a rabbi to share one’s views. Neither the Jews nor their rabbis are the rulers or judges of Gentiles outside of their land. And at present, for the sake of the illusion of peace, that’s a good thing.
It’s ok. This is most likely my own view or the view of a small minority. I’m a nobody in a insignificant minority that is more or less nothing in the scope of human affairs. But at least thinking about it and talking to myself about it passes the time.
Out of the blue, a stranger decides to ask me a question. If I were younger, then I would have just answered on instinct. But my experience has taught me not to treat strangers as if they’re just a blank slate, not to treat them as if they are just children just looking innocently for answers. Before I even approach the question, I have to check the questioner, even with a question or two.
Now I can hear and understand some possible responses.
“David, won’t you be pushing away some possibly innocent people?”
“David, isn’t it respectful to just answer the questions?”
“David, won’t the answers be the same anyway regardless of who asks?”
In the book of Proverbs in the Jewish Bible, there are teachings important to me and relevant to this point.
Don’t answer a fool according to his foolishness so that you don’t become like him. (26:4)
Answer a fool according to his foolishness so that he doesn’t see himself as wise. (26:5)
When a wise man debates with a foolish man, whether he is angry or he laughs, he will have no contentment. (29:9)
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he who listens to advice is wise. (12:15)
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” (Psalm 14:1)
I added that last verse from Psalms, the rest of the quotes is taken from Proverbs.
But these lessons teach me caution when it comes to simply answering questions from strangers. Look, my experiences themselves have taught me that debates can just be mainly a waste of energy, just a back and forth that is just time better spent doing more constructive things, doing almost anything else. I’ve had vicious dialogues and just pointless ones. Too many. Too many! How many times has a person who is a total stranger to me started making presumptions and assumptions out of absolutely nowhere? I should have absorbed these biblical lessons much earlier.
There’s little wrong with at least getting a brief idea of the questioner before flying into answering stuff, especially if he’s a stranger. With no knowledge or idea about the mindset of the stranger, how can I properly apply the lessons from Proverbs? Am I dealing with a fool or a wise person? What sort of literacy am I dealing with? What is the heart behind the question? A person who already decided I’m an irrational idiot? A person who is already set in his ideas anyway? A sniper, one who just wishes to pass by and snipe insults? A person who is just curious? An atheist? An anti-theist? What? Even if I answer, it may have to be catered to the individual I’m dealing with.
A few preliminary questions shouldn’t hurt, right? A few preliminary questions should help break some ice. If the questioner has enough patience to allow me a few questions, then that may show the sort of character that can handle a dialogue.
But what was my point in adding that last quote which condemns a God-rejector as being a fool?
I’m gonna be blunt.
Although I openly admit that an atheist can keep the seven laws for his own reasons – oh yeah, I have to do a rebuttal of an article I wrote earlier – and that they break none of the core seven prohibitions, despite what certain popular “noahide” books may claim, atheism itself is foolish. Removing the only objective standard for truth, morality and knowledge, thereby throwing human reasoning and experience into abject meaninglessness and making human aspiration into worthless delusion. As I’ve said before, human experience simply becomes chemical reactions, nothing more. Morality becomes one set of chemical reactions interacting with another; no right, no wrong, just fizz. There’s no moral difference between pedophilia and reading a book. Atheism undercuts and defeats itself because there is no truth to chemical reactions; they just happen. An atheist can not find truth and couldn’t see it if he wanted (actually, even his desires are chemically determined so there is no “out”). He can only experience what the chemicals of his brain allows.
So I fully agree that it’s a fool that says in his heart that there’s no God.
So before I begin answering atheist questions, the foundation for true discussion must be dealt with. There’s little point in dealing with problems of contradictions or evidences that reveal God’s truth if there is no agreed standard for truth, if there is no standard of truth. If there is no God, then discussing the issue is pointless, a waste of time.
If some atheist is gonna come and say to me, “Hey, irrational theist, your evidences for the truth of God’s existence don’t work because x,” there is no basis for the truth of his argument as there is no Truth in atheism. If he’s trying to convince me of some truth, he’s doing at least two things: 1) he’s trying to change my brain chemistry for no reason other than he feels like it (not much of a reason to change anything); or 2) he’s betraying his own meaningless worldview by applying to an objective truth which his worldview can’t justify. Why on earth would I waste my time with utter futility?
Anyway, I’m not gonna rewrite my previous articles on the utter gutter-worth bile which is God-rejection.
Let me continue with the other thing I wanted to express.
So some stranger asked me why I say an eternal universe is impossible. Because he didn’t want to admit his stance regarding his view of God after I asked about it, I chose not to answer him.
But the thing is, it got my mind working. How could I formulate my reasons for the impossibility of such an idea? Why did I hold that position?
To stop myself having to rethink this, at least I can create a record of my thinking so I don’t have to keep rebuilding the horse.
Yes, I wrote “horse.”
Not sure why.
Anyway, why an eternal universe is impossible.
1) Cause and effect mixed with the problem of infinite regression. In my simple terms, every effect has a cause which came before it. Every material effect or energy effect had a cause, a producer, a basis, an origin. But the problem is this, it can’t go backwards for ever. I’ll explain why by means of an analogy that I understand.
In order for me to fire a shot, I need an order from my direct superior. But my direct superior needs to get an order from his commander. That commander needs an order from his superior, and that one an order from his, and on and on and on. Now if that goes on ad infinitum, if there is no initial starting command, will I ever fire a shot? The answer is no.
To translate the analogy, in order for the present, all present material/energy effects to take place, there has to be preceding causes (a superior, an originator) which need further preceding causes, and on and on. If there is no beginning (eternal means no beginning or end), no first initial cause, then there couldn’t be a now.
So there must be a beginning.
2) The “laws” of nature, the laws of thermodynamics. There is no natural means to create energy or matter out of nothing nor to destroy it. It’s said like this “matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed.” One can be changed from one thing to another, but not created (naturally). But that leads to the next “law.” In a closed system, every change or use of matter or energy creates a net loss in the amount of useable energy. So closed systems tend towards a state where all useable energy is used up.
The universe is a closed system if one rejects God, no matter or energy coming in or going out. Closed systems imply limit. But the universe has lots of useable energy but it’s finite, has a limit. The universe can’t be infinite in extent for similar reasons like infinite regress. Useable energy is being used up as we speak and everything on a whole is winding down to zero. There’s no natural way to produce more.
If the universe had always existed, everything, all the finite energy would be used up by now. But it’s all still here, useable and “hot.” To use a common analogy, to go into a room and see a hot cup of coffee … wait! Why coffee? I hate the taste of coffee. Why not hot chocolate? That ok? Hot chocolate? Ok, I win the vote. Hot chocolate it is. So there’s a cup of hot chocolate with no external or internal means of heating itself up, and to claim it has always existed like this is to claim the impossible.
So when it comes to the current state of the amount of useable energy there is around us, the universe must have had a beginning.
I will add as a personal point that everything I experience in the material world has limits. I have no reason to think the whole material universe is a special case.
3) God said so. Now, remember, this isn’t a list of “things to use to convince God-rejectors.” These are the reasons I have to say an eternal universe is impossible. The one true God stated in his revelation, the Jewish Bible, that he created the universe in the beginning. That means there was a beginning to the universe, the sky and the earth. He’s a trustworthy source and in the place to authoritatively make a statement on such a matter.
So both with and “without” God, there is no eternal universe.