Give me Scripture or give me death!!!
The title of this blogpost just crossed my mind as I was considering this issue. I liked it.
So then approaching certain people, especially from the christian worldview, with the notion that God has the basic expectation from humanity that we at least fulfil the morality codified in seven general categories of commandments, the usual response will be this: “where does it say that in scripture?” If I happen to mention the word “Noah” – as if I said “these are the laws for the descendants of Noah – then some of them will look for what the biblical text says about Noah, the Deluge, the aftermath and the covenant that it contains and state the obvious: “I don’t see God commanding seven laws here. I just see the law of murder and the statement about animal and ‘blood’.”
Going onto Youtube I see a video series by a christian guy trying to refute the notion of the Seven Commandments, his main point being that they are not scriptural.
Now some sites that talk about the “Noahide Laws” acquiesce to the demands of these “scripturalists” possibly in order to appease their appetites somewhat, and give a list of each of the seven laws with a scriptural reference that at least gives evidence that there was a universal standard of morality that coincides with each of the seven laws. And it’s good to at least reach people where they are. If they need scripture, at least the scriptures given on other sites can do something to fill that need … somewhat.
Since there are enough websites that do this, I’m not gonna reinvent the wheel, even though I am able to having written a series of articles whilst I was a “scripturalist” going through how the Jewish Bible points to a way of righteousness for Gentiles.
I can hear someone asking “David, what’s a scripturalist?” Let’s see if I can answer that quickly. Being a scripturalist contains the notion that important doctrines about God or our responsibility to him or to morality must be written in the text of the “Bible” (could be Jewish Bible or christian Bible). For such a person, if you were to claim that something is true or God expects this or that, the automatic retort is “where does it say that in scripture?” Most if not all of these people would claim that God’s revelation is only in written text of the “Bible.”
So for such people, there is a necessity to have important doctrines stated overtly in the “Bible”.
The aim of this little blog post is not to refute that belief per se, only to preset a number of facts.
The tradition from which the 7 laws originate is not a sola-scriptura or scripturalist worldview. It does not claim that every important teaching or law or interpretation was expressly and overtly written in the text of the Jewish Bible. It understands that a full revelation cannot be limited to text on a page or words in a book, but that it needs explanation, interpretation, methods of interpretation, extra detail and a faithful traditional approach to the upkeep of both the written and unwritten components of Torah. And this approaches realises that both aspects of Torah, the written and the unwritten, must have their source at Sinai.
Based on this approach, although there may be (and there is) evidence in the Jewish Bible of a moral or Torah code before the Sinai revelation and the pact between God and Israel, that Gentiles are obligated to live a certain way that is different from the standard of Israel, this approach does not hold that the codification of the Seven Commandments must also be written in the text.
So from a foundational point, it should be seen that the demands of the scripturalist to say “prove it based on the text” and the basis of approach to Torah that admits a divinely sourced written and unwritten aspect to it are at odds because their starting points are fundamentally different.
As long as the scripturalist holds to their essentially unrealistic demands, it may be that they may never be convinced of the Seven Commandments. But is that really the point? Must I convince every Tom, Dick, and Harry (and Barbara) that God Himself at Sinai reiterated and gave permanence to the Seven Commandments, and he gave it to Moses? Should my first aim or first stance in communicating with another individual be that they adopt the correct beliefs? I’ve said it before, and I don’t need to go into detail on it again. Although correct thinking is important, correct behaviour is commanded. Therefore whatever works in getting the correct behaviour is top on the list, with or without the correct beliefs. So it is fair to encourage the best out of a person, even if they do think all there is to God’s revelation is text.
So it’s all well and good to show a scripturalist that, despite the unscriptural nature of their approach, there are evidences in the Jewish Bible of a code of Gentile morality. But it should be known that we are not bound by that alien presupposition. And sometimes, when they are stuck in their ways, it is better to put aside the “give me scriptural proofs” argument and just ask about the important issues like injustices, personal responsibility for actions, the need to uplift the world. Although people in general may be against the codification of the Seven, that doesn’t mean that they are against its morality, a morality that is attainable by human intellect and able to reach people of different backgrounds.
I think I’ll stop there.