Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Completing Novak's The Image of the Non-Jew in Judaism

I finished David Novak's The Image of the Non-Jew in Judaism. I have three items.

1. On page 248, Novak refers to the existence of thirty Noachide commandments. But weren't there only seven? According to Novak, Menahem Azariah di Fano (who died in 1620) sought to harmonize this by "making the seven laws seven categories having a total of thirty precepts." If you're interested in what the thirty Noachide commandments are, check out the article here, which features two versions.

2. On page 262, Novak is discussing a view within Judaism (one view that existed among other views) that the Gentiles are not held accountable for idolatry for the reason that only Israel is commanded to worship the LORD alone. Novak states:

"This view was also put forth, in more traditional form to be sure, by R. Solomon ibn Adret in the thirteenth century (Responsa Rasha, 4, no. 334) and later by Rabbenu Bahya. The latter writes: 'Therefore, we do not find in the entire Torah in any place that Scripture considers the nations guilty of idolatry, but only Israel who are specified as his portion' (comment to Deut. 31:15 re Deut. 4:19-20...). He continues, re II Kings 17:26, that gentile idolatry is only considered prohibited when practiced in Eretz Israel, even when the Jews are not there. See also Lev. 18:27-28; SR 15.23 re Lev. 26:1. See Rashbam to Deut. 4:19. Furthermore, it is worth noting that the condemnation of the Jewish survivors of the Temple's destruction by Ezekiel (33:24-25), a condemnation that lists idolatry among their sins, was interpreted on T. Sot. 6:9 to refer to gentiles for the violation of all the Noahide laws."

Initially, that last sentence does not appear to jive with what comes before it, but it makes sense when you check out Tosefta Sotah 6:9. Essentially, that passage is arguing that the Gentiles cannot possess the land of Israel because they have violated the Noachide commandments (and the ones that are mentioned are eating a limb from a live animal, idolatry, murder, stealing and perverting justice, fornication, and pederasty).

3. On page 280, Novak refers to "the rabbinic view that Noahides can only offer whole burnt offerings...but not peace offerings...those offerings eaten in fellowship." Novak cites B.T. Zev. 116a and Sifra, Vayikra, 13a re Lev. 3:1.


  1. Why give any importance to minute analytic discursion on Torah and Noachide commandments in relation to what God wants? I reckon God wanted and wants people to be far more than is entertained by those things.

    I'm not wanting here to say there is no place for scholarship of all kinds, though!

  2. I guess the short answer would be because it interests me. As far as whether it matters or not, good question!

    Your question is good, for it brings to mind whether the Noachide commandments would be a low base of behavior, or if we should do more than that.


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