The Seven Commandments

You’ve heard of the Ten Commandments. Have you ever heard of the Seven Commandments?

I first encountered them in Steven Goldberg’s book Bleached Faith. Goldberg is a lawyer writing about religion in public life. In his discussion of the many legal disputes surrounding the posting of the “Ten Commandments,” he introduced me to something I had never heard of before: the Noahide Code.

According to the Talmud, these seven laws were are applicable to all the children of Noah (that is, all humanity); the Ten Commandments are part of the covenant law applicable only to Jews.

Anyway, the commandments are:

  • No idolatry
  • No murder
  • No theft
  • No forbidden sexual relations
  • No blasphemy
  • No eating the flesh of an animal while it is still alive
  • Have a just set of laws and courts

Some ancient scholars found many sub-commands within the seven basic commandments. Even today, the Chabad movement actively promotes the Noahide Code at http://noahide.org.  What struck me, however, was how similar the code is to requirements laid upon Gentile believers by the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15:

For it was the Holy Spirit’s decision–and ours–to put no greater burden on you than these necessary things: that you abstain from food offered to idols, from blood, from eating anything that has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these things, you will do well. Farewell. (Act 15:28-29)

Both codes share a concern with Idolatry, forbidden sexual relations and meat taken in cruelty. Interesting.

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