the Noachian commandments (3)11-10-2013 - Posted by Andre Piet
After two blogs about the decisions of the apostle’s meeting, one intriguing question remains: What is the meaning of James’ (seemingly mysterious) words in Acts 15:21?
For Moses, from ancient generations, city by city, has those who are heralding him, being read on every sabbath in the synagogues.
What does James mean by this? James refers to the fact that from ancient generations, Moses is read aloud in the synagogues in every city, everywhere. But the question is: What is the relationship between this finding and his earlier conclusion, namely, that the nations may not be harassed with the law of Moses and that of them no more may be expected than the minimum requirements of verse 20? Because James deems it not necessary to explain this further, he suggests that his assertion is, historically, already known in all the synagogues. And indeed, that is right! Judaism has never been out to Judaize the nations, i.e., to impose on non-Jews the law that was given to Israel on Mt Sinai. The synagogue has never preached that there would be no salvation outside of the synagogue (something the church has always preached). The Jews knew themselves to be a people chosen to a task, but not to a salvation which would exclude all other people. The task to which Judaism sees itself called is not to Judaize other people, but to teach them monotheism; not to make them Jewish, but to lead them to the realization of the one true GOD. Historically, they speak in Judaism of “the Noachian commandments”. In this, they refer to God’s covenant with Noah and his sons, the ancestors of the people of the world. Through them, God has given rules that apply to all of mankind. The sign of circumcision, observance of the sabbath and other Jewish feasts, kosher foods and drinks and other Jewish customs, explicitly are not included. James determines in Acts 15:21 that the refusal to harass the nations with the yoke of Moses is entirely in line with what is historically taught in the synagogues. In other words, efforts to Judaize the nations is contrary to Judaism itself.