The History of the Noachide Code

Biblical times...

The code of Divine Law that we now know as the ‘Seven Commandments of the Descendants of Noah’, has been with mankind since the creation of the first man, Adam.

“Six precepts were commanded to Adam: prohibitions against the worship of false gods; cursing G-d; murder; incest and adultery; theft; and the command to establish laws and courts of justice. The prohibition against eating flesh from a living animal was added for Noah, as [Genesis 9:4] states: "Nevertheless, you may not eat flesh with its life, which is its blood." Thus there are seven commandments for the descendants of Noah. These matters remained the same throughout the world until Abraham.”
(Maimonides/Rambam - Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Melachim [The Laws of Kings] Chapter 9, law 1).
 
Later on at Mount Sinai:
 
“Moses was commanded by the Almighty [at Mount Sinai] to compel all the inhabitants of the world to accept the commandments given to Noah's descendants.”
(Maimonides/Rambam - Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Melachim [The Laws of Kings] Chapter 8, law 10).
 
 

After the flood, Shem the son of Noah and his grandson Eber, founded a city, they named this city Shalem (peace). Today we call it Jerusalem, the city of peace. It was here that they also founded their ‘House of Study’ for the purpose of understanding and fulfilling the Noachide Commandments. It was known as the ‘Yeshiva of Shem v'Ever’.

The Bible records that after a great battle, Abraham was on his way home and as he passed Shalem, its king Melchizedek came out to greet him. According to Jewish tradition this Melchizedek was none other than Shem, the son of Noah. Melchizedek means the ‘King of Righteousness who rules over peace’ (Salem=Shalom). (ref. Gen. 14:18)

 
During the periods when the Jewish people lived in the Holy Land, their responsibility for teaching the Gentiles the Seven Commandments was generally fulfilled. During the years that the Temple in Jerusalem stood, Gentiles who wanted to dwell in the Land of Israel had to agree to fulfill the Noahide Laws, and had the right to come to the Holy Temple and offer sacrifices to G-d (Zech. 14:17-18).

The Sages of the Talmud preserved the Seven Noahide Commandments. Here are some parts of the Talmud that discuss Noachide law:

  • Sanhedrin 56a - 60b
  • Sanhedrin 96b
  • Avodah Zarah 2a&b &  3a&b
  • Avodah Zarah 64b, 65a &  65b
  • Baba Kamma 38a
  • Chullin 92a
 
In Roman times...

In Roman times Bnei Noach where sometimes known as ‘G-d fearers’ or ‘Fearers of Heaven’ (yirei shamayim in Hebrew). Variously called Theosebeians, Sebomenoi or Phobeomenoi in Greek. This is documented in the works of Josephus:

‘[the Antiochian Jews] were constantly attracting to their religious ceremonies multitudes of Greeks, and these they had in some measure incorporated with themselves’ (Josephus, BJ 7.45).

‘But no one need wonder that there was so much wealth in our temple, for all the Jews throughout the habitable world, and fearers of God, even those from Asia and Europe, had been contributing to it for a very long time’ (Josephus, Ant. 14.110).

Throughout history there have been Gentiles whose piety and reverence for the G-d of Israel have become legendary. One of the most famous individuals was Antoninus, a Roman governor of the land of Israel around the year 170 C.E. He was also a secret student of Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, the Prince of Israel at that time. Rabbi Yehuda is also famous for being the codifier of the Oral tradition in the work known as the Mishnah. Antoninus is an excellent example of a Righteous Gentile. Although due to severe Roman anti-Semitism he had to conceal his studies with Rabbi Yehuda, nonetheless, their friendship was well known and respected. So highly did Rabbi Yehuda view the piety of Antoninus that the Talmud relates that Rabbi Yehuda taught him many of the secrets of the Torah. It is suspected that either the Emperor Antoninus Pius or the Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus were the Antoninus who was the friend of Rabbi Yehuda the Prince, and this Antoninus would consult Rabbi Yehuda on various worldly and spiritual matters. According to the Talmud (Avodah Zarah 10a-b), Rabbi Yehuda was very wealthy and greatly revered in Rome.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God-fearer
 
 
Circa 1000 C.E. ...

In the tenth century Rabbi Samuel ben Hofni expanded the 7 Noachide commandments to the 30 laws that are mentioned in the Talmud (Chullin 92a). His list of the 30 laws were found in the Cairo Genizah.

Rabbi Samuel ben Hofni the Gaon was head of the Yeshiva of Sura in Baghdad during the cultural renaissance which characterized the Buyid period. His writings reflect the impact of Arabic  literature on Jewish intellectuals at this time.

Reference:

  • Chabad.org - Rav Shmuel bar Hofnii
  • Book by A. Greenbaum, 'Thirty Commandments According to R. Samuel ben Hofni.' Published in Hebrew, Sinai, 1973.
  • Encyclopedia Talmudica, Vol.3, in the section headed 'Ben Noah'.
 
 
In 1625 C.E. ...

Hugo de Groot (Grotius) (1583-1645), Dutch legal philosopher and christian apologist, wrote in his bookDe jure belli ac pacis (On the rights of war and peace):

‘In the Hebrew sources we find of the ‘pious ones of the Gentiles,’ as the Talmud describes them. These, as the Jewish teachers themselves declare, are bound to observe the laws given to Adam and Noah, to abstain from idols, from blood, and from other things which will be mentioned further.’ Quoted from The Seven Colors of the Rainbow by Rabbi Yirmeyahu Bindman

It was published in 1625 c.e.

Article about Grotius on Wikipedia.
 Link to his Online book
 
 
In 1640 C. E ...

John Selden (1584-1654) an English lawyer, Member of Parliament and scholar who knew Hebrew. Wrote a Latin book called De jure naturali et gentium, juxta disciplinium ebraorum (On natural and Gentile law, compared with Hebrew principles). Published in 1640 c.e.

In chapter 7 he states:

‘Sextum juris Noachidarum...quod de judiciis est, atque enumerationem ex Talmudicis aliquot. Quod igitur in enumeratione illa Septumum est, eber min ha-chai, quo crudelitas immanis in animalia cetera vetatur.’
(Six of the Noachide laws, those of judicial significance, are enumerated first in the Talmud among other sources. The seventh is therefore the prohibition of ‘the limb of a living animal’, which forbids cruelty to animals). Quoted from The Seven Colors of the Rainbow by Rabbi Yirmeyahu Bindman
 
Article about John Selden on Wikipedia.
The entire Latin book is online here for free!
 
 
In 1649 C. E. ...

Rabbi Menachem Azaria de Fano 1548-1620 (also known as the REMA mi'PANU רמ״ע מפאנו)  also expanded the 7 Noachide commandments to the 30 laws that are mentioned in the Talmud (Chullin 92a). In his book ספר עשרה מאמרות Asarah Ma'amaros, Ma'amar Chikur Din 3:21 מאמר חקור דין ־ חלק ג פרק כא (Published in Amsterdam 1649). His version of the 30 Noachide laws are here.

Link to an article about him on Chabad.org.

His book Asarah Maamarot is online here for free!

 
 
In the late 17th century...

Recently revealed papers of Sir Isaac Newton 1643–1727 show that he believed in G-d and in the divinity of the Hebrew Bible, but denied the 'trinity'! He also studied the Talmud and Maimonides and had a copy of John Seldon’s book in his library!

Article about him on Wikipedia
www.isaac-newton.org
www.isaacnewton.ca
Newton’s Secrets Exhibition in the Jewish National and University Library
An example of Newtons writing about the Noachide Precepts: The Question stated about absteining from blood. by Isaac Newton

The Newton You Never Knew by Arnie Gotfryd

 

In 1738 C. E. ...

‘The Constitutions of the Freemasons’, by Rev. Bro. James Anderson, D.D..

Published by the Grand Lodge of England in 1738.

The Old Charges of the Free and Accepted Masons: Charge 1 - Concerning G-d and Religion.

“A Mason is obliged by his tenure to observe the Moral Law, as a true Noachida [Noachidae or Sons of Noah was the first name of Masons according to old traditions]; and if he rightly understands the Craft, he will never be a stupid Atheist, nor an irreligious Libertine, nor act against conscience.

.....They are generally charged to adhere to that religion in which all men agree (leaving each brother to his own particular opinion); that is, to be good men and true, men of honour and honesty, by whatever names, religions, or persuasions they may be distinguished; for they all agree in the...great Articles of Noah, enough to preserve the cement of the Lodge.

Thus Masonry is the center of their union, and the happy means of conciliating persons that otherwise must have remained at a perpetual distance.”

 

In 1834 C. E. ...

In 1834, Rabbi Tobias Goodman of London published a book called 'Emunas Israel' or 'The Faith of Israel', of which the Fourth Treatise is entitled: ‘On the Seven Precepts commanded to the Sons of Noah’ (page 114).

The Faith of Israel, is a philosophical work, written in English in defense of Judaism, by Rabbi Tobias Goodman, who was a Rav in London at the beginning of the 19th century. He is famous for being the first Rabbi in England who delivered sermons in English in the Synagogue. This sefer is the first of its kind, and was written to protect Judaism among Jews from Christians and Reformists. This is the first and only edition of this sefer. It was privately published by the author on the money donated to him by the great Moses Montefiore, to whom a letter of thanks is printed in the front of the book.

Download the entire book HERE for free.

 

In 1845 C. E. ...

From ‘A Lexicon of Freemasonry’, by Bro. Dr. Albert G. MacKey M. D., Published in 1845.

Noah, Precepts of. – The precepts of the patriarch Noah, which were preserved as the constitutions of our ancient brethren, are seven in number, and are as follows:

  • Renounce all idols.
  • Worship the only true God.
  • Commit no murder.
  • Be not defiled by incest.
  • Do not steal.
  • Be just.
  • Eat no flesh with blood in it.

The “proselytes of the gate,” as the Jews termed those who lived among them without undergoing circumcision, or observing the ceremonial law, were bound to obey the seven precepts of Noah.

Noachidæ, or Noachites – The descendants of Noah. A term applied to Freemasons. Noah having alone preserved the true name and worship of God, amid a race of impious idolaters, Freemasons claim to be his descendants, because they still preserve that pure religion which distinguished this second father of the human race from the rest of the world. And even when his descendants began again, in the plains of Shinar, to forget the Almighty, and to wander from the path of purity, the principles of Noah were still perpetuated by that portion of his race whom the Freemasons of the present day regard as their early predecessors. Hence Freemasons call themselves Noachidæ, or the sons of Noah.

 

In 1928 C. E. ...

Aimé Pallière 1868-1949, was a French Catholic Priest who considered conversion to Judaism until Rabbi Elijah Benamozeg 1823-1900, the Rabbi of Leghorn/Livorno in Italy, informed him all about the Seven Noachide Commandments. They both wrote books on the subject:

 

 

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902-1994), began his  leadership of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement in 1951, and throughout his career he repeatedly called the nations of the world to fulfill their seven commandments and for Jewish people to inform and influence gentiles to observe them.

Universal Morality - The Seven Noahide Laws - TheRebbe.org

The Rebbe’s Noahide Campaign on Wikipedia

The Rebbe and President Ronald Reagan - National Day of Reflection - 1982-1988

In 1983, the Rebbe expanded his outreach campaign to include the Sheva Mitzvos Bnei Noach.

In 1999 a book called ‘Kol Boei Olam’ (כל באי העולם)   (All Inhabitants of the World) was compiled by Rabbi Chaim Miller, and published by Vaad Migola L’Geulah, Brooklyn N.Y. It is a detailed compilation of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's teaching on Noachide Halacha and Hashkafa. Unfortunately it has not been translated into English.

 

These three biographies of the Lubavitcher Rebbe have very interesting explanations of his involvement in the Noachide movement:

My Rebbe, by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

Turning Judaism Outwards: A Biography of the Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, by Rabbi Chaim Miller

Rebbe: The Life and Teachings of Menachem M. Schneerson, the Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History, by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin

 

 

In America in the early 1980’s to the present...

Beginning in the early 1980’s Independent groups of Noahides in America sprang up, lead by three former Southern Baptist preachers:
 

For the history of the modern Noachide movement see these books:

"Turning to Torah: The Emerging Noachide Movement" by Kim Hanke.

Finding the God of Noah: The Spiritual Journey of a Baptist Minister From Christianity to the Laws of Noah”, by J. David Davis.

 

 
In 1991 in the US Congress...

In 1991, Chabad-Lubavitch in cooperation with President George Bush sr established the observance of Education Day, USA "to return the world to the moral and ethical values contained in the Seven Noahide Laws."

Public Law 102--14 (H.J. Res. 104): March 20, 1991
Education Day, USA Proclamation
Joint Resolution to designate March 26, 1991 as "Education Day, USA"

  • Whereas Congress recognizes the historical tradition of ethical values and principles which are the basis of civilized society and upon which our great Nation was founded;
  • Whereas these ethical values and principles have been the bedrock of society from the dawn of civilization, when they were known as the Seven Noahide Laws;
  • Whereas without these ethical values and principles the edifice of civilization stands in serious peril of returning to chaos;
  • Whereas society is profoundly concerned with the recent weakening of these principles that has resulted in crises that beleaguer and threaten the fabric of civilized society;
  • Whereas the justified preoccupation with these crises must not let the citizens of this Nation lose sight of their responsibility to transmit these ethical values from our distinguished past to the generations of the future;
  • Whereas the Lubavitch movement has fostered and promoted these ethical values and principles throughout the world;
  • Whereas Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, leader of the Lubavitch movement, is universally respected and revered and his eighty-ninth birthday falls on March 26, 1991;
  • Whereas in tribute to this great spiritual leader, "the rebbe", this, his ninetieth year will be seen as one of "education and giving", the year in which we turn to education and charity to return the world to the moral and ethical values contained in the Seven Noahide Laws; and
  • Whereas this will be reflected in an international scroll of honor signed by the President of the United States and other heads of state: Now, therefore be it resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That March 26, 1991, the start of the ninetieth year of Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, leader of the worldwide Lubavitch movement, is designated as "Education Day. U.S.A.". The President is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the people of the United States to observe such day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.
  • Approved March 20, 1991.

Article on the Library of Congress website.

 
 

The books that brought about the modern noachide movement:

1914 - The book ‘Israel et l’Humanité’ by Rabbi Elijah Benamozeg was originally published in French. An English translation was published in 1995 by Maxwell Luria: Elijah Benamozegh: Israel and Humanity - available on Amazon.

1928 - The Unknown Sanctuary: A Pilgrimage from Rome to Israel, by Aimé Pallière. It’s free online here.

Date U/K - Sefer Mitzvot HaShem by Rabbi Yonoson Shteif, the Viener Rov (1877-1958), senior dayan of Budapest before the War, and NYC.

1950 - The Relationship Between the Jew and the Nations According to Maimonides, by Gershon Tchernowitz. Bitzaron, New York.

1973 - Thirty Commandments According to R. Samuel ben Hofni by A. Greenbaum (Hebrew).

1981 - The Seven Laws of Noah by Dr Aaron Lichtenstein

1983 - The Image of the Non-Jew in Judaism by David Novak

1987 - The Path of the Righteous  Gentile: An Introduction to the Seven Laws of Noah by Rabbi Chaim Clorfene & Rabbi Yakov Rogalsky

1988 - A Light Unto the Nations (Or La’Amim) by Rabbi Yoel Schwartz. Yeshivat D’var Yerushalayim

1990 - Their Hollow Inheritance: A Comprehensive Refutation of xian Missionaries by Michoel Drazin. www.drazin.com

1995 - The Seven Colors of the Rainbow: Torah Ethics for Non-Jews by Rabbi Yirmeyahu Bindman

1995 - Elijah Benamozegh: Israel and Humanity by Maxwell Luria

1995 - Turning to Torah: The Emerging Noachide Movement by Kim Hanke.

1996 - Finding the God of Noah: The Spiritual Journey of a Baptist Minister From Christianity to the Laws of Noah, by J. David Davis.

1998 - Compassion for Humanity in the Jewish Tradition by Rabbi Dovid Sears

1999 - ‘Kol Boei Olam’ (כל באי העולם - All Inhabitants of the World), compiled by Rabbi Chaim Miller, and published by Vaad Migola L’Geulah, Brooklyn N.Y. It is a detailed compilation of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's teaching on Noachide Halacha and Hashkafa. Unfortunately it has not been translated into English.

2003 - Perspectives on the Noahide Laws: Universal ethics by Rabbi Dr.Shimon Cowen

2007 - Kabbalah and Meditation for the Nations by Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh www.inner.org/nonjews/intro.htm

2008 - Sefer Sheva Mitzvot HaShem (“The Book of Seven Divine Commandments”), Volume 1. - The New comprehensive codification of the Noahide Commandments. (Hebrew)

2008 - The Divine Code, Vol. 1. The Guide to Observing G-d’s Will for Mankind, Revealed from Mount Sinai in the Torah of Moses, by Rabbi Moshe Weiner. Edited by Dr. Michael Schulman
 
2009 - Sefer Sheva Mitzvot HaShem, Volume 2.
 
2009 - Prayers, Blessings, Principles of Faith, and Divine Service for Noahides, by Rabbi Moshe Weiner and Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet
 
2011 - The Divine Code, volume 1, second expanded edition. - www.asknoah.org
 
2012 - World Unity – It’s no longer a dream! - Booklet by AskNoah
 
2015 - The Theory and Practice of Universal Ethics - The Noahide Laws, by Rabbi Shimon Dovid Cowen.
 
2016 - To Perfect the World, The Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Call to Teach the Noahide Code to All Mankind, by Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver.
 
 

The Noachide Code: The 7 Commandments of the Covenant of Noah, the universal moral code for all mankind.

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