According to Jewish Law, non-Jews are not required to convert to Judaism and follow the laws given to Moses by God. Rather, they are required to follow the Seven Laws of Noah. In so doing, they will be deemed righteous in the eyes of God. Moreover they will be assured a place in the World to Come.
The Seven Laws of Noah
- Don’t worship idols.
- Don’t blaspheme God.
- Don’t murder.
- Don’t practice sexual immorality.
- Don’t steal.
- Don’t eat flesh from a living animal.
- Establish courts of justice to build upon these laws.
While Noahide’s beliefs originate from Judaism, their laws are much different that the laws to which Jews are subjected. So the question may arise, are Noahide beliefs Biblical? That depends on how you define “biblical”. Like the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, the term “Noahide Laws” is never used in the Bible. Furthermore, the laws are not listed together. In fact, some of them are simply deduced from the text.
For example, there is no law given against murder prior to Cain murdering Abel. However, Cain is punished for the murder. Therefor we can conclude that God had delivered this law to Adam and his family prior to the incident. This law is reiterated in Genesis chapter 9, where God makes his covenant with Noah. Verse 6 says…
Whosoever sheds the blood of a human, by a human shall that person’s blood be shed.Genesis 9:6
From this we can deduce two of the Noahide laws. First, the prohibition against murder. Secondly, the order to establish courts of justice to enforce the laws. Thus, we can see the Biblical basis for these laws. Moreover, it appears that the earliest New Testament Christians were aware of these laws, and instructed to be followers of them. We find this allusion in Acts chapter 15. Here, the early Christians met to determine what Gentile converts should do. The early church decided against circumcision. However, in verse 20 they enforced the following rules.
But we should write to them to abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from whatever has been strangled and from blood.Acts 15:20
So here we see that not only are the Noahide Laws Biblical, but they were part of the earliest beliefs of the Christian Church. However, they are generally rejected by Christians today. While Christians would indeed follow these laws, they do not believe that they play any part in salvation. Thus, Noahides generally relate to Judaisim more easily than Christianity.
Can following the Noahide Laws make one righteous?
Obviously, this notion would be emphatically rejected by modern Christianity. However, there is Biblical basis to believe that this is the case. Here I would reference two early Biblical stories. First, the story of Abraham and Lot. Secondly, the story of Job. Both of these stories are set before the law was ever given to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Yet we see two Biblical references to righteous men when there were no Jews, and there was no law of Moses to declare one righteous. Our first example is in Genesis 18:26.
And Hashem said, “If I find at Sodom 50 righteous in the city, I will forgive the whole place for their sake.”Genesis 18:26
According to Christian theology, there should be no righteous people at this time, except perhaps Abraham. There was no law for them to follow. Jesus had not yet ministered on earth. Yet God sends his messengers to Sodom to search for the righteous. Hence, we can conclude that men were found to be righteous in God’s eyes outside of the laws of the Torah. This is confirmed again in the story of Job, chapter 1 verse 1.
That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.Job 1:1
Job was a Noahide. He believed in the one true God of Israel. He followed not the laws of Moses, but the laws given to the nations of the world. As such, he was found to be “blameless” and “upright” in the eyes of Hashem.
This is the model for Noahides. We are the righteous of the nations. We follow the laws of God given to Noah simply because we believe God, and we believe this is what he has told us to do. This is the most important concept to grasp here. You may have noticed that the Laws of Noah are rather intuitive. Human nature tells us that it is wrong to steal or murder. However, we follow these laws because Hashem told us to, not because the laws make sense to us. Thus, we are not relying on our own righteousness. Instead, we inherit our righteousness from God by following His laws simply because he told us to.
If you are interested in getting more information on Noahides, I recommend the following resources.