A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of touring the wonderful city of Prague. I visited the Jewish Quarter of the Old City which Rick Steves, the guru of European travel, says is “the most interesting collection of Jewish sights in Europe”. While strolling the neighborhood I happened upon a couple of Jewish Rabbis who were promoting a local kosher restaurant.They also handed me a card that promulgated “The Seven Noahide Laws”. The rabbis were members of the Chabad-Lubavitch, a Jewish Hasidic movement, on a summer “Chabad Rabbinical Visitation Program” in Prague. On the website, printed on the card www.noahide.org the laws are described as follows:
The Seven Laws of Noah demonstrate that almighty G-d has rules and laws for all human beings …and that G-d loves us all. He does not leave anyone, Jew or non-Jew without guidance. To the non-Jew He has given the Seven Commandments.
When the Rabbi hand me the card, I commented that I’m a Christian and I believe it was a form of these laws that the early Jewish believers in Jesus required of Gentiles who put their faith in Jesus as their Messiah according to Acts 15 and evidence in Paul’s letters.While there is debate about the exact nature of the “essentials” that were enforced on Gentiles by the Jerusalem council, it seems likely that they were and early form of the later rabbinic Noahide commandments.For more info on this you can see a very good discussion by Markus Bockmuehl in his Jewish Law in Gentile Churches (pgs. 145-73).
I mentioned this, but the conversation ran aground when the Rabbi insisted that (1) the commands were given to Moses on Mt. Sinai, and (2) that there were indeed exactly seven. Historically, the laws don’t appear in the form of seven until the 3rd century C.E., although it is likely that the tradition is much earlier. Also, there are lists with a varying number of laws within the literature particularly in the midrashim–one 4th century text citing 30 commandments. We had a good conversation and he was surprised that I had heard of the Noahide Commandments and that these were important to early Christians. I think he was intrigued.
The Chabad-Lubavitch movement, based in Crown Heights Brooklyn, NY, is fascinating as it provides something of a contemporary model of a Jewish messianic movement. Their deceased Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (d. 1994), known simply as Rebbe, taught messianic ideas and sought to hasten the coming of the Messiah. Consequently, Schneerson stressed outreach. Even before his death, his followers began to believe he was the Messiah. It is believed by some that Schneerson will return to usher in the Messianic Age with the return to the Land, though there was a split after his death over this question.