Circumcision and Gentiles

Circumcision and Gentiles (passed c. 51 C.E.)
Elaborated 12/26/2008 and 2/8/2010


Must the Goyim be circumcised according to the custom of the Torah to be saved?

Shim’on said: Men, our brothers, you know that from the first days from my mouth, Eloah chose that the Goyim should hear the Word of the Good News and Trust. And Eloah, who knows what is in hearts, gave testimony concerning them, and gave to them the Ruach HaKodesh as [he did] to us. And he made no distinction between them and us, because he purified their hearts by trust. And now, why do you tempt Eloah so that you place a yoke upon the necks of the talmidim, which neither our fathers, nor we, were able to bear? But by the favor of our Adon Yeshua the Messiah, we believe to have Life, like them.

Paul and Bar Nabba, recounted everything that Eloah had done by their hands: signs, and mighty deeds, among the Goyim.

Ya’akov said, Men, our brothers: hear me. Shim’on recounted to you how Eloah began to choose, from the Goyim, a people for His Name. And to this the words of the prophets agree, like that which is written: After these things I will return and set up the tabernacle of David which has fallen, and I will rebuild that which has fallen of it and I will raise it up, So that the remnant of men might seek YHWH, and, all the Goyim, on whom My Name is called, says YHWH who made all these things. The works of Eloah are known from old. (Amos 9:11-12)

Because of this I say, They should not trouble those, who from the Goyim, have turned toward Eloah. But let it be sent to them, that they should separate [themselves] from the uncleanness of that which is sacrificed [to idols], and from sexual immorality, and from that which is strangled, from blood. <And that what is undesirable to yourself, you do not do to others.> For Moshe, from the first generations, had proclaimers in every city; in the synagogues, who read him on every Sabbath.

And they wrote a letter by their hands [saying] thus: The emissaries, and elders, and brothers, to those who are in Antioch, and in Syria, and in Cilicia; brothers who are from the Goyim: shalom. It has been heard by us, that men from us, have gone out: and, disturbed you with words and have upset your nefeshot, while saying that you must be circumcised and observe the Torah, which we did not command them. Because of this, all of us while gathered together purposed, and chose men and sent to you with our beloved Paul and Bar Nabba, Men who have committed themselves, on behalf of the Name of our Adon Yeshua the Messiah. And we have sent with them Y’hudah, and Sila, who will tell you these same [things] by speech.

It is the will of the Ruach HaKodesh and also of us that a greater burden should not be placed on you, outside of those things that are necessary. That you should abstain from:

  1. That which is sacrificed to idols,
  2. And from blood
  3. And from that which is strangled
  4. And from sexual immorality.
  5. <And that what is undesirable to yourself, you do not do to others.>

That as you keep yourself from these, you will do well. Be steadfast in our Adon.

(Acts 15:1-29) <> portion found only in the Western text type.


How are we to understand "Goyim" here?
Here the reference is to the Ger Toshav, a repentant Gentile.
And who is a Ger Toshav?

Rabbi Meir says:

"Any [Gentile] who takes upon himself in the presence of three haberim not to worship idols."
(b.Avodah Zarah 64b)

The Pharisaic Sages declare:

"Any [Gentile] who takes upon himself the seven precepts which the sons of Noah undertook; and still others maintain: These do not come within the category of a Ger Toshav; but who is a Ger Toshav? A proselyte who eats of animals not ritually slaughtered, i.e., he took upon himself to observe all the precepts mentioned in the Torah apart from the prohibition of [eating the flesh of] animals not ritually slaughtered. We may leave such a man alone with wine, but we may not deposit wine in his charge even in a city where the majority of residents are Israelites. We may, however, leave him alone with wine even in a city where the majority of residents are heathens; and his oil is like his wine.’ How can it enter your mind to say that his oil is like his wine; can oil become nesek! [The wording must be amended to] his wine is like his oil, but in every other respect he is like a heathen."
(b.Avodah Zarah 64b)

Rabban Simeon says:

"His wine is yen nesek. Another version [of Rabban Simeon’s statement] is: `It
is allowed to be drunk [by Israelites].’ At all events it teaches that `in every
other respect he is like a heathen.’ For what practical purpose [is this
mentioned]? Is it not that he can annul an idol in the same manner as an

(b.Avodah Zarah 64b)

R. Nahman b. Isaac said:

"No; it is in connection with his power to transfer or renounce ownership; as it
has been taught: An apostate Israelite who publicly observes the Sabbath may
renounce his ownership, but if he does not observe the Sabbath publicly he may
not renounce his ownership because [the Rabbis] said: An Israelite may transfer
or renounce his ownership, whereas with a heathen this can only be done by
renting [his property]. In what way? — [One Israelite] can say to [another
Israelite], `My ownership is acquired by you; my ownership is renounced in your
favour,’ and the latter has thereby acquired [the property] without the
necessity of a formal assignment."

(b.Avodah Zarah 64b)

The International Nazarene Beit Din Says:

"Any from the Goyim who takes upon himself the seven precepts of Noach."

What is signified by the phrase "a greater burden should not be placed upon you"? Why not simply "no other burden should be placed upon you"?

It is because the pronouncement (of Acts 15) only outlined the greatest limits of the obligations of a Gentile, but it was not intended as an exhaustive list. Else why not include that they must abstain from murder? Was this ruling permitting Gentiles to murder? May it never be. Instead we are to understand this ruling as an abbreviation of the obligations Gentiles have under the Noachide Covenant as Sons of Noah.

The Pharisaic Rabbis taught:

"Seven precepts were the sons of Noah commanded: justice; to bless the name, idolatry; adultery; bloodshed; robbery; and eating flesh cut from a living animal."
(b.Sanhedrin 56b)

R. Hanania b. Gamaliel said:

"Also not to partake of the blood drawn from a living animal."

R. Hidka added emasculation.

R. Simeon added sorcery.

R. Jose said:

"The heathens were prohibited everything that is mentioned in the section on sorcery. viz., There shall not be found among you any one, that maketh his son or daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord: and because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them [sc. the heathens in Canaan] out from before thee. Now, [the Almighty] does not punish without first prohibiting. R. Eleazar added the forbidden mixture [in plants and animals]: now, they are permitted to wear garments of mixed fabrics [of wool and linen] and sow diverse seeds together; they are forbidden only to hybridize heterogeneous animals and graft trees of different kinds."
(b.Sanhedrin 56b)

The International Nazarene Beit Din Says:

These are the Seven Precepts of Noah:

  1. Justice – That which is hateful to yourself, do not do to others.
  2. Blessing the Name
  3. Against Idolatry – This law is clarified so as to even exclude partaking of that which is sacrificed [to idols].
  4. Against Sexual Immorality
  5. Against Shedding Blood (murder)
  6. Against Theft
  7. Against Eating the Limb of a Living Animal and eating Blood

Whence do we know the seven precepts of Noah?

R. Johanan answered: The Scripture says: ‘And the Adonai YHWH commanded the man saying, of every tree of the garden thou may freely eat.’ (Genesis 2:16) And [He] commanded, refers to [the observance of] justice, and thus it is written, `For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment.’ (Genesis 18:19) Adonai-is [a prohibition against] blasphemy, and thus it is written, and he that blasphemeth the name of YHWH, he shall surely be put to death.(Leviticus 24:16) YHWH-is [an injunction against] idolatry, and thus it is written, Thou shall have no other gods before Me. (Exodus 20:3) The man-refers to bloodshed [murder], and thus it is written, Whoso sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed. (Genesis 9:6) `Saying’-refers to adultery, and thus it is written, They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and became another man’s.(Jeremiah 3:1) Of every tree of the garden-but not of robbery. You maye freely eat-but not flesh cut from a living animal.

When R. Isaac came, he taught a reversed interpretation. And He commanded-refers to idolatry; ELOHIM to social law. Now `ELOHIM’ may rightly refer to social laws, as it is written, And the master of the house shall be brought unto elohim [i.e., the judges]. (Ex. 22:7) But how can `and He commanded’ connote a prohibition of idolatry?

R. Hisda and R. Isaac b. Abdimi-one cited the verse, They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, etc.(Ex. 32:8) And the other cited, Ephraim is oppressed and broken in judgment, because he willingly walked after the commandment.(Hosea 5:11) Wherein do they differ? — In respect of a heathen who made an idol but did not worship it: On the view [that the prohibition of idolatry is derived from] they have made them a molten calf, guilt is incurred as soon as the idol is made [even before it is worshipped]; but according to the opinion that it is from, because he willingly walked after the commandment, there is no liability until the heathen actually follows and worships it.

Raba objected: Does any scholar maintain that a heathen is liable to punishment for making an idol even if he did not worship it? Surely it has been taught: With respect to idolatry, such acts for which a Jewish Court decrees sentence of death [on Jewish delinquents] are forbidden to the heathen; but those for which a Jewish Court inflicts no capital penalty on Jewish delinquents are not forbidden to him. Now what does this exclude? Presumably the case of a heathen who made an idol without worshipping it? R. Papa answered: No. It excludes theembracing and kissing of idols. Of which idols do you say this? Is it of those whose normal worship is in this manner; but in that case he is surely liable to death? — Hence it excludes the embracing and kissing of idols which are not usually worshipped thus.

`Justice.’ Were then the children of Noah bidden to observe these? Surely it has been taught: The Israelites were given ten precepts at Marah, seven of which had already been accepted by the children of Noah, to which were added at Marah Justice ,the Sabbath, and honoring one’s parents; `Justice,’ for it is written, There [sc. at Marah] he made for them a statute and a MISHPAT (judgment) (Exodus 15:25); `the Sabbath and honoring one’s parents’. for it is written, As the YHWH your Elohim commanded you! (Deuteronomy 5:16)

R. Nahman replied in the name of Rabbah b. Abbuha: The addition at Marah was only in respect of an assembly, witnesses, and formal admonition. If so, why say `to which were added Justice’?

But Raba replied thus: The addition was only in respect of the laws of fines. (Deuteronomy 22:19,29) But even so, should it not have been said, `additions were made in Justice’?

But R. Aha b. Jacob answered thus: The Baraita informs us that they were commanded to set up law courts in every district and town. But were not the sons of Noah likewise commanded to do this? Surely it has been taught: Just as the Israelites were ordered to set up law courts in every district and town, so were the sons of Noah likewise enjoined to set up law courts in every district and town!

But Raba answered thus: The author of this Baraita [which states that Justice were added at Marah] is a Tanna of the School of Manasseh, who omitted Justice and blasphemy [from the list of Noachian precepts] and substituted emasculation and the forbidden mixture [in plants, ploughing. etc.]. For a Tanna of the School of Manasseh taught: The sons of Noah were given seven precepts. viz., [prohibition of] idolatry, adultery, murder, robbery, flesh cut from a living animal, emasculation and forbidden mixtures.

R. Judah said: Adam was prohibited idolatry only, for it is written, And the Adonai YHWH commanded Adam.

R. Judah b. Batyra maintained: He was forbidden blasphemy too. Some add Justice. With whom does the following statement of Rab Judah in the name of Rab agree: viz., [Elohim said to Adam,] I am Elohim, do not curse Me; l am Elohim, do not exchange Me for another; I am Elohim, let My fear be upon you? — This agrees with the last mentioned [who adds Justice to the list].
(b.San. 56b)

Now, what is the standpoint of the Tanna of the School of Manasseh? If he interprets the verse, And Adonai YHWH commanded etc. [as interpreted above], he should include these two [Justice and blasphemy] also, and if he does not, whence does he derive the prohibition of the rest? — In truth, he does not accept the interpretation of the verse, `And the Adonai YHWH commanded etc., but maintains that each of these [which he includes] is separately stated: Idolatry and adultery for it is written, The earth also was corrupt before Elohim (Genesis 6:2); and a Tanna of the School of R. Ishmael taught: Wherever corruption is mentioned, it must refer to immorality and idolatry.

`Immorality.’ as it is written, for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. (Proverbs 30:19) `Idolatry,’ for it is written, Lest ye corrupt yourselves and make you a graven image, etc. (Deuteronomy 4:16) And the other teacher [who deduces this from the verse, and Adonai YHWH commanded etc.]? He maintains that this verse [sc. the earth also etc.] merely describes their way of living.

`Bloodshed’, as it is written, Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, etc.(Genesis 9:6) And the other? — This verse [he will maintain] merely teaches the manner of execution.

Theft, for it is written, As the wild herbs have I given you all things; upon which R. Levi commented: as the wild herbs, but not as the cultivated herbs. And the other? — He will hold that this verse is written to permit animal flesh, [but not to prohibit robbery].

Flesh cut from the living animal, as it is written, But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat. (Genesis 9:4) And the other? — He may hold that this verse teaches that flesh cut from live reptiles is permitted.

Emasculation, for it is written, Bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein. And the other? — He may regard this merely as a blessing.

Forbidden mixture, as it is said, Of fowls after their kind. (Genesis 6:20) And the other? — He will maintain that this was merely for the sake of mating.
(b.San. 56b-57a)

Zakan Ingalls said:

"Noach and his sons knew the difference between clean and unclean animals. Since only one male and one female of each unclean animal were in the Ark (Gen. 7:2), if we hold that Genesis 9:2 would have allowed Noach and his sons to eat unclean meat, then eating one of the unclean animals destroys that animal type forever and negates YHWH’s own purpose in preserving that animal type from the flood. Further, if Adam is made in the image of Elohim (Genesis 1:27, 9:6, Ya’aqov 3:9), Noach’s offering of only clean animals (Genesis 8:20) indicates that only clean animals should be on the tables of a Noachide."

But the International Nazarene Beit Din said:

"In the days of Noach the clean animals were those suitable for offering to YHWH, for at the time YHWH referred to these as "clean" and "unclean" (Genesis 7:2; 8:20) only vegetable matter was kosher (Genesis 1:29) and only after this time did any animals at all become kosher (Genesis 9:3).

The International Nazarene Beit Din Says:

"From where do we derive the Seven precepts of Noach"?

  1. Justice – For we read "Whoso sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed…" (Genesis 9:6)
  2. Blessing the Name – For the serpent blasphemed YHWH by questioning his word when he said "has Elohim said…?" (Genesis 3:1) Also we read "Whoso sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of Elohim, made He man." (Genesis 9:6) murder is forbidden because it destroys an Image of Elohim.
  3. Idolatry – For we read in the Torah that man sought to make himself Elohim when the Serpent told him "you shall be as Elohim, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:5)
  4. Sexual Immorality – For we read that man was to be joined "male and female" that the woman was told "your desire shall be to your husband" (Genesis 3:16) and that man’s sexual relations were to be fruitful and result in reproduction as we read "be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 9:1,7). Moreover we read of the fallen angels who came to man, "the sons of Elohim saw the daughters of men, that they were fair. And they took them wives, whomsoever they chose…. the sons of Elohim came in unto the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. …And YHWH saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth,…" (Genesis 6:1-5).
  5. Against Shedding of Blood. – For we read that YHWH judged Cain for killing Able (Genesis 4) also we read "Whoso sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of Elohim, made He man." (Genesis 9:6)
  6. Against Theft – For we read in the Torah "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it." (Genesis 2:17) and again we read "And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof and did eat. And she gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat. (Genesis 3:6) thus man’s first sin was an act of theft.
  7. Against Eating the Limb of a Living Animal and eating Blood – For we read "Every moving thing that lives shall be for food for you; as the green herb have I given you all. Only flesh with the life thereof–which is the blood thereof–shall you not eat." (Genesis 9:3-4)

How are we to understand "you will do well"?

Our sages presupposed that these Gentiles would be going to synagogue on Sabbath and learning the Torah of Moses (Acts 15:21). The Ger Toshav, by definition, dwells among us, thus they are attending Synagogue and learning the Torah on the Sabbath. The issue before the Beit Din was only whether or not Gentiles need to be circumcised to be saved, not whether they should eventually be circumcised. Yeshua commissioned his Talmidim as follows:

"Go you therefore, and teach all the Goyim, and immerse them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Ruach HaKodesh. and teach them to observe all that I have commanded you, and here I am with you all the days, to the end of the world."
(Matthew 28:19-20)

Yehsua was instructing his Jewish Talmidim to make converts of the goyim and to teach the goyim to observe all that Yeshua had commanded his Jewish talmidim to observe. Our sage Yochanan writes to us concerning Messiah "He who says, I am in him, out to conduct himself according to his conduct." (1 John 2:6) that is, as a Jew, not as a Noachide.

The Noachide covenant is a betrothal to YHWH as the Mosaic Covenant is a marriage to YHWH. A betrothal by definition is a prelude to a marriage.

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