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Image of the Non-Jew in JudaismA Historical and Constructive Study of the Noahide Laws$
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David Novak

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9781906764074

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: February 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781906764074.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM LIVERPOOL SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.liverpool.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Liverpool University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in LSO for personal use.date: 23 September 2021

The Law of Blasphemy

The Law of Blasphemy

(p.53) Chapter Three The Law of Blasphemy
Image of the Non-Jew in Judaism

David Novak

Liverpool University Press

This chapter examines the law of blasphemy. Blasphemy is the explicit rejection of the God of Israel, who is also the God of the whole world, as a fundamental aspect (yesod) of Judaism. According to the rabbis, blasphemy is forbidden not only to Jews but also to gentiles, and the prohibition for Jews and non-Jews appears to be the same in the Talmudic sources. This is because reverence for God is assumed to be universal, an attitude written into human nature. Punishment for this sin, however, varies: gentiles are disciplined for misusing any divine name of God, whereas a more severe penalty is administered to Jews who blaspheme the Tetragrammaton. In the Hellenistic era, the Noahide prohibition of blasphemy was reevaluated by Josephus and Philo. The former wrote that no one, Jew or gentile, should blaspheme even the pagan gods, a tactic clearly prompted by concerns for Jewish flourishing in a wildly pluralistic environment where Jewish monotheism was an outlier. His contemporary, Philo, offered a more reflective response: he suggested no one ought to ridicule “the gods”—even though they were non-existent—as it would lead to contempt for the name of the true God.

Keywords:   law of blasphemy, blasphemy, God of Israel, Judaism, Jews, gentiles, non-Jews, Talmudic sources, Tetragrammaton, Noahide prohibition

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