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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: 18 September 2021

The Law of Idolatry

The Law of Idolatry

(p.65) Chapter Four The Law of Idolatry
Image of the Non-Jew in Judaism

David Novak

Liverpool University Press

This chapter investigates the law of idolatry, highlighting the tension between biblical and rabbinic attitudes towards gentile idolatry. The Bible consistently forbids idolatrous actions for Israelites while distinctly not excluding such behavior among gentiles. As gentiles are not participants in the Sinai covenant, they cannot be guilty of idolatry, even if their cult is consistently scorned in the Bible. Contrary to the biblical permission of pagan idolatry, the rabbis forbade anyone, Jew or gentile, to practice idolatry. According to one rabbinic line of thinking, all gentiles are idolaters, while another distinguished between contemporary and ancient idolatry. In either case, a radical innovation was introduced: idolatry was to be removed everywhere. For medieval Jewish thinkers, idolatry was believing that something finite was in fact infinite, and worthy of worship.

Keywords:   law of idolatry, gentile idolatry, Bible, idolatrous actions, Jews, gentiles, pagan idolatry, contemporary idolatry, ancient idolatry, medieval Jewish thinkers

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