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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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Maimonides’ Theory of Noahide Law

Maimonides’ Theory of Noahide Law

(p.153) Chapter Ten Maimonides’ Theory of Noahide Law
Image of the Non-Jew in Judaism

David Novak

Liverpool University Press

This chapter describes Maimonides' theory of Noahide law. According to Maimonides, Noahide law is binding prior to its acceptance. It is written into the human constitution and exists before any possibility of assent. Maimonides maintains that there are three potential sources for knowledge of Noahide law: (1) the Mosaic tradition, both written and oral; (2) rational investigation; and (3) the general revelation found in the Torah. For Maimonides, the latter source is primary for gentiles. Despite the theocentric partiality here, he does not rule out rational investigation as a method for acquiring knowledge of the Noahide laws. Such a method is legally permissible, making its possessor both wise and moral, although theologically this method is insufficient. The chapter then reflects on the long-standing scholarly dispute concerning whether or not Maimonides engaged in natural law thinking. It considers the exegesis of his Hilchot Melachim (8:11), which has divided scholars on its true philosophical and philological meaning.

Keywords:   Maimonides, Noahide law, human constitution, Mosaic tradition, rational investigation, revelation, Torah, gentiles, natural law thinking, Hilchot Melachim

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