So I’ve heard it all again from the mouth of a Jew, a rabbi no less. The message goes something along these lines.
Christianity is ok for gentiles but not for Jews. Gentiles aren’t warned about shituf, it’s not prohibited as part of their commandments, so, as Christianity is classed as shituf, then it’s fine for gentiles to follow.
What is shituf? The simplest meaning I know of is the act of associating the one True God with an idol, believing that this entity works with God somehow in the way he runs the universe, and this associate is also a god. God is the main Being but this entity, this partner, this associate is also a god worthy of some form of worship, either in mind or in active service.
Now, it’s sad that we have rabbis – not all of them, thank God – spreading this notion that a whole religion, a religion whose foundations they know to be false, is ok for non-Jews, and the very way I phrased that sentence shows one reason why it’s pathetic. But the other problem is that on a number of levels, the notion that christianity is ok for gentiles is erroneous.
One basis of the argument and approach
The highest standard that I’m working with is the Seven Commandments given to the descendants of Noah by God. This means that these commandments are upon all gentiles and we are all judged by God according to this universal standard. These are those laws, which have their details and extensions:
– No avodah zarah (“strange worship/service”, normally known as idolatry)
– No blasphemy
– No murder
– No theft
– Certain sexual acts/relationships are prohibited
– No eating meat taken from a living animal
– No acts to pervert justice (or to set up courts of law)
Just to re-iterate: this commandments are general categories of law that have details and explanations.
Our focus today is the details of that first law, which is roughly translated as a prohibition against idolatry.
One source of the ambiguity
Whenever people, whether Jew or gentile, whether rabbi or not, speak about whether christianity is ok or not, they tend to speak use those words: “christianity is ok for gentiles”. This is a mistake. Why? Because christianity isn’t just one thing. There are so many sects and denominations with a whole gamut of beliefs, it’s a splintered shattered fat entity. To just say “christianity” is too vast an oversimplification to really grasp what the essence of the issue really is. And what is that central issue?
The question is whether it is permissible for gentiles to worship Jesus as God or have him worshipped as an intermediary between an individual and God. This is a central issue. I mean, for certain christians, some could ask if it’s permissible to worship the identity known as “the holy spirit”. It has to do with the description of the christian god, whether the “Father” is identifiable with the God of Israel, of the Jewish Bible, or whether the whole thing, the three identities (father, son, spirit), is meant to be the God of the Jewish Bible.
The complexity and ambiguity and contradictory nature of the christian description of God has made it difficult for some to pin down the doctrine well enough to properly analyze it, but here I’m just going to attempt to deal with the out and out facts and show my point of view on the subject.
What is the definition of idolatry?
Again, it should be noted that, according to the original language, Gentiles are not allowed to do “avodah zarah” or strange worship, which we roughly translate as “idolatry. One definition of avodah zarah (as opposed to just the English definition of the English word) that I have found which I find informative is this:
“Relating to G-d through methods foreign to G-d’s prescribed modes of worship.” (from the article “Idolatry” by Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim – http://www.mesora.org/idolatry.html)
This is a definition that would have far-reaching implications. It would make a lot of the things we do, especially as “noahides”, forbidden. But what would be more useful is a practical definition of avodah zarah, a legal definition that could clearly prohibit the acts of man rather than just intangible ideas. What is the legal definition for the gentile prohibition? I’m going to quote a book called Divine Code by Rabbi Moshe Weiner. Why? Because he not only refers to one of the most notable Jewish thinkers of all time, Rambam (or Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, or Moses Maimonides), who actually did address the practical implications of the Torah Commandments for Gentiles, he also includes footnotes that refers to other rabbis who made pertinent comments about the practical aspects of the law against avodah zarah.
“The main prohibition against idol worship is not to serve one of the creations, be it an angel, a spiritual power, a constellation, a star or a planet, one of the fundamentals of the physical creation, a person, an animal, a tree, or any other created thing. Even if one knows that the Master of the universe is God, and he only serves a lofty creation and only in the mistaken manner that Enosh and his generation did … this is still idol worship.” (Divine Code, Rabbi Moshe Weiner, page 135)
The footnotes of this explanation of the commandment explains how there was a disagreement amongst the rabbis as to whether just the belief in an idol as an intermediary between God and man would break such a command, and because of that disagreement, the final decision was that “the essence of idol worship is the physical action of worshiping an idol” (ibid.) rather than the belief in it.
This reflects what is said in other books about the Noahide Commandments, such as Michael Dallen’s “The Rainbow Covenant” which states in its section idolatry (seen as an ebook, so no page numbers):
“Idolatry describes the act of worshipping a non-god: of following, with attachment and devotion, any thing or being or appetite or power instead of or in preference to the One Eternal God.”
It is important to show that these definitions distinctly show that a person could still believe in the one true God, but once a person actively serves another entity in a deity-worshipping manner, then that is avodah zarah. As is stated in different places, Israel’s Divine Commandments and the Noahide Commandments includes the command “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). Israel were commanded it explicitly. For gentiles, it is one of the details underneath the general category of “avodah zarah”, but for us gentiles it is tied into our actions and our active worship/service.
The Noahide Commandments are of such a basic level, they are so foundational, that to break one of them intentionally and knowingly brings about the highest penalty from God. That’s why it is so crucial that we get it right. And to refine the understanding of the law of avodah zarah even further, the Talmud has these words, which was echoed by Rambam:
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. Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 56b
And Rambam’s reiteration of this says:
A gentile who worships false gods is liable provided he worships them in an accepted manner.
A gentile is executed for every type of foreign worship which a Jewish court would consider worthy of capital punishment. However, a gentile is not executed for a type of foreign worship which a Jewish court would not deem worthy of capital punishment. Nevertheless, even though a gentile will not be executed for these forms of worship, he is forbidden to engage in all of them. (Ramban’s Mishneh Torah, Shoftim, Law of Kings and Kingdoms, Chapter 9, Halachah 2,http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1188354/jewish/Chapter-9.htm)
This is the foundation of an approach on whether shituf, partnering an false god with God, is permissible to gentiles.
This section should be reasonably short. Based on what has been quoted above, what makes a person guilty of breaking the prohibition of idolatry is to worship, active worship, someone other than God. Any act that a Jew would get capital punishment for according to Torah with regards to idolatry, the same act is part of the Noahide prohibitions and is just as serious.
The question then should be asked, is the active worship of someone or something other than God a capital offense for a Jew according to Torah, even of that something else is seen as an intermediary or a partner of God? The answer is yes. I have not seen any answer from an ancient respected Jewish authority that contradicts this. And therefore, based on the Jewish understanding (or the understanding of some Jews) of Jesus worship or “holy spirit” worship, if a gentile actively worships anything or anyone other than God, even if that anything or anyone is seen as an intermediary or a partner, he or she breaks the core commandment against idolatry.
Of course there are the additional stipulations that generally they have to worship this other being according to its customary worship or in a way that resembles certain Temple practices, like bowing. But for all intents and purpose, active worship of an alleged partner of God breaks the core commandment against avodah zarah or idolatry. This is reflected in a clarifying statement made in the book, the Divine Code, quoted above.
Therefore there is no contradiction in the words of Rema, who writes (Orach Chayim ch. 156) on belief in an intermediary; rather it is as explained above, that an intermediary is permitted for a Gentile only in belief and speech, but not in actual worship or service. The conclusion of this subject is in the words of Chatam Sofer (note on Shuchlan Aruch Orach Chayim ch. 156): “The main opinion is that a Gentile is liable for actually worshiping an intermediary. (Divine Code, bottom of page 139, the end of footnote 9)
I will add that all that I’m talking about now only becomes a question if we accept the notion that Jesus and/or the holy spirit can be seen as partners to God, understanding this shituf concept in a certain way. Not all Jewish voices agree with this idea. There are teachings that say that the mainstream (and some other sects’) christian notion of God doesn’t even fit within this Torah notion of shituf.
There is a question: Is a goy [a non-Jew – my translation] forbidden to believe in shituf? Shituf means partnership. And there is an opinion that a goy is allowed to believe in shituf – can’t believe in a idol but he can believe in a partnership between HaShem [DD addition – HaShem refers to God] and something else, which basically means not as people think, that shituf means that there are two Gods – let’s say that a goy believes in two Gods: that’s not called shituf – that’s avodah zarah, that’s actual idol-worship. Shituf means that he believes in another power but believes also that ultimately HaShem is the boss. If he believes that HaShem is … the God of gods, that’s shituf. A Yid [DD addition – a Jew] is forbidden to believe in that. A Yid is supposed to believe there is no other power at all. There is only one power which is HaShem. But that mitzvah [DD addition – command] was only given to Yid. Where do we get this mitzvah to believe in one God? [DD translation of what the rabbi says – Listen, Yisrael! HaShem is our God. HaShem is one] HaShem is one! But the pasuk starts by saying [Listen, Yisrael – DD translation] ….! A Yid has to remember that [HaShem is one – DD translation]. But a non-Jew has a right, according to many opinions, to believe in shituf. Some opinions don’t say that. Some opinions hold that even a goy cannot believe in shituf. The only thing it says that a goy could do with shituf, with partnership, is only when it comes to swearing. Since when you do business and you go to court sometimes and you have a goy and they make them swear by their god, the goy is allowed to swear by the name of God together with an avodah zarah … That is permitted! But to believe that there is another power – that you can’t! But many opinions say he could. But then again, what does it mean that he could? To believe that HaShem is ultimately the boss! And because of that the Rambam says that christianity is not shituf. It’s not partnership. Christianity is avodah zarah. Which means that it is forbidden for a goy to believe in christianity. Because what they believe is – and I don’t want to get into the details, I don’t know the details and I don’t care – but the main point is that they believe that they are both equal. There’s the “father” and the “son,” the “holy ghost” … this whatever the hell they wanna call it – that they’re all equal, that’s not shituf: that’s avodah zarah! Shituf would be if they believe in another power – in somebody or something else controlled the world – but HaShem … He has the veto power. But if you don’t believe in a veto power in HaShem, that’s pure avodah zarah. And that a goy is not allowed to do, but in shituf, a goy is allowed.
(Rabbi Leib Shapiro – Audio on chabad.org called “Torah Law for the Non-Jew” between 15 mins 35 seconds to 18 mins 14 seconds)
This voice shows that hold Jesus as equal (or “co-equal”) to God is not shituf, but is blatant avodah zarah or idolatry. Again, I shall quote something else.
“Christianity, moreover, is absolute idolatry, not shittuf (partnership of deities), based on at least two of its beliefs (held almost universally by the estimated 1.9 billion Christians worldwide): (1) That the other two members of the “trinity” are of equal power and stature to Hashem (G-d forbid!), and (2) that the physical world is primarily under the dominion of the Satan, who is in an actual state of rebellion against G-d (G-d forbid!). Christianity, therefore, does not fit the definition of shittuf given by the Lubavitcher Rebbe (“Mayim Rabim,” Sefer Hama’amarim vol. 1, pp. 51-62; 1957).” quoted from http://www.noahide.com/infiltration/xmas2.htm, emphasis mine.
Again, another voice saying that the worship and doctrine that major sects in christianity has isn’t even shituf.
But all these statements refer generally to the belief. To re-iterate what I’ve said before, when it comes to action, physically bowing the knee or praying or serving, the practical law against avodah zarah or idolatry is that no person, Jew or Gentile, is allowed to serve as deity any being other than God, the God of Israel.
But then they started talking nonsense
The title sounds harsh. I know. But let’s talk about what the other side have been saying on this basis.
I was listening to a speaker who was promoting this idea that christianity is ok for Gentiles but not for Jews. You may wonder how he comes to this conclusion. I’ll tell you.
According to this speaker, certain rabbis have a specific definition of avodah zarah or idolatry. They say that avodah zarah is worshipping anything that a believer believes exists on its own. That means that, in their eyes, an idol worshipper, a person doing avodah zarah, is someone who says that the God of Israel does not exist, but their idol does and they worship that idol. They refer to names like “the Chazon Ish”. To these people, idolatry is the utter rejection of God and the worship of an idol.
But there is something else called heresy which is different to idolatry. Heresy is where a person acknowledges the existence of God but has a certain error in their way of thinking about God. This includes thinking that God has a body or a form, or that he is part of a plethora of gods. So a heretic may have God in mind but he is misunderstanding God. One such heresy, in the minds of these rabbis, is the idea that God has a partner, what I’ve been discussing above: shituf. To them, shituf is only heresy but not idolatry. And as you may remember from above, the Torah Laws for Gentiles only fundamentally prohibits idolatry, avodah zarah, but it doesn’t prohibit heresy. So for these people, heresy is totally fine for gentiles. In other words, they think that “permissible” means “absolutely fine”. I may come back to that later if I remember.
So, to give a practical understanding of what these people are saying, if a person throws the God of Israel totally out of the window and worships Zeus or a tree or a statue, etc., then that person is an idol worshipper. But if that person at least has an idea that God exists, but still continues to worship Zeus or a tree or a statue, etc., that person is not an idolator anymore. They are just a heretic. If they were to throw out the God of Israel but worship a man, then that person would be an idol worshipper. But if they believe that the God of Israel actually transformed himself into a man, and then that person worship the man, then that is not idolatry, but just heresy. Also if they knew that God exist but believed that it was God’s will that they worship a man as god or God, then again, to these people, that wouldn’t be idolatry, that would just be heresy.
But, David, why is that nonsense?
Before I even get into the proofs that such people use, the words of previous rabbis that they refer to, let me tell you why such thinking is both nonsensical and impractical.
The Torah Laws for Gentiles, the Seven Noahide Commandments, are meant to be upheld by courts of law. That means that people are meant to be able to enforce the law. There are supposed to be observable acts that can be witnessed and brought to a court to be judged upon and punished. Look at all the other commandments. It’s generally easy to hear when someone curses God. You can see when someone has been murdered. You can see when a theft takes place or has taken place. You can see an action involved in each of the prohibited acts.
Now imagine trying to enforce the law against idolatry when it all depends what is in your head, when it’s about what you believe. You see a person bowing in subservience to a statue and praying to that idol, in the name of that idol. You say to yourself, “oh no, he has just broken the law against idolatry!” You bring this person to a court because of what you witnessed. And when this suspect is questioned, he simply states, “Of course I was bowing to and praying to the idol – but you know what? I believe in the God of Israel”. Talk about the “get out of jail free” card. You could have idol temples all over the place, and the worshippers of the various idols could just be coached on what to do when approached by the Noahide police: “it’s ok, officer – I did worship the hell out of this idol, but I still have God in mind!” Or, “yes, Mr Officer, I was giving offerings to this tree, but I believe it is the form of God!” How the hell can there a law against idolatry, against the worship of other beings apart from God, if it allows the worship of everything apart from God?!?!?!
Now some lonely soul may say this: “David, God is still the judge! Surely he will see if these people are lying or not and judge them accordingly.” But to this response I would easily say, refer to what I said just now: these laws need to be enforceable in this life in our realm, not in the world to come, not in the world of the invisible!
The utter … sorry, the only word I can think of is “idiocy” or “stupidity” … hmmmm …. The utter baselessness of this sort of thinking can be seen if we apply such thinking to the other laws. Let’s redefine adultery in a similar way. So now, it is not simply having sex with the wife of another man that constitutes adultery, but rather it’s believing that the marriage between a man and his wife means nothing and then having sex with the wife. A man essentially, in his own mind, throws the concept of marriage out of his head, and sleeps with women that are objectively the wives of other men. When he is caught in the physical act, he can defend himself by saying “it’s all good, I do believe in marriage and that this woman is married to that man!” What about murder? It’s perfectly ok to kill a person for revenge as long as you can say that you believe in the sanctity of life.
For all intents and purposes, such an idea about idolatry that can only exist in a person’s head is impractical and unenforceable. And what is the good in an unenforceable law? None whatsoever!
The alleged evidence
So these Jews and rabbis will sometimes claim that this is the viewpoint (that having God makes worshipping other things heresy, not idolatry) of the Ashkenazi Jews which makes up the majority of modern Jewry, and their notions come from Rabbeinu Tam and Rema (or the “Ramah”). They will sometimes be very rough with their language and say stuff like “Rabbeinu Tam said that christianity is fine” or “Ramah said that christianity is perfectly fine for gentiles”. The reason why I say the language is rough is because, as I said before, christianity is a fragmented artifact with so many diverse beliefs, you would struggle to be convinced that the different sects either worship the same “God” or even believe in the same Jesus. With regards to this subject, you can’t simply say “christianity” and assume you are talking about one belief system. They also add that there are Jewish sources that say that gentiles outside of the land of Israel are not to idol worshippers because they are just following the customs of their fathers in ignorance; their hearts are not really devoted to the idols.
Now, I’ll dismiss the numbers argument, because I’m more interested in the content of the argument. Masses of people can be wrong, but words of some wise men can make some difference and I believe that Rabbeinu Tam and Ramah were wise men. The question we should ask is whether they outrightly said that “christianity is perfectly ok for gentiles”.
Now I have searched and searched for a direct quote from Rabbeinu Tam and the Ramah. I don’t believe I have found one yet. But there are many that refer to them and scope of their words. It becomes clear that they were only referring to the fact that some gentiles will swear an oath in the name of God in association with a idol for the purpose of business or in a court setting. So the context and scope of their words seem to refer to swearing an oath and belief rather than active worship. This is brought out in the following ancient commentary on the words of Ramah.
According to the Nodah Biyhudah,* the Rama agrees with the Rambam that any religion of shittuf would be forbidden to gentiles (nor did the Rama ever indicate that Christianity was shittuf rather than idolatry).
* Nodah Biyhudah – Mahdura Tinyasa 148
“Behold, I say that they have tied a rope to a rope and a strand to a strand; where does this ‘chacham’ [DD translation – wise man] get this idea that the gentiles are not commanded concerning shittuf?! And nevertheless this thing is found in the mouths of many chachamim… and I have toiled and I have not found this thing either in the Babylonian or Jerusalem Talmud, and not in any of the gedolei harishonim; and if this was true, then the Rambam should have brought in Hilchos Melachim as a psak halacha that a gentile is not commanded on avoda zarah with shittuf, so why did he exempt this din? He also contests that, regarding avoda zarah, there is no difference between a Jew and a gentile, for behold, an explicit baraisa in Maseches Sanhedrin 56b states, ‘Everything that a Jewish beis din executes upon, b’nei Noah are warned concerning them’; and likewise in Hilchos Melachim 9:2… and it seems to me that the fact that it has become commonplace for people to say that b’nei Noah are not warned concerning shittuf is according to an error they made in reading Tosafos in Maseches Bechoros 2b…. In light of [Tosafos] the Rama poskaned in Orech Chairn 156…. These words have been misconstrued by many chachamim who reasoned that the intention of the Rama is that b’nei Noah are not commanded concerning serving avodah zarah in shittuf. However, this is not in fact the case. The intention of the Tosephos and the Rama is that combining the Name of Heaven with something else in an oath does not constitute the actual worship of idolatry; rather he is combining the Name of Heaven with something else, but he is not calling in the name of Elokim and he is not saying ‘you are my g-d.’ Instead, he is merely mentioning him in his oath with the Name of Heaven in a manner of honor, regarding which we find a prohibition upon Israel, as it is written ‘and in His Name shall you swear’; this is a warning to Israel not to swear except in His Name (blessed be He) and not to combine the Name of Heaven and something else, as the Rambam wrote in 11:2 of Hilchos Shevuos —and the gentiles are not warned regarding this shittuf. However, regarding the service of avoda zarah with shittuf, there is no difference between a Jew and a gentile!… The general principle that we have received is that anything for which a Jewish court administers death upon, the gentiles are also forewarned upon, as we wrote above. Afterwards I saw in the Sefer Meil Tzeddaka in sec. 22, who also makes the same distinction; however, he did not bring the proof which I have written here….”
If that was a bit long-winded for you then here is a shortened explanation of it.
“… the Rema does not rule that goyim [DD translation – gentiles] are permitted shituf, but merely rules that for them swearing in the the name of a shituf is not an act of avodah zarah (as only Jews are prohibitted from swearing in anything but HaShem’s name). As explained in the Nodah Beyahudah, Yoreh Deah 148 …” (written in a forum entitled “Is Christianity Avodah Zara?” –http://judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/89/is-christianity-avodah-zara)
Again, notice in these references that when the words of the Rema or Ramah is mentioned, it is not a blanket statement saying “the whole of christianity, including their active worship of a man or a three faceted god, is absolutely fine for gentiles”. It is always just in reference to oaths. So for rabbis or Jews to stand boldly the words of the Ramah as if he had given blanket approval of the worship of certain types of christian is tenuous, if not absolutely basis. Let me share something else I found in my searches that covers the usage of the Tosefos, Rabbeinu Tam, and the Chazon Ish (in the following text, he’s refered to “Hazon Ish”). My translations will appear in the square brackets.
To understand the matter clearly we must distinguish between (a) Christianity as a religion and (b) medieval Gentiles who professed Christianity.
Christianity as a religion was just as much avoda zara to the baalei tosafot [the masters whose opinions were recorded as the Tosafos] as it was to the Rambam. A simple, yet not usually discussed, proof of this is found in Tractate Avoda Zara 14b, d”h hatzav, in which it is stated that it is forbidden to sell wax to the Gentiles (for fear they will make votive candles). The prohibition is based on the verse
“Lifnei Iver lo titen mikhshol,” understood to mean that a Jew is not permitted to cause another (Jew or Gentile) to sin. We see from this that lighting a votive candle is a sin , i.e. avoda zara, even for a
That the Baalei Tosafot allowed commerce with Gentiles on religious holidays, despite the Mishna to the contrary (2a, d”h asur), does not contradict the above. Rather, they held that Gentiles do not take their
own (idolatrous) religion seriously enough to offer thanksgiving for the profit they make from such commerce. That is, they made a distinction between the religion as such and its devotees. For this reason many rishonim (Rashi and Rabbenu Tam and many others) ruled that Gentile wine is not forbidden in benefit (not asur behana’ah)–Gentiles today are mostly not priests and do not carry out the mass.
The usual proof that the Baalei Tosafot did not hold that Christianity is avoda zara comes from the statement that Gentiles are not commanded to avoid “shituf.” However an impressive range of commentators from the world of Torah (Hazon Ish) and the academic world (David Berger and others) have proved that this discussion (in Tractate Sanhedrin) is relevant only to oath taking (i.e. swearing to Hashem but having somebody else in mind as well), which is the usual meaning of “shituf shem shamayim im davar aher” [partnership, God’s name with something else] in the Talmud. Christian worship as
carried out in the medieval Catholic Church was regarded as a.z. [avodah zarah, idolatry], period, for Jew and Gentile alike.” (written by Mark Steiner athttp://www.ottmall.com/mj_ht_arch/v37/mj_v37i68.html)
To go back to this Tosafos that is supposed to be in the name of Rabbeinu Tam, it is directly referred and dealt with as follows:
“Shituf” means partner, or in this context, ditheism – more than one god …
Talmud Sanhedrin, 63b, Tosafos “Assur L’Adam”. Here, Tosafos poses an argument: “We do not find it prohibited to cause idolaters to commit ditheism”. If Tosafos held that ditheism is permitted, they (Tosafos were comprised of many sages) should have said so. But they didn’t. Why? Because this Tosafos is not addressing the definition of “ditheism”. It is addressing the act of a Jew causing (“grammah”) a gentile to swear by idolatrous deities. Tosafos says, this far we do not go. That is, to prohibit a Jew from doing and act which might cause a gentile to swear an oath to his god, we do not prohibit actions that far on Jews. Again, this specific Tosafos is not addressing whether ditheism is prohibited, because in reality, it is …
In summary, ditheism dilutes the pure, accurate truth that God is one. If one believes God to be more than one, even if he says I believe in the God of the Torah and another god, his concept of God is 100% wrong.
Any prayer to such a god would be idolatry.(Christianity: OK for Christians? by Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim – http://www.mesora.org/christianity2.html)
The online article called ““One” God – Gentile or Jew” by the same Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim athttp://www.mesora.org/polytheism.htm deals with most of the evidences given by those who claim that it’s fine for gentiles to actively worship anything than God as christians do. It goes through the words of the Tosafos and other proof texts given by those Jews and rabbis. Again, it is noted that the words of Rabbeinu Tam and Ramah focus is always swearing oaths associating God with a partner or business transactions, not some blanket statement about all the worshipping actions of Jesus-worshipping christians. Some good warnings are given in the text of the article says as follows:
Avtalyon said, “Wise men, be careful with your words…” (Pirkei Avos 1:11) Maimonides comments that teachers must be careful what they say, lest heretics misunderstand them as teaching that the Torah contains heresy, as they believe, thereby profaning God’s name. Such occurred to Tzadok ad Baysos, Talmudic scholars who misunderstood their Rabbi and left the path of Torah. Now, if we must be careful how we teach true ideas, certainly, we must first ascertain that we possess those Torah fundamentals. Had we all been taught Torah fundamentals, no one would have interpreted Rabbeinu Tam or the Shulchan Aruch as condoning polytheism: we would have properly interpreted what we read, we would dismiss the written quote in Tosfos as an error, or we would have said, “I just don’t know what Rabbeinu Tam means”. But, we would never assume any Rabbi or sage to support polytheism for anyone, Jew or gentile …
A Rabbi once taught that if we know something to be true based on reason, it is inconsequential if we find printed words that imply otherwise. Certainly in this case, when the word in question is “joining”. To suggest that gentiles not being warned against “joining” refers to polytheism, one errs twice: first, by interpreting the word according to his own notions, and second, by undermining the entire fabric of Torah monotheism.
When discussing “Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Dayah 148:12)”, the writer makes a bold statement which I find to be true.
“But be clear: in no source do we find any claim that Christianity or other idolatry as permissible for gentiles.”
But I would put it in a slightly different way. I have never seen any source that I can get my hands on, or a clear quotation given by anyone else made by the early Torah scholars that overtly states that a gentile is allowed to actively worship anything, anything (not even a shituf or intermediary), other than the one true God according to our fundamental Noahide Commandments. A good summary of all this is the statement put in the book “Path of the Righteous Gentile” by Rabbi Chaim Clorfene and Yakov Rogalsky which states, in the section concerning idolatry:
According to many authorities, a Noahide is not warned about the concept of “partnership with God.”  The concept of partnership is the acknowledgment of the existence of the God of Israel in combination with the belief in the possibility and existence of a deity (independent will) other than God. So long as ascribing power to a deity other than the Creator remains conceptual, it is permissible to the Children of Noah according to many authorities . But worship of this independent being is clearly idolatry. The danger of the concept of partnership is that it frees people to act in accord with nonexistent gods and opens a doorway to actual idolatry. Most recent authorities agree that Children of Noah are forbidden to believe in a partnership. But even according to these, the Children of Noah are permitted to swear by the name of an idol in combination with God (to swear by the Lord of Hosts and a Hindu deity, for example).
They don’t take their beliefs seriously … (sarcastically) yeah, right!
Then we come to the comments made that say that Gentiles outside the land of Israel are not idolators because they are only following the customs of their fathers, or they are ignorant of their idolatry, or they are just going with the flow. Some say that Gentiles don’t take their beliefs seriously or their hearts are not in it. Some will refer to the Babylonian Talmud Tractate Chullin. With regards to that Tractate, I asked the following questions on the AskNoah International forum, now in the section called “Prohibition of Idolatry” under the heading “Accepting Temple Sacrifices from Gentile Idolators” athttp://www.asknoah.org/forum/showthread.php?tid=1897.
1) Someone told me that the Talmud says in Tractate Hullin that there were no idolators outside of the Land of Israel, and that this still applies today.
2) Some take this to say that worshiping a sheetuf (intermediary) is OK for Gentiles as part of the definition of sheetuf that is not forbidden to Gentiles to practice, and I emphasize the word “practice” as opposed to believe. Now I know that final sentence contradicts the footnote in “The Divine Code” – footnote 9, page 138.
3) But does the earlier statement and mention of Hullin agree with what is said in Part 1, Chapter 4, topic 2 of “The Divine Code” which seems to imply that since a Gentile lived in a community that didn’t know/teach the seven commandments, he is not liable for worshipping idols if he does, since he wasn’t taught?
In my questions, you should see that I appreciate that there is leniency. If a person is raised in an idolatrous community where the Seven Commandments are not taught, then it doesn’t make their actions ok but at least there is a justifiable reason as to why they don’t keep the prohibition against idol worship (many christians don’t have this excuse, as they have a form of the Jewish Bible right in front of them in the form of the “old testament”).
And this was the response given by Dr Michael Schulman, editor of the book “The Divine Code”, which highlights the flimsy use of the Talmud:
1) When you use the decisive expression “the Talmud says that [such-and-such]“, the implication is that you mean: “the [back-and-forth] discussion in the Talmud comes to the conclusion that [such-and-such].”
With that in mind, we can clearly state that the Talmud in Tactate Hullin does not come to the conclusion that there were no idolators outside of the Land of Israel, nor does it imply a conclusion that there are no idolators outside of the Land of Israel today.
Rather, that section of the Talmud concludes that the majority of idolatrous Gentiles in that time were not practicing the category of apostasy that would disqualify them from bringing animals to be sacrificed on their behalf by the Jewish priests in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
2) The whole premise of basing such an opinion (that it would be “OK” for a Gentile to worship a sheetuf) on what it says in Tractate Hullin is incorrect. All you could logically ask is whether the conclusion in Tractate Hullin would make today’s sheetuf worshipers permitted to bring animals to be sacrificed on their behalf by the Jewish priests in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem (if it were built and functioning). And you could make an argument that the answer to that is No, if you hold that the entire world today is like the Land of Israel in Talmudic times, in regard to the easy availability of knowledge that there is only One True G-d, the G-d of Israel (through the Internet, widely published books of Torah knowledge, lessening of paganism, etc.). But that is a mute point, because when we do have the Holy Temple again in the Messianic Era (may it come immediately!), everyone will be worshiping only G-d Himself, and the false beliefs in idols and sheetufs will promptly disappear.
3) The Talmud in Tractate Hullin is not discussing Gentile idolatry as it relates to liability within the Torah Laws of the Noahide Commandments. Rather, that discussion in Tractate Hullin is discussing primarily the Torah Law that the Jewish priests in the Holy Temple may not sacrifice an animal that was brought as an offering from an apostate Jew, and how does that apply, if at all, to various categories of Gentile idolators. The Torah-Law is obvious in regard to what disqualifies a Jew as an “apostate” in this context – for example, any Jew who worships any idol or sheetuf. The Torah-Law is not so clear as to what disqualifies a Gentile as an “apostate” in the context of bringing animals for sacrifice by the priests in the Temple. The discussion in the Talmud there concludes that the *majority* of Gentiles at that time who were committing idolatry were not in the category of the type of apostasy that disqualifies a person from bringing animals for sacrifice by the priests in the Temple. So by the general Torah rule that the Torah-Law follows the majority situation, Gentile idolators were permitted to bring animals for sacrifice by the Jewish priests in the days of the Second Temple.
So moving past the use of the Talmud, let’s just discuss this idea of simply following the customs of their parents, or worshipping out of ignorance, or the notion that their heart isn’t really in it. At the very least I actually have experience of this having been a christian myself and having been amongst christians while they are worshipping and teaching and in different aspects of their lives, something that many Torah observant Jews don’t have experience of. And I can say that this statement about “customs of the fathers” and worshipping out of ignorance is only true for some, not all, christians who worship Jesus or the holy spirit. And the notion that their hearts are not really in it again is a vast overgeneralization. A lot of times where knowledge is lacking, and where such lack of knowledge is promoted as a good thing, the passion and fervency behind their worship and devotion to the man Jesus or Yeshua is so strong. Even the intelligent amongst them who study christianity still hold that the trinity doctrine is logically sound and pledge their all to it.
So remember, although some christians are just going with the flow, this cannot be said for a significant amount of them. And this doesn’t excuse the idolatry they promote.
Lacking substance: Permissible means absolutely fine
Let’s imagine, for the sake of argument, that some ancient rabbi of high regard said that christianity was ok for gentiles. Some people like to quote a Rabbi called Meiri who is supposed to have given the “ok” to gentiles following Jesus-worship.
Aside: I don’t deal with Meiri’s notions about christianity because, as many have noted, his opinions are quite unique and no one else in his time or around it seems to share the same opinion. If his voice had significant backing from other authorities, I would consider it. But it doesn’t. Some put his inconsistency with his contemporaries down to ignorance of christian doctrine and some put it down to personal or emotional reasons. For me, the seriousness of the offence of idol worship is too great to let it all fall on the shoulders of one man when many others say differently.
So imagining that the worship of someone else is acceptable to Torah, would that then mean that christianity is totally fine for gentiles?
You see, the immaturity of those arguments that christianity is totally fine for gentiles is seen in the fact that it leaves out an important aspect of that religion that all Torah observant Jews must accept. What is that important aspect? The fact that the foundations of christianity are totally false.
I know christians aren’t going to like that statement, but I’m not writing this article to cater to their appetites. Jesus was not the messiah, the promised king of Israel. He was not and is not an intermediary between man and God. He wasn’t 100% God and 100% man. His death can never serve the sort of atonement his followers claim because according to the plain text of Torah, human sacrifice is illegal and its power is given no backing by the contextual reading of the written Torah (life for life arguments are way too superficial for the rituals detailed in the written Torah). His death wasn’t even a ritual sacrifice, but rather a mundane execution. And the words of Paul do not make the Jewish Bible clearer and prove his points, but rather he massacres it and chops it up, serving it in individual bits uprooted from context and smothered to death by his own agenda and doctrines.
The basis of christianity, according to Torah, according to Judaism, is a lie, is false, is incorrect.
So when a Jew says that christianity is permissible to gentiles, he is saying that it is allowed for a gentile to be wrong and live in that wrongness. To a point, that’s understandable. If a gentile knows no better, it’s understandable that he can get some things wrong. But when a Torah observant Jew, whose responsibility is to be a light to the nation, then says not only is it understandable that gentiles can be wrong, but also says “leave them to it, it’s totally fine” they are no longer talking about what is permissible, what is understandable and allowed, but they are now part of complicity. Complicity to what, David? Complicity in the preservation, maybe even the spread, of falseness and darkness/madness in the world. How do they do this? Not just by failing to use their influence to correct a serious error in thinking but also endorsing this error by saying it’s just fine, it’s all ok.
Some may say, David, according to Rambam, it was God’s plan to have christianity (and islam) in the world so that some fundamental truth about him could spread across the world. They may say then that christianity has some purpose.
Ignoring the fact that Rambam also said that christians are idolators, ignoring the fact that Rambam also said how great a stumbling block Jesus was making people worship a god other than the one True God, ignoring all that, there is still something missing from such logic. Rambam was talking about a possible plan of God, and he was saying nothing about the responsibility of humans. As some would say, leave what’s in God’s hands to God, but what he has given humanity to do, we should do! So it may be God’s plan that christianity exist, even with its deep flaws. But that doesn’t mean a Jew is then free to point a gentile to the nearest church and make out as if everything is ok for that gentile. It’s even more ludicrous to hear Torah observant Jews question why gentiles should even leave christianity or that there is no good reason to.
Look, my primary desire when talking to a christian is not that they leave christianity. I mean, it’s only a title in the end, a club that the most ignorant can join. My primary desire is that gentiles keep the fundamental Torah Commandments for Gentiles which govern their actions. Therefore, it is much more important that they don’t do idolatrous actions, worshipping a man or a ghost (holy or not) as there is a divine law against idolatrous acts. A person can be a christian and not see Jesus as God or believe that God is some triune entity or believe that God became a man, like the group called the biblical unitarians. But that doesn’t mean I’m gonna say to such a person, “well done for staying in christianity, there is no reason to leave”. There’s plenty of reason, one of the most fundamental being that it’s false. Another reason being that it is wrong to add to what God commands and create or sustain a new religion. I could go on, but it takes a certain sort of blindness to say that christianity is ok. It also takes an awful amount of ignorance amongst those who should know Torah to say that the worship of a physical being (whether it was physical in the past and now has become spirit or not) is acceptable to God’s standard. Or maybe it’s not ignorance …. I’ll talk about that later.
But, to make it plain, to say something is permissible is not the same as saying it’s totally fine. When it comes to divine law for gentiles, saying something is permissible can sometimes just mean that you don’t get punishment by a court for it. With regards to the noahide laws, for some people, it can just mean that you are not liable to a theoretical or actual death penalty for the act. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the act is all ok and you are pleasing anybody, God or man, by doing it. It just means you live to see another day. It’s like when there are certain acts that will get your punishment by your parents. If you come close to doing such an act, but you avoid punishment, that doesn’t mean that everything’s ok because you may still see the look of disappointment from the parent or you may lose the trust and respect they had in you. At this point, it is only an immature child who would think that his actions are therefore perfectly fine and carry on. But it is that sort of action that these Jews and rabbis promote by saying that it’s fine for gentiles to worship Jesus or the holy ghost, or for them to believe that God has a form, etc.
Wrong is wrong; False is false
Consider the following analogy:
Daniel who is well accustomed to car travel is on his way to London and he stops of a petrol station where he gets into conversation with a more inexperienced stranger called Derrick, who says that he’s going in the opposite direction. Daniel, knowing his way around, asks Derrick what his expected destination is, to which Derrick replies, “London”! Despite knowing the correct directions, Daniel says to Derrick while he gets back into his car “Have a safe journey!”
Vicky, who is in the passenger seat of Daniel’s car, asks in a puzzled way, “Why didn’t you tell Derrick the right way to go?” to which Daniel response “Well it’s permitted for Derrick to go in the opposite direction or any direction which he chooses.”
I hope you can see not only the stupidity, but the lack of human responsibility displayed by Daniel. It didn’t matter that Derrick was allowed on roads or to go whichever way he chose to. What mattered was that Derrick was going in the wrong direction and should have been corrected to save him from inconvenience and possible grief and loss due to his mistake.
This is how deplorable it is when a rabbi, someone who knows the Jewish Bible and the Mosaic traditions and knows the falseness of the basis of christianity, not only says that it’s ok for gentiles to stay in such a religion, but also to greet such a person in accordance with the religious holiday that they may be celebrating at the time, like “Merry Christmas!”
The main point I’m trying to make is this. Whether the beliefs of certain parts of christianity are defined as shituf, heresy, or full-blown idolatry, the fact is that its foundations are wrong, untrue, based on a devotion to a man, whether as God or not. The rabbis and Jews who say christianity is permissible know this: that the foundations of christianity is incorrect and the belief is false. And yet they go on encouraging falsehood. How on earth can you be a servant of light and promote and endorse falsehood?
How it comes across – the hidden motive
Now this part of my article may be the most controversial, so I pray for God’s guidance.
When you think about the fact that Torah observant Jews know that the roots of christianity are false and inconsistent with their own worldview, and yet a significant amount of them, while ardently warning other Jews against touching such a poisonous worldview, would encourage gentiles to stay in and embrace the christian religion saying there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with it (including the Jesus-worshipping parts of it), a potentially disheartening realisation can dawn upon a savvy gentile, especially one that knows of and does his best to observe the Seven Commandments. What’s that realisation? That we are not all in this together!
What do I mean? For centuries, due to persecution by the nations, Jews have had to take care of themselves, ensure their own survival whilst adhering steadfastly to the covenant of Moses and its stipulations. They needed to guard their “spiritual” security in God, the Torah, and make sure it was passed to future generations. The Jews already had laws that guarded them from wholesale integration with the nations around them, but because of past Gentile foolishness through the persecution of Jews, many Jews built a wall around their community to such an extent that the Seven Laws of Noah were hardly known about by Gentiles. Thank God, a fair amount of that persecution faded, although not totally, not even today. But there are signs the walls remain. One such sign is this is the uneven teaching give by some, not all, of them that christianity is virtually spiritual suicide for Jews but totally fine for gentiles. I mean, it may not be direct evidence that the separation still exists between Jew and Gentile, but it can definitely come across like it.
Here’s another thing. For the gentiles to break our seven commandments can have seriousrepercussions for our nations and our future. Since they are divine laws, we are only heaping punishments upon our heads through the disregard of them. And it is a blessing that some Jews have taken it upon themselves to spread the knowledge of the seven Noahide commandments. Since the prohibition against idolatry or avodah zarah is one of these laws, even with the ignorance of our nations, we still blindly dig our own graves when our governments protect many forms of idol worship, as well as the other crimes against the divine law our governments commit. And yet, personally, I don’t see many condemnations against what our governments do from our Jewish teachers. This is just my personal experience. Other Torah observant gentiles may experience differently. The teachings that I hear from and for observant Noahides doesn’t seem to touch on politics very much at all. Many of the Torah observant Gentiles I’ve spoken to still feel obliged to give their backing and their vote to political parties that have agendas that work against the Noahide Commandments. Rabbis and Jews are teaching that many governments actually keep the Noahide Laws to a certain extent, even though it is still obvious to someone who learns a few of the details of the Seven Commandments and actually applies it to their lives and uses them as a lens to see what’s around them that just because someone spares the children, it doesn’t guard them from prosecution when they slaughter the parents in cold blood. [Think about it, if you don’t get that straight away.] Of course it is a great blessing that the corruption of government leaves them self-serving enough to guard the welfare of their income source (the population and their voters) by means of police and other protective services [was I too cynical with that statement?]. But those same services still abuse their power, doing such things as oppressing people and stealing children away from parents and work more as officers seeking revenue by enforcing victimless crimes rather than responsible humans seeking justice. Each government legalizes some things that the noahide laws prohibit. So yeah, to some extent, our government unknowingly upholds things that coincide with the prohibitions given in the Noahide Code. The only problem is that just means that to some extent they don’t and that is going to come down upon all our heads.
Now why am I going on about this? Because this still has to do with what Torah observant gentiles get taught by the Jews that teach us. What are we taught? Kabbalah? The Torah of Shem? Whether we are gerim toshavim or not (the fact I’m not even going to go into what that means should show how irrelevant it is to our current situation)? Prayer books? Mysticism? Sephirot? How many Hebrew words we can get into a sentence to make it seem like we understand the old Jewish sages? Now these things may have their place. But while we focus on these peripheral matters, the universe still goes through its cycles and man and his governments are still making sure our national tickets to pain and punishment for breaking God’s law are paid for in full. Many are still convinced that they can get healthy food when the only choices on offer are MacDonald’s (Conservative/Democrats) or Burger King (Labour/Republicans or whichever parties you have in your country), two “different” faces of the same coin.
Now when our national iniquities have reached their fullness and punishment comes or the “natural” consequences, all our Jewish teachers need to do is press the eject button and run to Israel, one of their first responsibilities. Lovely. I’m not saying they are going to do this, but I’m talking about responsibilities rather than duplicitous teachers. And us gentiles? Well, we are already in our foreign lands. What escape do we have? We have a responsibility to our own lands, our own circle of influence. By no means am I telling Torah observant Gentiles to forsake their teachers, only to remember their primary responsibility and one of the reasons for the 7 Noahide Commandments, i.e., to make a proper civilised society based on those laws and to maintain a reason for us to continue to exist. The seven laws are the basic, most basic bedrock of divinely given morality. Once they are transgressed and removed, as they are nationally in our countries, there’ll be another more severe reason for our existence, i.e. the fattening of a stubborn pig before the holidays kick in.
But among the Jewish teachers dotted about in the exile, amongst the nations, we have those “precious” ones who are teaching that it is fine and ok for gentiles to worship and be devoted to a man. Do you think their actions are doing anything to assuage what is coming? If or when they press their eject buttons to go back to the Holy Land, do they think they are leaving a christian paradise behind them or more idolators give Divine Providence more of a reason to turn into Divine recompense or “natural” consequences?
And how do you think this comes across to those, like me, who are watching the actions of the christianity-promoting/preserving Jews? Like they really give a damn about gentiles? You’ve gotta be kidding me. It seems more like they are trying to appease the religions around them and remaining in somewhat comfort in their exile while their attempts to appease surrounding religions only gives those religion confirmation to continue in the sort of actions that bring us as gentiles lower. And once the time of these christian-appeasing Jews is over, whether by death or by return to their homeland in “aliyah”, having protected themselves and ensured their own safety, our “reward” for such “service” is that they would have done a fantastic job in watching over and guiding the poisoning of our “water supply”, our sources of knowledge; let’s enjoy the potential mental retardation of us and our children and the further establishment of the house the Esau/Edom built [rabbis more faithful to the cause of truth see the link between the christian and Roman sources of our society and the ways of biblical Esau]. Sorry if I don’t rush to show my gratitude.
OK, I know few people are gonna think much of this last section. But at least I get to said something.
Leaving imagination aside, let me put to you something that I am convinced of based on my searches.
Jesus-worship, holy-spirit-worship, trinity worship, oneness worship, intermediary-worship, all these things are idolatry, avodah zarah, plain and simple. The shituf excuse is no excuse whatsoever. Once a person channels their active worship to anything other than the one true God, they are committing an act against the 7 Commandments of God, against the prohibition against idolatry or avodah zarah.
Now because of the ignorant culture we live in, ignorant of the codification of the 7 laws (although not necessarily of the principles of the law – much of the law is close to what some would consider “good sense” or “proper thinking”), there is some leniency only because of that ignorance, but that doesn’t make the actions right or good. It gives no basis for giving wholesale acceptance to christianity.
And even if you disagree with me on the shituf issue, those who understand enough of what the Jewish Bible and its tradition teaches should understand that this is also a truth issue. There’s nothing good about promoting or preserving a lie. No, necessary doesn’t mean good.
I know there are good people out there that are christian that do good to others, that give to the poor, that make a positive difference in their culture. There are people of most worldviews that do this to some extent. This article by no means says being christian means you are evil. In fact I’ve tried to separate and specify what a person worships and deal with that, leaving to one side the fact that there are at least decent people out there who are christian.
The good thing about the Noahide Commands is that they deal with the actions of people rather than their belief. Although it is great to get our head straight, the commandment don’t necessarily say that what you believe should be absolutely correct, but at least get your act[ions] together! Let’s get our actions right!