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But for this last our author refers not to any text, as he docs for the two former; because, I suppose, he found not any such text in the New Testament. Nor do I know of any.
This observation therefore is unsupported by proper authority, and is what one would not have expected in so accurate a writer as Dr. Ward. I think we ought here to recollect, that these Dissertations are posthumous.
But I have no intention to enter into an argument upon this subject. There was an anonymous tract published not long ago, where it is treated more distinctly, to which I refer.
PAGE 174. Diss. xlii. To whom the apostolic decree Acts xv. was directed. And whether it was perpetual.'
As this chapter will be of considerable length, I shall divide it into the following sections. I. An introduction.
II. The Noachic precepts, with observations upon them.
III. To whom the apostolic decree was directed: and that there was but one sort of Jewish proselytes.
IV. General observations, showing the occasion, and design of the apostolic decree.
VI. Observations, in the manner of corollaries.
I. INTRODUCTION. Before I make any remarks upon this article, I would observe, that a good while ago, in the chapter of St. Cyprian, I carefully considered the various readings of this decree, as it stands in the book of the-Acts of the apostles, ch. xv. 20, 29, and xxi. 25. The result of which was, that the readings in our present copies of it, in the New Testament, are right. It was a long discussion. But I do not repent the labour of it. It has formerly, and does still afford satisfaction.
Says our learned author, p. 174. · The decree is directed τοις αδελφοις εξ εθνων, that is, as 'seems most probable, to all the Heathen converts in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia, who were not 'proselytes of the gate, before they embraced christianity. For the Jewish proselytes were always obliged to regard the things therein mentioned, as they were all contained in the precepts given to Noah. And therefore we do not find in Acts x. that Peter laid any such injunctions upon • Cornelius, and his company.'
proselytes of the gate, and Jewish prose
Dr. Ward, as seems to me, useth those words, lytes," very improperly. But of that more hereafter.
It may be proper to observe here, that the author of Miscellanea Sacra has advanced an opinion, not known before, that the decree of the council of Jerusalem was directed to such converts to christianity only, as were "proselytes of the gate," and were, before their conversion to christianity, obliged to observe the several regulations contained in this decree. Which opinion has been embraced by several.
Dr. Ward does not differ much from them. He thinks that such things, as were before required of "proselytes of the gate," were in the decree, enjoined upon all converts to christianity, in the countries above-mentioned. But, he says, there was no need of giving such injunctions to Cornelius, he having before observed the like things, as a "proselyte of the gate," living in Judea.
Upon this scheme I now make no remarks. I put down these things here at present, only by way of explication of our author's sentiment.
II. THE NOACHIC PRECEPTS.
Dr. Win the words just cited, speaks of the precepts
a See the first postscript to a letter written in 1730, p. 116. Vol. II. p. 13-20.
See Miscell. Sacra. Essay iv. However, see also Hammond upon Acts xv. 29.
d See Hammond as before referred to.
given to Noah. And at p. 177. says, That the several things contained in the apostolic decree, are all included in the Noachic precepts.'
I therefore shall now show, what are called the seven precepts of Noah, or the sons of Noah, taking my account from Ainsworth, where I believe they are rightly represented. Which is more than can be said of some others, who talk much of them.
Says that exact and diligent writer, in his Annotations upon Gen. ix. 4. "But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat." The Hebrew doctors make this the seventh commandment given to the sons of Noah, which all nations were bound to keep, as there had been six from Adam's time. The first against idolatry, the worship of stars, images, &c. the second against blaspheming the name of God; the third against shedding of 'blood; the fourth against unjust carnal copulations, whereof they made six sorts: 1. with a 'man's own mother: 2. or with a father's wife: 3. or with his neighbour's wife: 4. or with his sister by the mother's side: 5. or with mankind: 6. or with beasts. The fifth precept was against rapine, or robbery. The sixth to have judgment, or punishment for malefactors. And 'unto Noah was added the seventh, which is here mentioned. Which they understand to forbid the eating of any member, or of the flesh of a beast, taken from it alive. Whosoever in the world transgressed any of these seven commandments wilfully, the Jews held, he was to be killed with the sword. But the Heathen, who would yield to obey these seven precepts, though they received not circumcision, nor observed the other ordinances given afterwards to Israel, they were suffered to dwell as strangers among the Israelites, and to dwell in their land.' Upon all which I beg leave to make the several following observations.
First. Fornication is not mentioned among the several kinds of unjust carnal copulation. This omission has been observed by Grotius. The reason of it, I do not stay to inquire.
Secondly. Every thing, here mentioned, is of a moral nature, even the seventh precept, as well as the rest. For it condemns cruelty. It is not, to forbear eating blood, but to eat the member, or the flesh of a beast taken from it alive. Which is great cruelty, and even barbarity.
Thirdly. This whole article, as scems to me, is a Jewish way of representing the law of nature, by which all men are obliged. For sons of Adam, and sons of Noah, comprehend the whole world. By the law of nature all are obliged. Jews and Christians, who are under a particular law of revelation, are not exempted from this law, and its several obligations: but are as much subject to it as other men.
Fourthly. As this scheme is the scheme of Jewish masters only, it need not to be received without examination. Rabbinical and Thalmudical writers may be of use. But they are not infallible. Indeed, I had rather learn Jewish antiquities from the scriptures, and such other Jewish writers, as lived before our Saviour's coming, or were contemporary with Christ and his apostles, than from later Jewish authors.
Fifthly. These precepts deliver a wrong interpretation of Gen. ix. 4. the command given to Noah, relating to food. They represent it to forbid the eating of any member, or of any flesh of a beast taken from it alive; which is a wrong account, as must be apparent to all. The words are: "But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat." Or, as in Lev. xvii. 14. "Ye shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh. For the life of all flesh is the blood thereof." And see Deut. xii. 23. And this law, as delivered to Noah, was understood by Josephus to forbid the eating of blood. Which must induce us to believe, that this is a false, and late interpretation: and that this whole scheme of Noachical precepts is a modern thing. Several learned men have argued in the like manner.
Sixthly. If the Jewish doctors say, (as undoubtedly many Christian commentators now do:)
■ Inter præcepta Adamo et Noæ data, Judæi non ponunt interdictum scortandi. Grot. in Act. xv. 20.
bExcepto quod carnem cum sanguine non comedetis.] Hebræi recentiores, et, ut credo, Christianorum odio, sentiunt vetari hic esum membri rapti de animali vivo-At certe vetustiores Hebræorum non ita interpretatos satis docet Josephus, qui ait, χωρις αίματος" εν τετῳ, γαρ εςιν ἡ ψυχη. Quem sensum iisdem prope verbis hic expressit Rabbi Sardias, et quidem sequuntur non ignobiles Hebræorum magistri. Gro. ad Gen. ix. 4.
-Ita interpretatur et Josephus. Ant. 1. i. cap. 3.
-At posteriores Rabbini inter præcepta Noacho data, quæ ad totum genus humanum pertinere ab iis putantur, hoc recensent, sensumque esse volunt, membrum animalis vi' ventis non esse comedendum'-Sed hæc posterioris ævi commenta exigui sunt, ad expositionem horum librorum, usûs. Cleric. in Gen. ix. 4.
that any people, who obeyed these seven precepts, though they received not circumcision, might dwell among the Israelites, and sojourn in their land:-I presume, they are mistaken.
This I argue, 1. From the sixth of these precepts, to have judgment, or punishment for malefactors. Or, in other words, magistracy, for restraining excesses, inconsistent with the peace of society, and for punishing delinquents. How can any learned Christians suppose, that uncircumcised Gentiles were required, or allowed to have magistracy in the land of Israel? Nay, it cannot be supposed, that proselytes, or men circumcised after the law of Moses, living in the land of Israel, had magistrates of their own. Whilst the Jewish people were sui juris, their own masters, all civil privileges, in their country, were appropriated to the descendants of Jacob. The case was quite different afterwards when they were subject to the Romans, and especially, when they were reduced to the state of a Roman province: as they were after the removal of Archelaus, not many years after our Saviour's nativity.
Indeed, God was the law-giver, and the king of the Jewish people. He governed them after the death of Moses, first by judges, then by kings, of his own appointment: who were to govern the people committed to their charge, according to the laws, which himself had delivered by the hand of Moses.
2. It seems to me to be probable, that according to the law of Moses, no uncircumcised men could reside, or be stated inhabitants in the land of Israel. Or, as I expressed it some while ago. It seems to me, that none but proselytes, or circumcised men, had the privilege of a 'settled abode, or residence there, that is, to sojourn in the land. However, I think, there 'must have been an exception for travellers passing through the country, even though they ' were idolaters, and also for some, whose traffic was needful, and therefore allowed. As Patrick says upon Deut. xiv. 21. There were some, called Nocherim, which we translate aliens: who were mere Gentiles, and not suffered to have an habitation among them, but only to come and 'go in their traffic among them.'
I shall now argue this point more distinctly from divers considerations.
In the first place, I argue it from the law of circumcision, as delivered to Abraham. For, as our Saviour himself said to the Jews of his time," circumcision is not of Moses, but of the fathers." John vii. 22. The original law is in Gen. xvii. 11—14. "And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin. And it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and thee. And he that is eight days old, shall be circumcised among you. Every man-child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money, must needs be circumcised. And my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant: and the uncircumcised man-child, whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people. He has broken my covenant." Afterwards ver. 23. "And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham's house and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin, in the self-same day, as God had commanded him." And see what follows to the end of ver. 27.
That is the law, which God gave to Abraham, and Moses afterwards delivered to the children of Israel, when they were multiplied, and were become a nation.
And the institution of the passover is to this purpose. Ex. xii. 43, 44. "This is the ordinance of the passover. There shall no stranger eat thereof." In the Heb. In the Heb. Every son of the stranger shall not eat thereof.' Gr. Tas añλcyεvys. But every man's servant that is bought with money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof.' And ver. 48. “When a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised. And then let him come near, and keep it."
Such laws must have made circumcision very general in that country.
When the oppression, which the Jewish people had laboured under, in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, was abated, and Mattathias had come out of his retirement and had got a number of men about him; it is said, 1 Macc. ii. 45, 46. "Then Mattathias, and his friends, went round about, and pulled down the altars. And what children soever they found within the coast of Israel uncircumcised, those they circumcised valiantly:" that is, resolutely, strenuously, without scruple, being persuaded, that they had a right so to do.
• See Vol. III. ch. xviii. sect. II.
See Prideaux Conn. year before Christ 165. vol. II. p. 182.
Hyrcanus having conquered the Idumeans, in the year before Christ, one hundred and twenty-nine, as Josephus says, He permitted them to remain in the country, if they consented 'to be circumcised, and to observe the Jewish laws; which they engaged to do, rather than leave their country: and from that time they became Jews.'
Afterwards, in the year before Christ, one hundred and six. Aristobulus, as we also learn from Josephus, having subdued the Itureans, added a large part of their country to • Judea, and obliged the inhabitants, if they would stay in that country, to be circumcised, and 'to live according to the laws of the Jews."
I suppose, that this was done, because those countries were reckoned to be part of the land, which God had given to the children of Israel.
Seventhly. What has been just said under the foregoing particular, must needs render it probable, that by "the stranger, the stranger within thy gates, the stranger that sojourneth with thee," so often mentioned in the law of Moses, and other books of the Old Testament, are meant proselytes, men circumcised after the law of Moses.
Nevertheless I shall here farther add some other proof, which may be reckoned more particular and positive. The argument, which I now aim at is this. The same religious ordinances are given to the children of Israel, and to the strangers sojourning among them, and under the same penalties.
Lev. xvii. 8-10. "And thou shalt say unto them: Whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, that offereth a burnt offering, or a sacrifice: and bringeth it not to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, to offer it unto the Lord, even that man shall be cut off from among his people. And whatever man there shall be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, that eateth any manner of blood, I will even set my face against that soul that eateth blood, and will cut him off from among his people." Ver. 13. "And whatsoever man there be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, which hunteth, and catcheth any beast, or fowl, that may be eaten, he shall even pour out the blood thereof, and cover it with dust." Ver. 15, 16. " And every soul that eateth that which died of itself, or that which was torn with beasts, whether he be one of your own country, or a stranger, he shall both wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even. Then shall he be clean. But if he wash not himself, nor bathe his flesh, then he shall bear his iniquity."
I might add other texts. But these appear to be sufficient. These prohibitions are delivered equally to the children of Israel, and to strangers that sojourned with them. And the penalty of transgression is that of being" cut off from his people." Therefore this sojourning stranger was one, who had joined himself to the house of Israel, or the Jewish people, by circumcision. Otherwise he could not have been cut off from them. I do not now quote any more places at length. But I would refer to Numb. xv. 13-16, and 25—31.
Eighthly. If observing the above-mentioned precepts of the sons of Noah qualified men to reside in the land of Israel: I presume, it must have been lawful for Jews to converse with them: and that they might do so, without contracting any legal impurity.
Nevertheless St. Peter was shy of conversing with Cornelius of Cesarea. When he came to his house, he told him, and his company," they knew, how it was an unlawful thing, for a man that is a Jew, to keep company, or come unto one of another nation." Acts x. 28. And when St. Peter was come back to Jerusalem, “ they that were of the circumcision contended with him, saying: Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them," ch. xi. 2, 3.
Of that centurion it is said, "that he feared God, with all his house, that he gave much alms to the people, and that he prayed to God always." Cornelius therefore was not a transgressor of any of the precepts of the sons of Noah. He was not an idolater, nor a blasphemer, nor unjust and rapacious: nor did he indulge himself in the practice of abominable filthiness. And yet, we see, from authentic evidence, that it was not lawful for a Jew to converse with him. Indeed, he lived at Cæsarea, a part of the land of Israel. But so did many idolaters, at that time, under the Romans. It was not then in the power of the Jews to exclude any men, who were admitted by their masters.
Prid. as before, p. 307.
b Antiq. I. 13. c. ix. sect. 1
• Prid. p. 370.
Antiq. 1. 13. cap. xi. 3.
Once more, ninthly, the seven precepts of Noah, or the sons of Noah, can afford no help for explaining the regulations of the council at Jerusalem. For there is no resemblance between them. Nor have they any relation to each other. The Noachic precepts are all of the moral kind, as was shown just now: those of the apostles and elders at Jerusalem, are, all of them, things indifferent, as will be shown hereafter.
And, if the seven precepts of Noah are an invention of modern Jews: as some learned men of the best understanding have argued it is great pity, that so much regard has been shown to them by Christians, who profess a zeal for truth, and are desirous to know the right interpretation of the scriptures. Though they are pompously called precepts of Adam and Noah, as if they had been delivered to the first man that lived on this earth, and to him who escaped the deluge, from whom all who have since lived on this earth are descended: they are, in this system and collection, a modern invention, and were unknown to Christ's apostles. We might as well attempt to explain the scriptures by the decrees of the council of Trent, or the synod of Dort, as the apostolic decree by these seven precepts.
III. THAT THERE WAS BUT ONE SORT OF JEWISH PROSELYTES. I have spoken my mind concerning the Noachic precepts. I should now proceed to consider the first question, proposed by our Author at the head of this Dissertation. To whom the apostolic decree was directed.
But this question I have answered formerly. It was directed to all Gentile converts whatThe letter is inscribed Acts xv. 23. " to the brethren, which are of the Gentiles in Antioch, and Syria, and Cilicia." To them the Epistle was inscribed, to them it was sent, and to them it was delivered by the messengers, who carried it from Jerusalem. And afterwards. Acts xvi. 1-4. When Paul and Silas left Antioch, "they came to Derbe, and Lystra-And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees to keep, that were ordained by the apostles and elders, which were at Jerusalem." And that the decree was designed for all Gentiles, appears from the words of St. James, who proposed it: ver. 19. "Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God." And long after this, when St. Paul was come again to Jerusalem, the same James, the residing apostle in that city, says to him, ch. xxi. 25. "As touching the Gentiles, which believe, we have written, and concluded."
And from the beginning all Christians every where, for a good while, supposed themselves. to be bound by them, and did observe them, as we know from many ancient authors still extant. But since the fourth century, they have been little regarded by those Christians, who used the Latin tongue.
Moreover, I did formerly allege a passage of Mr. Hallett, arguing very clearly, and strongly to the like purpose.
I did likewise at that time argue, that there never were, in ancient times, among the Jews, two sorts of proselytes: and that all those men, who, in the Old Testament, are called proselytes, or strangers, or strangers within thy gates, were men circumcised. I have here added more arguments to the same purpose in the observations upon the Noachic precepts.
I must therefore entreat those learned men, who say, the regulations of the apostles and elders at Jerusalem were sent to uncircumcised Gentiles, whom they call proselytes of the gate, to give some better proof, that there were such men, than they have yet done. Otherwise, I inust still think their scheme chimerical, and without foundation.
They are the more obliged to do this, because upon many other occasions, they bring in those half-proselytes, in their explications of the scriptures..