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The Ark of Noah and the Cosmic Covenant (Roman Catacomb)Law for the Gentiles?: Universalism and ritual purity in Judaism, Christianity and Islam

Is the Hebrew Bible truly the particularist, tribal heritage of Israel, which is then universalized by Christianity or Islam?  This paper will explore universalist approaches to humanity and to ritual purity first sketched in the Pentateuch and in the prophetic literature, and trace its development in the New Testament, the rabbinic corpus, and in the Qur’an.  We will study the question of which laws each of the three major Abrahamic traditions presented as incumbent on all of humankind, assessing the degree to which the universalist tendencies of these three traditions were intertwined and developed in dialogue with each other, and how their similar yet distinct notions of “laws for the gentiles” may present a new opening for a comparative understanding of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Among the topics and questions that the seminars will explore are:

In what ways do the Pentateuchal laws incumbent on ‘the resident’ (ha-ger) prefigure later “Abrahamic” views of universal salvation and universal law?

How do competing dynamics within the New Testament with regard to ‘law for the gentiles’ (eg in the Letters of Paul and in the Book of Acts) relate back to Pentateuchal specifications?

Does rabbinic literature’s conceptualization of ‘ger’ as proselyte mark a major departure from the biblical notion of ‘ger’ as resident?

How do the rabbinic concept of the ‘sons of Noah’ (bnei noach) relate to the notion of a ‘universal’ covenant?

How do Qur’anic presentations of Islamic purity law relate to Biblical, Jewish and Christian views of ‘laws for the gentiles’?

How does the Decree of the Apostles relate to rabbinic notions of the ‘Noahide Laws’ and to Islamic law?