And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;2 Peter 2:5 (KJV)
Preacher – This is one of those verses that should cause some consideration. Peter calls Noah a preacher. How did Peter arrive at this statement? Noah was introduced in Genesis chapter 5 and dies in chapter 9. It’s not until the end of chapter 9 that Noah says anything, and when Noah does speak, he curses his grandson Canaan. Where, in all of Genesis, does Peter get the idea that Noah was a preacher of righteousness?
Well, Peter, like all Jewish scholars, relied on an array of writings and oral traditions regarding the Scriptures. It is from those documents and oral traditions that Peter can infer Noah was a preacher of righteousness. Let’s take a look at a few.
One resource Peter had was the Book of Jasher. This book is believed to be written around the same time as Genesis. It details much of what is written in Genesis and is referred to three times in the Bible; Joshua 10:13; 2 Samuel 1:18; 2 Timothy 3:8.
8 For thus saith the Lord, Behold I give you a period of one hundred and twenty years; if you will turn to me and forsake your evil ways, then will I also turn away from the evil which I told you, and it shall not exist, saith the Lord.Book of Jasher, chapter 5: 8-9
9 And Noah and Methuselah spoke all the words of the Lord to the sons of men, day after day, constantly speaking to them.
The Pirkei De Rabbi Eliezer is another writing carried on from oral traditions. It was written between 630 – 1030 CE and contains exegesis and retellings of Biblical stories. Although written much latter, it is a culmination of oral traditions passed down.
Noah said to them: Turn from your ways and evil deeds, so that He bring not upon you the waters of the Flood, and destroy all the seed of the children of men.Pirkei De Rabbi Eliezer, chapter 22:9
In the Talmud (the oral law), the teaching was clear about Noah’s preaching. The Jewish people believe this oral law was passed down since Mt. Sinai.
This teaches that Noah the righteous would rebuke the people of his generation, and he said to them statements that are harsh as torches [kelapidim], and they would treat him with contempt. They said to him: Old man, why are you building this ark? Noah said to them: The Holy One, Blessed be He, is bringing a flood upon you. They said to him: A flood of what? If it is a flood of fire, we have another item and it is called alita, and it is fireproof. And if it is a flood of water that He brings, if He brings the water from the earth, we have iron plates with which we can plate the earth to prevent the water from rising. And if He brings the water from the heavens, we have an item and it is called ekev, and some say it is called ikkesh, which will absorb the water.Sanhedrin 108b
Other writings that would indicate Noah as a preacher include Bereishit Rabbah 30:7, and Tanna Debei Eliyahu Rabbah.
Why is this important? It’s important to recognize that Peter was a Jewish man influenced heavily by Jewish traditions and teachings. The Bible does not support Peter’s claim about Noah being a preacher. But Jewish commentary and tradition does. Peter was well aware of the book of Jasher, he knew the rules and oral instructions passed down through the Talmud. And what’s even more important is that Peter regarded them as true and brought those teachings directly into what we call the Christian Bible today. Peter found those teachings worthy enough to pass down through his own letters to others.
So what does this mean for us? If Peter, an apostle of Yeshua, could use this Jewish literature in his own writings, as Paul did too, then we should also be willing to learn from these writings as well. Thousands of years of study was dedicated to the Word of God before Christianity showed up on the scene. That’s the great thing about spiritual studies, it doesn’t stop. It only gets deeper and more intense.