Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 19 August 2019; Revised 4 March 2020
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Scripture Text: The Scripture text used in this commentary is prepared by Blaine Robison and based on the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. The essentially literal translation seeks to reflect the Jewish character of the author and writing. See my web article The Jewish New Testament. Scripture quotations may be taken from different versions. Click here for abbreviations of Bible versions. Quotations marked with the initials "BR" indicate the translation of the commentary author.
Sources: Bibliographic data for works cited may be found at the end of the chapter commentary. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. Important Jewish sources include the following:
● DSS: Citations marked as "DSS" are from the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of Jewish manuscripts of Scripture and sectarian documents found in the Qumran caves. Most of the Qumran MSS belong to the last three centuries BC and the first century AD. Online DSS Bible.
● LXX: The abbreviation "LXX" ("70") stands for the Septuagint, the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, which was in use among Jews by the mid-2nd century B.C. Online.
● Josephus: Citations for Josephus, the first century Jewish historian (Yosef ben Matityahu), are from The Works of Flavius Josephus (c. 75–99 A.D.) trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.
● MT: The Masoretic Text is the authoritative Hebrew text of the Tanakh for Rabbinic Judaism. Work on developing a uniform Hebrew Bible began in the 2nd century AD under Rabbi Akiva, but completed by Jewish scholars known as the Masoretes between the 7th and 10th centuries AD. The oldest extant manuscripts date from around the 9th century AD. Online.
● Talmud: Unless otherwise indicated references to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Halakhah.com. The Jerusalem Talmud, identified with "TJ," may be found here. Click here for Talmud abbreviations.
● Targums: The targums are early Aramaic translations of the Hebrew text with commentary: Targum Jerusalem (1st c. AD), Targum Neofiti (1st c. AD), Targum Onkelos (c. 35–120 AD) and Targum Jonathan (2nd c. AD). See an index of targum texts here.
Syntax: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009), and the meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB." See the Greek Guide for the meaning of grammar abbreviations and pronunciation of Greek words. Parsing data for Greek words is from Anthony J. Fisher, Greek New Testament. The numbering system of the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible is identified with "SH" (Strong's Hebrew number) and "SG" (Strong's Greek number). Strong's Online.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms ADONAI (for 'LORD' when quoting a Tanakh source), Yeshua (Jesus), Messiah (Christ), Tanakh (Old Testament), and Besekh (New Testament).
In Chapter Fifteen Luke records the meeting of the apostles and elders in Jerusalem to confront a serious threat to the Messianic movement, namely that Gentile believers must become full proselytes to Judaism in order to be saved. Paul will later write about this controversy and the background that led to the Jerusalem conference (Gal 2:1-21). The Messianic leaders firmly rejected this heresy and set forth specific expectations of uncircumcised disciples. The decision was communicated to followers of Yeshua in the Diaspora by letter and received with much rejoicing. The chapter concludes with a personal dispute between Paul and Barnabas resulting in their separation and the beginning of the second journey for Paul who chose Silas as a companion.
Controversy in Antioch, 15:1-3
The Jerusalem Summit, 15:4-6
Speech of Peter, 15:7-11
Speech of Barnabas and Paul, 15:12
Speech of Jacob, 15:13-21
Agreement and Resolution, 15:22-29
Dissemination in Antioch, 15:30-35
Separation of Paul and Barnabas, 15:36-39
Paul's Choice of Silas, 15:40-41
c. A.D. 48/49
Rome: Caesar Claudius (AD 41-54)
Procurator of Judaea: Tiberius Julius Alexander (AD 46-48)
Procurator of Judaea: Ventidius Cumanus (AD 48-52)
Jewish High Priest: Ananias, son of Nebedaius (AD 47-55)
Controversy in Antioch, 15:1-3
Parallel: Galatians 2:11-13
1 And certain ones having come down from Judea were teaching the brothers that, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you are not able to be saved."
The narrative of this chapter continues from the previous chapter with verses 1-3 set in Syrian Antioch.
And: Grk. kai, conj. that marks a connection or addition. Kai has three basic uses: (1) continuative – and, also, even; (2) adversative – and yet, but, however; or (3) intensive – certainly, indeed, in fact, really, verily, yea (DM 250f). The first use applies here. Kai is used in the LXX to translate the vav (ו) character added to words for conjunctive effect. There are over 50 conjunctions in biblical Greek, but kai is by far the most common in the Besekh, occurring over 9,000 times (BibleHub). The excessive use of conjunctions is evidence of either an original Hebrew text or Jewish Greek. See my note on the significance of conjunctions in the Besekh.
certain ones: pl. of Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun, a certain one, someone, anyone, anything. This pronoun is often used to distinguish someone in a class or in contrast to others. Since the pronoun is masculine some versions have "certain men." They may have been members of the sect of Pharisees mentioned in verse 5 below. These "certain men" may properly be called Judaizers because of their theology. The label "Judaizer" is derived from the verb Ioudaizō (SG-2450, "live as a Jew"), which Paul uses in his letter to the Galatians (Gal 2:14; cf. Rom 2:17). Paul referred to the Judaizers as "false brethren" (Gal 2:4). having come down: Grk. katerchomai, pl. aor. part., to go down or to come down, generally of moving in a geographical context from a higher to lower elevation. from: Grk. apo, prep., used generally as a marker of separation; from, away from.
Judea: Grk. Ioudaia (for Heb. Y'hudah), transliterates the Latin provincial name of Iudaea. The territorial name of Ioudaia had two uses: (1) the historic territory of Judea that lay between Samaria on the north and Idumea on the south (Luke 2:4; Acts 1:8; 8:1; 9:31). See the map. (2) the Roman province of Judaea, which at this time and the change in governors comprised Galilee, Samaria, Judea, Idumea and Perea, with its capital at Caesarea (Luke 1:5; 23:5; Acts 10:37; 11:1, 29). See the map here. Considering the context Luke probably had the historic territory in mind. Paul will later write that these men were "from Jacob" (Gal 2:12), which might mean they claimed Jacob as their sending authority or simply that they came from the congregation headed by Jacob. Stern favors the second alternative (528).
were teaching: Grk. didaskō, impf., to teach or instruct. In the LXX didaskō occurs about 100 times and is used primarily to translate Heb. lamad (SH-3925), exercise in, learn, teach (Deut 4:1; Ps 119:99); as well as eight other Hebrew verbs. In its LXX usage the verb does not primarily denote communication of knowledge and skills (e.g., 2Sam 22:35), but means chiefly instruction in how to live (e.g., Deut 11:19; 20:18) (DNTT 3:760). The verb in this context does not refer to classroom instruction, but the Judaizers advocating their point of view among Messianic Jews in Antioch.
the brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos, lit. "of the same womb," and in secular Greek meant a male sibling; brother. In the Jewish context the term primarily refers to blood siblings or fellow Israelites. In the LXX adelphos renders Heb. ach (SH-251), a male sibling (Gen 4:2; 20:5), a male relative of the same tribe (Gen 13:8; Num 16:10) or the people of Israel (Ex 2:11; 4:18). Here the noun likely denotes Messianic Jews in the congregation whom the Judaizers were trying to convince of their point of view.
that: Grk. hoti, conj. that serves as a link between two sets of data, whether (1) defining a demonstrative pronoun; that; (2) introducing a subordinate clause as complementary of a preceding verb; (3) introducing a direct quotation and functioning as quotation marks; or (4) indicating causality with an inferential aspect; for, because, inasmuch as. The third usage applies here, and so most versions do not translate the conjunction. The quotation represents the theological position of the Judaizers and does not necessarily imply anything about the "brothers" to whom it was addressed.
Unless: Grk. ean mē, lit. "if not." The combined particles introduce a condition for the futurity of something and essentially means "except" or "unless." you are circumcised: Grk. peritemnō, aor. pass. subj., 2p-pl., the act of surgically removing the male foreskin by a knife. In the LXX peritemnō translates Heb. mul (SH-4135), circumcise. For Jewish males God commanded that circumcision be performed on the eighth day after birth (Gen 17:12; Lev 12:3), regardless of the day of week. The significance of the time is not stated in Scripture but modern medical researchers discovered that the two main blood clotting factors, Vitamin K and Prothrombim, reach their highest level in life, about 110% of normal, on the 8th day after birth. These blood clotting agents facilitate rapid healing and greatly reduce the chance of infection.
according to the custom: Grk. ethos, a way of doing things marked by recurring procedure; custom or practice. of Moses: Grk. Mōusēs transliterates Heb. Mosheh, born about 1525 BC. which is most likely derived from Egyptian mes meaning "child" or "son" (BDB 602), since the daughter of Pharaoh named him (Ex 2:10). She explained the chosen name by saying, "Because I drew [Heb. mashah, "to draw"] him out of the water." For a discussion of the life of Moses see my article Moses and Yeshua.
The phrase "custom of Moses" refers to a Jewish tradition that Moses supposedly provided detailed instructions on circumcision. In reality the Torah says nothing about the surgery procedure, nothing about a religious ceremony and nothing about a requirement for Gentiles to be circumcised, except for those that wished to observe Passover (Ex 12:44, 48). The tradition was invented by the Sages and by claiming Moses as its origin the custom was given authority.
you are not: Grk. ou, adv., a particle used in an unqualified denial or negation; not. able: Grk. dunamai, pres. pass., to be capable of doing or achieving, to have power. to be saved: Grk. sōzō, aor. pass. inf., to deliver, or rescue from a hazardous condition; save, rescue. The verb is used in the Besekh primarily of rescue from spiritual peril (Matt 1:21; Luke 13:23; 19:10; Acts 4:12; 11:12), frequently in relation to the judgment on the day of God's wrath (Joel 2:32; Matt 24:13; Rom 5:9; 1Cor 5:5, 10). In the LXX sōzō translates no less than 15 different Hebrew verbs to describe rescue from death and deliverance from external evils, especially enemies (DNTT 3:206). God is consistently given the credit as the true source of deliverance (Deut 33:29; 1Sam 7:8; 14:6; 2Sam 22:4; Ps 34:6; 107:13).
The demand here offers a different perspective from the narrative of Cornelius (Acts 10), a Gentile who accepted Yeshua and was immersed, but remained uncircumcised. Previously the Circumcision Party objected to Peter's mission to Cornelius on this physical basis, but had acknowledged that God had granted to the Gentiles repentance for eternal life (Acts 11:2-3, 18). The Judaizers were more extreme than the Circumcision Party, and demanded circumcision according to Pharisaic ritual as a condition of salvation, in effect casting doubt on God's grace toward Cornelius. This claim of the Judaizers was a bald-faced lie and completely without biblical foundation. Salvation had never been based on circumcision.
2 And no small dissension and dispute by Paul and Barnabas with them having taken place, they appointed Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them to go up to the apostles and elders in Jerusalem concerning this subject.
Parallel: Galatians 2:1, 11-13
And: Grk. de, conj. used to indicate (1) a contrast to a preceding statement or thought, "but;" (2) a transition in presentation of subject matter, "now, then;" or (3) a connecting particle to continue a thought, "and, also," sometimes with emphasis, "indeed," "moreover" (Thayer). The third meaning applies here. no: Grk. ou, adv. See the previous verse. small: Grk. oligos, adj., used (1) of extent or degree; little, small; (2) of quantity, few; or (3) adverbially of time. The first meaning is intended here, no doubt understatement. dissension: Grk. stasis may mean (1) a position or stance that challenges public order, an uprising, sedition or insurgency; or (2) a circumstance characterized by counter-positioning; dissension, discord. The second meaning is intended here, but there is a nuance of the first meaning also.
and: Grk. kai, conj. dispute: Grk. zētēsis, act of delving into a subject or issue; debate, dispute. by Paul: Grk. Ho Paulos, which transliterates the Latin proper name Paulus ("small" or "humble"). As a Roman citizen (Acts 22:28) Paulus was probably taken from the patron who freed Paul's ancestors from slavery (Polhill 16). Paul was born in Tarsus of Cilicia, a Roman city (Acts 9:11; 21:39) of a Jewish family belonging to the tribe of Benjamin (Php 3:5). He was "set apart from his mother's womb" for a sacred life (Gal 1:15). Having received advanced education under Gamaliel the Elder (Acts 5:34; 22:3), Paul was a devout Pharisee (Acts 23:6; 26:5). Paul was called personally by Yeshua while traveling to Damascus to persecute disciples. From that point on he was an apostle to Israel and the nations. For a biography of Paul see my article The Apostle from Tarsus.
Of special interest among Bible versions is that the Complete Jewish Bible and Orthodox Jewish Bible consistently translate Paulos with the Hebrew Sha'ul. Stern explains his persistence in using Sha'ul for the apostle "to highlight the Jewishness of the New Testament and its major figures" (267). In contrast Paul apparently did not feel any loss of Jewish identity by using his Roman name, which is the only name by which the apostle refers to himself in his letters, and the only name Luke uses from Acts 13:13 to the end of the book. In addition, the OJB adds the title "Rav" in direct violation of Yeshua's instruction (Matt 23:8). Paul never used the honorific of himself and no one addressed Paul as "Rabbi."
and: Grk. kai. Barnabas: Grk. Barnabas, a transliteration of Heb. Bar (רבּ)-Naba (נָבָא) (Thayer), which means "Son of Exhortation," a name having been given to him by the apostles (Acts 4:36). His name was actually Joseph, and he was a Levite and native of Cyprus. Barnabas is first noted for having sold his property and giving the proceeds to the apostles (Acts 4:37), perhaps as an act of Torah obedience since Levites were forbidden to own property. Luke characterized Barnabas as "a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faithfulness" (11:24). Little considered by commentators is that Barnabas is included in the list of the seventy whom Yeshua sent out in Luke 10:1 (Hippolytus, 170-235, On the Seventy Apostles). According to these records Barnabas eventually became the overseer of Milan.
with: Grk. pros, prep., lit. "near or facing" and conveys motion toward (DM 110); to, toward, with. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun used to distinguish a person or thing from or contrast it with another, or to give him (it) emphatic prominence. The pronoun may mean (1) self, (2) he, she, it, or (3) the same. The second meaning applies here and refers to the Judaizers. having taken place: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. part., "become," which may be expressed in one of three ways: (1) come into being by birth or natural process; be born or produced; (2) exist through application of effort by a person; be made, be performed; or (3) undergo a state of existence, change or development; come to be, become, take place, happen, occur, arise, be, arrive. The third meaning applies here. In the LXX ginomai translates Heb. hayah (SH-1961; BDB 224), to fall out, come to pass, become, be (first in Gen 1:3).
Luke's description indicates a face-to-face argument, with the heresy of the outsiders being strongly rebutted. Paul narrates in Galatians 2 that when this event occurred Peter was present in Antioch and prior to the arrival of the Judaizers had been eating with Gentiles. Upon the coming of the Judaizers Peter separated himself from the Gentiles to appease the legalists. Paul notes that for a time even Barnabas was led astray by the false doctrine. Paul confronted Peter and the Judaizers with a stern speech in front of the congregation (Gal 2:14-21). He emphatically declared that acquittal before God may only be gained from the faithfulness of Yeshua (ek pisteōs Christou) and not from works of legalism (ek ergōn nomou). Indeed, no flesh can be acquitted by works of legalism. Moreover, if righteousness could be attained by legalistic works, then Messiah died needlessly. Paul's speech made a strong impression on the Antioch congregation and they purposed that the apostles should settle this matter once and for all.
they appointed: Grk. tassō, aor., 3p-pl., to arrange so as to be in order. Originating in the military sphere the verb may indicate (1) put in an arranged order; (2) enroll as a beneficiary; (3) devote onself to service; or (4) make arrangement for something. The fourth meaning applies here. The subject of the verb is not stated clearly, so most versions insert "church" as the subject, or translate the verb as passive "were appointed." Since the verb is active voice, it is possible that the two named apostles determined to go and the congregation concurred (cf. Gal 2:2). Paul and Barnabas: The two apostles (Acts 14:14) were naturally chosen by virtue of their leadership in the congregation and extended ministry in the Diaspora. and: Grk. kai. certain: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. See the previous verse. others: pl. of Grk. allos, adj., used to distinguish from one or more other entities; other (of two), another.
of: Grk. ek, prep. used to denote exit or separation from something with which there has been a close association, lit. "out of, from within." them: pl. of Grk. autos. Other prominent members of the Antioch congregation were chosen to accompany Paul and Barnabas. Paul says in his Galatian letter that he and Barnabas were accompanied by Titus, an uncircumcised Hellenistic Jew (Gal 2:1-2). The point of origin for Titus is nowhere mentioned, but he could have been among the Hellenistic Jews that received the good news in Syrian Antioch (Acts 11:20) or Iconium in southern Galatia (Acts 14:1). Coming from Iconium would make Titus a special testimonial of the first mission journey. As revealed in Paul's letters Titus joined with Paul in his later travels (2Cor 2:1-4; 7:13-15; Titus 1:4-5; 2Tim 4:10).
to go up: Grk. anabainō, pres. inf., to proceed in a direction that is up, go up. The verb graphically illustrates the change in elevation from the starting point in Antioch to the final destination in hilly terrain. to: Grk. pros. the apostles: pl. of Grk. ho apostolos, one who is sent on a mission or assignment; messenger, delegate. The term was used in Greek and Roman culture for a delegate, ambassador, envoy, messenger, emissary or official representative. Apostolos occurs one time in the LXX where it translates shaluach, Qal pass. part. of the verb shalach (SH-7971), "sent," of Ahijah the prophet (1Kgs 14:6). Josephus also uses apostolos one time of a group of Jewish ambassadors sent to Rome to complain about the appointment of Archelaus (Ant. XVII, 11:1). The office of apostle (Heb. shaliach) was used in first century Judaism for an official messenger who acted with the full authority of the sender (Ber. 5:5).
Usually the shaliach's mission was "limited in scope and duration by definite commission and terminating on its completion" (DNTT 1:128). In the Besekh the term "apostle" is specifically applied to the original Twelve disciples (Matt 10:2), then Mattathias (Acts 1:26), Paul and Barnabas (Acts 14:14) and Jacob, the half-brother of Yeshua (Gal 1:19). All the apostles named in the Besekh were Jewish. The apostles of Yeshua were so named because they had "seen the Lord," i.e., they were witnesses of his resurrected form (John 20:25; Acts 9:27; 1Cor 9:1; 15:5-9; 1Jn 1:1). The apostles spoke with the full authority of Yeshua. The plural noun with the definite article may intend the Eleven or just the chief apostles, such as Peter, John and Jacob.
and: Grk. kai. elders: pl. of Grk. presbuteros, adj., may mean (1) ranked as superior in age, older, older one; or (2) ranked in terms of official responsibility, elder. The second meaning applies here. In first century Jewish culture the term was used for officers in a synagogue (Luke 7:3). An individual Jewish synagogue had seven elders (Moseley 9) and the Messianic congregations naturally imitated synagogue organization. Elders were chosen to give oversight to the administration and ministries of the congregation. The number of elders was variable in proportion to the size of the congregation, since the Messianic congregation was viewed as all the believers in a city. The quantity could have been based on the historic formula of appointing leaders of thousands, hundreds and possibly fifties (Ex 18:21). A thousand members would mean at least eleven elders.
in: Grk. eis, prep. that focuses on entrance, frequently in relation to direction and limit, and in composition may be translated as "into, in, to, towards, or for" (DM 103). Jerusalem: Grk. Hierousalēm, a transliteration of Heb. Yerushalaim ("the dwelling of peace"). The city is situated some 2500 feet above sea level and eighteen miles west of the northern end of the Dead Sea, is renowned as the capital of all Israel. Stern notes that since Paul and Barnabas had come from there (Acts 4:36, 9:26-30; 12:25), they would be subject to Jerusalem's jurisdiction and would accept their verdict. concerning: Grk. peri, prep. with an orientational aspect relating to being near or having to do with something; in behalf of, about, around, concerning.
this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun signifying a person or thing set forth in narrative that precedes or follows it; this. subject: Grk. zētēma, matter of a dispute; controversial matter or subject. The noun occurs only five times in the Besekh, all in Acts. The theological issue was "What is God's requirement for someone to be saved?" The practical issue was "Do uncircumcised believers have to become proselytes?"
3 They indeed, therefore, having been sent forward by the congregation, were passing through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the turning to God of the Gentiles, and were causing great joy among all the brothers.
They: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a relative pronoun. indeed: Grk. mén, a particle of affirmation; indeed, verily, truly. Many versions do not translate the particle. therefore: Grk. oun, an inferential or sequential conj., used here as an indication of taking account of something in the narrative immediately preceding; therefore, now then, accordingly so. having been sent forward: Grk. propempō, aor. pass. part., to send forward and in practical terms provide travel assistance, which might take the form of an escort or provision of supplies and suggestions for contacts along the way. by: Grk. hupo, prep., may be used as (1) a marker of agent or cause; by; or (2) as a marker of a position that is relatively lower; below, under. The first meaning applies here with the sense of "under the authority of."
the congregation: Grk. ho ekklēsia, assembly, gathering, meeting, or congregation, used here to denote a grouping of Yeshua's disciples. In the LXX ekklēsia renders the Heb. qahal (DNTT 1:292-295), which means assembly, convocation, or congregation (BDB 874). The noun qahal denotes the people of God in a corporate sense, often in the context of being gathered for worship or instruction (Deut 4:10; 31:30; Ps 35:18). Christian Bibles almost unanimously translate ekklēsia in this verse as "church." The word "church" is clearly an ecclesiastical term of Christianity. (See my background note on this subject here.) Messianic Jewish versions avoid use of the word "church." Four versions have "congregation" (CJB, JUB, TLB, and NMB), and the MW and TLV have "community."
were passing through: Grk. dierchomai, impf. mid., 3p-pl., to go through, go about. Santala suggests that the autumn storms of the year may have already begun and therefore they traveled by land (76). Paul and Barnabas would have taken the Via Maris highway down the coast from Antioch. See the highway map here. both: Grk. te, conj. used to denote both connection and addition, as well as connect an idea closely to another in a manner that is tighter than with kai; and, also, both.
Phoenicia: Grk. Phoinikē, a place name meaning, "purple" or "crimson," a translation of Heb. Kna'an (Canaan, "land of purple"). Phoenicia was a narrow strip of land north of Galilee that lay between the Mediterranean Sea and the Lebanon Mountains. Tyre and Sidon were the principal cities. At this time Phoenicia was part of the Roman province of Syria. See the map here. Several years earlier disciples that had fled the persecution in Jerusalem brought the good news to the traditional Jews of Phoenicia and established the Yeshua movement in that area (Acts 11:19).
and: Grk. kai, conj. Samaria: Grk. Samareia, for Heb. Shomron, a place name of a mountain and the city built on it (1Kgs 16:24), as well as a territory (Obad 1:19), meaning "mountain of watching." In the Tanakh Shomron refers primarily to the city of Samaria, 42 miles north of Jerusalem, but here refers to the territory that lay south of Galilee and extended from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean. The Yeshua movement was well established in Samaria thanks to the ministry of Philip, Peter and John (Acts 8:5-14, 40; 9:31-43), with congregations established in Sychar, Caesarea, Joppa and Lydda. Luke does not specify whether Paul and Barnabas passed through central Samaria or continued down the Via Maris to Joppa to reach Jerusalem, but the latter seems more likely. See the Israel road map here.
describing in detail: Grk. ekdiēgeomai, pres. mid part, to tell in detail, declare at length, give a full account of a matter and its outcome. The verb alludes to recounting the detailed narrative of Acts 13–14. the turning to God: Grk. epistrophē, a turning about and turning towards, and in religious terms turning away from idols to the God of Israel. In secular culture the verb referring to a ship putting about, a turn of affairs, or a counter-revolution (LSJ). Christian versions have "conversion."
of the Gentiles: pl. of Grk. ethnos, humans belonging to a people group as defined by language and culture; nation, people. In the LXX ethnos generally renders Heb. goy (SH-1471; pl. goyim), "community, nation, people," first in Genesis 10:5 (BDB 156; DNTT 2:790). The plural form of ethnos is generally used to mean non-Israelite peoples or Gentiles (e.g., Matt 6:32; Luke 12:30; Acts 4:25; 13:48; 22:21). The Gentiles mentioned here are the "raw" Gentiles in Lycaonia.
and: Grk. kai. were causing: Grk. poieō, impf., 3p-pl., a verb of physical action that may refer to (1) producing something material; make, construct, produce, create; or (2) to be active in bringing about a state of condition; do, act, perform, work. The second meaning applies here. In the LXX poieō renders chiefly Heb. asah (SH-6213), accomplish, do, make, work (first in Gen 1:7), and used of a wide range of human and divine activity. great: Grk. megas, adj., exceeding a standard and therefore impressive, used here of intensity. joy: Grk. chara, joy as an emotional response that may be experienced in a variety of circumstances or of sharing in a celebration. among all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj., comprehensive in scope, but without statistical emphasis; all, every, whole. the brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos. See verse 1 above. The term is used here of Messianic Jews in the areas mentioned.
Conference in Jerusalem, 15:4-6
The meeting of apostles and Jerusalem elders described in this chapter is often referred to in Christian writings as the "Council of Jerusalem," a term borrowed from the history of later ecumenical councils of Christianity. (See The Seven Ecumenical Councils by Philip Schaff.) The Jewish apostles and elders never use the term "council" (Grk. sunedrion) of themselves and in Acts the term is only used of the Sanhedrin or the temple ruling council in Jerusalem, even though the combined numbers of the apostles and elders on this occasion could have equaled a Small Sanhedrin. The conference was not a court of appeal in a legal sense, but simply an assembly convened for a special purpose, which required the collected wisdom of the apostles and elders.
There is not the slightest hint that anything like permanency was to be attached to this group, or that its meeting would be periodically or regularly repeated. Indeed, no comparable meeting occurred again in the first century. There is no question that Yeshua had given his apostles authority to make decisions binding on all disciples, which did not pass to later leaders of Christianity. The controversy and conclusion of the participants in the Jerusalem conference stand in stark contrast to the later Christian councils that sought to eliminate the Jewish roots of the faith and replace the authority of the Jewish apostles with an antisemitic papal institution.
4 Then having come to Jerusalem, they received welcome from the assembly and the apostles and the elders. Also they reported how much God had done with them.
Parallel: Galatians 2:1
Then: Grk. de, conj. having come: Grk. paraginomai, pl. aor. mid. part., to make one's way so as to be present; come, arrive, be present. to: Grk. eis, prep., lit. "into." Jerusalem: See verse 2 above. According to Paul's letter to Galatia this arrival in Jerusalem occurred seventeen years after his apostolic commission, which took place about AD 32 (cf. Gal 1:18; 2:1). The time of year is not given, but Edmundson (178) and Santala (76) date the conference in the autumn of the year 49. The meeting could have coincided with the festival of Sukkot (Booths), which Jewish males were required to attend (Deut 16:16).
they received welcome: Grk. paradechomai, aor. pass., receive with a positive attitude. The gathering described here probably occurred on a day other than the Sabbath, perhaps after sundown of the Sabbath marking the beginning of the first day of the week or Lord's Day (cf. Acts 20:7). from: Grk. apo, prep. the assembly: Grk. ho ekklēsia. See the previous verse. Christian versions have "church," but a few versions have "assembly" (DARBY, WEB, YLT). We should not assume the noun means the complete membership of the Jerusalem congregation, which could have numbered a few thousand. The assembled group likely met at the home of Miriam, the mother of John Mark, where disciples had once met to pray for Peter's release from prison (Acts 12:12). The assembly would have included the representatives from Antioch, as well as members from the congregation in Jerusalem and Judea.
and: Grk. kai, conj. the apostles: pl. of Grk. ho apostolos. See verse 2 above. Barnabas and Paul were also welcomed by the other apostles present. The plural noun with the definite article could refer to the Eleven, or just Peter and Jacob who will address the group. and: Grk. kai. the elders: pl. of Grk. ho presbuteros. See verse 2 above. The book of Acts is silent on when elders were first appointed in Jerusalem for the supervision of the congregation. Their appointment would have become necessary as the original apostles left the city on evangelistic missions to other lands. The elders are previously mentioned in 11:30 when Barnabas and Paul brought an offering for famine relief.
Also: Grk. te, conj. they reported: Grk. anangellō, aor., 3p-pl., may mean (1) report or relay, of persons returning from a place; or (2) provide information, disclose, announce, proclaim, teach. The first meaning applies here. The subject of the verb is Paul and Barnabas. how much: Grk. hosos, correlative pronoun signifying maximum inclusion; how much, how great, how many. Bible versions diminish the impact of the pronoun with the translation of "all," "all that" or "everything." God: Grk. theos, God or god, which must be determined from the context. In the LXX theos primarily renders Heb. El and Elohim ("God," over 2500 times), the Creator of the heavens and the earth (DNTT 2:67-70). In the Besekh theos is used overwhelmingly for the God of Israel.
had done: Grk. poieō, aor. See the previous verse. with: Grk. meta, prep., may be used (1) as a marker of association or accompaniment; with, among; or (2) as a sequential or positional marker; after, behind. The first usage is intended here. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. Apostolic ministry is clearly depicted as a divine-human partnership, but Paul and Barnabas gave God all the glory for their extraordinary success. As in the previous verse the report in this verse would have recounted the detailed narrative of Acts 13–14. The apostles had performed signs and wonders, but more importantly hundreds (if not thousands) had embraced the good news of salvation and committed themselves to be followers of Yeshua.
5 Now some of those from the sect of the Pharisees having believed, rose up saying that, "It is necessary to circumcise them and to command them also to keep the Torah of Moses."
Now: Grk. de, conj. The conjunction marks a transition in the narrative. There is no necessary intention that the action reported in this verse happened during the assembly in which Paul and Barnabas gave their trip report. Rather, this verse establishes the reason the following conference of the apostles and elders occurred. some: pl. of Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. See verse 1 above. of those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a relative pronoun. from: Grk. apo, prep. See verse 1 above.
the sect: Grk. ho hairesis, choice of association based on shared principles or beliefs, ordinarily of a subgroup with views or beliefs that deviate in certain respects from those of the larger membership; party, faction. Bible versions are divided between "party" and "sect." The noun is used of the Sadducees in Acts 5:17 and the Yeshua movement in Acts 24:14; 28:22. In modern culture "sect" is a pejorative term designating a group as heretical or as deviating from a generally accepted religious tradition.
of the Pharisees: pl. of Grk. Ho Pharisaios, a rough transliteration of Heb. P'rushim, meaning "separatists." The title was born of the fact that they devoted themselves to study and observance of the Torah. The Pharisees traced their roots to the Hasidim ("pious ones") organized in the time of Ezra, but are known as an organized group from the 2nd c. BC (Jeremias 247). The first mention of the group is in the books of Maccabees where they are described as "a company of Hasideans, mighty warriors of Israel, every one who offered himself willingly for the law (Torah)" (1Macc 2:42; cf. 1Macc 7:13; 2Macc 14:6). There were many Jewish groups or "Judaisms" in the first century, but Josephus describes four major parties: the Essenes, Pharisees, Sadducees and Zealots (Ant. XIII, 5:9; XVIII, 1:1-6; Wars, II, 8:1-14).
The Pharisees resisted syncretism and regarded Greek ideas as abominations. In addition to their pietism, the Pharisees held the biblical teachings of the Messiah, life after death, resurrection of the dead, immortality, and angels, all of which distinguished them from the Sadducees (Acts 23:8). The Pharisees wielded considerable power, especially as a faction of the Sanhedrin. Learning of the Torah in the synagogues was supervised by Pharisees, and even though the temple was under the control of Sadducean priests, the Divine worship, prayers, sacrifices, and various festival customs were performed according to the direction of the Pharisees (Ant. XIII, 10:6; XVIII, 1:3-4).
General Christian perception is that all Pharisees were bad since Yeshua was often at odds with certain Pharisees and referred to some of them as hypocrites (15 times in the Synoptic Narratives, e.g., Matt 6: 2, 5; 15:7; 23:13-15). However, there were good Pharisees. A Pharisee invited Yeshua to dine at his house (Luke 7:36) and a group of Pharisees warned Yeshua of a plot by Herod to kill him (Luke 13:31). Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin believed in Yeshua (John 3:1). And, of course, Paul himself was a devoted Pharisee (Acts 23:6). Gamaliel, Paul's mentor, was a voice of moderation on the Sanhedrin (Acts 5:34). For a definitive treatment of the Pharisee party, their theology and practices, see Ron Moseley, Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Yeshua and the Original Church; Lederer Books, 1996.
having believed: Grk. pisteuō, perf. part., to have confidence in the trustworthiness of some thing or someone. In the LXX pisteuō renders the Heb. 'aman (SH-539), to confirm or support, and in application may mean, believe, trust, be true, reliable or faithful (BDB 52; DNTT 1:595). The Hebrew verb is applied to many Bible heroes, beginning with Abraham, who trusted in God's promise (Gen 15:6), and especially God who keeps His covenant and gives grace to those who love Him (Deut 7:9). The Hebrew concepts of believing, trusting and being faithful are inseparable. "Having believed" means these Pharisees had accepted Yeshua as the Messiah. The Pharisees represented mainstream Judaism, but this group of believing Pharisees would have been regarded as a sect by non-believing Pharisees.
rose up: Grk. exanistēmi, aor., may mean (1) to raise up offspring; or (2) to rise as a physical motion. The second meaning applies here in the sense of standing up in the plenary session of the assembly to speak. The Pharisaic sect understood that they did not have ruling authority over the Yeshua movement, so they hoped to convince the leaders to use their authority in service of the Pharisee position. Their interruption changed the tone of the meeting from positive to negative. saying: Grk. legō, pres. part., to make a statement or utterance, whether oral or in written form; say, tell, declare. In the LXX legō renders Heb. amar (SH-559), to utter, say, shew, command or think. that: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 1 above. The conjunction is used to introduce a direct quotation that follows.
It is necessary: Grk. dei, pres., impersonal verb from deō ('lack, stand in need of') and thus conveys the idea of something that's necessary, something that must or needs to happen. to circumcise: Grk. peritemnō, pres. inf. See verse 1 above. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun, used here of Gentile believers. and: Grk. kai, conj. to command them: Grk. parangellō, pres. inf., to give authoritative direction; order, instruct, direct. In the Besekh the verb is used of a wide variety of instructions, whether practical or ethical. In the LXX parangellō renders Heb. shama (SH-8085), to hear, and meaning to cause to hear, assemble, proclaim, or summon (DNTT 1:340). It is used of the authoritative proclamations of leaders, generals and kings (Josh 6:7; 1Kgs 15:22; 2Chr 36:22; 1Macc 5:58; 2Macc 13:10).
The Judaizers recognized that disciples were under apostolic authority (unlike many modern Christians). The disciples would obey whatever the apostles ordered because Yeshua had given them that authority (Matt 16:19). also: Grk. te, conj. to keep: Grk. tēreō, pres. inf., may mean (1) to maintain in a secure state with a focus on personal interest or obligation; keep; or (2) to be in compliance in regard to instruction; keep, observe. The second meaning applies here. the Torah: Grk. ho nomos (from nemō, distribute; 'that which is generally recognized as customary') may mean either (1) a principle or standard relating to behavior or (2) codified legislation, i.e. law. Christian versions translate the noun as "law" whereas the CJB, OJB and TLV have "Torah."
In the LXX nomos translates Heb. torah (SH-8451), direction, instruction or teaching. Torah sets forth the way a person is meant to live in an ethical and moral way in order to enjoy life to the full and to please God (Lev 18:5; Neh 9:29; Ezek 18:9; 20:11). of Moses: See verse 1 above. In normal Jewish usage in the time of Yeshua the Torah of Moses could mean:
· the commandments and statutes given through Moses to the nation of Israel (e.g., Matt 12:5; Luke 2:22-27; John 1:17; 8:5; Jas 2:11); OR
· That plus the entire Pentateuch, especially when used in combination with "the Prophets" (Matt 22:40; John 1:45) (Stern 25).
Pharisees observed traditions taught by the Sages that they claimed originated with Moses and regarded as equivalent in authority as the written Torah (Matt 6:2, 5, 16; 15:2-6; 19:7-8; 23:2, 15-23; Mark 7:8-9; Luke 6:2-9; John 5:10; Acts 15:1; Gal 1:14; Col 2:8). In the Talmud these traditions are often called "oral law" (e.g., Gittin 60b; Yoma 28b), a term that never occurs in Scripture. For the historical background of the "oral law" see the article in the Jewish Encyclopedia. Also see the modern rebuttal of the oral law by Messianic Judaism: The Non-Torah: Exposing the Mythology of Divine Oral Torah, The International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues, 2019.
In the Tanakh neither God nor any of His prophets ever used "Torah" to mean an "oral law." Yeshua and his apostles constantly emphasized the written Word of God as the only authority for doctrine and life. The demand of the Judaizers was tantamount to demanding that Gentile believers convert to Judaism as full proselytes. The sectarian insistence could have had Titus particularly in mind, because as an ethnic Israelite he should have been circumcised.
Additional Note: The Theology of the Judaizers
The theology of the Judaizers was grounded in the concept of "covenantal nomism," a term coined by E.P. Sanders in his book Paul and Palestinian Judaism (1977). Covenantal nomism means that one is made right with God by being a member of the covenant people and keeping the laws of the covenant, which guarantees a place in the world to come (Sanh. 11:1). Building on this basic belief the sect held that:
● There is no salvation outside Israel (Gen 35:11; Isa 42:6; cf. Eph 2:12; Rom 11:17, 25);
● Brit Milah (ritual circumcision) is the sign of the covenant people (Gen 17:11);
● God required circumcision of adults in the past (Gen 17:10, 14, 23-24; Josh 5:2);
● There is one law for Jew and Gentile (Ex 12:48; Num 15:16).
The Judaizers could even argue their viewpoint from the standpoint of example. Gentile believers are sons of Abraham (Gal 3:7), and Abraham had been circumcised. Yochanan the Immerser, the forerunner of the Messiah, had been circumcised (Luke 1:59). Yeshua, the Messiah and Savior, had been circumcised (Luke 2:21). Paul himself had been circumcised (Php 3:5). Should we not follow in their steps (cf. 1Pet 2:21)? The Judaizers made a compelling argument and their influence was felt throughout the Body of Messiah.
The Judaizer sect was likely the forerunner of the Ebionites, a splinter Jewish group that existed in the second century into the fourth century. Unlike the Nazarenes, the Ebionites rejected the divine pre-existence of Yeshua and virgin birth. They claimed that Yeshua earned the right to be the Messiah by his faithful observance of Torah. As with the Judaizers of the first century, the Ebionites required that Gentile believers be circumcised and keep Jewish laws. Other evidence suggests that the Ebionites rejected Paul, a natural consequence of their position concerning the Torah (Skarsaune 204). For more information on this subject see my article The Circumcision Controversy.
6 Both the apostles and the elders were gathered together to see about this matter.
Both: Grk. te, conj. the apostles: pl. of Grk. ho apostolos. See verse 2 above. and: Grk. kai, conj. the elders: pl. of Grk. ho presbuteros, adj. See verse 2 above. were gathered together: Grk. sunagō, aor. pass., to bring together in a collective manner; assemble, gather together. The verb implies a separate meeting from that reported in verse 4 above, a sort of executive session of just the leaders. to see: Grk. horaō, aor. inf., to perceive physically with the eye, or in a fig. sense to experience something or to have extraordinary mental or inward perception. Many versions have "to consider."
about: Grk. peri, prep. with an orientational aspect relating to being near or having to do with something; in behalf of, about, around, concerning. this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. See verse 2 above. matter: Grk. logos, a vocalized expression, word, discourse, statement, message or speech. In the LXX logos stands principally for Heb. dabar, which has a range of meaning, including "speech, word, report, command, advice, counsel, thing, matter" (Gen 29:13; BDB 182) (DNTT 3:1087). The phrase "this matter" refers to the specific demand of the Judaizers.
Speech of Peter, 15:7-11
7 Now much debate having taken place, Peter, having stood, said to them, "Men, brothers, you know that from the early days God chose among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the good news and to believe.
Now: Grk. de, conj. much: Grk. polus, adj., extensive in scope, here denoting intensity or the degree of emotion involved. debate: Grk. zētēsis. See verse 2 above. having taken place: Grk. ginomai, aor. part. See verse 2 above. Peter: Grk. Petros ("stone"), the translation of the Hebrew name Kêfa ("rock"), a name given to him by Yeshua (John 1:42). Peter, formerly the owner of a fishing business (Matt 4:18) and a descendant of the prophet Jonah (Matt 16:17), became a devoted disciple early in Yeshua's ministry (Luke 6:13), then the chief leader of the apostles (Matt 10:2), a member of Yeshua's inner circle (Mark 9:37) and a spiritual pillar for the house of God (Gal 2:9). For a summary of Peter's life and ministry see my article Simon Peter: Fisherman-Apostle.
having stood: Grk. anistēmi, aor. part., to rise, stand up or get up and in its ordinary use refers to the physical motion of transition from a sitting or prone position or simply standing. In the LXX anistēmi renders Heb. qum (SH-6965), to arise, stand up, or stand, first in Genesis 4:8. The verb indicates that the members of the assembly were seated or perhaps even reclining. So Peter got up from his position and went to a place in the room where he could address the crowd. said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 5 above. to: Grk. pros, prep. See verse 2 above. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun; i.e., the assembled apostles, elders, representatives from Antioch, and the Judaizers.
Men: pl. of Grk. anēr, voc., an adult man without regard to marital status. In the LXX anēr renders several Heb. words, primarily Heb. ish (SH-376), man (Gen 2:23) (DNTT 2:562). Most versions leave the noun untranslated. The direct address of "men" takes in the entire group hearing the speech and in terms of tone is impersonal. brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos, voc. See verse 1 above. Peter used "brothers" to mean fellow Israelites. In terms of tone "brothers" makes the following appeal more personal. Peter could have intended the term to exclude the Judaizers whom he could not regard as "brothers" in the spiritual sense. "Men, brothers" is a greeting used on other occasions of apostolic discourse (Acts 1:16; 2:29, 37; 7:2, 26; 13:15, 26, 38; 22:1; 23:1, 26; 28:17).
you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. know: Grk. epistamai, pres. mid., may mean (1) grasp mentally, understand; or (2) acquire information about something, know. The second meaning applies here. that: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 1 above. The conjunction introduces a subordinate clause as complementary of the preceding verb. from: Grk. apo, prep. the early: Grk. archaios, adj., that which has been from the beginning, and in composition may mean ancient, original or early. days: pl. of Grk. hēmera may refer to (1) the daylight hours from sunrise to sunset, (2) the civil or legal day that included the night, (3) an appointed day for a special purpose or (4) a longer or imprecise period (BAG). The fourth meaning applies here. The phrase "early days" indicates at least a decade before the present situation.
God: See verse 4 above. chose: Grk. eklegomai, aor. mid., to pick out for oneself; choose or select as the recipients of special favor and privilege. The verb indicates a highly deliberative choice between alternatives or a selection out of a larger group. In the LXX eklegomai nearly always renders forms of the Heb. verb bachar (SH-977), 'choose,' 'select,' or 'prefer' (DNTT 1:537). among: Grk. en, prep., generally used to mark position, lit. "in" or "within," and in composition may be translated "among, at, in, on, by, or with." you: Grk. humeis. that by: Grk. dia, prep. used as a prefix to a statement, which may express (1) instrumentality; through, by means of; or (2) causality; on account of, because of. The first usage applies here.
my: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. mouth: Grk. stoma, the bodily organ used for speaking, tasting, eating and drinking; mouth. Peter does not follow convention and say "God chose me to proclaim." Instead he spoke in an indirect fashion by employing an Hebraic expression. "By my mouth" alludes to the use of "mouth" to denote the vehicle of divine communication found in the Tanakh (Ex 4:15; Deut 18:18; Ezra 1:1; Jer 5:14; Ezek 29:21; Zech 8:9; Luke 1:70). God spoke to the prophets and they orally repeated His words to Israel. The prophets were God's messengers. The prophet's mouth became the "mouth of ADONAI" (Isa 1:20; 40:5; 45:23; 48:3; 58:14; Jer 9:12; 23:16).
the Gentiles: pl. of Grk. ethnos. See verse 3 above. While Peter normally ministered among traditional Jews (Gal 2:8), on this one occasion God chose him to go to Gentiles. Peter could have pointed out that he acted in the tradition of his ancestor Jonah whom God sent as the first missionary to proclaim God's message to Gentiles and enable them to receive God's mercy (Jon 1:2; 4:11). Jonah, of course, initially refused to go, but the place of his flight from the mission (Joppa) became the site of Peter's faithfulness to the divine call. The mission to both men was to go to their oppressor. Jonah was the first in his time to speak the Word of God to uncircumcised Gentiles, and Peter was the first in his time to speak for God to uncircumcised Gentiles. Perhaps it was a little easier for Peter since Cornelius and his household were God-fearers.
should hear: Grk. akouō, aor. inf., to hear, with the focus on willingness to listen or to heed the substance of what is said. In the LXX akouō consistently stands for Heb. shama, which not only means to apprehend, but also to accept and to act upon what has been apprehended (DNTT 2:173). the word: Grk. logos. See the previous verse. The noun is used here of a message proclaimed, specifically the message God put in Peter's mouth, as Luke's narrative notes with the introductory phrase "having opened his mouth" (Acts 10:34).
of the good news: Grk. euangelion, good news and more specifically the good news of the Messiah. Christian versions translate the term as "gospel," which many Jews regard as distinctively Christian. In the LXX euangelion renders besorah, which may mean either a reward for good news (2Sam 4:10) or glad tidings (2Sam 18:20, 22). The noun refers to the message of the deeds, death and resurrection of Yeshua declared to Cornelius and his household (Acts 10:34-43). The message God put into Jonah's mouth was bad news (Jon 3:2-4) whereas God put good news into Peter's mouth. Their messages may have been different but they both accomplished redemption.
and: Grk. kai, conj. to believe: Grk. pisteuō, aor. inf. See verse 5 above. The best part of the good news for the Gentiles was that Yeshua's death accomplished atonement and that by trusting and repenting they could receive forgiveness. Believing was not a cognitive assent of historical facts, but trusting in the truth for salvation. Peter reminded his hearers that God personally chose him to take the good news to the Gentiles in Caesarea and he did not need the approval of anyone in Jerusalem to do God's work. As the chief apostle he answered to Yeshua, not to the legalistic Judaizers (cf. 1Cor 4:4).
8 And the heart-knowing God bore witness to them, having given them the Holy Spirit just as also to us,
Parallel: Acts 10:47
And: Grk. kai, conj. the heart-knowing: Grk. kardiognōstēs (derived from kardia, "heart," and gnōstēs, "one that knows"), adj., knower of hearts, a knower of the inner life and character of a person. The noun occurs only two times in the Besekh (also Acts 1:24). The noun does not occur in the LXX or other Jewish literature. God: See verse 4 above. bore witness: Grk. martureō, aor., to attest or testify to a fact or truth, often in a legal context. The verb designates the affirmation of objective truth. to them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. Peter declares that God saves without circumcision and then offers two proofs of that fact.
having given them: Grk. didōmi, aor. part., generally to give something to someone, often with the focus on generosity. In the LXX didōmi generally renders Heb. natan (SH-5414; Gen 1:29), to give, put or set, with the same range of meaning (DNTT 2:41). the Holy: Grk. Ho Hagios has two distinctive uses in Scripture: (1) as an adj., meaning set apart for dedication to the interests or expectations of deity; and (2) as a pure substantive to refer to that which has been set apart (BAG). The term is used of sacred things, places, people, angels and God. In the LXX hagios translates Heb. qadosh (SH-6918), which means separate, sacred, holy, and first used of God in Leviticus 11:44.
Spirit: Grk. Ho Pneuma (for Heb. ruach, Resh-Vav-Chet), wind, breath or spirit; here referring to the Holy Spirit. Pneuma is used for the human spirit and transcendent beings (Matt 8:16; Heb 1:14), particularly the Spirit as God's self-expression (Gen 1:2; Mark 1:10). In Scripture "holy" is only used as an adjective of "spirit" to refer to the Holy Spirit, a name or face of God. "Holy Spirit" is not the title of a separate being, because God is Spirit (John 4:24), just as God is the Word (John 1:1). The Greek word order here demonstrates the Hebraic nature of the text, because it corresponds to the Hebrew word order of Ruach Qodesh, which occurs only three times in the Tanakh (Ps 51:11; Isa 63:10, 11). All of the passages indicate that the Holy Spirit is divine, not less or other than God.
just as: Grk. kathōs, adv. emphasizing similarity, conformity, proportion or manner; as, just as. also: Grk. kai. to us: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. Peter repeats the observation he made to the Jewish believers who accompanied him to Caesarea that the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit as the apostles had on Pentecost (Acts 10:47). That is, they were divinely empowered to speak praises in languages they normally did not use (e.g., Aramaic and Hebrew), which means the languages could be understood (cf. Acts 2:6-8). Cornelius and his household did not "speak in unknown tongues."
9 and he made not one distinction between both us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.
Parallel: Galatians 2:6
and: Grk. kai, conj. he made not one: Grk. outhen, adj., not one, none, nothing distinction: Grk. diakrinō, aor., to judge or distinguish between categories, to discriminate. between: Grk. metaxu, prep. used to denote a point at which one entity is separate from another, used here in a social sense. both: Grk. te, conj. us: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. The pronoun refers to Peter and the traditional Jews who accompanied him to Caesarea. and: Grk. kai. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The pronoun refers to Cornelius and members of his household who received the Holy Spirit.
having cleansed: Grk. katharizō, aor. part., to clean or cleanse, and is used of (1) physical removal of stains and dirt (Matt 23:25); (2) physical healing of skin disease that enabled communal restoration (Matt 8:2-3; 10:8; 11:5; Luke 17:14-17); and (3) removal of the guilt or defilement of sin (2Cor 7:1; Eph 5:26; Heb 9:22; 1Jn 1:7). The third meaning applies here. Some versions translate the verb as "having purified," which may be a distinction without a difference. In the LXX katharizō has wide application and is normally associated with removal of physical, moral or spiritual uncleanness that will enable a person to have contact with God and/or other people (DNTT 3:104).
The verb katharizō primarily renders Heb. taher (SH-2891), to cleanse or purify, first in Genesis 35:2 and about 40 times in Leviticus. Katharizō also translates Heb. chata (SH-2398), sin or sin offering, which occurs in various passages containing instruction about cleansing the altar or holy place and atonement of sins (Ex 29:36-37; Lev 8:15; 9:15). Relevant to Luke's narrative is that katharizō is the same verb used in the narrative of Peter's visionary experience when a voice from heaven told Peter, "What God has cleansed [the Gentiles], you shall not consider common" (Acts 10:15 BR).
their: pl. of Grk. autos. hearts: pl. of Grk. kardia, the pumplike organ of blood circulation, used fig. of selfhood or the combination of character, emotion, intelligence and the will. In the LXX kardia renders Heb. lebab (SH-3824), inner man, mind, heart, will (DNTT 2:181). A good example of heart-cleansing in the Tanakh is the plea of David after his sin of adultery and murder, "Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin" (Ps 51:2 NASB). This "heart-cleansing" is equivalent to "having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience" (Heb 10:22 NASB). However, cleansing the heart is not just removing the guilt of sin, but changing double-mindedness into single-minded devotion to God (Matt 5:8; Jas 4:8). Heart-cleansing means heart-circumcision (cf. Deut 10:16; 30:6; Jer 4:4; Rom 2:29).
by faith: Grk. ho pistis (from peithō, "to persuade, be persuaded"), incorporates two primary facets of meaning, (1) that which causes trust and faith, i.e., faithfulness or reliability, and (2) trust or confidence in an active sense (BAG). Most versions apply the second meaning and translate the noun as "faith," but the CJB and NLV have "trust." In other words faith is the means that produces the described result. A few versions follow the Greek word order but treat the noun as a verb with "When they believed, God [he] made their hearts pure" (ERV; EXB, NCV). This translation marks faith not as the means, but the occasion when the described result occurs. This interpretation is actually preferable to the other, but I think it still misses the point that Peter makes.
In the LXX pistis translates Heb. emunah (SH-530), firmness, steadfastness, or fidelity, mainly of men's faithfulness (1Sam 26:23; 2Kgs 12:15; 22:7; Jer 5:1, 3; 7:28; 9:3; Hos 2:20), but also of God's faithfulness (Ps 33:4; Lam 3:23; Hab 2:4); as well as Heb. emun (SH-529), faithfulness (Deut 32:20; Prov 13:17). Pistis also translates Heb. aman (SH-539), to confirm, to support (Jer 15:18); amanah (SH-548), fixed support (Neh 9:38; 11:23; SS 4:8); and emet (SH-571), firmness, faithfulness, or truth (Prov 14:22; Jer 28:9; 33:6). The LXX usage emphasizes that the intended meaning of pistis is faithfulness.
The expression "cleansing their hearts by faith" presents a certain conundrum. There is no preposition in the clause that can mean "by" (e.g., ana, apo, dia, or nē). The use of "by" results from pistis being in the dative case, which typically denotes an instrumental function. Thus, the dative case suggests that pistis is the means by which hearts are cleansed. Yet, Peter is not advocating a "name it and claim it" approach to gaining a pure heart. That is, simply believing that one's heart has been sanctified and it has. There is no example in Scripture of someone being told "just believe you're clean and you are." The person had to do something, like wash his clothes and body. And, there are apostolic instructions to cleanse (i.e., remove) unclean things in our lives (2Cor 7:1; Jas 4:8).
Yet, we need help to fully remove spiritual uncleanness. Other passages indicate that the Holy Spirit is the means of God cleansing or circumcising the heart (Rom 15:16; 1Cor 6:11; 1Th 5:23; 2Th 2:13; Heb 9:14; 10:29; 1Pet 1:2). In this context pistis very likely alludes to the faithfulness of God, who was faithful to keep Yeshua's promise of the Holy Spirit being sent upon his Jewish disciples (John 15:26; 16:7; Acts 1:8). Sending the Holy Spirit on the household of Cornelius, purifying their hearts and producing the sign of miraculous languages proved that God makes no distinctions. The prerequisite to receive the Spirit-cleansing is to confess and repent (Acts 2:38; 1Jn 1:9), our act of faithfulness.
10 Now, therefore, why are you testing God to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?
Now: Grk. de, conj. therefore: Grk. oun, conj. why: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun indicating interest in establishing something definite; who, which, what, why. are you testing: Grk. peirazō, pres., may mean (1) make an effort to do something in the face of uncertainty about the outcome; try, attempt; or (2) make a trial of the quality or state of someone's character or claims as an inducement for producing some kind of action, whether positive or negative; tempt, test. The second meaning applies here. God: See verse 4 above. Peter employs an old expression that calls to mind when Israel tested God ten times in the wilderness years (Ex 17:2, 7; Num 14:22; Deut 6:16). Testing God means to challenge His expectations and to insist on the will of men. Peter's question is not rhetorical, but a serious indictment of the Judaizers.
to put: Grk. epitithēmi, pres. inf., to put, place or lay upon or transfer to. The infinitive is used to denote purpose. a yoke: Grk. zugos, may refer (1) a wooden bar placed over the neck of a pair of animals so they can pull together, such as oxen pulling a plough (Luke 14:19); or (2) the bar that suspends two pans (weights) to operate together as a balance-scale (Rev 6:5). In the LXX zugos translates two Hebrew words with these meanings: (1) mozen (SH-3976), scales, balances (Lev 19:36); and (2) ol (SH-5923), a yoke for joining animals (Num 19:2). Relevant to this context is that both ol and zugos are used figuratively to refer to oppressive obligations, servitude or slavery (Gen 27:40; Lev 26:13; Deut 28:48; 1Kgs 12:4-14; Isa 9:4; 10:27; 14:25; Hos 11:4; Gal 5:1; 1Tim 6:1).
upon: Grk. epi, prep. expressing the idea of hovering, used here to denote location or position, on, upon. the neck: Grk. trachēlos, the part of the body of an animal or human being that connects the head and the trunk. of the disciples: pl. of Grk. ho mathētēs (from manthanō, to learn), one who learns through instruction from a teacher; adherent, learner, pupil, disciple. In the Besekh the noun occurs only in the apostolic narratives and corresponds to the Heb. talmid (SH-8527), a student of a Jewish Sage or Torah scholar (Heb. rabbi). The term is used for members of the Pharisee party (Matt 22:15-16; John 9:28) and disciples of Yochanan the Immerser (Matt 9:14; John 3:25), but especially of followers of Yeshua, those who not only believed in Yeshua but sought to obey his instructions (Matt 28:20). See my article Disciples of Yeshua.
that: Grk. hos, relative pronoun used to give significance to the mention of a person, thing, or piece of information that precedes; who, which, what, that. neither: Grk. oute, conj. functioning as a negative particle, dismissing an activity or thing that follows the particle and often coupled formulaically with another oute, "neither…nor." our: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. The plural pronoun may not include the Pharisees in the room. fathers: pl. of Grk. patēr normally used of a male biological parent, someone who fulfilled the role of a father or an ancestor. In the LXX patēr renders ab (SH-1, "av"), father, with the same range of meaning (Gen 2:24) (DNTT 1:616f).
Previously in Acts "our fathers" referred to the patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Acts 3:13, 25; 5:30; 7:32; 13:17). In this context Peter likely intends the term in its literal sense of their fathers and grandfathers, and possibly even great-grandfathers. Viewed retrospectively "our fathers" could extend a century when Pharisee influence became dominant in Jewish culture.
nor: Grk. oute. we have been able: Grk. ischuō, aor., 1p-pl., to have the capacity for accomplishing, either to cope with a situation or to achieve an objective; have power or strength, be able. to bear: Grk. bastazō, aor. inf., may mean (1) take up something from a position; lift; (2) sustain a burden; bear, carry; (3) remove from a position; remove, pilfer, steal. The first meaning applies here. The infinitive is used here to express result. Just what is the "unbearable yoke?" Relevant to this context is that "yoke" was used in rabbinic writings as a religious term; either "the yoke of the commandments" (Targum in Cant. 1:10; Lam. 3:27; Berachot 2:2), or "the yoke of the Torah" (Avot 3:5). Israel was "yoked" to God by the covenantal expectation to keep His commandments.
Christian commentators typically suggest that Peter refers to the multitude of commands and ordinances in the ceremonial or ritual law that governed such matters as the calendar, circumcision, diet, ritual purification, and sacrifices. Against this viewpoint is that there is not one complaint from any Israelite or Jew in Scripture that God was unfair in the demands He made for maintenance of religious life. Stern rightfully points out that "observant and knowledgeable Jews do not consider the Torah a burden, but a joy. If a person regards something as pleasant, you will not be able to convince him that it is unpleasant!"
Indeed, the attitude expressed in the Besekh toward the Torah is decidedly positive and supportive (cf. Rom 7:12). Yeshua categorically denied that he came to rescind, cancel or nullify the Torah (Matt 5:17)! He then pronounced judgment on anyone who would annul any of the commandments (Matt 5:19). He even told a man he healed of a skin disorder to go to the priest and provide the offering required by the "ceremonial" law (Matt 8:4).
Stern (276) and Liberman (209) interpret the "burdensome yoke" as insistence on detailed mechanical rule-keeping, regardless of heart attitude. The CJB uses the expression "legalistic observance of Torah commands" to interpret "works of the Law" and convey this point of view (Rom 3:20, 27, 28; Gal 2:16; 3:2, 5, 10). Yet, I'm not sure that this definition adequately explains Peter's strong denunciation. First century Phariseeism was marked by outward observance in which the religious elite took great pride (Matt 6:1, 5; Luke 18:11). Moreover, the Pharisees erected what they called "fences" around the Torah, extra precautions to insure that commandments were not even accidentally broken. The Mishnah declared,
"Moses received the Torah at Sinai and transmitted it to Joshua, and Joshua to the Elders, and the Elders to the Prophets; and the Prophets to the Men of the Great Synagogue. The latter used to say three things: be patient in justice, rear many disciples, and make a fence round the Torah" (Avot 1:1).
The problem with fences is that more fences had to be added to insure that the original fences weren't violated. The multiplication of fences resulted in a myriad of rules that were by their very nature oppressive. The excessive nature of Pharisaic regulation can be seen in the details of the 39 categories of work prohibited on the Sabbath (Shabbath 7:2). The legalism of the Pharisees created an emotional burden because the people always felt judged by those that were "perfect." Yeshua had described the people of Israel as "distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd" (Matt 9:36) and as "weary and heavy-laden" (Matt 11:28). In contrast to Pharisee legalism Yeshua described his "yoke" (i.e., his expectations) as light and pleasant (Matt 11:29-30).
More specifically, the burdensome yoke was the Judaizing program of Pharisee fundamentalism. Yeshua rebuked the proselyte-making Pharisees by saying, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you traverse the sea and the land to make one proselyte, and when he has become one, you make him a son of Gehenna, a double of yourselves" (Matt 23:15 BR). Later Paul will write about this burdensome yoke by saying that when the Judaizers came to Antioch they attempted to force the disciples into bondage (Gal 2:4), and then exhorted the Galatians, "In freedom Messiah has set us free; stand firm, therefore, and do not entangle yourselves again in a yoke of slavery" (Gal 5:1 BR).
11 But through the grace of Yeshua the Lord we believe we are saved according to the same way as those also.
But: Grk. alla, conj., adversative particle used adverbially to convey a different viewpoint for consideration; but, on the other hand. through: Grk. dia, prep. the grace: Grk. ho charis, disposition marked by inclination to generosity, frequently unmotivated by the worth of the recipient; thus, grace, gracefulness, graciousness, favor, thanks or gratitude. In the LXX charis occurs about 190 times in the derivative form of charin of which only about 75 have a Hebrew equivalent, of which 61 are for Heb. hēn (SH-2580), favor, first in Gen 6:8 in regards to Noah receiving the favor of God (DNTT 2:116).
of Yeshua: Grk. Iēsous, a transliteration of the Hebrew name Yeshua ("Jesus" in Christian Bibles). Yeshua is a contraction of the Hebrew name Y’hoshua ("Joshua"), which means "YHVH [the LORD] is salvation" (BDB 221). The meaning of his name is explained to Joseph by an angel of the Lord, "You shall call his name Yeshua, for he will save his people from their sins" (Matt 1:21). The English rendering of "Jesus" originated with the Mace New Testament in 1729. For more information on the meaning of his name and his titles, see my article Who is Yeshua?
the Lord: Grk. kurios may mean either (1) 'one in control through possession,' and therefore owner or master; or (2) 'one esteemed for authority or high status,' thus lord or master. In the LXX kurios occurs over 9,000 times, the great majority of times to replace Heb. YHVH (DNTT 2:511). Kurios was the principal title by which disciples addressed Yeshua during his earthly ministry. The frequent use of kurios to address Yeshua in the flesh would not have considered deity. The apostles meant kurios in the sense of Heb. adôn, because Yeshua is the owner-master of his disciples. Normally grace is "of God," an expression that occurs 21 times in the Besekh, 14 of which are in Paul's letters. Yet grace can also be from Yeshua (1Cor 1:3; 16:23; 2Cor 13:13; Php 4:23; Phm 1:25). Indeed Yeshua was "full of grace" (John 1:14).
we believe: Grk. pisteuō, pres. See verse 5 above. we are saved: Grk. sōzō, pl. aor. pass. inf. See verse 1 above. The infinitive expresses result, and the aorist tense emphasizes the completed action. Some versions give the verb a futuristic meaning with "will be saved," but Peter speaks of a present reality. according to: Grk. kata, prep. that generally expresses measure and the idea of something associated with or lining up with something else in terms of manner, direction, reference, position, or the like; down, against, according to. the same: Grk. hos, lit. "that." way: Grk. tropos may mean (1) mode or procedure in which something takes place; way, manner; or (2) a person's manner of living; conduct, way of life. The first meaning applies here.
as those also: pl. of Grk. kakeinos (from kai, "and," and ekeinos, "that one"), demonstrative pronoun used in reference to someone or something mentioned earlier in the narrative; and/also those. This awkward grammatical construction simply means that Jews and Gentiles are saved the same way, by grace, not by legalistic adherence to Pharisee standards, especially circumcision. Peter's speech and his unequivocal conviction expressed in these verses reflect his self-correction after Paul's chastening in Antioch.
Speech of Barnabas and Paul, 15:12
12 Now the whole group fell silent. And they were hearing Barnabas and Paul describing how many signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them.
Now: Grk. de, conj. the whole: Grk. pas, adj. See verse 3 above. group: Grk. ho plēthos, relatively large number of any kind; assemblage, community, crowd, great number, multitude. The term is used here of those gathered for official business (Danker). fell silent: Grk. sigaō, aor., may mean (1) refrain from speaking or (2) refrain for a time from revealing something publicly. The first meaning applies here. There was probably a certain amount of shock in the group as they realized Peter spoke the truth they had never dared to voice aloud in public before. The Pharisees wielded great power in Israel all out of proportion to their numbers, not unlike the Chassidic Jews in modern Israel. Anyone who dared to challenge the Pharisees could find themselves banned from the synagogue and other religious gatherings (cf. John 9:35).
And: Grk. kai, conj. they were hearing: Grk. akouō, impf. See verse 7 above. Barnabas: See verse 2 above. The name of Barnabas appearing once again before his fellow apostle gives him honor, perhaps because of his long record of service, but more likely because he spoke first and shared the ministry conducted on Cyprus. and: Grk. kai. Paul: See verse 2 above. Paul then followed sharing the ministry conducted in Asia Minor. describing: Grk. exēgeomai, pl. pres. mid. part., to recount a narrative; explain, tell, report, or describe (BAG). how many: Grk. hosos, correlative pronoun signifying maximum inclusion; how much, how great, how many. Bible versions diminish the impact of the pronoun with the translation of "all," "all that" or "everything." The pronoun conveys an exclamation of praise.
signs: pl. of Grk. sēmeion usually refers to an extraordinary phenomenon, a portent or a miracle (Mounce). In the LXX sēmeion mainly translates Heb. oth (SH-226), "sign, pledge, token, standard or miracle" (DNTT 2:626). Most of the usages of "sign" in the Tanakh are related to extraordinary acts that only the Creator could perform, especially the many miracles for Israel's benefit (Acts 7:36). In the Besekh sēmeion identifies special miracles performed by Yeshua (John 2:11; 6:14; 20:30f; Acts 2:22) and the apostles (Acts 2:43; 4:30; 5:12).
and: Grk. kai, conj. wonders: pl. of Grk. teras, a phenomenon with astounding effect; marvel, wonder, portent. In the Besekh the noun occurs only in the plural and always coupled with "signs." In the LXX teras renders Heb. mopheth (SH-4159), a wonder, sign or portent. The term is used of special displays of God's power, especially the miracles performed through Moses and Aaron in Egypt (Ex 4:21; 11:10). In the Besekh "wonders" are especially associated with the apostles (Acts 2:43; 4:30; 5:12; 15:12). The performance of "signs and wonders" are beyond the gift of miracles given to believers (1Cor 12:9-10) and are the mark of apostleship (2Cor 12:12; Heb 2:4).
God: See verse 4 above. had done: Grk. poieō, aor. See verse 3 above. among: Grk. en, prep. the Gentiles: pl. of Grk. ethnos. See verse 3 above. through: Grk. dia, prep. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. Barnabas and Paul took the opportunity of Peter's story of going to God-fearing Gentiles to affirm they had an even greater experience with ignorant, pagan Gentiles. The apostles repeat the narrative of 14:3 that God granted signs and wonders to affirm the Messianic message. Yet, Luke recorded only two miracles that could qualify as a sign and wonder: the blinding of the Jewish sorcerer on Cyprus (13:11), and the healing of the crippled man in Lystra (14:10).
Speech of Jacob, 15:13-21
13 And after they were silent, Jacob answered, saying, "Men, brothers, listen to me.
And: Grk. de, conj. after: Grk. meta, prep., may be used (1) as a marker of association or accompaniment; with, among; or (2) as a sequential or positional marker; after, behind. The second usage is intended here. they: pl. Grk. autos, personal pronoun; used of Barnabas and Paul. became silent: Grk. sigaō, aor. inf. See the previous verse. Many versions have "finished speaking." The infinitive expresses result, so the verb indicates the pause that occurred when Barnabas and Paul concluded their narrative.
Jacob: Grk. Iakōbos, the Grecized form of Grk. Iakōb, which is used in the LXX to transliterate the Heb. Ya'akov ("Jacob," Gen 25:26), "James" in Christian versions (BAG). Josephus often uses the spelling of Iakōbos for the patriarch Jacob (Ant., I, 18:1). Of all the Christian versions only the NASB has a marginal note "or Jacob." The transition from Jacob to James took hundreds of years. First, the Latin Vulgate (405) translated the Greek Iakōbos as Latin Iacobus and then the Wycliffe Bible (1395) translated the Latin Iacobus as English "James," although at the time the letter "J" was a vowel. By the time of the KJV the letter "J" had become a consonant. The adoption if the English spelling of "James" can only be explained by the longstanding prejudice within Christianity against the patriarch Jacob.
Five different Jewish men bear this name in the Besekh and this Jacob is one of four half-brothers of Yeshua (Matt 13:55). According to Hippolytus (170-236, On the Seventy Apostles), Jacob of Nazareth was one of the seventy men Yeshua sent out to announce the Kingdom of God (Luke 10:1-11). Yeshua made a personal appearance after his resurrection to Jacob (1Cor 15:7) and then Jacob was among the disciples filled with the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (Acts 1:14). Eventually Jacob assumed oversight of the Jerusalem congregation and became a prominent leader of the Body of Messiah (Acts 12:17; 21:18; Gal 2:9). He also wrote a letter of exhortation to Messianic Jews in the Diaspora, which is included in the Besekh. For more on the background and life of Jacob, son of Joseph and Miriam, see my article The Letter of Jacob: Introduction.
answered: Grk. apokrinomai, aor. pass., to answer or reply to someone, whether to a question, request, exhortation, command, etc. (BAG). In the LXX apokrinomai renders Heb. anah, to answer or respond to something said in conversation; to respond to an occasion and speak in view of circumstances or to testify or respond as a witness in a legal proceeding (BDB 772). The verb indicates that Jacob responded to a question, which likely would have been from Paul: "These Pharisees are under your authority. What do you say to them?" Paul had confronted Peter (Gal 2:11), so he would not hesitate to confront Jacob.
saying: Grk. legō, pres. part. See verse 5 above. The combination of the verbs "answered, saying" is a typical Hebraic way of advancing the narrative of dialog (e.g., Gen 27:39; 40:18; Josh 24:16; Jdg 20:4; 2Sam 1:17). The verb apokrinomai emphasizes that a verbal response was made and the verb legō introduces the quotation. Men: Grk. anēr, voc. See verse 7 above. Many versions do not translate the noun. brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos, voc. See verse 1 above. Jacob addressed the assembly in the same manner as Peter. listen to: Grk. akouō, aor. imp. See verse 7 above. me: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. Whatever the question may have been Jacob did not react negatively, but determined to move the discussion toward resolution and agreement.
14 Simeon has described how God first visited, to receive out of the Gentiles a people for His name.
Simeon: Grk. Sumeōn, a transliteration of the Heb. Shim'on ("he has heard"), and Peter's given name, an alternative spelling of Grk. Simōn. Many versions give the name as "Simon." Poole comments that Luke, being himself a Hebrew, writes Peter's name according as they pronounced it, and not contracted as in the usual Greek form (Simōn). In the Tanakh the Heb. name Shim'on appears for the first time as the second son of Jacob and Leah (Gen 29:33); then the tribe descended from him, which eventually had its territory within the area assigned to the tribe of Judah. His name is translated in the LXX only as Sumeōn and in English "Simeon." This spelling is used of only two other contemporary persons and that by Luke (Luke 2:25; Acts 13:1). Of interest is that Peter uses Simeon to identify himself in his second letter (2Pet 1:1). Ellicott suggests that the use of Peter's Hebrew name is evidence of Luke preparing his report from notes made at the time.
has described: Grk. exēgeomai, aor. mid. See verse 12 above. The verb alludes to the speech of Peter in verses 7-11 above. how: Grk. kathōs, adv. See verse 8 above. God: See verse 4 above. first: Grk. prōton, having to do with beforeness, with resultant meanings of (1) having a primary position in sequence and (2) standing out in significance or importance. The first meaning has application here. visited: Grk. episkeptomai, aor. mid., pay attention to with the intent to be helpful; visit or go see. In the LXX the verb renders Heb. paqad (SH-6485), to attend to, or to visit, especially in order to determine one's well-being or offer practical help (e.g., Gen 21:1; 1Sam 17:18; Ps 8:4). The expression of God visiting may allude to a direct revelation or intervention to accomplish judgment or blessing (cf. Ex 20:5; Ps 65:9; 106:4; Isa 23:17; Jer 27:22; 29:10; Zech 10:3).
to receive: Grk. lambanō, aor. inf., to lay hold of by actively accepting what is offered (HELPS), to take or receive. Almost all versions have "take," but two have "receive" (MW, OJB). Mace, NEB, and NIV have "to choose" and Phillips and WE have "chose." out of: Grk. ek, prep. the Gentiles: pl. of Grk. ho ethnos. See verse 3 above. Jacob alludes to Peter's narrative of his ministry at the house of Cornelius. a people: Grk. laos, a group of humans, understood geographically or ethnically. for: There is no preposition here but most versions have "for." The Amplified Version inserts "to bear and honor." His: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. name: Grk. onoma is used in its central sense of identifying someone with a proper name and here "His name" alludes to YHVH. In Hebrew literature "name" also carries the extended sense of qualities, powers, attributes or reputation.
This visitation of which Jacob spoke was the coming of the Holy Spirit on Cornelius and his household. The purpose clause "to receive for His name" represents an emphatic contrast. The Jews claimed for themselves the exclusive right to this status because they had been chosen out of all the nations on the earth for a covenantal relationship (Deut 7:7-8) and had received the revelation of God's Name (Ex 3:13-15; 4:29-30). They alone were the "people of God." Jacob understood the mystery of God's sovereign plan and so proclaimed that God chose to receive Gentiles into the people of God. Paul will later write in Romans 9:26 concerning the grafting in of the Gentiles and quote the prophecy of Hosea as applicable to them. "And in the place where it is said to them, 'You are not My people,' It will be said to them, 'You are the sons of the living God'" (Hos 1:10 NASB).
Jacob could have pointed out the covenantal promise made to his name's sake, "A nation and a company of nations shall come from you" (Gen 35:11). This promise is the basis for Paul's later declaration to Gentiles:
"12 At that time you were separate from Messiah, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Messiah Yeshua, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah." (Eph 2:12-13 TLV)
15 And with this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written,
And: Grk. kai, conj. with this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun; i.e., "and with this revelation." the words: pl. of Grk. ho logos. See verse 6 above. of the Prophets: pl. of Grk. prophētēs, one who is gifted with the ability for interpretation or revelation transcending normal insight or awareness, i.e., a prophet. In the LXX prophētēs renders Heb. nabi (SH-5030), spokesman, speaker, or prophet; first in Genesis 20:7 where it is used of Abraham. In Scripture the term refers to one who spoke on God's behalf, whether in foretelling or forth-telling. The Hebrew prophets were a diverse group, but they all spoke for God under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2Pet 1:21). The literary works of the prophets in the Tanakh are authoritative Scripture (Matt 5:17-19; Luke 24:44-45; 2Tim 3:16-17).
Jacob's use of the plural "prophets" refers to the portion of the Tanakh known as the Neviim, which included the Early Prophets (Joshua–Kings) and the Latter Prophets (Isaiah–Malachi). agree: Grk. sumphōneō, pres., 3p-pl., originally a harmony of voices. In the cognitive sphere the verb indicates a meeting of minds, to harmonize in the sense of agreement ; harmonize with, agree together. Jacob asserts that the Prophets concurred with the earlier covenantal promise of Jacob being comprised of a company of nations, as well as the prophecy mentioned in the following verse. just as: Grk. kathos, adv. it is written: Grk. graphō, perf. pass., to write or inscribe as a physical act, generally in reference to a document. The phrase "it is written" is the standard formula in the Besekh for attesting an assertion of truth and divine inspiration of Scripture, normally followed by a quote from the Tanakh.
Commentators generally ascribe the following quotation to the prophet Amos, but as will be shown, Jacob conflates phrases from other prophets, such as Isaiah, Jeremiah and Zechariah. Jacob does not actually mention the name "Amos," but given the knowledge of Scripture possessed by his Jewish audience he knew they would recognize the sources.
16 "After these things I will return, and I will rebuild the fallen booth of David; and I will rebuild what has been torn down of it, and I will restore it,
Sources: Isaiah 16:5; Jeremiah 12:15; Amos 9:11; Zechariah 1:16
MT Amos 9:11: "On that day I will raise up the booth of David which has fallen down and repair its damages and its ruins. I will raise up and rebuild it as in days of old." (BHIB)
LXX Amos 9:11: "In that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and will rebuild the ruins of it, and will set up the parts thereof that have been broken down, and will build it up as in the ancient days:" (Brenton)
After: Grk. meta, prep. See verse 4 above. these things: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. Many versions translate the plural pronoun as singular, "this." I will return: Grk. anastrephō, fut. (derived from ana, again, back, or up, and strephō, to turn), to retrace one's movement to a point; go back, return. This opening clause is not in Amos 9:11, and indeed not in any verse of the LXX. Amos 9:11 begins with "On that day" (as does the LXX translation), which presents interpretation problems, considering the previous three verses in Amos 9. Gill interprets the promise to mean after God has brought judgment on the nations (cf. Zech 14:1-3). Bruce suggests that the opening clause refers to Jeremiah 12:15, "And it shall come to pass, after that I have plucked them up, I will return and have compassion on them" (ASV).
It is also very possible that Jacob quotes from a variant Hebrew text, since extant MSS of the Masoretic text only date from about AD 900. Thus, the Masoretes later changed this clause when they finalized the Hebrew text of the Tanakh because Messianic Jews like Jacob used it to proclaim Yeshua. The context of Amos 9:7-10 prophesies about the house of Israel being dispersed among the nations. The historical perspective of the original text of Amos declared the arrival of the Messiah after the dispersion and Israel's return from captivity. The quotation from Jeremiah noted by Bruce supports this viewpoint.
and: Grk. kai, conj. I will rebuild: Grk. anoikodomeō, fut., to rebuild or to build up what has fallen or been razed to the ground. The verb occurs only in this verse in the Besekh. The prophecy of Amos actually has "I will raise up" (Hiphil Impf. of Heb. qum, "arise, stand"), which the LXX translates with anistēmi ("rise, stand up"). The verb anistēmi is frequently used of the resurrection of Yeshua (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34; 16:9; Luke 18:33; 24:7; John 20:9; Acts 2:24, 32; 3:26; 10:41; 13:33). Thus, the original text of Amos hinted at the resurrection of the Messiah. Yet, Jacob quotes "I will rebuild," which is borrowed from Zechariah 1:16, "I am returning to Jerusalem with compassion; My house will be built (Heb. banah; LXX anoikodomeō) in it" (Zech 1:16 BR).
the fallen: Grk. ho piptō, perf. part., to drop from a relatively high position to a lower position. The verb is used here in a figurative sense, perhaps of reputation or status. booth: Grk. ho skēnē, a tent, booth, abode, dwelling, or lodging. In the LXX skēnē renders the Hebrew words (1) ‘ohel (SH-168), a tent, whether a family dwelling (Gen 4:20) or a sacred tent (Ex 33:7); (2) mishkan (SH-4908), dwelling place (Num 24:5) or tabernacle of God (Ex 25:9); and (3) sukkah (SH-5521), a matted booth, shed or hut (Gen 33:17; Lev 23:42). In Amos 9:11 skēnē translates Heb. sukkah, a term especially for a temporary shelter erected during the Festival of Booths (Sukkot; Lev 23:34-43; Deut 16:16; 31:10). The use of "booth" is not meant as an insult, but to contrast with the permanence of the Messiah.
of David: Grk. David, which transliterates the Heb. David ("dah-veed") perfectly. Of interest is that the LXX phrase skēnē David also occurs in Isaiah 16:5. David is one of the most important figures in Israelite history. He became the King of Israel at the age of 30 and reigned 40 years (2Sam 5:4; 1Chr 3:4). David made a tremendous impact on the nation of Israel. In the military sphere he broke the power of all the pagan peoples in the land of Canaan and in the civil sphere he made Jerusalem his capital and solidified central authority. God chose David to be king because He "sought out for Himself a man after His own heart" (1Sam 13:14).
God made an everlasting covenant with David by which God promised that He would establish his throne, build a house for Himself and send forth a king from the loins of David to rule over his people Israel forever (2Sam 7:12-14; Ps 89:3; Isa 55:3; Jer 33:21). The "fallen booth of David" refers to the dynasty of David in the past and especially his royal descendants that did not live by his principles, e.g. Rehoboam (1Kgs 14:22), Abigam (1Kgs 15:3), Ahaz (2Kgs 16:2), Manasseh (2Kgs 21:2), Amon (2Kgs 21:20), Jehoahaz (2Kgs 23:31-32), Jehoiachin (2Kgs 24:9) and Zedekiah (2Kgs 24:19). Moreover, the "booth" was fallen because no good descendant of David had reigned over Israel since King Josiah (640-609 BC) and none at all since the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians.
The prophecy of Amos anticipates the reestablishment of the house of David over Israel. Jacob knew this was the promise that the archangel Gabriel had given his mother Miriam concerning her son and his half-brother Yeshua (Luke 1:32). Rebuilding David's fallen sukkah could even be viewed as a word picture of the incarnate Messiah dwelling in the midst of God's chosen people, the first step to enabling the nations to call upon the God of Israel.
and: Grk. kai. I will rebuild: Grk. anoikodomeō, fut., rebuild, restore. what has been torn down: pl. of Grk. ho kataskaptō, pl. perf. pass. part., tear down, raze to the ground, demolish. of it: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The pronoun refers back to the "booth of David." and: Grk. kai. I will restore: Grk. anorthoō, fut., cause to be in an upright, straight or strong position, used here of something in a collapsed condition; build anew, set up again, restore. it: Grk. autos.
The promise of rebuilding and restoring probably points to the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah that had been divided since 931 BC. God will heal the breach and restore the northern ten tribes into the fold of Davidic kingship. In the days of Messiah the nation will be restored as a single entity again. This unification is assumed in the promise of the New Covenant of Jeremiah 31:31 and later pictured in Ezekiel 37:15-28. However, Jacob does not imply that the prophecy intends for the nation to go back to what it was before the division. There must be spiritual transformation so that the nation emulates the character of David with a heart wholly devoted to God and God's purposes.
17 that the rest of men might seek the Lord, even all the nations upon whom my name is called on them, says ADONAI, the One doing these things.
Source: Amos 9:12
MT: "that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by my name, says ADONAI, who does this thing." (BHIB)
LXX: "that the remnant of men, and all the Gentiles upon whom my name is called, may earnestly seek [me], saith the Lord who does all these things." (Brenton)
Jacob's quotation of Amos 9:12 rearranges the word order of the LXX, but retains its essential message. that: Grk. hopōs, conj. used to indicate purpose, objective or an end in view; in order that, so that. the rest: Grk. ho kataloipos, left, remaining, the rest. of men: pl. of Grk. anthrōpos, human being, man or mankind, used here of an adult male. In the LXX anthrōpos renders three Hebrew words: (1) adam, SH-444, a human male (e.g., Gen 1:26-27); (2) ish, SH-376, adult male or husband (Gen 2:23-24) and (3) enosh, SH-582, man or mankind (Ps 8:4-5) (DNTT 2:564). Most versions have either "men" or "mankind." Some versions opt for a gender neutral translation with "humanity" or "people." The Hebrew text actually has Edom, a bitter enemy of Israel in the time of David.
As a people Edom was the name given to the descendants of Esau, the brother of Jacob, son of Isaac (Gen 25:30; 36:1). Although God preferred Jacob over Esau, and the two brothers had a broken relationship, the prophecy of Amos hints at their reunion. The LXX translators apparently viewed Edom as symbolically representing the world outside of Israel. might: Grk. an, a disjunctive particle that nuances a verb with contingency or generalization; would, ever, might, in that case, anyhow. HELPS says the particle indicates what could occur under certain conditions, and the context determines the limits of those conditions. The particle is often not translated. seek: Grk. ekzēteō, aor. subj., engage in a thorough search; seek out. the Lord: Grk. ho kurios. See verse 11 above. The title is probably used of Yeshua.
even: Grk. kai, conj. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. the nations: pl. of Grk. ethnos. See verse 3 above. The majority of versions have "Gentiles," but since Edom was an ethnic relation of the Israelites, I think Jacob uses the term more generally of all the uncircumcised, whether Gentile or Jew. upon: Grk. epi, prep. whom: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. my: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. name: Grk. onoma. See verse 14 above. is called: Grk. epikaleō, perf. pass., may mean (1) to give a name or nickname to; call, name; or (2) call upon for help, aid or intercession; invoke, appeal to, call upon for oneself. The first meaning applies here.
Thayer notes that this clause describes the Hebraic concept that a person is called by the name of another or is declared to be dedicated to him. The verb "called" is not intended to be a parallel synonym of "seek." Jacob may hint at the promise of Isaiah, "And the nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory. And you will be called by a new name, which the mouth of ADONAI will designate" (Isa 62:2 BR). Just as the Israelites bear the name of their ancestor Israel, so those who follow Yeshua the Messiah will be called "Messianic" (or "Christian," Acts 11:26).
on: Grk. epi. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. Most versions treat "on them" as a redundancy and do not translate the words. The short phrase depicts the sacred name of God being placed upon the people who have sought Him so that they bear His name. says: Grk. legō, pres. See verse 13 above. ADONAI: Grk. kurios for Heb. YHVH. the One: Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. doing: Grk. poieō, pres. part. See verse 3 above. these things: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. The last clause depicts God as bringing about the stated goal of restoring and rebuilding in order to include Gentiles in the covenant people and so fulfill the promise originally made to Israel (Gen 35:11).
Risto Santala points out an interesting discussion of Amos 9:11-12 and Zephaniah 3:9 found in the Midrash Rabbah on Genesis:
"And what of the fact that God will restore the fallen tent of David, as it is written, 'In that day I will restore David's fallen tent'? This means that the whole world will be one family, as Zephaniah (3:9) promises: 'Then will I purify the lips of the peoples, that all of them may call on the name of the LORD and serve him shoulder to shoulder'." (Bereshit Rabbah 59:11, quoted in Risto Santala, The Messiah in the Old Testament, 1992, p. 152)
At first glance the Messianic prophecy about David's reign being restored may seem unrelated to the controversy being discussed. Yet, there was a subtle message being conveyed to the Judaizers. When David ruled over Israel he extended his reign over neighboring nations, such as the Philistines, Moabites, Arameans, Ammonites, Amalekites and Edomites (2Sam 8:1-14). Unlike the Hasmoneans in the 2nd century BC, David did not circumcise the conquered peoples or require them to fulfill covenant obligations expected of Israelites. The implication is that since David did not conduct proselytizing then Yeshua would not expect Gentiles to be circumcised.
18 known from of old."
Source: Amos 9:11-12 (LXX); cf. Zechariah 8:20-23; Daniel 9:19; Isaiah 45:21.
known: Grk. gnōstos, adj. (from ginōskō, to know), perceived, understood, known, which may be used to mean (1) known, such as being known to someone; or (2) that which can be known or what can be known about something. The second usage applies here. from: Grk. apo, prep. of old: Grk. aiōn, an extended period of time, which may be (1) a long period of time in the past ('ages ago') or in the future of a period with no apparent end; eternity; or (2) a segment of extended time determined by qualifiers as present or future; age. The first meaning applies here in reference to the past. Bible versions differ widely in translation with "of old," "the beginning of the world," "long ago," and "eternity." In the LXX aiōn translates Heb. olam (SH-5769), long duration, antiquity or futurity, first in Genesis 3:22 (DNTT 3:827).
Metzger says the words in this verse are from Jacob himself and not quoted Scripture (379). Jacob offers a midrashic interpretation of the LXX translation of the last phrase in Amos 9:11 "as in the days of old." Jacob insists that God's intention expressed in verses 16 and 17 has been known from the time of the fathers (Gen 12:2-3; 17:5; 35:11; Isa 42:6; 51:4; 60:1-3; Zech 8:20-23). Paul will later write that the inclusion of the Gentiles was a mystery hidden in plain sight (Rom 11:25; Eph 1:9-10; 3:3-6).
A number of late MSS add the words "are to God all of His works," which are preserved in the Textus Receptus. Thus, the KJV has "Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world." Some modern versions follow this reading. The earliest and best MSS support the shorter verse.
19 Therefore I judge not to trouble those from the nations turning to God,
Therefore: Grk. oun, conj. I: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. give this judgment: Grk. krinō, pres., may mean (1) make a selection between options; (2) subject to scrutiny and evaluation of behavior; or (3) draw a conclusion. The third meaning applies here. In the LXX krinō is used to translate three Hebrew words: din, rib and shaphat, generally in a legal context (DNTT 2:363). A number of versions translate the verb as a noun to give the impression that Jacob was merely giving advice or making a recommendation. However, the grammar and choice of words indicates that Jacob was not just offering an opinion that the group could reject. As the leader of the Jerusalem congregation and apostle of Yeshua he had authority to judge and he chose to exercise it.
not: Grk. mē, adv. to trouble: Grk. parenochleō, pres. inf., cause disturbance to, annoy, harass, trouble. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. The use of the verb is an implied rebuke of the Judaizers. those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a relative pronoun. from: Grk. apo, prep. the nations: pl. of Grk. ethnos. See verse 3 above. Most all versions have "Gentiles," but I think Jacob uses the term more generally of the people groups within various political boundaries, such as the territories in which Paul and Barnabas conducted their Diaspora ministry. Hellenistic Jews could be included in "the nations" since many of them lived as Gentiles. turning: Grk. epistrephō, pres. part., to turn or return, and is used here to mark a definitive change in thinking and behavior in relation to God.
In the LXX epistrephō translates Heb. shuv (SH-7725), bring back to mind, to return, turn back, turn around, first in Genesis 8:12 (DNTT 1:354). When used for repentance shuv means to turn away from sinful conduct, and to turn toward God, purposing to live according to His will (TWOT 2:909). to: Grk. epi, prep. God: See verse 4 above. Jacob exhorts the Messianic community not give the uncircumcised (Jew or Gentile) reasons for not turning away from idols to the living God. Moreover, God-fearing Gentiles, such as Cornelius, have been accepted in the synagogues and no one insisted they convert to Judaism. There is no need now to make this an issue for new believers in Messiah. Gentiles and Hellenistic Jews accepting Yeshua as their Savior and Lord have circumcised their hearts, so they have obeyed the essential Torah mandate.
20 but to write to them to abstain from the pollutions of idols, and sexual immorality, and the strangled, and blood.
but: Grk. alla, conj. See verse 11 above. to write: Grk. epistellō, aor. inf., give information or instruction by letter; write. to them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. to abstain from: Grk. apechō, pres. mid. inf., may mean (1) to acknowledge receipt of something in a commercial sense; (2) be away from or be distant; or (3) hold oneself off from, avoid contact with. The third meaning applies here. the pollutions: pl. of Grk. ho alisgēma, a polluted thing; pollution. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. The term does not occur in secular Greek literature, but it is found in Daniel 1:8 and Malachi 1:7, 12 where it is used to described defiled food. In the case of Daniel it was food originally offered to idols. In the case of Malachi it was meat taken from sacrificial animals that did not meet the requirement for physical perfection.
of idols: pl. of Grk. eidōlon, a representation or symbol of a worshipped non-existent deity; cultic image, idol. Making an idol and then offering a sacrifice to that idol violates the second commandment (Ex 20:4). Presenting a sacrifice to a god that does not actually exist is a supreme insult to the only living God, the God of Israel. A basic application of this restriction would be to refrain from going to pagan temples and eating meat sacrificed to idols or avoiding the use of meats left from the pagan sacrifices and sold at public markets (cf. Ex 34:14-15; 1Cor 8:1-13; 10:20-28).
Yeshua would eventually have John send letters to rebuke the leaders of the congregations in Pergamum (Rev 2:14) and Thyatira (Rev 2:20) for disobeying the apostolic decree. In that context Yeshua reveals that this compromise with idolatry is the same sin Israelites committed under the influence of Balaam (Num 31:16). Knowingly eating meat sacrificed to idols makes one an accessory to evil. We should note that since the category is plural, there would be other kinds of pollutions to avoid. The simplest approach would be to refrain from going to pagan temples, which were filthy places.
and: Grk. kai, conj. sexual immorality: Grk. ho porneia, every kind of unlawful sexual intercourse (BAG), or sexual conduct condemned and forbidden in Scripture. The word-group originally meant to prostitute or practice prostitution (DNTT 1:497). A pornē was a woman who sold her body, a prostitute or a courtesan (1Cor 6:15-16). A pornos was a man who prostituted his body for hire to another's lust, a male prostitute (Thayer; 1Cor 5:9-10). Pornos was also used of a catamite or a sodomite (LSJ; 1Cor 6:9). Paul used pornos to denote an habitually immoral man (1Cor 5:10-11; Eph 5:5; 1Tim 1:10). In the LXX porneia translates (1) Heb. zenunim (SH-2183; masc.) prostitution, Genesis 38:24; (2) zenuth (SH-2184; fem.), harlotry (Num 14:33); and (3) zanah (SH-2181), be or act as a prostitute (Jer 2:20).
Some versions translate porneia as "fornication" (ASV, CJB, JUB, KJV, TLB, NASB, NMB, NRSV, NTE), which can be misleading. The English word "fornication" is defined as "voluntary sexual intercourse between two unmarried persons or two persons not married to each other" (Dictionary.com). The first part of the definition would include prostitution and the second part of the definition would include adultery. But, people uneducated in the biblical terminology interpret "fornication" according to the contemporary definition. In the Tanakh consensual sex between a single man and single woman, not related to each other, was not specifically prohibited, but it did create a marriage obligation (Ex 22:16-17; Deut 22:23-27).
Lightfoot interprets porneia to mean a ban against polygamy (132). However, it would be nonsensical for Torah-observant Jews to prohibit Gentiles to engage in something not condemned in the Torah (cf. Ex 21:10; Rom 4:15; 5:13), and was an acceptable practice in first century Judaism (Josephus, Ant., XVII, 1:2). Lightfoot essentially read Christianity's prohibition of polygamy into the text to give it apostolic authority. Longenecker restricts porneia in this context to "marriage in prohibited degrees of relationship," an interpretation favored by the church fathers (Tertullian, Apologia 9.13). Consanguineous marriages were permitted in some ancient cultures, but Roman civil law prohibited marriages of close relatives (see the article in Smith's Dictionary).
Contrary to attempts to limit the application of porneia, the term is consistently used in Scripture of sexual conduct outside of heterosexual marriage. The first usage of porneia in the Tanakh is for prostitution (Gen 38:24) and the first usage in the Besekh is for sexual unfaithfulness of a wife that provides grounds for divorce (Matt 5:32; 19:9). Immorality was a serious problem among first century believers, because the Greek and Roman culture made sex so accessible at pagan temples and brothels. In addition, a man might have one wife to bear his legitimate children, but he could freely have sex with a mistress, a slave or a prostitute without legal consequences (Pseudo-Demosthenes, Speeches: Against Neaera, 59:122).
Scripture specifically condemns adultery (Ex 20:14; Matt 19:18), bestiality (Ex 22:19), same-sex relations (Lev 18:22; Rom 1:24-27; 1Cor 6:9), incest (Lev 18:6; 1Cor 5:1), prostitution (Deut 22:21; 23:17; 1Cor 6:15-18), and wives having multiple lovers (Prov 6:24-32; Hos 1:2; 2:2). Intertestamental Jewish literature also included incest and the sin of Sodom in porneia (Sirach 23:16; Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs: Ruben 1:6; Judah 13:6; Benjamin 9:1). Porneia particularly stood for the wicked practices associated with idolatry (Jer 2:20; 3:9; Ezek 16:15; Hos 4:11-12). Porneia-zanah is rebellion and unfaithfulness against God (Num 14:33; Isa 47:10; Ezek 16:15; 23:7; 43:7; Hos 5:11).
and: Grk. kai. the strangled: Grk. pniktos (from pnigō, to choke, throttle, or strangle), strangled, i.e. hanging an animal by the neck until deprived of life. Thayer adds "suffocated," based on usage of the term in Greek literature. See the Textual Note below. The noun pniktos does not occur in the LXX, but the verb pnigō is found in 1Samuel 16:14-15 for Heb. ba'ath, (SH-1204) to fall upon, startle, terrify. Also, a related Greek verb apopnigō, to suffocate or choke, occurs in Nahum 2:12 for Heb. chanaq (SH-2614), used of a lion choking its victim to death. If an animal is strangled, blood will begin to coagulate and be deposited into the meat and tissues.
According to the Jewish tradition slaughtering requires that an animal be killed with a single knife stroke across the neck. The animal dies instantly, and the blood drains quickly. The U.S. Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act (1958) requires slaughtering animals by first stunning into unconsciousness, hanging in a vertical position by a leg, and then severing the carotid artery and jugular vein with a knife to allow for maximum blood removal from the body. The Torah does not provide a specific procedure for slaughtering animals, but instruction does refer to death by bloodshed (cf. Lev 17:13-14). This prohibition as the previous two directly relates to participating in a pagan celebration.
Another possible meaning is that "the strangled" refers to animals that have died a natural death or been killed by other animals. Eating meat from such animals is expressly prohibited in the Torah (Lev 7:24; 11:39-40;17:15; 22:8; Deut 14:21). People in ancient times did not know about bacteria and the dangers of eating "road kill," but the Torah regulation protected Israelites from contaminated meat.
and: Grk. kai. blood: Grk. haima, the fluid that circulates in the principal vascular system of human beings and vertebrate animals, blood. The precious fluid transports nutrients and oxygen to the cells and waste products away from those same cells. The noun is used in a neutral sense of human blood (Luke 8:43-44; 22:44; John 19:34), human descent (John 1:13), unlawful bloodshed (Matt 23:30, 35; Luke 11:51; Acts 22:20), blood-guiltiness (Matt 27:4; Acts 5:28), the blood of Yeshua shed on the cross for sins (Matt 26:68; Eph 2:10; Heb 9:14), and the blood of sacrificial animals for expiation of sin (Hebrews 9:7, 12-13, 18-22, 25; 10:4; 13:11). In the LXX haima translates Heb. dam (SH-1818), blood of humans or animals with the same range of meaning.
Scripture provides two prohibitions with respect to blood. The first prohibition is unlawful bloodshed or murder (Gen 4:10-11). God is the Lord of all life and He requires justice for victims of violence (Gen 9:5-6). Bloodshed defiles the land and the land can only be cleansed by the death of the murderer (Gen 4:10; Num 35:33; Job 16:18; Ps 9:12). While Jacob does not use the standard term for murder, the practice of idolatry in some places included child sacrifice, as it did in ancient Israel before the exile (cf. 2Kgs 16:3; 17:17; 21:6; Jer 7:31; 32:35; Ezek 16:21; 20:31). Infanticide was also widely practiced in Greek and Roman culture and justified by pagan philosophy. Babies rejected for a variety of reasons would be deposited outside of town to die. The Didache (AD 100) declared the Christian principle, "you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is born" (Chap 2).
Animal blood is also precious to God, so the second prohibition is against eating blood. In the covenant with Noah, God instructed that meat should be added to the diet, but that in doing so the flesh of an animal should not be eaten with its life, its blood (Gen 9:4). The fact that this prohibition was part of the covenant with Noah means it was intended for all mankind and thus it is not a Jewish rule. God has never rescinded this ban so it is still in force. In the instruction given to Israel at Sinai the prohibition of consuming animal blood was reiterated on pain of being cut off (Lev 3:17; 7:26-27; 17:10, 14; Deut 12:23). The restriction was specifically applied to "strangers" or Gentiles residing with Israelites (Lev 17:10).
Moreover, eating meat from a strangled animal would certainly violate the Noachide restriction. The restriction would also apply to eating meat from an animal found dead (Poole). Vincent comments that pagan Gentiles had no scruples about consuming blood; on the contrary, it was considered a special delicacy. The heathen were accustomed to drink blood mingled with wine at their sacrifices (Homer, Odyssey, XVIII.45). Thus, Scripture also decries drinking blood (Ps 16:4; 50:13; 1Cor 10:21). Divine judgment on the wicked is sometimes depicted as drinking blood (Num 23:24; Jer 46:10; Ezek 39:17-19; Rev 16:4-6). Even though Jacob does not use any verbs of eating or drinking, his hearers would most likely have assumed that he meant consumption of blood rather than murder.
Additional Note: Summary Interpretation
Stern suggests that the four prohibitions could be intended as a variant of the Noachide laws, which is presented in the Talmud as "practicing justice and abstaining from blasphemy, idolatry, adultery, bloodshed, robbery and eating flesh torn from a live animal" (Sanhedrin 56a). Noah only mentions the prohibitions of bloodshed and eating flesh with its blood (Gen 9:4-5), but heinous crimes as adultery, immorality, idolatry, injustice, lust, murder, and violence were known to be wrong from the beginning (Gen 2:17; 4:11f; 6:5ff; 18:20; 20:3; 26:10; Job 24:1-17; 31:1-33).
A popular interpretation of commentators is that the restrictions were only secondarily ethical; they were primarily practical, social requirements for fellowship between Jewish and Gentile believers. A Gentile who did not observe these prohibitions would so offend his Jewish brothers in the faith that a spirit of community would never be able to develop. Against this interpretation is that Jacob does not actually say anything about Jews and Gentiles sharing fellowship meals together and the Judaizers objected to eating with uncircumcised Gentiles on principle (cf. Acts 11:2-3; Gal 2:15).
The first two restrictions pertain directly to participation in pagan culture and religion. Thus, "the strangled" and "blood" must also refer to the same context. Jacob essentially called the uncircumcised believers to a life of holiness and urged them to separate themselves from pagan culture. Jacob may well have had his speech in mind when he later exhorted Messianic Jews in practical holiness:
"21 Therefore, putting away all filthiness and overflowing of wickedness, receive with humility the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. … 27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." (Jas 1:21, 27 BR)
"4 Adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship of the world is hostility with God? Therefore, whoever, if he should have desired to be a friend of the world is appointed an enemy of God. … 8 Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. … 11 Do not speak against one another, brothers. The one speaking against a brother, or judging his brother, speaks against Torah, and judges Torah: and if you judge Torah, you are not a doer of Torah, but a judge. 12 The One is lawgiver and judge, the one able to save and to destroy: but who are you, the one judging your neighbor?" (Jas 4:4, 8, 11-12 BR)
Paul, too, will later declare in his letter to the congregation in Corinth.
"14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? 15 What harmony does Messiah have with Belial? Or what part does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement does God’s Temple have with idols?" (2Cor 6:14-16 TLV)
We should note that Jacob did not imply that these were the only restrictions Gentile believers should observe. The moral code of the Torah, especially the Ten Commandments, is reinforced frequently in the apostolic writings. See my article The Guidance of Paul.
21 For from early generations Moses has had ones proclaiming him in every city, being read on every Sabbath in the synagogues."
For: Grk. gar, conj., a contraction of ge ("yet") and ara ("then"), and in a broad sense means "certainly it follows that; for." The conjunction has four uses: (1) explanatory, (2) expressive of astonishment, (3) causal and, (4) inferential. The first use is intended here. from: Grk. ek, prep. early: pl. of Grk. archaios, adj., may mean (1) ancient or early, (2) original or (3) old. The first meaning applies here. generations: pl. of Grk. genea , a kinship term that can mean (1) persons with common interests; (2) people linked as contemporaries; (3) a span of time loosely equal to a generation; or (4) a family line. The third meaning is intended here.
Moses: See verse 1 above. has had: Grk. echō, pres., to have, hold or possess with a wide range of application. The present tense functions as a historical present. ones: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a relative pronoun. proclaiming: Grk. kērussō, pl. pres. part., to make a public announcement in the manner of a herald, to proclaim. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. in every: Grk. kata, prep. See verse 11 above. The preposition is used here in a distributive sense, indicating a succession of things following one another. city: Grk. polis, a population center whose size or number of inhabitants could range broadly, a city or town.
being read: Grk. anaginōskō, pres. pass. part., to know again, here to recognize written characters, and so 'read.' on: Grk. kata, prep. every: Grk. pas, adj. Sabbath: Grk. Sabbaton, a transliteration of Heb. shabbath (DNTT 3:405), which is derived from the verb shabath ("cease, desist, rest" BDB 991). In the commandments given at Sinai (Ex 20:8) and Moab (Deut 5:12) the instruction to rest is set in contrast to the work that provides one's livelihood. Sabbaton occurs 68 times in the Besekh, generally of the seventh day of the week (e.g. Matt 12:5; Mark 2:27; Luke 4:16; John 19:31). For the biblical background and Torah instructions regarding Sabbath observance see my web article Remember the Sabbath.
in: Grk. en, prep. the synagogues: pl. of Grk. sunagōgē, a gathering-place or place of assembly. In the Besekh the term refers to the place at which Jews gathered for worship and learning. The term does not necessarily mean a manufactured structure as the word "church" can mean (cf. Acts 16:13). In the LXX sunagōgē is generally used to translate the Heb. words edah (SH-5712), congregation (Ex 12:3) and qahal (SH-6951), assembly, convocation, or congregation (Ex 16:3) (DNTT 1:292ff). The origin of the Jewish synagogue is not known for certain, but scholars generally date its beginning during the Babylonian exile (NIBD 1019). Pious Jews, far from their native land no doubt felt the necessity to gather on the Sabbath in order to listen to the Torah and engage in prayer (cf. Ps 137; Jer 29:7; Ezek 14:1; 20:1).
Eventually meetings came also to be held on other days, and at the same hours as the morning and evening services in the temple. As Jews emigrated west synagogues followed. In any community where at least ten Jewish men lived, the Jews would meet together for study and prayer and eventually build a sanctuary for their meetings. The building would be positioned so that when the congregation stood for prayer they would be facing Jerusalem. By the first century, synagogues, especially in the Diaspora, emerged as the central institution of Jewish life as a place where study, worship, exhortation, celebration, and various other kinds of meetings take place. The reading of the Torah had a prominent place in Sabbath services.
As Stern notes, this is a difficult verse. Jacob stated a simple historical fact, and at first glance it does not seem to have any bearing on what was said before. Yet his observation presumptively explains why the four restrictions are important. He knew that Messianic Jews would not abandon Moses and traditional Judaism would not be harmed by what Gentiles did. Judaism would continue as it always had. A common interpretation is that since Jews are to be found in every city, their scruples are to be respected by uncircumcised believers as Paul will later advise (1Cor 10:32). Marshall suggests Jacob might also mean that if Gentiles want to find out any more about Jewish law, they have plenty of opportunity in the local synagogues and there is no need for the apostles to do anything about the matter.
However, the banned behaviors were not to be avoided because they were contrary to Jewish culture. Sin is not defined by cultural mores. Sin is defined according to God's revelation to Israel through Moses. These offenses represent the worst sins of idolatry, immorality and injustice. Engaging in these bad behaviors would be tantamount to advocating a sinning religion (c. Rom 6:1). Jews already believed that Gentiles were anti-Moses (i.e., antinomian), so their practice would convince non-believing Jews that followers of Yeshua were not concerned about holiness of life. Moreover, the sinning by believers would seriously impair the efforts of the apostles to fulfill the Great Commission among traditional Jews.
Agreement and Resolution, 15:22-29
22 Then it seemed good to the apostles and to the elders, with the whole congregation, having chosen men from them and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas: Judah, the one called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers,
Then: Grk. tote, temporal adv. that focuses on a time or circumstance that is closely associated with what precedes in the narrative; at that time, then, thereupon. it seemed good: Grk. dokeō, aor., the basic idea of receptivity to the intellect; to entertain an idea or form an opinion about something on the basis of what appears to support a specific conclusion; think, opine, regard. to the apostles: pl. of Grk. apostolos. See verse 2 above. and: Grk. kai, conj. to the elders: pl. of Grk. presbuteros, adj. See verse 2 above. with: Grk. sun, prep. used to denote association or close identification. the whole: Grk. holos, adj., signifier of a person or thing understood as a complete unit and not necessarily every individual part; all, whole, entire.
congregation: Grk. ekklēsia. See verse 3 above. Longenecker observes that The reference to "the apostles," "the elders," and "the whole congregation" is comparable to the Qumran structure of authority where executive action for religious matters was in the hands of the priests, other matters were in the hands of an "overseer" or "guardian," an advisory council of twelve to fifteen persons was apparently active, and all the mature members of the community (harabbim, "the many") gave their approval to the decisions of the priests, overseer, and council. While the roles of apostles and elders were clear, it seems that as at Qumran the members of the Jerusalem congregation were involved in the deliberations of its leaders.
having chosen: Grk. eklegomai, aor. part., to pick out for oneself; choose or select as the recipients of special favor and privilege. The verb indicates a highly deliberative choice between alternatives or a selection out of a larger group. In the LXX eklegomai nearly always renders forms of the Heb. verb bachar (SH-977), 'choose,' 'select,' or 'prefer' (DNTT 1:537). men: Grk. anēr. See verse 7 above. from: Grk. ek, prep. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. and: Grk. kai. to send them: Grk. pempō, aor. inf., to send, whether (1) the dispatch of someone as an agent, usually to convey a message or complete a task; or (2) the dispatch of things, such as assistance or contribution. The first meaning applies here.
to: Grk. eis, prep. Antioch: Grk. Antiocheia, the name of two cities: (a) the capital of the Roman province of Syria; (b) a city in the Roman province of Galatia. Syrian Antioch is intended. See the map here. Antioch was founded around 300 B.C. by Seleucus I Nicator, one of the three successors to Alexander the Great. He named it for his father Antiochus the Great (OCB 32). Antioch became the capital of the Seleucid Empire (Josephus, Against Apion, 2:4). From the beginning it was a bustling maritime city with its own seaport. The city proper lay about 20 miles inland from the Mediterranean and 300 miles north of Jerusalem.
Josephus calls Antioch the metropolis of Syria (Wars III, 2:4). Indeed, at this time Antioch was the third largest city in the Roman Empire after Rome and Alexandria having a population of more than 500,000. The cosmopolitan city had a large number of Jewish inhabitants. By the first century their numbers have been estimated at between forty-five thousand and sixty thousand (Polhill 71). The Jewish population, being generally loyal to the Gentile governors, engaged in commerce and enjoyed the rights of citizenship in a free city (Ant. XII, 3:1; Wars VII, 3:3).
with: Grk. sun. Paul: See verse 2 above. and: Grk. kai. Barnabas: See verse 2 above. Judah: Grk. Ioudas, a transliteration of Heb. Y'hudah ("Judah") meaning "praise YHVH," "Judas" in Christian versions. The proper name Judah was very common in the time of Yeshua because it was not only the name of one of the twelve patriarchs, but it was also made popular by the Jewish hero Judas Maccabaeus who led the nation in their fight for independence from Syria in 166 BC. The Besekh mentions seven men named Judah. This Judah is identified as a prophet in verse 32 below. Luke then uses a family name to identify him. the one: Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. called: Grk. kaleō, pres. pass. part., to identify by name or give a term to; call.
Barsabbas: Grk. Barsabbas, which transliterates Heb. Bar-Shabba, a surname. Barsabbas means "son of the Sabbath" (HBD). Stern suggests that this Judah was perhaps related to Yosef Bar-Sabba, one of the men nominated to replace Judah Iscariot (Acts 1:23). and: Grk. kai. Silas: Grk. Silas, a contracted from the Latin name Silvanus. The CJB and OJB have "Sila." The website BehindtheName.com says it is possible that Silas was in fact a Greek form of the Hebrew name "Saul" (via Aramaic). The Greek form of the name appears 13 times in the Besekh, all in Acts. Silvanus occurs four times in the Besekh (2Cor 1:19; 1Th 1:1; 2Th 1:1; 1Pet 5:12). According to patristic records Silas was one of the seventy disciples Yeshua sent out in Luke 10:1 (Hippolytus, 170-235, On the Seventy Apostles).
leading: Grk. hēgeomai, pres. mid. part., may mean either (1) to function in a leadership capacity, to lead; or (2) 'deem to be,' to think, consider or deduce. The first meaning applies here. men: Grk. anēr. among: Grk. en, prep. the brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos. See verse 1 above. The noun refers to the men that participated in the conference. Marshall suggests that Judah and Silas were elders in the Jerusalem congregation.
23 having written by their hand: "The apostles and the elders, brothers, to those throughout Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, the brothers from the nations: Greetings.
having written: Grk. graphō, aor. part. See verse 15 above. by: Grk. dia, prep. See verse 7 above. their: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. hand: Grk. cheir, the anatomical limb of the hand. The verbal clause refers to the composition of a letter, although the one who actually penned the letter is not named. Letter writing was a very popular means of communication in the first century, made possible by the extensive Roman postal system, although this letter would be delivered by hand. Letters were commonly structured with an introduction, body and conclusion. At the end of the second century, Clement of Alexandria spoke of this letter as "the Catholic epistle of all the Apostles" that was "conveyed to all the faithful by the hands of Paul himself" and was later incorporated into the Book of Acts (Stromata 4.15). The letter then identifies the senders.
The apostles: pl. of Grk. ho apostolos. See verse 2 above. The plural noun alludes to all the apostles at the conference, which could include the Eleven, Jacob, Paul and Barnabas. and: Grk. kai, conj. the elders: pl. of Grk. presbuteros. See verse 2 above. These are the rulers of the Jerusalem congregation. brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos. See verse 1 above. The grammar is unusual because "brothers" is added without conjunction or definite article. Three interpretations have been suggested. Gill suggests the plural noun is synonymous with "congregation" in the previous verse and some versions insert the conjunction "and" before "brothers" to present this viewpoint (JUB, KJV, MSG, MW, NKJV, NMB, TLB, WEB).
Nicoll suggests that "brothers" denotes the apostles and elders as brethren writing to brethren. Many versions prefer this interpretation, some inserting "your" before "brothers" to make the point (CSB, CJB, ESV, EXB, GNB, GW, ICB, ISV, LEB, NOG, NASB, NCV, NET, NIV, NLT, NRSV, RSV, TLV). Longenecker regards the addition of "brothers" simply as a form of expression similar to "Men, brothers," which has so far appeared nine times in Acts (1:16; 2:29, 37; 7:2; 13:15, 26, 38; 15:7, 13). However, the previous uses of "brothers" were vocative case (direct address) and "brothers" here is in the nominative case. The plural noun likely stresses the unanimity of the apostles and elders.
The letter next identifies its intended recipients. to those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a relative pronoun. throughout: Grk. kata, prep. See verse 1 above. Antioch: See the previous verse. and: Grk. kai. Syria: Grk. Suria, a great Roman imperial province, of which Antioch was the capital. and: Grk. kai. Cilicia: Grk. Kilikia, a Roman province bounded on the north by Cappadocia, Lyesonia and Isauria, on the south by the Mediterranean, on the east by Syria, and on the west by Pamphylia. Its capital, Tarsus, was the birthplace of Paul. Cilicia is mentioned because it and Syria formed one Roman province. Paul had apparently planted congregations in Cilicia when he returned home fourteen years previously (cf. Acts 9:30; Gal 1:21), as confirmed by verses 36-41 below.
the brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos. from: Grk. ek, prep. the nations: pl. of Grk. ethnos. See verse 3 above. Again, I think the "brothers from the nations" identifies all the uncircumcised believers, whether Gentile or Jew. While the letter was intended first for Antioch where the controversy first occurred these "brothers" would include all followers of Yeshua found in the regions in which Paul and Barnabas had traveled together, the Roman provinces of Cyprus, Galatia and Pamphylia. Then the letter would be shared with new congregations wherever they might be formed.
Greetings: Grk. chairō, pres. inf., may mean (1) to be in a state marked by good feeling about an event or circumstance; be happy, glad, delighted, rejoice; or (2) an expression of greeting that is normally tantamount to assuring the other of one's good will, a kind of introductory social ointment; greetings, hail. The second meaning is intended here. The letter was no doubt written in Greek for Gentiles and Hellenistic Jews and perhaps a separate letter in Hebrew for traditional Jews.
24 Since we have heard that some men having gone out from us troubled you with words, upsetting your souls, to whom we had not given instructions,
Parallel: Galatians 2:4, 12
Since: Grk. epeidē, conj. that may express time or cause, here the latter; since, seeing that, forasmuch as. The conjunction introduces the cause for the letter. we have heard: Grk. akouō, aor., 1p-pl. See verse 7 above. that: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 1 above. some men: pl. of Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. See verse 1 above. The pronoun is masculine and the group would not have included women. Many Bible versions insert neutral terms, such as "individuals" or "persons." having gone out: Grk. exerchomai, aor. part., to move away from a place or position, to go or come out. from: Grk. ek, prep. us: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. The phrase "from us" simply means a point of origin as stated in verse 1 above. Yet another layer of meaning may be deduced by the statement at the end of this verse.
troubled: Grk. tarassō, aor., caused to be in a disturbed state, agitate. you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. with words: pl. of Grk. logos. See verse 6 above. The Judaizers upset the shalom of the congregation by provoking division. upsetting: Grk. anaskeuazō, pres. part., to dismantle or destroy and here meaning to unsettle, upset or subvert. Rienecker says the verb means to reverse what has been done, to tear down what has been built. Bruce adds that it was also a military metaphor of plundering a town. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. your: Grk. humeis. souls: pl. of Grk. psuchē may mean life or breath, the human soul, or the soul as the seat of affections, emotions and will, the inner self. In the LXX psuchē most often translates Heb. nephesh (SH-53-15), with the same range of meaning (first in Gen 1:20) (DNTT 3:679).
Most versions render the noun with "minds," but Luke did not use any of the Greek words that mean "mind" (e.g., dianoia, nous, phrēn). The choice of psuchē indicates how deeply the disciples were impacted by the controversy. The false teachers had induced confusion, worry and false guilt among the uncircumcised believers, because they did not comply with the legalistic standards of Phariseeism. The uncircumcised had committed no sin for which they needed forgiveness. We need to remember that pietistic restrictions invented and imposed by Christian denominations, no matter how religious and well-intentioned, do not have the authority to define sin (cf. Rom 3:20; 4:15; 5:13; 7:7).
to whom: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. we had not: Grk. ou, adv. See verse 1 above. The negative particle indicates a categorical denial. given instructions: Grk. diastellō, aor. mid., 1p-pl., to give instruction or order. Apparently the Judaizers who had gone to Antioch claimed to have been sent by the leadership of the Jerusalem congregation, specifically Jacob, to bring the uncircumcised disciples into conformity to Judaizer doctrine (cf. Gal 2:12). The Judaizers had told a patent falsehood. This written denial means that the Judaizer doctrine is contrary to apostolic teaching and therefore should be treated as heresy.
The KJV and some other versions (JUB, LITV, NKJV, NMB, WEB, WE, YLT) insert this clause between "souls" and "to whom:" "saying to be circumcised and to keep the law." Metzger says the clause was probably original to the Western Text, derived from verses 1 and 5 and inserted here in order to specify in what particulars the Judaizers had sought to trouble the Antiochian disciples (385). The clause might also have been added to reflect the anti-Torah viewpoint of the church fathers.
The clause was not in the Latin Vulgate (405), which is reflected in the Wycliffe Bible (1395). The clause was added to the Textus Receptus (1516), and passed into the early English versions (1525–1755). With the discovery of the earliest and best MSS the English Revised Version of 1885 removed the clause. The UBS committee gave the reading without the clause an "A" designation, meaning that the text is certain.
25 it seemed good to us, having become of one accord, having chosen men to send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
it seemed good: Grk. dokeō, aor. See verse 22 above. to us: Grk hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. having become: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. part. See verse 2 above. of one accord: Grk. homothumadon, adv., a spontaneous meeting of minds; of one mind, of one accord, unanimity. The letter represents the unanimous decision of the apostles and elders and as such bears intrinsic authority and inherent expectation of obedience. having chosen: Grk. eklegomai, aor. mid. part. See verse 7 above. men: pl. of Grk. anēr. See verse 7 above. The men are named in verse 27 below. to send: Grk. pempō, aor. inf. See verse 22 above. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun.
to: Grk. pros, prep. See verse 2 above. The preposition anticipates a face-to-face meeting. you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. with: Grk. sun, prep. our: Grk. hēmeis. beloved: Grk. agapētos, adj., held in affection, esteemed or dear. Barnabas and Paul: See verse 2 above. Barnabas is again listed before Paul which reflects the apostolic principle of precedence. Barnabas had been given the lead in establishing the congregation in Antioch as well as initially leading the evangelistic journey beyond Antioch. Being listed first Barnabas may have been more "beloved" than Paul, but Paul had been endorsed by the chief apostles. The letter declared that Barnabas and Paul were not the appointed agents to deliver the decision of the apostolic conference.
26 men having delivered their lives for the name of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah.
The letter then pays a high compliment to Barnabas and Paul. men: pl. of Grk. anthrōpos. See verse 17 above. having delivered: Grk. paradidōmi, perf. part., to deliver or hand over, and used of (1) subjecting a person to a custodial procedure and judicial process; (2) entrusting someone to another; or (3) exposing oneself to hazard or jeopardy. Lexicons indicate that the third usage is intended here and the great majority of versions have "risked" or "hazarded." The verb does not have the specific meaning of "risk" in any secular Greek literature or the LXX, and this meaning is applied for only this verse in the Besekh, probably because the verb "delivered" is not usually applied to a man who is still alive. Some versions offer an alternative with "devoted" (CEB), "dedicated" (CJB, GW, NOG, NABRE) or "given" (DARBY, DRA, ERV, EXB, ICB, NCV, YLT).
In the LXX paradidōmi occurs about 200 times and chiefly it stands for Heb. nathan (SH-5414), to give, put or set (DNTT 2:367). The verb occurs over 100 times in the formula of being delivered into someone's hands, whether an enemy being delivered into the hands of God's people or vice versa (first in Gen 14:20). their: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. lives: pl. of Grk. psuchē. See verse 24 above. The clause "having delivered their lives" would be parallel to the Hebrew expression of being "delivered into the hands" of an enemy. The idiom implies warfare and its inherent danger of harm. Barnabas and Paul had voluntarily delivered themselves to the providence of God in order to conduct spiritual warfare in enemy territory.
for: Grk. huper, prep., lit. "over, above," used to express a stance of concern or interest relating to someone or something. With the genitive case of the noun following the preposition emphasizes a supportive aspect; for the advantage of, in behalf of, in the interest of. the name: Grk. onoma. See verse 14 above. of our: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 11 above. Yeshua: Grk. Iēsous. See verse 11 above. the Messiah: Grk. Christos (from chriō, to anoint), the expected fulfiller of the hopes of Israel for an end-time deliverer, the Messiah. Christian versions translate the title as if it were a last name. In Greek culture christos had no religious connotation at all and described someone smeared with whitewash, cosmetics or paint (DNTT 2:334).
Jewish translators of the LXX chose Christos to render Heb. Mashiach (SH-4899), Anointed One, and in so doing infused new meaning into the Greek word. Mashiach is used in the Tanakh for the Messiah (Ps 2:2; Dan 9:25-26) and this usage defined the term among Jews in the first century. Thus, "Messiah" has special meaning as the hope of Israel, whereas the word "Christ" used by Christians has an alien and even negative meaning to Jews (Stern 1-2). For a discussion of Jewish hope and expectation of the Messiah see my article The Messiah.
27 Therefore we have sent Judah and Silas, and they will be reporting the same things by spoken word.
Therefore: Grk. oun, conj. See verse 3 above. we have sent: Grk. apostellō, perf., to cause to move from one position to another, but often to send as an authoritative personal representative. In the LXX apostellō translates Heb. shalach ("stretch out" or "send"), often in contexts of commissioning and empowering a messenger (DNTT 1:128). The verb in this context indicates authority given to speak for the apostles. Judah: See verse 22 above. and: Grk. kai, conj. Silas: See verse 22 above. The two men satisfy the Torah requirement of two or three independent witnesses to establish a fact (Deut 19:15; Matt 18:16).
and: Grk. kai. they will be reporting: Grk. apangellō, pres. part., may mean (1) to report back in response to a directive ; or (2) to relate as the result of personal experience, observation or other source of information; relate, report, declare. The second meaning applies here. The present tense is used here to give vividness to an anticipated future event. the same things: pl. of Grk. autos, neut. personal pronoun. by: Grk. dia, prep. spoken word: Grk. logos. See verse 6 above. Many versions have "word of mouth." The point of this statement is that the verbal report of Judah and Silas will confirm the written report. Stern suggests that a letter by itself could be a forgery (cf. 2Th 2:2).
28 For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these requirements:
For: Grk. gar, conj. it seemed good: Grk. dokeō, aor. See verse 22 above. This is the third time the verb occurs in this chapter. Nicoll comments that this verbal phrase is quite in accordance with the manner in which Jewish Rabbis would formulate their decisions. The phrase also hearkens to the words of David, "If it seems good to you" as a preface to communicating a group decision (1Chr 13:2). The Targum interprets the meaning of the phrase as "if it be beautiful before you, and acceptable before the Lord" (Gill).
to the Holy: Grk. Ho Hagios has two distinctive uses in Scripture: (1) as an adj., meaning set apart for dedication to the interests or expectations of deity; and (2) as a pure substantive to refer to that which has been set apart (BAG). The term is used of sacred things, places, people, angels and God. In the LXX hagios translates Heb. qadosh (SH-6918), which means separate, sacred, holy. Qadosh is first used of God in Leviticus 11:44. Spirit: Grk. Ho Pneuma (for Heb. ruach, Resh-Vav-Chet), wind, breath or spirit; here referring to the Holy Spirit. In Scripture "holy" is only used as an adjective of "spirit" to refer to the Holy Spirit, a name or face of God. "Holy Spirit" is not the title of a separate being, because God is Spirit (John 4:24), just as God is the Word (John 1:1). The Holy Spirit is divine, not less or other than God.
The letter does not explain just how the will of the Spirit was communicated to the apostles and elders. Perhaps there may have been some "revelation," similar to that recorded previously in Acts (8:29; 10:19; 13:2) or by Paul (Gal 2:1; Eph 3:3). In any event, the assertion of divine inspiration puts the authority of the following restrictions beyond debate and asserts their continuing authority into future centuries. The restrictions were not "culturally conditioned" and temporary in scope as Christian interpreters often characterize the instructions of Paul.
and: Grk. kai, conj. to us: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. The pronoun refers to the apostles and the elders of the Jerusalem congregation. The self-reference in no way implies the leaders were making themselves equal to God. Rather, they heard from the Spirit and they were willing to submit to the will of God. In addition, the example of the apostles is an important safeguard against people who claim "the Spirit told me." Any claim to inspiration by the Holy Spirit should be put before the congregation for confirmation. to lay upon: Grk. epitithēmi, pres. pass. inf. See verse 10 above. you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. The pronoun refers to the uncircumcised believers, whether Jew or Gentile.
no: Grk. mēdeis, adj. (from mē, "not" and heis, "one"), not even one, nothing, none. greater: Grk. pleiōn, adj., the comparative form of polus (verse 7 above), greater in quantity. burden: Grk. baros, a weight or burden, used here of special obligation. The phrase "no greater burden" serves as a reminder of Peter's bold rebuke (verse 10 above), making "burden" a functional synonym of "yoke." This declaration implies that no burden would be added in the future. Indeed, Yeshua himself 40 years later will repeat this same message to the overseer of the congregation in Thyatira, "I will put upon you no other burden" (Rev 2:24). In that context, as well as the letter to the overseer of the Pergamum congregation (Rev 2:14), Yeshua rebuked the overseers for violating two of the required abstinences specified in this letter.
The limitation of "no greater burden" does not mean that Gentile believers were exempt from obeying the Ten Commandments or other commands of the Lord that pertain to righteousness and holiness. Indeed, the letters of Paul, Peter, Jacob, John and Jude contain many points of lifestyle guidance. Thus, "no greater burden" directly relates to customs and traditions that mark Jewish legalism. Gentiles are exempt from circumcision. Gentiles are exempt from the picky rules Pharisees invented for keeping the Sabbath. No Messianic Jew could later tell a believing Gentile that he must do some particular Jewish practice to be acceptable to God.
than: Grk. plēn, adv. introducing a modifying or incremental clause in a statement or narrative; except. The adverb limits the noun "burden." these: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. requirements: pl. of Grk. epanankes, adv. that signifies something compulsory or necessary. The term occurs only here in the Besekh. Bible versions translate the adverb with "necessary things," "essentials" and "requirements." The letter does not imply that the four abstinences were imposed as conditions of salvation as the Judaizer insistence on circumcision (verse 1 above), nor is there any implication that Gentiles are exempt from obeying other commandments of God that have been known since creation.
The apostles did not mean to imply that pleasing God by refraining from worldly practices is an oppressive load, bringing only misery and unhappiness. The reality, of course, is that separation from the world could result in loss of friends and loss of business and bring persecution from the world. Fear of these personal losses may have provided motivation to continue the banned practices. However, nothing in the wording of this letter implies that these banned practices were negotiable or temporary. Otherwise, Yeshua would not have warned the overseers of Pergamum and Thyatira of the serious consequences he would impose for failure to separate from the worldly practices (Rev 2:16, 22-23).
29 to abstain from idolatrous offerings, and blood, and the strangled, and sexual immorality. Keeping yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell."
The restrictions proposed in verse 20 are repeated with minor changes in word order and terms. The final wording of the resolution probably resulted from some negotiation. The apostles could simply have declared a boycott of pagan temples, but they felt it important to name the specific offensive behaviors to avoid.
to abstain from: Grk. apechō, pres. mid. inf. See verse 20 above. idolatrous offerings: Grk. eidōlothutos (from eidōlon, idol or false god, and thuō, to sacrifice), adj., that which is sacrificed to an idol. This term replaces "pollutions of idols" as being more specific. The term hearkens back to the time of Antiochus Epiphanes who ordered that the Hebrews be compelled to eat meat sacrificed to idols, as well as pork (4Macc. 5:2). Thus, it would be considered a sin to sacrifice an animal or meat from an animal to an idol or knowingly and willfully eating meat from such an idolatrous offering. Violating this restriction would be tantamount to consorting with enemies of the Jewish people.
Paul later affirmed this ruling to the congregation in Corinth (1Cor 10:28), as Yeshua did to the congregations in Pergamum and Thyatira (Rev 2:14, 20). Paul also described idolatry as including sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and covetousness (Col 3:5). The idol business provided a means to attain what God had forbidden, and many people were willing to sacrifice their honor, their family relationships, their finances and their health to gain the short-term pleasures (Titus 3:3; Jas 4:3; 5:5; 2Pet 2:13). Not much has changed in that regard.
and: Grk. kai, conj. blood: Grk. haima. See verse 20 above. No change was made to the essential meaning of this term, that of eating or drinking blood. and: Grk. kai. the strangled: Grk. pniktos, i.e., animals killed by strangling. See verse 20 above. The revised word order may suggest the first three items are directly related to what occurs at a pagan temple. and: Grk. kai. sexual immorality: Grk. porneia. See verse 20 above. The noun refers to any actual sexual conduct outside the bonds of heterosexual marriage. Sexual immorality can take many forms and occur anywhere, not just at a pagan temple. The apostle Paul later rebuked immorality among believers (1Cor 6:13, 18; 7:2; 2Cor 12:21; Col 3:5) and warned that such behavior can result in eternal punishment (Gal 5:19-21; Eph 5:5). Yet, Christianity is still plagued with immorality.
Keeping: Grk. diatēreō, pres. part., to keep carefully or continually. The verb occurs only twice in the Besekh (also Luke 2:51). yourselves: pl. of Grk. heautou, reciprocal pronoun. from: Grk. ek, prep. See verse 2 above. these: pl. of Grk. hos, relative pronoun. See verse 10 above. you will do: Grk. prassō, fut., to engage in activity with focus on productivity; do, perform, engage in, carry out. Sometimes the verb prassō is associated with works that might be either good or bad (Rom 9:11; 2Cor 5:10), but most often this verb is associated with evil conduct (e.g., Luke 23:41; John 3:20; Rom 1:32; 2:1-3; 7:15, 19; 13:4).
well: Grk. eu, adv., good with the connotation of being serviceable. The rationale for obeying the restrictions has the tone of an understatement, but it also represents a reality. Stopping participation in the sin business will enable greater spiritual fruit in individual lives and the congregation. Farewell: Grk. rhōnnumi, perf. pass. imp., to strengthen, be strong. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. Lexicons say that the verb means "farewell" when used to close a letter. The English "farewell" as an interjection means "may you fare well." Messianic Jewish versions translate the term as "shalom."
Bruce comments that not only was the terms of the letter sent to Antioch considered binding in the letters sent by John to congregations in proconsular Asia at the end of the first century, but toward the end of the second century it was observed by the churches of the Rhone valley, which had close links with those of Asia (Eusebius, Church History V, 1:26). Tertullian (145-220) also wrote of Christian practice at that time,
"Blush for your vile ways before the Christians, who have not even the blood of animals at their meals of simple and natural food; who abstain from things strangled and that die a natural death, for no other reason than that they may not contract pollution, so much as from blood secreted in the viscera. To clench the matter with a single example, you tempt Christians with sausages of blood, just because you are perfectly aware that the thing by which you thus try to get them to transgress they hold unlawful." (Apologia 9.13)
Toward the end of the ninth century the terms of the decree, together with the negative Golden Rule were included by the English King Alfred in the preamble to his law-code.
Dissemination in Antioch, 15:30-35
30 They indeed therefore, having been sent, went down to Antioch, and having gathered the multitude, delivered the letter.
They: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a relative pronoun of the entire group of Paul, Barnabas, Judah and Silas. indeed: Grk. mén, a particle of affirmation. therefore: Grk. oun, conj. See verse 3 above where the verse begins with the same three words. having been sent: Grk. apoluō, pl. aor. pass. part., may mean (1) to set free from a condition or obligation, to release or to free; or (2) to cause to depart from a place, to send off or dismiss. The second meaning applies here. The authorized messengers no doubt left as soon as possible to accomplish their errand.
went down: Grk. katerchomai, aor., 3p-pl. See verse 1 above. The verb graphically depicts the change in elevation from the hilly terrain of Jerusalem to the coastal plain. to: Grk. eis, prep. Antioch: See verse 22 above. The group likely traveled from Jerusalem to Joppa and then took a boat to Antioch, perhaps arriving in no more than three days. and: Grk. kai, conj. having gathered: Grk. sunagō, aor. part. See verse 6 above. the multitude: Grk. ho plēthos. See verse 12 above. Many versions translate the noun as either "church" or "congregation," neither of which is the meaning of the term. The noun depicts the followers of Yeshua in the city as exceedingly large in numbers.
delivered: Grk. epididōmi, aor., 3p-pl., may mean (1) convey to; or (2) give up control. The first meaning applies here. In later Greek the verb was a technical term for handing over a letter (Bruce). the letter: Grk. epistolē, written correspondence; letter, dispatch, epistle. In the LXX epistolē occurs 16 times renders three different Hebrew words, usually for legal, official or royal documents (2Kgs 20:12; 2Chr 30:1, 6; Neh 2:7-9; 6:5, 17, 19; Esth 3:14; 9:26, 29; Isa 39:1). The letter was probably handed over to the elders of the congregation.
31 And having read it, they rejoiced at the encouragement.
And: Grk. de, conj. having read it: Grk. anaginōskō, pl. aor. part. See verse 21 above. The verb probably refers to the elders reading the letter, sharing its contents aloud. they rejoiced: Grk. chairō, aor. pass., 3p-pl. See verse 23 above. The verb describes the reaction of the multitude to the contents of the letter. Robertson interprets the verb as "they burst into exultant joy." at: Grk. epi, prep. the encouragement: Grk. ho paraklēsis may mean (1) emboldening for facing or carrying out a responsibility or task, exhortation or encouragement; or (2) heartening in a time of trouble through word or demeanor; consolation or comfort. The first meaning applies here.
The congregation was no doubt encouraged that the controversial issue had been settled, the demands of the Judaizers rejected and practical guidance provided. Table fellowship between Jews and Gentiles that had been disrupted could be resumed. They would also recognize the validity of the exhortation contained in the banned behaviors and joyfully comply. Some Christian commentators interpret the verse to mean the disciples rejoiced that they had been freed from the yoke of the law. On the contrary the letter freed the uncircumcised from the yoke of legalism. The intent of the apostles was to provide the grounds for greater unity between the uncircumcised and the circumcised, not to imply the uncircumcised should form a separate antinomian religion opposed to the circumcised.
32 Both Judah and Silas, also themselves being prophets, exhorted and strengthened the brothers by a great message.
Both: Grk. te, conj. See verse 3 above. Judah and Silas: See verse 22 above. also: Grk. kai, conj. themselves: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The phrase "also themselves" implies that the following description applied to Paul and Barnabas (cf. Acts 13:1). being: Grk. eimi, pl. pres. part., to be, a function word used primarily to declare a state of existence, whether in the past ('was, were'), present ('are, is') or future ('will be'), often to unite a subject and predicate (BAG). prophets: pl. of Grk. prophētēs. See verse 15 above. The AMPC defines the noun as "inspired interpreters of the will and purposes of God." Paul would later write "the one prophesying speaks to men for edification and encouragement and consolation" (1Cor 14:3 BR). The purpose of prophesying is not to make people feel guilty, but to increase their passion for serving God.
exhorted: Grk. parakaleō, aor., 3p-pl., may mean (1) call to be at one's side or summon to one's aid, with a connotation of urgency; invite, entreat, urge; (2) hearten in time of trouble; comfort, console; or (3) to motivate performance; exhort, encourage. The third meaning is intended here. Bible versions are divided between translating the verb with "encouraged" and "exhorted." In the context of motivating compliance with the provisions of the letter "encouraged" may seem more positive in tone than "exhorted," but this a very subjective distinction. Judah and Silas appealed to the brothers to seek moral excellence.
and: Grk. kai. strengthened: Grk. epistērizō (from epí, "upon" and stērízō, "make firm"), pres. part., add support to; firm up, make stronger, support, uphold. The verb occurs only four times in the Besekh, all in Acts. The verb describes the prophesying as building on the Lord's previous instruction in discipleship (note the force of the prefix epi) and strengthening by extending the understanding that precedes, and supporting what must follow (HELPS). the brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos. See verse 1 above. The noun is used of the members of the predominately Jewish congregation (Acts 11:20, 26, 29) and emphasizes both their filial identity as "sons of Israel" and spiritual identity as disciples of Yeshua. "Brothers" would include both circumcised and uncircumcised as the congregation included Hellenistic Jews.
by: Grk. dia, prep. See verse 7 above. a great: Grk. polus, adj. See verse 7 above. The majority of versions translate the adjective as representing quantity, "many," even though the adjective and the following noun are both singular. Some versions translate the adjective as representing time with "long" or "lengthy" (CSB, NASB, NJB, TLV). A better interpretation, I believe, is that the adjective represents a measure of intensity to produce an emotional impact, thus "great," "intense" or "strong." message: Grk. logos. See verse 6 above. The noun is singular but many versions translate it as plural "words." Some versions have "message" (CSB, NASB, TLV). DARBY and YLT have "discourse." Judah and Silas waxed eloquent, as the saying goes, and succeeded in fostering greater unity and perhaps healing in the diverse congregation.
33 And having stayed a time, they were sent off with peace from the brothers to those having sent them.
And: Grk. de, conj. having stayed: Grk. poieō, pl. aor. part. See verse 3 above. The verb as used here denotes the continuance of activity. a time: Grk. chronos may mean (1) a span or period of time, or (2) a point or definite moment in time. The first meaning applies here. In the LXX chronos occurs about 100 times and primarily translates Heb. yom, "day, days" (DNTT 3:841). Jews did not conceive of time in the abstract, but used yom overwhelmingly in the sense of ordinary measurable time. Luke again notes a time period without giving its length (cf. 8:11; 13:11; 14:3, 28). Since he does not qualify the time reference it was likely a matter of days or a few weeks at most.
they were sent off: Grk. apoluō, aor., 3p-pl., may mean (1) to set free from a condition or obligation, to release or to free; or (2) to cause to depart from a place, to send off or dismiss. The second meaning applies here. The plural verb means that Judah and Silas were both sent. with: Grk. meta, prep. See verse 4 above. Most versions inaccurately translate the preposition as "in." shalom: Grk. eirēnē, peace, which may refer to either (1) a state of harmony as a result from cessation of hostilities, whether in political or personal relationships; or (2) a state of well-being, a characteristic of the Messianic age and divine favor, used here in the Hebraic sense as a greeting.
In the LXX eirēnē translates Heb. shalom (SH-7965), peace, generally denoting (1) personal welfare, health, or prosperity; (2) peace and tranquility in the community; or (3) contentment, peace, and friendship in human relations. Messianic Jewish versions (CJB, MW, OJB, TLV) have "shalom," which is fitting for the Jewish context. from: Grk. apo, prep. See verse 1 above. the brothers: pl. of Grk. ho adelphos. See verse 1 above. The noun "brothers" refers again to the Jewish members of the Antioch congregation. to: Grk. pros, prep. See verse 2 above. The preposition anticipates a face to face meeting. those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a relative pronoun. having sent: Grk. apostellō, pl. aor. part. See verse 27 above. them: 3p-pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun, i.e., Judah and Silas.
Messianic Jewish versions and some Christian versions (AMP, DLNT, EHV, GW, ISV, TLB, MPNT, MRINT, NOG, NKJV, WEB, WE) recognize that Luke is describing the messengers being returned to their senders with a greeting of shalom or peace. The significance of the greeting of shalom from the Jewish brothers in Antioch (circumcised and uncircumcised) is informing the apostles and leaders in Jerusalem that the Antioch congregation has fully complied with the delivered letter and are in complete harmony with their brothers in Jerusalem.
[34 But it seemed good to Silas to remain there.]
A few late Greek MSS followed by the Textus Receptus has this verse and thus it is found in the KJV and other versions based on the Textus Receptus. Most modern versions either include the verse in brackets or contain a marginal note that the verse in not found in early MSS. Metzger says the insertion was no doubt made by copyists to account for the presence of Silas in Antioch (verse 40 below). In reality Silas must have returned to Jerusalem with Judah to deliver the message of shalom to the Jerusalem leaders and then came back to Antioch. After all, Luke says in the previous verse that at least two individuals were sent back to Jerusalem. Judah and Silas returning together would fulfill the Torah principle of two witnesses testifying of how the letter was received.
35 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and proclaiming the good news, the word of the Lord, with many others also.
But: Grk. de, conj. Paul and Barnabas: See verse 2 above. remained: Grk. diatribō, impf., to spend time, to continue or stay in a place. The verb implies residence of an extended stay. in: Grk. en, prep. Antioch: See verse 22 above. The first clause alludes to another indefinite time period, and it serves to contrast with the sending of Judah and Silas back to Jerusalem. The conference of the apostles had occurred in the autumn of 49, perhaps at the time of Sukkot, which would have been in late September that year. The return to Antioch with the following ministry of Judah and Silas brings the timeline to the winter of 49 when travel would be prohibitive. Thus, Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch through the winter.
teaching: Grk. didaskō, pres. part. See verse 1 above. The focus of the verb is on making disciples. and: Grk. kai, conj. proclaiming the good news: Grk. euangelizō, pl. pres. mid. part., to announce the good message, specifically God's salvation, to "not-yet-believers." In the LXX euangelizō stands for Heb. basar, to publish or bring news or a report, whether good or bad (DNTT 2:108-109). The focus of proclaiming the good news was the arrival of the Kingdom of God in the person of Yeshua who would sit on the throne of David and rule over the house of Jacob forever. The verb occurs 15 times in Acts, always in reference to proclaiming Yeshua as the Messiah of Israel and Savior of the world. The proclamation contained certain standard elements. For the specific content of the good news for Jewish audiences see the comment on Acts 5:42.)
the word: Grk. logos. See verse 6 above. of the Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 11 above. The phrase "word of the Lord" clarifies the meaning the "good news." The apostles declared the good news of Yeshua. with: Grk. meta, prep. many: pl. of Grk. polus, adj. See verse 7 above. others: pl. of Grk. heteros, adj., a distributive pronoun that may (1) distinguish one item from another in a numerical sense, other, another; or (2) express dissimilarity of one item relative to another, whether generically or qualitatively; other, another or different. The first meaning applies here. also: Grk. kai. The "many others" might allude to the prophets and teachers mentioned in 13:1. The Antioch congregation was blessed with a cadre of knowledgeable and devoted teachers who could disciple new believers.
While at Antioch Paul received word that certain men from Jerusalem had gone to the four congregations that had been planted in Galatia and taught a different message of salvation than what he had proclaimed there on his first Diaspora journey (cf. Gal 1:6-9; 3:1-3). Upon hearing about the trouble in the Galatian congregations Paul fired off his "severe" letter known as "Galatians." This was Paul's first letter. See my article Introduction to Galatians.
Second Diaspora Journey
By the providence of God Paul's second trip in the Diaspora included Cilicia, Derbe, Lystra, Phrygia, Galatia, Troas, Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, Jerusalem and then back to Antioch Syria. See the map of his route here. The second journey lasted about four years (Polhill 79). Dating the second journey is a matter of conjecture among Bible scholars, although some contemporary historical references to Roman rulers (Claudius and Gallio) and the mention of a specific time of duration in Corinth help determine the outside boundaries. A suggested starting date for the journey include 48 (Klausner 371; Polhill 80), 49 (Hegg 275) and 50 (Edmundson 178; OCB 121; Santala 85). The last option is followed in this commentary.
Separation of Paul and Barnabas, 15:36-39
36 Now after some days Paul said to Barnabas, "Indeed, having returned we should visit the brothers in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, to see how they are."
Now: Grk. de, conj. after: Grk. meta, prep. some: pl. of Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. days: pl. of Grk. hēmera. See verse 7 above. Luke presents another indefinite time period, perhaps as much as several weeks from the previous time reference, which alludes to the approach of Spring when travel would be possible. Paul: See verse 2 above. The narrative returns to Paul exercising leadership. said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 5 above. to: Grk. pros, prep. The preposition emphasizes speaking face to face. Barnabas: See verse 2 above. Indeed: Grk. dē, particle, indeed, now, used to give emphasis or urgency to a statement. Most versions do not translate the particle. having returned: Grk. epistrephō, pl. aor. part. See verse 19 above.
we should visit: Grk. episkeptomai, aor. mid. subj., 1p-pl. See verse 14 above. the brothers: pl. of Grk. ho adelphos. See verse 1 above. Paul does not distinguish between circumcised and uncircumcised believers. If they are followers of Yeshua they are brothers. in: Grk. kata, prep., lit. "according to." every: Grk. pas, adj. city: Grk. polis. See verse 21 above. in: Grk. en, prep. which: pl. of Grk. hos, relative pronoun. we proclaimed: Grk. katangellō, aor., 1p-pl., to proclaim, with connotation of broad dissemination; announce, declare, proclaim. The verb alludes to teaching in a public place.
the word: Grk. logos. See verse 6 above. of the Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 11 above. The "word of the Lord" is the good news of Yeshua (verse 7 above). There were seven named cities in which the apostles ministered: Salamis and Paphos of Cyprus, Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium of Galatia, Lystra and Derbe of Lycaonia, and Perga of Pamphylia. to see how: Grk. pōs, adv. introducing a query concerning manner, way, or reason in respect to a matter; how? in what manner/way? they are: Grk. echō, pres., 3p-pl. See verse 21 above. The question Paul presents is "How are they holding themselves?" or even, "How are they holding on in faithfulness?" Paul wanted to reassure himself of their spiritual condition.
Paul's decision to make a second journey likely came as a result of receiving news that Judaizers had gone to the congregations in Galatia to teach their heresy (cf. Gal 1:6; 3:1-3; 5:7-12). Upon hearing about the trouble there Paul fired off his "severe" letter known as "Galatians," which may be dated 49/50. Writing the letter from Antioch before commencement of the second journey seems most likely since the letter to the Galatians mentions no co-laborers and alludes to his first journey and the Jerusalem conference. In addition, on his second journey Paul shared the letter from the Jerusalem conference with the congregations in Galatia (Acts 16:4), and the strife in the Galatian congregations over the Judaizer heresy would not likely have occurred after delivery of the apostolic decrees.
37 And Barnabas was wanting to take along also John called Mark.
And: Grk. de, conj. Barnabas: See verse 2 above. was wanting: Grk. boulomai, impf. mid., may mean (1) have in one's mind; wish, want, desire; or (2) reach a decision upon deliberation; intend, decide, plan, will. The first meaning applies here. Robertson says that the imperfect tense indicates that Barnabas stuck to his decision. to take along: Grk. sumparalambanō, aor. inf., take along as a companion. Rienecker adds that the verb also means to take along as a helper.
also: Grk. kai, conj. John: Grk. Iōannēs, a rough transliteration of Heb. Yochanan ("the Lord is gracious"). Christian versions and the TLV have "John," but the CJB, MW and OJB have "Yochanan." The spelling of "John" first appeared in the Mace New Testament (1729). In the Besekh there are five men with the name Iōannēs. This John was son of Miriam of Jerusalem (Acts 12:12). The Hebrew name emphasizes his Jewish lineage. The desire to take John may have been fed by family loyalty, but being a "son of encouragement" Barnabas recognized an opportunity to further develop John's skills of ministry.
called: Grk. kaleō, pres. pass. part., to identify by name or give a term to; call. Mark: Grk. Markos, the Greek form of the Roman name Marcus. How and why this John (Yochanan) assumed a Roman name is unknown. It was not uncommon for Jews to have two names, a Hebrew name used with family and a Gentile name used in the Diaspora (Gittin 11b; Stern 267). Mark was a cousin of Barnabas (Col 4:10), and like him the family probably came originally from Cyprus (cf. Acts 4:36; 15:39). Mark may have become a follower of Yeshua through Peter's personal influence (cf. 1Pet 5:13). Church tradition identified Mark as the young man who accompanied Yeshua and the Twelve to the Garden of Gethsemane after the last supper and then fled naked from the garden when Yeshua was arrested (Mark 14:51-52).
The church fathers say that Peter traveled into the Diaspora and visited Rome during the reign of Caesar Claudius (c. 42/43 A.D). Eusebius (260-340), the church historian, said that Mark accompanied Peter on this journey. (See my background explanation on this trip here). Paul includes Mark in the list of those who were part of "the circumcision" (Col 4:10-11), a reference to the Judaizers. Barnabas also for a time had fallen prey to this error (Gal 2:13) and in this Mark may have been influenced by his cousin. John Mark is also the author of the Yeshua narrative bearing the name Kata Markon ("According to Mark"). For more on the background of Mark see my article Witnesses of the Good News.
38 But Paul thought best not to take him, the one having withdrawn from them from Pamphylia and not having accompanied them into the work.
But: Grk. de, conj. Paul: See verse 2 above. thought best: Grk. axioō, impf., may mean (1) deem worthy of special recognition or consideration; or (2) arrive at a positive decision to proceed with an action on the basis of its merit. The second meaning is intended here. not: Grk. mē, adv., a particle of qualified negation, not. It differs from the other standard negative particle, oú, in that oú is objective, while mē is subjective (DM 265). The adverb is often used in declarations of a tentative nature. In other words Paul did not issue an emphatic or authoritative command, but rather put forward a decision based on spiritual expediency.
to take: Grk. sumparalambanō, aor. inf. See the previous verse. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun; i.e., John Mark. the one: Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. having withdrawn: Grk. aphistēmi, aor. part., may mean (1) cause to move from a reference point; or (2) withdraw oneself from a person or thing. The second meaning applies here. from: Grk. apo, prep. them: pl. of Grk. autos; i.e., Paul and Barnabas. from: Grk. apo. Pamphylia: Grk. Pamphulia, a Roman province on the south coast of Asia Minor, bounded on the east by Cilicia, on west by Lycia and Phrygia Minor, on the north by Galatia, and on the south by the Mediterranean Sea. See the map here. Mark had shared in the ministry on the island of Cyprus and crossed the Mediterranean Sea with Barnabas and Paul before withdrawing.
and: Grk. kai, conj. not: Grk. mē. having accompanied: Grk. sunerchomai, aor. part., may mean (1) to come together as a collection of persons; (2) come together in a close personal relationship; or (3) come or go together with someone. The third meaning applies here. them: pl. of Grk. autos. into: Grk. eis, prep. the work: Grk. ho ergon generally means a deed, action or accomplishment, and used here to mean the ministry of proclaiming the good news and discipling new believers in Pisidia, Galatia, Lycaonia and Pamphylia. The narrative of Mark's departure is found in Acts 13:13.
Luke offers no explanation of Mark's reason for leaving the team. Various speculations have been offered, such as homesickness, growing weary of the travels and labors necessitated by the ministry, and diminishing courage to handle new challenges, such as a trek into high mountains. Given the patristic record that Mark accompanied Peter on his trip through Asia Minor all the way to Rome in 42/43, it's not likely that it was some ordinary complaint that led to Mark's departure. There is certainly no evidence that Mark's leaving represented abandoning Yeshua.
Paul's decision on this occasion seems to regard Mark's departure in Pamphylia as desertion. Only a challenge to the authority exercised by Paul who had gained preeminence over Barnabas or the nature of the mission could adequately explain Mark's decision to return home. On both issues the root of the divide may be found in what happened at Paphos when the Roman Sergius Paulus became a believer. At that time Paul assumed the leader role, and thereafter Luke speaks of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:42, 43, 46, 50; 15:2, 22, 35), not Barnabas and Saul. Perhaps, too, Mark was less able than Barnabas himself to see the latter take second place. Mark may have also objected to the offer of salvation without the necessity of circumcision, over which Peter was criticized (Acts 11:2-3).
39 A sharp disagreement also came to pass, so that they separated from one another, Barnabas having taken Mark to sail to Cyprus,
A sharp disagreement: Grk. paroxusmos, an inciting to a high pitch, which may be manifested (1) positively as stimulating or encouraging; or (2) negatively as disagreement, which is the meaning here. In Greek literature the noun referred to irritation or exasperation (LSJ). The noun occurs only twice in the Besekh (also Heb 10:24). In the LXX paroxusmos is used two times to translate Heb. qetseph (SH-7110), wrath as manifested by God (Deut 29:28; Jer 39:37). We should note that God's anger is never wrong. Bruce comments that Luke's realism in reporting the conflict between the two apostles is a reminder of Paul's declaration in Lystra (Acts 14:15) that they had feelings like other human beings (301). Luke's factual account does not make either apostle "right" and the other "wrong."
also: Grk. de, conj. came to pass: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See verse 2 above. The Greek construction egéneto dè is a peculiar characteristic of Luke's writing style, appearing in the Besekh only in his writings, 17 times in his narrative of Yeshua and 20 times in Acts. The phrase may be considered a Hebraism because it imitates the frequent use of Heb. v'hayah, "and it came to pass" in the historical narratives of the Tanakh (185 times; first in Gen 4:8). The phrase is used to signal a change in the narrative and often introduces some significant action by individuals in the narrative.
so that: Grk. hōste, conj. which connects cause to necessary effect and emphasizes the result; so that, therefore, so then, so as to. they: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun; i.e. Paul and Barnabas. separated: Grk. apochōrizō, aor. pass. inf., interrupt a close relationship by setting apart; separate. The verb occurs only twice in the Besekh (also Rev 6:14). The infinitive expresses result, much like divorce in marriage. from: Grk. apo, prep. one another: Grk. allēlōn, reciprocal pronoun, one another, each other. Barnabas: See verse 2 above. having taken: Grk. paralambanō, aor. part., to receive to one's side; take, receive; or to cause to go along; take. Mark: See verse 37 above.
to sail: Grk. ekpleō, aor. inf., to sail away. The infinitive expresses purpose. Leaving Antioch Barnabas and Mark would go to the port city of Seleucia 16 miles away as they did two years previously (Acts 13:4). Departure would have taken place at a time with favorable winds for sailing such as the summer. Ancient merchant ships could be propelled by both oars and sails. There were no passenger vessels, only freighters. So the apostles had to scout out a willing captain, strike a deal for passage, and bring enough food for the trip, as well as bedding for resting on the deck. See the article Roman Empire Sailing for more information. Merchant ships traveled in open sea at a speed of about 4–6 knots (Casson). Sailing just over 100 nautical miles, the trip across open water would have taken 16-25 hours.
to: Grk. eis, prep. Cyprus: Grk. Kupros, a large island at the east end of the Mediterranean Sea mentioned most prominently in Acts. See the map here. In the Tanakh the island is known as Kittim (Heb. Chittim, Isa 23:1; Jer 2:10) (HBD). The island with 390 miles of coastline is 160 miles long east to west and 60 miles wide from north to south, and eclipsed in size only by Sicily and Sardinia. There was a significant Jewish population on Cyprus due to the widespread dispersion of Jews from Babylon (Tarn & Griffith 219). There were at least three synagogues established on the island during the Roman period (JVL). Cyprus was the birthplace of Barnabas (Acts 4:36-37) and the first place where Paul and Barnabas ministered on their previous journey (Acts 13:4-12).
Bruce comments that the separation of Paul and Barnabas produced a good result: two ministry expeditions set out instead of one. The destination of Barnabas and the destination of Paul (verse 41 below) effectively accomplished Paul's suggestion of visiting the cities in which they had formerly proclaimed the good news and made disciples. The division of labor set in motion a divine strategic plan and resulted in accomplishing the spiritual goal with conservation of effort.
Additional Note: Anger Between Brothers
Stern comments that while unreconciled "sharp disagreement" is a sin, differences of opinion, calling, personality and modes of working are not. Thus, he seems to suggest that Paul and Barnabas sinned by having a "sharp disagreement." This analysis is problematic. There is far too much subjective judging of "sin" going on in the Body of Messiah based on what someone thinks a believer or disciple ought to do, against which Yeshua and the apostles gave stern prohibition (Matt 7:1-5; Luke 6:37; Rom 14:4, 10, 13; Jas 4:11-12; 5:9).
In order to convict someone of sin there must be objective evidence of violating a Torah commandment by specific behavior. There is no precise prohibition in the Torah against having disagreements or even anger. When Yeshua warned his disciples about anger he noted that both temporal and eternal liability could result from bad conduct motivated by anger (Matt 5:22). The danger of anger is that it can lead to sin, as modern news stories daily illustrate. Thus, disciples of Yeshua are exhorted to get rid of anger (Eph 4:26, 31; 6:4; Col 3:8; Jas 1:19-20).
There is no evidence that either Paul or Barnabas engaged in any behavior that could be described as sinful, such as insulting language, name calling, threatening words or physical battery. They may have felt strong emotion, but their verbal exchange simply held to opposite positions based on principle and they were unwilling to compromise, which is not a sin. After this, the Besekh offers no further report of the ministry of Barnabas, except for a passing comment from Paul (1Cor 9:6). Paul's letters confirm that he eventually restored fellowship and collaboration with Mark (Col 4:10, 2Tim 4:11, Phm 1:24).
Paul's Choice of Silas, 15:40-41
40 but Paul having chosen Silas, went forth, having been committed to the grace of the Lord by the brothers.
but: Grk. de, conj. Paul: See verse 2 above. having chosen: Grk. epilegō, aor. mid. part., may mean (1) to call or give a name to; or (2) to call to oneself, to choose. The second meaning applies here in the sense of a personal invitation, perhaps by letter. Silas: See verse 22 above. Sufficient time had passed that Silas along with Judah had delivered their report to Jerusalem. Silas no doubt had the heart of an evangelist, having first been schooled in the mission trip of the 70. The Diaspora was where growth was happening and he wanted to be a part of it. Paul may well have spoken to him previously about joining him on a trip to take the good news to fresh fields.
went forth: Grk. exerchomai, aor. See verse 24 above. Edmundson dates the departure from Antioch after Passover (April) in the year 50 (178). Santala suggests the journey began earlier about February that year and ended in Spring of 53 (85). having been committed: Grk. paradidōmi, aor. pass. part. See verse 26 above. to the grace: Grk. charis. See verse 11 above. of the Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 11 above. Being "committed to the grace of the Lord" is equivalent to entrusting the evangelistic team and the success of their mission to the sovereign care of God (cf. Acts 18:21; Rom 1:10; 15:32; 1Cor 4:19; Jas 4:13-15). by: Grk. hupo, prep., lit. "under." The preposition denotes the exercise of authority. the brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos. See verse 1 above. The plural noun refers to the members of the Antioch congregation. As with the first journey the second began from Antioch.
41 And he was passing through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the congregations.
And: Grk. de, conj. he was passing through: Grk. dierchomai, impf. mid. See verse 3 above. The first person singular verb focuses on Paul as the leader. Unlike the first journey this trip began on land, probably by a main highway. Syria: Grk. ho Suria. See verse 23 above. and: Grk. kai, conj. Cilicia: Grk. ho Kilikia. See verse 23 above. strengthening: Grk. epistērizō, pres. part., add support to; firm up, make stronger, support, uphold. The verb occurs only four times in the Besekh, all in Acts. the congregations: pl. of Grk. ho ekklēsia. See verse 3 above. These congregations were in existence before Paul's first recorded journey and may well have been the product of his ministry in the "silent" years (Acts 9:30) and perhaps aided by disciples that had been scattered from Jerusalem (11:19).
Since Paul's goal was to see how the disciples gained from the first journey were faring (verse 36 above), then there was no intention to stop in any one place for an extended ministry. After Syria and Cilicia the itinerary of the trip would take Paul and Silas into Lycaonia, Galatia, Pisidia and Phrygia. Then by a providential turn of events the journey would take Paul into Europe for the first time and after an extensive ministry there he would travel back to Jerusalem and then finally to Antioch.
BAG: Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. trans. W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich. The University of Chicago Press, 1957.
BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981.
Bruce: F.F. Bruce, The Book of the Acts. Rev. ed. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1988. (New International Commentary on the New Testament)
Casson: Lionel Casson, "Speed under Sail of Ancient Ships," Transactions of the American Philological Association, Vol. 82, New York University, 1951. Online.
CJB: David H. Stern, Complete Jewish Bible. Jewish New Testament Publications, 1998.
Danker: Frederick William Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. The University of Chicago Press, 2009.
DM: H.E. Dana & Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. The Macmillan Co., 1955.
DNTT: Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 vols., ed. Colin Brown. Zondervan Pub. House, 1975.
Edmundson: Charles Edmundson, The Church in Rome in the First Century. Longmans, Green and Co., 1913. Online.
Ellicott: Charles John Ellicott (1819–1905), Commentary for English Readers (1878). Online.
Gill: John Gill (1697-1771), Exposition of the Entire Bible. Online.
GNT: The Greek New Testament, eds. Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Bruce M. Metzger, & Allen Wiegren. American Bible Society, 1966. [NA25]
Hegg: Tim Hegg, The Letter Writer: Paul's Background and Torah Perspective. 2nd ed. TorahResource, 2008.
HELPS: Gleason L. Archer and Gary Hill, eds., The Discovery Bible New Testament: HELPS Word Studies. Moody Press, 1987, 2011. (Online at BibleHub.com)
HBD: Trent C. Butler, ed., Holman Bible Dictionary. Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1991. Online.
Jeremias: Joichim Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. Fortress Press, 1975.
Klausner: Joseph Klausner (1874-1958), From Jesus to Paul. The Macmillian Company, 1943.
Liberman: Joel Liberman, The Acts of the Emissaries: Practical Sermons on the Spirit-filled Birth & Explosive Growth of Messianic Judaism. Tree of Life, Inc., 2014.
Lightfoot: John Lightfoot (1602-1675), Hebrew and Talmudical Exercitations upon the Acts, A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica (1859 ed.), Vol. 4. Hendrickson Pub., 1989.
Longenecker: Richard D. Longenecker, The Acts of the Apostles, Vol. 9, Expositor's Bible Commentary, Software version 2.6. Zondervan Corp, 1989-1999.
LSJ: Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott, An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon (1889). rev. by Sir Henry Stuart Jones. Clarendon Press, 1940. Online
Metzger: Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. 2nd ed. United Bible Societies, 1994.
Moseley: Ron Moseley, Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Yeshua and the Original Church. Lederer Books, 1996.
Mounce: William D. Mounce, Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament. 2011. Online.
NIBD: Herbert Lockyer, ed., Nelson's Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1986.
Nicoll: W. Robertson Nicoll (1851–1923), The Expositor's Greek Testament (1897), 5 vols. Online.
OCB: The Oxford Companion to the Bible. ed. Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan. Oxford University Press, 1993.
Polhill: John B. Polhill, Paul and His Letters. B & H Academic, 1999.
Poole: Matthew Poole (1624–1679), A Commentary on the Holy Bible. Hendrickson Publishers, 1985. Online.
Robertson: Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, 6 Vols. Broadman Press, 1933. (Parsons CD-ROM Version 2.0, 1997) Online.
Santala: Risto Santala, Paul: The Man and the Teacher in the Light of Jewish Sources. Trans. Michael G. Cox. Keren Ahvah Meshihit, 1995. Online.
Skarsaune: Oskar Skarsaune, In the Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity. InterVarsity Press, 2002.
Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary. Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.
Thayer: Joseph Henry Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Harper Brothers, 1889.
TWOT: R. Laird Harris, ed., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. 2 vols. Moody Press, 1980.
Vincent: Marvin R. Vincent (1834-1922), The Word Studies in the New Testament. 4 vols. Hendrickson Pub., 1886. Online.
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