Acts 15

I’m preaching on Acts 15 this week, which is the big discussion the early church had about wether Gentile christians were required too follow the law of Moses in order to be saved.

The tricky part of the passage is that although the apostles and elders say no, the gentiles don’t have to follow the law of Moses, they do ask the gentiles to do four things – don’t eat meat offered to idols, don’t eat strangled meat, don’t eat blood, and don’t engage in sexual immorality.

The big question is, why are these four commands given? I had always thought that this was a matter of not offending the Jewish Christians, and that’s why we no longer have to keep these commands today – most Christians just aren’t in contact with any Jews. The problem with this reading is sexual immorality. It isn’t just a ceremonial concession to maintain fellowship with Jewish brothers and sisters, it is wrong under any circumstances.

Fortunately, Kutz our student did assignment on this recently. His suggestion (which follows Ben Witherington), is that the four issues addressed are a kind of shorthand for worship at idol temples, and what the apostles are saying is “you don’t have to follow the law of Moses, but don’t go back to living the life of an idol worshipper.

I think I’m convinced – so Kutz has more than earned his pay this week (not that you have to do much to earn a student minister pay!!).

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6 Responses to Acts 15

  1. Dave says:

    Aha! I was wondering the same thing this morning – idol worship and sexual immorality seemed straightforward enough, but I couldn't see how blood and strangled meat fit into it.The shorthand idea makes a lot of sense.

  2. It might be worth adding that Brian Rosner has a well-developed theory that the two big ethical black holes of paganism were sexual immorality and idolatry (AKA greed). It has some legs, I think. The big vice lists in the NT both revolve around them (Gal 5:19-21, 1 Co 6:9-10, Eph 5:3-5, Col 3:5-9). From memory, the first three of these are the only 'this lot won't inherit the Kingdom of God' lists in the NT. He's got a commentary on 1 Cor coming out soon which develops a coherent structure for the whole book based on this idea – very worth picking up when it arrives. So here, that might be better than a 'just don't visit idolatrous temples' link, because, well, that would be reasonably obvious to them, you'd hope. But 'avoid things that might suck you back into paganism' I can believe. But YMMV!

  3. Thanks Anthony, very helpful to have a different interpretation to throw into the mix. And I think I'm convinced. I'm not sure it would have been superflous to tell the new Christians to stay away from temples – Paul still has to tell the Corinthians that in 1 Cor 10, even if it isn't the only issue he deals with. However this proposal does deal with another possible criticism I've heard of the temple link – that there wasn't any temple prostitution in the 1st century. Anyway, need to make a decision now because I have to write my talk!

  4. Quote: “of not offending the Jewish Christians, and that's why we no longer have to keep these commands today “(le-havdil), A logical analysis (found here: http://www.netzarim.co.il (that is the only legitimate Netzarim)) of all extant source documents and archeology proves that the historical Ribi Yehosuha ha-Mashiakh (the Messiah) from Nazareth and his talmidim (apprentice-students), called the Netzarim, taught and lived Torah all of their lives; and that Netzarim and Christianity were always antithetical.Judaism and Christianity have always been two antithetical religions, and thus the term “Jewish Christians” is an oxymoron.

  5. And so now it's confirmed. I am an oxymoron: born to a mother who is ethnically Jewish, born again a Christian. I'm glad I can retreat to being just a regular Australian Christian if I need to…

  6. Kutz says:

    Hey Anders,Any particular reason you don't take Luke-Acts as historical then? Pretty much the whole point of Luke-Acts is that those who were following Yahweh and the Torah rightly were the ones who followed Jesus.So that's at least one Christian who thought he was faithful to his Jewish roots in every sense.

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