For what it's worth… My Protestant analysis of Acts 15


#1

Paul, Barnabas, and the Gentile churches were going along just fine. Elsewhere, some men from Judea thought Christians should be circumcised.

It is now important to note that it could have gone on like this indefinitely. Those men in Judea could have gone on thinking Christians should be circumcised and it wouldn’t have bothered Paul and Barnabas any. However, those men from Judea were not content to just think to themselves that Christians should be circumcised. They decided to come down from Judea and make a nuisance of themselves by telling everyone they need to be circumcised.

There was a conflict that needed to be worked out. The Gentile churches appointed Paul, Barnabas, and some other believers to “go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.”

When they arrived, “The apostles and elders met to consider the question.” What happened at this meeting? Peter and James made theological arguments against the necessity of circumcision. James also quoted the prophets. Paul and Barnabas witnessed to “miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles”. (You will know them by their fruit.)
After all the arguments were heard, a decision was made. By Peter alone? Nay. “Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided…” to send a letter to the Gentile believers that said “…So we all decided…”

“We all decided”. Peter, James, Paul, Barnabas, the elders, with the whole church. The meeting was to seek the truth and they found it together.

Peter was a spiritual leader, no question. He led by persuasion and theological argument. He strove for consensus among his fellow believers. He did not plant a flag in the ground and declare “my word is law”.
Paul, Barnabas, and the Gentile churches were going along just fine. Elsewhere, some men from Judea thought Christians should be circumcised.

It is now important to note that it could have gone on like this indefinitely. Those men in Judea could have gone on thinking Christians should be circumcised and it wouldn’t have bothered Paul and Barnabas any. However, those men from Judea were not content to just think to themselves that Christians should be circumcised. They decided to come down from Judea and make a nuisance of themselves by telling everyone they need to be circumcised.

There was a conflict that needed to be worked out. The Gentile churches appointed Paul, Barnabas, and some other believers to “go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.”

When they arrived, “The apostles and elders met to consider the question.” What happened at this meeting? Peter and James made theological arguments against the necessity of circumcision. James also quoted the prophets. Paul and Barnabas witnessed to “miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles”. (You will know them by their fruit.)
After all the arguments were heard, a decision was made. By Peter alone? Nay. “Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided…” to send a letter to the Gentile believers that said “…So we all decided…”

“We all decided”.

Peter was not the final authority. The final authority rested with the independent truth of the gospel. Peter, James, Paul, Barnabas, the elders, with the whole church searched for and found the truth together.

Peter was a spiritual leader, no question. He led by persuasion and theological argument. He strove for consensus among his fellow believers. He did not plant a flag in the ground and declare “my word is law”.


#2

Hi Angainor,

Thanks for your analysis of this passage. On the whole, I think it is correct. We would just dispute your theological conclusions.

You will agree that the whole Bible is the word of God. In a way, we cannot truly understand one passage without having read the whole Bible.

To get the full picture about Peter, we have to consider other passages as well, notably Matthew 16, 13-20, which you can collate with Isaiah 22, 22 and Revelation 3,7.

You will find a thorough discussion on this matter in this forum’s library at
catholic.com/library/church_papacy.asp

Your questions are always welcome.

Verbum


#3

Againor,

Interesting. I have a few questions that would help me out a ton in figuring out how this works…

  1. What does the word “therefore” mean?

  2. What’s the difference between a pastoral pronouncement and a dogmatic decree?

  3. What does Matthew 18 say to do if there’s a dispute?

  4. Would Paul and Barnabus count as “two or three”?

  5. Where is the “church” that Paul and Barnabus go to?

  6. Does anyone ever reverse what Peter says in Acts 15?

  7. Does anyone ever reverse what James says in Acts 15?

Finally, I appreciate the civil and respectful manner in which you posted. Please read my response in the same way.

May God bless you and keep you, and make His face to smile upon you,

RyanL


#4

[quote=RyanL]Againor,

Interesting. I have a few questions that would help me out a ton in figuring out how this works…

  1. What does the word “therefore” mean?

  2. What’s the difference between a pastoral pronouncement and a dogmatic decree?

  3. What does Matthew 18 say to do if there’s a dispute?

  4. Would Paul and Barnabus count as “two or three”?

  5. Where is the “church” that Paul and Barnabus go to?

  6. Does anyone ever reverse what Peter says in Acts 15?

  7. Does anyone ever reverse what James says in Acts 15?

Finally, I appreciate the civil and respectful manner in which you posted. Please read my response in the same way.

May God bless you and keep you, and make His face to smile upon you,

RyanL
[/quote]

  1. Why do you ask?

  2. Arrogance? I’m not exactly sure what you mean by “pastoral pronouncement”. Do you mean something like the letter sent out after the meeting in Acts 15?

  3. Tell it to the church.

  4. Certainly

  5. Actually, Paul and Barnabas were sent by the church (verse 3) to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this matter. It would seem some of the members already brought their concerns about being told they must be circumcised to the church. The church’s response was to send Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem.

6 & 7. Reverse? I don’t quite follow. Nobody disagreed with them, if that’s what you mean.


#5

I, too, appreciate your analysis. Here are my comments:

First, I don’t think such a fundamental difference between what was going on in Judea and what Paul and Barnabas were doing in Antioch could have gone on indefinitely. It would have been an affront to Jesus’ desire that his disciple be one (Jn 17:23).

Next, notice how the dispute was not settled: no one, neither James nor Peter simply said, “let us consult the Scriptures alone.” In fact if they had, since the only scriptures there were were presumably the OT, they would have presumably arrived at the opposite conclusion. Instead, they had been entrusted with Jesus’ full revelation of the Gospel (Sacred Tradition), and this gave the Church leaders (Apostles and the bishops they had appointed) authority to discern what was truly God’s will, and what practice would be consistent with that Gospel. They also included others in their pastoral office, and handed this tradition to them as well, so that elders and presbyters were a part of the Council as well as the Apostles. So matters of faith were decided by “the Church,” but not by each individual member discerning what the will of the Spirit was, but only by the Apostles and their successors.

Notice that when the decision is made, Peter speaks in the name of the Church: "we believe that we are saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus (v. 11). Notice, too, that when the Council Fathers communicate what the Church believes, they speak in the name of God: “'It is the decision of the holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities . . .” (v. 28).

When the teaching authority of the Church (Magisterium) makes a decision, the bishops in union with Peter’s successor are not just making stuff up, or asserting their own preference. The Magisterium has always understood itself to have been entrusted with the Gospel of Christ and to have the duty to safeguard it and proclaim it in its fullness. Their decisions are made with real authority entrusted to them, but Jesus guarantees that these decisions will always be in conformity with His will.

The Magisterium depends on the Successor of Peter (the pope) for its unity, and as court of last appeal, but it normally exercised by the whole College of Bishops as successors of all the Apostles. Church authority, even papal authority, is not autocratic, but it is definitely hierarchical.


#6

My Catholic analysis of Acts 15…

The apostles and elders of Jerusalem met in council to consider the question of whether Gentile converts must be circumcised. After much debate, Peter rose and addressed the assembly and delivered his decision against circumcision and ended all debate on the matter of circumcision. Later, James raised additional issues and the council decided with James to advise the Gentile converts for the time being at least to “abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled [lest they scandalize those weak in faith even though Jesus had declared all foods clean] and from unchastity.”


#7

[quote=aridite]First, I don’t think such a fundamental difference between what was going on in Judea and what Paul and Barnabas were doing in Antioch could have gone on indefinitely. It would have been an affront to Jesus’ desire that his disciple be one (Jn 17:23).
[/quote]

I don’t think it would have gone on forever either. Sooner or later it would have caused conflict, and the issue would have been reconciled. My point was that up until that point, the gentile churches did not require circumcision. Left to themselves, they would have went on that way indefinitely, with no OK from Peter.

[quote=aridite]Next, notice how the dispute was not settled: no one, neither James nor Peter simply said, “let us consult the Scriptures alone.”
[/quote]

That’s OK, I’m not a sola scriptura kind of guy.

[quote=aridite]Notice that when the decision is made, Peter speaks in the name of the Church: "we believe that we are saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus (v. 11)
[/quote]

  1. That statement was made before the decision was made, during the discussion period.

  2. Verse 11 is uncontroversial. Peter was just stating a fact. The church already agreed to that. He is no more asserting authority than I would be if I said “Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead”.

After the decision was made you do not see Peter speaking in the name of the Church. Verse 22: Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided… Verse 25: So we all agreed…

[quote=aridite]Notice, too, that when the Council Fathers communicate what the Church believes, they speak in the name of God: “'It is the decision of the holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities . . .” (v. 28).
[/quote]

Yes indeed! They are appealing to an authority outside themselves.


#8

I would think a clear look at Acts 15. Would say that when a disagreement occurred in the Church. Instead of allowing each group to form their own seperate Churchs. Church leaders from from all over would be meet, and they wuold discuss the issues at hand. Then, after much discussion the Church would call on the Holy Spirit and the decision would be binding. The Biblical response is not “each man do as he thinks is fit.”


#9

[quote=Todd Easton]The apostles and elders of Jerusalem met in council…
[/quote]

I have a question about this. People keep calling this meeting a “council”. To me that implies standing council members. Is that part of Tradition? I get the impression it was more of an improptu “meeting”. Verse 6: “The apostles and elders met to consider this question.”

[quote=Todd Easton]The apostles and elders of Jerusalem met in council to consider the question of whether Gentile converts must be circumcised. After much debate, Peter rose and addressed the assembly and delivered his decision against circumcision and ended all debate on the matter of circumcision.
[/quote]

Peter did indeed rise and address the assembly, but I don’t think the debate ended there. After Peter spoke, Barnabas and Paul witnessed about miraculous signs and wonders among the Gentiles. It seems clear that this information was also part of the decision making process.

If Peter did indeed rise and deliver his decision, I can’t imagine why were are told in verse 22 that the decision was made by “The apostles and elders, with the whole church”.


#10

[quote=bekalc]I would think a clear look at Acts 15. Would say that when a disagreement occurred in the Church. Instead of allowing each group to form their own seperate Churchs. Church leaders from from all over would be meet, and they wuold discuss the issues at hand. Then, after much discussion the Church would call on the Holy Spirit and the decision would be binding. The Biblical response is not “each man do as he thinks is fit.”
[/quote]

Yes and in Acts 15, all the church leaders end the discussion in agreement, so in some ways Acts 15 isn’t really a good model for resolving real disagreements.

What happens if, after discussion is done, some Church leaders decide one thing and some decide another? Which decision is binding? If you say “the side the Pope is on”, then we have an interesting situation. In that case, all the discussion among the church leaders was for nothing. They can discuss all they want. In the end it will always be “the side the Pope is on” that is deemed binding.


#11

[quote=Angainor]Paul, Barnabas, and the Gentile churches were going along just fine. Elsewhere, some men from Judea thought Christians should be circumcised.

It is now important to note that it could have gone on like this indefinitely. Those men in Judea could have gone on thinking Christians should be circumcised and it wouldn’t have bothered Paul and Barnabas any. However, those men from Judea were not content to just think to themselves that Christians should be circumcised. They decided to come down from Judea and make a nuisance of themselves by telling everyone they need to be circumcised.

There was a conflict that needed to be worked out. The Gentile churches appointed Paul, Barnabas, and some other believers to “go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.”

When they arrived, “The apostles and elders met to consider the question.” What happened at this meeting? Peter and James made theological arguments against the necessity of circumcision. James also quoted the prophets. Paul and Barnabas witnessed to “miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles”. (You will know them by their fruit.)
After all the arguments were heard, a decision was made. By Peter alone? Nay. “Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided…” to send a letter to the Gentile believers that said “…So we all decided…”

“We all decided”. Peter, James, Paul, Barnabas, the elders, with the whole church. The meeting was to seek the truth and they found it together.

Peter was a spiritual leader, no question. He led by persuasion and theological argument. He strove for consensus among his fellow believers. He did not plant a flag in the ground and declare “my word is law”.
Paul, Barnabas, and the Gentile churches were going along just fine. Elsewhere, some men from Judea thought Christians should be circumcised.

It is now important to note that it could have gone on like this indefinitely. Those men in Judea could have gone on thinking Christians should be circumcised and it wouldn’t have bothered Paul and Barnabas any. However, those men from Judea were not content to just think to themselves that Christians should be circumcised. They decided to come down from Judea and make a nuisance of themselves by telling everyone they need to be circumcised.

There was a conflict that needed to be worked out. The Gentile churches appointed Paul, Barnabas, and some other believers to “go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.”

When they arrived, “The apostles and elders met to consider the question.” What happened at this meeting? Peter and James made theological arguments against the necessity of circumcision. James also quoted the prophets. Paul and Barnabas witnessed to “miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles”. (You will know them by their fruit.)
After all the arguments were heard, a decision was made. By Peter alone? Nay. “Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided…” to send a letter to the Gentile believers that said “…So we all decided…”

“We all decided”.

Peter was not the final authority. The final authority rested with the independent truth of the gospel. Peter, James, Paul, Barnabas, the elders, with the whole church searched for and found the truth together.

Peter was a spiritual leader, no question. He led by persuasion and theological argument. He strove for consensus among his fellow believers. He did not plant a flag in the ground and declare “my word is law”.
[/quote]

Okay lets take a look at the situation, James is the “Pastor” (or in Catholic terms Bishop) of his own “Congregation” (Diocese) yet he follows exactly what Peter says…Hmmmmmm :eek: A Pastor submitting to someone else while in his very own diocese :eek: Perish the thought! I guess those Papists were right…


#12

"Cyprian to Antonian, his brother. Greeting … You wrote … that I should forward a copy of the same letter to our colleague [Pope] Cornelius, so that, laying aside all anxiety, he might at once know that you held communion with him, that is, with the Catholic Church" " (ibid., 55[52]:1). Cyprian of Carthage

“[T]he Lord said to Peter, ‘On this rock I will build my Church, I have given you the keys of the kingdom of heaven [and] whatever you shall have bound or loosed on earth will be bound or loosed in heaven’ [Matt. 16:18–19]. . . . Upon you, he says, I will build my Church; and I will give to you the keys, not to the Church” (Modesty 21:9–10 [A.D. 220]) Tertullian

“There is one God and one Christ, and one Church, and one chair founded on Peter by the word of the Lord.” (Letters 43[40]:5 [A.D. 253]). Cyprian of Carrthage

clearly the early church recongnized the power of the position of the pope and peter. even the passage in acts takes special note of the speech PETER proclaimed, and this settles the matter. they then ‘fall silent’ listening to descriptions of the experiences amoung the gentiles from paul and barnabas, and no more thought is given to the issue.

you argue that this is simply a group of clergy reaching a decision. but peter makes the final pronouncement. the bit about the miraculous work does not fit into the discussion. it is a detail. note that afterwords they do not comment on the issue of circumcision. don’t you think they would let us know what the final pronouncement is if this was not the conclusion of the discussion?

22 says
then the apostles and presbyters, in aggreement with the whold church, decided to choose representatives and to send them to Antioch . . . this does not have anything to do with the descussion of before.

if you mean to say they made this decision collectively, then yes they did. it was not an issue of faith, and article of what must be followed as a christian. the pope is not a king, he is a father. therefore, he decides what is best for the church, his pronouncement over the issue of circumcision, but he has ADVISORS to help him, hence the meeting and preceeding debate. where to send representatives is an issue of how to best spread the word, therefore has nothing to do with doctrine, and yes is decided as a group decision.

peace!


#13

[quote=Angainor]I have a question about this. People keep calling this meeting a “council”. To me that implies standing council members. Is that part of Tradition?

[/quote]

In this case, council simply means: “an assembly of church officials to discuss points of doctrine, etc.” (Webster’s Dictionary) The term *council *is used in 1 Timothy 4:14:

14Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophetic utterance when the council of elders laid their hands upon you.

Peter did indeed rise and address the assembly, but I don’t think the debate ended there.

It says after Peter spoke “all the assemby was silent.” End of debate.

After Peter spoke, Barnabas and Paul witnessed about miraculous signs and wonders among the Gentiles. It seems clear that this information was also part of the decision making process.

After Peter spoke, Barnabas and Paul witnessed about the signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. Do the signs and wonders worked through Barnabas and Paul among the Gentiles have anything to do with the circumcision of the Gentile converts? No. Signs and wonders were done through God’s servants among the Gentiles throughout history. It might have been different if it had said that Barnabas and Paul witnessed about the signs and wonders God had done through the Gentile converts but it doesn’t say that. It seems pretty clear, judging by what Scripture says, that after Peter spoke against it the issue of requiring the circumcision of Gentile converts was not raised again in the Church.

In his statement, James, the leader of the circumcision party (see Galatians 2:12), does not mention circumcision at all after Peter spoke. I find that most revealing. If the debate over circumcision was still ongoing, James certainly would have mentioned circumcision. Instead, James only brings up those other concerns.

If Peter did indeed rise and deliver his decision, I can’t imagine why were are told in verse 22 that the decision was made by “The apostles and elders, with the whole church”.

It seems that the apostles and elders could not agree on circumcision so Peter made his authoritative judgment. With respect to the things that they wrote to the Gentile converts about (abstaining from eating what was sacrificed to idols, from eating blood, from eating what was strangled, and from unchastity), the apostles and elders were all in agreement so it could truly be called their collective decision.


#14

After all the arguments were heard, a decision was made. By Peter alone? Nay. “Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided…” to send a letter to the Gentile believers that said “…So we all decided…”

“We all decided”. Peter, James, Paul, Barnabas, the elders, with the whole church. The meeting was to seek the truth and they found it together.

We-e-e-e-e-e-e-l-l-l-l-l, read the verses which you are relying upon a little bit carefully…

**22 **Then the apostles and presbyters, in agreement with the whole church, decided to choose representatives and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. The ones chosen were Judas, who was called Barsabbas, and Silas, leaders among the brothers. Acts 15:22.

So, the decision the text says that the desion made “in agreement with the whole Church” was “to choose representatives and to send them…”

But now read the actual TEXT of the message they carried…

**23 ****This is the letter delivered by them: "The apostles and the presbyters, your brothers, to the brothers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia of Gentile origin: greetings. ****24 ****Since we have heard that some of our number (who went out) without any mandate from us have upset you with their teachings and disturbed your peace of mind, ****25 ****we have with one accord decided to choose representatives and to send them to you along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, ****26 ****who have dedicated their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. ****27 ****So we are sending Judas and Silas who will also convey this same message by word of mouth: ****28 ****'It is the decision of the holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, ****29 **namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage. If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right. Farewell.’" Acts 15:22-29.

Who is “us” in Verse 28? Well, read Verse 23: “The apostles and the presbyters, your brothers, to the brothers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia of Gentile origin: greetings.

Notice carefully that “in agreement with the whole Church” in Verse 22 was carefully omitted by Luke in Verse 23.

So, technically, the only thing the text literally says “the whole Church” agreed to was deciding “to choose representatives and to send them.”

You really are going beyond the plaintext meaning when you infer what you do.

At first I was excited by your opening post. I thought, “Oh, cool! Biblical witness to a co-exercise of infallibility by the Church Universal!,” a concept actually taught by Catholic theology, when the exercise is in union with the pope and all of the bishops.

But, carefully read, it appears that the verses do not do what you infer.


#15

Againor,
I will answer my questions in bold, and maybe you can see what Catholics see…

  1. What does the word “therefore” mean?
    Therefore means “because of what was just said”. When you see a therefore in Scripture, you have to ask what it’s there for. In this case, James says (v14) “Simon has declared…” and then (v19) “Therefore, I judge…”. BECAUSE of what Simon has DECLARED, James makes a pastoral pronouncement. More on that next…

  2. What’s the difference between a pastoral pronouncement and a dogmatic decree?
    A pastoral pronouncement is something that a particular pastor requires of his faithful. An example might be abstaining from meat on Fridays, which could be changed should the judgment of the pastor deem it necessary. A dogmatic decree is something required to be believed for all times by all faithful. An example would be that God is Triune. This can never be changed.

  3. What does Matthew 18 say to do if there’s a dispute?
    Right. Go to the Church.

  4. Would Paul and Barnabus count as “two or three”?
    **And a pretty good two or three, at that!

** 5. Where is the “church” that Paul and Barnabus go to?
**They go to meet the Church as a whole (as directed by Matt 18), which is to say the heads of the respective dioceses. This “meeting” is, in fact, a council. You’re right in saying that their local community parish sent them, but wrong in denying that they were sent to The Church.

** 6. Does anyone ever reverse what Peter says in Acts 15?
**No. It is still believed by all Christians.

** 7. Does anyone ever reverse what James says in Acts 15?
**Yes! St. Paul reverses this in 1 Cor 10 (and elsewhere):
**

27 If any of those who do not believe invites you to dinner, and you desire to go, eat whatever is set before you, asking no question for conscience’ sake. 28 But if anyone says to you, “This was offered to idols,” do not eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for conscience’ sake;for * “the earth* is * the LORD’s, and all its fullness.”* 29 “Conscience,” I say, not your own, but that of the other. For why is my liberty judged by another man’s conscience? 30 But if I partake with thanks, why am I evil spoken of for the food over which I give thanks?

**Pretty clear that it doesn’t *really *matter; what matters is scandalizing your neighbor. If you actually eat, it’s no big whoop. That is most certainly not what James said. St. James said that you are to abstain, period. No exceptions. St. Paul clearly makes exceptions, and does so with a pastoral pronouncement.

**Does this coincide with the Scriptures as you read them? Why not?

God Bless,
RyanL


#16

Jesus gave the keys of Heaven to Peter, not all the apostles. The decision was agreed by all.

[quote=Angainor]Paul, Barnabas, and the Gentile churches were going along just fine. Elsewhere, some men from Judea thought Christians should be circumcised.

It is now important to note that it could have gone on like this indefinitely. Those men in Judea could have gone on thinking Christians should be circumcised and it wouldn’t have bothered Paul and Barnabas any. However, those men from Judea were not content to just think to themselves that Christians should be circumcised. They decided to come down from Judea and make a nuisance of themselves by telling everyone they need to be circumcised.

There was a conflict that needed to be worked out. The Gentile churches appointed Paul, Barnabas, and some other believers to “go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.”

When they arrived, “The apostles and elders met to consider the question.” What happened at this meeting? Peter and James made theological arguments against the necessity of circumcision. James also quoted the prophets. Paul and Barnabas witnessed to “miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles”. (You will know them by their fruit.)
After all the arguments were heard, a decision was made. By Peter alone? Nay. “Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided…” to send a letter to the Gentile believers that said “…So we all decided…”

“We all decided”. Peter, James, Paul, Barnabas, the elders, with the whole church. The meeting was to seek the truth and they found it together.

Peter was a spiritual leader, no question. He led by persuasion and theological argument. He strove for consensus among his fellow believers. He did not plant a flag in the ground and declare “my word is law”.
Paul, Barnabas, and the Gentile churches were going along just fine. Elsewhere, some men from Judea thought Christians should be circumcised.

It is now important to note that it could have gone on like this indefinitely. Those men in Judea could have gone on thinking Christians should be circumcised and it wouldn’t have bothered Paul and Barnabas any. However, those men from Judea were not content to just think to themselves that Christians should be circumcised. They decided to come down from Judea and make a nuisance of themselves by telling everyone they need to be circumcised.

There was a conflict that needed to be worked out. The Gentile churches appointed Paul, Barnabas, and some other believers to “go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.”

When they arrived, “The apostles and elders met to consider the question.” What happened at this meeting? Peter and James made theological arguments against the necessity of circumcision. James also quoted the prophets. Paul and Barnabas witnessed to “miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles”. (You will know them by their fruit.)
After all the arguments were heard, a decision was made. By Peter alone? Nay. “Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided…” to send a letter to the Gentile believers that said “…So we all decided…”

“We all decided”.

Peter was not the final authority. The final authority rested with the independent truth of the gospel. Peter, James, Paul, Barnabas, the elders, with the whole church searched for and found the truth together.

Peter was a spiritual leader, no question. He led by persuasion and theological argument. He strove for consensus among his fellow believers. He did not plant a flag in the ground and declare “my word is law”.
[/quote]


#17

Jesus gave the keys of Heaven to Peter, not all the apostles. What higher authority does one need?


#18

[quote=Todd Easton]It says after Peter spoke “all the assemby was silent.” End of debate.
[/quote]

Verse12: “The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul.”

[quote=Todd Easton]After Peter spoke, Barnabas and Paul witnessed about the signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. Do the signs and wonders worked through Barnabas and Paul among the Gentiles have anything to do with the circumcision of the Gentile converts? No.
[/quote]

I would not be so quick to say that. This is not simply an intermission between Peter’s and James’ addresses. Jesus said in Matthew 7:15-16:
"’ Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.’"
Barnabas and Paul could be considered outsiders yet by some members of the assembly. It is Barnabas and Paul who brought up this question of the circumcision requirement. Lest anyone suspect they might be false prophets by bringing this issue forward, Barnabas and Paul gave witness to the good fruits of their work.

[quote=Todd Easton]In his statement, James, the leader of the circumcision party (see Galatians 2:12), does not mention circumcision at all after Peter spoke. I find that most revealing. If the debate over circumcision was still ongoing, James certainly would have mentioned circumcision. Instead, James only brings up those other concerns.
[/quote]

From Galatians 2, it seems clear that if Peter wasn’t counted among those of the circumcision party, he was at least sympathetic to them. If Peter can change his mind, I think James could also, perhaps especially after hearing about the signs and wonders. He did say in verse 19 “It is my judgement, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.”

[quote=Todd Easton]It seems that the apostles and elders could not agree on circumcision so Peter made his authoritative judgment.
[/quote]

Perhaps before the discussion they did not agree, but I do not see how you can say they could not agree after the discussion so that Peter was forced to make and authoritative judgement.

If anyone still disagreed, I do not see why they would send out the letter they did. The letter makes no mention of an authoritative judgement by anyone. Instead it said, So we all agreed to choose…

Would they send this letter out if, say, James still disagreed?


#19

You make some very good points.

[quote=RyanL]1. What does the word “therefore” mean?
Therefore means “because of what was just said”. When you see a therefore in Scripture, you have to ask what it’s there for. In this case, James says (v14) “Simon has declared…” and then (v19) “Therefore, I judge…”. BECAUSE of what Simon has DECLARED, James makes a pastoral pronouncement. More on that next…
[/quote]

My translation (NIV) is a little different, so I did not immediately make that connection. I should think about getting a more literal translation. NIV verse 13 says “Simon has described…” and verse 19 “It is my judgement, therefore,…”

In any case, what we see here is that James does not simply take Peter’s word for it. James is judging Peter’s words against the Prophets. Verse 15, “The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:”

So the THEREFORE could be seen as: Because of what Simon has Declared and Because Simon’s Declaration is in agreement with the prophets, THEREFORE, it is my judgement

[quote=Todd Easton]2. What’s the difference between a pastoral pronouncement and a dogmatic decree?
A pastoral pronouncement is something that a particular pastor requires of his faithful. An example might be abstaining from meat on Fridays, which could be changed should the judgment of the pastor deem it necessary. A dogmatic decree is something required to be believed for all times by all faithful. An example would be that God is Triune. This can never be changed.
[/quote]

Thanks for making that distinction. I never knew the difference.

[quote=Todd Easton]5. Where is the “church” that Paul and Barnabus go to?
They go to meet the Church as a whole (as directed by Matt 18), which is to say the heads of the respective dioceses. This “meeting” is, in fact, a council. You’re right in saying that their local community parish sent them, but wrong in denying that they were sent to The Church.
[/quote]

I didn’t really deny they were sent to The Church. Barnabas and Paul were sent by The Church (verse 3) to go to The Church. The Church exists in Antioch as well as Jerusalem.

[quote=Todd Easton]6. Does anyone ever reverse what Peter says in Acts 15?
No. It is still believed by all Christians.

  1. Does anyone ever reverse what James says in Acts 15?
    Yes! St. Paul reverses this in 1 Cor 10 (and elsewhere):
    Pretty clear that it doesn’t *really *matter; what matters is scandalizing your neighbor. If you actually eat, it’s no big whoop. That is most certainly not what James said. St. James said that you are to abstain, period. No exceptions. St. Paul clearly makes exceptions, and does so with a pastoral pronouncement.
    [/quote]

I see what you are saying. James’ statements are not taken as binding. I don’t think it necessarily follows that that means Peter’s statements are binding, just because Peter said it and not James, but I see what you are saying.

James views did make it into the letter written to the Gentiles and agreed to by all at the assembly. What authority did Paul have to declare what he did in 1 Cor 8 & 10? How could he say that those lines in the letter did not really matter?


#20

[quote=Angainor]He did not plant a flag in the ground and declare “my word is law”.
[/quote]

Hello,

Is this a normal fashion for things to be done? Is it human nature to accept something shoved down your throat?

I find nothing disagreeable with your analysis of the Biblical text. A true leader leads a people by keeping them together. Especially when they disagree.


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