Who presided the council of Jerusalem?

My protestant friend said that the first council of jerusalem was presided by James and not Peter. Is this an argument against Peter’s primacy? What is the position of the CC here? How do you argue with this?

Even reading the Wikipedia says James was the presider.

I thank you for all your response in advance!


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James presided, as the “See of Jerusalem” was first occupied by James.

If this is the official position of the church on this, how then can i argue Peter’s primacy from this verse? Does this reduce the argument of Peter’s primacy?

Easy: James remained in, and was martyred in Jerusalem. Peter traveled so that the Gentiles might hear the Gospel from him:

Acts 15:6-7
The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. And
after there had been much debate, Peter rose and said to them,
“Brethren, you know that in the early days God made choice among you,
that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and

Peter rose, spoke and silenced the assembly. James made the proclamation. Also, we do not argue Peter’s primacy from any single verse. Rather…

The argument in the quote is a red herring. Jesus
was not speaking Greek. They incessantly argue small rock or pebble and
completely overlook the elephant: Jesus changed Simon bar-Jonah’s name.
He does that for a reason.
Peter is named 195 times in the NT. The closest is John “whom Jesus
loved” at just 29 times. All of the rest even less. Peter is always
named first, Judas last. Here is a partial list of unique aspects of Peter:
Jesus gave Peter the keys to the gates of Heaven.
Jesus declared Peter to the the rock.
Jesus made Peter shepherd (Feed my sheep).
Jesus told Peter only to strengthen his brothers
Jesus paid the Temple tax only for Himself and Peter.
Jesus preached from Peter’s boat.
Jesus told Peter to “Follow me” at the sea of Tiberias.
Jesus called only Peter to Him across the water.
Jesus predicted Peter’s three-fold denial.
Jesus predicted Peter’s repentance and three-fold affirmation.
Jesus prophesied only Peter’s death.
Jesus taught Peter forgiveness 70 times 7 times.
Jesus spoke only to Peter at Gethsemane.
Peter is always listed first.
Peter alone received the revelation of Jesus as Messiah.
Peter alone spoke at the Transfiguration.
Peter pointed out the withered fig tree.
At our Lord’s trial before Pilate, Peter and (John?) were "following Jesus"
Peter entered the empty tomb first - John deferring to him.
Peter decided the manner of replacing Judas.
Peter spoke for the eleven at the Pentecost.
Peter was released from prison by the Angel.
Peter spoke for the eleven before the Council.
Peter held sin bound to Ananias and Saphira.
Peter’s shadow healed.
Peter declared the sin of Simony.
Peter explained the salvation of the Gentiles to the Church at Jerusalem.
The Angel told Cornelius to call for Peter.
The Holy Spirit fell upon the Gentiles as Peter preached to them.
At the empty tomb, the Angel said, "Go tell His disciples, and Peter."
Mary Magdalene ran to tell Peter and the beloved disciple.
The vision of all foods being clean was given only to Peter.
Peter’s words silence the first council in Jerusalem.
Peter alone received the revelation of the end of the world (elements melting).
Peter alone received the revelation of Christ’s descent to hell/sheol.
Paul went to Peter to affirm that his Gospel was not in vain.
And on and on and on.

So, one can deny that Peter was primary, but it takes an amazing
disregard of scripture and history to do so


The apostles and the elders met together to consider this matter. After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “My brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that I should be the one through whom the Gentiles would hear the message of the good news and become believers. And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us. Now therefore why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? On the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

The whole assembly kept silence, and listened to Barnabas and Paul as they told of all the signs and wonders that God had done through them among the Gentiles. After they finished speaking, James replied, “My brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first looked favorably on the Gentiles, to take from among them a people for his name. This agrees with the words of the prophets, as it is written,

‘After this I will return,
and I will rebuild the dwelling of David, which has fallen;
from its ruins I will rebuild it,
and I will set it up,
so that all other peoples may seek the Lord—
even all the Gentiles over whom my name has been called.
Thus says the Lord, who has been making these things known from long ago.’

Therefore I have reached the decision that we should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God, but we should write to them to abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from whatever has been strangled and from blood. (Acts 15)

Several points:

  1. Peter (AKA Simeon) clearly takes the lead in the first paragraph and clearly states what God through the guidance of the Holy Spirit has led, him, Peter to do. The BIG issue.
  2. The key line "that I should be the one through whom the Gentiles would hear the message of the Good News.
  3. James agrees to Peter (Simeon’s) words and direction. He didn’t set the direction, God through Peter did.
  4. It appears that James has ultimate authority ( I have reached the decision ), but that would only be apparent, however, because he is speaking to the Jewish community at Jerusalem. He says “…we should not trouble those Gentiles… we should write to them…” Since James is the leader of the Jewish Christians, while Peter has been directed to go to the Gentiles, eventually in Rome: “that I should be the one through whom the Gentiles would hear the message
  5. James’ decision is on behalf of the Jewish Christians in response to the larger decision made by Peter. He has decided as their leader ( I have reached the decision) about what they, the Jewish-Christian community in Jerusalem should do in response to Peter’s bigger decision regarding the Gentiles. This is more about proper sphere or delegation of authority than it is about primacy.
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I think I know where your friend is going with this, But it won’t work.

When the Pope comes to a Bishops diocese for meetings, etc. Even to this day the local ordinary presides.

The run the meetings, etc.

But THAT does not take away from Papal prerogatives.

Papal prerogatives that were for example ran by James at the Council of Jerusalem.

Hope this helps.

God bless.



Other translations says “it is my judgement” or in kjv “Wherefore my sentence is” that’s why it gives more weight. how should i go over this?

Thank you for your response!

Read the early Church fathers. Peter’s primacy was established by Christ long before the New Testament was written. The seat of Peter was and is the central point of the earthly, hierarchical Church. That seat was not established immediately, as the Church was persecuted, nascent, a moving target. Challenging that primacy is an invention of 16th century European men. And, if you do some convincing, they will then default to Paul.

But, as Fr. Mitch Pacwa states, Peter was in management while Paul was in sales.

Ask whomever you are debating with to look before the “reformation.” Many believe that Church history leaps directly from the ascension to the reformation. Not.

But first and foremost, you will accomplish nothing without prayer for them first. It is the Holy Spirit Who converts, not us. He uses us, but we are only tools.

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How can you support this? Do the church have regulations on this? It will be helpful if you can give me some reference.

Thank you!

Some very good irrefutable information here:

Former Lutheran scholar Dr. William Marshner explores the sources of
information about the early church and used by early Christian
historians. How did early Christians learn and pass on the faith?

(This talk was originally given in 2004 at the CHNetwork’s “Deep in
History” conference)

About the Deep in History Talks from the CHNetwork:

The early period of the growth of Christianity (ca. A.D. 50-700) is a
rich source for learning how the earliest disciples and apostles of
Jesus Christ passed on the “faith delivered once and for all to God’s
holy ones” (Jud 3). From Ignatius of Antioch in the early second century
to Gregory the Great in the early seventh, the story of the Church’s
proclamation in winning over pagan culture to Christ is widely diverse
in practice and wonderfully unified in doctrine. The faith of these
early Saints inspires and challenges us to live more deeply in love with
Christ and in continuity with our forbearers in Christ.

We hope these resources take you deep into the history of Christ’s
Church and thereby deeper into Christ. Please visit:

James is representing the Jerusalem Church and Jewish Christians in general. Peter has been called to minister to the Gentiles. As the voice of Jewish Christians, James is making the decision or judgement with regard to how Jewish Christians will respond to Peter’s larger decision regarding inclusion of Gentiles. That larger decision is what leads James to make his decision. Ergo, Peter’s priority is established and James is following Peter’s lead. The local Bishop has priority in his diocese, so James is exerting that authority, but in alignment with Peter’s more encompassing decision. James" judgment, in a real sense, was a local one not a universal one, because Peter had already stated where the universal Church stood.

James’ judgement was basically that he and the Jewish-Christians based in Jerusalem would abide by Peter’s decision by carrying it out in the way he detailed.

Tim Staples handles this argument really well here.


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The question is why was James the head of the Jerusalem Church? The reason as I understood it is that Peter had left Jerusalem so who would take care of the Church there? that someone was James while Peter was in either Antioch or Rome. James position as preside in the Jerusalem does not take away from Peter’s primacy. james was not the first “See of Jerusalem” since at the start it was Peter along with the other Apostles with Peter being their leader.

Paul being confronted by converted Pharisees who were teaching that in order to be saved had to be circumcised and follow the laws of Moses and the Jewish rituals. Paul decided he needed to go to Jerusalem and speak to the Apostles and elders. Paul obviously spoke to Peter, since Paul told them all that God had helped them to accomplish among the Gentiles. Acts 15:5 says," Some of the converted Pharisees then got up up and demanded that such Gentiles be circumcised and to keep the Mosaic law." Acts 15: 6 says," The Apostles and presbyters accordingly convened to look into the matter… 7, After much discussion Peter took the floor…"

If James was the real leader then not just presider he would have stood first and spoke but instead it was Peter who spoke first and from Peter’s speech all became silent. It seesmt ome what James did was to add to what Peter said maybe in order to pacify converted Pharisees in Jerusalem. There is really nothing in Acts 15 where it says that James was the leader of the Apostles only that he was the leader of the Jerusalem and how did he come to be the leader of Jerusalem? it was when Peter escaped from jail and had to leave Jerusalem so as not to be rearrested and who was going to take care of the Church in Jerusalem? Apparently Peter choose James who was the Brother of John. it seems because James was the leader of the Jerusalem Church he must also be head of all the Churches. But no where is this shown to be the case.

Nearly half of Acts is devoted to Peter and what Peter was doing and how the early Church began to grow. If James was the leader and not Peter then I would have thought that Luke would have stated that in his Acts. But that is not the case it is Peter first who did many things Acts recorded, yet James is not written about very much in Acts and is generally referred along with Peter and John as :Pillars of the Church" yet, it is Peter Luke speaks about most in Acts along with Paul who takes up the second half of Acts. There is nothing to really suggest that James had ultimate authority when he said “I have reached a decision” seems more to me that he was agreeing with Peter, We don’t hear if the rest of those at the council had anymore to say so we have to assume that there was an agreement which was based on what Peter spoke of and james agreeing with Peter.
How did James become the leader of the Jerusalem Church and who appointed James to that role?

Yes, this is what seems to be generally accepted, as far as I know.


How can you support this?

You will just have to take my word for it.

The next time you are at a Confirmation ceremony, Chrism Mass, etc., just ask your Bishop at the reception afterward. He will tell you.

GREAT list.

Thank you.

That IS a great list (here) po18guy.

Thanks for posting it.

Thank you for this! I’ve sent him this link and boy he’s arguing now that Tim’s exegesis is inaccurate.

This, of course, points to the foundation of every uniquely protestant belief and doctrine: the ego.

Ask this person what their exegetical training, and even more so, what their authority is.

Short answer: Isn’t any.

Longer answer: Can’t be the Holy Spirit, as He leads, always and everywhere to humble submission, obedience and unity. Obedience to the self has zero to do with the Holy Spirit.

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His reply was this (in reference to Tim’s Article):

The question is in verse 11… “we” is, as you point out regarding the purpose of the council, referring to those who are circumcised in general. The Jews… because then Peter in the same breathe says in the same verse “as THEY also are”… they being gentiles:

Acts 15:11 NASBS
[11] But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are."

Do you see how this makes sense?

In fact…
I would say based on how the passage is introduced… this is the whole subject… and based on James’ judgment on the matter… this is to what the decision rendered.

My point, in part is I don’t think Peter or James were assuming any kind of specific council authority here. Peter was simply saying that God is not respecter of persons… as Peter said in Acts 10:34
[34] Opening his mouth, Peter said: "I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality,

Now he’s capitalizing on the fact that I’m new to Acts 15 and he anticipates that i will be hesitant to give my interpretation.

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