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Acts 15:2-21

Context
15:2 When Paul and Barnabas had a major argument and debate 1  with them, the church 2  appointed Paul and Barnabas and some others from among them to go up to meet with 3  the apostles and elders in Jerusalem 4  about this point of disagreement. 5  15:3 So they were sent on their way by the church, and as they passed through both Phoenicia 6  and Samaria, they were relating at length 7  the conversion of the Gentiles and bringing great joy 8  to all the brothers. 15:4 When they arrived in Jerusalem, they were received 9  by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported 10  all the things God had done with them. 11  15:5 But some from the religious party of the Pharisees 12  who had believed stood up and said, “It is necessary 13  to circumcise the Gentiles 14  and to order them to observe 15  the law of Moses.”

15:6 Both the apostles and the elders met together to deliberate 16  about this matter. 15:7 After there had been much debate, 17  Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that some time ago 18  God chose 19  me to preach to the Gentiles so they would hear the message 20  of the gospel 21  and believe. 22  15:8 And God, who knows the heart, 23  has testified 24  to them by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 25  15:9 and he made no distinction 26  between them and us, cleansing 27  their hearts by faith. 15:10 So now why are you putting God to the test 28  by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke 29  that neither our ancestors 30  nor we have been able to bear? 15:11 On the contrary, we believe that we are saved through 31  the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they are.” 32 

15:12 The whole group kept quiet 33  and listened to Barnabas and Paul while they explained all the miraculous signs 34  and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. 15:13 After they stopped speaking, 35  James replied, 36  “Brothers, listen to me. 15:14 Simeon 37  has explained 38  how God first concerned himself 39  to select 40  from among the Gentiles 41  a people for his name. 15:15 The 42  words of the prophets agree 43  with this, as it is written,

15:16After this 44  I 45  will return,

and I will rebuild the fallen tent 46  of David;

I will rebuild its ruins and restore 47  it,

15:17 so that the rest of humanity 48  may seek the Lord,

namely, 49  all the Gentiles 50  I have called to be my own, 51  says the Lord, 52  who makes these things 15:18 known 53  from long ago. 54 

15:19 “Therefore I conclude 55  that we should not cause extra difficulty 56  for those among the Gentiles 57  who are turning to God, 15:20 but that we should write them a letter 58  telling them to abstain 59  from things defiled 60  by idols and from sexual immorality and from what has been strangled 61  and from blood. 15:21 For Moses has had those who proclaim him in every town from ancient times, 62  because he is read aloud 63  in the synagogues 64  every Sabbath.”

1 tn Grk “no little argument and debate” (an idiom).

2 tn Grk “they”; the referent (the church, or the rest of the believers at Antioch) has been specified to avoid confusion with the Judaizers mentioned in the preceding clause.

3 tn Grk “go up to,” but in this context a meeting is implied.

4 map For location see Map5 B1; Map6 F3; Map7 E2; Map8 F2; Map10 B3; JP1 F4; JP2 F4; JP3 F4; JP4 F4.

5 tn Or “point of controversy.” It is unclear whether this event parallels Gal 2:1-10 or that Gal 2 fits with Acts 11:30. More than likely Gal 2:1-10 is to be related to Acts 11:30.

6 sn Phoenicia was an area along the Mediterranean coast north of Palestine in ancient Syria.

7 tn L&N 33.201 indicates that ἐκδιηγέομαι (ekdihgeomai) means to provide detailed information in a systematic manner, “to inform, to relate, to tell fully.” “Relating at length” conveys this effectively in the present context.

8 tn For ἐποίουν (epoioun) in this verse BDAG 839 s.v. ποιέω 2.c has “they brought joy to the members.”

9 tn BDAG 761 s.v. παραδέχομαι 2 has “receive, accept” for the meaning here.

10 tn Or “announced.”

11 tn “They reported all the things God had done with them” – an identical phrase occurs in Acts 14:27. God is always the agent.

12 sn See the note on Pharisee in 5:34.

13 sn The Greek word used here (δεῖ, dei) is a strong term that expresses divine necessity. The claim is that God commanded the circumcision of Gentiles.

14 tn Grk “them”; the referent (the Gentiles) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

15 tn Or “keep.”

16 tn The translation for ἰδεῖν (idein) in this verse is given by BDAG 279-80 s.v. εἶδον 3 as “deliberate concerning this matter.” A contemporary idiom would be to “look into” a matter.

17 tn Or “discussion.” This term is repeated from v. 2.

18 tn Or “long ago” (an idiom, literally “from ancient days”). According to L&N 67.26, “this reference to Peter having been chosen by God sometime before to bring the gospel to the Gentiles can hardly be regarded as a reference to ancient times, though some persons understand this to mean that God’s decision was made at the beginning of time. The usage of ἀφ᾿ ἡμερῶν ἀρχαίων is probably designed to emphasize the established nature of God’s decision for Peter to take the gospel to the Gentiles beginning with the centurion Cornelius. The fact that this was relatively early in the development of the church may also serve to explain the use of the idiom.”

19 sn God chose. The theme of God’s sovereign choice is an important point, because 1st century Jews believed Israel’s unique position and customs were a reflection of God’s choice.

20 tn Or “word.”

21 tn Or “of the good news.”

22 tn Grk “God chose among you from my mouth the Gentiles to hear the message of the gospel and to believe.” The sense of this sentence in Greek is difficult to render in English. The Greek verb ἐκλέγομαι (eklegomai, “choose”) normally takes a person or thing as a direct object; in this verse the verb has neither clearly stated. The translation understands the phrase “from my mouth,” referring to Peter, as a description of both who God chose and the task to be done. This coupled with the following statement about Gentiles hearing the message of the gospel leads to the more dynamic rendering in the translation.

23 sn The expression who knows the heart means “who knows what people think.”

24 tn Or “has borne witness.”

25 sn By giving them…just as he did to us. The allusion is to the events of Acts 10-11, esp. 10:44-48 and Peter’s remarks in 11:15-18.

26 tn BDAG 231 s.v. διακρίνω 1.b lists this passage under the meaning “to conclude that there is a difference, make a distinction, differentiate.”

27 tn Or “purifying.”

28 tn According to BDAG 793 s.v. πειράζω 2.c, “In Ac 15:10 the πειράζειν τὸν θεόν consists in the fact that after God’s will has been clearly made known through granting of the Spirit to the Gentiles (v. 8), some doubt and make trial to see whether God’s will really becomes operative.” All testing of God in Luke is negative: Luke 4:2; 11:16.

29 sn A yoke is a wooden bar or frame that joins two animals like oxen or horses so that they can pull a wagon, plow, etc. together. Here it is used figuratively of the restriction that some in the early church wanted to place on Gentile converts to Christianity of observing the law of Moses and having males circumcised. The yoke is a decidedly negative image: Matt 23:4, but cf. Matt 11:29-30.

30 tn Or “forefathers”; Grk “fathers.”

31 tn Or “by.”

32 tn Or “Jesus, just as they are.” BDAG 1016-17 s.v. τρόπος 1 translates καθ᾿ ὃν τρόπον (kaqJon tropon) here as “in the same way as.”

sn In the same way as they are. Here is an interesting reversal of the argument. Jews are saved by grace (without law), as Gentiles are.

33 tn BDAG 922 s.v. σιγάω 1.a lists this passage under the meaning “say nothing, keep still, keep silent.”

34 tn Here in connection with τέρατα (terata) the miraculous nature of these signs is indicated.

35 tn BDAG 922 s.v. σιγάω 1.b lists this passage under the meaning “stop speaking, become silent.”

36 tn Grk “answered, saying”; the redundant participle λέγων (legwn) has not been translated.

37 sn Simeon is a form of the apostle Peter’s Aramaic name. James uses Peter’s “Jewish” name here.

38 tn Or “reported,” “described.”

39 tn BDAG 378 s.v. ἐπισκέπτομαι 3 translates this phrase in Acts 15:14, “God concerned himself about winning a people fr. among the nations.”

40 tn Grk “to take,” but in the sense of selecting or choosing (accompanied by the preposition ἐκ [ek] plus a genitive specifying the group selected from) see Heb 5:1; also BDAG 584 s.v. λαμβάνω 6.

41 sn In the Greek text the expression “from among the Gentiles” is in emphatic position.

42 tn Grk “And the.” Because of the difference between Greek style, which often begins sentences or clauses with “and,” and English style, which generally does not, καί (kai) has not been translated here.

43 sn The term agree means “match” or “harmonize with.” James’ point in the introduction argues that many of the OT prophets taught this. He gives one example (which follows).

44 tn Grk “After these things.”

45 sn The first person pronoun I refers to God and his activity. It is God who is doing this.

46 tn Or more generally, “dwelling”; perhaps, “royal tent.” According to BDAG 928 s.v. σκηνή the word can mean “tent” or “hut,” or more generally “lodging” or “dwelling.” In this verse (a quotation from Amos 9:11) BDAG refers this to David’s ruined kingdom; it is possibly an allusion to a king’s tent (a royal tent). God is at work to reestablish David’s line (Acts 2:30-36; 13:32-39).

47 tn BDAG 86 s.v. ἀνορθόω places this verb under the meaning “to build someth. up again after it has fallen, rebuild, restore,” but since ἀνοικοδομέω (anoikodomew, “rebuild”) has occurred twice in this verse already, “restore” is used here.

48 tn Or “so that all other people.” The use of this term follows Amos 9:11 LXX.

49 tn Here καί (kai) introduces an explanatory clause that explains the preceding phrase “the rest of humanity.” The clause introduced by καί (kai) could also be punctuated in English as a parenthesis.

50 tn Or “all the nations” (in Greek the word for “nation” and “Gentile” is the same).

sn Note the linkage back to v. 14 through the mention of Gentiles. What Simeon explained is what the OT text says would happen.

51 tn Grk “all the Gentiles on whom my name has been called.” Based on well-attested OT usage, the passive of ἐπικαλέω (epikalew) here indicates God’s ownership (“all the Gentiles who belong to me”) or calling (“all the Gentiles whom I have called to be my own”). See L&N 11.28.

52 sn A quotation from Amos 9:11-12 LXX. James demonstrated a high degree of cultural sensitivity when he cited a version of the text (the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament) that Gentiles would use.

53 sn Who makes these things known. The remark emphasizes how God’s design of these things reaches back to the time he declared them.

54 sn An allusion to Isa 45:21.

55 tn Or “I have decided,” “I think.” The verb κρίνω (krinw) has a far broader range of meaning than the often-used English verb “judge.” BDAG 568 s.v. κρίνω 3 places this use in Acts 15:19 in the category “judge, think, consider, look upon” followed by double accusative of object and predicate. However, many modern translations give the impression that a binding decision is being handed down by James: “it is my judgment” (NASB, NIV); “I have reached the decision” (NRSV). L&N 22.25, on the other hand, translate the phrase here “I think that we should not cause extra difficulty for those among the Gentiles.” This gives more the impression of an opinion than a binding decision. The resolution of this lies not so much in the lexical data as in how one conceives James’ role in the leadership of the Jerusalem church, plus the dynamics of the specific situation where the issue of Gentile inclusion in the church was being discussed. The major possibilities are: (1) James is handing down a binding decision to the rest of the church as the one who has ultimate authority to decide this matter; (2) James is offering his own personal opinion in the matter, which is not binding on the church; (3) James is voicing a consensus opinion of all the apostles and elders, although phrasing it as if it were his own; (4) James is making a suggestion to the rest of the leadership as to what course they should follow. In light of the difficulty in reconstructing the historical situation in detail, it is best to use a translation which maintains as many of the various options as possible. For this reason the translation “Therefore I conclude” has been used, leaving open the question whether in reaching this conclusion James is speaking only for himself or for the rest of the leadership.

56 tn Or “trouble.” This term is a NT hapax legomenon (BDAG 775 s.v. παρενοχλέω).

57 tn Or “among the nations” (in Greek the word for “nation” and “Gentile” is the same).

58 tn The translation “to write a letter, to send a letter to” for ἐπιστέλλω (epistellw) is given in L&N 33.49.

59 tn Three of the four prohibitions deal with food (the first, third and fourth) while one prohibition deals with behavior (the second, refraining from sexual immorality). Since these occur in the order they do, the translation “abstain from” is used to cover both sorts of activity (eating food items, immoral behavior).

sn Telling them to abstain. These restrictions are not on matters of salvation, but are given as acts of sensitivity to their Jewish brethren, as v. 21 makes clear. Another example of such sensitivity is seen in 1 Cor 10:14-11:1.

60 tn Or “polluted.”

61 sn What has been strangled. That is, to refrain from eating animals that had been killed without having the blood drained from them. According to the Mosaic law (Lev 17:13-14), Jews were forbidden to eat flesh with the blood still in it (note the following provision in Acts 15:20, and from blood).

62 tn Grk “from generations of old”; the translation “fr. ancient times” is given by BDAG 192 s.v. γενεά 3.b.

63 tn The translation “read aloud” is used to indicate the actual practice; translating as “read” could be misunderstood to mean private, silent reading.

64 sn See the note on synagogue in 6:9.



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