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Acts 15:6-29

Context

15:6 Both the apostles and the elders met together to deliberate 1  about this matter. 15:7 After there had been much debate, 2  Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that some time ago 3  God chose 4  me to preach to the Gentiles so they would hear the message 5  of the gospel 6  and believe. 7  15:8 And God, who knows the heart, 8  has testified 9  to them by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 10  15:9 and he made no distinction 11  between them and us, cleansing 12  their hearts by faith. 15:10 So now why are you putting God to the test 13  by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke 14  that neither our ancestors 15  nor we have been able to bear? 15:11 On the contrary, we believe that we are saved through 16  the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they are.” 17 

15:12 The whole group kept quiet 18  and listened to Barnabas and Paul while they explained all the miraculous signs 19  and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. 15:13 After they stopped speaking, 20  James replied, 21  “Brothers, listen to me. 15:14 Simeon 22  has explained 23  how God first concerned himself 24  to select 25  from among the Gentiles 26  a people for his name. 15:15 The 27  words of the prophets agree 28  with this, as it is written,

15:16After this 29  I 30  will return,

and I will rebuild the fallen tent 31  of David;

I will rebuild its ruins and restore 32  it,

15:17 so that the rest of humanity 33  may seek the Lord,

namely, 34  all the Gentiles 35  I have called to be my own, 36  says the Lord, 37  who makes these things 15:18 known 38  from long ago. 39 

15:19 “Therefore I conclude 40  that we should not cause extra difficulty 41  for those among the Gentiles 42  who are turning to God, 15:20 but that we should write them a letter 43  telling them to abstain 44  from things defiled 45  by idols and from sexual immorality and from what has been strangled 46  and from blood. 15:21 For Moses has had those who proclaim him in every town from ancient times, 47  because he is read aloud 48  in the synagogues 49  every Sabbath.”

15:22 Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided 50  to send men chosen from among them, Judas called Barsabbas and Silas, 51  leaders among the brothers, to Antioch 52  with Paul and Barnabas. 15:23 They sent this letter with them: 53 

From the apostles 54  and elders, your brothers, 55  to the Gentile brothers and sisters 56  in Antioch, 57  Syria, 58  and Cilicia, greetings! 15:24 Since we have heard that some have gone out from among us with no orders from us and have confused 59  you, upsetting 60  your minds 61  by what they said, 62  15:25 we have unanimously 63  decided 64  to choose men to send to you along with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul, 15:26 who 65  have risked their lives 66  for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 67  15:27 Therefore we are sending 68  Judas and Silas 69  who will tell you these things themselves in person. 70  15:28 For it seemed best to the Holy Spirit and to us 71  not to place any greater burden on you than these necessary rules: 72  15:29 that you abstain from meat that has been sacrificed to idols 73  and from blood and from what has been strangled 74  and from sexual immorality. 75  If you keep yourselves from doing these things, 76  you will do well. Farewell. 77 

1 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.

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

3 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.”

4 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.

5 tn Or “word.”

6 tn Or “of the good news.”

7 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.

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

9 tn Or “has borne witness.”

10 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.

11 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.”

12 tn Or “purifying.”

13 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.

14 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.

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

16 tn Or “by.”

17 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.

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

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

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

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

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

23 tn Or “reported,” “described.”

24 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.”

25 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.

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

27 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.

28 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).

29 tn Grk “After these things.”

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

31 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).

32 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.

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

34 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.

35 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.

36 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.

37 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.

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

39 sn An allusion to Isa 45:21.

40 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.

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

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

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

44 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.

45 tn Or “polluted.”

46 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).

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

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

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

50 tn BDAG 255 s.v. δοκέω 2.b.β lists this verse under the meaning “it seems best to me, I decide, I resolve.”

51 sn Silas. See 2 Cor 1:19; 1 Thess 1:1; 2 Thess 1:1 (= Silvanus).

52 sn Antioch was a city in Syria (not Antioch in Pisidia).

map For location see JP1 F2; JP2 F2; JP3 F2; JP4 F2.

53 tn Grk “writing by their hand” (an idiom for sending a letter).

54 tn Grk “The apostles.” The word “from” is not in the Greek text, but has been supplied to indicate the sender of the letter.

55 tn Grk “brothers,” but “your” is supplied to specify the relationship, since without it “brothers” could be understood as vocative in English.

56 tn Grk “to the brothers who are from the Gentiles.”

57 sn Antioch was a city in Syria (not Antioch in Pisidia).

58 tn Grk “and Syria,” but καί (kai) has not been translated since English normally uses a coordinating conjunction only between the last two elements in a series of three or more.

59 tn Here BDAG 990-91 s.v. ταράσσω 2 states, “Of mental confusion caused by false teachings ταρ. τινά Ac 15:24 (w. λόγοις foll.).”

60 tn BDAG 71 s.v. ἀνασκευάζω describes this verb with a figurative meaning: “to cause inward distress, upset, unsettle.”

61 tn Grk “souls.”

62 tn Grk “by words”; L&N 25.231 translates the phrase “they troubled and upset you by what they said.”

63 tn Grk “having become of one mind, we have decided.” This has been translated “we have unanimously decided” to reduce the awkwardness in English.

64 tn BDAG 255 s.v. δοκέω 2.b.β lists this verse under the meaning “it seems best to me, I decide, I resolve.”

65 tn Grk “men who”; but this can be misleading because in English the referent could be understood to be the men sent along with Barnabas and Paul rather than Barnabas and Paul themselves. This option does not exist in the Greek original, however, since ἀνθρώποις (anqrwpoi") is dative and must agree with “Barnabas and Paul,” while ἄνδρας (andra") is accusative. By omitting the word “men” from the translation here, it is clear in English that the phrase refers to the immediately preceding nouns “Barnabas and Paul.”

66 tn Grk “who have risked their souls”; the equivalent English idiom is “risk one’s life.” The descriptions commend Barnabas and Paul as thoroughly trustworthy.

67 tn Or “Messiah”; both “Christ” (Greek) and “Messiah” (Hebrew and Aramaic) mean “one who has been anointed.”

68 tn This verb has been translated as an epistolary aorist.

69 sn Judas and Silas were the “two witnesses” who would vouch for the truth of the recommendation.

70 tn Grk “by means of word” (an idiom for a verbal report).

71 tn This is the same expression translated “decided” in Acts 15:22, 25. BDAG 255 s.v. δοκέω 2.b.β lists “decide” as a possible gloss for this verse, and this translation would be consistent with the translation of the same expression in Acts 15:22, 25. However, the unusually awkward “the Holy Spirit and we have decided” would result. Given this approach, it would be more natural in English to say “We and the Holy Spirit have decided,” but changing the order removes the emphasis the Greek text gives to the Holy Spirit. Thus, although the similarity to the phrases in 15:22, 25 is obscured, it is better to use the alternate translation “it seems best to me” (also given by BDAG): “it seemed best to the Holy Spirit and to us.” Again the scope of agreement is highlighted.

72 tn L&N 71.39 translates “indispensable (rules)” while BDAG 358 s.v. ἐπάναγκες has “the necessary things.”

73 tn There is no specific semantic component in the Greek word εἰδωλόθυτος that means “meat” (see BDAG 280 s.v. εἰδωλόθυτος; L&N 5.15). The stem –θυτος means “sacrifice” (referring to an animal sacrificially killed) and thereby implies meat.

74 tc Codex Bezae (D) and a few other witnesses lack the restriction “and from what has been strangled” (καὶ πνικτῶν, kai pniktwn), though the words are supported by a wide variety of early and important witnesses otherwise and should be considered authentic.

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 preceding provision in this verse, and from blood).

75 tc Codex Bezae (D) as well as 323 614 945 1739 1891 sa and other witnesses have after “sexual immorality” the following statement: “And whatever you do not want to happen to yourselves, do not do to another/others.” By adding this negative form of the Golden Rule, these witnesses effectively change the Apostolic Decree from what might be regarded as ceremonial restrictions into more ethical demands. The issues here are quite complicated, and beyond the scope of this brief note. Suffice it to say that D and its allies here are almost surely an expansion and alteration of the original text of Acts. For an excellent discussion of the exegetical and textual issues, see TCGNT 379-83.

76 tn Grk “from which things keeping yourselves.” Because of the length and complexity of the Greek sentence, the relative pronoun (ὧν, |wn) has been replaced by a pronoun (“these things”) and a new English sentence begun. The participle διατηροῦντες (diathrounte") has been translated as a conditional adverbial participle (“if you keep yourselves”). See further L&N 13.153.

77 tn The phrase ἔρρωσθε (errwsqe) may be understood as a stock device indicating a letter is complete (“good-bye,” L&N 33.24) or as a sincere wish that the persons involved may fare well (“may you fare well,” L&N 23.133).



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