Acts of the Apostles 2017 Lesson 06

13:1 Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Symeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who was a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then, completing their fasting and prayer, they laid hands on them and sent them off. 4 So they, sent forth by the holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and from there sailed to Cyprus. 5 When they arrived in Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. They had John also as their assistant. 6


When they had traveled through the whole island as far as Paphos, they met a magician named Bar-Jesus who was a Jewish false prophet. 7 He was with the proconsul Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who had summoned Barnabas and Saul and wanted to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas the magician (for that is what his name means) opposed them in an attempt to turn the proconsul away from the faith. 9 But Saul, also known as Paul, filled with the holy Spirit, looked intently at him 10 and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all that is right, full of every sort of deceit and fraud. Will you not stop twisting the straight paths of (the) Lord? 11 Even now the hand of the Lord is upon you. You will be blind, and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately a dark mist fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand. 12 When the proconsul saw what had happened, he came to believe, for he was astonished by the teaching about the Lord. 13


From Paphos, Paul and his companions set sail and arrived at Perga in Pamphylia. But John left them and returned to Jerusalem. 14 They continued on from Perga and reached Antioch in Pisidia. On the sabbath they entered (into) the synagogue and took their seats. 15 After the reading of the law and the prophets, the synagogue officials sent word to them, “My brothers, if one of you has a word of exhortation for the people, please speak.”


So Paul got up, motioned with his hand, and said, “Fellow Israelites and you others who are God-fearing, listen. 17 The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors and exalted the people during their sojourn in the land of Egypt. With uplifted arm he led them out of it 18 and for about forty years he put up with them in the desert. 19 When he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance 20 at the end of about four hundred and fifty years. After these things he provided judges up to Samuel (the) prophet. 21 Then they asked for a king. God gave them Saul, son of Kish, a man from the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. 22


Then he removed him and raised up David as their king; of him he testified, ‘I have found David, son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will carry out my every wish.’ 23 From this man’s descendants God, according to his promise, has brought to Israel a savior, Jesus. 24 John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel; 25 and as John was completing his course, he would say, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.’ 26


“My brothers, children of the family of Abraham, and those others among you who are God-fearing, to us this word of salvation has been sent. 27 The inhabitants of Jerusalem and their leaders failed to recognize him, and by condemning him they fulfilled the oracles of the prophets that are read sabbath after sabbath. 28 For even though they found no grounds for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him put to death, 29 and when they had accomplished all that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and placed him in a tomb. 30


But God raised him from the dead, 31 and for many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. These are (now) his witnesses before the people. 32 We ourselves are proclaiming this good news to you that what God promised our ancestors 33 he has brought to fulfillment for us, (their) children, by raising up Jesus, as it is written in the second psalm, ‘You are my son; this day I have begotten you.’ 34 And that he raised him from the dead never to return to corruption he declared in this way, ‘I shall give you the benefits assured to David.’ 35 That is why he also says in another psalm, ‘You will not suffer your holy one to see corruption.’ 36


Now David, after he had served the will of God in his lifetime, fell asleep, was gathered to his ancestors, and did see corruption. 37 But the one whom God raised up did not see corruption. 38 You must know, my brothers, that through him forgiveness of sins is being proclaimed to you, (and) in regard to everything from which you could not be justified under the law of Moses, 39 in him every believer is justified. 40 Be careful, then, that what was said in the prophets not come about: 41 ‘Look on, you scoffers, be amazed and disappear. For I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will never believe even if someone tells you.'” 42


As they were leaving, they invited them to speak on these subjects the following sabbath. 43 After the congregation had dispersed, many Jews and worshipers who were converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who spoke to them and urged them to remain faithful to the grace of God. 44 On the following sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45 When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and with violent abuse contradicted what Paul said. 46


Both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first, but since you reject it and condemn yourselves as unworthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us, ‘I have made you a light to the Gentiles, that you may be an instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth.'” 48 The Gentiles were delighted when they heard this and glorified the word of the Lord. All who were destined for eternal life came to believe, 49 and the word of the Lord continued to spread through the whole region. 50 The Jews, however, incited the women of prominence who were worshipers and the leading men of the city, stirred up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their territory. 51 So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. 52 The disciples were filled with joy and the holy Spirit.


14:1 In Iconium they entered the Jewish synagogue together and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks came to believe, 2 although the disbelieving Jews stirred up and poisoned the minds of the Gentiles against the brothers. 3 So they stayed for a considerable period, speaking out boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the word about his grace by granting signs and wonders to occur through their hands. 4 The people of the city were divided: some were with the Jews; others, with the apostles. 5 When there was an attempt by both the Gentiles and the Jews, together with their leaders, to attack and stone them, 6 they realized it and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding countryside, 7 where they continued to proclaim the good news. 8




At Lystra there was a crippled man, lame from birth, who had never walked. 9 He listened to Paul speaking, who looked intently at him, saw that he had the faith to be healed, 10 and called out in a loud voice, “Stand up straight on your feet.” He jumped up and began to walk about. 11 When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they cried out in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in human form.” 12 They called Barnabas “Zeus” and Paul “Hermes,” because he was the chief speaker. 13 And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, for he together with the people intended to offer sacrifice. 14


The apostles Barnabas and Paul tore their garments when they heard this and rushed out into the crowd, shouting, 15 “Men, why are you doing this? We are of the same nature as you, human beings. We proclaim to you good news that you should turn from these idols to the living God, ‘who made heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them.’ 16 In past generations he allowed all Gentiles to go their own ways; 17 yet, in bestowing his goodness, he did not leave himself without witness, for he gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, and filled you with nourishment and gladness for your hearts.” 18 Even with these words, they scarcely restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them. 19


However, some Jews from Antioch and Iconium arrived and won over the crowds. They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. 20 But when the disciples gathered around him, he got up and entered the city. On the following day he left with Barnabas for Derbe. 21 After they had proclaimed the good news to that city and made a considerable number of disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch. 22 They strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” 23 They appointed presbyters for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith. 24


Then they traveled through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia. 25 After proclaiming the word at Perga they went down to Attalia. 26 From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work they had now accomplished. 27 And when they arrived, they called the church together and reported what God had done with them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 Then they spent no little time with the disciples.


15:1 Some who had come down from Judea were instructing the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved.” 2 Because there arose no little dissension and debate by Paul and Barnabas with them, it was decided that Paul, Barnabas, and some of the others should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and presbyters about this question. 3 They were sent on their journey by the church, and passed through Phoenicia and Samaria telling of the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers. 4 When they arrived in Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church, as well as by the apostles and the presbyters, and they reported what God had done with them. 5


But some from the party of the Pharisees who had become believers stood up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and direct them to observe the Mosaic law.” 6 The apostles and the presbyters met together to see about this matter. 7 After much debate had taken place, Peter got up and said to them, “My brothers, you are well aware that from early days God made his choice among you that through my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness by granting them the holy Spirit just as he did us. 9 He made no distinction between us and them, for by faith he purified their hearts. 10 Why, then, are you now putting God to the test by placing on the shoulders of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? 11 On the contrary, we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they.” 12


The whole assembly fell silent, and they listened while Paul and Barnabas described the signs and wonders God had worked among the Gentiles through them. 13 After they had fallen silent, James responded, “My brothers, listen to me. 14 Symeon has described how God first concerned himself with acquiring from among the Gentiles a people for his name. 15 The words of the prophets agree with this, as is written: 16 ‘After this I shall return and rebuild the fallen hut of David; from its ruins I shall rebuild it and raise it up again, 17 so that the rest of humanity may seek out the Lord, even all the Gentiles on whom my name is invoked. Thus says the Lord who accomplishes these things, 18 known from of old.’ 19 It is my judgment, therefore, that we ought to stop troubling the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 but tell them by letter to avoid pollution from idols, unlawful marriage, the meat of strangled animals, and blood. 21 For Moses, for generations now, has had those who proclaim him in every town, as he has been read in the synagogues every sabbath.” 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. 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.'” 30 And so they were sent on their journey.


Upon their arrival in Antioch they called the assembly together and delivered the letter. 31 When the people read it, they were delighted with the exhortation. 32 Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, exhorted and strengthened the brothers with many words. 33 After they had spent some time there, they were sent off with greetings of peace from the brothers to those who had commissioned them. 34  35 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and proclaiming with many others the word of the Lord. 36 After some time, Paul said to Barnabas, “Come, let us make a return visit to see how the brothers are getting on in all the cities where we proclaimed the word of the Lord.” 37 Barnabas wanted to take with them also John, who was called Mark, 38 but Paul insisted that they should not take with them someone who had deserted them at Pamphylia and who had not continued with them in their work. 39 So sharp was their disagreement that they separated. Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus. 40 But Paul chose Silas and departed after being commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. 41 He traveled through Syria and Cilicia bringing strength to the churches.





This talk is by Catherine Upchurch.

Poem by Robert Frost – The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;


Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,


And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.


I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.


Early church struggling to discern which way to go.  God continues to lead us into new places.

Building to a crisis point – Gentile converts.   Also a possibility.

In the missionary field the problem came to a head.  From Jews in Judea to Asia Minor (Jews then God-fearers to finally pagan Gentiles).

3        moments:

Chapter 7: Stephen challenged the traditional assumption that obedience to the Law and worship at the Temple guaranteed salvation.

Chapter 8: Philip in Samaria, acceptance of Jewish adversaries (Samaritans)

Chapter 10: Baptism of the Roman centurion and an entire household.


At this point the church in Antioch (Syria) is a mixed group of Jews and Gentiles.

Chapters 13 and 14 – Barnabbas and Paul.  Core message Jesus suffered, died, and rose from the dead.  “If Christ has not been raised, then empty (too) is our preaching; empty, too, your faith.”  I Cor 15:14

The suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus is the essential message of the Church in every age.  Our relationship with this risen Jesus is what justifies us.

This message enrages a segment of Jewish tradition.  The call to conversion is an invitation to a new way of life.

Barnabas and Paul also had the practical task of empowering local communities to carry on without them.

Acts 14:22-23: “They strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” They appointed presbyters for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith.

Barnabas and Paul understood how important a nurturing community was to sustaining faith.

Back in Antioch: “They called the church together and reported what God had done with them.  …  spent no little time with the disciples.”  Acts 14:27, 28

Travel by land or sea in those days was quite difficult.  Also the difficulty encountered by preaching the good news in quite different environments.

Paul – man of great passion, intelligence.

Barnabas – strong silent type?  (Son of Encouragement)

Prior to the First missionary journey it was Barnabas, not Paul, who had ‘top billing’.  Clearly they came to know one another’s gifts and talents and how the Spirit worked within and with them.

We can never do on our own the things we might do with others and their gifts joined to ours.

Council of Jerusalem: not a formal meeting, debate.  “Must Gentiles first be circumcised and follow Mosaic Law before being considered followers of Jesus who is the Jewish Messiah?”

The problem for Jewish Christians is how could they stay connected to the Jewish Temple and Jewish community if they ate with, interacted with, etc. those who were not considered Jewish?

Separate but equal communities were not acceptable.

Their criteria:

  1.  discerning the experience of God in their midst.
  2. Interpreting the Hebrew Scriptures.

Acts 15

Tensions continued even after.  The question : “What is necessary for salvation?”  What Guarantees salvation?”  Obedience to the Mosaic Law was not pushed aside lightly.  “The answer they came to: The law was insufficient in itself.  It is faith that guarantees salvation, the unwarranted free gift of God.”

The council took place between 49 to 52 sometime

There comes a point when a choice between 2 paths where a choice must be made.  They didn’t take the road well traveled.






Keener, Craig S.   Acts: An Exegetical Commentary   Volume 2  3:1-14:28.  (Baker Academic, Grand Rapids MI, 2013).

____________  Acts: An Exegetical Commentary   Volume 3  15:1-23:35.  (Baker Academic, Grand Rapids MI, 2014).




Mission of Barnabas and Saul

The first verse (still in the last chapter) should probably read “from” Jerusalem, not “to” Jerusalem.  Numerous manuscripts read that way, but not all of them.

12: 25 “After Barnabas and Saul completed their relief mission, they returned to Jerusalem, taking with them John, who is called Mark.”

Barnabas and Saul / Paul have been closely linked since Paul went to Jerusalem shortly after his conversion.  They are now about to go off on mission together.  Two at a time – as Jesus had established.  Note the considerable advantages of this arrangement: When 2 or more are gathered …; encouragement and protection on the road and through difficulties; to balance one another out in terms of message and theology (Jerusalem’s real concern?) and more.





First Mission – Cyprus

Paul and Barnabas and John / Mark set sail.

Keener vol. 2 p. 1998: “Taking a trading ship to Cyprus would require the fare for each of Paul’s companions, probably provided from the Antioch church.  Small boats stayed near the coast and spent the night in ports; larger ships plied the open sea.”  Through the journey however, Paul and companions provided for themselves by work.  Paul was proud to say that he did not take from those he served for himself.

Cyprus was a trading center by virtue of its location.  Reasonably prosperous.

On Cyprus they encounter a Jewish false-prophet named Bar-Jesus.  From the earliest times in the OT through today we have struggled with the question of prophecy and who is and isn’t a false prophet or a true one.  Sometimes the answers have only emerged over the centuries as the words & teachings  / actions / understandings either stood the test of time or did not.   This was especially true in the early church since there were groups and individuals who traveled from community to community in the name of Jesus and the Holy Spirit – some with very questionable teachings etc, perhaps with ulterior motives (like money).

Keener vol. 2 p. 2006: They journeyed across the island from Salamis to Paphos.  There was a Roman road between the cities, about 115 miles long.

In the governor’s court in Paphos, the other side of their landing place on the island, occurred a vivid event – Paul and Barnabas confront a sorcerer by divine power.

There are some parallels between Elymas Bar Jesus and Paul.  Both have 2 names; Elymas twists the LORD’s straight ways, Paul had opposed the way but now preaches it; both were led by the hand when blinded; Elymus was filled with deception, Paul filled with H.S.

There were prophets, magicians, oracles etc. all over the place at the time.  Distinguishing them from true teachers and prophets was not easy.  It was acknowledged that even false ones could do signs (through the power of demons).  Remember the accusation against Jesus in the gospels – does he heal by the power of God or by Beelzebul?  The word magician in Greek = magus.  Hence the magi from the east (now translated wise men).


Paul arrives at Antioch in Pisidia

John / Mark departs when they reach modern day Turkey.  This was seen as abandoning Paul and Barnabas and was a serious offense –  but one which John Mark managed to later overcome.

Keener vol. 2 p. 2032: “Although Antioch was no large and famous city like Rome, Ephesus, or Corinth, it was one of the largest and most strategic towns of the interior highlands of Asia Minor.  Paul’s ministry here (Asia Minor) took place in smaller and more isolated towns before moving to the giant cities.”

The road from Perga to Antioch was about 125 miles.  It was mostly uphill from the seacoast.  Antioch in Pisidia was a Roman colony and Paul as a Roman citizen may have felt particularly comfortable there.  Roman colonies were most often settled by former Roman soldiers.

In the synagogue they, as distinguished visitors from Jerusalem, are invited to speak.  Without newspapers, TV, etc.  news from faraway places came via travelers and merchants.

Keener and others believe that even synagogues far from Jerusalem would have read from the Torah on the Sabbath when the community gathered.  Probably not yet from a fixed lectionary – so the reader might choose his text on his own.  Probably in Greek instead of Hebrew.


Paul’s Speech in the Synagogue

Once again it seems clear that both those who are fully Jewish and those who are “god-fearers” (Gentiles not circumcised choosing to live completely by the Law) are present in the synagogue.   Prior to the re-creation of Judaism in the decades after the destruction of the Temple Jews far from Israel had a somewhat different experience of their faith than that portrayed in the gospels:

  • Might have made one pilgrimage to Jerusalem for a pilgrimage festival over their lifetimes
  • A pattern of readings and prayer was emerging but without “official” sanction or enforcement because there was no central authority.  Then, as now, the more isolated you are, the more free you are to be creative (or boring).
  • The “elders” of the synagogue were the elders of the community – no official rabbis, no rabbinic schools, no ordination.  Self-taught experts / those who studied under or with other self-taught experts etc. were likely the norm.
  • Cities that were ports or those on major trade routes had knowledgeable people pass through from time to time, those off the beaten path were far less likely to have the same.  Antioch in Pisidia WAS on a major trade route.

Paul puts Jesus in the context of all of Jewish history.  Here he starts not with creation and not with Abraham / Isaac / Jacob but with Moses and the exodus.  He continues with the occupation of the land of Israel, the formation of the kingship, and the promise to David.  (This is a new line of argument in comparison to the earlier speeches.)    The speech goes on to note that Jesus was also a prophet – put to death as were other prophets by Temple authorities and the people of Jerusalem who were wicked.  But God raised him up.   David died and was buried and his body turned to dust – but Jesus was lifted up in resurrection and will not die again and will not decay.  Through him comes forgiveness of sins (not the Temple sacrifices).

Address to the Gentiles

Barnabas and Paul now preach to Gentiles as if they had not been well received in the synagogue the previous week.  Something has happened and been left out?  Another trip?  Someone powerful was absent on the first occasion and is now present and very opposed to what he is hearing?

After making many converts there resulted a persecution and they are driven from the region.

“they shook the dust from their feet in protest” as they left.  Many rabbis argued that the very dirt of a pagan place was unclean and therefore it became a custom to remove the dust of such a place from one’s feet when one left.  Here it is thus a judgment on the Jews of the place – they were acting like they were pagans.



As the ministry and miracles of Jesus divided the Jewish communities and families during his lifetime, so too the work and miracles that Paul / Barnabas perform cause division.  There is an old saying: “faith makes the miracle not miracles the faith”.  The signs they perform call attention to them however and provide an opening for their preaching.

Paul and Barnabas at Iconium

Keener vol. 2 p. 2126: “Paul and Barnabas were ready for a divided city, but stoning (Acts 14:5) was normally intended to be fatal, not merely divisive.  Thus the time was appropriate to move on to another town needing the gospel, as Jesus had commanded his agents.”


Paul and Barnabas at Lystra

Lystra was also a Roman colony.

Keener vol. 2 p. 2130: points out parallels between Peter’s healing in chapter 3 with Paul’s here.  Both heal someone lame from birth, both “gaze intently” at them; the healed men ‘leap and walk’; happens near temple gates; through faith; and there is human adulation by bystanders of the healers.

Mistaking them for gods come to earth reflects their pagan mentality and culture.   There is also the possibility that it was intended as flattery but not meant to be taken as literally true, even the possibility it was ironic / cynical by some.


End of the First Mission

Keener vol. 2 p. 2191: “Reporting God’s mighty works back to the Antioch church fits Luke’s pattern of retelling divine deeds within the story.  Paul and Barnabas attribute these works to God (as in their testimony in Jerusalem).  Gathering the church presumably means by word of mouth, perhaps through sending word to leaders of house churches to contact their members.  As suggested above, they may have completed the described journeys in less than a year; by contrast, given the distances covered, Ramsay suggests that the journeys of Acts 13-14 cover at least two and a half years.  In any case, they had been gone from Antioch for a significant period of time.”



Keener vol. 3 p. 2194: “In this section, the church, led by God’s Spirit, ratifies the Gentile mission without the requirement of circumcision.  The Jerusalem church previously affirmed the ministry to Cornelius’s household but now has to reckon both with the Gentile ministry’s dramatic spread (and perhaps some) Jerusalemite complaints, and with miracle accounts suggesting that God is with this mission.”

Keener vol. 3 p. 2210: “In subsequent history, believers have sometimes focused on the conclusions of Nicaea or some other church council despite the contentious debates that characterized the eras of those councils.  Similarly, Luke and Paul may, in different ways, focus on one meeting in which Pau participated, whereas, for the local Jerusalem church, it was one important discussion session among others.  That the church’s leaders later stood by the8ir compromise agreement we need not doubt, but at that same time, Paul himself, in Luke’s own account, seemed to recognize that the political situat8ion in Jerusalem had changed and that it invited a ‘compromise’ accommodation on his own part.”

Council of Jerusalem

Keener vol. 3 p. 2228: “The Pharisees … had no problem acknowledging that God had brought Gentiles to the light, but they felt, on the basis of Scripture, that God now expected them to make these Christian “God-fearers” into full proselytes.   The Pharisees may have accepted Cornelius as an exception clearly marked by the Holy Spirit; perhaps God made an exception for a centurion the way many allowed for foreign rulers.  But allowing an exception was not meant to create a precedent, much less a model.”

James on Dietary Law

Keener vol.3 p. 2257: “Other texts did speak of Gentile nations be coming God’s people, joining with Israel (Isaiah  19, Zech 2).  Others also spoke of Gentiles being welcome in the eschatological temple, if this is relevant here.  But it is possible, as some contend, that James employed Amos 9 because the other texts sounded as though these nations were included as proselytes, whereas Amos welcomed them as Gentiles.  Early Christians probably did see Gentile converts as spiritual proselytes, but the very point at issue in this context is whether these ‘proselytes’ can be welcomed as ethnic Gentiles without physical circumcision.”

Keener vol. 3 p. 2258: “As a compromise solution, Gentiles can be asked to follow some basic, minimal expectations for table fellowship to maintain unity with the Jewish believers.  Not each of the expectations is moral, but all are necessary qualifications for Jews (both believers and nonbelievers in Jesus) to regard these believers as righteous, trustworthy Gentiles, with whom table fellowship might appear less problematic for Jewish believers.”

Keener vol. 3 p. 2264: “Later rabbis normally held Gentiles responsible not for keeping laws given only to Israel but for keeping the few requirements that God had given to all humanity – namely, laws given up to the time of Noah, from whom all people were descended.  These laws (prohibiting blasphemy, idolatry, sexual immorality, murder, no eating animals with the blood still in it …) appear fairly often in rabbinic sources.”




Letter of the Apostles

The letter has 109 words (more or less, textual variants) which was average for a letter of the times.

Keener vol. 3 p. 2285: “Lest the Diaspora believers take any offense at the requirements of Acts 15:29 (if any would), the letter prepares its intended recipients by setting the stage: the decree is much more lenient than the troublemakers of 15:24; the congregation was united and led by the Spirit; the missionaries to the Gentiles agreed and had been received by the Jerusalem church; and Jerusalem had sent its own genuine representatives in contrast to the false claimants of 15:24.”

Delegates at Antioch

The church in Antioch welcomes the letter and decision which is mostly in its favor

Paul and Barnabas Separate

Keener vol. 3 p. 2299: “Paul and Barnabas part over Mar, but God apparently uses the conflict (which is not portrayed positively) to produce two ministry teams.  With at least two new colleagues (first Silas and then Timothy), Paul, delivering the decrees, revisits the churches that he and Barnabas founded.  The mission must continue; in God’s plan, even the conflict between the missionaries may not stop it.”

Keener vol. 3 p. 2230: “Barnabas’s willingness to take Mark portrays the virtue of mercy or clemency, praiseworthy among people of rank in antiquity.  In typical ideals, sages should also nurture growth, not emulate the harshest Cynics.”



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