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Book of Acts Chapter 15 - Christogenea Internet Radio 09-27-2013
The end of Acts chapter 14 leaves us with Paul and Barnabas in Antioch in Syria after having returned from their first Christian missionary journey in Anatolia. On their first journey they did not venture far, travelling through the island of Cyprus and the Anatolian provinces of Pamphylia, Pisidia and Lycaonia. Western and Central Anatolia at this time was ruled by Romans, predominately settled by Greeks, and also contained populations of Phrygians, Phoenicians, Lydians, Galatians, and other White but non-Greek peoples.
Luke, the author of Acts, is said by the earliest Christian writers to have been a Greek from Antioch, which certainly seems to be true. Therefore he may have been with Paul on his first missionary journey, since the point of departure for that journey was Antioch, however it cannot be told from the accounts provided. It is even more likely that Luke was an actual eyewitness to the events described here in Acts chapter 15, since with all certainty Luke is in the company of Paul in Acts chapter 16, where he writes in the first person in Acts 16:10. That account describes Paul's second missionary journey, for which Antioch was the point of departure once again.
XV 1 And some had come down from Judaea teaching the brethren that if you would not be circumcised in the custom of Moses, you are not able to be saved.
The Codex Bezae (D) has “be circumcised and walk in the customs of Moses”, making the admonition to keep the Mosaic code which is given by these men even more complete. While this is certainly an interpolation, in verse 5 the fulness of the demand is manifest in all of the manuscripts.
Acts Chapter 15 is further evidence that the Book of Acts records a period of religious transition, which is evident in the confessions of the apostles themselves, in the understanding of these early Christians that their salvation was to be found in Christ, and not by adhering to the rituals – or the works as they are called – of the Old Testament law. Yet the apostles also understood that Christians should strive to keep the law if indeed they loved Christ, and we shall also see that here as the balance of this chapter of Acts is presented. It is difficult to convince those beholden to the law, who seek their justification by keeping the law, that Israelites (for only Israelites can be Christians under the New Covenant) are justified in Christ, and while they should seek to be obedient to His commandments, they shall be judged by His mercy and not by the law. Therefore also, because Christ has mercy on us all, we should have mercy towards our brethren who transgress, and seek to correct rather than to condemn them.
2 Then upon there coming no little discord and debate by Paul and Barnabas against them, they ordered Paul and Barnabas and some of the others among them to go up to Jerusalem to the ambassadors and elders concerning this debate.
The Codex Laudianus wants the words translated and debate in the first clause of the verse.
While we are never informed of exactly who these men were who came to Antioch from Jerusalem, if we follow the context of the balance of the account it is evident that neither Peter nor James could have been among them. Yet whoever they were, they appear to have had some authority among those within the Christian assembly. Where the King James Version has it that "they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem", the Greek verb is τάσσω (5021) and according to Liddell and Scott it primarily means to arrange but also to appoint, ordain, order, or prescribe, and therefore here in the Aorist tense it is ordered. As we have seen elsewhere, the Christian assemblies in Judaea also must have operated on the system of presbyters and ministers, or elders and servants, to whom the members of the assembly submitted themselves. That is also evident in Acts chapter 6, where upon there being a dispute over the distribution of food to people in the community, the apostles had the people of the assembly elect men who would oversee the administration of those things.
Here we see a sharp division in the beliefs among various of the earliest Christian teachers, and while Paul and Barnabas must have deferred to these men from Jerusalem in worldly matters, they did not defer to them in Scriptural matters. Therefore Paul and Barnabas could disagree with the men on matters of faith, but did not disagree with their demands to bring it before the apostles in Jerusalem. Paul concedes to this decision as well, that he would submit himself to the decision of the apostles, thereby recognizing them as the proper arbiters of these matters. If Paul had not been so willing, then there would not have been need for him to go to Jerusalem to argue his case before them, however the strife in Antioch would not have ceased. So Paul's concession was for the benefit of the community as a whole. That his argument prevailed with the apostles shows that Paul's position had the favor of God. An examination of the prophets would reveal that Paul's position was certainly grounded in Scripture, while those who favored the rituals were traditionalists who preferred the view of the Pharisees.
3 So then being sent forth by the assembly they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, relating the turning of the Nations and brought about great joy among all the brethren.
As we have seen earlier in Acts, namely concerning Samaria in Acts chapter 8, by this time there must have been a great number of Judaean Christians, as opposed to so-called “gentile Christians”, who were spread throughout much of Palestine. This again shows that the proper way to look at the division in the New Testament is not between Jew and Gentile, but between Israelites according to the flesh, and those who called themselves Israelites but who were actually converted Edomites, which is how Paul himself explained this division in Romans chapter 9.
These Judaean Christians, true Israelites indeed, were gleeful that the Nations had received the Gospel truth, while time and again the Scripture shows that those Judaeans who rejected Christ were envious and guarded their own position, hating the idea that the uncircumcised should be brought to truth in Christ. This is clearly seen where Paul, in his last-ditch attempt to reach the people of Jerusalem, while summarizing his own Christian revelation, is recorded as having said to them in Acts chapter 20: “And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him. 21 And he [meaning Christ] said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Nations. 22 And they gave him audience unto this word, and then lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live.” The Edomite Jew would want to kill anyone who accepts Christian truth, as recorded in the Book of Acts, and History proves as much unto this very day.
The Greek word rendered as turning here is ἐπιστροφή (1995), and it is rendered as conversion in the King James Version. Liddell and Scott define the word primarily as “a turning about … a turning of affairs, reaction ..attention paid to a person or thing, regard ….” The literal translation of the word reflects the true purpose of the Gospel message: to turn the children of Israel back to Yahweh their God. The word conversion is too often used to imply a change in something from what it was into something different, and in reference to Scripture it is misconstrued to mean that so-called Gentiles who were not Israelites can somehow be converted into “spiritual” Israelites, which is not at all the context of Scripture, but is instead a perversion of Scripture. Such nuances in translation, as trivial as they seem, make a great difference in understanding the error of Universalism as compared to the truth of Covenant Theology. While we use the word conversion and related words in our discourses concerning Scripture, even in this very presentation, we would always define conversion in these contexts as the returning of Israelites to Yahweh their God through Christ.
Some of the many Scriptures which demonstrate that the purpose of the Gospel was to turn Israel back to Yahweh their God:
Isaiah 31: " 6 Turn ye unto him from whom the children of Israel have deeply revolted. 7 For in that day every man shall cast away his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which your own hands have made unto you for a sin."
Isaiah 59: " 20 And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD."
Hosea 14: “1 O Israel, return unto the LORD thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. 2 Take with you words, and turn to the LORD: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips.”
Jeremiah 3 (long after the deportations of Israel): " 14 Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion: 15 And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding."
4 And arriving in Jerusalem they were received by the assembly and the ambassadors and the elders, and reported as much as Yahweh had done with them.
The Codices Ephraemi Syri (C) and Bezae (D), each using different Greek words to express it, have “greatly received”; the text follows the third century papyrus P45, and the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Alexandrinus (A), and Vaticanus (B) and the Codex Laudianus and the Majority Text which vary slightly.
The word with in the final clause is μετά (3326) and the translation is literal. The apostles clearly saw themselves as tools in the hands of Yahweh their God, which He employed to fulfill His will in the world.
5 Then there arose some who were persuaded by the sect of the Pharisees, saying that it is necessary to circumcise them and to instruct them to keep the law of Moses.
The Pharisees were legalists, and here there were Judaean Christians who had fallen under their influence, in spite of the fact that they were with the apostles themselves. These wanted Paul and Barnabas to compel the pagans who came to Christianity to be circumcised and to keep the law of Moses. Here we shall see that the apostles rejected that notion. However we shall also see both later in this chapter, and from Acts chapter 21, that the Judaean Christians themselves did not completely break free of the influence of the Pharisees, and they themselves thought that they should maintain both the rite of circumcision and the rituals of the law.
From Matthew 23: “23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. 24 Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.”
Christ Himself also quoted from Hosea 6:6, as it is recorded in the Gospels: “6 For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.”
6 Then the ambassadors and the elders gathered together to see [the Codex Laudianus (E) has todebate] concerning this account. 7 And there being much debate, Petros arising said to them: “Men, brethren, you know that from the first days Yahweh has chosen among you through my mouth for the Nations to hear the account of the good message and to believe.
The third century papyrus P45 inserts a lengthy segment after the word for debate in verse 7, which because the text is fragmented the editors of the Novum Testamentum Graece (NA27) have conjectured in parts (enclosed in brackets), which I shall endeavor to duplicate in English: “with Paul and Barnabas against th[em they ordered] Paul and Barnabas and some [others from among them] to [go up] to the ambassadors and elders be [ing...” where it is also apparent that other words are missing before Peter's name. This manuscript most likely being the oldest surviving record of the Book of Acts, any differences that it contains must be treated with significance.
The good message, or Gospel, which the nations were to believe is spelled out in the prophets, such as Isaiah 53, that Christ was to suffer on behalf of the sins of the children of Israel, and through that suffering Yahweh would be reconciled to Israel under a new covenant as promised in Jeremiah chapter 31, being joined to those very same people whom He had once put away, as promised in Hosea chapters 1 and 2. The apostles must have understood that this was the nature of the pronouncement of the Gospel of Christ to the nations. The evidence is in their epistles. When Peter wrote his first epistle he was explicitly addressing a “chosen race”, where he also directly quotes a promise of reconciliation which Yahweh made to dispersed Israel in Hosea chapter 1. Likewise James wrote to “the twelve tribes scattered abroad”, addressing his “brethren” as he called them, and explicitly considering Israel to be reckoned by tribes. A supposed “spiritual” Israel could not be reckoned by tribes, which can only be extended genetic families. Never did the apostles reckon the covenants and promises of God in Christ for anyone but the literal, genetic children of Israel.
The Codex Bezae (D) has “Yahweh has chosen us”; the Codex Laudianus (E) and the Majority Text have “Yahweh has chosen among us”; the text follows the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Alexandrinus (A), and Vaticanus (B) and Ephraemi Syri (C).
8 And Yahweh who knows the heart has accredited them to give the Holy Spirit just as also to us.
The Codices Ephraemi Syri (C), Laudianus and the Majority Text have “to give to them”; the Codex Bezae (D) “to give upon them”; the text follows the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Alexandrinus (A) and Vaticanus (B).
Peter is referring to his conversion of the household of the Roman centurion Cornelius and their having received the Holy Spirit which is recorded in Acts Chapter 10. Peter is also asserting that his conversion of the household of Cornelius to Christianity marked the first time that non-Judaeans were turned to Christ, referring only to those not first practicing the religion of Judaea since there were Judaean converts at Antioch along with the Judaean Christians as early as Acts chapter 6.
This event here in Acts chapter 15, according to Paul's epistle to the Galatians, is fourteen years after Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus if we count the times which he reckons inclusively, and it can indeed be determined that we must do so. However it is three years from Paul's conversion to his first visit with the apostles in Jerusalem, both events which are recorded in Acts chapter 9 (cf. Galatians 1:16-19, 2:1). Herod Agrippa died in 44 AD, and his death is recorded in Acts chapter 12. If it is accepted that Paul is converted by the second year of Christianity, or before the end of 34 AD, then his first visit with the apostles was about 36 AD and now it is about 47 AD. This is in keeping with the dating of the so-called Edict of Claudius which is said to have been issued in 49 AD, which is mentioned in Acts 18:2. By this we also see that it is as many as eleven years, but certainly no longer, from Peter's appearance at the home of Cornelius to the time of this event in Acts chapter 15.
9 And distinguishing nothing between both us and them, by faith He cleanses their hearts.
All that the members of the household of Cornelius did before they received the Holy Spirit was to accept the Gospel of Christ, and here Peter fully recognizes that fact, virtually admitting all that is necessary for Christians to do. This discounts the necessity of any and all rituals in connection with salvation, including water baptism. For this reason water baptism was never again mentioned in the Book of Acts after Peter's description of the conversion of Cornelius and his household in Acts chapter 11. To uphold water baptism as a proper Christian ritual, many sects refer to Acts chapter 2. They disregard the obvious transitional process in the religion of the apostles which is outlined throughout the entire Book of Acts, failing to consider the basis of their faith upon a complete revelation of Scripture.
10 Therefore now why tempt Yahweh to place a yoke upon the necks of the students which neither our fathers nor us have been able to bear?
In ancient times the children of Israel clearly could not keep the law or its rituals, and sinning they were cast out from the presence of Yahweh. Here Peter admits that neither could his own fellow Judaeans bear to live under the law and all of its injunctions and rituals. For this Peter witnessed Christ as He consistently upbraided the Pharisees for their hypocrisy.
From 1 Peter 1, we see that the apostle wrote to the “2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.... 9 Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. 10 Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you:” The prophets only wrote of these things in reference to the “chosen race”, the children of Israel. Grace is a matter of prophecy relating to the forgiving of sin for those who were under the law, as Jeremiah chapter 31 explains. Jeremiah 31:2: “Thus saith the LORD, The people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest.” We cannot imagine, in relation to the Gospel, that the apostles ever used this word grace outside of the context of the promises made by Yahweh God to Israel as they are recorded in Jeremiah chapter 31.
11 But through the favor of Prince Yahshua [which is the favor, or grace as the King James Version has it, which was promised to Israel in Jeremiah 31] we trust to be saved by the manner as they also.”
The Codices Ephraemi Syri (C) and Bezae (D) have “Prince Yahshua Christ”.
Here Peter expresses the attitude that Judaean Christians should be saved by faith in the same manner which he attributes for salvation to the Nations (which can only be dispersed Israel) telling us in verse 9 that God makes no distinction. Saying this, Peter expresses the understanding that both the Israelites of Judaea as well as the Israelites of the dispersions attain their salvation through Christ apart from the law and its rituals. This is the exact same understanding expressed by Paul throughout his epistles, which is also predicated upon the promises which Yahweh made in the prophets. However we shall see that the apostle James, while he agrees with Peter concerning dispersed Israel, would keep Judaean Christians under the law, and even, at least in some degree, under the rituals of the law.
12 Then all the multitude was silent, [the Codex Bezae has many interpolations in this chapter, and here it has “Then upon the consenting of the elders to that being spoken by Petros, all the multitude were silent”] and they heard Barnabas and Paul relating as many signs and wonders as Yahweh had done among the Nations through them.
Yahweh God should always be honored as the source of the good gifts and talents which men possess and are able to employ for the benefit of His people. Now we shall see the words and the attitude of the apostle James in response to these things.
13 And after their silence Iakobos responded saying “Men, brethren, you listen to me!
In reference to the following verse: The Hebrew form of Peter's given name appears in the Greek text both here at Acts 15:14 and in the first verse of Peter's second epistle. Luke's use of this form, which is the form that appears here in all extant manuscripts of Acts, is an indication that Luke witnessed this event first-hand, otherwise receiving a vicarious account he may have written the Greek form Simon in reference to Peter, as he always did elsewhere, earlier in Acts and throughout his Gospel.
14 Sumeon has declared just how at the first Yahweh considered to take from among the Nations a people in His Name.
Even though on the surface this may seem to refer to nations other than Israel, it does not. One place where this promise is explicitly found in Scripture is in Ezekiel chapter 36, and the words of the prophet address Israel over a hundred years after the Assyrian deportations:
Ezekiel 36: “17 Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it by their own way and by their doings: their way was before me as the uncleanness of a removed woman. 18 Wherefore I poured my fury upon them for the blood that they had shed upon the land, and for their idols wherewith they had polluted it: 19 And I scattered them among the heathen [or nations], and they were dispersed through the countries: according to their way and according to their doings I judged them. 20 And when they entered unto the heathen [or nations], whither they went, they profaned my holy name, when they said to them, These are the people of the LORD, and are gone forth out of his land. 21 But I had pity for mine holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the heathen [or nations], whither they went. 22 Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name's sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen [or nations], whither ye went. 23 And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen [or nations], which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen [or nations] shall know that I am the LORD, saith the Lord GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. 24 For I will take you from among the heathen [or nations], and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. 25 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. [Christ is the well of Living Water, John chapter 4] 26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.”
In reference to this last passage cited from Ezekiel, Paul wrote to the Christians at Corinth, from 2 Corinthians chapter 3: “2 You are our letters, having been inscribed in our hearts, being known and being read by all men, 3 being made manifest because you are Christ’s letter, ministered to by us; having been inscribed not with ink but with the Spirit of the living Yahweh; not on tablets of stone, but on fleshly tablets of heart.” The Corinthians were also from the dispersions of the Israelites, as Paul attests to them in 1 Corinthians chapter 10.
Something which I do not think that James understood, in my humble opinion, is the one stick prophecy of Ezekiel chapter 37. I shall explain my reasons for believing that later in this presentation of Acts chapter 15. In Ezekiel chapter 37 Yahweh had promised once more, as James professes here, that Israel would be taken from among the nations, referring to the nations in which they were dispersed: “21 And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: 22 And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all”.
Everywhere it is mentioned in Scripture, the taking of Israel from among the nations refers exclusively to the gathering of the dispersed Israelites who were taken into captivity in ancient times. Historically, for the most part this gathering occurred in the migrations to Europe of tribes from Asia between the 6th century BC and the fall of Rome, culminating with the acceptance of the Gospel by these very same people, fulfilling the words of the prophets concerning Israel returning to Yahweh their God. This is proven again by the missions of the apostles to Europe. In order to properly understand Scripture, whenever the apostles quote the Old Testament we must go back and examine the passages they are referring to in their original context. This is where Identity Christians primarily diverge from the universalists, or the Dispensationalists who insist that somehow God has dispensed with His Own Word in Scripture! For that reason, they arrogantly neglect God's Word in the Old Testament, which the apostles themselves cited again and again. If Yahweh God and Yahshua Christ were universalist, the apostles may have quoted from the Hindus, or from Buddha, or perhaps from Philo, rather than from Moses and the prophets!
15 And with this the words of the prophets agree just as it is written: 16 After these things ‘I shall return’ and ‘I shall rebuild the tent of David which has fallen and I shall rebuild its ruins and I shall set it up again,
The Codices Sinaiticus (א) and Vaticanus (B), while varying slightly, have ruins rather than ends; the Codex Laudianus (E) has diggings; the text follows the Codices Alexandrinus (A), Ephraemi Syri (C), Bezae (D) and the Majority Text, which agree with the reading of the Septuagint.
The NA27 has the words “I shall return” to be a quote from Jeremiah 12:15, even though the Greek differs with that of the Septuagint. It is much more likely that James had paraphrased from Amos chapter 9 from memory, from verses 14 and 11. The later part of the verse is without doubt quoted by James from Amos 9:11-12. In order to understand what it is that James refers to, we must go to the part of Amos from which he is quoting and read it in context.
From Amos 9: “9 For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth. 10 All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, which say, The evil shall not overtake nor prevent us. 11 In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old: 12 That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the LORD that doeth this.”
Many of the nations to which Israel was dispersed are explicitly listed in Isaiah 66:19, where Yahweh says in reference to Israel: “And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow, to Tubal, and Javan, to the isles afar off, that have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles [Nations].” Tarshish is in Spain. Pul is a reference to Assyria, the name of their king mentioned in 2 Kings 15:19. Lud is Lydia in Anatolia. Tubal was a principle of those tribes dwelling near the Black Sea. From Javan descended the Ionian Greeks, and Javan descended from Japheth (Genesis 10:2, 4). In all of these places did the tribes called by the Greeks Sakae, Scythians and Kimmerians first appear in history, shortly after the Assyrian captivities of Israel. Yet many Israelites had already migrated out of Palestine over the eight centuries prior to those captivities, and appear in those same places and others along the coasts of Europe.
These, along with the other places to which Israel was deported, such as to Persia and to the cities of the Medes, these are the nations where Israel would be sifted and from which Israel would later be regathered. James' words cannot be applied to anyone but the children of Israel. David was the model king, a type for Christ Himself, who ruled over all Israel. Therefore the “tabernacle of David” is a reference to David's rule over all of the tribes of Israel, which would only again be realized in Christ. From Isaiah 16:5: “And in mercy shall the throne be established: and he shall sit upon it in truth in the tabernacle of David, judging, and seeking judgment, and hasting righteousness.” James certainly knew exactly what he was doing when he wrote his epistle to “the twelve tribes scattered abroad”, and none of them were Jews. To continue with James' address:
17 that those remaining of men seek Yahweh, and all the Nations whom have My Name labeled upon them, says Yahweh doing these things 18 known from of old.’
The Codices Alexandrinus (A), Ephraemi Syri (C), Laudianus (E) and the Majority Text have “who is doing”; the Codex Bezae (D) has “who does”; the text follows Sinaiticus (א) andVaticanus (B).
The Codex Laudianus (E) and the Majority Text have “all these things” each with a different word order; the text follows the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Alexandrinus (A), Vaticanus (B), Ephraemi Syri (C) and Bezae (D).
Here we shall compare Amos 9:12 from both the King James Version and Brenton's Septuagint, and we shall see that the text of Amos which James quotes is from the Greek of the Septuagint, and not from any text similar to the Masoretic Text upon which the King James Version is based.
From the King James Version, Amos 9:12: “That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the LORD that doeth this.”
From Brenton's Septuagint, Amos 9:12: “that the remnant of men, and all the Gentiles upon whom my name is called, may earnestly seek me, saith the Lord who does all these things.”
In modern Hebrew the words edom and adam are identical without the Masoretic vowel points, and therefore the error appears to have been in transcription. Nevertheless, the phrase “those remaining of men” can only refer to those of the children of Israel who survived the captivity, as at Jeremiah 31:2 Yahweh tells us that “The people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest.”
Even the King James Version does not dispute the words of James, and correctly renders the Greek in this instance, where James is clearly referring to certain nations that Yahweh God put His name upon. The phrase “all the nations whom have My Name labeled upon them” could only have been fulfilled when the White European nations became known as Christendom, and it was a matter of prophecy that only those people who were descended from the Israelites of the Old Testament were to be labeled with His Name, i.e. Isaiah 43:1, 45:4, 62:1-2, 63:18-19 and Numbers 6:27.
Isaiah 43: “1 But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. 2 When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.”
Isaiah 45: “4 For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me.”
Isaiah 62: “1 For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth. 2 And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name.” That name could only be after the name of Christ, Christian. Speaking of the wealthy, in his epistle James said “Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?” (James 2:7).
Numbers 6: “24 The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: 25 The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: 26 The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. 27 And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them.”
Concerning verse 18, the Codices Alexandrinus (A), Bezae (D), Laudianus (E) and the Majority Text all begin this verse with a new sentence, for which the Alexandrinus and Bezae have “Known from of old by the Lord is His work” and for which the Laudianus and the Majority Text have “Known from of old by God are all of His works”. The King James Version of this verse has “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world”, a reading which belongs to only some very late manuscripts. If one of these readings were accepted, the words should be attributed to James, and not a part of that text which he is quoted. Here the text of the Christogenea New Testament follows the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Vaticanus (B), and Ephraemi Syri (C).
In any case, the text at verse 18 seems to be an allusion to Isaiah 45:21 (as the NA27 also notes): “Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me.” Those words also apply only to the children of Israel, and James' words at Acts 15:18 demand that Christians go back into the Old Testament Scriptures and investigate just what it was that Yahweh God said which James expected his listeners to have “known from of old”! The closing passage of Isaiah chapter 45: “25 In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.”
19 On which account I [James] judge not to trouble those from among the Nations who turn to Yahweh, 20 but to enjoin them to abstain from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from that which is strangled and from blood. 21 For Moses from generations of old has those who are proclaiming him in each city in the assembly halls, being read each and every Sabbath.”
After the word for blood the Codex Bezae (D) inserts words that may be read “and whatever they wish not to happen to themselves, not to do to others.”
The third century papyrus P45 wants the words rendered “and from fornication”, however the words also appear at 15:29 and again at 21:25 where the phrase is not contested among any of the other the Greek manuscripts. P45 is wanting both of those passages entirely, because it only survives in large fragments.
Regardless of what one wants to believe concerning the Mosaic law (which we shall discuss further on in our presentation of this chapter of Acts), the ten commandments and the admonishments to keep them are an explicit part of the Christian Gospel, recorded in Matthew, Mark and Luke. In the Gospel of the apostle John, Christ is recorded as having said “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (14:15) and “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (14:21) so there should be no doubt that these things were being taught by all of the apostles who preached the Gospel.
However here James adds three injunctions which he must have felt were quite important, and which transcended mere obedience to the Mosaic law:
To abstain from things polluted by idols: this does not mean merely things sacrificed to idols, and it is not even necessarily a reference to food. It rather admonishes Christians to steer clear of anything where idols are involved. In the ancient world, that meant the games, the theater, the pagan festivals which took place in every city, as well as the temples and the religious rites of the pagans. Christians today should still be following James' advice, but today people fail to see their conduct in civic life in connection with their religion. In the ancient world, how one conducted himself in the world was a full reflection of his religion – there was no difference between civic and religious life. Therefore nearly all so-called Christians today are truly not Christian at all: they are all pagan.
To abstain from things which are strangled and from blood: These are from the Mosaic law concerning things which may be eaten, or which may not be eaten. With this admonishment, Christians should consider that some things are indeed deemed by God as being unfit for us to eat, and that perhaps Christians should therefore also look into and consider keeping the rest of the food laws. James obviously thought that these food laws were important. Yahweh God is the Creator of the natural world, and of course His law would know what is good for us to eat, and what is not good for us to eat.
To abstain from fornication: the reasons for this admonition being added here are cultural, because the commandment “thou shalt not commit adultery” did not translate properly into Greek understanding as it appeared in the Greek scriptures. The Hebrew word which the King James Version translates as adultery in the Old Testament ostensibly refers to race-mixing. The translators who in ancient times created the Septuagint from the Hebrew Scriptures seem to have chosen a word, μοιχός which the Greeks did not use in that same manner, even though the word is an adjective which is linguistically related to a Greek verb meaning to mix. The Greeks used μοιχός of any illicit relationship by a married person regardless of the race of the partner, which is similar to the English use of the word adultery today. So here James uses the Greek word πορνeία, translated fornication in the New Testament, which the Greeks used not only to describe prostitution, but also to describe any illicit sexual act, and the Greeks indeed considered race-mixing to be such an illicit sexual act.
Therefore Paul uses the word πορνeία to describe a man who had sexual relations with a woman married to his father, in 1 Corinthians chapter 5, but Paul also used the same word πορνeία translated as fornication here in the King James Version and also at 1 Corinthians 10:8, where he clearly refers to a race-mixing event which took place in ancient Israel, as described in Numbers chapter 25 where Israel “began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab”. Therefore it is without a doubt that in Scripture fornication refers to race-mixing, among other things, and that Christians should not partake in it. This is further supported in the epistle of Jude, where at verse 7 he attests that fornication is the pursuit of strange, or different, flesh.
The last part of James' address here, where he says that “For Moses from generations of old has those who are proclaiming him in each city in the assembly halls, being read each and every Sabbath.”, is where we shall pick up as we continue our presentation of the Book of Acts in the next segment of this series.