« Prev Chapter 15 Next »

Chapter 15

15:1 And certain men came down from Judea [kai tines katelthontes apo tēs Ioudaias]. Evidently the party of the circumcision in the church in Jerusalem (11:2) had heard of the spread of the gospel among the Gentiles in Cyprus, Pamphylia, and South Galatia (Phrygia, Pisidia, Lycaonia). Possibly John Mark after his desertion at Perga (13:13) told of this as one of his reasons for coming home. At any rate echoes of the jubilation in Antioch in Syria would be certain to reach Jerusalem. The Judaizers in Jerusalem, who insisted that all the Gentile Christians must become Jews also, had acquiesced in the case of Cornelius and his group (11:1-18) after plain proof by Peter that it was the Lord’s doing. But they had not agreed to a formal campaign to turn the exception into the rule and to make Christianity mainly Gentile with a few Jews instead of mainly Jewish with a few Gentiles. Since Paul and Barnabas did not come up to Jerusalem, the leaders among the Judaizers decided to go down to Antioch and attack Paul and Barnabas there. They had volunteered to go without church action in Jerusalem for their activity is disclaimed by the conference (Ac 15:24). In Ga 2:4 Paul with some heat describes these Judaizers as “false brethren, secretly introduced who sneaked in to spy out our liberty.” It is reasonably certain that this visit to Jerusalem described in Ga 2:1-10 is the same one as the Jerusalem Conference in Acts 15:5-29 in spite of the effort of Ramsay to identify it with that in 11:29f. Paul in Galatians is not giving a list of his visits to Jerusalem. He is showing his independence of the twelve apostles and his equality with them. He did not see them in 11:29f., but only “the elders.” In Ac 15 Luke gives the outward narrative of events, in Ga 2:1-10 Paul shows us the private interview with the apostles when they agreed on their line of conduct toward the Judaizers. In Ga 2:2 by the use of “them” [autois] Paul seems to refer to the first public meeting in Acts before the private interview that came in between verses 15:5-6. If we recall the difficulty that Peter had on the subject of preaching the gospel to the heathen (10:1-11:18), we can the better understand the attitude of the Judaizers. They were men of sincere convictions without a doubt, but they were obscurantists and unable and unwilling to receive new light from the Lord on a matter that involved their racial and social prejudices. They recalled that Jesus himself had been circumcised and that he had said to the Syro-Phoenician woman that he had come only save to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Mt 15:24ff.). They argued that Christ had not repealed circumcision. So one of the great religious controversies of all time was begun, that between spiritual religion and ritualistic or ceremonial religion. It is with us yet with baptism taking the place of circumcision. These self-appointed champions of circumcision for Gentile Christians were deeply in earnest. Taught the brethren [edidaskon tous adelphous]. Inchoative imperfect active, began to teach and kept it up. Their attitude was one of supercilious superiority. They probably resented the conduct of Barnabas, who, when sent by the Church in Jerusalem to investigate the conversion of the Greeks in Antioch (11:20-26), did not return and report till a strong church had been established there with the help of Saul and only then with a big collection to confuse the issue. Paul and Barnabas were on hand, but the Judaizers persisted in their efforts to force their views on the church in Antioch. It was a crisis. Except ye be circumcised after the custom of Moses, ye cannot be saved [ean me peritmēthēte tōi ethei Mōuseōs, ou dunasthe sōthēnai]. There was the dictum of the Judaizers to the Gentiles. Paul and Barnabas had been circumcised. This is probably the precise language employed, for they spoke in Greek to these Greeks. It is a condition of the third class (undetermined, but with prospect of being determined, [ean] plus the first aorist passive subjunctive of [peritemnō]. There was thus hope held out for them, but only on condition that they be circumcised. The issue was sharply drawn. The associative instrumental case [tōi ethei] is customary. “Saved” [sōthēnai] here is the Messianic salvation. This doctrine denied the efficacy of the work of Christ.

15:2 When Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and questioning with them [Genomenēs staseōs kai zētēseōs ouk oligēs tōi Paulōi kai Barnabāi pros autous]. Genitive absolute of second aorist middle participle of [ginomai], genitive singular agreeing with first substantive [staseōs]. Literally, “No little (litotes for much) strife and questioning coming to Paul and Barnabas (dative case) with them “ [pros autous], face to face with them). Paul and Barnabas were not willing to see this Gentile church brow-beaten and treated as heretics by these self-appointed regulators of Christian orthodoxy from Jerusalem. The work had developed under the leadership of Paul and Barnabas and they accepted full responsibility for it and stoutly resisted these Judaizers to the point of sedition (riot, outbreak in Lu 23:25; Ac 19:40) as in 23:7. There is no evidence that the Judaizers had any supporters in the Antioch church so that they failed utterly to make any impression. Probably these Judaizers compelled Paul to think through afresh his whole gospel of grace and so they did Paul and the world a real service. If the Jews like Paul had to believe, it was plain that there was no virtue in circumcision (Ga 2:15-21). It is not true that the early Christians had no disagreements. They had selfish avarice with Ananias and Sapphira, murmuring over the gifts to the widows, simony in the case of Simon Magus, violent objection to work in Caesarea, and now open strife over a great doctrine (grace vs. legalism). The brethren appointed [etaxan]. “The brethren” can be supplied from verse 1 and means the church in Antioch. The church clearly saw that the way to remove this deadlock between the Judaizers and Paul and Barnabas was to consult the church in Jerusalem to which the Judaizers belonged. Paul and Barnabas had won in Antioch. If they can win in Jerusalem, that will settle the matter. The Judaizers will be answered in their own church for which they are presuming to speak. The verb [etaxan] [tassō], to arrange) suggests a formal appointment by the church in regular assembly. Paul (Ga 2:2) says that he went up by revelation [kat’ apokalupsin], but surely that is not contradictory to the action of the church. Certain others of them [tinas allous]. Certainly Titus (Ga 2:1, 3), a Greek and probably a brother of Luke who is not mentioned in Acts. Rackham thinks that Luke was in the number. The apostles and elders [tous apostolous kai presbuterous]. Note one article for both (cf. “the apostles and the brethren” in 11:1). “Elders” now (11:30) in full force. The apostles have evidently returned now to the city after the death of Herod Agrippa I stopped the persecution.

15:3 They therefore [hoi men oun]. Luke’s favourite method of resumptive narrative as we have seen (11:19, etc.), demonstrative [hoi] with [men] (indeed) and [oun] (therefore). Being brought on their way by the church [propemphthentes hupo tēs ekklēsias]. First aorist passive participle of [propempō], old verb, to send forward under escort as a mark of honour as in 20:38; 21:5; 3Jo 1:6. They were given a grand send-off by the church in Antioch. Passed through [diērchonto]. Imperfect middle describing the triumphal procession through both [te kai] Phoenicia and Samaria. The conversion [tēn epistrophēn]. The turning. They caused great joy [epoioun charan megalēn]. Imperfect active. They were raising a constant paean of praise as they proceeded toward Jerusalem. Probably the Judaizers had gone on or kept still.

15:4 Were received [paredechthēsan]. First aorist passive indicative of [paradechomai], old verb, to receive, to welcome. Here it was a public reception for Paul and Barnabas provided by the whole church including the apostles and elders, at which an opportunity was given to hear the story of Paul and Barnabas about God’s dealings with them among the Gentiles. This first public meeting is referred to by Paul in Ga 2:2 “I set before them [autois] the gospel, etc.”

15:5 But there rose up [exanestēsan de]. Second aorist active indicative (intransitive). Note both [ex] and [an]. These men rose up out of the crowd at a critical moment. They were believers in Christ [pepisteukotes], having believed), but were still members of “the sect of the Pharisees” [tēs haireseōs tōn Pharisaiōn]. Evidently they still held to the Pharisaic narrowness shown in the attack on Peter (11:2f.). Note the dogmatism of their “must” [dei] after the opposition of Paul and Barnabas to their “except” [ean me] at Antioch (15:1). They are unconvinced and expected to carry the elders with them. Codex Bezae says that they had appealed to the elders (15:2, 5). At any rate they have made the issue in open meeting at the height of the jubilation. It is plain from verse 6 that this meeting was adjourned, for another gathering came together then. It is here that the private conference of which Paul speaks in Ga 2:1-10 took place. It was Paul’s chance to see the leaders in Jerusalem (Peter, James, and John) and he won them over to his view of Gentile liberty from the Mosaic law so that the next public conference (Ac 15:6-29) ratified heartily the views of Paul, Barnabas, Peter, James, and John. It was a diplomatic triumph of the first order and saved Christianity from the bondage of Jewish ceremonial sacramentalism. So far as we know this is the only time that Paul and John met face to face, the great spirits in Christian history after Jesus our Lord. It is a bit curious to see men saying today that Paul surrendered about Titus and had him circumcised for the sake of peace, the very opposite of what he says in Galatians, “to whom I yielded, no not for an hour.” Titus as a Greek was a red flag to the Judaizers and to the compromisers, but Paul stood his ground.

15:6 Were gathered together [sunēchthēsan]. First aorist (effective) passive indicative. The church is not named here as in verse 4, but we know from verses 12-22 that the whole church came together this time also along with the apostles and elders. Of this matter [peri tou logou toutou]. Same idiom in 8:21; 19:38. They realized the importance of the issue.

15:7 When there had been much questioning [pollēs zētēseōs genomenēs]. Genitive absolute with second aorist middle participle of [ginomai]. Evidently the Judaizers were given full opportunity to air all their grievances and objections. They were allowed plenty of time and there was no effort to shut off debate or to rush anything through the meeting. Peter rose up [anastas Petros]. The wonder was that he had waited so long. Probably Paul asked him to do so. He was the usual spokesman for the apostles and his activities in Jerusalem were well-known. In particular his experience at Caesarea (Ac 10) had caused trouble here in Jerusalem from this very same party of the circumcism (Ac 11:1-18). It was fitting that Peter should speak. This is the last time that Peter appears in the Acts. A good while ago [aph’ hēmerōn archaiōn]. From ancient days. The adjective [archaios] is from [archē], beginning, and its actual age is a matter of relativity. So Mnason (Ac 21:16) is termed “an ancient disciple.” It was probably a dozen years since God “made choice” [exelexato] to speak by Peter’s mouth to Cornelius and the other Gentiles in Caesarea. His point is that what Paul and Barnabas have reported is nothing new. The Judaizers made objection then as they are doing now.

15:8 Which knoweth the heart [kardiognōstēs]. Late word from [kardia] (heart) and [gnōstēs] (known, [ginōskō]. In the N.T. only here and 1:24 which see. Giving them the Holy Spirit [dous to pneuma to hagion]. And before their baptism. This was the Lord’s doing. They had accepted (11:18) this witness of God then and it was true now of these other Gentile converts.

15:9 He made no distinction between us and them [outhen diekrinen metaxu hēmōn te kai autōn]. He distinguished nothing (first aorist active ind.) between (both [dia] and [metaxu] both [te kai] us and them. In the matter of faith and conversion God treated us Jews as heathen and the heathen as Jews. Cleansing their hearts by faith [tēi pistei katharisas tas kardias autōn]. Not by works nor by ceremonies. Peter here has a thoroughly Pauline and Johannine idea of salvation for all both Jew and Greek. Cf. 10:15.

15:10 Why tempt ye God? [ti peirazete ton theon;]. By implying that God had made a mistake this time, though right about Cornelius. It is a home-thrust. They were refusing to follow the guidance of God like the Israelites at Massah and Meribah (Ex 17:7; De 6:16; 1Co 10:9). That ye should put [epitheinai]. Second aorist active infinitive of [epitithēmi], epexegetic, explaining the tempting. A yoke upon the neck [zugon epi ton trachēlon]. Familiar image of oxen with yokes upon the necks. Paul’s very image for the yoke of bondage of the Mosaic law in Ga 5:1. It had probably been used in the private interview. Cf. the words of Jesus about the Pharisees (Mt 23:4) and how easy and light his own yoke is (Mt 11:30). Were able to bear [ischusamen bastasai]. Neither our fathers nor we had strength [ischuō] to carry this yoke which the Judaizers wish to put on the necks of the Gentiles. Peter speaks as the spiritual emancipator. He had been slow to see the meaning of God’s dealings with him at Joppa and Caesarea, but he has seen clearly by now. He takes his stand boldly with Paul and Barnabas for Gentile freedom.

15:11 That we shall be saved [sōthēnai]. First aorist passive infinitive in indirect discourse after [pisteuomen]. More exactly, “We believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus in like manner as they also.” This thoroughly Pauline note shows that whatever hopes the Judaizers had about Peter were false. His doctrine of grace is as clear as a bell. He has lifted his voice against salvation by ceremony and ritualism. It was a great deliverance.

15:12 Kept silence [esigēsen]. Ingressive first aorist active of [sigaō], old verb, to hold one’s peace. All the multitude became silent after Peter’s speech and because of it. Hearkened [ēkouon]. Imperfect active of [akouō], descriptive of the rapt attention, were listening. Unto Barnabas and Paul [Barnaba kai Paulou]. Note placing Barnabas before Paul as in verse 25, possibly because in Jerusalem Barnabas was still better known than Paul. Rehearsing [exēgoumenōn]. Present middle participle of [exēgeomai], old verb, to go through or lead out a narrative of events as in Lu 24:35; Ac 10:8 which see. Three times (14:27; 15:4, 12) Paul is described as telling the facts about their mission work, facts more eloquent than argument (Page). One of the crying needs in the churches is fuller knowledge of the facts of mission work and progress with enough detail to give life and interest. The signs and wonders which God had wrought among the Gentiles set the seal of approval on the work done through [dia] Barnabas and Paul. This had been Peter’s argument about Cornelius (11:17). This same verb [exēgēsato] is used by James in verse 14 referring to Peter’s speech.

15:13 After they had held their peace [meta to sigēsai autous]. Literally, “after the becoming silent (ingressive aorist active of the articular infinitive) as to them (Barnabas and Paul, accusative of general reference).” James answered [apekrithē Iakōbos]. First aorist passive (deponent) indicative. It was expected that James, as President of the Conference, would speak last. But he wisely waited to give every one an opportunity to speak. The challenge of the Judaizers called for an opinion from James. Furneaux thinks that he may have been elected one of the twelve to take the place of James the brother of John since Paul (Ga 1:19) calls him apostle. More likely he was asked to preside because of his great gifts and character as chief of the elders.

15:14 Hearken unto me [akousate mou]. Usual appeal for attention. James was termed James the Just and was considered a representative of the Hebraic as opposed to the Hellenistic wing of the Jewish Christians (Ac 6:1). The Judaizers had doubtless counted on him as a champion of their view and did later wrongfully make use of his name against Peter at Antioch (Ga 2:12). There was instant attention when James began to speak. Symeon [Sumeōn]. The Aramaic form of Simon as in 2Pe 2:1. This little touch would show his affinities with the Jewish Christians (not the Judaizers). This Aramaic form is used also in Lu 2:25, 34 of the old prophet in the temple. Possibly both forms (Symeon, Aramaic, and Simon, Greek) were current in Jerusalem. How [kathōs]. Strictly, “according as,” here like [hos] in indirect discourse somewhat like the epexegetic or explanatory use in 3Jo 1:3. First [prōton]. Told by Peter in verse 7. James notes, as Peter did, that this experience of Barnabas and Paul is not the beginning of work among the Gentiles. Did visit [epeskepsato]. First aorist middle indicative of [episkeptomai], old verb to look upon, to look after, provide for. This same verb occurs in Jas 1:27 and is one of various points of similarity between this speech of James in Acts and the Epistle of James as shown by Mayor in his Commentary on James. Somehow Luke may have obtained notes of these various addresses. To take from the Gentiles a people for his name [labein ex ethnōn laon tōi onomati autou]. Bengel calls this egregium paradoxon, a chosen people [laon] out of the Gentiles [ethnōn]. This is what is really involved in what took place at Caesarea at the hands of Peter and the campaign of Barnabas and Paul from Antioch. But such a claim of God’s purpose called for proof from Scripture to convince Jews and this is precisely what James undertakes to give. This new Israel from among the Gentiles is one of Paul’s great doctrines as set forth in Ga 3; Ro 9-11. Note the use of God’s “name” here for “the Israel of God” (Ga 6:16).

15:15 To this agree [toutōi sumphōnousin]. Associative instrumental case [toutōi] after [sumphōnousin] (voice together with, symphony with, harmonize with), from [sumphōneō], old verb seen already in Mt 18:19; Lu 5:36; Ac 5:9 which see. James cites only Am 9:11, 12 from the LXX as an example of “the words of the prophets” [hoi logoi tōn prophētōn] to which he refers on this point. The somewhat free quotation runs here through verses 16-18 of Ac 15 and is exceedingly pertinent. The Jewish rabbis often failed to understand the prophets as Jesus showed. The passage in Amos refers primarily to the restoration of the Davidic empire, but also the Messiah’s Kingdom (the throne of David his father,” Lu 1:32).

15:16 I will build again [anoikodomēsō]. Here LXX has [anastēsō]. Compound [ana], up or again) of [oikodomeō], the verb used by Jesus in Mt 16:18 of the general church or kingdom as here which see. The tabernacle of David [tēn skēnēn Daueid], a poetical figure of the throne of David (2Sa 7:12) now “the fallen tent” [tēn peptōkuian], perfect active participle of [piptō], state of completion. The ruins thereof [ta katestrammena autēs]. Literally, “the ruined portions of it.” Perfect passive participle of [katastrephō], to turn down. It is a desolate picture of the fallen, torn down tent of David. I will let it up [anorthōsō]. Old verb from [anorthoō] [ana, orthos], to set upright. See on Lu 3:13 of the old woman whose crooked back was set straight.

15:17 That the residue of men may seek after the Lord [hopōs an ekzētēsōsin hoi kataloipoi tōn anthrōpōn ton kurion]. The use of [hopōs] with the subjunctive (effective aorist active) to express purpose is common enough and note [an] for an additional tone of uncertainty. On the rarity of [an] with [hopōs] in the Koinē see Robertson, Grammar, p. 986. Here the Gentiles are referred to. The Hebrew text is quite different, “that they may possess the remnant of Edom.” Certainly the LXX suits best the point that James is making. But the closing words of this verse point definitely to the Gentiles both in the Hebrew and the LXX, “all the Gentiles” [panta ta ethnē]. Another item of similarity between this speech and the Epistle of James is in the phrase “my name is called” [epikeklētai to onoma mou] and Jas 2:7. The purpose of God, though future, is expressed by this perfect passive indicative [epikeklētai] from [epi-kaleō], to call on. It is a Jewish way of speaking of those who worship God.

15:18 From the beginning of the world [ap’ aiōnos]. Or, “from of old.” James adds these words, perhaps with a reminiscence of Isa 45:21. His point is that this purpose of God, as set forth in Amos, is an old one. God has an Israel outside of and beyond the Jewish race, whom he will make his true “Israel” and so there is no occasion for surprise in the story of God’s dealings with the Gentiles as told by Barnabas and Paul. God’s eternal purpose of grace includes all who call upon his name in every land and people (Isa 2:1; Mic 4:1). This larger and richer purpose and plan of God was one of the mysteries which Paul will unfold in the future (Ro 16:25; Eph 3:9). James sees it clearly now. God is making it known [poiōn tauta gnōsta], if they will only be willing to see and understand. It was a great deliverance that James had made and it exerted a profound influence on the assembly.

15:19 Wherefore [dio]. “Because of which,” this plain purpose of God as shown by Amos and Isaiah. My judgment is [egō krinō]. Note expression of [egō]. I give my judgment. [Ego censeo]. James sums up the case as President of the Conference in a masterly fashion and with that consummate wisdom for which he is noted. It amounts to a resolution for the adoption by the assembly as happened (verse 33). That we trouble not [mē parenochlein]. Present active infinitive with [] in an indirect command (Robertson, Grammar, p. 1046) of [parenochleō], a common late verb, occurring here alone in the N.T. This double compound [para, en] is from the old compound [enochleō] [en] and [ochlos], crowd, annoyance) seen in Lu 6:18; Heb 12:15, and means to cause trouble beside [para] one or in a matter. This is the general point of James which he explains further concerning “those who are turning from the Gentiles unto God,” the very kind of people referred to in Amos.

15:20 But that we write unto them [alla episteilai autois]. By way of contrast [alla]. First aorist active infinitive of [epistellō], old verb to send to one (message, letter, etc.). Our word [epistle] [epistolē] as in verse 30) comes from this verb. In the N.T. only here, He 13:22, and possibly Ac 21:25. That they abstain from [tou apechesthai]. The genitive of the articular infinitive of purpose, present middle (direct) of [apechō], old verb, to hold oneself back from. The best old MSS. do not have [apo], but the ablative is clear enough in what follows. James agrees with Peter in his support of Paul and Barnabas in their contention for Gentile freedom from the Mosaic ceremonial law. The restrictions named by James affect the moral code that applies to all (idolatry, fornication, murder). Idolatry, fornication and murder were the outstanding sins of paganism then and now (Re 22:15). Harnack argues ably against the genuineness of the word [pniktou] (strangled) which is absent from D Irenaeus, Tertullian, Cyprian. It is a nice point, though the best MSS. have it in accord with Le 17:10-16. The problem is whether the words were added because “blood” was understood as not “murder,” but a reference to the Mosaic regulation or whether it was omitted to remove the ceremonial aspect and make it all moral and ethical. The Western text omits the word also in verse 29. But with the word retained here and in verse 29 the solution of James is not a compromise, though there is a wise concession to Jewish feeling. Pollutions of idols [alisgēmatōn]. From [alisgeō] only in the LXX and this substantive nowhere else. The word refers to idolatrous practices (pollutions) and things sacrificed to idols [eidōluthōn] in verse 29, not to sacrificial meat sold in the market (1Co 10:27), a matter not referred to here. Cf. Le 17:1-9. All the four items in the position of James (accepting [pniktou] are mentioned in Le 17, 18.

15:21 For Moses [Mōusēs gar]. A reason why these four necessary things (verse 28) are named. In every city are synagogues where rabbis proclaim [kērussontas] these matters. Hence the Gentile Christians would be giving constant offence to neglect them. The only point where modern Christian sentiment would object would be about “things strangled” and “blood” in the sense of any blood left in the animals, though most Christians probably agree with the feeling of James in objecting to blood in the food. If “blood” is taken to be “murder,” that difficulty vanishes. Moses will suffer no loss for these Gentile Christians are not adherents of Judaism.

15:22 Then it seemed good [Tote edoxen]. First aorist active indicative of [dokeō]. A regular idiom at the beginning of decrees. This Eirenicon of James commended itself to the whole assembly. Apparently a vote was taken which was unanimous, the Judaizers probably not voting. The apostles and the elders [tois apostolois kai tois presbuterois], article with each, dative case) probably all vocally expressed their position. With the whole church [sun holei tēi ekklēsiāi]. Probably by acclamation. It was a great victory. But James was a practical leader and he did not stop with speeches and a vote. To choose men out of their company [eklezamenous andras ex autōn]. Accusative case, though dative just before [tois apostolois], etc.), of first aorist middle participle of [eklegō], to select. This loose case agreement appears also in [grapsantes] in verse 23 and in MSS. in verse 25. It is a common thing in all Greek writers (Paul, for instance), especially in the papyri and in the Apocalypse of John. Judas called Barsabbas [Ioudan ton kaloumenon Barsabban]. Not otherwise known unless he is a brother of Joseph Barsabbas of 1:23, an early follower of Jesus. The other, Silas, is probably a shortened form of Silvanus [Silouanos], 1Pe 5:12), the companion of Paul in his second mission tour (Ac 15:32, 41; 16:25). Chief men [hēgoumenous]. Leaders, leading men (participle from [hēgeomai], to lead).

15:23 And they wrote [grapsantes]. First aorist active participle of [graphō] and the nominative as if a principal verb [epempsan] had been used instead of [pempsai], the first aorist active infinitive (anacoluthon). This committee of four (Judas, Silas, Barnabas, Paul) carried the letter which embodied the decision of the Conference. This letter is the writing out of the judgment of James and apparently written by him as the President. The apostles and the elders, brethren [hoi apostoloi kai hoi presbuteroi, adelphoi]. So the oldest and best MSS. without [kai] (and) before “brethren.” This punctuation is probably correct and not “elder brethren.” The inquiry had been sent to the apostles and elders (verse 2) though the whole church joined in the welcome (verse 4) and in the decision ( verse 22). The apostles and elders send the epistle, but call themselves “brothers to brothers,” Fratres Fratibus Salutem. “The brothers” [tois adelphois] addressed (dative case) are of the Gentiles [ex ethnōn] and those in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia, because they were immediately involved. But the decision of this Conference was meant for Gentile Christians everywhere (16:4). Greeting [Chairein]. The customary formula in the beginning of letters, the absolute infinitive (usually [chairein] with the nominative absolute also as in Jas 1:1; Ac 23:26 and innumerable papyri (Robertson, Grammar, pp. 1902f.).

15:24 Certain which went from us [tines ex hēmōn], Aleph B omit [exelthontes]. A direct blow at the Judaizers, put in delicate language (we heard [ēkousamen] as if only at Antioch (15:1), and not also in Jerusalem in open meeting (15:5). Have troubled you with words [etaraxan humas logois]. What a picture of turmoil in the church in Antioch, words, words, words. Aorist tense of the common verb [tarassō], to agitate, to make the heart palpitate (Joh 14:1, 27) and instrumental case of [logois]. Subverting your souls [anaskeuazontes tas psuchas humōn]. Present active participle of [anaskeuazō], old verb [ana] and [skeuos], baggage) to pack up baggage, to plunder, to ravage. Powerful picture of the havoc wrought by the Judaizers among the simple-minded Greek Christians in Antioch. To whom we gave no commandment [hois ou diesteilametha]. First aorist middle indicative of [diastellō], old verb to draw asunder, to distinguish, to set forth distinctly, to command. This is a flat disclaimer of the whole conduct of the Judaizers in Antioch and in Jerusalem, a complete repudiation of their effort to impose the Mosaic ceremonial law upon the Gentile Christians.

15:25 It seemed good unto us [edoxen hēmin]. See statement by Luke in verse 22, and now this definite decision is in the epistle itself. It is repeated in verse 28. Having come to one accord [genomenois homothumadon]. On this adverb, common in Acts, see on 1:14. But [genomenois] clearly means that the final unity was the result of the Conference (private and public talks). The Judaizers are here brushed to one side as the defeated disturbers that they really were who had lacked the courage to vote against the majority. To choose out men and send them [eklexamenois andras pempsai] A B L, though Aleph C D read [eklexamenous] as in verse 22). Precisely the same idiom as in verse 22, “having chosen out to send.” With our beloved Barnabas and Paul [sun tois agapētois hēmōn Barnabāi kai Paulōi]. The verbal adjective [agapētois] (common in the N.T.) definitely sets the seal of warm approval on Barnabas and Paul. Paul (Ga 2:9) confirms this by his statement concerning the right hand of fellowship given.

15:26 Have hazarded their lives [paradedōkosi tas psuchas autōn]. Perfect active participle dative plural of [paradidōmi], old word, to hand over to another, and with [psuchas], to hand over to another their lives. The sufferings of Paul and Barnabas in Pisidia and Lycaonia were plainly well-known just as the story of Judson in Burmah is today. On the use of “name” here see on 3:6.

15:27 Who themselves also shall tell you the same things by word of mouth [kai autous dia logou apaggellontas ta auta]. Literally, “they themselves also by speech announcing the same things.” The present participle, as here, sometimes is used like the future to express purpose as in 3:26 [eulogounta] after [apesteilen] and so here [apaggellontas] after [apestalkamen] (Robertson, Grammar, p. 1128). Judas and Silas are specifically endorsed (perfect active indicative of [apostellō] as bearers of the epistle who will also verbally confirm the contents of the letter.

15:28 To the Holy Spirit and to us [tōi pneumati tōi hagiōi kai hēmin]. Dative case after [edoxen] (third example, verses 22, 25, 28). Definite claim that the church in this action had the guidance of the Holy Spirit. That fact was plain to the church from what had taken place in Caesarea and in this campaign of Paul and Barnabas (verse 8). Jesus had promised that the Holy Spirit would guide them into all truth (Joh 16:13). Even so the church deliberated carefully before deciding. What a blessing it would be if this were always true! But even so the Judaizers are only silenced for the present, not convinced and only waiting for a better day to start over again. No greater burden [mēden pleon baros]. The restrictions named did constitute some burden (cf. Mt 20:12), for the old word [baros] means weight or heaviness. Morality itself is a restraint upon one’s impulses as is all law a prohibition against license.

15:29 Than these necessary things [plēn toutōn tōn epanagkes]. This old adverb (from [epi] and [anagkē] means on compulsion, of necessity. Here only in the N.T. For discussion of these items see on verses 20, 21. In comparison with the freedom won this “burden” is light and not to be regarded as a compromise in spite of the arguments of Lightfoot and Ramsay. It was such a concession as any converted Gentile would be glad to make even if “things strangled” be included. This “necessity” was not a matter of salvation but only for fellowship between Jews and Gentiles. The Judaizers made the law of Moses essential to salvation (15:16). It shall be well with you [eu praxete]. Ye shall fare well. A classical idiom used here effectively. The peace and concord in the fellowship of Jews and Gentiles will justify any slight concession on the part of the Gentiles. This letter is not laid down as a law, but it is the judgment of the Jerusalem Christians for the guidance of the Gentiles (16:4) and it had a fine effect at once (15:30-35). Trouble did come later from the Judaizers who were really hostile to the agreement in Jerusalem, but that opposition in no way discredits the worth of the work of this Conference. No sane agreement will silence perpetual and professional disturbers like these Judaizers who will seek to unsettle Paul’s work in Antioch, in Corinth, in Galatia, in Jerusalem, in Rome. Fare ye well [Errōsthe]. Valete. Perfect passive imperative of [rhōnnumi], to make strong. Common at the close of letters. Be made strong, keep well, fare well. Here alone in the N.T. though some MSS. have it in 23:30.

15:30 So they [hoi men oun]. As in verse 3. When they were dismissed [apoluthentes]. First aorist passive participle of [apoluō], common verb to loosen, to dismiss. Possibly (Hackett) religious services were held as in verse 33 (cf. 13:3) and perhaps an escort for part of the way as in verse 3. The multitude [to plēthos]. Public meeting of the church as in verses 1-3. Deissmann (Bible Studies, p. 232) gives illustrations from the inscriptions of the use of [plēthos] for official, political, and religious gatherings. The committee formally “delivered” [epedōkan] the epistle to the church authorities.

15:31 When they had read it [anagnontes]. Second aorist active participle of [anaginōskō]. Public reading, of course, to the church. They rejoiced [echarēsan]. Second aorist (ingressive) passive indicative of [chairō]. They burst into exultant joy showing clearly that they did not consider it a weak compromise, but a glorious victory of Gentile liberty. For the consolation [epi tēi paraklēsei]. The encouragement, the cheer in the letter. See [parekalesan] in verse 32. Consolation and exhortation run into one another in this word.

15:32 Being themselves also prophets [kai autoi prophētai ontes]. As well as Paul and Barnabas and like Agabus (11:27-30), for-speakers for Christ who justify the commendation in the letter (verse 27) “with many words” [dia logou pollou], “with much talk,” and no doubt with kindly words concerning the part played at the Conference by Paul and Barnabas. Confirmed [epestērixan]. See on 14:22. It was a glorious time with no Judaizers to disturb their fellowship as in 1-3.

15:33 Some time [chronon]. Accusative after [poiēsantes], “having done time.” How long we do not know.

15:34 But it seemed good unto Silas to abide there [edoxe de Silāi epimeinai autou]. This verse is not in the Revised Version or in the text of Westcott and Hort, being absent from Aleph A B Vulgate, etc. It is clearly an addition to help explain the fact that Silas is back in Antioch in verse 40. But the “some days” of verse 36 afforded abundant time for him to return from Jerusalem. He and Judas went first to Jerusalem to make a report of their mission.

15:35 Tarried [dietribon]. Imperfect active of [diatribō], old verb to pass time, seen already in 12:19; 14:3, 28. With many others also [meta kai heterōn pollōn]. A time of general revival and naturally so after the victory at Jerusalem. It is at this point that it is probable that the sad incident took place told by Paul in Ga 2:11-21. Peter came up to see how things were going in Antioch after Paul’s victory in Jerusalem. At first Peter mingled freely with the Greek Christians without the compunctions shown at Caesarea and for which he had to answer in Jerusalem (Ac 11:1-18). Rumours of Peter’s conduct reached Jerusalem and the Judaizers saw a chance to reopen the controversy on the line of social customs, a matter not passed on at the Jerusalem Conference. These Judaizers threaten Peter with a new trial and he surrenders and is followed by Barnabas and all the Jewish brethren in Antioch to the dismay of Paul who boldly rebuked Peter and Barnabas and won them back to his view. It was a crisis. Some would even date the Epistle to the Galatians at this time also, an unlikely hypothesis.

15:36 Let us return now and visit the brethren [epistrepsantes de episkepsōmetha tous adelphous]. Paul takes the initiative as the leader, all the more so if the rebuke to Peter and Barnabas in Ga 2:11-21 had already taken place. Paul is anxious, like a true missionary, to go back to the fields where he has planted the gospel. He uses the hortatory subjunctive [episkepsōmetha] for the proposal (see on 15:14 for this verb). Note the repeated [epi] [epi-strepsantes] and [episkepsōmetha]. There is special point in the use of [] (shortened form of [ēdē], now at this juncture of affairs (cf. 13:2). How they fare [pōs echousin]. Indirect question, “how they have it.” The precariousness of the life of new converts in pagan lands is shown in all of Paul’s Epistles (Furneaux). So he wanted to go city by city [kata polin pāsan].

15:37 Was minded to take with them [ebouleto sunparalabein]. Imperfect middle [ebouleto], not aorist middle [ebouleusato] of the Textus Receptus. Barnabas willed, wished and stuck to it (imperfect tense). [Sunparalabein] is second aorist active infinitive of the double compound [sunparalambanō], old verb to take along together with, used already about John Mark in 12:25 and by Paul in Ga 2:1 about Titus. Nowhere else in the N.T. Barnabas used the ingressive aorist in his suggestion.

15:38 But Paul thought not good to take with them [Paulos de ēxiou—mē sunparalambanein touton]. The Greek is far more effective than this English rendering. It is the imperfect active of [axioō], old verb to think meet or right and the present active infinitive of the same verb [sunparalambanō] with negative used with this infinitive. Literally, “But Paul kept on deeming it wise not to be taking along with them this one.” Barnabas looked on it as a simple punctiliar proposal (aorist infinitive), but Paul felt a lively realization of the problem of having a quitter on his hands (present infinitive). Each was insistent in his position (two imperfects). Paul had a definite reason for his view describing John Mark as “him who withdrew from them from Pamphylia” [ton apostanta ap’ autōn apo Pamphulias]. Second aorist active articular participle of [aphistēmi], intransitive use, “the one who stood off from, apostatized from” (our very word “apostasy”). And also as the one who “went not with them to the work” [kai mē sunelthonta autois eis to ergon]. At Perga Mark had faced the same task that Paul and Barnabas did, but he flinched and flickered and quit. Paul declined to repeat the experiment with Mark.

15:39 A sharp contention [paroxusmos]. Our very word paroxysm in English. Old word though only twice in the N.T. (here and Heb 10:24), from [paroxunō], to sharpen [para, oxus] as of a blade and of the spirit (Ac 17:16; 1Co 13:5). This “son of consolation” loses his temper in a dispute over his cousin and Paul uses sharp words towards his benefactor and friend. It is often so that the little irritations of life give occasion to violent explosions. If the incident in Ga 2:11-21 had already taken place, there was a sore place already that could be easily rubbed. And if Mark also joined with Peter and Barnabas on that occasion, Paul had fresh ground for irritation about him. But there is no way to settle differences about men and we can only agree to disagree as Paul and Barnabas did. So that they parted asunder from one another [hōste apochōristhēnai autous ap’ allēlōn]. Actual result here stated by [hōste] and the first aorist passive infinitive of [apochōrizō], old verb to sever, to separate, here only and Re 6:4 in the N.T. The accusative of general reference [autous] is normal. For construction with [hōste] see Robertson, Grammar, pp. 999f. And Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus [ton te Barnaban paralabonta ton Markon ekpleusai eis Kupron]. Second infinitival clause [ekpleusai] after [hōste] connected by [te]. The same participle is used here minus [sun, paralabonta] (second aorist active). Barnabas and Mark sailed out [ekpleusai] from [ekpleō] from the harbour of Antioch. This is the last glimpse that Luke gives us of Barnabas, one of the noblest figures in the New Testament. Paul has a kindly reference to him in 1Co 9:6. No one can rightly blame Barnabas for giving his cousin John Mark a second chance nor Paul for fearing to risk him again. One’s judgment may go with Paul, but one’s heart goes with Barnabas. And Mark made good with Barnabas, with Peter (1Pe 5:13) and finally with Paul (Col 4:10; 2Ti 4:11). See my little book on John Mark (Making Good in the Ministry). Paul and Barnabas parted in anger and both in sorrow. Paul owed more to Barnabas than to any other man. Barnabas was leaving the greatest spirit of the time and of all times.

15:40 Chose [epilexamenos]. First aorist middle (indirect) participle of [epilegō], choosing for himself, as the successor of Barnabas, not of Mark who had no place in Paul’s plans at this time. Commended [paradotheis]. First aorist passive of [paradidōmi], the same verb employed about Paul and Barnabas (14:26) on their return from the first tour. It is clear now that the sympathy of the church at Antioch is with Paul rather than with Barnabas in the cleavage that has come. The church probably recalled how in the pinch Barnabas flickered and went to the side of Peter and that it was Paul who for the moment stood Paulus contra mundum for Gentile liberty in Christ against the threat of the Judaizers from Jerusalem. Silas had influence in the church in Jerusalem (verse 22) and was apparently a Roman citizen (16:37) also. He is the Silas or Silvanus of the epistles (1Th 1:1; 2Th 1:1; 2Co 1:19; 1Pe 5:12). It is remarkable that Peter mentions both Mark and Silas as with him (1Pe 5:12f.) at the same time.

15:41 Went through [diērcheto]. Imperfect middle. So Paul went forth on his second mission tour with heart-aches and high hopes mingled together. Syria and Cilicia [tēn Surian kai tēn Kilikian]. He took the opposite course from the first tour, leaving Cyprus to Barnabas and Mark. Probably Paul had established these churches while in Tarsus after leaving Jerusalem (Ac 9:30; Ga 1:21). Paul would go “by the Gulf of Issus through the Syrian Gates, a narrow road between steep rocks and the sea, and then inland, probably past Tarsus and over Mt. Taurus by the Cilician gates” (Page). This second tour will occupy Luke’s story in Acts through 18:22.

« Prev Chapter 15 Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection