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The Council at Jerusalem


Then certain individuals came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to discuss this question with the apostles and the elders. 3So they were sent on their way by the church, and as they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, they reported the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the believers. 4When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them. 5But some believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and said, “It is necessary for them to be circumcised and ordered to keep the law of Moses.”

6 The apostles and the elders met together to consider this matter. 7After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “My brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that I should be the one through whom the Gentiles would hear the message of the good news and become believers. 8And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; 9and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us. 10Now therefore why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? 11On the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

12 The whole assembly kept silence, and listened to Barnabas and Paul as they told of all the signs and wonders that God had done through them among the Gentiles. 13After they finished speaking, James replied, “My brothers, listen to me. 14Simeon has related how God first looked favorably on the Gentiles, to take from among them a people for his name. 15This agrees with the words of the prophets, as it is written,


‘After this I will return,

and I will rebuild the dwelling of David, which has fallen;

from its ruins I will rebuild it,

and I will set it up,


so that all other peoples may seek the Lord—

even all the Gentiles over whom my name has been called.

Thus says the Lord, who has been making these things 18known from long ago.’

19 Therefore I have reached the decision that we should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God, 20but we should write to them to abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from whatever has been strangled and from blood. 21For in every city, for generations past, Moses has had those who proclaim him, for he has been read aloud every sabbath in the synagogues.”

The Council’s Letter to Gentile Believers

22 Then the apostles and the elders, with the consent of the whole church, decided to choose men from among their members and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leaders among the brothers, 23with the following letter: “The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the believers of Gentile origin in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings. 24Since we have heard that certain persons who have gone out from us, though with no instructions from us, have said things to disturb you and have unsettled your minds, 25we have decided unanimously to choose representatives and send them to you, along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. 28For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to impose on you no further burden than these essentials: 29that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”

30 So they were sent off and went down to Antioch. When they gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. 31When its members read it, they rejoiced at the exhortation. 32Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers. 33After they had been there for some time, they were sent off in peace by the believers to those who had sent them. 35But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, and there, with many others, they taught and proclaimed the word of the Lord.


Paul and Barnabas Separate

36 After some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Come, let us return and visit the believers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” 37Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38But Paul decided not to take with them one who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not accompanied them in the work. 39The disagreement became so sharp that they parted company; Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. 40But Paul chose Silas and set out, the believers commending him to the grace of the Lord. 41He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

But here appeareth a manifest reason why they gave particular commandment concerning things offered to idols, blood, and that which was strangled. They were, indeed, of themselves things indifferent; yet such as had some special thing in them more than other rites of the law. We know how straitly the Lord commandeth to eschew those things which are contrary to the external profession of faith, and wherein there is any appearance or suspicion of idolatry. Therefore, lest there should any blot of superstition remain in the Gentiles, and lest the Jews should see anything in them which did not agree with the pure worship of God, no marvel if, to avoid offense, they be commanded to abstain from things offered to idols.

The word αλισγημα, which Luke useth, doth signify all manner of profanation; therefore I have not changed the common translation, which hath pollution or filthiness. Yet it is sometimes taken for sacrifices; which sense should not disagree with James’ purpose; and, peradventure, it shall be more plain and natural so to expound it in this place; because, where Luke doth shortly after repeat the same decree, he will put ειδωλοθητα, or things sacrificed to idols.

As concerning blood and that which was strangled, not only the Jews were forbidden by the law of Moses to eat them, (Deuteronomy 12:23;) but this law was given to all the world after the flood, (Genesis 9:4,) whereby it came to pass, that those which were not quite grown out of kind 137137     “Qui non prorsus erant degeneres,” who were not wholly degenerate. did loathe blood. I do not speak of the Jews, but of many of the Gentiles. I confess, indeed, that even that commandment was but temporal; yet, notwithstanding, it was extended farther than unto one people. No marvel, therefore, if there might arise greater offense thereupon, which to cure seemed good to the apostles. But there ariseth a harder question concerning fornication; because James seemeth to reckon the same among things indifferent, whereof they must beware only in respect of offense; but there was another cause for which he placed fornication among those things which were not of themselves unlawful. It is well known what unbridled liberty to run awhoring did reign and rage everywhere; and this disease had got the upper hand principally among the men of the east country, as they be more given to lust. Assuredly the faith and chastity of wedlock was never less observed and kept any where than among them. Moreover, he doth not intreat indifferently, in my judgment, in this place of all manner [of] fornication or whoredom, as of adultery, and wandering, and unbridled lusts, whereby all chastity is violate and corrupt; but I think he speaketh of concubineship, as they call it; which was so common among the Gentiles, that it was almost like to a law.

Therefore, whereas James reckoneth up a common corruption among things which are of themselves not corrupt, there is therein no inconvenience; 138138     “In eo nihil absurdi,” in that there is an absurdity. so that we know that it was not his meaning to place those things in one order which are very far unlike among themselves. For, whereas unclean men do thereby color and cloak their filthiness, they may easily be refuted. James, say they, coupled eating of blood with whoredom; but doth he compare them together as things that are like, at least which disagree not in any point. Yea, he doth only respect 139139     “Respicit,” refers to. the wicked and corrupt custom of men, which was fallen away from the first law and order of nature appointed by God. As concerning the judgment of God, the knowledge thereof must be let [sought] out of the continual doctrine of the Scripture; and it is nothing doubtful what the Scripture saith; to wit, that whoredom is accursed before God, and that the soul and body are thereby defiled, that the holy temple of God is polluted, and Christ is rent in pieces; that God doth daily punish whoremongers, and that he will once pay them home. 140140     “Et horrendum semel fieri ultorem,” and that he will one day take fearful vengeance on them. The filthiness of whoredom, which the heavenly Judge doth so sore condemn, can be covered with no cloaks by the patrons of whoredom how witty and eloquent soever they be.

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