Council of Jerusalem

The Council of Jerusalem or Apostolic Council was held in Jerusalem around AD 50. It is unique among the ancient pre-ecumenical councils in that it is considered by Catholics and Orthodox to be a prototype and forerunner of the later ecumenical councils and a key part of Christian ethics. The council decided that Gentile converts to Christianity were not obligated to keep most of the Law of Moses, including the rules concerning circumcision of males. The Council did, however, retain the prohibitions on eating blood, meat containing blood, and meat of animals not properly slain, and on fornication and idolatry, sometimes referred to as the Apostolic Decree or Jerusalem Quadrilateral.

Accounts of the council are found in Acts of the Apostles chapter 15 (in two different forms, the Alexandrian and Western versions) and also possibly in Paul's letter to the Galatians chapter 2.[1] Some scholars dispute that Galatians 2 is about the Council of Jerusalem (notably because Galatians 2 describes a private meeting) while other scholars dispute the historical reliability of the Acts of the Apostles.

Council of Jerusalem
Datec. 50
Accepted bymost Christian denominations
Next council
Ancient church councils (pre-ecumenical)
Presidentunspecified, but presumably James the Just and perhaps Simon Peter
TopicsControversy of circumcision and the validity of the Law of Moses.
Documents and statements
Excerpts from New Testament (Acts of Apostles and perhaps Epistle to the Galatians).
Chronological list of ecumenical councils
Saint James the Just
James the Just, whose judgment was adopted in the Apostolic Decree of Acts 15:19–29, c. 78 AD: "we should write to them [Gentiles] to abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from whatever has been strangled and from blood..." (NRSV)

Historical background

The Council of Jerusalem is generally dated to 48 AD, roughly 15 to 25 years after the crucifixion of Jesus, between 26 and 36 AD. Acts 15 and Galatians 2 both suggest that the meeting was called to debate whether or not male Gentiles who were converting to become followers of Jesus were required to become circumcised; circumcision was considered repulsive during the period of Hellenization of the Eastern Mediterranean.[2]

At the time, most followers of Jesus (which historians refer to as Jewish Christians) were Jewish by birth and even converts would have considered the early Christians as a part of Judaism. According to Alister McGrath, the Jewish Christians affirmed every aspect of the then contemporary Second Temple Judaism with the addition of the belief that Jesus was the Messiah.[3] Unless males were circumcised, they could not be God's People. The meeting was called to decide whether circumcision for gentile converts was requisite for community membership since certain individuals were teaching that "[u]nless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved".[4]

Circumcision as a mandate was associated with Abraham (see also Abrahamic covenant), but it is cited as "the custom of Moses" because Moses is considered the traditional giver of the Law as a whole. The circumcision mandate was made more official and binding in the Mosaic Law Covenant. In John 7:22 the words of Jesus are reported to be that Moses gave the people circumcision.

Issues and outcome

The purpose of the meeting, according to Acts, was to resolve a disagreement in Antioch, which had wider implications than just circumcision, since circumcision is the "everlasting" sign of the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 17:9–14). Some of the Pharisees who had become believers insisted that it was "needful to circumcise them, and to command [them] to keep the law of Moses" (KJV).[5]

The primary issue which was addressed related to the requirement of circumcision, as the author of Acts relates, but other important matters arose as well, as the Apostolic Decree indicates. The dispute was between those, such as the followers of the "Pillars of the Church", led by James, who believed, following his interpretation of the Great Commission, that the church must observe the Torah, i.e. the rules of traditional Judaism,[1] and Paul the Apostle, who believed there was no such necessity. (See also Supersessionism, New Covenant, Antinomianism, Hellenistic Judaism, Paul the Apostle and Judaism.)

At the Council, following advice offered by Simon Peter (Acts 15:7–11 and Acts 15:14), Barnabas and Paul gave an account of their ministry among the gentiles (Acts 15:12), and the apostle James quoted from the words of the prophet Amos (Acts 15:16–17, quoting Amos 9:11–12). James added his own words[6] to the quotation: "Known to God from eternity are all His works"[7] and then submitted a proposal, which was accepted by the Church and became known as the Apostolic Decree:

It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.[2] For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath. (Acts 15:19–21)

Acts 15:23–29 sets out the content of the letter written in accordance with James' proposal.

The Western version of Acts (see Acts of the Apostles: Manuscripts) adds the negative form of the Golden Rule ("and whatever things ye would not have done to yourselves, do not do to another").[3]

This determined questions wider than that of circumcision, particularly dietary questions, but also fornication and idolatry and blood, and also the application of Biblical law to non-Jews. It was stated by the Apostles and Elders in the Council: "the Holy Spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to you, except these necessary things, to abstain from things sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication. If you carefully keep yourselves from these things, you will prosper." (Acts 15:27–28) And this Apostolic Decree was considered binding on all the other local Christian congregations in other regions.[8] See also Biblical law directed at non-Jews, Seven Laws of Noah, Biblical law in Christianity, and the Ten Commandments in Christianity.

The writer of Acts gives an account of a restatement by James and the elders in Jerusalem of the contents of the letter on the occasion of Paul's final Jerusalem visit, immediately prior to Paul's arrest at the temple, recounting: "When we had come to Jerusalem, the brothers received us gladly. On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present." (Acts 21:17–18, ESV) The elders then proceed to notify Paul of what seems to have been a common concern among Jewish believers, that he was teaching Diaspora Jewish converts to Christianity "to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs." They remind the assembly that, "as for the Gentiles who have believed, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality". In the view of some scholars, the reminder of James and the elders here is an expression of concern that Paul was not fully teaching the decision of the Jerusalem Council's letter to Gentiles,[9] particularly in regard to non-strangled kosher meat,[10] which contrasts with Paul's advice to Gentiles in Corinth,[11] to "eat whatever is sold in the meat markets" (1 Corinthians 10:25).[12]


The description of the Apostolic Council in Acts 15, generally considered the same event described in Galatians 2,[13] is considered by some scholars to be contradictory to the Galatians account.[14] The historicity of Luke's account has been challenged,[15][16][17] and was rejected completely by some scholars in the mid to late 20th century.[18] However, more recent scholarship inclines towards treating the Jerusalem Council and its rulings as a historical event,[19] though this is sometimes expressed with caution.[20] Bruce Metzger's Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament includes a summary of current research on the topic as of about 1994:

In conclusion, therefore, it appears that the least unsatisfactory solution of the complicated textual and exegetical problems of the Apostolic Decree is to regard the fourfold decree[21] as original (foods offered to idols, strangled meat, eating blood, and unchastity—whether ritual or moral), and to explain the two forms of the threefold decree[21] in some such way as those suggested above.[22] An extensive literature exists on the text and exegesis of the Apostolic Decree. ... According to Jacques Dupont, "Present day scholarship is practically unanimous in considering the 'Eastern' text of the decree as the only authentic text (in four items) and in interpreting its prescriptions in a sense not ethical but ritual" [Les problèmes du Livre des Actes d'après les travaux récents (Louvain, 1950), p.70].[23]

Interpreting the Council's decision

James's "Apostolic Decree" was that the requirement of circumcision for males was not obligatory for Gentile converts, possibly in order to make it easier for them to join the movement. However, the Council did retain the prohibitions against Gentile converts eating meat containing blood, or meat of animals not properly slain. It also retained the prohibitions against "fornication" and "idol worship". The Decree may have been a major act of differentiation of the Church from its Jewish roots.

Jewish Encyclopedia: New Testament — Spirit of Jewish Proselytism in Christianity states:

For great as was the success of Barnabas and Paul in the heathen world, the authorities in Jerusalem insisted upon circumcision as the condition of admission of members into the church, until, on the initiative of Peter, and of James, the head of the Jerusalem church, it was agreed that acceptance of the Noachian Laws—namely, regarding avoidance of idolatry, fornication, and the eating of flesh cut from a living animal—should be demanded of the heathen desirous of entering the Church.

Jewish Encyclopedia: Gentiles: Gentiles May Not Be Taught the Torah states:

R. Emden, in a remarkable apology for Christianity contained in his appendix to "Seder 'Olam" (pp. 32b-34b, Hamburg, 1752), gives it as his opinion that the original intention of Jesus, and especially of Paul, was to convert only the Gentiles to the seven moral laws of Noah and to let the Jews follow the Mosaic law—which explains the apparent contradictions in the New Testament regarding the laws of Moses and the Sabbath.

The Catholic Encyclopedia article on Judaizers states:

Paul, on the other hand, not only did not object to the observance of the Mosaic Law, as long as it did not interfere with the liberty of the Gentiles, but he conformed to its prescriptions when occasion required (1Corinthians 9:20). Thus he shortly after circumcised Timothy (Acts 16:1–3), and he was in the very act of observing the Mosaic ritual when he was arrested at Jerusalem (Acts 21:26 sqq.)

Joseph Fitzmyer[24] disputes the claim that the Apostolic Decree is based on Noahide Law (Gen 9) and instead proposes Lev 17–18 as the basis, see also Leviticus 18. He also argues that the decision was meant as a practical compromise to help Jewish and Gentile Christians to get along, not a theological statement intended to bind Christians for all time.

According to the 19th-century Roman Catholic Bishop Karl Josef von Hefele, the Apostolic Decree of the Jerusalem Council "has been obsolete for centuries in the West", though it is still recognized and observed by the Greek Orthodox Church.[25] Acts 28 Hyperdispensationalists, such as the 20th century Anglican E. W. Bullinger, would be another example of a group that believes the decree (and everything before Acts 28) no longer applies.

See also


  • ^ Galatians 2:12
  • ^ Robert Eisenman in James the Brother of Jesus identifies Paul with Ananias the Jewish merchant (as described by Josephus: Jewish Antiquities 20.2.3–4), who proselytized Gentiles teaching them that faith in God is superior to circumcision.
  • ^ There are two major versions of Acts: Alexandrian and Western; with preference generally given to the Alexandrian, see Bruce Metzger's Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament which has for the Western 15:2, "for Paul spoke maintaining firmly that they should stay as they were when converted; but those who had come from Jerusalem ordered them, Paul and Barnabas and certain others, to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders that they might be judged before them about this question."
  • ^ According to Bruce Metzger's Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament: "the Apostolic Decree [15.29, 15.20, 21.25] ... contain many problems concerning text and exegesis"; "it is possible ... (fornication means) marriage within the prohibited Levitical Degrees (Leviticus 18:6–18), which the rabbis described as "forbidden for porneia", or mixed marriages with pagans (Numbers 25:1; also compare 2Corinthians 6.14), or participation in pagan worship which had long been described by Old Testament prophets as spiritual adultery and which, in fact, offered opportunity in many temples for religious prostitution"; "An extensive literature exists on the text and exegesis"; NRSV has things polluted by idols, fornication, whatever has been strangled, blood; NIV has food polluted by idols, sexual immorality, meat of strangled animals, blood; Young's has pollutions of the idols, whoredom, strangled thing, blood; Gaus' Unvarnished New Testament has pollution of idolatrous sacrifices, unchastity, meat of strangled animals, blood; NAB has pollution from idols, unlawful marriage, meat of strangled animals, blood. Karl Josef von Hefele's commentary on canon II of Gangra notes: "We further see that, at the time of the Synod of Gangra, the rule of the Apostolic Synod with regard to blood and things strangled was still in force. With the Greeks, indeed, it continued always in force as their Euchologies still show. Balsamon also, the well-known commentator on the canons of the Middle Ages, in his commentary on the sixty-third Apostolic Canon, expressly blames the Latins because they had ceased to observe this command. What the Latin Church, however, thought on this subject about the year 400, is shown by St. Augustine in his work Contra Faustum, where he states that the Apostles had given this command in order to unite the heathens and Jews in the one ark of Noah; but that then, when the barrier between Jewish and heathen converts had fallen, this command concerning things strangled and blood had lost its meaning, and was only observed by few. But still, as late as the eighth century, Pope Gregory the Third (731) forbade the eating of blood or things strangled under threat of a penance of forty days. No one will pretend that the disciplinary enactments of any council, even though it be one of the undisputed Ecumenical Synods, can be of greater and more unchanging force than the decree of that first council, held by the Holy Apostles at Jerusalem, and the fact that its decree has been obsolete for centuries in the West is proof that even Ecumenical canons may be of only temporary utility and may be repealed by disuse, like other laws."
  • ^ Hillel the Elder when asked by a Gentile to teach the whole Torah while standing on one foot cited the negative form of the Golden Rule, also cited in Tobit 4:15. Jesus in Matthew 7:12, part of the Sermon on the Mount, cited the positive form as summary of the "Law and Prophets."
  • ^ Whether or not Galatians 2:1–10 is a record of the Council of Jerusalem or a different event is not agreed. Paul writes of laying his gospel before the others "privately," not as in a Council. It has been argued that Galatians was written as Paul was on his way to the Council (see Paul the Apostle). Raymond E. Brown in Introduction to the New Testament argues that they are the same event but each from a different viewpoint with its own bias.
  • ^ Acts 16 says Paul personally circumcised Timothy, even though his father was Greek, because his mother was a Jewish believer, i.e. a Jewish Christian.
  • ^ Some took "freedom in Christ" to mean lawlessness, for example, Acts 21:21.
  • ^ Possibly a reference to the Ebionites
  • ^ Acts 15:19
  • ^ Hans Conzelmann
  • ^ Christopher Rowland, Christian Origins (SPCK 1985) p. 234


  1. ^ Whether or not Galatians 2:1–10 is a record of the Council of Jerusalem or a different event is not agreed. Paul writes of laying his gospel before the others "privately", not in a Council. It has been argued that Galatians was written as Paul was on his way to the Council (see Paul the Apostle). Raymond E. Brown in his Introduction to the New Testament argues that they (Acts 15 and Galatians 2) are the same event but each from a different viewpoint with its own bias.
  2. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia: Circumcision: In Apocryphal and Rabbinical Literature: "Contact with Grecian life, especially at the games of the arena [which involved nudity], made this distinction obnoxious to the Hellenists, or antinationalists; and the consequence was their attempt to appear like the Greeks by epispasm ("making themselves foreskins"; I Macc. i. 15; Josephus, "Ant." xii. 5, § 1; Assumptio Mosis, viii.; I Cor. vii. 18; Tosef., Shab. xv. 9; Yeb. 72a, b; Yer. Peah i. 16b; Yeb. viii. 9a). All the more did the law-observing Jews defy the edict of Antiochus Epiphanes prohibiting circumcision (I Macc. i. 48, 60; ii. 46); and the Jewish women showed their loyalty to the Law, even at the risk of their lives, by themselves circumcising their sons." Hodges, Frederick, M. (2001). "The Ideal Prepuce in Ancient Greece and Rome: Male Genital Aesthetics and Their Relation to Lipodermos, Circumcision, Foreskin Restoration, and the Kynodesme" (PDF). The Bulletin of the History of Medicine. 75 (Fall 2001): 375–405. doi:10.1353/bhm.2001.0119. PMID 11568485. Retrieved 2007-07-24.
  3. ^ McGrath, Alister E., Christianity: An Introduction. Blackwell Publishing (2006). ISBN 1-4051-0899-1. Page 174: "In effect, they [Jewish Christians] seemed to regard Christianity as an affirmation of every aspect of contemporary Judaism, with the addition of one extra belief — that Jesus was the Messiah."
  4. ^ Acts 15:1–2
  5. ^ Acts 15:5
  6. ^ Gill, J., Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible accessed 13 September 2015
  7. ^ Acts 15:18
  8. ^ Apostolic Presbyterianism – by William Cunningham and Reg Barrow
  9. ^ Robert McQueen Grant Augustus to Constantine: the rise and triumph of Christianity in the Roman World Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2004, p.iv "According to Acts 21:25, the elders at Jerusalem were still concerned with observance of them when Paul last "
  10. ^ Paul Barnett Jesus & the Rise of Early Christianity: A History of New Testament p. 292 "He chided Paul later for his failure to require the Gentiles to observe the decree (Acts 21:25). Paul delivered the letter from the Jerusalem meeting expressing James's decree, but only to churches in Syria, Cilicia and Galatia ... Paul did not impose the food requirements for the kosher-killed meat and against the idol-sacrificed meat upon the Corinthians"
  11. ^ 1 Corinthians: a new translation Volume 32 Anchor Bible William Fridell Orr, James Arthur Walther – 1976 "Paul's openness regarding dietary restrictions raises again the question of the connection with the decrees of the council at Jerusalem (Acts 15:29; Introduction, pp. 63–65). There is no hint here of an apostolic decree involving food."
  12. ^ Gordon D. Fee The First Epistle to the Corinthians 1987 p480 "Paul's "rule" for everyday life in Corinth is a simple one: "Eat anything sold in the meat market""
  13. ^ "In spite of the presence of discrepancies between these two accounts, most scholars agree that they do in fact refer to the same event.", Paget, "Jewish Christianity", in Horbury, et al., "The Cambridge History of Judaism: The Early Roman Period", volume 3, p. 744 (2008). Cambridge University Press.
  14. ^ "Paul's account of the Jerusalem Council in Galatians 2 and the account of it recorded in Acts have been considered by some scholars as being in open contradiction.", Paget, "Jewish Christianity", in Horbury, et al., "The Cambridge History of Judaism: The Early Roman Period", volume 3, p. 744 (2008). Cambridge University Press.
  15. ^ "There is a very strong case against the historicity of Luke's account of the Apostolic Council", Esler, "Community and Gospel in Luke-Acts: The Social and Political Motivations of Lucan Theology", p. 97 (1989). Cambridge University Press.
  16. ^ "The historicity of Luke's account in Acts 15 has been questioned on a number of grounds.", Paget, "Jewish Christianity", in Horbury, et al., "The Cambridge History of Judaism: The Early Roman Period", volume 3, p. 744 (2008). Cambridge University Press.
  17. ^ "However, numerous scholars have challenged the historicity of the Jerusalem Council as related by Acts, Paul's presence there in the manner that Luke describes, the issue of idol-food being thrust on Paul's Gentile mission, and the historical reliability of Acts in general.", Fotopolous, "Food Offered to Idols in Roman Corinth: a socio-rhetorical reconsideration", pp. 181–182 (2003). Mohr Siebeck.
  18. ^ "Sahlin rejects the historicity of Acts completely (Der Messias und das Gottesvolk [1945]). Haenchen's view is that the Apostolic Council "is an imaginary construction answering to no historical reality" (The Acts of the Apostles [Engtr 1971], p. 463). Dibelius' view (Studies in the Acts of the Apostles [Engtr 1956], pp. 93–101) is that Luke's treatment is literary-theological and can make no claim to historical worth.", Mounce, "Apostolic Council", in Bromiley (ed.) "The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia", volume 1, p. 200 (rev. ed. 2001). Wm. B. Eerdmans.
  19. ^ "There is an increasing trend among scholars toward considering the Jerusalem Council as historical event. An overwhelming majority identifies the reference to the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 with Paul's account in Gal. 2.1–10, and this accord is not just limited to the historicity of the gathering alone but extends also to the authenticity of the arguments deriving from the Jerusalem church itself.", Philip, "The Origins of Pauline Pneumatology: the Eschatological Bestowal of the Spirit", Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2, Reihe, p. 205 (2005). Mohr Siebeck.
  20. ^ "The present writer accepts its basic historicity, i.e. that there was an event at Jerusalem concerning the matter of the entry of the Gentiles into the Christian community, but would be circumspect about going much further than that. For a robust defence of its historicity, see Bauckham, "James", and the relevant literature cited there.", Paget, "Jewish Christianity", in Horbury, et al., "The Cambridge History of Judaism: The Early Roman Period", volume 3, p. 744 (2008). Cambridge University Press.
  21. ^ a b For a clarification of "fourfold decree" vs "threefold decree", see International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: A-D, 1995, by Geoffrey W. Bromiley ("Apostolic Council"), page 202.
  22. ^ Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd edn, (NY: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1994), 382.
  23. ^ Metzger, Textual Commentary, 383n9.
  24. ^ The Acts of the Apostles (The Anchor Yale Bible Commentaries), Yale University Press (December 2, 1998), ISBN 0-300-13982-9, chapter V
  25. ^ Karl Josef von Hefele's commentary on canon II of Gangra notes: "We further see that, at the time of the Synod of Gangra, the rule of the Apostolic Synod with regard to blood and things strangled was still in force. With the Greeks, indeed, it continued always in force as their Euchologies still show. Balsamon also, the well-known commentator on the canons of the Middle Ages, in his commentary on the sixty-third Apostolic Canon, expressly blames the Latins because they had ceased to observe this command. What the Latin Church, however, thought on this subject about the year 400, is shown by St. Augustine in his work Contra Faustum, where he states that the Apostles had given this command in order to unite the heathens and Jews in the one ark of Noah; but that then, when the barrier between Jewish and heathen converts had fallen, this command concerning things strangled and blood had lost its meaning, and was only observed by few. But still, as late as the eighth century, Pope Gregory the Third (731) forbade the eating of blood or things strangled under threat of a penance of forty days. No one will pretend that the disciplinary enactments of any council, even though it be one of the undisputed Ecumenical Synods, can be of greater and more unchanging force than the decree of that first council, held by the Holy Apostles at Jerusalem, and the fact that its decree has been obsolete for centuries in the West is proof that even Ecumenical canons may be of only temporary utility and may be repealed by disuse, like other laws."

Further reading

  • Badenas, Robert. Christ the End of the Law, Romans 10.4 in Pauline Perspective, 1985 ISBN 0-905774-93-0
  • Brown, Raymond E. An Introduction to the New Testament. Anchor Bible Series, 1997. ISBN 0-385-24767-2.
  • Bruce, Frederick Fyvie. Peter, Stephen, James and John: Studies in Early Non-Pauline Christianity
  • Bruce, Frederick Fyvie. Men and movements in the primitive church: Studies in early non-Pauline Christianity
  • Clark, A.C. The Acts of the Apostles
  • Dunn, James D.G. "The Incident at Antioch (Galatians 2:11–18)," JSNT 18, 1983, pg 95–122
  • Dunn, James D.G. Jesus, Paul and the Law, ISBN 0-664-25095-5
  • Dunn, James D.G. The Theology of Paul's Letter to the Galatians 1993 ISBN 0-521-35953-8
  • Dunn, James D.G. The Theology of Paul the Apostle Eerdmans 1997 ISBN 0-8028-3844-8
  • Ehrman, Bart D. Lost Christianities: The Battle for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew 2003
  • Eisenman, Robert, 1997. James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls. ISBN 0-670-86932-5 A cultural historian's dissenting view based on contemporary texts.
  • Elsner, Jas. Imperial Rome and Christian Triumph: Oxford History of Early Non-Pauline Christianity 1998 ISBN 0-19-284201-3
  • Gaus, Andy. The Unvarnished New Testament 1991 ISBN 0-933999-99-2
  • Kim, Seyoon Paul and the New Perspective: Second Thoughts on the Origin of Paul's Gospel 2001 ISBN 0-8028-4974-1
  • Maccoby, Hyam. The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity. New York: Harper & Row, 1986. ISBN 0-06-015582-5.
  • MacDonald, Dennis Ronald, 1983. The Legend and the Apostle: The Battle for Paul in Story and Canon Philadelphia: Westminster Press.
  • Metzger, Bruce M. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament 1975 ISBN 3-438-06010-8
  • Mount, Christopher N. Pauline Christianity: Luke-Acts and the Legacy of Paul 2001
  • Ropes, J.H., The Text of Acts, Vol. III; The Beginnings of Christianity: Part I: The Acts of the Apostles, London: MacMillan & Co., Ltd., 1926
  • Sanders, E.P. Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison of Patterns of Religion 1977 ISBN 0-8006-1899-8
  • Sanders, E.P. Paul the Law and the Jewish People 1983
  • Sanders, E.P. Jesus and Judaism, Fortress Press, 1987, ISBN 0-8006-2061-5
  • Simon, Marcel. The Apostolic Decree and its Setting in the Ancient Church. Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, LII (1969–70), pp. 437–460
  • Telfer, W. The Didache and the Apostolic Synod of Antioch The Journal of Theological Studies, 1939, pp. 133–146, 258–271
  • Westerholm, Stephen. Perspectives Old and New on Paul: The "Lutheran" Paul and His Critics 2003 ISBN 0-8028-4809-5
  • Wright, N.T. What Saint Paul Really Said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity? 1997 ISBN 0-8028-4445-6

External links

Acts 15

Acts 15 is the fifteenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. It records the journey of Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem and the Council of Jerusalem. The book containing this chapter is anonymous but early Christian tradition uniformly affirmed that Luke composed this book as well as the Gospel of Luke.

Ancient church councils (pre-ecumenical)

Church councils are formal meetings of bishops and representatives of several churches who are brought together to regulate points of doctrine or discipline. The meetings may be of a single ecclesiastical community or may involve an ecclesiastical province, a nation or other civil region, or the whole Church. Some of those convoked from the Church as a whole have been recognized as ecumenical councils and are considered particularly authoritative. The first ecumenical council is that of Nicaea, called by the Emperor Constantine in 325.Pre-ecumenical councils, those earlier than AD 325, were mostly local or provincial. Some, held in the second half of the 3rd century, involved more than one province. The sui generis Council of Jerusalem was a meeting, described in the Bible in Acts 15 and possibly in Galatians 2, of the apostles and elders of the local Church in Jerusalem.

In spite of lacking the authority of the decisions of ecumenical councils, the teachings and decrees of these pre-ecumenical councils are sometimes considered to be binding on the faithful in varying degrees, in particular certain councils held in Carthage and Elvira. But even the Council of Jerusalem's decisions, known as the Apostolic Decree, in particular the obligation to abstain from eating blood or what has been strangled, are not accepted by all Christian churches.


Barnabas (; Greek: Βαρνάβας), born Joseph, was according to tradition an early Christian, one of the prominent Christian disciples in Jerusalem. According to Acts 4:36, Barnabas was a Cypriot Jew. Named an apostle in Acts 14:14, he and Paul the Apostle undertook missionary journeys together and defended Gentile converts against the Judaizers. They traveled together making more converts (c. 45–47), and participated in the Council of Jerusalem (c. 50) Barnabas and Paul successfully evangelized among the "God-fearing" Gentiles who attended synagogues in various Hellenized cities of Anatolia.

Barnabas' story appears in the Acts of the Apostles, and Paul mentions him in some of his epistles. Tertullian named him as the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, but this and other attributions are conjecture. Clement of Alexandria and some scholars have ascribed the Epistle of Barnabas to him, but his authorship is disputed.

Although the date, place, and circumstances of his death are historically unverifiable, Christian tradition holds that Barnabas was martyred at Salamis, Cyprus, in 61 AD. He is traditionally identified as the founder of the Cypriot Orthodox Church. The feast day of Barnabas is celebrated on June 11.

Barnabas is usually identified as the cousin of Mark the Evangelist on the basis of Colossians 4. Infrequent occurrence in the Septuagint to its presence in Josephus and Philo, "anepsios" consistently carries the connotation of "cousin". Some traditions hold that Aristobulus of Britannia, one of the Seventy Disciples, was the brother of Barnabas.

Acts 11:24 describes Barnabas as "a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith".

Catholic ecumenical councils

Catholic ecumenical councils include 21 councils over a period of some 1900 years. While definitions changed throughout history, in today's Roman Catholic understanding ecumenical councils are assemblies of Patriarchs, Cardinals, residing Bishops, Abbots, male heads of religious orders and other juridical persons, nominated by the Pope. The purpose of an ecumenical council is to define doctrine, reaffirm truths of the Faith, and extirpate heresy. Council decisions, to be valid, are approved by the popes. Participation is limited to these persons, who cannot delegate their voting rights.

Ecumenical councils are different from provincial councils, where bishops of a Church province or region meet. Episcopal conferences and plenary councils are other bodies, meetings of bishops of one country, nation, or region, such as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This article does not include councils of a lower order or regional councils. Ecumenical in the Catholic view does not mean that all bishops attended the councils, which was not even the case in Vatican II. Nor does ecumenical imply the participation of or acceptance by all Christian communities and Churches. Ecumenical refers to "a solemn congregations of the Catholic bishops of the world at the invitation of the Pope to decide on matters of the Church with him". The ecumenical character of the councils of the first millennium was not determined by the intention of those who issued the invitations. The papal approval of the early councils did not have a formal character, which was characteristic in later councils. The Catholic Church did not officially declare these councils to be ecumenical. This became theological practice. Different evaluations existed between and within Christian communities. Today 21 councils are accepted in the Catholic church as ecumenical councils.Not all of the twenty-one councils were always accepted as ecumenical within the Catholic Church. For example, the inclusion of the First Lateran Council and the Council of Basel were disputed. A 1539 book on ecumenical councils by Cardinal Dominicus Jacobazzi excluded them as did other scholars. The first few centuries did not know large-scale ecumenical meetings; they were only feasible after the Church had gained freedom from persecution through Emperor Constantine.

Christian views on the Old Covenant

The Mosaic covenant or Law of Moses – which Christians generally call the "Old Covenant" (in contrast to the New Covenant) – has played an important role in the origins of Christianity and has occasioned serious dispute and controversy since the beginnings of Christianity: note for example Jesus' teaching of the Law during his Sermon on the Mount and the circumcision controversy in early Christianity.

Rabbinic Judaism asserts that Moses presented the Jewish religious laws to the Jewish people and that those laws do not apply to Gentiles (including Christians), with the exception of the Seven Laws of Noah, which (it teaches) apply to all people.

Most Christians believe that only parts dealing with the moral law (as opposed to ceremonial law) are still applicable, others believe that none apply, dual-covenant theologians believe that the Old Covenant remains valid only for Jews, and a minority have the view that all parts still apply to believers in Jesus and in the New Covenant.

Didascalia Apostolorum

"Didascalia" redirects here. For the collection of ancient theatre notices, see Didascaliae.Didascalia Apostolorum, or just Didascalia, is a Christian treatise which belongs to the genre of the Church Orders. It presents itself as being written by the Twelve Apostles at the time of the Council of Jerusalem; however, scholars agree that it was actually a composition of the 3rd century, perhaps around 230 AD.The Didascalia was clearly modeled on the earlier Didache. The author is unknown, but he was probably a bishop. The provenance is usually regarded as Northern Syria, possibly near Antioch.

Edah HaChareidis

The Orthodox Council of Jerusalem (OJC) (Hebrew: העדה החרדית, ha-Edah ha-Charedit, Ashkenazi pronunciation: ha-Aideh Charaidis or ha-Eido ha-Chareidis; "Congregation of God-Fearers") is a large ultra-Orthodox Jewish communal organization based in Jerusalem, with several thousands affiliated households. It is led by an independent rabbinical court, chaired by the Gaon Convenor, acronymed Ga'avad, and operated by the Rabbi Convenor, Ra'avad. The OCJ provides facilities such as dietary laws supervision, ritual baths, a Sabbath enclosure, and welfare services. The Council was founded in 1921 by devout Ashkenazi residents of Jerusalem, especially of the Old Yishuv, who refused to be affiliated in any way with the new Zionist institutions.

Inspired by militant anti-Zionist ideology, it refuses to receive any state funding from the Israeli authorities or to endorse voting in the elections, relying on donations from fellow anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox Jews abroad and its own income. Its members often engage in demonstrations against Sabbath desecration, autopsies, or archaeological excavations of human remains, which they regard as all sins, and are noted for their poverty and extreme religious strictness. The Council also sponsors a very small Sephardi Haredi Council.

Epistle to the Galatians

The Epistle to the Galatians, often shortened to Galatians, is the ninth book of the New Testament. It is a letter from Paul the Apostle to a number of Early Christian communities in Galatia. Scholars have suggested that this is either the Roman province of Galatia in southern Anatolia, or a large region defined by an ethnic group of Celtic people in central Anatolia.Paul is principally concerned with the controversy surrounding Gentile Christians and the Mosaic Law during the Apostolic Age. Paul argues that the Gentile Galatians do not need to adhere to the tenets of the Mosaic Law, particularly circumcision, by contextualizing the role of the law in light of the revelation of Christ. Galatians has exerted enormous influence on the history of Christianity, the development of Christian theology, and the study of the apostle Paul.

Glossary of Christianity

This is a glossary of terms used in Christianity.

Incident at Antioch

The incident at Antioch was an Apostolic Age dispute between the apostles Paul and Peter which occurred in the city of Antioch around the middle of the first century. The primary source for the incident is Paul's Epistle to the Galatians 2:11–2:14. Since Ferdinand Christian Baur, scholars have found evidence of conflict among the leaders of Early Christianity; for example James D. G. Dunn proposes that Peter was a "bridge-man" between the opposing views of Paul and James the brother of Jesus. The final outcome of the incident remains uncertain, resulting in several Christian views of the Old Covenant to this day.


Judaizers are Christians who teach it is necessary to adopt Jewish customs and practices, especially those found in the Law of Moses, to be saved. The term is derived from the Koine Greek word Ἰουδαΐζειν (Ioudaizein), used once in the Greek New Testament (Galatians 2:14), when Paul publicly challenges Peter for compelling Gentile converts to Early Christianity to "judaize". This episode is known as the incident at Antioch.

This term includes groups who claim the necessity of continued obedience to the Law of Moses found in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) for Gentiles. Members of such groups dispute the label because "Judaizers" is typically used as a pejorative.

Most Christians believe that much of the Old Covenant has been superseded, while according to some modern Protestants it has been completely abrogated and replaced by the Law of Christ. The Christian debate over Judaizing began in the lifetime of the apostles, notably at the Council of Jerusalem and the incident at Antioch. It has been carried on parallel to continuing debates about Paul the Apostle and Judaism, Protestant views of the Ten Commandments, and Christian ethics.

Judas Barsabbas

Judas Barsabbas was a New Testament prophet and one of the 'leading men' in the early Christian community in Jerusalem at the time of the Council of Jerusalem in around 50 A.D.

He is mentioned in Acts 15:22, where he and Silas are described as a "leading men among the brothers" (NIV). Judas and Silas were delegated the task of accompanying Paul and Barnabas to Antioch and delivering the Council's letter resolving the controversy surrounding gentile circumcision.Acts 15:32 further describes Judas and Silas as prophets, and says that they "said much to encourage and strengthen the believers." After a stay in Antioch, Judas returned to Jerusalem whereas Silas remained in Antioch.

Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem

The Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem or simply the Mujahideen Shura Council (also known as the Mujahideen Shura Council of Jerusalem, in Arabic: Majlis Shura Al-Mujahideen, Magles Shoura al-Mujahedeen, and other names) is an armed Salafi jihadist group linked to al-Qaeda that is active in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and in the Gaza Strip. The group was formed in 2011 or 2012 by Salafist Islamist Hisham Al-Saedni (also known as Abu al Walid al Maqdisi) to coordinate the activities of the Salafi jihadist groups operating in Gaza even before the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 and has carried out attacks against civilians in Israel. The group describes violence against Jews as a religious obligation that brings its perpetrators closer to God. Al-Saedni, who was the leader of the group and also of Jahafil Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad fi Filastin, was killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza on 14 October 2012. The group is subordinated with Al-Qaeda in Sinai Peninsula as of August 2012.In February 2014, the group declared its support for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The group was designated a terrorist organization by the US State Department on 19 August 2014. In its explanation for the designation the State Department noted that:

the Mujahidin Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem is an umbrella group composed of several jihadist terrorist sub-groups based in Gaza that has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks on Israel since the group's founding in 2012. For example, on August 13, 2013, MSC claimed responsibility for a rocket attack targeting the southern city of Eilat, Israel. Previously, MSC claimed responsibility for the March 21, 2013 attack in which Gaza-based militants fired at least five rockets at Sderot, Israel, and the April 17, 2013 attack in which two rockets were fired at Eilat, Israel. In addition to the rocket launches, MSC declared itself responsible for a Gaza-Israel cross-border IED attack on June 18, 2012 that targeted an Israeli construction site, killing one civilian. In addition to these physical attacks, the MSC released a statement in February 2014 declaring support for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

One of these sub-groups is Jahafil Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad fi Filastin (or al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, "Unity and Jihad") which had been formed on 6 November 2008 and is also linked to Al Qaeda. In 2011 the group was also led by Hisham Al-Saedni. Another sub-group is Ansar al Sunnah, which has taken responsibility for several rocket attacks against Israel, including a rocket attack in March 2010 that killed a Thai worker in Israel. Following the March 2010 attack, Haaretz reported that the group was "apparently linked to Jund Ansar Allah," another jihadist group operating in Gaza.

Paul the Apostle

Paul the Apostle (Latin: Paulus; Greek: Παῦλος, translit. Paulos; Coptic: ⲡⲁⲩⲗⲟⲥ; c. 5 – c. 64 or 67), commonly known as Saint Paul and also known by his Jewish name Saul of Tarsus (Hebrew: שאול התרסי‎, translit. Sha'ūl ha-Tarsī; Greek: Σαῦλος Ταρσεύς, translit. Saũlos Tarseús), was an apostle (although not one of the Twelve Apostles) who taught the gospel of Christ to the first-century world. Paul is generally considered one of the most important figures of the Apostolic Age and in the mid-30s to the mid-50s AD he founded several churches in Asia Minor and Europe. He took advantage of his status as both a Jew and a Roman citizen to minister to both Jewish and Roman audiences.

According to writings in the New Testament and prior to his conversion, Paul was dedicated to persecuting the early disciples of Jesus in the area of Jerusalem. In the narrative of the Acts of the Apostles (often referred to simply as Acts), Paul was traveling on the road from Jerusalem to Damascus on a mission to "arrest them and bring them back to Jerusalem" when the resurrected Jesus appeared to him in a great light. He was struck blind, but after three days his sight was restored by Ananias of Damascus and Paul began to preach that Jesus of Nazareth is the Jewish Messiah and the Son of God. Approximately half of the book of Acts deals with Paul's life and works.

Thirteen of the twenty-seven books in the New Testament have traditionally been attributed to Paul. Seven of the Pauline epistles are undisputed by scholars as being authentic, with varying degrees of argument about the remainder. Pauline authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews is not asserted in the Epistle itself and was already doubted in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. It was almost unquestioningly accepted from the 5th to the 16th centuries that Paul was the author of Hebrews, but that view is now almost universally rejected by scholars. The other six are believed by some scholars to have come from followers writing in his name, using material from Paul's surviving letters and letters written by him that no longer survive. Other scholars argue that the idea of a pseudonymous author for the disputed epistles raises many problems.Today, Paul's epistles continue to be vital roots of the theology, worship and pastoral life in the Catholic and Protestant traditions of the West, as well as the Orthodox traditions of the East. Paul's influence on Christian thought and practice has been characterized as being as "profound as it is pervasive", among that of many other apostles and missionaries involved in the spread of the Christian faith. Martin Luther's interpretation of Paul's writings influenced Luther's doctrine of sola fide.

Paul the Apostle and Jewish Christianity

Paul the Apostle has been placed within Second Temple Judaism by recent scholarship since the 1970s. A main point of departure with older scholarship is the understanding of Second Temple Judaism, and the covenant with God and the role of works, as a means to either gain, or to keep the covenant.

A central concern for Paul was the inclusion of gentiles into God's New Covenant, and the role of faith and observances in the inclusion of gentiles. Paul didn't deem circumcision necessary, as witnessed throughout his writings, but thought that God included gentiles into his New Covenant through faith in Christ. This brought him into conflict with Jewish Christians, who requested strict observances by gentile Christians. Eventually the less strict view prevailed, and led to the separation of this fraction of Christianity from Judaism.

Saint Peter and Judaism

The relationship between Saint Peter and Judaism is thought to have been fairly positive.

Salim al-Husayni

Salim Effendi al-Husayni (Arabic: سليم الحسيني‎) (unknown birth–1908) was Mayor of Jerusalem from 1882 to 1897. Hussein al-Husayni and Mousa Kazim al-Husayni, later mayors of the city, were his sons. He was a member of the Jerusalem Council and belongs to the prominent al-Husayni clan of Jerusalem. He built a palace in the city, which his granddaughter Hind al-Husseini later developed into the Dar al-Tifl Institution. Al-Husayni died in 1908 and is buried in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, near the American Colony Hotel.He is praised in The Diaries of Wasif Jawhariyyeh, a memoir of a Jerusalem resident under his mayorship.

Hajj Salim al-Husseini rose to a high status in the country, and the Ottoman government had to bear him in mind, given his patriotic stances and the love that people—particularly the farmers—had for him. He was, God bless his soul, a member of the Administrative Council of Jerusalem and head of Jerusalem’s municipality for twenty-two years and truly served the city. It was he who had the public sewage system built within the wall. He is also responsible for paving the streets of Old Jerusalem, which he both conceived and saw through, thus transforming the city into a model for cleanliness, beauty, and marvel, particularly for foreigners who used to come to visit its holy sites.

Synod of Jerusalem (1672)

The Synod of Jerusalem was convened by Orthodox Patriarch Dositheos Notaras in March 1672. Because the occasion was the consecration of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, it is also called the Synod of Bethlehem.

The Synod was attended by most of the prominent representatives of the Eastern Orthodox Church, including six Metropolitans besides Dositheus and his retired predecessor, and its decrees received universal acceptance as an expression of the faith of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Yaacov Pat

Yaacov Pat (Hebrew: יעקב פת‎) (also Yaakov Patt) was a commander of the Haganah in pre-state Israel.

Pat was a member of Hashomer, a Jewish defense organization formed in Ottoman Palestine in 1909. Together with Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, later President of Israel, he served in the first Hebrew regiments in World War I. In 1931, Yaacov Pat was sent to Jerusalem by David Ben-Gurion to rebuild the local branch of the Haganah, Israel's pre-state militia. Pat was in charge recruiting men while Rachel Yanait Ben-Zvi was responsible for the enlistment of women. Pat's efforts to recruit and train new manpower succeeded but no funding was available for weapons. Rose Vitales, who worked for the Va'ad HaKehilla (Community Council of Jerusalem) convinced Pat that she could organize a fundraising campaign and succeeded in increasing the income of the organization from 40 Palestine pounds a month (approximately $160) to 1,000 Palestine pounds per month, soliciting donations from a screened list of donors. This money was used to purchase arms for defending Jerusalem during the 1936 Arab revolt. With the help of Rose Vitales, Pat also pushed for the establishment of a branch of Magen David Adom in Jerusalem, which existed at the time only in Haifa. By 1936, the branch was already functioning.


Middle Ages

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