Question on Acts 15:28,29

by pc 43 Replies latest watchtower medical

  • metatron

    I respect and admire your erudition, Leolaia!

    My point is simply that many Bible-readin' folks may follow these posts and entirely miss the critical point:

    James was summarizing a few chapters from Leviticus and we AIN'T UNDER THE LAW!

    Once you realize what James was citing , the whole situation looks different. Even the 'fornication' he refered to

    can be a matter of conscience because he was summarizing laws against intermarriage between relatives in Leviticus.

    ( there goes another WT argument!). Claiming that blood was banned for everybody in Noah's day fails too,

    because that account in Genesis makes LIFE the priority ( 'the life is in the blood'). Thus, dying because you refuse

    a transfusion is WRONG because the purpose of blood is to sustain life.


  • Terry
    Leolaia says:

    It is possible that this concession and the insistence only on the Noachide laws, if made by James and Peter, is exactly the sort of position that could have given Paul his mistaken impression that the Jerusalem leaders were in agreement with his radical position on the Law.

    In my opinion, Paul was determined to hijack the Jewish religion for his own purposes. He was sneaking around. He was getting caught. He was backpeddling and buying time. His Theocratic war strategy was to be "all things to all people." This would keep him out of trouble long enough to break off a piece of the cracker for his own feast. Compare Jesus' actual teachings with Paul's teachings and you don't have the same messege. Paul was a real piece of work.

    An interesting page to read:

  • Terry
    simwitness says:ok, so I stand corrected on the whole "Noah was a Jew" thing, but the "fact" remains that after the flood there was only 8 people left, so any prior law to seperate would have been useless, and it would've taken "some time" before the whole jew/gentile thing to come to fruition...Would Noah have even been alive at that point to create, or see into the future that some of his descendants would need decidedly different dietary laws?

    So, exactly what would the point of "Noachian" law be?

    "That's Ham's kids, they can eat ham but we can't, don't ask why, grandpappy says the lord said so".

    The purpose of the flood was to make a clean sweep. In Eden, at the beginning, there was only one rule and that was violated. People did what was right in their own eyes and suffered the consequences both good and ill. According to scripture it was entirely ill except for Noah and his family. I find this absurd, but, that's just me.

    Anyway, after the flood you had, in effect, started all over again from scratch. The sons and daughters of Noah would produce mankind anew. Would this group get a better start? Would they just fend for themselves trial and error prone? No, God gave some general indications of what pissed him off and what pleased him this time.

    The Noahide laws were no tresspassing signs for interlopers and a beacon to attract the good hearted. (All according to later Jewish point of view, mind you.)

    You really have to treat this whole scenario as LITERARY CRITICISM and not actual history.

    To quote or refer to any of this is not to deal in actuality. It is to reason from the point of view of a commonly accepted norm: scripture.

    I raised the Noahide laws in my post to demonstrate the reasoning of the Governing Body among Jehovah's Witnesses in our time misses the point of Acts 15 entirely WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF SCRIPTURE. I don't think there ever was a Noah!

    But, I think there was a Paul and I think there was Jewish religion. I believe the christian wing of Judaism would NEVER have been a new religion. Paul turned that trick by re-inventing and twisting Judaism like Joseph Smith did. He gave a really convincing story of a vision and siphoned off christian Jews by letting them keep their heritage and basic belief system and eliminating the burdonsome law-keeping.

    The Jehovah's Witness organization follows in the footsteps of Paul and not Jesus in this respect, but, turns the tables by insisting on burdonsome law-keeping under the guise of Christian Freedom. Ironic and deadly.

  • Leolaia

    Having only perused Eisenman, I cannot say much about his evaluation of the Ebionite tradition that Paul was a Sadducee employed by the Temple police, tho I think this may have some merit, and it is possible that -- like Josephus -- Paul was a Hellenized Jew who tried out different Jewish faiths before settling on one. The main problem with viewing Paul as a Sadducee, as I see it, is that I see little trace of Epicurean and Sadducee thought in the epistles, or metaphors based on the priesthood (apart from Romans 15:16), whereas his total acceptance in the existence of angels, archons, principalities, resurrection, and especially his overall anthropology is not at all what one would expect from a latent Sadduceeism and definitely appropriate for either Pharisee or Essene thinking. On the other hand, the one text that is clearly Essene in character (in 2 Corinthians 6) -- as an isolated fragment -- has a good case of being a post-Pauline interpolation. Paul's employment of midrash is consistent with Essenism or Phariseeism but he is clearly an amateur in this matter, and so the Lukan depiction of Paul's synagogue training should be regarded as an unhistorical bit of pious hagiography. That would leave us with Philippians 3:5 and Galatians 1:14 which appear to be decisive, though it is always possible to argue that these texts have been reworked by a later Paulinist. I will probably defer to the most up-to-date criticism of these texts but it is not obvious to me what problem(s) these autobiographical comments pose. Paul's frequent obsession with the Law in his epistles, however, may be another clue. I don't think we're dealing with here a mind that has been totally Hellenized so as to think of Jewish-Christian concepts in a purely Greek light; Paul's anthropology, as mentioned before, is distinctively Semitic and does not evidence a sharp dualism that is found in fully Gnostic or Platonic (e.g. Alexandrine) texts, and from what I recall he similarly does not use phusis "nature" in Romans with the same Stoic meaning as can be found in 2 Peter and in philosophical treatises.

    Anyway, regardless of what faith(s) Paul had as background, I think it does not change the basic point I was making -- that Paul could have started out some 14 years earlier with a less radical view on the Law and over time became fully antinomian. I see a clear three-stage process: (1) Gentiles were to become fully Law-observant and become circumcised, becoming in effect "Jews" and ceasing to be Gentiles. This is the traditional rabbinical view and I see this as the position of James, as presented in Galatians and in Ebionite tradition, and the "circumcision party" discussed in Galatians. (2) Gentiles were to become fully Law-observant but were not to become Jews, but rather Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus were to form together a "new race," a "third race" neither Gentile nor Jew. This meant that circumcision and ritual separation was not necessary. I see this as the position of Peter/Cephas in Galatians and in Ebionite literature as well (echoed as well in 1 Peter). Thus Peter says in the Kerygmata Petrou: "He is a worshipper of God who does the will of God and observes the precepts of his Law. For in God's estimation he is not a Jew who called a Jew among men, nor is he a Gentile that is called a Gentile, but he who, believing in God, fulfills his Law and does his will, though he is not circumcised" (Rec. 5.43). I think this may have also been the position of the Didache, which does not specify circumcision among the requirements for Gentiles. The Matthean community also endorsed Torah observance and the Gentile mission but did not insist on circumcision. For some Jewish-Christians, the requirement for circumcision is spiritualized, and this is explicitly discussed in Gospel of Thomas 53:1-2: "His disciples said to him, 'Is circumcision beneficial or not?' He said to them, 'If it were beneficial, their father would beget them already circumcised from their mother. Rather, the true circumcision in spirit has become completely profitable' ". There is a close parallel to this in rabbinical Judaism; governor Turnus Rufus (the devil's advocate) is quoted as asking Rabbi Akiva: "If God takes such pleasure in circumcision, why then does not a child come circumcised from his mother's womb" (Tanhuma Tazria, 5). (3) Gentiles were not to become Law-observant and were not to become Jews, but rather Gentiles and Jews formed a new community whose "faith" releases them from sin rather than "works of the Law". The moderate position was perhaps a slippery slope for Paul; if ritual separation and circumcision are not to be practiced as works, perhaps other aspects of the Law are to be abandoned as well. The epistle of Barnabas spiritualizes the entirety of the Law, whereas Paul embraces the spiritualized understanding of circumcision that is also attested in the Gospel of Thomas (cf. Romans 2:25-29; 1 Corinthians 7:17-19; Galatians 6:15; Philippians 3:3; Colossians 2:11-14). Rather than spiritualizing the entirety of the Law for Christians, Paul simply says that it remains in force only for "Jews" who live as Jews whereas for Christians it is faith in Christ that justifies sin and releases mankind from the Law. Paul could have had this radical position from the start, but considering his "neither Jew nor Greek" statements and adoption of the spiritualized understanding of circumcision, I think it is quite likely that at one time his position was closer to (2) than (3).

  • Leolaia
    James was summarizing a few chapters from Leviticus and we AIN'T UNDER THE LAW!

    metatron.....First of all, what we have here in Acts is a slanted pro-Pauline account that is at odds with what is otherwise known about the principal figures, and even what Paul himself writes about it in Galatians. The historical James most definitely believed that the followers of Jesus remained under the Law -- the Ebionite and Nazorean followers of James and Peter (particularly those living in Antioch, where Peter himself lived), the direct heirs of their teaching and traditions, continued to be Torah-observant and described James and Peter as living Torah-observant lives. The Matthean community, which was also heir to the traditions of Peter and viewed Peter as the central halakhic authority, insisted that the Torah remained in force and promoted anti-Pauline polemic that characterized the antinomians as "false teachers". Even Paul himself, in Galatians, describes the men sent by James to Antioch as strict practitioners of ritual separation -- and this was after the supposed meeting in Jerusalem. We need to recognize that Acts is a product of a Paulinist from the Western churches who wanted to legitimize Paul's mission (and thus the authority of the Western proto-orthodox churches) by essentially making James and Peter out to be pro-Paul as well, when everything from the Eastern Jewish-Christian tradition points in the opposite direction. The Ebionite Epistula Petri in particular seems to object to the Pauline misrepresentation of Peter's position in Acts 15:10-11. James' characterization of the levitical laws in the Decree in Acts 15:28 as the MAXIMUM for Gentiles is also contrary to what is stated in the late first-century A.D. Didache (which also probably derives from a Jewish-Christian community in Syria), as well as the later Ebionite works.

    Second, if you look at the tradition of levitical dietary-oriented laws in Acts 15 -- which surely do derive from genuine Jewish-Christian Noachide laws going back probably to the Jerusalem church, as they are found in the Didache, the Ebionite Kerygmata Petrou, and Revelation -- it also confirms that they were meant to reinforce ritual separation of Law-abiding Jews and Gentiles. The laws in Leviticus applied to "alien residents" living in Israel and Judah; the appropriate analogy would be to Gentile God-fearers who went to synagogue and not to Gentile converts to Judaism who became circumcised and became full Jews. The logic behind these prohibitions assumes that such Gentile worshippers were to remain "alien residents" in their midst. This is perfectly compatible with the position of James. However, as the Didache goes on to explain, refraining from food sacrificed to idols was really the bare MINIMUM for Gentiles and they were encouraged to take on the full "yoke" lest they not be found "perfect" when Judgment Day arrives. The use of Leviticus in the pre-Lukan dietary-oriented laws does not imply that Jews were no longer under the Law -- only that Gentile God-fearers need not embrace the Law if they are unable to bear the yoke. Note also that in the propagandaistic Lukan narrative, Cornelius himself was described as a "God-fearer" in Acts 10:22 and the dietary laws were mentioned in Acts 15:20-21 in connection with the preaching of Moses to Gentiles "in every city ... in the synagogues every Sabbath".

    As for the levitical dietary-oriented laws of Acts 15 being connected with the Noachide laws given after the Flood, there is a fascinating link made in the Ebionite Pseudo-Clementines. The Apostle Peter in the Kerygmata Petrou describes how the original Torah was appointed during Creation itself (Hom 8.10), but which was forgotten in the fall of the angels and the birth of the antediluvian giants who corrupted mankind and resorted to cannibalism. God then sent a Flood to destroy the demons and giants but saved Noah and his family and after the Flood a "new law" was given to demons and mankind which related precisely to the prohibitions in Leviticus and Acts 15:

    "Since, therefore, the souls of the deceased giants were greater than human souls, inasmuch as they also excelled their bodies, they, as being a new race, were called also by a new name. And to those who survived in the world a law was prescribed of God through an angel, how they should live. For being bastards in race, of the fire of angels and the blood of women, and therefore liable to desire a certain race of their own, they were anticipated by a certain righteous law. For a certain angel was sent to them by God, declaring to them his will, and saying: 'These things seem good to the all-seeing God, that you lord it over no man; that you trouble no one, unless any one of his own accord subject himself to you, worshipping you [i.e. idolatry], and sacrificing and pouring libations [i.e. sacrificing to idols], and partaking of your table [i.e. eating food sacrificed to idols], or accomplishing any else that they ought not, or shedding blood [i.e. "bloodshed" in the original Noachide Laws and "blood" in the version in Acts 15], or tasting dead flesh [i.e. eating things "strangled"], or filling themselves with that which is torn of beasts, or that which is cut, or that which is strangled, or any else that is unclean" (Kerygmata Petrou, Hom. 8:18-19)

    This is a fascinating text because it clearly designates the laws for "alien residents" in Leviticus as given to mankind after the Flood, as Noachide laws. The form of the laws is also intermediate between the original rabbinical form of the Noachide laws (such as "bloodshed" instead of "blood") and the later Jewish-Christian version influenced by Leviticus (including "food sacrificed to idols," "meat torn by beasts," "things strangled," etc.). This sheds some light on how the Ebionites viewed the prohibitions given in Acts 15.

  • Narkissos


    Eisenman's suggestion was that Paul is originally a Herodian, not a Sadducean. I think I already posted the link to one fascinating article of his, which gave me much food for thought even if I don't share its conclusions 100 %:

    This assumption would somewhat modify your picture of stage #1: for if James does not regard Paul as a true Jew, he may well grant some formal agreement on the Pauline "mission" to Gentiles, without any requirement for circumcision, for in his mind ritual separation is to be maintained between Gentile Christians and Jews. On this point he is mistaken (or fooled).

    (Edited to add: your remark on the dietary laws of Leviticus which stand at the background of the "decree" originally applying to alien residents in Israel can be interpreted in the same direction: the community of James considered itself as Jewish, not Christian, and would never be "one people" with the Gentile converts of the Pauline "mission": ritual separation was to be maintained.)

    I understand that stage #2 corresponds quite well to Petrine tradition (whatever the historicity of the Cephas/Peter character[s?]), but I fail to see any evidence in the Pauline legomena which would agree with it...

    As to the Pauline Canon (and especially Galatians), I found R.M. Price's article on the same site quite illuminating:

  • heathen

    First off the practice of sacrifice was known prior to the flood . Cain and Able were taught directly from God on how to perform the ceremony of ritual sacrifice but there was no law covenant at the time . There was one named enoch that apparently lived in accord with Gods will and was taken in the same fashion of moses . The belief in ritual sacrifice was alive and well before the time of moses when you read the story of JOB . The bible says there was no one like him in all the earth but there was apparently no law covenant that distinquished him as a jew . Abraham was also considered a freind of God who received the promise that the messiah would would appear through his genes and his decendants would live in security and be a great nation . Thus the 12 tribes of Israel came from Jacob .

    The apostle Paul was a hebrew that was a roman citizen who was studying to be a pharisee because of family tradition and the jewish faith . I am conviced that he did experience something that stopped him dead in his tracks as he sought to persecute the christian followers . I don't think people do a 180 in their beliefs like that unless something extraordinary happened .

  • LittleToe


    Cain and Able were taught directly from God on how to perform the ceremony of ritual sacrifice but there was no law covenant at the time.

    I question that.
    Sorry dude, I must be getting on your tits with all this nitpicking. I assure you it's not intentional. I enjoy readnig your posts.

    I totally agree that sacrifice was alive and well from the earliest accounts of man. I just question your conclusions about how they came upon this practice.

  • heathen

    It's in genesis 4 dude .

  • Leolaia

    Narkissos....Oh yes, I forgot about the Herodian thesis, which I find rather interesting....The Herod family was quite an embarrassment to many Jews, being descended from Gentile proselytes to Judaism and remaining very Hellenistic. Josephus mentions how a court historian named Nicholas of Damascus tried to cover up this fact and give Herod a false Jewish ancestry (Antiquities 14.9). I have wondered whether James just wanted to get rid of Paul and would rather have him off in the boonies in Achaia than near his stomping grounds -- and Paul's evangelism closer to home in Antioch proved to be a point of contention.

    I would agree with your modification of my characterization of James' position if it were the case that James was not in favor of the Gentile mission. In that case, James would have been satisfied to leave the Gentile followers as "God-fearers" and not press them further with converting to Judaism. Revelant to this is Paul's statement in Galatians 2:3 that "Titus, who was with me [in Jerusalem], was not compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek". This could mean either of two things: (1) James did not much care for Gentiles like Titus to enter into the community and thus left him uncircumcised to maintain ritual separation, or (2) James actually had a position closer to stage #2 and accepted Titus as a full brother without circumcision. I find a number of problems with the second interpretation. As Paul's disciple, Titus would probably not have been Torah-observant and thus it would have made little sense to circumcise someone who was not otherwise taking the yoke of the Torah. In v. 12, we encounter the episode of Cephas/Peter changing from his more liberal conduct to the strict separationism of the men sent by James, out of "fear"; this clearly implies that Peter's moderating position (which I have characterized as stage #2) was less extreme than that of James' emissaries. Acts 11:2 gives a seemingly independent tale of Peter's moderate position and criticism from Jerusalem Jews who complained, "You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them." The thing is tho....James did not appear to stress circumcision in v. 3, and yet the Judaizers that Paul attacks in Galatians were in fact demanding circumcision of the converted Gentiles (cf. 5:2-12). Were they even more conservative than James? I find that hardly plausible. The difference, then, would be that these Judaizers wanted the Gentile converts to embrace the full "yoke" (5:1, 3) of the Law and were engaged in Gentile proselytizing, while James was primarily concerned with the purity and conduct with Jewish Christians and was not concerned with the Gentile mission. That would mean that the "Judaizers" of Galatians who wanted to circumcise Gentiles were at stage #1, while James was not too interested in Gentile proselytism and preferred to leave them as God-fearers. So I think your suggestion is pretty sound. One minor problem, perhaps, is that the verb peritméthénai in Galatians 2:3 is passive, so it is not clear who wanted Titus circumcised and who it was with authority that saved Titus from compulsory circumcision.

    Peter, on the other hand, would appear to have been involved with a Gentile mission -- as indicated by Galatians 2:14, the Itinerary of Peter, Acts, and perhaps Matthew (which was the product of a Jewish-Christian Petrine community involved with proselytism to Gentiles). This makes the interpolation in Galatians 2:7 all the more interesting for its division between Peter and Paul -- removing Peter from the Gentile mission.

    BTW, what do you think of the quote given in my last post from the Kerygmata Petrou. It is an interesting hybrid between the rabbinical Noachide laws and the Jewish-Christian dietary prohibitions for Gentiles.

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