Thursday, 28 April 2016

Acts 15/1 - The Council of Jerusalem

Photo: © Dombauarchiv Köln
Cologne Cathedral

Acts 15 deals with the Council of Jerusalem, which dealt with the dispute over what requirements should be imposed on gentile converts.  Verses 30 to 41 reports on Paul and Barnabus' return to Antioch and start of the next missionary trip, so I'll look at it tomorrow.

Acts 15:
1.  But now some visitors came down from Judaea, who began to tell the brethren, You cannot be saved without being circumcised according to the tradition of Moses. 
Et quidam descendentes de Judæa docebant fratres: Quia nisi circumcidamini secundum morem Moysi, non potestis salvari.
Chrysostom (Homily 32): Mark how at every step of the right progress in respect of the Gentiles, the beginning is brought in as matter of necessity. Before this (Peter) being found fault with, justified himself, and said all that he said in the tone of apology, which was what made his words acceptable: then, the Jews having turned away, upon this (Paul) came to the Gentiles. Here again, seeing another extravagance coming in, upon this (the apostle) enacts the law. For as it is likely that they, as being taught of God, discoursed to all indifferently, this moved to jealousy them of the Jews (who had believed). And they did not merely speak of circumcision, but they said, You cannot even be saved. Whereas the very opposite to this was the case, that receiving circumcision they could not be saved...
2 Paul and Barnabas were drawn into a great controversy with them; and it was decided that Paul and Barnabas and certain of the rest should go up to see the apostles and presbyters in Jerusalem about this question. 3 So the church saw them on their way, and they passed through Phoenice and Samaria, relating how the Gentiles were turning to God, and so brought great rejoicing to all the brethren. 4 When they reached Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church, and by the apostles and presbyters; and they told them of all that God had done to aid them.5 But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees came forward and declared, They must be circumcised; we must call upon them to keep the law of Moses.6 When the apostles and presbyters assembled to decide about this matter. 7 there was much disputing over it, until Peter rose and said to them, Brethren, you know well enough how from early days it has been God’s choice that the Gentiles should hear the message of the gospel from my lips, and so learn to believe. 8 God, who can read men’s hearts, has assured them of his favour by giving the Holy Spirit to them as to us. 9 He would not make any difference between us and them; he had removed all the uncleanness from their hearts when he gave them faith. 10 How is it, then, that you would now call God in question, by putting a yoke on the necks of the disciples, such as we and our fathers have been too weak to bear? 11 It is by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that we hope to be saved, and they no less.
 2 Facta ergo seditione non minima Paulo et Barnabæ adversus illos, statuerunt ut ascenderent Paulus et Barnabas, et quidam alii ex aliis ad Apostolos et presbyteros in Jerusalem super hac quæstione. 3 Illi ergo deducti ab ecclesia pertransibant Phœnicen et Samariam, narrantes conversionem gentium: et faciebant gaudium magnum omnibus fratribus. 4 Cum autem venissent Jerosolymam, suscepti sunt ab ecclesia, et ab Apostolis et senioribus, annuntiantes quanta Deus fecisset cum illis. 5 Surrexerunt autem quidam de hæresi pharisæorum, qui crediderunt, dicentes quia oportet circumcidi eos, præcipere quoque servare legem Moysi.6 Conveneruntque Apostoli et seniores videre de verbo hoc. 7 Cum autem magna conquisitio fieret, surgens Petrus dixit ad eos: Viri fratres, vos scitis quoniam ab antiquis diebus Deus in nobis elegit, per os meum audire gentes verbum Evangelii et credere. 8 Et qui novit corda Deus, testimonium perhibuit, dans illis Spiritum Sanctum, sicut et nobis, 9 et nihil discrevit inter nos et illos, fide purificans corda eorum. 10 Nunc ergo quid tentatis Deum, imponere jugum super cervices discipulorum quod neque patres nostri, neque nos portare potuimus? 11 sed per gratiam Domini Jesu Christi credimus salvari, quemadmodum et illi.
 Chrys: Observe Peter from the first standing aloof (κεχωρισμένον) from the affair, and even to this time judaizing. And yet (says he) ye know.  Perhaps those were present who of old found fault with him in the matter of Cornelius, and went in with him (on that occasion): for this reason he brings them forward as witnesses.

From old days, he says, did choose among you. What means, Among you? Either, in Palestine, or, you being present. By my mouth. Observe how he shows that it was God speaking by him, and no human utterance. And God, that knows the hearts, gave testimony unto them: he refers them to the spiritual testimony: by giving them the Holy Ghost even as unto us. Everywhere he puts the Gentiles upon a thorough equality. And put no difference between us and them, having purified their hearts by faith.  From faith alone, he says, they obtained the same gifts...
12 Then the whole company kept silence, and listened to Barnabas and Paul describing all the signs and wonders God had performed among the Gentiles by their means.13 And when they had finished speaking, James answered thus, Listen, brethren, to what I have to say. 14 Simon has told us, how for the first time God has looked with favour on the Gentiles, and chosen from among them a people dedicated to his name. 15 This is in agreement with the words of the prophets, where it is written: 16 Afterwards, I will come back, and build up again David’s tabernacle that has fallen; I will build up its ruins, and raise it afresh; 17 so that all the rest of mankind may find the Lord, all those Gentiles among whom my name is named, says the Lord, who is the doer of all this.18 God has known from all eternity what he does to-day.19 And so I give my voice for sparing the consciences of those Gentiles who have found their way to God; 20 only writing to bid them abstain from what is contaminated by idolatry, from fornication, and from meat which has been strangled or has the blood in it. 21 As for Moses, ever since the earliest times he has been read, sabbath after sabbath, in the synagogues, and has preachers in every city to expound him.
 12 Tacuit autem omnis multitudo: et audiebant Barnabam et Paulum narrantes quanta Deus fecisset signa et prodigia in gentibus per eos.13 Et postquam tacuerunt, respondit Jacobus, dicens: Viri fratres, audite me. 14 Simon narravit quemadmodum primum Deus visitavit sumere ex gentibus populum nomini suo. 15 Et huic concordant verba prophetarum: sicut scriptum est: 16 Post hæc revertar, et reædificabo tabernaculum David quod decidit: et diruta ejus reædificabo, et erigam illud: 17 ut requirant ceteri hominum Dominum,et omnes gentes super quas invocatum est nomen meum, dicit Dominus faciens hæc. 18 Notum a sæculo est Domino opus suum. 19 Propter quod ego judico non inquietari eos qui ex gentibus convertuntur ad Deum, 20 sed scribere ad eos ut abstineant se a contaminationibus simulacrorum, et fornicatione, et suffocatis, et sanguine. 21 Moyses enim a temporibus antiquis habet in singulis civitatibus qui eum prædicent in synagogis, ubi per omne sabbatum legitur.
Chrys (Homily 33): This (James) was bishop, as they say, and therefore he speaks last, and herein is fulfilled that saying, In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established....

His also is a more complete oration, as indeed it puts the completion to the matter under discussion. (a) Symeon, he says, declared: (namely,) in Luke, in that he prophesied, Which You have prepared before the face of all nations, a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel. (c) How God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for His Name. Luke 2:25 Then, since that (witness), though from the time indeed he was manifest, yet had not authority by reason of his not being ancient, therefore he produces ancient prophecy also, saying, And to this agree the words of the Prophets, as it is written: After this I wilt return, and will build again the tabernacle of David which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up...

What? Was Jerusalem raised up? Was it not rather thrown down?... But if one would look into the matter closely, the kingdom of David does in fact now stand, his Offspring reigning everywhere. For what is the good of the buildings and the city, with none obeying there? And what is the harm arising from the destruction of the city, when all are willing to give their very souls? There is that come which is more illustrious than David: in all parts of the world is he now sung. This has come to pass: if so, then must this also come to pass,

And I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: to what end? that the residue of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom My Name is called. If then it was to this end that the city rose again (namely) because of Him (that was to come) of them, it shows that of the building of the city the cause is, the calling of the Gentiles.
 22 Thereupon it was resolved by the apostles and presbyters, with the agreement of the whole church, to choose out some of their own number and despatch them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas who was called Barsabas, and Silas, who were leading men among the brethren. 23 And they sent, by their hands, this message in writing; To the Gentile brethren in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia, their brethren the apostles and presbyters send greeting. 24 We hear that some of our number who visited you have disquieted you by what they said, unsettling your consciences, although we had given them no such commission; 25 and therefore, meeting together with common purpose of heart, we have resolved to send you chosen messengers, in company with our well-beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 men who have staked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have given this commission to Judas and Silas, who will confirm the message by word of mouth. 28 It is the Holy Spirit’s pleasure and ours that no burden should be laid upon you beyond these, which cannot be avoided; 29 you are to abstain from what is sacrificed to idols, from blood-meat and meat which has been strangled, and from fornication. If you keep away from such things, you will have done your part. Farewell.
Chrys: Let us not then be offended on account of the heretics. For look, here at the very outset of the preaching, how many offenses there were: I speak not of those which arose from them that were without; for these were nothing: but of the offenses which were within.

For instance, first Ananias, then the murmuring, then Simon the sorcerer; afterwards they that accused Peter on account of Cornelius, next the famine, lastly this very thing, the chief of the evils. For indeed it is impossible when any good thing has taken place, that some evil should not also subsist along with it. Let us not then be disturbed, if certain are offended, but let us thank God even for this, because it makes us more approved. For not tribulations only, but even temptations also render us more illustrious. A man is no such great lover of the truth, only for holding to it when there is none to lead him astray from it: to hold fast to the truth when many are drawing him away, this makes the proved man...Let us not look (only at this), that men are offended: this very thing is itself a proof of the excellence of the doctrine— that many stimulate and counterfeit it: for it would not be so, if it were not good.

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