A Reexamination of the Prohibitions in Acts 15 -- By: Charles H. Savelle

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 161:644 (Oct 2004)
Article: A Reexamination of the Prohibitions in Acts 15
Author: Charles H. Savelle


A Reexamination of
the Prohibitions in Acts 15

Charles H. Savelle

Charles H. Savelle is a Faculty Member, Center Point Bible Institute, Greenville, Texas.

The Book of Acts, and especially chapter 15, serves as an important link between the Gospels and the Epistles.1 Two decisions in this chapter had a profound impact on the future of the church and its understanding of the gospel.

The first decision relates to the question of how Gentiles could be saved. That is, must Gentiles be circumcised in order to be saved (Acts 15:1, 5)?2 “The apostles and elders” (v. 2) who composed the Jerusalem Council concluded that the answer to this is no.

The second decision took the form of four prohibitions. Representing the Jerusalem Council, James said that believing Gentiles should “abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood” (v. 20). The letter that was sent from the Council to churches in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia (v. 23) refers to these four in a different order: “abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things

strangled and from fornication” (v. 29). This order is followed in the later summary when Paul returned to Jerusalem (21:25). The purpose of this article is to examine the origins, purposes, and significance of these four prohibitions in the apostolic decree of Acts 15.

The Greek Text Of Acts 15:20, 29; 21:25

The textual traditions of the Book of Acts present significant challenges for any exegetical examination, including the prohibitions in Acts 15:20, 29; and 21:25. Although the Alexandrian tradition of the Greek text is favored by most translators and commentators, a brief examination of the variants in the textual tradition offers insight into understanding the decree and its prohibitions.

First, the phrase καὶ τῆς πορνείας (“and fornication”) is omitted from You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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