James’ Use Of Amos At The Jerusalem Council: Steps Toward A Possible Solution Of The Textual And Theological Problems -- By: Michael A. Braun

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 20:2 (Jun 1977)
Article: James’ Use Of Amos At The Jerusalem Council: Steps Toward A Possible Solution Of The Textual And Theological Problems
Author: Michael A. Braun


James’ Use Of Amos At The Jerusalem Council:
Steps Toward A Possible Solution Of
The Textual And Theological Problems

Michael A. Braun*

There are few events recorded in the book of Acts of greater historical significance than the convening of the Jerusalem council in Acts 15. Commentators are quick to acknowledge the importance of this event which occurred in the formative years of the Christian Church. Its importance stands quite apart from the continuing debates over chronology, or the precise nature of the issues involved, or the identity of the various groups who took part in the tense encounter at Jerusalem. Modern NT scholarship, if divided regarding such matters, nonetheless recognizes as significant that assembly of apostles and elders whose ultimate decisions were voiced by James, using the strength of Amos 9:11–12 to convince and unite the various parties present. Acts 15:6–29 is a crucial passage in the development of the NT Church, and Amos 9:11–12 played a most strategic part within the Acts passage. This being the case, one can only join the dismay of W. C. Kaiser, who laments, “It is truly amazing how little hard exegetical and contextual work has been done on these key passages. Even the journal literature on these texts… is extremely rare.” 1

Among the inhibiting factors that contribute to the paucity of “exegetical and contextual work” in Acts 15 and Amos 9 are the glaring textual discrepancies between the MT and the Acts citation. Going further, one is hard pressed to determine exactly how the passage cited by James convinced the contending parties. What exactly was the doctrinal affirmation that commended the Amos passage to those present? Was it the mere mention of “Gentiles called by my name”? A host of other OT passages might come more readily to mind for this. 2 Did James employ Amos 9 to demonstrate that Gentiles were included in the Davidic promise of an everlasting kingdom? Again we are faced with the fact that any number of passages teach this with at least equal forthrightness.3 It is possible that James’ choice of Amos 9 was a rather arbitrary one taken from among many such “proof texts,” but perhaps James chose a passage that delineated with exquisite precision the fact that the restored kingdom will admit both Jew...

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