James’s Quotation Of Amos 9 To Settle The Jerusalem Council Debate In Acts 15 -- By: J. Paul Tanner

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 55:1 (Mar 2012)
Article: James’s Quotation Of Amos 9 To Settle The Jerusalem Council Debate In Acts 15
Author: J. Paul Tanner

James’s Quotation Of Amos 9 To Settle The Jerusalem Council Debate In Acts 15

J. Paul Tanner

Paul Tanner is Middle East director of BEE World, 23262 CR 181, Bullard, TX 75757.

I. Introduction

The book of Acts is the story of the early church in transition. One of the defining moments in its transition from an initially all-Jewish church to a church composed of both Jews and Gentiles occurred at the Jerusalem Council recorded in Acts 15. That Gentiles could become part of the people of God had been accepted earlier as a result of Peter’s ministry in the home of Cornelius (Acts 11:18). Yet there were lingering questions, particularly in what would be expected of Gentiles regarding their conduct and adherence to Jewish customs. Some Christians of Jewish descent were of the opinion that Gentiles needed to keep the Law and be circumcised. In fact, some held that Gentiles could not be saved apart from this (Acts 15:1, 5). More “enlightened” Christian leaders (such as Paul and Barnabas) strongly objected to any attempt to impose such Jewish customs on the Gentiles. Yet the issue was so contentious that a summit meeting was needed in Jerusalem in order for the senior leaders of the church to make an official pronouncement on this subject. This council took place in AD 49, probably not long after Paul’s first missionary journey.

At the council, James (the brother of the Lord) spoke last, which seems to reflect that by this time the early church looked to him as one of its senior spokesmen, if not its most prominent leader (cf. Gal 2:6-9). With James’s speech, the debate was settled. Of particular importance was James’s appeal to Amos 9:11-12, as this text gave the scriptural basis for his argument and the resulting decision of the council. The Amos quotation refers to the rebuilding of David’s “booth” (or hut) and links this with the ingathering of Gentiles who are known by God’s name. This paper will seek to understand the meaning of the Amos quotation in its own context; how the LXX rendered the verses into Greek, how the NT relates to both the MT and LXX; and finally the hermeneutics involved and what theological conclusions can be drawn from James’s appeal to Amos 9.

The use of Amos 9:11-12 in Acts 15 has been the subject of much discussion in modern theological debate. Covenant theologians have unders...

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