First Church Council: Acts 15
Why did the first church council demand non-Jewish
Christians abstain from idolatry, sexual immorality, the meat
of strangled animals and blood?
- A number of scholars viewed the decision of the Jerusalem
meeting as a compromise between Hellenistic and Jewish cultures,
and a response to contemporary challenges:
- Avoidance of sexual immortality is one of the
ten commandants, as well as avoidance of murder, theft, and false
witness etc. But only sexual immortality was stressed in the
meeting because this was a sin taken slightly by the Greeks and
also associated with certain pagan religious festival (Barker,
1985). In addition, the use of animal blood by humans was a characteristic
of Mithras worship (Larsen, 1994). Larsen suspected that
there were several other mystical religions shared this trait.
- Another piece of evidence for the "challenge
and response" model is the variation of different versions.
In a later edition of the Bible, the Western text, also
known as Codex Bezae, the reference to strangled animals
and blood was omitted (Kummel, 1973). Based upon the Western
text, the decree ruled out only idolatry and sexual immorality.
Harrison (1975) interpreted that in the later period of time
legalism was no longer an issue in the Christian church. Instead
moralism became the major concern and the modification in the
Western text reflects the contemporary problem.
- The changing emphasis of different laws in the
Jewish circle also indicates laws as a response to contemporary
problems. There was a severe repression following the crushing
of the Bar-Kokhba revolt (A. D. 135). The rabbis of Lydda
announced that if the life of a Jew is endangered, he might break
any of the commandments except sexual immorality, murder and idolatry
(Bruce, 1988). At that time survival was the ultimate concern
and thus the ban on eating blood was put aside.
Was the prohibition of eating blood mentioned
in Gen. 9: 4 applied to all mankind?
Anderson, G. W. (1966). The history and religion
of Israel. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Baker, K. (1985). The NIV Study Bible. Grand
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Bruce, F. F. (1988). Book of the Acts. Grand
Rapid, MI: William B. Eerdmans.
Harrison, E. F. (1975). Interpreting Acts: The
expanding church. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Heinsohn, G. (1992). The rise of blood sacrifice
and Priest-Kingship in Mesopotamia: A 'Cosmic Decree'? Religion:
A Journal of Religion and Religions, 22, 109-134.
Kummel, W. G. (1973). Introduction to the New
Testament. Heideberg: Quelle and Meyer.
Larsen, C. (1994, October). First church council.
America Online: Christian History Discussion.
Stein, William (1994, October). About first church