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Holman Bible Dictionary

Apostolic Council

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The meeting in Jerusalem at which the apostles and elders of Jerusalem defended the right of Paul and Barnabas to preach the gospel to the Gentiles without forcing converts to obey the Jewish law (Acts 15:1 ). A “decree” from the council did ask Gentile converts not to eat food that had been sacrificed to idols, not to eat meat with blood in it, not to eat animals which had been strangled, and not to commit sexual immorality (Acts 15:28-29 ). These requirements may all be taken from Leviticus 17-18 , which set up requirements not only on the “house of Israel” but also on “the strangers which sojourn among you” (Leviticus 17:8 ).

In Galatians 2:1 Paul described the work of the council from his perspective, though some Bible students have long tried to distinguish between the events of Acts 15:1 and Galatians 2:1 . Paul used the council experience to show that his gospel without circumcision was accepted by the leaders in Jerusalem to the point Titus could be with him in Jerusalem and not be circumcised.

The two accounts apparently show that Paul and Barnabas, accompanied by Titus, represented the church in Antioch in seeking clarity from the leaders in Jerusalem on how to incorporate Gentile converts into the church. The council accepted Paul's practice of demanding only faith in Christ rather than obedience to Jewish law. The council did ask that those laws specifically directed to those outside the house of Israel be continued.

The council showed the working of the early church with strong leadership yet involving the voice of the congregation (Acts 15:12 ,Acts 15:12,15:22 ), the messengers sent from Jerusalem to Antioch not being part of the twelve apostles.

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Apostolic Council'. Holman Bible Dictionary. 1991.

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