Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Friday, January 27, 2006

The Road to the Gentiles

After announcing the Apostolic Decree, James provides the rationale by quoting Act 15:21.

"For from early generations Moses has had in every city those who preach him, for he is read every sabbath in the synagogues."

Marion Soards declares with respect to verse 21 that “The final verse of the speech is an interpretive riddle.” The riddle is resolved. This decision announced by James is from a Jewish perspective and is designed at maintaining relationships. According to Talbert, “The Gentile Messianists are to behave this way not because the law says so but because it is the minimum that will allow Jews who observe the law to associate with Gentiles who do not.”

The common meals were very important to primitive Christianity. The Decree made it possible for Jews and Gentiles to meet at the common table in that two of the four rules announced by James were concerned with the preparation of food.

Verse 21 recognized that in the intertestamental period, the Jews were dispersed throughout the Roman Empire and lived mostly in the cities. As people of trade and commerce, they were highly networked. Wherever the Jews settled, they established synagogues, which were open to Gentile inquirers and proselytes. According to Esther 8:17, many people of other nationalities became Jews.

The synagogues of the Diaspora used the Septuagint. The fact that the Hebrew Bible had been translated into Greek made the Septuagint an instrument for Jewish missionary efforts and the synagogues an attractive alterative for Greek speaking residents receptive to a message attacking idolatry, polytheistic worship and immoral practices.

The fact that the movement was successful is explained by one additional fact, which is confirmed by Luke and Lampe. The house churches established by the followers of Jesus were located near synagogues. Thus we read in Acts 14:1 that Paul and Barnabus went as usual into the Jewish synagogue where they spoke so effectively that “a number of both Jews and Greeks became believers.”

Copyrighted 2006


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