Monday, July 30, 2012

Question #2

Yes, I have many questions that I'll ask.  Here's my next question:

In Acts 15, Peter gave an argument.  If an argument consists of premises and a conclusion, how then would you outline Peter's argument?


  1. Peter's premise: God has accepted uncircumcised gentiles. This is evident when He gave them the Holy Spirit, just as He did the early Jewish believers.

    Peter's conclusion: Gentiles are saved through Messiah's grace, not through circumcision.

    Judah's extra notes:

    -Circumcision in the 1st century likely meant full conversion to Judaism; becoming a Jew.

    -Peter seems to equate "giving of the Holy Spirit" (v8) and "being saved by grace" (v11).

    -Peter seems to suggest that neither Jews nor gentiles have been able to bear the Torah.

    By the way, I like this Q&A format. Makes me think it through a bit deeper.

  2. Judah,

    It's good that you noted "acceptance" as part of the premise. You can take that even further. What were the gentiles being excluded from that they would sue for acceptance? Is this just social acceptance or could it be a covenantal acceptance? And when we look at verse 14 James says that there was another part of Peter's argument: these gentiles were a covenanted people [laos] for His name. Consider the following:

    (1) gentiles are not called by His name (Isaiah 63:19)
    (2) Israel alone is a covenanted people [laos] out of all the uncovenanted people [ethne] (LXX Deuteronomy 14:2).

    One other thing to consider. Did Peter really see Torah as an unbearable burden if Scripture says:

    Deuteronomy 30:11-14 “For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.

    1John 5:2-3 "2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3 In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome,"

  3. Interesting. If Peter wasn't referring to the Torah as an unbearable burden, what was he speaking about?

    1. Same thing Paul was talking about in Galatians 5: works-based salvation in contradistinction to grace-based salvation. You've already pinpointed Peter's argumentation: that men are saved by grace. So you know he had to have felt that the opposition was proposing a competing doctrine. What doctrine do we know that competes with grace-based salvation and which fits the context of Acts 15:1?

  4. "One other thing to consider. Did Peter really see Torah as an unbearable burden if Scripture says"

    Peter, just because scripture says it's not too mysterious (red heifer command is not too mysterious?) or too far off, doesn't mean that A. Peter thought that obedience according to Torah was a walk in the park or that it actually WAS easy. There's a little reality problem called sin, flesh and disobedience. How many times did Israel stray from Torah and was punished severely for that? THAT's what Peter was talking about!

    1. There's several reasons why Peter wasn't calling Torah a yoke. The fact that Torah considers itself not overly burdensome is but one reason. Here are some of the others:

      -if the issue was whether gentiles are saved by grace (15.11) or by works (15.1) then asserting that the Torah was an unbearable burden would not help Peter's argument because Peter's argument said that grace saves and thus any man's inability to follow the Law in its entirety would be overruled by grace.

      -Peter's argument about grace was, in effect, a reason to establish the law (Romans 3:31).

      -Acts 15:11 is "...a direct rebuttal to the opening attack, 'if you are not circumcised, you cannot be saved" (Harrington). In other words, logically, the only way to counter the proposition of works-based salvation (15.1) is to make an argument for grace-based salvation. And this is precisely what we see in the context.

      -Acts 15:10-11 and Galatians 5:3-4 are logically paralleled.

      Those are just a few reasons to consider. There are many others.

  5. Peter concludes that covenant inclusion is not determined by a man made ritual, and this ends up being true for both Jew and Gentile(v. 9), as he makes the claim, both are saved the same way. No difference.

    As stated earlier, and by the historian Josephus himself:

    "What I would now explain is this, that the Pharisees have delivered to the people a great many observances by succession from their fathers, which are not written in the laws of Moses; and for that reason it is that the Sadducees reject them, and say that we are to esteem those observances to be obligatory which are in the written word, but are not to observe what are derived from the tradition of our forefathers."

    What was being taught was not taught in the Law of Moses, although it does not necessarily automatically make it wrong, we have to look to Peter's conclusion, and in this case, the traditional view for covenant inclusion was invalid.

    1. Israel has rejected the Sadducian non-Biblical "sola-scriptura" approach as did Yeshua. It was G-d Himself (Deuteronomy 17:8–11*) who vested the Jewish authorities with responsibility and a right to interpret Torah and make their rulings, even the "unpopular" ones, legally binding on all Jews, as himself Yeshua confirms in Matthew 23:3.

      * "Act according to the law they teach you and the decisions they give you. Do not turn aside from what they tell you, to the right or to the left." (Deuteronomy 17:11)

    2. Israel also rejected Yeshua. And your claim is invalid concerning Yeshua's approach, there are at times, Yeshua agrees with their interpretation and other times where he disagrees.

      Per Deut 17:8-11, you are making quite a large assumption, when declaring who those legitimate authorities are. And you make another assumption concerning Matthew 23:3.

      An you ignored that Peter did not agree with the Pharisees concerning their doctrine or interpretation of Law... So maybe when we get to the kingdom, you can correct Peter. The reality is, it is not as simple as black and white... We have Yeshua for example giving a different interpretation of the Law in Matthew 5, contrary to what the people were being taught in that day. So your extremity of kissing the rabbis knees, needs to be balanced out.

    3. Zion,

      Ah! I love it! The courage and conviction to stand up to Gene. Not easy to do! All excellent points as well.


      Balderdash! You are taking Deuteronomy 17:11 out of context. It was the Levitical priests being referred to in a fully functioning edah with Temple intact. You're forgetting that Yeshua transferred authority to the kahal. If this was not the case, why then did the apostles and elders settle matters (Acts 15)? I suppose you think James in Acts 15 was overstepping his authority? My, my what balderdash.

  6. Zion,


    You just made me realize something wonderful about Peter's argument! When you said that about both are saved the same way it reminded me of this quote:

    " 'in the same way that they are': The phrase kath hon tropon (literally 'according to the same way') is used by the author elsewhere (luke 13:34; Acts 1:11; 7:28; 27:25). The most remarkable thing about the declaration is that the principle of salvation for those born Jews is measured by that for Gentiles, in a complete reversal of the expected order. God uses the salvation of the Gentiles to reveal to the Jewish believers the true ground of their own salvation. Peter's statements stands as a direct rebuttal to the opening attack, 'if you are not circumcised, you cannot be saved' (15:1)." pg. 263 Sacra Pagina

    So it looks like Peter is saying even we who are circumcised according to Torah (i.e. the covenant of circumcision described in Scripture), even we must be saved by grace---it is not the circumcision that offers salvation!

    Thanks for discussing, Zion. I hope to hear more from you in the future.

    1. Excellent correlation, ultimately we see Peter disregarding the teaching of the Pharisees here, which goes back to those who believe they are to follow these teachings and that Yeshua commanded so... which then we are left with either Peter is wrong and the council as well who agreed with Peter, or they are wrong... this is an easy one. Though I will say, if I did not read the scriptures, I would probably be fooled by this nonsense.