Since the dawn of the Christian era, Christians have taught that Acts 15 is the basis for a "Law-free" gospel. And, more recently, certain vocal Messianic organizations have adopted this consensus view of Acts 15, claiming that the Gospel is Law-free for Gentiles.
But the question is whether the consensus view can be accurate when it has failed to address the following exegetical barriers:
(1) textual variants present in Acts 15:
"...from the scribe's standpoint, changes were made to promote a doctrinal or ideological view not in the text being copied....Intentional alterations include....often small changes...or longer additions such as found in manuscripts of the 'Western' textual tradition, where anti-Judaic...and other tendencies have been detected," (Handbook to Exegesis of the New Testament by Stanley E. Porter)(2) lack of a definitive explanation of James' fourfold decree:
"At the heart of the chapter is verse 20, the council's decree. Yet for New Testament scholars this verse has been a puzzle; even under the most careful historical enquiry, the meaning and rationale of the decree were never entirely clear," Proselytes and Pressure Cookers: The Meaning and Application of Acts 15:20 by John Proctor).Schnabel, for example, explains that there are as many as six different interpretations of the fourfold decree today! (see Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Schnabel, 2012).
McKee believes that such confusion has caused some severe problems for Believers:
"...the Body of Believers today has lost much of its direction for the future. There are many problems among those in our faith today. The foremost of these problems is the widespread proliferation of sin and unbiblical behavior, which results in people having an ineffective spiritual walk and being unable to fulfill the mission of God in the world." (McKee, The New Testament Validates Torah)Thus, McKee has devoted an entire book to the subject of Acts 15:
- Presenting an in-depth look at the Greek source text (as one would expect of the 2009 recipient of the Zondervan Biblical Languages Award for Greek);
- Citing to every major scholar on Acts 15 in recent history;
- Offering valuable tables that make it easy to understand the sections dealing with textual criticism;
- Providing quotes from a wide variety of ancient Jewish sources (e.g. Philo, Talmud, etc);
- And providing a masterful exegesis that weaves Jamesian, Petrine, and Pauline intertextual threads into the Acts 15 narrative.
Many thanks to McKee for creating such a monumental resource!