Acts 15
Vincent's Word Studies
And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.

Rather the imperfect, were teaching. They had not merely broached the error, but were inculcating it.

Manner (ἔθει)

Better, custom, as Rev.

When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.
Question (ζητήματος)

Found only in the Acts, and always of a question in dispute.

And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren.
Being brought on their way (προπεμφθέντες)

Lit., having been sent forth; under escort as a mark of honor.


See on Acts 13:41. In the various towns along their route.

And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them.
Were received (ἀπεδέχθησαν)

The word implies a cordial welcome, which they were not altogether sure of receiving.

But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.

In the assembly.


See on heresies, 2 Peter 2:1.

And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.
And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.
The word of the gospel (τὸν λόγον τοῦ εὐαγγελίου)

This phrase occurs nowhere else; and εὐαγγε.λιον, gospel, is found only once more in Acts (Acts 20:24).

And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;
Which knoweth the heart (καρδιογνώστης)

Only here and Acts 1:24.

And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?
Were able (ἰσχύσαμεν)

See on Luke 14:30; and Luke 16:3.

But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.
Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.

The imperfect (ἤκουον) denotes attention to a continued narrative.

Declaring (ἐξηγουμένων)

Better, as Rev., rehearsing. See on Luke 24:35.

What miracles, etc

Lit., how many (ὅσα).

And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me:

See Introduction to Catholic Epistles.

Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.
And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written,
After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up:
That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.
Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.
Known unto God, etc

The best texts join these words with the preceding verse, from which they omit all; rendering, The Lord, who maketh these things known from the beginning of the world.

Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:
Trouble (παρενοχλεῖν)

Only here in New Testament. See on vexed, Luke 6:18.

But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.
Write (ἐπιστεῖλαι)

Originally, to send to, as a message; hence, by letter. The kindred noun ἐπιστολή, whence our epistle, means, originally, anything sent by a messenger. Letter is a secondary meaning.

Pollutions (ἀλισγημάτων)

A word not found in classical Greek, and only here in the New Testament. The kindred verb ἀλισγεῖν, to pollute, occurs in the Septuagint, Daniel 1:8; Malachi 1:7, and both times in the sense of defiling by food. Here the word is defined by things sacrificed to idols (Acts 15:29); the flesh of idol sacrifices, of which whatever was not eaten by the worshippers at the feasts in the temples, or given to the priests, was sold in the markets and eaten at home. See 1 Corinthians 10:25-28; and Exodus 34:15.


In its literal sense. "The association of fornication with three things in themselves indifferent is to be explained from the then moral corruption of heathenism, by which fornication, regarded from of old with indulgence, and even with favor, nay, practised without shame even by philosophers, and surrounded by poets with all the tinsel of lasciviousness, had become in public opinion a thing really indifferent" (Meyer). See Dllinger, "The Gentile and the Jew," ii., 237 sq.


The flesh of animals killed in snares, and whose blood was not poured forth, was forbidden to the Israelites.

For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.
Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren:
And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia:
Greeting (χαίρειν)

The usual Greek form of salutation. It occurs nowhere else in the salutation of a New Testament epistle save in the Epistle of James (James 1:1). See note there. It appears in the letter of Claudius Lysias (Acts 23:26).

Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment:
Subverting (ἀνασκευάζοντες)

Only here in New Testament, and not found either in the Septuagint or in the Apocrypha. Originally, it means to pack up baggage, and so to carry away; hence, to dismantle or disfurnish. So Thucydides (iv., 116) relates that Brasidas captured Lecythus, and then pulled it down and dismantled it (ἀνασκευάσας). From this comes the more general meaning to lay waste, or ravage. The idea here is that of turning the minds of the Gentile converts upside down; throwing them into confusion like a dismantled house.

We gave no commandment (οὐ διεστειλάμεθα)

The word originally means to put asunder; hence, to distinguish, and so of a commandment or injunction, to distinguish and emphasize it. Therefore implying express orders, and so always in the New Testament, where it is almost uniformly rendered charge. The idea here is, then, "we gave no express injunction on the points which these Judaizers have raised."

It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
Barnabas and Paul

Here, as in Acts 15:12, Barnabas is named first, contrary to the practice of Luke since Acts 13:9. Barnabas was the elder and better known, and in the church at Jerusalem his name would naturally precede Paul's. The use of the Greek salutation, and this order of the names, are two undesigned coincidences going to attest the genuineness of this first document preserved to us from the Acts of the primitive church.

Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth.
For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;
That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.

Because in the blood was the animal's life, and it was the blood that was consecrated to make atonement. See Genesis 9:6; Leviticus 17:10-14; Deuteronomy 12:23, Deuteronomy 12:24. The Gentiles had no scruples about eating blood; on the contrary, it was a special delicacy. Thus Homer:

"At the fire

Already lie the paunches of two goats,

Preparing for our evening meal, and both

Are filled with fat and blood. Whoever shows

Himself the better man in this affray,

And conquers, he shall take the one of these

He chooses."

Odyssey, xviii., 44 sq.

The heathen were accustomed to drink blood mingled with wine at their sacrifices.

Farewell (ἔῤῥωσθε)

Lit., be strong, like the Latin valete. Compare the close of Claudius Lysias' letter to Festus (Acts 23:30).

So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle:
Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation.

See on Acts 9:31.

And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them.
Many words

Or, lit., much discourse; adding the spoken to the written consolation.


Or comforted. See on Acts 15:31. The latter agrees better with consolation there.


See on Acts 14:22.

And after they had tarried there a space, they were let go in peace from the brethren unto the apostles.
Notwithstanding it pleased Silas to abide there still.
Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.
And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do.
Let us go again and visit (ἐπιστρέψαντες δὴ ἐπισκεψῶμεθα)

Lit., Having returned, let us now visit. The A. V. omits now. See on Acts 13:2.

In every city (κατὰ πᾶσαν πόλιν)

Κατά has the force of city by city.

And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark.
But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work.
Him (τοῦτον)

Lit., that one. It marks him very strongly, and is an emphatic position at the end of the sentence.

Departed (ἀποστάντα)

Rev., withdrew. It furnishes the derivation of our word apostatize.

And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus;
The contention was so sharp (ἐγένετο παροξυσμὸς)

More correctly, there arose a sharp contention. Only here and Hebrews 10:24. Our word paroxysm is a transcription of παροξυσμὸς. An angry dispute is indicated.


The last mention of him in the Acts.

And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.

Which was not the case with Barnabas, leading to the inference that the church at Antioch took Paul's side in the dispute.

And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.
Vincent's Word Studies, by Marvin R. Vincent [1886].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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