May 12, 2010

The Importance of Key Figures at the Jerusalem Council

One reason that I believe that the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 was such a significant event both literarily in Acts and historically in the early church is the presence of key figures, notably Peter and James and Paul and Barnabas. The former pair represents the Jewish mission and the Jerusalem church and the latter pair represents the Gentile mission outside of Jerusalem and Judea. The significance of Peter and James is noted by H. C. Kee who states:

“The author of Acts highlights the importance of the question [whether Gentile converts need to keep the Mosaic Law] by locating the discussion and resultant decrees within the context of the apostolic council in Jerusalem. The authority of the decisions reach by the council is emphasized by the fact that the two pronouncements are uttered by the leader of the original group of disciples, who was also the pioneer on outreach to the Gentiles – that is Peter – and then confirmed and specified by the new leader of the Jerusalem-based apostles – that is James.”

Howard Clark Kee, To Every Nation under Heaven: The Acts of the Apostles, New Testament in Context, ed. Howard Clark Kee and J. Andrew Overman (Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 1997), 180.

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