The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father Callan’s Commentary on Acts 15:1-6

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 21, 2011

Test in red are my additions.

1. And some coming down from Judea, taught the brethren: That except you be circumcised after the manner of Moses, you cannot be saved.

And some coming down, etc. The missionaries are back in Syrian Antioch where their mission which Luke has just finished narrating began (Acts 13:1-4. This should not be confused with Pisidian Antioch which was evangelized during that mission (Acts 13:13-50). These were Jews who had been converted to Christianity (possibly the converted Pharisees mentioned in verse 5). They contended that circumcision and the observances of the Mosaic Law were essential for salvation, and that therefore converts from paganism should first be subjected to these observances. In order to make their influence more effective they came down from Jerusalem, the seat of greatest authority, to Antioch, which was known as the center of the Church, and whose Christian community was composed of Gentile converts. It is true that the vision of St. Peter and the consequent conclusion that Mosaic observances were no longer necessary for salvation (Acts 10-11) were well known, and had been accepted by the faithful at Jerusalem; but as the number of converts, especially from the sect of the Pharisees, grew, the old ideas about the eternity of the Law of Moses and the necessity of its observance again became prominent. The case of Cornelius and the decision of St. Peter at the time were gradually looked upon as exceptional, and the result of a special divine intervention.

2. And when Paul and Barnabas had no small contest with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain others of the other side, should go up to the apostles and priests to Jerusalem about this question.

The doctrine of those Jewish converts from Jerusalem caused a great controversy and agitation in the Church at Antioch, in particular, since the agitators pretended to have authority from the Apostles at Jerusalem (Gal 2:2, 6, 9). Hence the heads of the Church at Antioch decided that Paul and Barnabas, with Titus (Gal 2:1) and some others, should go up to Jerusalem and consult
Peter and the other Apostles there with a view to settling this question (Gal 2:9).

The ex aliis  (“certain others of the other side“) of the Vulgate here would imply that among the delegates sent to Jerusalem there were some opposed to the opinion of Paul; but since the phrase is not in the Greek it is thought that it is a corruption for ex illis. Certain other Latin versions have ex illis instead of ex aliisEx illis = “certain others of them.”

From the Epistle to the Galatians 2:2 we know that St. Paul was moved to go up to Jerusalem at this time by divine revelation, as well as by the decision of the elders of the Church at Antioch.

The events leading up to the council at Jerusalem and the connection with Galatians is controverted and variously interpreted. See Raymond Brown’s Introduction To The New Testament for details.  See also A Life Of Paul 46:32-33 in the Jerome Biblical Commentary.

3. They therefore being brought on their way by the church, passed through Phenice, and Samaria, relating the conversion of the Gentiles; and they caused great joy to all the brethren.

On their journey to Jerusalem the two Apostles, accompanied by some of the faithful who represented the Church at Antioch, took the road by the seacoast, through Tyre and Sidon, the chief cities of Phoenicia. The story of the success of their mission in Asia Minor caused great joy to the converts whom they met on
their way.

4. And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received by the
church, and by the apostles and ancients, declaring how great things God had done with them.

The journey from Antioch to Jerusalem required from twelve to fifteen days. This was St. Paul’s third visit to the city after his conversion. Cf. Acts 9:26; 11:30. At this time there were present at Jerusalem only James the Less, Peter, and John (Gal 2:9), and the “ancients,” i.e., the priests. First to these, and later on (verse 12) to the multitude, St. Paul discoursed on his labors among the Gentiles.

5. But there arose some of the sect of the Pharisees that believed, saying: They must be circumcised, and be commanded to observe the law of Moses.

The Pharisees that believed; i.e., converts from the sect of the Pharisees. See on Acts 4:1.

6. And the apostles and ancients assembled to consider of this matter.

This becomes the model for latter Church practice.

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3 Responses to “Father Callan’s Commentary on Acts 15:1-6”

  1. […] Father Callan on Today’s First Reading (Acts 15:1-6). […]

  2. […] Father Callan’s Commentary on Today’s First Reading (Acts 15:1-6). […]

  3. […] Father Callan’s Commentary on Today’s First Reading (Acts 15:1-6). […]

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