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Acts 15:1-41 | Werner Bible Commentary

Acts 15:1-41

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The peace that existed in the congregation of Syrian Antioch, with Jewish and non-Jewish believers associating harmoniously as a family of fellow children of God came to be disrupted when certain Jewish believers “came down from Judea.” They began to teach the “brothers,” fellow believers, that, unless non-Jewish believers got circumcised “according to the custom of Moses,” they could not be “saved.” According to their view, an approved standing with God depended on living as God-fearing Jews and, therefore, faith in Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of sins made possible through his sacrificial death were not enough to be divinely acceptable. Codex Bezae (Cantabrigiensis) expands the text to indicate that they thought non-Jewish believers must be “circumcised and walk according to the custom of Moses.” Certain manuscripts identify the individuals who had come from Judea as Pharisees at the time they became believers. (15:1; see the Notes section.)

Paul and Barnabas fully understood that the contention of these men from Judea was wrong and endeavored to counter the erroneous teaching. This resulted in much debating and disputing. Codex Bezae (Cantabrigiensis) represents Paul as the one who disputed with them, saying that he insisted that non-Jewish disciples remain as they were (uncircumcised) at the time they became believers. Despite the debating and disputing, the individuals from Judea apparently did not change their view. Therefore, the decision was reached for Paul, Barnabas, and a number of others to go to Jerusalem, where the matter could then be considered with the apostles and the elders there. (15:2; see the Notes section.)

The community of believers “sent” (propémpo) Paul, Barnabas, and the others on their way, doubtless with what they needed for the trip and also with their prayers and blessing. Propémpo, a form of this Greek word that appears in the text, can mean to escort individuals or to send them on their way, which could include arranging for travel companions and giving them money, food, or other supplies for the journey. Whether the ones who had come from Jerusalem also departed at this time is not apparent from the account. On the way to Jerusalem, especially Paul and Barnabas would have shared the news about the conversion of non-Jews as they traveled through Phoenicia and then Samaria. By taking the coastal route through Phoenicia, they would have bypassed Galilee. Paul and the others must have stayed overnight with believers along the way, and their report about what had happened among non-Jews “brought great joy to all the brothers” (fellow believers). (15:3)

When the group from Antioch arrived in Jerusalem, the apostles, elders, and other members of the congregation welcomed them, and “they,” particularly Paul and Barnabas, related all that “God had done with them.” Thus they attributed to God everything that was accomplished in advancing the good news about Jesus Christ and represented themselves as his instruments. (15:4)

At the time certain ones associated with the Jerusalem congregation became believers, they were Pharisees. These believers stood up to speak and insisted that non-Jews should be circumcised and be commanded “to observe the law of Moses.” (15:5)

During the meeting with the apostles and elders to look into the matter (15:6), much debating occurred. Thereafter Peter stood up and began to speak, “Men, brothers, you know that considerable time ago [literally, ‘from original days’] God chose [me from] among you [to have] the nations [non-Jews] hear the word of the good news through my mouth and to believe. [15:7] And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, giving [‘them,’ not included in the most ancient extant manuscripts] the holy spirit as [he] also [did] to us. [15:8; see the Notes section.] And he did not distinguish between us and them, [also] purifying their hearts by faith. [15:9] Now, then, why are you testing God, [wanting] to put a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? [15:10] Rather, through the favor of the Lord Jesus, we believe to be saved, which [is the] manner [in which] they [the non-Jews] also [are to be saved].” (15:11)

Peter, upon being prepared by means of a vision that God dealt impartially with Jews and non-Jews, was chosen from among other believers to declare the good news about Jesus Christ to the Gentile Cornelius, his household, relatives, and close friends, providing them with the opportunity to become believers. (10:9-34; 15:7; see the Notes section.) All those who then listened to Peter received the holy spirit. This became evident when they began speaking in tongues. In granting his spirit to non-Jews just as he had to Jews, God, who knows the “heart” (the inner self), testified that these non-Jews were acceptable to him as they were in their uncircumcised state. (10:44-47; 15:8)

By reason of their faith in Jesus Christ and the surrender of his life for them, God cleansed their “hearts.” This indicated that they were fully purified, with their inner selves and consciences having been cleansed. What God did in their case revealed that he had made no distinction between Jews and non-Jews, for he had purified both peoples on the same basis. (15:9)

Therefore, the imposition of the requirements of the Mosaic law on non-Jews did not accord with the revealed will of God. It would have constituted a “testing” of God, implying that he did not know what he was doing when imparting his spirit to men who were uncircumcised. Furthermore, the Jews themselves, including their “fathers” or ancestors, had been unable to “bear” the yoke of the law, for they had been unable to measure up to its lofty requirements. Accordingly, salvation or deliverance from the consequences to which sin leads is only possible through the “favor of the Lord Jesus.” It is not something that can be attained on the basis of personal merit, for all humans are sinners and incapable of reflecting God’s image in a flawless manner. Both Jews and non-Jews are saved by the “favor” or “kindness” of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of sins is not earned but bestowed on all who trustingly accept him and his sacrifice for them. During their life on earth, the ultimate salvation or deliverance of believers is future, coming into their possession upon being glorified as sinless children of God. (15:10, 11)

When Peter completed giving his testimony, the assembled multitude became silent. They then listened to Barnabas and Paul tell about the many “signs and portents God did through them among the nations.” Barnabas and Paul did not require non-Jews to be circumcised, and what they related about the miracles that occurred through them among the non-Jews would have revealed to the listeners that they had divine backing and approval for the way in which they carried out their ministry. (15:12; see the Notes section.)

After Paul and Barnabas finished speaking (literally, “became silent”), James added his response to the testimony that had been presented. “Men, brothers, listen to me.” With these opening words he acknowledged fellow believers as his brothers, members of the family of God’s devoted children. James (as in 12:17) was not one of the twelve apostles but the brother of the Lord Jesus Christ. (15:13; Galatians 1:19; 2:9)

Referring to Peter by his original name “Symeon” (Simon), James continued, “Symeon related how God initially concerned himself with taking a people for his name from the nations.” The “name” represents God himself, and so a people for his name would mean a people belonging to God. Cornelius, his household, relatives, and close friends who listened to Symeon’s message about Jesus Christ came to be the first non-Jews who thus came to be God’s own people, just like the Jewish believers were. (15:14)

James recognized that the testimony of Peter agreed with “the words of the prophets.” In this case, “prophets” may be a collective designation applying to the prophetic writings as a whole. (15:15)

James then followed up with a quotation primarily drawn from the book of Amos, “After these things, I will return and rebuild the tent of David, which has collapsed, and the [parts] of it that have been torn down I will rebuild, and I will re-erect it [15:16], that the remnant of the men may seek out the Lord, and [kaí] all the nations upon whom my name has been called [may do so] [15:17], says the Lord who is doing these things known from of old.” (15:18) To a large extent, this quotation follows the wording of Amos 9:11 and 12 in the Septuagint.

After the Babylonian exile, the kingdom in the house of David was not restored, and the royal line sank into obscurity. The royal house or “tent” then proved to be in a state of collapse, and what remained of that house came to be in a low state, comparable to a structure that had been reduced to ruins. The prophetic words, however, gave assurance that the time would come when the royal house of David would again be restored. This occurred when Jesus Christ came to the earth, completed his ministry, and rose from the dead as the King of kings and Lord of lords with full authority over everything in heaven and on earth. (15:16; Matthew 28:18; Revelation 19:16)

“The remnant of the men” could refer to the believing remnant among the Israelites. A footnote in the German Neue Genfer Übersetzung presents this as an alternate meaning of the text by adding “from my people” (aus meinem Volk) after the “remaining humans” (übriggebliebenen Menschen). Along with people of “all the nations” (non-Jews), they would seek the Lord to come into possession of an approved relationship with him. By faith in Jesus Christ and his sacrificial death for them, they would come to be reconciled to God as beloved children. All of this is God’s doing, for he initiated sending his Son to the earth and opening up the means for people everywhere to be forgiven of their sins. (15:17; see the Notes section.) The developments pertaining to Jesus, the coming Messiah or Christ, had centuries previously been revealed through the Hebrew prophets and so were “known from of old.” (15:18)

Based on the testimony that had been presented and the prophetic writings, James expressed his decision that “the nations” (non-Jews) who were turning to God when putting faith in Jesus Christ should not be troubled by requiring circumcision and adherence to the entire law of Moses. (15:19) James, however, proposed writing a letter to non-Jewish believers, telling them to keep away from the defilements of idols, fornication (porneía), meat from animals that had been strangled (pniktós), and from blood. (15:20)

Possibly to indicate the reason for these particular prohibitions, he continued, “For, from generations past, Moses has had those who proclaim him in city after city [literally, ‘according to city’], being read aloud in the synagogues on every Sabbath.” This may indicate that, from well-known Mosaic law provisions that applied to resident aliens in Israel, James selected the specific practices that non-Jewish believers needed to avoid. (15:21)

Noninvolvement with “defilements of idols” would mean shunning idolatry, which featured prominently in the life of the non-Jewish populace. Animals were slaughtered at temples and meat from the animals presented as offerings before the images of deities. Thereafter, in the temple precincts, individuals, often family groups and friends, would eat meat from the animals that had been offered as sacrifices. Some of the meat also would be sold and then eaten in homes. In the case of non-Jewish believers, past involvement with the veneration of nonexistent deities could have had the potential of stirring up worshipful feelings when partaking of such meat, which would have been a “pollution” associated with an idol. Such common idolatrous feasting at temples or elsewhere would have been highly offensive to Jews. According to Leviticus 17:7-9, the requirement to shun idolatry in relation to sacrifices applied both to the Israelites and the resident aliens in their midst. (15:20; compare Ezekiel 14:7, 8.)

The Greek term porneía includes all forms of sexual immorality. With the practice of ceremonial prostitution (both male and female) being closely associated with idolatry, porneía was very much a part of the customary routine of life among non-Jews. According to the law, resident aliens in Israel were under strict command to keep free from all sexual sins. (Leviticus 18:6-20, 22-27) A third-century manuscript (P45) does not include the word porneía. Whether this is representative of the original text or an inadvertent or deliberate omission cannot be established, especially since other parts of Acts (15:29 and 21:25) that include it are not preserved in this particular manuscript. (15:20)

Although missing in Codex Bezae (Cantabrigiensis), the inclusion of pniktós has weighty manuscript support. This term applies to animals that were killed without having their blood drained. These animals were strangled, suffocated, or choked to death. The law stipulated that resident aliens were not to eat animals that died of themselves or had been killed by predators, which would have been animals from which the blood had not been properly drained. (Leviticus 17:15) Resident aliens were also commanded to drain the blood from any animal that was killed for food. (Leviticus 17:13) Another practice common among non-Jews was to cut flesh from living animals and to eat it raw. This would have been abhorrent to Jews. (15:20)

The command not to consume blood preceded the giving of the law to the Israelites. (Genesis 9:3, 4) That command (represented as having universal application to all nations descended from Noah through Shem, Ham, and Japheth) is also linked to the prohibition against shedding blood or murder. (Genesis 9:5, 6) Among non-Jews in the first century, consuming blood was common. The law given to the Israelites required that they and resident aliens in their midst not eat blood. (15:20; Leviticus 17:10-12)

The apostles and elders, along with the community of believers, agreed with James and decided to select from among them Judas (also called Barsabbas) and Silas to send with Paul and Barnabas to Antioch. (15:22) “Through their hand,” probably meaning that, “by them,” the letter was sent. Some have understood the words “through their hand” to mean that Judas and Silas served as secretaries. That two men would be involved in doing the writing of a short letter, however, appears unlikely. The letter itself is represented as coming from the apostles and elders of the congregation in Jerusalem. (15:23)

The quoted letter reads, “The apostles and elders, brothers, to those in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, to the brothers from the nations. Greetings! [15:23] Since we have heard that some [‘having gone out,’ not in all manuscripts] from among us, to whom we gave no instructions, troubled you with words, upsetting your souls [15:24], it seemed [fitting] to us, having come to be of one mind, to have chosen to send men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul [15:25], men who have delivered up their souls for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. [15:26] Therefore, we have sent Judas and Silas, and they will relate the same things by word. [15:27] For it seemed [fitting] to the holy spirit and to us not to place a greater burden on you than these essentials: [15:28] to abstain from things offered to idols and from blood and things strangled and fornication [porneía]. If you keep yourselves from these things, you will do well. Be well [érrosthe, a form of the verb rhónnymi].” (15:29)

Antioch, situated on the Orontes River, was the capital of the Roman province of Syria. (See http://bibleplaces.com/antiochorontes.htm for pictures of and comments about Antioch.) Cilicia, a district on the southeastern coast of Asia Minor, was situated north and east of the island of Cyprus and north and west of the city of Syrian Antioch. The apostles and elders associated with the congregation in Jerusalem directed their letter to the “brothers” from the nations, or to the non-Jewish disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. (15:23; see the Notes section.)

The Greek term rendered “greetings” (chaírein, a form of chaíro) often appears at the beginning of other ancient letters. This expression, a form of the verb meaning “rejoice” (chaíro), is a greeting that wishes one well. (15:23)

The letter acknowledged that the persons who had gone to Antioch from Jerusalem had been responsible for causing confusion among the non-Jewish believers, unsettling them by insisting that they needed to get circumcised and start observing all the requirements of the Mosaic law to be divinely approved. Yet these individuals had not received any authorization from the apostles and elders for promoting such teaching. (15:24; see the Notes section.)

In the Greek text, the first word of verse 25 is a form of the verb dokéo, which can mean to “suppose,” “think” “believe,” and “seem.” In this context, the meaning could be to “decide” or “resolve” (instead of “seem”). When referring to Barnabas and Paul as “our beloved,” the apostles and elders expressed their deep appreciation for them as devoted servants of the Lord Jesus Christ and dear fellow members of God’s family of children. (15:25)

The “name of our Lord Jesus Christ” means the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, for the “name” represents the person. Barnabas and Paul had “delivered up” (paradídomi) their “souls” for the Lord Jesus Christ. This could mean that they expended themselves fully for Jesus Christ or in his service, or that they risked their very lives for him. In Iconium, both Paul and Barnabas faced the threat of being killed by having stones hurled at them and escaped by fleeing from the city. In Lystra, Paul was subjected to stoning, dragged outside the city, and left for dead. (14:5, 6, 19; 15:26)

The reason the apostles and elders sent Judas and Silas with Barnabas and Paul was so that they would be able to speak about the very things set forth in the letter. This would have involved more than just repeating the written words. As they must have been present during the deliberation, they could have answered questions and provided specifics about the decision the apostles and elders had reached. They could also have corroborated the report Barnabas and Paul would have made to the Antioch congregation. (15:27)

Emphasizing that the decision about the “burden” or obligation imposed on non-Jewish believers involved more than just an accommodation to Jewish sensibilities, the letter referred to the role of the “holy spirit,” indicating that the apostles and elders had been guided by God’s spirit when considering the matter. God’s spirit was involved in the decision not to require non-Jewish believers to get circumcised and to submit to all the requirements of the Mosaic law. (15:28)

In the quoted letter (15:29), the listing of things from which non-Jewish believers were to abstain is in a different order than in the quoted words of James. (15:20) Instead of “defilements of idols,” the plural form of the Greek term (eidolóthytos) in verse 29 designates something that is presented as an offering to an idol. If the non-Jewish believers kept free from engaging in idolatrous practices, consuming blood and meat from animals that had been strangled (pniktós,), and fornication (porneía,) or from all sexual sins (which were also a prominent feature of idolatrous worship), they would flourish spiritually. (15:29; see the Notes section.)

In the Greco-Roman world, letters often ended with érrosthe, a term that has been translated “farewell” and “goodbye.” Érrosthe may be understood to express a wish of well-being directed to the letter writer’s intended recipients. (15:29)

Upon having been sent on their way and arriving in Antioch, Barnabas, Paul, Judas and Silas had the community of believers (the “multitude”) assemble and “delivered the letter.” Subsequent to the reading of the letter, the recipients “rejoiced over the exhortation” (paráklesis). In this case, the Greek word paráklesis can denote “exhortation” or “encouragement.” The non-Jewish believers would have been delighted to have confirmed to them that they had an approved standing with God in the family of his children and that their salvation, or their deliverance from sin and the condemnation to which it leads, did not depend upon submitting to circumcision and all the requirements of the Mosaic law. (15:30)

Additionally, Judas and Silas, in their role as prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the “brothers” (fellow believers). After identifying Judas and Silas as also having been prophets, Codex Bezae (Cantabrigiensis) adds that they were “filled with holy spirit.” The words of the two prophets doubtless included encouragement to remain devoted to the Lord Jesus Christ and expressions about the certain fulfillment of the hope believers shared. Whatever might have been said that contributed to a greater appreciation for existing and future blessings would have strengthened everyone to continue in conducting themselves uprightly as Jesus Christ’s disciples. (15:32)

After Judas and Silas had spent some time in Antioch, the “brothers” (fellow believers) there sent them away (literally, “released them”) “in peace to those who had sent them” or, according to the reading of certain other manuscripts, “to the apostles.” Their being sent on their way “in peace” may mean with the well wishes and blessing of fellow believers, their “brothers” in the family of God’s beloved children. (15:33)

According to a number of manuscripts, only Judas returned to Jerusalem and Silas decided to remain in Antioch. This is included as verse 34 in the New King James Version. “However, it seemed good to Silas to remain there.” Modern translations generally omit the verse, for superior manuscript evidence does not support their inclusion. (15:34)

Paul and Barnabas continued to stay in Antioch. In association with many others, they taught and proclaimed the good news of the “word of the Lord,” the message that focused on the Lord Jesus Christ. This “word” or message would have included the good news about forgiveness of sins on the basis of Christ’s sacrificial death and reconciliation with his Father as his beloved children. The expression “word of the Lord” could either mean the message of the Lord Jesus Christ or that of his Father, which he wanted to have proclaimed about his Son. (15:35)

After the passage of some time (literally, “some days”), Paul suggested to Barnabas that they visit the “brothers” (fellow believers) in the cities where they had previously proclaimed the “word of the Lord” and see how they were faring. The “Lord” is either the Lord Jesus Christ or his Father. While on the island of Cyprus and in Asia Minor at Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, and Perga, the message Paul and Barnabas had proclaimed was the good news about the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ and that forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with his Father was possible by putting faith in him and accepting the benefits of his sacrificial death for them. (15:36)

Barnabas, like Paul, appears to have desired to visit fellow believers but wanted to have his cousin John (Mark) accompany them. (15:37) Paul, however, felt strongly that Mark should not do so, for he had deserted them when they arrived in Pamphylia (a region on the southern coast of Asia Minor) and “had not gone with them to the work.” This was the “work” of making known the good news about the Lord Jesus Christ. Codex Bezae (Cantabrigiensis) identifies it as the “work for which they had been sent.” (15:38)

The disagreement between Paul and Barnabas proved to be intense, resulting in their separating from one another. Barnabas did choose Mark as his companion. The account does not indicate whether Mark had earlier come to Antioch or whether Barnabas sent for him or personally returned to Jerusalem to invite him to accompany him. If the two of them left Antioch together, they would have gone to the seaport of Seleucia, sailing from there to Cyprus. (15:39)

Paul chose Silas as his companion and left Antioch after having “been commended by the brothers to the favor of the Lord” (“God,” according to other manuscripts). Accordingly, Paul would have departed with the prayers and blessing of fellow believers as he set out in promoting the interests of the Lord Jesus Christ. The “favor of the Lord” or “of God” would have included Paul’s being the recipient of divine aid and guidance when carrying out his ministry. (15:40; see the Notes section.)

With Silas, Paul proceeded through Syria, the Roman province of which Antioch was the capital, and then through the region of Cilicia, stopping in the cities where there were congregations and “strengthening” fellow believers there. His objective would have been to build up their faith and to encourage them to remain devoted to the Lord Jesus Christ despite any trials and distress they may have been enduring and would continue to face in the future. Codex Bezae (Cantabrigiensis) adds that he passed on to them “the commands of the elders,” that is, the commands that had been decided upon in Jerusalem. A number of Latin Vulgate manuscripts read, “the commands of the apostles and elders.” (15:41)

Notes:

The reference to “coming down” (verse 1) is to be understood as meaning going down from the area of higher elevation, whereas “going up” (verse 2) denotes traveling to Jerusalem, which city is situated at a much higher elevation.

With seeming reference to the same incident, Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, indicated that he went to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus in response to a revelation. The implication is that, through a divine revelation conveyed to him, the apostle came to know it was right for him to go to Jerusalem, although he did not need the confirmatory response of the apostles and elders there. (Galatians 2:1-9) This puts in doubt the reliability of the added text in Codex Bezae (Cantabrigiensis), which (in verse 2) refers to those who came from Judea as ordering Paul, Barnabas, and some others to go up to Jerusalem so as to be judged by the apostles and elders there.

In verse 7, a number of manuscripts indicate that Peter spoke while guided by God’s spirit (“in spirit,” or “in holy spirit”).

In verse 12, Codex Bezae (Cantabrigiensis) makes the role of Peter more prominent when adding that the “elders assented” to what he had said.

In verse 17, the Greek word kaí, (“and”) can also mean “even.” So the “remnant of the men” could designate non-Jews, people of the nations. This significance is made explicit in a number of translations (“that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, all the Gentiles whom I have claimed for my own” [REB]; “so that the rest of humanity may seek out the Lord, even all the Gentiles on whom my name is invoked” [NAB]).

The quoted words of verse 17 read differently in the extant Hebrew text of Amos 9:12. Instead of “the remnant of the men” and “all the nations” upon whom God’s name is called doing the seeking, the Hebrew text refers to the Israelites as coming to possess “the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by [God’s] name.”

It may be that the Hebrew text of Amos from which the Septuagint translator worked did have the spelling of the Hebrew word for “man,” as the term “Edom” and “man” are drawn from the same Hebrew root. Elsewhere in the book of Amos (1:9, 11; 2:1), the Septuagint uses “Idumaea” for “Edom.”

The Greek word ekzetéo basically means to “search out” or “to seek after.” It can, however, also signify to look for something with the objective of obtaining it. An example would be 1 Maccabees 7:12, where the reference is to “seeking rights” (ekzetésai díkaia). Possibly the translator of the Hebrew text had a copy of the book of Amos that read yidreshú (“they may seek”) instead of yiyreshú (“they may possess”), as does the Masoretic Text. The difference in the consonants of both words involves only one letter, which is yod (Y) in the Masoretic Text (the second letter of the consonantal text that is transliterated “y” in yiyreshú). In yidreshú, the second letter of the consonantal text is daleth (D). The letters yod and daleth resemble one another much more in ancient Hebrew script (for example, as contained in the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah) than do the modern Hebrew letters and, if not written carefully, could be misread.

The translated Greek text does not depart from the preserved Hebrew text in a way that significantly differs from the basic message. Both the Hebrew and the Greek text of Amos indicate that the Davidic dynasty would be restored. For the Israelites to gain possession of the remnant of Edom and of people of other nations who would be called by God’s name would mean that all these non-Jews would become part of Israel and, therefore, come to be part of God’s people. This would take place after the “tent” of David ceased to be in a state of collapse and ruin.

The initial reference to “brothers” in verse 23 could refer to the “apostles and elders” as “brothers.” “The apostles and the presbyters, your brothers, to the brothers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia of Gentile origin.” (NAB) “The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the believers of Gentile origin in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia.” (NRSV) Other manuscripts read, “and the brothers,” which would mean believers in the Jerusalem congregation other than the apostles and elders.

In verse 24, a number of manuscripts add that those who came to Antioch upset believers there by telling them “to be circumcised and to observe the law.”

In verse 29, either the singular form or the plural form of pniktós appears in many manuscripts, but this word is not contained in Codex Bezae (Cantabrigiensis)

For many centuries, Christians regarded the requirements set forth in the letter as binding obligations for non-Jewish believers. They did not consider the commands about not eating blood and meat from strangled animals as temporary regulations to placate Jewish believers. Tertullian, in his Apology (IX, 13, 14) wrote, “Blush for your vile ways before the Christians, who have not even the blood of animals at their meals of simple and natural food; who abstain from things strangled and that die a natural death, for no other reason than that they may not contract pollution, so much as from blood secreted in the viscera. To clench the matter with a single example, you tempt Christians with sausages of blood, just because you are perfectly aware that the thing by which you thus try to get them to transgress they hold unlawful. And how unreasonable it is to believe that those, of whom you are convinced that they regard with horror the idea of tasting the blood of oxen, are eager after blood of men.” Minucius Felix, in his Octavius (XXX, 6) said, “To us it is not lawful either to see or to hear of homicide; and so much do we shrink from human blood, that we do not use the blood even of eatable animals in our food.” Eusebius, in his Ecclesiastical History (V, i, 26), wrote about a woman named Biblis who had initially denied Christ but, when again subjected to torture, came to her senses and declared that Christians “are not even allowed to eat the blood of irrational animals.”

The prohibition regarding blood is set forth explicitly in ancient canons. “If any Bishop, or Presbyter, or Deacon, or anyone else on the sacerdotal list at all, eat meat in the blood of its soul, or that has been killed by a wild beast, or that has died a natural death, let him be deposed. For the Law has forbidden this. But if any layman do the same, let him be excommunicated.” (Canon LXIII of the Apostles) “The divine Scripture commands us to abstain from blood, from things strangled, and from fornication. Those therefore who on account of a dainty stomach prepare by any art for food the blood of any animal, and so eat it, we punish suitably. If anyone henceforth venture to eat in any way the blood of an animal, if he be a clergyman, let him be deposed; if a layman, let him be cut off.” (Canon LXVII from the Quinisext Council)

The additional words that constitute verse 34 indicate that Silas was still in Antioch when Paul chose him as his companion after the dispute with Barnabas. (15:40) Without verse 34, the text could mean that Paul sent for Silas, inviting him to join him. The letter to the Galatians contains no indication that Paul returned to Jerusalem in order to invite Silas.