Posted by: BibleScienceGuy | May 29, 2013

33. Hike the Bible – Peter of Capernaum 7 – Jerusalem Council

How would you feel if you heard that certain church members had been let off the hook for duties that you’ve worked hard on for years? Read on to learn how Peter handled this explosive situation in the first century.

Peter addressing Jerusalem Council

Peter addressing Jerusalem Council

Our virtual hike through Galilee has reached the ruins of Capernaum, the home base for Jesus’ ministry (Matthew 4:13).

The Gospels mention Capernaum 16 times, and Matthew calls Capernaum Jesus’ “own city” (Matthew 9:1; Mark 2:1). It was the site for much of His teaching and many of His miracles.

This is the seventh of a series of blog posts on Capernaum’s most famous homeowner, the Apostle Peter (Mark 1:21,29), leader of the disciples. The first post of the series introduced Peter and surveyed the miracles of Jesus that involved Peter personally. The second one used Peter’s own words and works from the Gospels to illustrate his exemplary character and the impact of his choices on others.

The third, fourth, and fifth posts looked at Peter’s courageous leadership and bold witness to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus based on Peter’s words and works recorded in Acts. The sixth post discussed Peter’s escape from Herod’s prison. The current post discusses Peter’s pivotal role at the Jerusalem Council reported in Acts 15:1-31.

The Jerusalem Council

This was the first great council of the Christian Church and is described in Acts 15:1-31; Galatians 2:1-10.

It was held about 48 or 49 AD, four or five years after Peter’s escape from prison in 44 AD. The Jerusalem Council took place between Paul’s first two missionary journeys. The first journey began in 44 AD and lasted about two years, after which Paul spent considerable time ministering in Antioch (Acts 14:26-28). Shortly after the Jerusalem Council, Paul and Silas left on Paul’s Second Missionary Journey, probably in late 49 AD.

The Council’s convening issue developed in Antioch where Paul and Barnabas were ministering following their First Missionary Journey (Acts 14:25-28). Some men from Judea were teaching that Jewish practices, in particular circumcision, must be followed in order to be saved. After substantial dissension and debate with Paul and Barnabas, the Antioch church sent a delegation to the apostles and elders in Jerusalem to settle the issue.

At Jerusalem, believers who were also Pharisees insisted that Gentiles in the Church must submit to circumcision and observe the Law of Moses. The Church was no longer purely Jewish since the admission of Gentiles initiated by Peter with Cornelius, but some Jews wanted to maintain their distinct practices and traditions and impose them on all believers.

Peter Sets the Tone

After much debate, Peter delivered a compelling statement concluding that both Jews and Gentiles are saved the same way — “cleansing hearts by faith. . .through the grace of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 15:9,11)

As the spokesman and leader of the apostles, Peter here established the tone of the convocation. He set the direction of the final deliberation and pronouncement over the relationship of the new Gentile believers to the Church. Apparently the Council had begun trending toward requiring circumcision and submission to the Law of Moses, for Peter asked, “Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?” (Acts 15:10) Peter’s logic and eloquence had tremendous impact; his statement effectively reversed the direction of the Council.

After Peter’s judgment, Paul and Barnabas followed up with accounts of miracles God had performed through them among the Gentiles, miracles which validated God’s saving work among non-Jews.

The Council’s Ruling

Building on Peter’s statement, James summarized the deliberations. Then James proposed what became the Council’s official decision: “…abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication.” (Acts 15:19-20, 28-29)

The essence of the Council’s decision was that Gentiles were not required to follow the Jewish law. In particular, circumcision, the dietary laws, and the traditions that had built up over the centuries were not incumbent upon the Gentiles. The Council simply recommended that Gentiles abstain from the four things listed.

The Council was not recommending to abandon the rest of the Law. Certainly the Ten Commandments and Jesus’ Summary of the Law remained in effect. These four items (abstaining from idol meat, strangled meat, blood, fornication) were probably some of the restrictions discussed at the Council that the apostles and elders believed everyone should observe. Others like circumcision, dietary laws, and the sacrificial system were not imposed on believing Gentiles.

It may have been hard for some of the Jewish Christians to accept these changes. However, Jesus Himself cancelled the dietary laws when He declared all foods clean (Mark 7:18-20). And His death fulfilled the ceremonial sacrificial system, so it was no longer necessary or applicable (Hebrews 10:1-22).

This was not the first time that Yahweh had “changed the rules.” Originally God gave man “every plant yielding seed and every tree which has fruit yielding seed and every green plant for food” (Genesis 1:29-30) — but no meat.

After Noah’s Flood, the menu was changed to include all meat, clean and unclean. God told Noah and his sons, “Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant. Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.” (Genesis 9:3,4). During Moses’ day the menu was revised again to prohibit unclean meats (Leviticus 11).

The decision of the Jerusalem Council was made in the context of a transition from the Old Testament Jewish system to the New Testament church. The Jerusalem decision was a “stage” along the way. They recognized the need to drop the dietary laws, the sacrificial system, and circumcision, but still recommended four items.

The prohibition on fornication is certainly understandable; that’s a moral issue. The prohibition of blood and hence strangled meat goes all the way back to God’s command to Noah (Genesis 9:1-4).

The prohibition on idol meat was transitional. I think the reason behind it was to not give undue offense to Jewish brothers for whom it was particularly heinous. This is suggested by James own justification: “For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath.” (Acts 15:21) In fact, later in the New Testament Paul says it’s okay to eat meat offered to idols except if it causes a weaker brother to stumble (Romans 14:13-23; 1 Corinthians 10:23-33).

What’s Next for Peter?

Shortly after the Jerusalem Council, Paul and Silas left on Paul’s Second Missionary Journey. The rest of Acts focuses on Paul’s ministry and does not mention Peter again.

We don’t know much about the remainder of Peter’s ministry. Following the Council Peter visited Antioch for a while. There Paul had to rebuke him for slipping back into Jewish legalistic attitudes (Galatians 2:11-14).

Peter was apparently very active as an itinerant preacher and teacher of the faith, visiting churches throughout the Roman Empire. Paul mentions Peter taking along his wife on his travels (1 Corinthians 9:5).

Peter’s first epistle is addressed to Christians in five different regions of Asia Minor (today’s Turkey) — probably because Peter had ministered among them and was following up with a letter. He sends greetings to them from Babylon on the Euphrates River (1 Peter 5:13). Some think Babylon is a code word for Rome, but that’s pure speculation; there’s no evidence for it. So Peter apparently ministered in Babylon as well.

Questions to Ponder:
  1. If you had been a Jew in 50 AD, how would you have reacted to the ruling of the Jerusalem Council?
  2. Have you ever had a teacher or leader who reminds you of Peter?
  3. What do you think it was like being married to Peter? (Hint: See 1 Peter 3:7)
  4. Share your thoughts on these questions in the comments below. It could encourage or help another reader.

Read the prequels in this sub-series on the life and work of Simon Peter of Capernaum:
27. Hike the Bible – Peter of Capernaum 1
28. Hike the Bible – Peter of Capernaum 2
29. Hike the Bible – Peter of Capernaum 3 – Heals lame man (with videos)
30. Hike the Bible – Peter of Capernaum 4 – Ananias & Sapphira (with videos)
31. Hike the Bible – Peter of Capernaum 5 – Dorcas & Cornelius
32. Hike the Bible – Peter of Capernaum 6 – Escape from Prison

Read the sequel:
34. Hike the Bible – Peter of Capernaum 8 – Statue

Soli Deo Gloria.

The Hike the Bible series is currently covering points of interest along two hiking trails through Galilee, the 40-mile Jesus Trail and the 39-mile Gospel Trail. These two trails re-create possible routes Jesus likely traversed during His sojourns in Galilee.

This is the thirty-third installment in the Hike the Bible series reviewing major hiking trails in the Lands of the Bible and commenting on Biblical sites, events, and personages along the way.
Read the prequels:
1. Hike the Bible – Jesus Trail (with video)
2. Hike the Bible – Gospel Trail (with video)
3. Hike the Bible – Jesus Trail vs. Gospel Trail
4. Hike the Bible – Nazareth
5. Hike the Bible – Zippori
6. Hike the Bible – Mash’had
7. Hike the Bible – Cana (with video)
8. Hike the Bible – Roman Road
9. Hike the Bible – Via Maris
10. Hike the Bible – Horns of Hattin
11. Hike the Bible – Sermon on the Mount
12. Hike the Bible – Arbel Cliffs
13. Hike the Bible – Magdala (with video)
14. Hike the Bible – Mary Magdalene
15. Hike the Bible – Mary Magdalene, Lady or Tramp?
16. Hike the Bible – Mary Magdalene & the Resurrection
17. Hike the Bible – Sea of Galilee
18. Hike the Bible – Jesus at the Sea of Galilee
19. Hike the Bible – Jesus at the Sea of Galilee 2
20. Hike the Bible – Jesus at the Sea of Galilee 3
21. Hike the Bible – Jesus Boat
Palestine Park
22. Hike the Bible – Why Capernaum?
23. Hike the Bible – Capernaum Archaeology
24. Hike the Bible – Miracles at Capernaum
25. Hike the Bible – Miracles at Capernaum 2
26. Hike the Bible – Miracles at Capernaum 3
27. Hike the Bible – Peter of Capernaum 1
28. Hike the Bible – Peter of Capernaum 2
29. Hike the Bible – Peter of Capernaum 3 – Heals lame man (with videos)
30. Hike the Bible – Peter of Capernaum 4 – Ananias & Sapphira (with videos)
31. Hike the Bible – Peter of Capernaum 5 – Dorcas & Cornelius
32. Hike the Bible – Peter of Capernaum 6 – Escape from Prison

Read the sequel:
34. Hike the Bible – Peter of Capernaum 8 – Statue

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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”

(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:4)
Wednesday May 29, 2013 A.D.

Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. (Matthew 4:23)


  1. Wow, great blog post. Much thanks again. Really Cool.


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