Jerusalem Council

Also called the apostolic council, a meeting of early Christian leaders to discuss the proposal that Gentile converts to the faith should become circumcised and keep Jewish law if they wish to be saved (Acts 15:1–35). The council appears to have been prompted by the success converting Gentiles that marked Paul and Barnabas's first missionary journey (Acts 13:1–14:28). At the council, Peter gave a report concerning the conversion of the Gentile Cornelius (Acts 15:7–11), and James the brother of Jesus proposed that Gentile converts should not have to be circumcised, but should agree to keep certain aspects of the law that would facilitate fellowship with Jewish believers (Acts 15:13–21). The council agreed with this proposal and drafted a letter to be distributed to all of the churches (Acts 15:22–29; cf. Acts 21:25). The contents of that letter, however, do not appear to have remained determinative for the church's ongoing mission; neither the letter nor its stipulations concerning Gentile behavior are mentioned in any other NT document. There has been considerable discussion, however, as to whether Paul's description of a Jerusalem meeting in his letter to the Galatians should be understood as a reference to the Jerusalem Council (Galatians 1:18–19; 2:1–10). If so, there appear to be numerous discrepancies between Paul's firsthand account of the meeting and the account provided in the book of Acts. Some scholars, accordingly, believe that Galatians was written prior to the Jerusalem Council and that Paul was referring to some earlier meeting.

Mark Allan Powell
Trinity Lutheran Seminary
Columbus, Ohio

Powell, M. A. (2011). Jerusalem Council. In M. A. Powell (Ed.), The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary (Revised and Updated) (Third Edition, p. 456). New York: HarperCollins.

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