The day has come. A special assembly has been convened by James in Jerusalem. Luke describes an impressive group of Judean, Galilean and Diaspora-based elders and apostles that have been persuaded that Jesus is indeed Israel’s Messiah (Acts 15:6).

Should the Gentiles join the Jewish people as “Jews in every way”, or rather should they remain as the “Nations of the World”? Is it enough to be a part of the Jewish coalition – worshiping the God of Israel alongside the Jews or must they do and be even more? There were two different options. Both required Torah observance on some level.

The first option is commonly known as “proselyte conversion”, required a complex and prolonged process of Judaizing – a Jewish educational process that leads a person to fully adopt the ancestral customs of the Judeans. 

The second option was staying “as is”. Paul the Pharisee strongly believed that this was the right path to follow (1 Corinthians 7:17-18). By far the biggest difficulty was that Roman life required honoring Roman deities almost every step of the way, which in some cases meant that Gentile Christ-followers were excluded from participation in the local economy and accused of treachery against their fellow Roman citizens (Rev.13:17).

Holding the Torah stories in high regard, maintaining a good relationship with the Jewish community and participating in the celebration of the feasts of Israel was a given. Worshiping Israel’s God in the Jewish Christ was fundamental, but the Jerusalem council also specified that four categories of behavior which were applicable to the sojourners in Israel (Lev. 17-18, 20) were also applicable to the Gentile Christians in the Roman world (Acts 15:22-29) and by extension to all generations to come.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Roman policy on gentile (non-Jewish) followers of Yeshua depends on the administration: – Under Claudius (41-54) they weren’t really on the radar outside of Rome. – Under Nero (54-68) they were singled out for persecution. – Under Vespasian (69-79) and Titus (79-81) they were ignored and generally assumed to be Jews. – Under Domitian (81-96) they were singled out for persecution, their property was seized, and many were put to death in a great persecution. – This policy was relaxed under Nerva (96-98) – but revived under Trajan(98-117) and it generally got worse so if gentile believers chose not to

  2. so if gentile believers chose not to become Jewish, what happened to them if they did not follow the legally required Roman religious events? Was there any wiggle room…could they just pay a fine to the courts or was it more severe (i.e., in today’s terminology, a felony rather than a misdemeanor) Wouldn’t there be enormous pressure to convert to Judaism to avoid committing idolatry with the Roman required worship?

    • I agree with your logic, Roy. This was probably the big issue facing Gentile Christ-followers in Galatia.

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