• Moses Has His Interpreters: Understanding the Legal Exegesis in Acts 15 from the Precedent in Jubilees

    Todd Hanneken (see profile)
    Ancient Jew Review, Biblical Studies
    Bible, Reader-response criticism, Legal documents--Interpretation and construction, Bible. Acts, Apocryphal books
    Item Type:
    Book of Jubilees, Noachide Laws, Reception of the Bible, Legal Interpretation, Acts, Pseudepigrapha
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    Acts 15 relates a council in Jerusalem discussing the legal status and requirements of gentiles who tum to Christianity. The resulting decree asserts that gentiles can be included as gentiles without adopting the status of a "convert" obligated to the complete laws from Sinai. They are still bound to the law of Moses, however, inasmuch as it specifies laws that are binding on gentiles. These laws are specified as four prohibitions: meat sacrificed to idols, blood, meat with blood in it, and illicit sex. In the absence of a pithy verse that neatly supports the point, the reason given is that this interpretation of Moses is widely taught in synagogues. The interpretation presented in Acts is evident first and foremost in the book of Jubilees, which rewrites the unconditional covenant of the rainbow in Genesis 9 into a conditional covenant binding on all gentiles, all of whom are descended from Noah. In addition to the fundamental concept of "Noachide laws," Jubilees emphasizes as universally binding law the four issues presented in Acts 15. Although Jubilees itself was not a citable legal source for many in the first century c.E., the ideas developed in Jubilees influenced the legal interpretation of the narratives in Genesis.
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    Last Updated:
    6 years ago
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