My “Daily D’var” commentary today covered Acts 15:1-21. As most of you know this is a crux passage for Messianic Jews, Messianic gentiles, Judeo-Christians, and in general for the issue of roles of Jews and gentiles in Messiah and with relation to Torah.
As you probably also know, there is a One-Law reading of Acts 15:21, a reading which seeks to cleverly use this verse to reverse the meaning of the whole chapter. One-Law is a movement which claims that all followers of Jesus are bound by the law in the same way as Jews and it is a popular and misguided reading. One-Law rightly rejects the anti-Torah reading that is standard in Christianity. Yet it naively and harmfully neglects the distinction between Jewish and gentile relation to Torah.
In the conversation which follows I explain to a commenter why reading Acts 15:21 as a “secret key” to overturning the meaning of the entire chapter of Acts 15 just will not work.
A commenter sent me this by email:
Moses, synagogue, Shabbat -in other words, the remaining instructions will be obeyed/walked out as are discovered/made known.
I strongly disagree with this interpretation in which people read Acts 15:21 as a verse to reverse the meaning of the whole passage. It is a dishonest reading.
Note that vs. 21 speaks of the reading of Moses in the past tense, not future. James does not say, “For Moses will be read in the synagogue,” so that they will learn. Rather, he says, “For Moses has been read in the synagogue…”
His point concerns something from the past. The thrust of the chapter is that some parts of Torah are not required of gentiles. In vs. 21, James says that something about the history of gentiles hearing Moses in the synagogue affirms the decision that Torah is not completely laid on the gentiles. What could James mean?
The simple and evident answer is this: gentiles have been hearing Moses in synagogue and most have not decided to convert. But now, in Yeshua, it is evident that gentiles are accepted as gentiles, without converting. Therefore, we can expect many gentiles to come into the movement now, since it is clear they do not have to convert to be acceptable to God. What the reading of Moses in the synagogue has not done for gentiles the preaching of the good news of Messiah to gentiles will do.
Please consider that the One Law reading of Acts 15:21 is dishonest and seeks to avoid the clear point of the text.