Torah and Gentile Christians

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 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 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.

This article originally appeared on Israel Study Center, April 27, 2017, and reposted with permission.