key to understanding this assertion by the Pharisees is the little Greek particle
("and"). This particle joins the Greek verbs
("to instruct") and
("to keep") together. The particle
is periphrastic in this verse; that means it is usedto connect two verbs that say what could be expressed by a single verb.Therefore, the meaning of the Pharisees' statement is that it was necessary to circumcise the Gentiles in order to
the Law of Moses. The Pharisees believed that the act of circumcising the Gentiles would serve a dual purpose; it wouldeducate them on the Law of Moses at the same time they were obeying that Law.
ACTS 15:6 Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter. 7 And whenthere had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: "Men and brethren, you knowthat a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear theword of the gospel and believe."
Having had both sides of the issue presented to them, the apostles and church elders assembled together to discuss the matter.Apparently both sides of the argument had supporters. After a heated discussion, the apostle Peter stood up and began to relatehow Gentiles had originally been brought into the church.
ACTS 15:8 "So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, 9 and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their heartsby faith.
We have to keep in mind that Peter's point here is directly related to the issue at hand – circumcision. Peter's point was thatGod gave Cornelius and his house the Holy Spirit without requiring them to first be circumcised.
ACTS 15:10 "Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a
] on the neck of thedisciples which neither our fathers nor we
By his question ("why do you test God?"), Peter rebuked those who wanted to require the circumcision of adult Gentileconverts in order for them to become part of the covenant people of Israel. Since the ONE issue being discussed here was
(NOT the entire Law of Moses), it was
that Peter referred to as a "yoke." The word
("yoke") literally referred to a piece of wood that fastened on the neck of a beast of burden. But here Peter uses it figurativelyto refer to circumcision as something that was burdensome or difficult for the adult Gentile men to endure.The final two Greek verbs in Peter's statement,
("were able to bear"), are both in the aorist tense. InGreek, the aorist tense in all of its moods represents the action denoted by it simply as a
. The verb
comes from the root
Theological Dictionary of the New Testament
says that the primary meaningof this word is: "
'to be strong or powerful' physically
" (p. 397, vol. III).Peter's statement to the Council was intended to point out that the Pharisees were trying to lay a burden on the adult Gentilesthat none of the Jews themselves would have been
enough to endure. The
alludes to how painful itwas for an adult male to undergo the ritual of circumcision.To illustrate this point, let's look at the story of the rape of Jacob's daughter Dinah by Shechem the Hivite. After having sexwith Dinah, Shechem and his father Hamor sought to persuade Jacob and her brothers to give her to him in marriage. The brothers were angry about the situation, and concocted a plan to get revenge for their sister. They told them that Dinah wouldmarry Shechem if all their males were circumcised. Since he was captivated by Dinah, Shechem agreed. He and his father then persuaded all the males in their city to be circumcised in order to be able to intermarry with the Israelites. We'll pick upthe story in Genesis 34:24:
GENESIS 34:24 And all who went out of the gate of his city heeded Hamor and Shechem hisson; every male was circumcised, all who went out of the gate of his city. 25 Now it came topass
on the third day, when they were in pain
, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon andLevi, Dinah's brothers, each took his sword and came boldly upon the city and killed all themales. 26 And they killed Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took
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