Acts 15:23
And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia:
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(23) And they wrote letters by them.—Literally, wrote letters by their hands. What follows, unless we assume a deliberate fraud, is clearly the transcript of a document—the first in the long list of decrees and canons and encyclical letters which mark the Church’s history.

The apostles and elders and brethren.—The MSS. present a singular variation of readings, some of the earliest omitting the conjunction and article before the last noun, and giving “the Apostles and elders, brethren.” Such a mode of speech, however, is foreign to the usage of the New Testament, and it is probable that this reading originated in a desire to bring the text into harmony with the later practice of the Church, which excluded the laity from all participation in its synods. (See Note on Acts 15:22.)

Send greeting.—Literally, wish joy. The formula was common in Greek epistles, but is not used in the New Testament, except here and in James 1:1. As it is reasonable to suppose that this letter was written or dictated by him, its occurrence is primâ facie evidence of the authorship of the Epistle that bears his name, and which, on the view taken in these Notes, had been already written to the Church of the Circumcision.

Unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles.—The letter was therefore addressed to them exclusively (see Note on Acts 15:20), as the Epistle of St. James had probably been previously addressed to the Jews of the “dispersion,” and not to the Gentiles.

In Antioch and Syria and Cilicia.—The mention of the latter country is important as showing the extent of St. Paul’s work there prior to his joining Barnabas at Antioch (Acts 11:25). There also he had founded churches in which Gentile converts were admitted as such to full communion.

15:22-35 Being warranted to declare themselves directed by the immediate influence of the Holy Ghost, the apostles and disciples were assured that it seemed good unto God the Holy Spirit, as well as to them, to lay upon the converts no other burden than the things before mentioned, which were necessary, either on their own account, or from present circumstances. It was a comfort to hear that carnal ordinances were no longer imposed on them, which perplexed the conscience, but could not purify or pacify it; and that those who troubled their minds were silenced, so that the peace of the church was restored, and that which threatened division was removed. All this was consolation for which they blessed God. Many others were at Antioch. Where many labour in the word and doctrine, yet there may be opportunity for us: the zeal and usefulness of others should stir us up, not lay us asleep.And wrote letters - Greek: "Having written." It does not mean that they wrote more than one epistle.

By them - Greek: by their hand."

After this manner - Greek: these things.

Send greeting - A word of salutation, expressing their desire of the happiness (χαίρειν chairein) of the persons addressed. Compare Matthew 26:49; Matthew 27:29; Luke 1:28; John 19:3.

In Antioch - Where the difficulty first arose.

And Syria - Antioch was the capital of Syria, and it is probable that the dispute was not confined to the capital.

And Cilicia - See the notes on Acts 6:9. Cilicia was adjacent to Syria. Paul and Barnabas had traveled through it, and it is probable that the same difficulty would exist there which had disturbed the churches in Syria.

23. And they wrote … by them—This is the first mention in the New Testament history of writing as an element in its development. And the combination here of written and oral transmission of an important decision reminds us of the first occasion of writing mentioned in the Old Testament, where a similar combination occurs (Ex 17:14). But whereas there it is the deep difference between Israel and the Gentiles which is proclaimed, here it is the obliteration of that difference through faith in the Lord Jesus [Baumgarten].

greeting—The only other place in the New Testament where this word occurs (except in the letter of Lysias, Ac 23:26) is Jas 1:1, which seems to show that both letters were drawn up by the same hand [Bengel].

the Gentiles in Antioch, and Syria, and Cilicia—showing that churches then existed in Cilicia as well as Syria, which owed their existence, in all likelihood, to Paul's labors during the interval between his return to Tarsus (Ac 9:30) and his departure in company with Barnabas for Antioch (see on [2025]Ac 11:25).

The apostles and elders and brethren; the letter was wrote in the name of them all, that it might have the greater force, and better acceptance; that so strong a cord might not be broken by the false apostles.

Of the Gentiles; such as out of Gentilism, or paganism, were converted unto Christ; to whom the determination of this case was of the greatest concern; their right of belonging unto Christ, and having any hopes of salvation, being questioned, unless they would be circumcised.

And wrote letters by them after this manner,.... Not that they made use of them as their amanuenses, to write their letters for them; but being written they put them into their hands, and sent them by them, and they were written in the following form:

the apostles, and elders, and brethren; which belonged to, or were members of the church at Jerusalem; they are severally set in their proper place and order: the apostles, Peter, and James, and John, and it may be some others first; for these God had set in the first place in the church; then the elders, or preachers of the Gospel, such as were Judas and Silas: and then the brethren, or private members of the church; who are called so, because they are of one family, and have one Father, and are partakers of the same grace and privileges: these,

send greeting; or their Christian salutation, wishing all peace and prosperity, both for soul and body, temporal, spiritual and eternal:

unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch, and Syria and Cilicia; the brethren or members of the several churches in these parts, who were Gentiles, are particularly sent to; and not the brethren who were Jews; because they were especially concerned, and to them is the advice directed: Antioch is first mentioned, that being the place where the controversy began; but there being other churches in Syria, besides Antioch, in which were many Gentiles, and also in Cilicia, and particularly at Tarsus, Paul's native place, and where he had preached, Acts 9:30 they are therefore mentioned, and being countries near to one another, it is very likely that the controversy had spread itself among them.

And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia.
Acts 15:23-24. Γράψαντες] while they wrote, should properly agree in case with ἐκλεξαμένους. Anacoluthia in carrying out the construction by participles is frequent; here it conforms to the logical subject of ἔδοξε τοῖς κ.τ.λ. See Bernhardy, p. 463; Winer, p. 527 [E. T. 709]; also Pflugk, ad Eur. Hec. 970.

διὰ χειρὸς αὐτῶν] so that they were to be the bearers of the letter.

As the letter was directed not only to Antioch and to Syria (whose capital and chief church was Antioch), but also to Cilicia, we are to infer that in this province also similar dissensions between Jewish and Gentile Christians had taken place, and had come to the knowledge of the apostolic assembly.

The genuineness of the letter is supported as well by its whole form—which, with all distinctness as to the things forbidden (the designation of which is repeated exactly in Acts 21:25), yet has otherwise so little official circumstantiality, that it evidently appears intended to be orally supplemented as regards the particulars—as also by the natural supposition that this important piece of writing would soon be circulated in many copies (Acts 21:25), and therefore might easily, in an authentic form, pass into the collection of Luke’s sources.[40]

καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοί] i.e. the whole church, Acts 15:22.

Χαίρειν] the well-known epistolary salutation of the Greeks.[41] Comp. Acts 23:26. The letter addressed to Greek Christians was certainly written in Greek. But that it was actually composed by James (Bengel, Bleek in the Stud. u. Krit. 1836, p. 1037) does not follow at least from Jam 1:1, although it is in itself possible, and indeed from his position in Jerusalem even probable. The similarity in the expression of the decree with Luke 1:1, does not justify us in doubting the originality of that expression (Schwegler, Zeller), as the subdivision in the protasis and apodosis was very natural, and the use of ἔδοξεν almost necessary.

ἈΝΑΣΚΕΥΆΖΟΝΤΕς] destroying, subverting, elsewhere neither in the N.T. nor in the LXX. and Apocrypha; but see Xen. Cyr. vi. 2. 25; Polyb. ix. 31. 6, ix. 32. 8; Dem. 895. 5. “Non parcunt iis, qui dubitationes invexerant,” Bengel.

λέγοντες περιτέμν.] without ΔΕῖΝ, because in ΛΈΓ. the sense of commanding is implied. Kühner, ad Xen. Anab. v. 7. 34. Comp. on Acts 14:14.

The τηρεῖν τ. νόμον is the ΖΥΓΌς, Acts 15:10, which was imposed with circumcision, Galatians 5:3. And the ΝΌΜΟς is the whole law, not merely the ceremonial part.

ΟἿς Οὐ ΔΙΕΣΤΕΙΛ.] So arbitrarily had they acted.

[40] According to Schwanbeck, the letter is derived from the “Memoirs of Silas.” In this view, of course, it must be assumed that ἄνδρας ἡγουμ., ver. 22, did not stand in the text at all, or not here.

[41] See Otto in the Jahrb. f. D. Theol. 1867, p. 678 ff.

Acts 15:23.—οἱ ἀπόστ. καὶ οἱ πρεσβ. καὶ οἱ ἀδελ., but in R.V. “the Apostles and the elder brethren,” see critical notes. The phrase as it stands in R.V. has been called meaningless (Page), but Hort, Ecclesia, p. 71, while admitting that the phrase is unusual, defends it as indicating that they who held the office of elder were to be regarded as bearing the characteristic from which the title itself had arisen, and that they were but elder brethren at the head of a great family of brethren (cf. Knabenbauer in loco). It is of course quite possible that ἀδελ. is merely to be taken as in apposition to ἀπόστ. and πρεσβ., meaning that as brethren they sent a message to brethren (Wendt, Felten, Page).—τοῖς κατὰ τὴν Ἀ. κ.τ.λ., see below.—χαίρειν: amongst the Epistles of the N.T. only that of St. James thus commences, as has been often pointed out by Bengel and others. The coincidence may be a chance one, but it is the more remarkable, since the letter may well have been written and dictated by St. James in his authoritative position. On the phrase in letters see Mayor’s interesting note on Jam 1:1. It occurs again in Acts 23:26, but nowhere else in N.T.

23. And they wrote letters by them after this manner] From the form in which the document is here given, we should judge that the original was in Greek. A translation from a Hebrew original would hardly have begun with a greeting and ended with “Fare ye well.” It seems likely that this was so too, because the population of Antioch, the chief town in Syria, would use Greek much more than Hebrew, at this date. The construction of the Greek in the beginning of this verse is not strictly grammatical, but such irregularities are not unusual in a passage which begins impersonally, as does Acts 15:22.

by them (lit. by their hand)] This is a Hebraism. The letter was not delivered to Paul and Barnabas, but to the two ambassadors from Jerusalem. It is the oldest synodical circular letter in existence, and the only one of Apostolic times which has come down to us. Bengel suggests that it was composed by James, in the name and at the request of the assembly.

The apostles and elders and brethren] The oldest MSS. omit the second and, thus making the Epistle run in the name of the apostles and elder brethren, and this rendering is adopted in R. V. The conjunction of the two last words to signify ‘the elders’ is very unusual, and after what has been said in the previous verse about the decree expressing the voice of the whole church as well as of the apostles and elders, it seems much more in accord with the rest of the narrative to adhere to the Text. Rec. which has a large amount of good MS. support.

in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia] As we have no mention of this decree of the synod of Jerusalem in St Paul’s Epistles, we may suppose that the agitation on the subject, begun at Antioch, had spread only into Syria and Cilicia, and that the authoritative decision of the mother church quieted the controversy there, while it did not arise in the same form in other places.

Acts 15:23. Γράψαντες, having written) Who dictated the Epistle, or wrote it, and in what language, is not expressed. There could be no suspicion as to its genuineness. No other epistle given by the primitive Church is extant at the present day, although there were many given: ch. Acts 18:27; 1 Corinthians 7:1; 2 Corinthians 3:1. Γράψαντες, in the nominative case, coheres with πέμψαι. Comp. 2 Corinthians 10:2; 2 Corinthians 8:23, εἴτε ὑπὲρ Τίτου, κοινωνὸς ἐμός, etc., note.—διὰ, by) An abbreviated expression for, they wrote, and by their hand (διὰ χειρὸς αὐτῶν) sent.—τάδε, these things) Many things are put down in this letter out of the speeches of Peter and James.—Συρίαν, Syria) It is not to be wondered at, that the books of the New Testament were soon (early) translated into the Syriac language.—χαίρειν) wish joy (‘greeting’), in truth: see Acts 15:31. Believers do not always use very warm forms of compliment, but sometimes employ every-day forms in a more elevated sense. So Acts 15:29, ἔῤῥωσθε, farewell. So Jam 1:1, χαίρειν, greeting (bids salutation). Peter employs other words. From this we may infer, that this epistle was composed by James in the Council, as being especially in consonance with the speech of James; for instance, παρενοχλεῖν, to trouble unnecessarily, Acts 15:19, and ταράττειν, to trouble, Acts 15:24, ἀπέχεσθαι, to abstain, Acts 15:20; Acts 15:29.

Verse 23. - Wrote thus by them for wrote letters by them after this manner, A.V.; the elder brethren for elders and brethren, A.V.; unto... greeting for send greeting unto, etc., A.V., as Acts 23:26. The elder brethren, etc. The grammar of the sentence is irregular, as there is nothing for γράψαντες to agree with. But "the elder brethren" is a phrase unknown to the Scriptures, and it is much more in accordance with the feeling of the times that "the brethren," i.e. the whole Church, should be included in the salutation. Greeting. It is remarkable that the only other place in the New Testament where this Greek salutation occurs is James 1:1. Acts 15:23Greeting (χαίρειν)

The usual Greek form of salutation. It occurs nowhere else in the salutation of a New Testament epistle save in the Epistle of James (James 1:1). See note there. It appears in the letter of Claudius Lysias (Acts 23:26).

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