Acts 15:5
But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.
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(5) Certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed.—This is the first distinct mention of the conversion of any of the Pharisaic party, but there had been a drift in that direction going on for some time, beginning during our Lord’s ministry (John 12:42), and showing itself in the moderate counsels of Gamaliel (Acts 5:38-39). The position which they occupied was that of accepting Jesus as a teacher sent from God, proved by the Resurrection to be the Christ, and as such the Head of a kingdom which was to present to mankind a restored and glorified Judaism, the Law kept in its completeness, the Temple ritual still maintained, Gentiles admitted only on their confessing their inferiority and accepting the sign of incorporation with the superior race. It appears, from Galatians 2:1, that here, as in so many later controversies, the general issue was debated on an individual case. Was Titus—a Greek, i.e., a Gentile, whom St. Paul had brought up with him—to be circumcised, or not? Was he to be admitted to communion with the Church, or treated as a heathen? Here, probably, there was no official rank as in the case of Cornelius, no previous transition stage in passing through the synagogue as a proselyte of the gate. He was a Gentile pure and simple, and as such his case was a crucial one. Circumcision, however, did not stand alone. It carried with it every jot and tittle of the Law, the Sabbaths and the feasts, the distinction between clean and unclean meats. It may be noted that the position which Titus occupied in this controversy gave him a special fitness for the work afterwards assigned to him, of contending against the party of the circumcision, with their “Jewish fables” and false standards of purity (Titus 1:10; Titus 1:14-15).

15:1-6 Some from Judea taught the Gentile converts at Antioch, that they could not be saved, unless they observed the whole ceremonial law as given by Moses; and thus they sought to destroy Christian liberty. There is a strange proneness in us to think that all do wrong who do not just as we do. Their doctrine was very discouraging. Wise and good men desire to avoid contests and disputes as far as they can; yet when false teachers oppose the main truths of the gospel, or bring in hurtful doctrines, we must not decline to oppose them.But there rose up ... - It has been doubted whether these are the words of Paul and Barnabas, relating what occurred at Antioch, or whether they are the words of Luke recording what took place at Jerusalem. The correct exposition is probably what refers it to the latter. For:

(1) This seems to be the most obvious interpretation.

(2) the use of the words "rose up" implies that. Those who disturbed the church at Antioch are said to have come down from Judea Acts 15:1, and if this place referred to that occurrence, the same words would have been retained.

(3) the particular specification here of "the sect of the Pharisees" looks as if this was an occurrence taking place at Jerusalem. No such specification exists respecting those who came down to Antioch; but it would seem here as if this party in Jerusalem resolved still to abide by the Law, and to impose those rites on the Christian converts. However, this interpretation is by no means certain.

Which believed - Who maintained or taught.

That it was needful ... - See the notes on Acts 15:1.

4. And when they were come to Jerusalem—This was Paul's Third Visit to Jerusalem after his conversion, and on this occasion took place what is related in Ga 2:1-10. (See there).

were received of the church, and the apostles and elders—evidently at a meeting formally convened for this purpose: the deputation being one so influential, and from a church of such note.

they declared all things that God had done with them—(See on [2018]Ac 14:14-27).

If these words be taken for St. Luke’s, the penman of this book, then they declare, that in the church of Jerusalem there were some that did abet the opinion of the necessity of circumcision; but if, (as most probably we may), we take them for the words of St. Paul, they then are part of his narrative to the church there, of what had happened at Antioch.

The sect of the Pharisees; these Pharisees were a sect amongst the Jews, (so called from vrp separavit, and may be Englished, separatists), separating from converse with others, by reason of an opinion they had of their own holiness, Luke 18:11. But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees,.... Which was the strictest sect of religion among the Jews:

which believed; that Jesus was the Messiah, and professed their faith in him, and were members of the church, though they still retained many of their pharisaical tenets, and are therefore said to be of that sect: these rose up in opposition to Paul and Barnabas, as they were relating their success among the Gentiles, and giving an account of the difference that had happened at Antioch, and their own sense of that matter:

saying, that it was needful to circumcise them: the Gentiles that believed:

and to command them to keep the law of Moses; both moral and ceremonial; the observance of which they reckoned was absolutely necessary to salvation. Some think these are not the words of Luke, relating what happened at Jerusalem, when Paul and Barnabas gave in their account of things to the apostles and elders; but that they are a continuation of their account, how that in the controversy raised at Antioch, certain Pharisees that came thither from Judea, rose up and asserted the necessity of the, Gentiles being circumcised, and of their keeping the law of Moses in order to their being saved; which is favoured by the Syriac version, especially by the Latin interpreter of it, who supplies the words thus, "but say they" (i.e. Paul and Barnabas) "there arose men", &c.

But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.
Acts 15:5. For [281] see critical note.—ἐξανέστησαν: compound verb in this sense here only in N.T. (only elsewhere in quotation, Mark 12:19, Luke 20:28), but in classical Greek and in LXX, cf. Obadiah 1:1, Sir 8:2; Sir 17:23, 1Ma 9:40. The double compound apparently gives at least some measure of emphasis, Simcox, Language of the N. T., p. 43.—τινες τῶν ἀπὸ τῆς αἱρ. τῶν Φ.: probably in some smaller and more private assembly in answer to the ἀνήγγ. of Acts 15:4, which seems to mean that the delegates at first announced informally in Jerusalem what had happened, just as they had done in Phœnicia and Samaria, cf. παρείσακτοι ἀδελφοί, Galatians 2:4. The Pharisees took up their remarks, objected—probably basing their teaching on the necessity of circumcision on such passages as Isaiah 56:6; cf. Isaiah 52:1 (Lumby); and then followed as a consequence the official assembly in Acts 15:6 (see Zöckler’s note, Acts 15:4, and in loco, p. 246, second edition). Or if we consider that a representative meeting of the whole Church is implied in Acts 15:4, and that the Apostles spoke before it, then the private conference of Galatians 2:2 may be regarded as taking place between the first public assembly, Acts 15:4, and the second in Acts 15:6 (Hort, Ecclesia, p. 69, cf. Lightfoot, Galatians, p. 126).—αἱρέσεως, see above p. 148.—τῶν Φ.: the Pharisaic spirit had already shown itself in Acts 11:2, but this is the first definite mention in the book of the conversion of any of the Pharisees; not strange after the conversion of the priests, see note on Acts 6:7, or after the attitude of men like Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathæa towards our Lord, and the moderate counsels of Gamaliel.—πεπιστευκότες: believed, i.e., that Jesus was the Messiah, and the fulfiller of the law—but still only as the Head of a glorified Judaism, from which Gentiles were to be rigidly excluded unless they conformed to the enactments relating to circumcision. How difficult it was for a Pharisee Quietist probably of the earlier part of the first century to acknowledge that the law of circumcision and of Moses could possibly be regarded as unessential we may learn from Assumption of Moses, ix., 4–6, and viii., on circumcision, and see references on Acts 15:1.—αὐτούς, i.e., the Gentiles, speaking generally, not the τινας ἄλλους of Acts 15:2 (Lekebusch), the uncircumcised companions of Paul and Barnabas, although in accordance with Galatians 2:3-5 such persons would no doubt have been included.—τηρεῖν: only used here by St. Luke of keeping the law, and only else where in Jam 2:10 in a similar phrase, cf. Mark 7:9, John 9:16, of keeping the law of the Sabbath; Matthew 19:17, of keeping the commandments; Tob 14:9 (, al.), Jos., Ant., xiii., 10, 6.

[281] Codex Claromontanus (sæc. vi.), a Græco-Latin MS. at Paris, edited by Tischendorf in 1852.5. But there rose up, &c.] The margin of the A.V. takes this sentence as part of the narration of Paul and Barnabas, “there rose up, said they, certain, &c.” But it is much more natural to consider them to be St Luke’s account of what happened at Jerusalem. The teachers at Antioch had not been described as Pharisees though they probably were so. But in no other passage of the N. T. are the Pharisees mentioned away from Jerusalem. As soon as the Apostolic narrative was heard by the church certain of their party stood forth from the church body and lodged their protest against what had been done. The Pharisaic teaching concerning the necessity of circumcision was based on such passages as Isaiah 56:6, where the covenant mentioned was held to be that of circumcision. And they supported their position by such passages as Isaiah 52:1, where the uncircumcised are excluded from the holy city.

saying, That it was needful] Better, “saying, It is needful, &c.” The words are a direct utterance, and suit better so rendered with St Luke’s narrative, in which he is describing what occurred before the church at Jerusalem.

The visit of St Paul to Jerusalem which St Luke here describes is now generally admitted to be the same of which St Paul speaks in Galatians 2:1-9. The chronology offers no obstacle to this conclusion, while the purpose of the visit, and the companionship of Barnabas and the persons who were at the head of the church in Jerusalem are all accordant in the two notices. In the Epistle, St Paul tells us that he took Titus with him, and nothing is more likely than that while he had the company of some members of the Judaizing party, he would also take a companion with him from among those converts on whose behalf he was making the journey. He says too that it was ‘by revelation’ that he went up, while the narrative of the Acts represents him as sent by the church of Antioch. But here need be no contradiction. An inward monition may have furnished the true reason why the Apostle consented to make an appeal to the central authorities in Jerusalem. St Luke would not necessarily be aware of this; it was important in St Paul’s argument to the Galatians that he should mention it. (For a fuller comparison of the two notices, see Bp Lightfoot’s Ep. to Galatians, note, pp. 122–127.)Acts 15:5. Ἐξανέοτησαν, rose up) before the rest, at Jerusalem.—Φαρισαίων, of the Pharisees) Even converted persons have from time to time accompanying them their former state of the understanding, of the will, and of the affections.—πεπιστευκότες, who had believed) who had passed from Judaism to Christianity.—[δεῖ, it is needful) They were not waiting for the decision of the apostles.—V. g.]—τὸν νόμον Μωϋσέως, the law of Moses) Comp. Acts 15:24. They are speaking of the whole law: ch. Acts 13:39, note. [The division of the law into the moral and ceremonial was not as familiar to the Jews as it is to us; for both alike were then in force.] And yet in this passage a more express mention of the moral law is not to be thought requisite: for Paul, although he denied that righteousness (justification) is to be obtained by it, yet “established the law:” Romans 3:31. And therefore the Pharisees who believed, in saving that salvation could not be obtained without circumcision, had no occasion to say more expressly, that salvation could not be obtained without the moral law; although they were not far removed from this very sentiment, which therefore Peter refutes, Acts 15:10-11.Verse 5. - Who for which, A.V.; it is for that it was, A.V.; charge for command, A.V. There rose up, etc. As soon as Paul and Barnabas had finished their recital of the conversion of the heathen to whom they had preached the gospel, certain Christian Pharisees who were at the meeting disturbed the joy of the brethren and the unanimity of the assembly by getting up and saying that all the Gentile converts must be circumcised and keep the Law. This, of course, would have included Titus, who was present with St. Paul (Galatians 2:1, 3). The Epistle to the Galatians deals directly and forcibly with this question. Arose

In the assembly.


See on heresies, 2 Peter 2:1.

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