Acts Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern
1. The emissaries and the brothers throughout Y’hudah heard that the Goyim had received the word of God;
2. but when Kefa went up to Yerushalayim, the members of the Circumcision faction criticized him,
Those of the Circumcision faction. See 10:45N.
3. saying, “You went into the homes of uncircumcised men and even ate with them!”
4. In reply, Kefa began explaining in detail what had actually happened:
5. “I was in the city of Yafo, praying; and in a trance I had a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being lowered by its four corners from heaven, and it came down to me.
6. I looked inside and saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, crawling creatures and wild birds.
7. Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Kefa, slaughter and eat!’
8. I said, ‘No, sir! Absolutely not! Nothing unclean or treif has ever entered my mouth!’
Nothing unclean or treif has ever entered my mouth (as at 10:12-14&N). Kefa's hearers, the strict Circumcision faction, "zealots for the Torah" (21:20). are no more 7bra/i-observant than Kefa himself. God chose Kefa as his instrument to bring Yeshua to the Gentiles precisely because he was an observant Jew; in this way all would know that God's hand was in it. Had a less Torah-tiue Jew seen the vision, it would have been no less of God, but observant Jews might have dismissed him as being self-serving and antinomian, as such people later regarded Sha'ul (for different reasons: 21:21, Ro 3:8).
9. But the voice spoke again from heaven: ‘Stop treating as unclean what God has made clean.’
10. This happened three times, and then everything was pulled back up into heaven.
11. “At that very moment, three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea arrived at the house where I was staying;
12. and the Spirit told me to have no misgivings about going back with them. These six brothers also came with me, and we went into the man’s house.
13. He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Yafo and bring back Shim‘on, known as Kefa.
14. He has a message for you which will enable you and your whole household to be saved.’
15. “But I had hardly begun speaking when the Ruach HaKodesh fell on them, just as on us at the beginning!
16. And I remembered that the Lord had said, ‘Yochanan used to immerse people in water, but you will be immersed in the Ruach HaKodesh.’
17. Therefore, if God gave them the same gift as he gave us after we had come to put our trust in the Lord Yeshua the Messiah, who was I to stand in God’s way?”
18. On hearing these things, they stopped objecting and began to praise God, saying, “This means that God has enabled the Goyim as well to do t’shuvah and have life!”
The observant Jews in the Messianic Community were amazed that Gentiles could become part of God's people, part of the Body of the Messiah, without first becoming Jews. But today the situation is exactly the opposite: many Gentile Christians are amazed at a movement of Messianic Jews that claims Jews can accept the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua, without taking on the lifestyle of Gentiles. The more things change, the more they stay the same! In both cases it is the expectations of the "in-group" that God overturns. See 1:1N, 15:1N.
Do t'shuvah. For some American Jews this expression is "'Jewish English" (see Section IV of the Introduction to the JNT); its underlying meaning is "repent," although some use it to mean "return to Orthodox Judaism" (which, of course, is not its sense here). Like the phrase, "do penance," it should be understood as involving a genuine inner change of heart and attitude and not merely as an outward act; see Mt 3:2N.
19. Now those who had been scattered because of the persecution which had arisen over Stephen went as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch; they spoke God’s word, but only to Jews.
The persecution that had arisen over Stephen. See 8:1-4&NN.
20. However, some of these, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, when they arrived at Antioch, began speaking to the Greeks too, proclaiming the Good News of the Lord Yeshua.
21. The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number of people trusted and turned to the Lord.
We have seen the Gentile Cornelius and his friends come to faith. Here we see a people-movement among Gentiles in a large city, Antioch.
22. News of this reached the ears of the Messianic community in Yerushalayim, and they sent Bar-Nabba to Antioch.
23. On arriving and seeing for himself the grace of God at work, he was glad; and he encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with their whole hearts;
The Lord Yeshua. An examination of the evangelistic contexts of the book of Acts shows that to Gentiles Ycshua was not usually proclaimed as Messiah, because the concept of "Messiah" (Mt 1:1N) was meaningful only to Jews (2:31, 36, 38; 3:18, 20; 4:10; 5:42; 8:5, 12; 9:22, 34; 17:3; 18:5, 28; 24:24; 26:23) or to Gentiles who knew Judaism well (10:36). Rather, he was announced to Gentiles as Lord, an authoritative figure who is the final judge and through whom, if they have faith, come forgiveness and incorporation into God's people (here; 13:12, 48^t9; 14:3; 15:35-36; 16:14-15, 31-32; 17:24; 19:10, 24). Later, after they had been taught about Yeshua's role as the Jewish king of the Jewish nation to whom they had joined themselves by their trust (Ro 11:17-24&NN), they could be expected to understand communications about him as the Messiah (15:26,20:21).
24. for he was a good man, full of the Ruach HaKodesh and trust.
25. Then Bar-Nabba went off to Tarsus to look for Sha’ul;
26. and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. They met with the congregation there for a whole year and taught a sizeable crowd. Also it was in Antioch that the talmidim for the first time were called “Messianic.”
"Messianic," or "Messianics," Greek Ckristianoi, which could also be rendered, "Messiah people" or, as in other translations, "Christians." I think the name "Christianor was applied to Gentile believers by Gentile nonbelievers. Why? Because Jewish believers would have designated their Gentile brothers in faith by the same term they used for themselves, "people belonging to the Way" (see 9:2&N); while the Jewish nonbelievers of Antioch wouldn't have thought enough about Gentile believers in Yeshua to have given them a special name. Probably the Gentiles of Antioch kept hearing about Christos ("Christ"); and being unacquainted with the Jewish notion of "Messiah" (see vv. 2O-23N, Mt 1:1N), they designated Yeshua's followers by what they supposed was their leader's name. In all likelihood the term was deprecatory, like "Moonies" in referring to the disciples of Sun Myung Moon. But in time Jewish and Gentile believers in Yeshua learned to bear proudly the name that began as an epithet (I Ke 4M6&N; see also 26:28&N). The name nonbelieving Jews gave to Jewish believers was "Natzratim" or "Notzrim" ("Nazarenes"), that is, followers of the man from Natzeret ("Nazareth"); the word in modern Hebrew for "Christians" remains "Notzrim" (see 24:5&N, Mt 2:23&N).
Should a Jew who has put his trust in Yeshua as the Messiah call himself a Christian today? Most people, Jews and Christians alike, would answer in the affirmative on the ground that the very definition of "Christian" is "one who believes in Jesus Christ," regardless of whether his family background is Jewish, Christian, Moslem, pagan or something else. But many Jewish believers disagree; in fact, the relatively small community of Jews who believe in Yeshua is split into two camps, the Messianic Jews (I use this term here in a narrower sense than usual) and the Hebrew Christians. A Hebrew Christian might say, "I call myself a Christian because I have come to believe in Jesus Christ, my Savior and my Lord; and my first loyalty must be to him and to his Church, the community of the saved. Nevertheless, 1 was bom a Jew and will die a Jew, so I speak of myself as not just a Christian but as a Hebrew Christian, in order to testify to all, nonbelieving Jews and Gentile Christians alike, that I continue to identify with my Jewish brothers, including those who do not share my faith."
A Messianic Jew might say, "I call myself Messianic for the same reason that my Hebrew Christian friend calls himself Christian, namely, to make it clear that 1 follow Yeshua the Messiah, my Savior and my Lord, and identify with his Body, the Messianic Community, which he calls the Church. 1 prefer the word 'Messianic' because it comes from 'Messiah,' which has meaning to Jews; whereas the words 'Christ' and 'Christian' are not only alien to Jewish culture and religion but represent the banner under which the Jewish people experienced centuries of discrimination, persecution and murder. And although 'Hebrew' may have had an elegant ring in the nineteenth century, today it sounds quaint — no Jew today calls himself a 'Hebrew,' and neither do I."
To this the Hebrew Christian could reply, "You're fooling yourself. You think your 'Messianic' terminology will win Jews to Jesus, but they will simply think you are devious. As soon as they find out that your' Yeshua' is Jesus and that to be 'Messianic' is to be a Christian, they will drop you like a hot potato. Meanwhile, you are alienating your Gentile Christian brothers in the Lord, who think you are a coward and not straightforwardly standing up for Christ and the Gospel."
And the Messianic Jew might return, "Untrue! I tell one and all that I am part of the Messiah's Body, consisting of all believers in Yeshua, Jewish and Gentile. In fact, it is precisely because I am zealous for the Gospel that I will not make words with a negative valence for Jews a barrier to their accepting its truth. Further, if I say I am a Christian they will, first, think 1 have conformed myself to the image of Gentile Christians they have in their head. and. second, think I have abandoned Judaism and the Jewish people. But I have done neither: accepting Yeshua the Jewish Messiah is the most Jewish thing a Jew can do, and I am committed to expressing my love for him in a Jewish way, within the framework of Judaism — except where Judaism specifically takes a stand against him and against the New Testament."
The Hebrew Christian: "But if you say you have not abandoned Judaism, do you accept the authority of the rabbis, their interpretation of Jewish law? A Christian is free from the details of Judaism as the rabbis expound it. If you identify with Judaism and not with Christianity you are abandoning Christ, and your professed faith is empty."
The Messianic Jew: "No, I identify with Judaism and the Torah, but not as interpreted by rabbis who do not accept Yeshua as the Messiah, even though I think much that they have said is true and should be evaluated on its merits, not discarded en bloc. What I uphold is the Torah as expounded by Yeshua the Messiah (see Mt 5:17-20&NN, lC9:21&N,Ga6:2&N)"
To which the Hebrew Christian would reply that he too accepts the Law of Christ as authoritative. And so the discussion would go on; for more see my book Messianic Jewish Manifesto.
Though the single word "Christian" is too fragile a peg on which to hang a debate between competing ideologies, each of which can rightly claim to bring out elements of truth, it should not be surprising that the word serves exactly that function — names and slogans have always focussed and energized controversies.
27. During this time, some prophets came down from Yerushalayim to Antioch;
Prophets among the believers are mentioned here and at 13:1, 15:32 and 21:9-10, as well as in 1С 12:28-29,14:29-37; Ep 4:11; and possibly 2 Ke 3:2. Non-Messianic Jews maintained then and maintain still that prophecy ceased in Israel soon after the Return from Babylon. For example, 1 Maccabees 9:27 says, "So there was terrible distress in Israel; there had not been anything like it since the time prophets stopped appearing among them." (Compare 1 Maccabees 4:46, 14:41; Josephus, Against Apian 1:8). But according to the New Testament, prophecy recommenced with Yochanan the Immerser (Mt 11:9).
The title, "prophet," is applied frequently to Yeshua (3:22-23&N, 7:37; Mt 21:11; Lk 24:19; Yn 7:40,9:17). In the Messianic Community prophets ranked after emissaries (1С 12:28, Ep 4:11). Since Yeshua promised his talmidim that the Holy Spirit "will... announce to you the events of the future" (Yn 16:13). all believers are urged to seek the gift of prophecy (1С 14:39), which is promised to everyone (2:17-18, fulfilling Joel 3:1-2(2:28-29)). Prophecy may mean either prediction of things to come, as in this passage, or, more often, clearly and boldly speaking forth the word God wants spoken (see 1С 12:8-10N).
28. and one of them named Agav stood up and through the Spirit predicted that there was going to be a severe famine throughout the Roman Empire. (It took place while Claudius was Emperor.)
It took place while Claudius was still Emperor, that is, quickly. Claudius ruled the Roman Empire from 41 to 54 C.E.; see 18:2&N.
29. So the talmidim decided to provide relief to the brothers living in Y’hudah, each according to his means;
30. and they did it, sending their contribution to the elders in the care of Bar-Nabba and Sha’ul.
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