Explain what it means that gentiles are only bound to not have idols, not fornicate, not eat of strangled meats, and not eat blood. Are these all gentiles have to do, as opposed to all the laws of Moses?
Acts 15:28 - 29
ESV - 28 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: 29 That you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.
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The rules or laws cited in the question represented a shortening of the hundreds of commandments and ordinances that had been contained in the Law given to Israel by God through Moses in Exodus through Deuteronomy. According to Acts 15, they were developed by the early Christian church in Jerusalem at the suggestion of James (who had not been one of the apostles, but who was a half-brother of Jesus who became a disciple after Jesus rose from the dead, and who later wrote the epistle of James that is found in the Bible). The rules were intended as a "middle-ground" summation of the Law that was to apply both to Jewish Christians and to Gentiles (non-Jews) who became Christians. They were a compromise between so-called Judaizers (who were claiming that Gentile Christians had to be circumcised (which was a uniquely Jewish practice) and also obey all the requirements of the Law -- in addition to having faith in Christ -- in order to be saved) and others who claimed that, now that Jesus had fulfilled the Law completely and perfectly, the rules or standards of the Old Testament no longer applied to how Christians should live. In my opinion, James' list of actions that those early believers needed to avoid was based on practices that would have been common in Gentile cultures at that time (such as the eating of food that had been offered to idols), or that would have been egregious sins according to Jewish law (such as fornication, or the eating of an animal that had not first had its blood drained from it). Now that idol worship is not prevalent in the same sense as in the New Testament, and Christians are generally not former Jews, the suggestions in this passage would (in my opinion) have been superseded by the law of Christ, who summarized the entire Mosaic Law in the two commandments of loving God with all one's heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving one's neighbor as oneself (Mark 12:28-34) -- not as a means of being saved (since that is accomplished solely through faith in Christ), but as a demonstration of love and gratitude to God for having already granted salvation apart from works of the Law (by which, as Paul noted in Galatians 2:16, no one can be saved).
One of the problems the early church faced was that some Jewish Christians had come from Judea to Antioch saying that Gentiles cannot be saved unless they accept circumcision (Acts 15:1). To resolve the argument, Paul, Barnabas and few others decided to go to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders and settle the issue. The instructions resulted were so simple because the debate at the Jerusalem Council was about two issues: 1. Should Gentiles become Jews in order to become Christians? 2. What Jewish practices beyond the moral law of the Ten Commandments were required for Gentiles? After lengthy and heated debate, it was decided not to trouble Gentile converts with the yoke of circumcision and other ceremonial requirements of Judaism. Interestingly enough, elements from the Moses ceremonial law are being listed in Acts 15 in the exact same order as they appear in the OT (Lev 17:7-16; Lev 18). Gentiles should abstain from things polluted by idols, from fornication, from things strangled and from blood (Acts 15:12-14, 19, 20). Circumcision was no longer a requirement. Many elements of Moses' ceremonial law were pointing to Christ. The Jewish sacrificial system with its rites and ceremonies had ended at the Cross (Matt 27:50, 51). Atonement for sins is now available to everyone in Christ (Jew or Gentile) and the symbolic practices had been fulfilled through Christ (1 Cor 12:13).
The 4 injunctions imposed on gentile believers in Acts 15 first appear in Genesis 1-3 (see below) and mimic Leviticus 17 & 18 like clockwork. Each of these 4 things were commanded to both the Israelites and the "stranger (gentile) who dwells among you." Leviticus 17:8-9 explicitly speaks of offering a sacrifice to anyone other than Yehovah, or the one true God. Leviticus 17:10 and Leviticus 17:12 speak of eating/drinking blood (previously commanded to Noah and his descendants in Genesis 9:4). Leviticus 17:15 speaks of eating an animal that died without having its blood drained, which is what happens when an animal is killed by having its throat slit (typically translated as "things strangled," or some variation thereof, in Acts 15 and 21). An animal slaughtered by a direct frontal incision dies before its blood is comprehensively drained. Not only that, but the animal obviously suffers. However, ancient shechita slaughter involved an incision on the side of the neck, severing only the carotid arteries, causing a drop in cerebral perfusion pressure, causing the animal to simply get drowsy and fall asleep and permitting the normal physiologic mechanisms to comprehensively drain the body of the blood while attempting to compensate for the hemorrhagic shock. The entire chapter of Leviticus 18 pertains to forbidden sexual practices, with verse 26 specifically speaking of "any stranger who dwells among you." In Rabbinic/Talmudic Judaism, these gentiles are referred to as "gerim toshavim," (singular ger toshav) or "righteous gentiles," also called "God-fearers." These were gentiles living among the Israelites who had forsaken pagan idolatry and worshiped the God of Israel, but without formally becoming Jewish proselytes via circumcision. Keep in mind that Rabbinic/Orthodox Judaism is a direct, unbroken continuity of Pharisaism, which was Paul's background. Even though the Rabbis taught that these "righteous gentiles" had a "portion in the world to come," the Rabbis nonetheless regarded these gentiles as second-class, since they didn't get circumcised and accept full covenantal responsibility as Jews. Paul and company, however, contended that these gentiles who believed in Israel's messiah were first-class citizens of the kingdom just like the Jewish believers since the Holy Spirit is a first-class gift. In Galatians 3:28, we see Paul arguing against this racism, along with sexism and economic discrimination that, incredibly, was later written down in the last paragraph of the Babylonian Talmud tractate Menachot 43b in the form of a prayer (said by a man) thanking and blessing God for not making him a gentile, a woman, a brutish man, or a slave. This is a classic example of Jesus' admonition in Matthew 16:12 to beware of the leaven/doctrine of the Pharisees that Paul clearly seems to have taken to heart against his own contemporaries. These same 4 things we find in the very beginning as well as the end of the Bible. In Genesis 1:28, God commands Adam and Eve to multiply and fill the earth with his image in which they were made, the mechanism of which is sexuality. Genesis 2:17 is, of course, the command not to eat the forbidden fruit. In Genesis 3:1-6, listening to the serpent was the first idolatrous act, trusting, believing, and relying on him instead of God. Eating the fruit resulted in Adam having a son "in his own likeness, after his image" in Genesis 5:3, thereby prohibiting sexuality from reproducing the image of God as originally intended. As for the blood, we find the first blood atonement in Genesis 3:21, where an animal had to die to provide Adam and Eve with clothing (atonement means covering). So, these 4 divine injunctions deal with things that go all the way back to the beginning. In Revelation 2:14 and Revelation 2:20, we find Jesus rebuking the churches at Pergamos and Thyatira for these same things: eating sacrifices to idols (at the time this included blood) and sexual immorality.
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