Paul Visits James at Jerusalem
17 When we arrived in Jerusalem, the brothers welcomed us warmly. 18 The next day Paul went with us to visit James; and all the elders were present. 19 After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20 When they heard it, they praised God. Then they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands of believers there are among the Jews, and they are all zealous for the law. 21 They have been told about you that you teach all the Jews living among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, and that you tell them not to circumcise their children or observe the customs. 22 What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. 23 So do what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow. 24 Join these men, go through the rite of purification with them, and pay for the shaving of their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself observe and guard the law. 25 But as for the Gentiles who have become believers, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled<sup class="footnote" data-fn="#fen-NRSV-27677e" data-link="[e]”>[e] and from fornication.” 26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day, having purified himself, he entered the temple with them, making public the completion of the days of purification when the sacrifice would be made for each of them.
Analysis by Gary: What does this passage say: Answer: The Church Council ruled that Gentiles are not required to keep all 613 laws of the Torah, but Jews, even Christian Jews, must! In this passage, the Church of Jerusalem, lead by Jesus’ brother, James, orders Paul to undergo an act of purification, an act of repentance, for preaching that the Law had been abolished and to demonstrate to Jewish Christians in Jerusalem and beyond that the Christian Church upheld the Law; that Jewish Christians are still Jews; and all Jews must obey the Laws of the Torah. Paul complies, but if you read his epistles, Paul continued, even after this public rebuke by James and his public shaming, to tell Jewish Christians that they no longer needed to follow the Torah Law.
No wonder Paul defends himself against the charge that he is a liar on several occasions in his epistles. He WAS a liar!
Analysis by Asher Norman, orthodox Jewish author of, “Twenty-Six Reasons Why Jews Don’t Believe in Jesus“:
James ruled that Paul must take an oath, perform public rituals, and pay the expenses of four other people as acts of public repentance for teaching against the law. This was ordered by James to prove to the Jewish followers of Jesus that Paul was personally keeping and not preaching against the 613 laws of the Torah. James clearly did not believe that the laws of the Torah were “fulfilled” by Jesus death. Significantly, one of the requirements of the Nazarite oath is the bringing of a sin sacrifice to the Temple. James’ requirement that Paul take a Nazarite oath proves that James did not believe that the sacrificial system (and sin offerings) was rendered irrelevant by the “atoning death” of Jesus!
The theological significance of Acts 21 is enormous.
In Acts 21 we learn that James required Paul to be “purified” for not keeping the laws of the Torah. James was Jesus’ brother and the first leader of the Jesus movement after Jesus was killed. Therefore, James must have known Jesus’ views regarding the laws. Most Christians read Acts 21 without realizing that James’ opposition to Paul implies that Jesus did NOT oppose the laws of the Torah. If Jesus did oppose the laws, James’ reaction to Paul makes no sense. Therefore, Paul’s gospel not only was heretical from a Jewish theological perspective, it apparently contradicted Jesus’ own teachings!