The Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:1-29)

The Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:1-29)

In the Church’s early days, in the city of Antioch, there was a disagreement over the subject of circumcision. Some Jewish Christians insisted that new converts to the faith should be circumcised, in keeping with the Law of Moses. However, St Paul and St Barnabas, who were visiting the city, argued for the opposite view.

Pope Francis explained: “To resolve the matter, Paul and Barnabas consult the council of the Apostles and elders in Jerusalem, and what is considered the first council in the history of the Church, the council or assembly of Jerusalem, to which Paul refers in the Letter to the Galatians (2:1-10), takes place.”

He went on: “A very delicate theological, spiritual and disciplinary issue is faced: the relationship between faith in Christ and observance of Moses’ Law. Decisive in the course of the assembly are the speeches of Peter and James, “pillars” of the Mother-Church (cf. Acts 15:7-21; Galatians 2:9). They suggest not to impose circumcision on the Gentiles, but to ask them only to reject idolatry and all its expressions. From the discussion a common way emerges, and this decision is ratified by the so-called apostolic letter sent to Antioch.”

The pope reflected: “The assembly of Jerusalem offers us an important light on the ways in which divergences can be faced, and to seek the “truth in charity” (Ephesians 4:15). It reminds us that the ecclesial method for the resolution of conflicts is based on dialogue made up of attentive and patient listening and on discernment carried out in the light of the Spirit.”

This stained glass scene of the Council of Jerusalem is found within the sanctuary of St Peter’s church, in Cardiff. Produced by Mayer of Munich in 1883, it’s part of a set of three windows featuring aspects of St Peter’s life. The other two are Christ preaching from St Peter’s boat and then the saint’s earlier escape from prison (Luke 5:1-3; Acts 12:1-19).

Given the focus on St Peter, he is featured in the middle of the window. On the right, one of those present (St Barnabas or possibly St Luke) is writing the apostolic letter, next to a bald-headed St Paul. The window is typical of the style of the Mayer studio, with its use of bright colours and ornate details (e.g. the flowerpot, curtain and carpet).

See the full image:

Council_JerusalemMayer of Munich / The Council of Jerusalem / Stained glass / 1883

Where to find this work of art
St Peter’s, Roath

Read the relevant passage
Acts 15:1-29

On a similar theme

  • From the Old Testament: During the Council, St James made reference to the words of the Prophet Amos, to help settle the dispute.
  • From the New Testament: St James Minor was one of the main speakers during the Council of Jerusalem.

2 thoughts on “The Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:1-29)

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