Acts 10-15. Continuing Revelation

Early in this last dispensation a resounding call went forth through the Prophet Joseph Smith that the message of the gospel should be preached to all people.

Our missionaries are going forth to different nations, and in Germany, Palestine, New Holland, Australia, the East Indies, and other places, the Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.1

This quote is familiar and the message even more so.  Indeed, missionary work is one of the most fundamental aspects of the restored Gospel.  Consider this: nearly all of the revelations in the Doctrine & Covenants that were received before the founding of The Church of Jesus Christ on April 6, 1830, reference in some way missionary work or the spreading forth of God’s gospel kingdom.  That special urgency to share the knowledge of the truth with all who have ears to hear and hearts to obey has only become stronger across the years.  Hence, we have a missionary mindset and a missionary-oriented church.  Thus it is nearly impossible to imagine keeping the precious gift of the gospel all to ourselves.  However, it is this type of mindset that we must understand if we are to fully appreciate the significant mindset transformation that occurred among the first Christians of the Ancient Church as they shifted from a Jewish audience to a worldwide Gentile audience.  This monumental shift of focus is documented for us in Acts 10-15.

In comparison to our present day missionary mindset, early Christianity originally had a restricted understanding of what it meant to spread the Gospel kingdom across the earth.  Christ himself revealed this fact to the Nephites when he visited them on the American continent.  When he spoke of gathering all of his sheep into one fold, Christ identified the Nephites as the “other sheep.” He then explained how the ancient Jews had misunderstood two things.  First, they assumed that the “other sheep” referred to the Gentiles.  Second, they failed to recognize that the Gentiles would be converted through their preaching.

Verily I say unto you, that ye are they of whom I said: Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. And they [the Jews] understood me not, for they supposed it had been the Gentiles; for they understood not that the Gentiles should be converted through their preaching.  (3 Nephi 15:21-22)

Now, let me lay out the purposes of this article.  First, we will take a walk through the ancient past to learn of “identity issues” among the Jews.  This will help us to understand some of the reasons why the first Christians, including the Twelve Apostles, did not immediately consider taking the gospel to the Gentiles.  It will also give us a context for understanding some of the religious controversies that shaped Christianity in its first decades.  Next, we will review the storyline and main ideas from Acts 10-15 to highlight the process of revelation (i.e., change) that occurred in the early Church with regards to the Gentiles and see how identity questions continued to be a pressing concern upon the young Church of ancient times.  Finally, we will read several scriptures which illuminate the doctrine that “God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34).

Questions of Identity Among the Jews

The Jewish people have perpetually been dealing with questions of identity: “What is a Jew?  What does it mean to be a Jew?”  The answers have been legion.  Yet unity on a single answer is still a fleeting desire.  How does this ever-relevant question among the Jews over identity have anything to do with preaching the gospel to the Gentiles?  The short answer is that due to Jewish identity issues, the first Christians, including the Twelve Apostles, did not think to take the Gospel to the Gentiles.  It was only when revelation offered additional light and knowledge that old traditions were put aside and the Church blossomed among the Gentiles.

Now, there are three main ways that Jewish identity has been established across the centuries: (1) genealogy, (2) belief and ritual, and (3) circumcision.  These aspects of identity have been emphasized or deemphasized in a variety of ways depending upon need and circumstance over the years, always producing new and unique manifestations of Judaism.  Hence, no strand of Judaism at any time or in any context is ever exactly like any other strand of Judaism.  Even a perpetual river is constantly different.

Before we turn to our texts in Acts 10-15, let’s look at a few examples of Jewish identity crises.

When the Jews returned to Jerusalem from Babylon circa 520 BC, genealogy was one of the most important characteristics for establishing identity.  This is manifested in the writings of both Ezra and Nehemiah.  For example, Ezra 2 is a detailed genealogical account of the returning Jewish captives.  At first glance we may yawn with disinterest to read such a genealogical report.  However, with some consideration we can discern Ezra’s purpose in recording these crucial details.  When the Jews returned to Jerusalem, they had received specific religious and political privileges from their liberator, Cyrus the Persian emperor, and these privileges were contingent on Jewish identity.  As the Jews began to enjoy these privileges, the neighboring Samaritans, who did not have such religious and political favors, began claiming that they were also true Jews.  In order to secure their own privileges, it was necessary for the returning Jews to prove their identity by means of their Jewish genealogy, something that the Samaritans could not do.  Belief alone would not have been sufficient for the Jews to establish identity, for anyone can profess belief.  At this same time genealogy was also essential in determining which priestly families had right to the priesthood offices.  We note in Ezra 2:61-62 that several Jewish priestly families who could not produce the proper genealogical records were denied access to priesthood offices, while those who could prove their priestly genealogy were granted their station and right to the priesthood.

This foregoing example highlights that when the identity crisis was between Jews and non-Jews who claimed to be Jews, the arguments focused on establishing Jewishness through genealogy.  But when the identity issues were internecine, or rather, when Jews argued with Jews over what it meant to be a Jew, belief and ritual became the main focus for establishing identity.  These latter arguments have been the most heated, the most prolonged, and the most divisive, creating numerous versions of Judaism and Jewish identity, so much so that even during the time of Jesus Christ, Judaism was fractured into competing sects just like Christianity is today.2  Usually we fail to recognize this breathtaking diversity of belief and practice among the ancient Jews, partly because among the numerous sects of Judaism that did exist at the time of Christ, only a small number actually survived past the 1st century AD.  In fact, the two main forms of Judaism that did survive over the centuries were Christianity and Pharisaic Judaism, or more commonly known today as Rabbinic Judaism.  When we see early Christianity in its proper context as another ancient sect of Judaism, similar to how Mormonism is another “brand” of Christianity, we begin to understand some of the boiling controversies that embroiled the early Church.  In fact we will see later in our texts, especially in Acts 15, that the controversy over circumcision was very much an identity issue among various Jewish groups (Christian Jews vs. Pharisaic Jews) arguing over what constituted true Jewishness (i.e. what constituted following God’s true path).

In this regard let us return to the centuries prior to Christianity to understand how the debate over circumcision became such a key identity issue among the Jews.  When the Greek armies conquered the Mediterranean and Mesopotamian world circa 320 BC, Greek culture soon became a dominate, if not highly appealing, way to live life.  The Jews residing in Jerusalem and throughout Palestine had mixed reactions to this new culture.3  Some tried to keep to ancestral ways, while others, for various reasons (such as political and material opportunities) saw the advantages of adopting Greek culture.  One of the standard institutions of Greek culture was the gymnasium and it became for the Jews a center of debate over identity.  Why?  Well, Greeks valued the power and beauty of the body.  The gymnasium was the place where one would exercise and display the full beauty of body—naked.  By the way, the Greek word gymnos, from which the word gymnasium derives, means naked.  Remember that the Greeks did not practice circumcision; the Jews did.  The difference was manifest at the gymnasium.  Those Jews who wanted to look like the Greeks at the gymnasium stopped practicing circumcision.  Other Jews, who did not care for the intrusions of foreign Greek culture, strongly believed that rejecting circumcision was a total betrayal of the covenants God had made to the Jews, covenants which had been signed in the flesh since the days of Abraham.  Eventually, this debate solidified the idea among many Jews that only those who have been marked in the flesh through circumcision were the true inheritors of the blessings and promises of God.  With this in mind we can now begin to understand why some of the Jewish Christians were so upset at the thought of including Gentiles in the covenants and promises of the Lord without also requiring that these Gentiles wear the sign of the covenant—circumcision (see especially Acts 15).  Yet, what we will see is that baptism and the reception of the Holy Ghost became the new mark of the covenant between God and his people.

One final example of how belief and ritual defined Jewishness, and which informs our understanding of Acts 10-15, is the debate over cleanliness according to the Law of Moses.  The Pharisaic Jews, progenitors of Rabbinic Judaism, strongly believed that their interpretation of cleanliness was most acceptable to God.  They exerted much effort to persuade all Jews to live according to their interpretation.  In dealing with the idea of separating clean from the unclean, they taught that this meant that Jews and non-Jews should not eat together.  Originally, this was probably a practical consideration since foreigners may eat foods that are unclean and, if the table is shared, it would pollute the ritually clean food of the Jews, thus rendering the Jews incapable of performing the required sacred duties of worship prescribed in the Holy Scriptures.  Over the years as the Jews learned to live under Greek and then Roman rule, many tried to maintain the ritual cleanliness of their food by not eating with the Gentiles (i.e. foreigners).  And thus as time went on many of the Jews did not think it abnormal that they did not share table fellowship with foreigners.4   This same religious feeling also informed the Jewish attitude of not sharing the Gospel with Gentiles.  If we understand the Gospel brotherhood as a family sitting down to share a pure meal together we can begin to understand why the Jews did not readily think to invite “unclean” guests to the banquet. We will see in Acts that early members of the Church had this idea about the Gentiles, even to the point that they did not consider the possibility of sharing the gospel with the Gentiles until additional light and knowledge was received through revelation.

With this religious and cultural background in our minds informed by the Jewish identity questions, let us now learn of the work of God unto all His children as expressed in Acts 10-15.

Revelation in the Ancient Church—Acts 10

Acts 10 describes for us the manner and circumstances in which Peter’s heart was changed concerning taking the gospel to the Gentiles.  One day while residing in Joppa, a port city on the Mediterranean Sea, Peter went to his rooftop to pray.  As he prayed he became hungry.  Then a symbolic vision opened to him.  He saw a vessel full of all types of animals5 descend from heaven accompanied by a command, “Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.”  However, Peter resisted.  Why?  As a Jew of his time he had been raised to believe that ritual purity was of great importance, so eating ritually unclean animals was unacceptable.  Influenced by his religious upbringing, Peter resisted transgressing the boundaries he had known throughout his life.  Yet the vision from heaven persisted, three times offering the animals as food to Peter.  And each time that he resisted a voice from heaven persuaded Peter to see God’s work in a new light, “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common” (Acts 10:15).

Soon after the vision passed, Peter heard a knock at the door.  Messengers from a Gentile named Cornelius waited outside.  Several days before, Cornelius had received an angelic visit encouraging him to hear Peter preach.  So Cornelius sent his servants to invite Peter to preach to him.  Realizing that the animals of his vision were symbols of the Gentiles pronounced clean by God, Peter heartily agreed to visit Cornelius.  He traveled from Joppa to the thoroughly gentile city of Caesarea to share the Gospel message with Cornelius, his household, and friends.  It was at the home of Cornelius that Peter spoke the truth that only the day before he had learned for himself, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34).  Peter had learned that what he had previously understood to be common and unclean (i.e. being a Gentile) was in reality, and by the voice of God, clean.  Even though he had been taught throughout his life to refrain from sitting at the same table with that which was unclean (i.e. Gentiles), suddenly new light showered upon his heart and mind causing him to recognize that all of God’s children were deserving of hearing the Good News.  So the gospel message began to spread out among the Gentiles from that time forward.  Jewish converts to Christianity marveled at the outpouring of the Holy Ghost which fell upon the new Gentile converts exclaiming, “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?” (Acts 10:47).

Revelation, Change and Growth—Acts 11

Even though Peter received a powerful revelation to extend the blessings of the gospel to all worthy Gentiles, there were yet many Jewish Christians in Jerusalem that needed to hear the new revelation, receive a witness of its truth, and open their hearts to change—changing their minds, changing their behaviors, and changing their attitudes.  It is interesting to note, in this light, that the Greek word used throughout the New Testament for “repentance” literally means “to have a change of mind.”  Change, however, is not often an easy undertaking and is usually met with resistance.

When Peter arrived in Jerusalem to report on his preaching to the Gentiles, resistance greeted him.  Luke labels these resisters as “they of the circumcision” (i.e. Jewish converts to Christianity who likely wished to maintain circumcision as a feature of identity).  This group showed the same types of resistance to interacting with the Gentiles as did Peter—the Jewish fear of mingling clean with unclean.  They accused Peter, saying, “Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them” (Acts 11:3).  Peter well understood their concern and resistance; he had experienced it himself until recently.  Instead of rebuking their antagonism or criticizing their mindset before they had the benefit of new light and knowledge, he shared his personal testimony of revelation and change.  When he was finished with his witness of new revelation, “they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18).  They too were touched by this revelation, which brought about a change of mind and a change of heart.  When the Jewish Christians at Jerusalem recognized that this was a revelation from God, they ultimately received it with rejoicing.

The rest of Acts 11 covers at least a year of missionary activity among the Gentiles after the revelation was received.  During that time the work spread among many of the Greeks living in the Roman Empire, especially in the large and busy commercial city of Antioch.  It was in Antioch that Paul began and ended many of his missionary travels and it was from the converts in Antioch that Jewish Christians received food and aid during a famine in Jerusalem (see Acts. 11:29).6

Growth and Persecution—Acts 12

With any new movement, particularly one that is growing and successful, resistance will mount and persecution will follow.  We have seen it with the early days of the Restored Church and it certainly occurred among the first Christians.  Just as Joseph Smith was falsely incarcerated and liberated from time to time, so too in the ancient Church, Peter, the leader of the early saints, was falsely accused, jailed and then miraculously released by an angel.  Just as it was anciently, so it is today.  There will always be those who oppose the works of righteousness.  Yet the Lord has declared, “Remember, remember that it is not the work of God that is frustrated, but the work of men” (D&C 3:3).  God will continue to frustrate the work of men as they attempt frustrate the work of God.  They are only kicking against the pricks.

Before we move onto the next chapter we should note that the patterns of restoration that occurred in ancient days among the Christians, found in Acts 10-12, have been repeated in this last dispensation.  When a restoration occurs so too do visions, persecutions, conversions, pentecostal outpourings of the Spirit, manifestations of the gifts of the Spirit, preaching of the Gospel, revelation, and mighty acts of charity and consecration.

Missionary Work Throughout the World—Acts 13 & 14

Even though the Church had receive the revelation that all worthy Gentiles could be admitted into the Gospel net, missionary labors were most fruitful when they began in areas with established Jewish communities.  This is what we find attested in the Book of Acts.  Let us take a moment to understand this phenomenon.

Beginning around 600 BC and continuing even until our present day, and mostly due to political pressures or economic or lifestyle advantages, the Jews have been establishing communities in diverse locations.7  With the rise of the Greek-ruled states circa 300 BC and then the rise of the Roman Empire throughout the Middle East circa 70 BC, this process was magnified as Jews were incorporated into an ever-expanding and pluralistic society.  Jewish communities and settlements blossomed and thrived all over the ancient world from North Africa to Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula, to the fertile lands of the Mesopotamian plain, throughout Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) and throughout the lands and islands of Greece, Italy, Gaul (modern day France) and Spain.  The brotherhood of Judaism was a worldwide phenomenon, which facilitated fraternity and missionary work in many areas.  When Christian missionaries would set forth to share the message of the Gospel in new cities and lands, they would often begin among the Jewish communities, preaching first in their synagogues.  This is akin to what many of the early Mormon missionaries did when they spread the message abroad.  They went first to their family, friends and religious associates, often meeting in churches and religious halls to share the message of the Restored Gospel.  And thus did the ancient Christian missionaries.  They first shared their message among their Jewish friends at the various synagogues through the Mediterranean world.  Once the message began to be established in these communities, inroads were also made among the Gentile inhabitants of those same areas.

What we have in Acts 13 is an instance of this type of missionary work.  Paul and Barnabas first began to preach the Gospel message in synagogues in various locations.  But resistance followed.  Like the missionaries in the Book of Mormon who had to contend with false prophets and wily lawyers, Paul and Barnabas called down the powers of heaven to strike a false prophet with blindness that he might no longer impede the work of the Lord.  It is a fruitful study to compare this story in Acts 13:4-13 with similar missionary stories found in the Book of Mormon such as Jacob 7, Alma 11, and Alma 30.

Acts 13 is also a rich record for it helps us to understand the preaching techniques used by early Christian missionaries, such as Paul, to encourage people to follow the path of Christ.  For example, in Acts 13 Paul preaches the Gospel message to fellow Jews in a Synagogue of Asia Minor.  He crafts his message by recounting the sacred history of Israel from the time of Egyptian bondage down to his present day, explaining how Christ is the fulfillment of the promises and prophecies found throughout the Old Testament.  A similar technique is found throughout the Book of Mormon.  One powerful example is that of Nephi’s exhortations to his brothers (1 Nephi 17:23-55).  The mighty promise of the Book of Mormon found in Moroni 10:3-5 is based on this technique as well.  Though, in this particular case, Moroni does not have the space to review the sacred history.  Instead he encourages the reader to remember sacred history.  By so doing, the reader’s hear to dwell upon the great goodness of God.  And most significantly, the reader will be prepared to feel the spirit testify of the truth.

We return again to the Gospel message spreading among the Gentiles.  As many flocked to the truth which Paul preached some of the Jews became jealous over Paul’s growing popularity.  These Jews resisted him and persuaded the influential and wealthy individuals of the city to expel the Christian missionaries.  Not dissuaded, the work continued in other cities among the Gentiles who received the message with gladness.  The Jewish rejection and the Gentile acceptance of the Gospel may be compared to what occurred in the Nephite civilization when the Lamanites finally had the gospel preached to them.  They received it with open hearts while the Nephites rejected the call to repentance.

As we move to Acts 14 we find a sobering account of persecution against Paul and his associates to the point that Jews in Antioch and Iconium stoned Paul.  Though left for dead, he was revived and continued on in his missionary efforts as before.  In this regard, Paul was like Timothy, the brother of Nephi, who not many years before Christ’s visit to the Americas was stoned to death only to later be miraculously revived by Nephi (3 Nephi 7:19; 19:4).

Acts 15

Earlier in this article we discussed some of the reasons why circumcision was such a decisive factor for Jewish identity.  In this chapter we can see this sharp debate in full relief and this led to quite a controversy in the early Christian church.  Apparently some of the Jewish converts to Christianity had gone among the Gentiles preaching that they needed circumcision, the ancient mark of the covenant, to be saved.  Paul, Barnabas and other Church leaders recognized this erroneous idea.  They knew that Christ had set mankind free from the outward performances of the law through faith on the name of Jesus Christ and that this faith was to be manifested through repentance, baptism, reception of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.  At a general conference of the church at Jerusalem, the brethren discussed the matter and came to a common consensus.  In unity, the brethren sent an epistle to the Gentile churches clarifying that circumcision and the Law of Moses were not binding requirements upon converts to Christianity.  It is interesting to note that the Law of Moses with its minutia and exceedingly detailed laws was replaced for all followers of Christ, Jew and Gentile alike, with prescriptions as simple and short as the Noahide laws (see Genesis 9:1-7).8  The brethren wrote in their reasoned epistle thus (see especially verse 29 for the list of “laws” Christians should live):

23 The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: 24 Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: 25 It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth.

28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; 29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.  (Acts 15:23-29)

God Is No Respecter of Persons

It is rewarding to learn of the very real and human challenges that the early Church faced, for through these experiences they left recorded for us a most powerful doctrinal truth that God is no respecter of persons.  This doctrine, however, is not original to the early Christian church, nor has the Lord failed to repeat this message in succeeding generations.  We will end our study today by citing several scriptural passages in chronological order that enlarge our understanding of this wholesome doctrine.

1 Nephi 17:35

Behold, the Lord esteemeth all flesh in one; he that is righteous is favored of God.

Alma 26:37

Now my brethren, we see that God is mindful of every people, whatsoever land they may be in; yea, he numbereth his people, and his bowels of mercy are over all the earth. Now this is my joy, and my great thanksgiving; yea, and I will give thanks unto my God forever. Amen.

Acts 15:7-11

Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.

Acts 17:26

[God] hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.

Romans 2:10-11

Glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: For there is no respect of persons with God.

Romans 10:11-13

For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

D&C 1:31-35

I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance; Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven; And he that repents not, from him shall be taken even the light which he has received; for my Spirit shall not always strive with man, saith the Lord of Hosts. And again, verily I say unto you, O inhabitants of the earth: I the Lord am willing to make these things known unto all flesh; For I am no respecter of persons…

May we follow in the steps of the Lord, esteeming all flesh in one as we carry the message and blessings of the Gospel throughout the world.

  1. This was put into writing by Joseph Smith in the Wentworth letter of 1842.  Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. B. H. Roberts, 2d ed. rev., 7 vols. (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1932-51), 4:540. 

  2. To say that there was a “mainstream Judaism” in the 1st century AD is likely misleading.  Consider for example that during that time period that were at least half a dozen (and likely there were more) forms of Judaism that one could adhere to: (1) Pharisaic, (2) Sadducean, (3) Christian, (4) Zealot, (5) Herodian, and (6) Essene (the Dead Sea Scroll Community). 

  3. Significantly, the present day cultural tensions between East and West, particularly among Muslim nations encountering Western cultural, are surprisingly similar to what we find in the histories of Jewish interaction with Greek and Roman culture. 

  4. In William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, the Jewish antagonist Shylock refuses to eat with his Christian business partners with this exclamation: “[T]o smell pork, to eat of the habitation of which your prophet the Nazarite [i.e., Christ], conjured the devil into!  I will buy with you, sell with you, talk with you, walk with you, and so following; but I will not eat with you, drink with you, nor pray with you.”  Thus, fifteen hundred years later, the same issue was still seen as a dividing line between religious adherents – possibly as much in the view of Christians such as Shakespeare as in the eyes of the Jews supposedly represented by Shylock.  LMRH 

  5. The animals in this version are not fully described in terms of clean and unclean.  Nevertheless it is certain that to Peter they represented animals recognized as “unclean” in Jewish tradition. 

  6. There is an important detail in this chapter that is often overlooked.  According to Luke’s record, “the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” (Acts 11:26).  Notice that this name is first applied to Gentile converts, not Jewish converts.  In other words, the Jewish disciples of Jesus Christ (whom we today call “Early Christians” along with all others who followed Christ), did not see themselves as part of a religion or movement separate or distinct from Judaism.  In fact, they believed that they were the true expression of Judaism.  Only later, and in contention with Pharisaic Judaism, which itself evolved into Rabbinic Judaism, did disciples of Jesus Christ consider themselves separate from Judaism and representative of an entirely new (revealed and restored) religion, which they called “Christianity.”  The closest analogy we have to express this phenomenon is to look at the Christian movement today known as Mormonism.  We of course understand ourselves to be but one Christian group among many; we certainly do not identify ourselves outside of the realm of Christianity.  Yet, like the Jewish disciples of Jesus Christ who saw themselves as following the truth path of Judaism, Mormons see themselves as following the true path of Christianity.  It was only decades later after the initial movements of Christianity that the early Christians began to define themselves as a separate and distinct religion with a name to separate themselves from other groups. 

  7. All of this moving around, emigrating, immigrating and establishing new communities in diverse locations also play a major role in the many identity crises experienced by the Jews. 

  8. Indeed, the simple rules and regulations listed in Acts 15:29 do resemble the Noahide law to refrain from eating blood. 

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About Taylor Halverson

Dr. Taylor Halverson received a B.A. from Brigham Young University in Ancient Near Eastern Studies in 1997, an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Yale University in 2001 and an M.S. in Instructional Technology from Indiana University in 2004. He completed Ph.D.s in Instructional Technology and Judaism & Christianity in Antiquity—both from Indiana University in 2006.

Dr. Halverson focuses his teaching, research, and professional work on helping others become lifelong learners. He does so through several core areas

  • Improving teaching and learning
  • Educational technology, including technology integration into teaching and learning
  • Innovation, design, and creativity, including entrepreneurship
  • Literary and comparative studies of the Book of Mormon, the Old and New Testaments and other ancient literature, ancient kingship and authority, and Judeans during the neo-Babylonian period

Dr. Halverson currently works at BYU full-time at the Center for Teaching and Learning. He is also the founder and co-chair of the Creativity, Innovation, and Design group, acting associate director of the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology, and has taught a variety of courses at BYU including: “Old Testament,” “Book of Mormon,” “History of Creativity,” “Innovation Lab: The Design Thinking Experience,” and “Illuminating the Scriptures: Designing Innovative Scripture Study Tools.” Dr. Halverson is a contributor to the popular LDS Bible Videos project and the LDS Scripture Citation Index site and a columnist for the Deseret News. He and his wife Lisa lead travel tours to Israel, the Mediterranean, and Mesoamerica.

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