Heresy of Judaizing

The teaching that Gentiles first had to become Jews before becoming Christians and that Christians ought to adopt more Jewish teachings and practices than the Church already had included. Judaizing is dealt with in the New Testament, being the occasion for the Apostolic Council in Act 15. The Apostle Peter was initially favorable towards Judaizing but strongly opposed by Barnabas and Paul. Judaizing continued in various forms for some centuries, particularly among certain groups known as “Jewish Christians”.

Council of Jerusalem (AD 49)

The Apostolic Council of Jerusalem was the first council in the Church’s history and is described in the Acts of the Apostles. It took place around the year AD 49 in Jerusalem. The Council of Jerusalem was an exceptional gathering of leaders of the entire Church for which there was no parallel until the First Ecumenical Council at Nicea, in 325.

The council was attended by the Apostles to decide how far Gentile converts should be subject to the Law of Moses (OT Law). The teaching prevailed that Gentiles first had to circumcise to become Jews before becoming Christians. This is denounced by the Apostles as Heresy of Judaizing. The book Act of Apostles, Chapter 15 details the events occurred at this council.

At the Council, after everyone listened quietly as Barnabas and Paul tell about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles, and advice offered by the Apostle Peter (Acts 15:7–11), James, the leader of the Jerusalem Church, gave his decision (later known as the "Apostolic Decree"). It should be noted that even though Peter is present, James being the bishop of Jerusalem, presides at this council. His decision was recognizing the consensus of the apostles in light of the Holy Scriptures.

“Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.” (Acts 15:19–21)

In the Council’s letter sent to the Church of Antioch, Syria & Cilicia, it can be seen how the council was confident that they spoke for the Holy Spirit: “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.” (Acts 15:28–29)

The Apostolic Council of Jerusalem is referred as the Prototype of the Ecumenical councils followed. It upholds great importance in the history of our Holy Church.


“Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy” by Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick

OLC Team.