When the Apostle Paul and his traveling companions arrived in Jerusalem in 57 CE for Pentecost, with the gifts from the churches of Greece and Asia Minor, the brethren “welcomed them gladly” (Acts 21:17). The next day he and his companions met with James, the presiding apostle at Jerusalem, and the headquarters elders. The sense of it is that this was a private meeting. Paul gave a full report telling “in detail those things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry” (Acts 21:19). The response by James and all the elders as recorded in Acts 21:20-25 deserves some thoughtful analysis. Luke appears to have summarized various comments and advice into a single overall statement as follows:
“You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law; but they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs. What then? The assembly must certainly meet, for they will hear that you have come. Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have taken a vow. Take them and be purified with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads, and that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the law. But concerning the Gentiles who believe, we have written and decided that they should observe no such thing, except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality” (Acts 21:20-25).