The Burger Bites Back (Acts 15 Again!)
It is a corker of an article. Along the way Bockmuehl argues that many Palestinian Jews in the Second Temple period conceived of the Promised Land not merely in terms of its boundaries in political reality but in ideal terms in light of biblical promises. Thus, much of Syria was thought of as part of Israel in their mental maps, even if not on political maps.
Bockmuehl also makes a pretty good case that for some first century Jews Antioch would have been seen as the gateway to the Holy Land. That was absolutely fascinating. It would never have even crossed my mind!
But how, if at all, is that relevant to the burger-debate? You will recall that we discussed Richard Bauckham's claim that the prohibitions in the Apostolic Decree in Acts 15 were based on Leviticus 17-18. There were four prohibitions placed on the Gentiles living "in the midst of Israel". In the view of Jesus' earliest followers Jewish believers in Jesus were eschatologically renewed Israel and the Gentile believers were the nations on eschatological pilgrimage. This was as the prophets of Israel had foretold. So Gentiles were granted the status of full membership of the end-time community of God's people without having to convert to Judaism. However, they still had to observe the prohibitions from Leviticus (including the ban on eating meat with blood in it).
Back to Bockmuehl. He writes:
Hmmmmm. So I guess it hinges on what it means for Gentiles believers in the Messiah (people like myself) to be living "in the midst of Israel".
As reported in Acts 15, this document is addressed in the first instance to Gentile believers "in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia" - areas that on the argument here presented are either part of the ideal Holy Land or at any rate immediately contiguous with it. ... It is highly significant that the stipulations of the decree are taken precisely from those passages of the Pentateuch that legislate for Gentiles living in the land of Israel. Richard Bauckham has effectively demonstrated that the prohibitions of the decree are precisely those that in Leviticus 17-18 apply to Gentiles living "in the midst of" the house of Israel.
(Jewish Law in Gentile Churches, p. 78)
(a) Is it a theological-symbolic status indicating our place in the universal body of Christ?
(b) is it a literal thing for any Gentile Christians living within the borders of the Holy Land?
In other words was the ban on blood in the Apostolic Decree intended to apply to all Gentile Christians or only those living in the geographical borders of idealized Israel? And what is its relevance today?
I'd love to know your thoughts.