Date of Award


Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Arts, Nursing & Theology

First Advisor

Dr. Steven Thompson

Second Advisor

Assoc. Prof. Robert McIver


220401 Christian Studies (incl. Biblical Studies and Church History)


The occasion for this study was the observation that there is no agreed understanding of the theological background of the four prohibitions found in Acts 15:20, which seem to be cultic in their original form. During the Jerusalem Council these four prohibitions were denoted as necessary for keeping, even though Jewish ritual law was not imposed on Gentile converts. If Jews were not liberated from observing the ritual law, the Apostolic Decree would have reflected a compromise between two different forms of the Christian faith. The research methodology is inductive, based on semantic diagrams of relevant passages. Structuring the passages into semantic units and narrative links, plus finding and analyzing pesher-midrash and intertextual links, provides evidence that the Decree was formed against the background of Genesis 1-3. Review of Jewish sources provides historical context for the developed concepts. The study proposes that the Decree should be viewed through the lens of the creation-fall-re-creation paradigm, patterns of the natural law of God in Gen 1-3, and worship motifs. The exegetical study includes a focus on midrash in Acts 15:10-21 with roots in Gen 1-3 that support an explanation provided by the apostles for the proposed list of prohibitions. The description of theological concepts, developed on the basis of Genesis 1:24-3:24, revealed their association with the four prohibitions in the context of true worship. The roles of the ritual and natural laws in Luke-Acts were described and differentiated. Luke’s narratives revealed that the ritual law was fulfilled by Jesus and superceded by faith. The lack of dispute about the natural law of God in Luke-Acts reveals that Luke had no intention of making any changes to it. Finally, it was argued that the four prohibitions of the Decree of Acts 15 represent four patterns of true worship, established on principles of the natural law of God in Gen 1-3. In conclusion, the research proposed a new way of interpreting prohibitions, viewing them in terms of true worship rooted in Gen 1-3 that supports a believer’s conversion from a fallen condition, and for whom God, in Christ, originates a process of re-creation.


Used by permission: the author.

Staff and Students of Avondale College may access a print copy of this thesis from Avondale College Library (SC Theses 222.1106 B97).