Acts 15:13

ESV After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me.
NIV When they finished, James spoke up. 'Brothers,' he said, 'listen to me.
NASB After they stopped speaking, James responded, saying, 'Brothers, listen to me.
CSB After they stopped speaking, James responded, "Brothers, listen to me.
NLT When they had finished, James stood and said, 'Brothers, listen to me.
KJV And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me:

What does Acts 15:13 mean?

James is the pastor of the church in Jerusalem. He is addressing the council gathered to determine if Gentiles must convert to Judaism as part of truly following Jesus Christ. Paul and Barnabas have given their account of the Gentiles who came to a saving relationship with Jesus (Acts 15:4, 12). Peter has reminded the group of his experience in Caesarea Maritima when a house filled with friends and family of the centurion Cornelius received the Holy Spirit. This happened before Peter had even finished speaking (Acts 10; 15:7–9). Now, James will give his verdict.

This is not the apostle James, the brother of John, who was martyred by Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12:1–2). This is the half-brother of Jesus (Mark 6:3) who once thought his older sibling was "out of his mind" (Mark 3:21) and taunted Him about keeping His ministry quiet instead of publicly revealing Himself in Jerusalem (John 7:1–9). He is also one of the few who did not follow Jesus before the crucifixion but saw Him after the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:7). He was with Jesus' followers after the ascension (Acts 1:14) and during Pentecost (Acts 2:1–3). He rose to a leadership position quickly; when Peter was rescued from prison by an angel, he specifically instructed that James be told (Acts 12:17). Church tradition celebrates his humility and his reliance on Scripture. Church history says the high priest took advantage of a time between the transition of the Roman procurators and threw James from the top of the temple to the ground where he was either beaten by clubs or stoned to death.

James is standing before Paul and defending him. When he was younger, Paul had watched with approval while a mob murdered the Christian deacon Stephen (Acts 7:54—8:1). Paul then went on a rampage, first trying to rid Jerusalem of all Jesus-followers (Acts 8:3) and then traveling as far as Damascus, far to the north, to bring Jewish Christians to trial (Acts 9:1–2). Now, two devout Jews who vehemently worked against Jesus join forces to defend Gentiles who seek Him for salvation.

Some Bible translations adjust masculine terms when their original use implies people of both genders. Properly translated, this verse maintains the term "brothers," as the apostles and elders present would have exclusively been men.
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