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Acts 15:10 Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they. (NKJV)

This is interpretted widely by the commentaries:

So, what was the "yoke" that neither the disciples nor their fathers were able to bear?

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13 Answers 13

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I was recently struck by the Psalmist's regard for the law of God in Psalm 1, 19, 119, and Psalm 40:8, "I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart." It occurred to me that God's laws could not possibly be what Peter referred to in the Jerusalem council when he said "Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?" (Acts 15:10). David delighted in God's laws, they were his meditation, he longed for them and said they brought freedom, not bondage. He contrasted those who love the laws of YHWH (the righteous) with those who reject them (the wicked) How could Peter then say it was a yoke to heavy to bear for them or their forefathers!

In studying this passage in in its context of Acts 15 I found that it was talking about effort to be saved by the law. That was the question they went to Jerusalem to solve--Did the gentiles need to be circumcised and keep the law of Moses in order to be saved? That is what Peter addressed immediately after speaking of this heavy yoke:" v. 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they." No one had to be saved by keeping the law--not these Gentiles, and not the Jews either for that matter!! Indeed that would be a heavy yoke!

This is consistent with Paul's teachings in Romans (NKJV): 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law.

12 Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.

This understanding is much more in keeping with Paul's exhortation to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness."

That this "Yoke" was in reference to the law as a means of salvation and not to the laws of God themselves is evident through the rest of NT instruction to the Gentiles. While the Jerusalem council determined that "only these necessary things" be observed by the Gentiles to be saved, yet throughout the rest of the NT we see more than "these necessary things" being upheld as what Gentiles are to do and not do. (for example "Children obey your parents" written to the Ephesians, a predominantly Gentile church.

This understanding reconciles Paul's reproof of the Galatians who endeavored to be "Justified by the law," with his upholding "What is written" as though it still stands to speak with authority to the gentiles. (I Cor 1:19, 31; 2:9; 3:19; 9:9-10; 10:7; 14:21; 15:45; II Cor 8:15; 9:9; Gal 3:10, 13; 4:22.27).

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The "yoke" was in fact the law. To understand this we must examine the purpose, the requirements of, and the ultimate fulfillment of Mosaic Law.

The Mosaic Law, given to Moses at Mt. Sinai, was a works based covenant entered into by God and His people the Children of Israel. The law was to be applied to both Israelites as well as the foreigners residing among them (Exo 12:49, Lev 24:22, Num 15:29) It was given to separate the nation of Israel from the other nations of the world. In other words, to make them holy (Lev 11:44).

The law was given because of sin.

Gal 3:19 What then is the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise hath been made; and it was ordained through angels by the hand of a mediator.

One of the many things the law accomplished was to prove that a people, sanctioned by God Almighty; separated by civil requirements, customs, government etc., could not lead a righteous life unless they were given a new heart.

The law was never intended to give life (Gal 3:21), it could only condemn. Paul, understanding its condemning purpose, referred to the law as, "ministry that brought death" (2 Cor 3:7).The law was not flexible. You were to obey and live, or disobey and die. James also understood the weight of the law when he wrote:

Jas 2:10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is become guilty of all.

Substantial obedience was not sufficient but perfect obedience required. The weight of the law's requirements prompted Peter's response in Acts 15.

Those who are in Christ are fitted for a new yoke, the Law of Christ. One that does not burden but provides relief and rest (Matt 11:29).

Rom 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death.

2Co 3:6 who also made us sufficient as ministers of a new covenant; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.

Many today make distinctions between aspects of the law (civil, ceremonial, moral), God's word does not. The Law was the Law Period. One is to obey it in its entirety (which is impossible) or be guilty of all.

*I recommend a couple of resources on the subject of the Mosaic law:

In Defense of Jesus, the New Lawgiver: John G. Reisinger

Tablets of Stone & the History of Redemption: John G. Reisinger*

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Peter said in Acts 15:

10 Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they. (NKJV)

This is interpretted widely by the commentaries:

Matthew Henry: the law of Moses.
Gill's Exposition: The yoke of the Law
Jamieson Fausset-Brown: an obligation which the more earnest and spiritual men became, the more impossible they felt it to fulfil. (See Ro 3:5; Ga 2:4, &c.).
Elliot's Commentary: Pharisaic traditions

What was the “yoke” that neither the disciples nor their fathers could bear?

I interpret the yoke broadly as all of the above, anything that is not of grace. Peter was making a contrast between yoke and grace with respect to salvation. The old yoke had been replaced by the new yoke in Jesus:

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

As far as salvation is concerned, we no longer depend on the old yoke but the new yoke of grace in Christ.

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It is possible to envision the "yoke" to be an instrument for carrying a heavy burden, perhaps like one that allows a balanced burden on each side that puts the weight on the shoulders, like this:

Human yoke

However, I am more inclined to see it as a yoke such as one would use to join two or more oxen into a team:

Oxen in yoke

Not being able to "bear" such a yoke would mean that the weight that they were pulling was too heavy to pull.

So there were Jewish believers who were teaching that the gentiles would not be saved unless they were circumcised:

[Act 15:1 KJV] (1) And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.

This would be a powerful message because gentiles were always obligated to observe Torah to be admitted to the community:

[Num 15:16 KJV] (16) One law and one manner shall be for you, and for the stranger that sojourneth with you.

However, the new covenant that Jesus ratified in his blood provided for full forgiveness without reference to Torah observance. For those who are justified, the Torah adds nothing to them. In fact, it adds no power to make anyone righteous.

  • Circumcision obligates "yokes one" to Torah observance:

[Gal 5:3 NKJV] (3) And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law.

  • No man can satisfy its requirements in his own strength:

[Rom 5:6 KJV] (6) For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

  • The Torah does not add any power, just drag, so no man can bear it:

[Deu 9:16 KJV] (16) And I looked, and, behold, ye had sinned against the LORD your God, and had made you a molten calf: ye had turned aside quickly out of the way which the LORD had commanded you.

Update

I came across this and it indicates that the "yoke" might be referring to the yoke of the kingdom of God:

...Upon the Red Sea, Israel first sang the praise of God's Kingdom (Ex. R. and Targ. Yer. to Ex. xv. 19), and at Mount Sinai they accepted the yoke of God's Kingdom (Sifra, Ḳedoshim, xi.), just as Abraham did (Book of Jubilees, xii. 19), makingHim King upon earth (Sifre, Deut. 313); each proselyte, in joining Judaism, "takes upon himself the yoke of God's Kingdom (Tan., Lek Leka, ed. Buber, p. 6). The Hebrew slave who declares his wish to be a slave for life has his ear pierced, because "he casts off the yoke of God's Kingdom to bend to the yoke of another sovereignty" (Tosef., B. Ḳ. vii. 5; Yer. Ḳid. 59b). The yoke of God's Kingdom—the yoke of the Torah—grants freedom from other yokes (Abot iii. 4). Especially was it the principle of one party of the Hasidæans, the Zealots, not to recognize as king any one except God (Josephus, "Ant." xviii. 1, § 1, 6; comp. Philo, "Quod Omnis Probus Liber," §§ 12-13, and the prayer Abinu Malkenu—"Our Father, our King, we have no King except Thee!"

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Acts 15 And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”

There is the problem. The question was about what is required for one to be saved? It is well known that circumcision was a torah requirement for one to be acceptable before God.

Genesisi 17 9 Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.............

14 Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

This became a problem after Jesus has risen. How to enterprate the scriptures. Some considered circumcision to be a requirement for salvation hence gentiles were supposed to be circumcized.

Acts 15 10 Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?

God's plan for salvation is simple, doesn't require keeping of old covenant laws. Trying to impose personal requirement in the name of God is testing Him. That is exactly what was happening here.

Now talking about the yoke, it is important to know what OUR FATHERS were unable to bear.

Jeremiah 9:13 Verse Concepts The Lord said, “Because they have forsaken My law which I set before them, and have not obeyed My voice nor walked according to it,

Nehemiah 9:16 Verse Concepts “But they, our fathers, acted arrogantly; They became stubborn and would not listen to Your commandments.

Nehemiah 9:34 Verse Concepts “For our kings, our leaders, our priests and our fathers have not kept Your law Or paid attention to Your commandments and Your admonitions with which You have admonish

Surely Peter isn't establishing something new here, he is just reminding the audience about the difficulties in keeping the law, which is why Jesus came.

James 2:10 - For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one [point], he is guilty of all.

The question here is not only circumcision but the WHOLE LAW. What was to be imposed on gentiles is the same law that our fore fathers failed to keep. Here is what Paul has to say:

Galatians 3 3 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? 2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?

This is the same argument Peter makes to the audience :

Acts 15 7 And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, 9 and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.

This removes the need for gentiles to be saved by observing the law of Moses. That law is the YOKE referred to on this verse.

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In my reading of this passage, the word “yoke” in Peter’s statement does not refer to all the laws of God:

v 10 Now therefore why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear?

The issue of Gentile circumcision in this passage recalls God’s first covenant with Abraham. Circumcision was meant to be a sign of the covenant between God and his people:

  • This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you (Gen 17:10-11)

God’s laws were given for the people’s benefit and to instruct them in the way of righteousness:

  • So the LORD commanded us to follow all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God for our own good always and for our survival, as it is today. 25 And it will be righteousness for us if we are careful to follow all this commandment before the LORD our God (Dt 6:24-25)

Peter only refuted the idea that salvation could be earned by adherence to the law, as was being put forward by some of the Jewish members of the early church:

v 1 Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”

v 11 But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.

The law could also be a heavy and oppressive yoke when tied into heavy burdens and placed on the shoulders of others:

  • Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, 2 saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses. 3 Therefore, whatever they tell you, do and comply with it all, but do not do as they do; for they say things and do not do them. 4 And they tie up heavy burdens and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as their finger. (Mt 23:1-4)

The text of Acts suggests that the requirement for (presumably adult male) converts to undergo circumcision constituted a heavy burden that troubled, disturbed, and unsettled the Gentile Christians:

v 19 Therefore I have reached the decision that we should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God

v 24 Since we have heard that certain persons who have gone out from us, though with no instructions from us, have said things to disturb you and have unsettled your minds

Peter’s speech and James’ statement of the council’s decision affirmed the role of Gentiles as part of God’s plan:

v 7 -9 Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; 9 and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith.

v 15-18 The words of the Prophets agree with this, just as it is written: 16 ‘After these things I will return, And I will rebuild the fallen tabernacle of David, And I will rebuild its ruins, And I will restore it, 17 So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, And all the Gentiles who are called by My name,’ 18 Says the Lord, who makes these things known from long ago.

Thus basing their decision on Scripture and the authority of the Holy Spirit, the council removed the requirement for Gentile converts to undergo circumcision. The Gentiles were also instructed by the council to abstain from practices related to idol worship (Acts 15:20). The implied purpose of the council’s decision was to enable Gentile Christians to attend the Sabbath in the synagogues and thereby have access to the words of Scripture:

v 21 For from ancient generations Moses has those who preach him in every city, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”

The decision of the council made it possible for the Gentile Christians to listen to the words of Moses that were being read in the synagogues every Sabbath. This purpose does not support the conclusion that Gentiles converts were thereby freed from all obligations to the law or the OT Scriptures.

However, the law can constitute an unbearable yoke when it is considered as the means through which salvation is earned. A law can also be a heavy yoke when it is applied indiscriminately, especially when it is at odds with God’s commandment of love:

  • For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love. (Gal 5:6)
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The operative word for "yoke" in Acts 15:10 is ζυγός (zugos) and occurs only six times in the NT, five of which are translated "yoke".

The occurrences of ζυγός describe three different yokes:

1. The Yoke of Jesus in Matt 1128-30

Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

2. The (figurative) Yoke of (literal) slavery

  • 1 Tim 6:1 - All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God's name and our teaching may not be slandered.

3. The figurative yoke of slavery to sin and the law

  • Gal 5:1 - It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Paul explains what he means by this metaphor in the following verses:

2 Take notice: I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3 Again I testify to every man who gets himself circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4 You who are trying to be justified by the law have been severed from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.

5 But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. All that matters is faith, expressed through love.

Thus, Paul is discussing the ceremonial law that pointed to Christ and now that the reality of Christ had come (Heb 10:1), the ceremonial law was unnecessary.

Now to Acts 15:10 - Now then, why do you test God by placing on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear?

What was this yoke - the entire discussion in Acts 15 is clearly stated in Acts 15:5 -

But some believers from the party of the Pharisees stood up and declared, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.”

Thus, the "yoke" was the ceremonial law of Moses. it could NOT have been the moral law because Paul so fulsomely praised the moral law as worthy of being kept (see appendix below)

Thus, Peter is saying in Acts 15:10 that the ceremonial law was an unbearable "yoke" by which people tried to earn God's favour and salvation by being good. Paul spends considerable space to teach that keeping the law (whether moral or ceremonial) cannot earn salvation or God's love (Rom 3:20, 4:6, Eph 2:5, 8-10, Gal 2:16). However, salvation means nothing if the grace of God does not transform us to make us good moral citizens of God's kingdom and commandment keepers, 1 John 5:1-3.

APPENDIX - Paul's (and others') praise of the moral law.

Note carefully - the praise of the moral law should NOT be viewed as an end in itself - that would be legalism and an attempt to be saved by keeping the law. Rather, the law cannot be kept at all but must be the natural outworking of the Spirit in the life of the Christian. That is, Christians do NOT keep the moral law (and so a moral) in order to be saved, but keep the law because they are saved. See Eph 2:8-10.

The law is not abolished (Matt 5:17, 18), “anyone who sets aside one of the least commandments and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:19), “But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one jot of the Law to become void.” (Luke 16:17), the law is essential because “through the law we become conscious of sin” (Rom 3:21, 7:7, 13), “we uphold the law by faith” (Rom 3:31), “the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good” (Rom 7:12), “the law is spiritual” (Rom 7:14), “the law is good” (1 Tim 1:8), keeping the law is to do right (James 2:8). “Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Certainly not! Instead, we uphold the law.” (Rom 3:31). “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law, but under grace? Certainly not!” (Rom 6:15); “we are now slaves of righteousness” (Rom 6:16), or, “slaves to God” (Rom 6:22); “And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the very commandment you have heard from the beginning, that you must walk in love.” (2 John 6); By this we know that we love the children of God: when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:2, 3).

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What was the “yoke” that neither the disciples nor their fathers could bear?

Yoke= [an obligation to keep the Law.]

A dispute took place so the apostles and the elders gathered to look into the matter of circumcision and to ascertain God's will. (Acts 15:5 NKJV ) "But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.”

After much disputing,Peter rose and said:

[Bolt insert in the verse 10 mine]

Acts 16:7-10 NKJV

7 And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 So God, who knows the heart, [a]acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, 9 and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 Now, therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke [an obligation to keep the Law.] on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?

Conclusion:

Yoke= [an obligation to keep the Law.]

God’s acceptance of uncircumcised Gentiles [such as Cornelius]showed that circumcision and keeping the Law were not required for salvation.​

Acts 10:45 (NKJV)

45 And [a]those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.

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I will not claim to fully understand this issue, but I firmly believe that all of the answers I ever hear to this question are disjointed. First of all, Jesus said His yoke was easy and his burden was light, but this was not in contrast to Mosaic law. Moses declared essentially the same thing.

11For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. 12It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 14But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it." (Deut 30:11-14)

I have never seen this quoted in the context of discussions such as this. But Moses was declaring that the Torah (the law) was very doable. Secondly, John says

6whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked. 7Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard." (John 1:6-7)

Jesus kept the Torah scrupulously. If one believes that Jesus is the man on the shroud of Turin, then Jesus even wore phylacteries on his right hand and forehead. He kept all the Jewish feasts. He obviously kept all the ten commandments. And he was undoubtedly circumcised. Why Peter makes that statement in Acts makes no sense to me, but the yoke cannot be the law in itself. To my mind, it makes more sense to view the additions the Jews had made to the law as a better candidate for the heavy yoke.

However, circumcision was clearly part of the law, so that answer also does not satisfy. This is why I said at the outset that I do not fully understand this issue. Nevertheless, I think it is important to dispel the notion that the Mosaic law in itself was particularly burdensome. That is not scriptural.

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Context supplies the answer. Problems had been growing in the Church with Gentiles believing the gospel of Christ, so there was a need for Gentile believers not to offend the Jews, for they could not have been saved without God’s dealings with the Jews (Romans chapter 11, especially verses 22-32). It was never going to be easy, Christians appealing to Jews to consider Jesus as their Messiah, but when the Jews saw Gentiles becoming Christians, that would have been particularly offensive to them, given their separateness from Gentiles.

As if that was not difficulty enough, there were now problems blending Gentile Christians in with Jewish Christians, some of whom stated that the Gentiles must be circumcised (and thereby obliged to keep the whole Mosaic Law – Acts 15:1). That is why (in Romans chapter 14) Paul exhorts believers not to judge believers who seem weaker in faith than they are. There were many laws dealing with what could be eaten as food, and what could not: “For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God is able to make him stand” (vss. 2-4). Then he chastises Christians who would judge fellow Christians who did not observe special days as did they (vss. 5-12). “Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling-block, or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way” (vs. 13) concluding regarding matters of eating and drinking, “for whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (vs. 23).

The context for Acts chapter 15 is Paul writing to rebuke those Jewish Christians from Judea who not only were distorting the gospel by trying to tie circumcision to it, but threatening to drag the entire Church back into legalism as a requirement for salvation. That would have prevented the Church standing on Christ alone for salvation as there would have been little discernible difference between them and Jews in matters of religion. If the believers in circumcision had won this ‘fight’, the infant Christian Church would have been (symbolically) strangled by its own umbilical cord.

That is because circumcision was the sign of the old covenant – to be circumcised in Judaism was to oblige yourself to keep the entire Mosaic law. As Matthew Henry puts it regarding Acts chapter 15:

“…now there are those of the sect of the Pharisees who believed… That it is very hard for men suddenly to get clear of their prejudices: those that had been Pharisees, even after they became Christians, retained some of the old leaven… and they had such a jealousy for the ceremonial law, and such a dislike of the Gentiles, that they could not admit the Gentiles into communion with them, unless they would be circumcised, and thereby engage themselves to keep the law of Moses… [Peter’s speech showing that the uncircumcised Gentiles had just as much of the Holy Ghost as did they.] He sharply reproves those teachers (some of whom, it is likely, were present) who went about to bring the Gentiles under the obligation of the law of Moses… (for circumcision was a yoke upon their infant seed.)” [Commentary page 1702. Bold mine]

But Paul clearly taught that Christians were in the new covenant, in Christ’s shed blood. And the matter of blood is an integral part of Paul’s argument that Gentile Christians must not be circumcised, though refraining from that did not negate the wisdom of those Gentile Christians never eating blood, which would have so offended the Jews that they would never consider the Christian gospel. So, when verses 19-20 has Peter standing up to require the Gentile converts not to be polluted by idolatry and fornication, and not to eat blood (as with strangled animals), and from blood, it is because Moses is preached in every synagogue. [See Matthew Henry Commentary page 1703 last column.]

This was designed to pour oil on troubled waters between Jews and Gentiles. “No, circumcision is NOT required for salvation, and neither are legalistic dietary laws, but in order to commend the gospel of Christ to all, especially to Jews, let them see that you keep yourselves from idolatry, fornication, things strangled, and from blood.” This requirement is repeated in Acts 21:25. That chapter, incidentally, shows the continued difficulties experienced by Paul and Barnabas with many thinking they were teaching people not to get their children circumcised nor to keep the customs of Moses (vs. 17 to the end of chapter 21.)

The yoke of the law of Moses was summed up by the act of circumcision, for to submit to that was to submit to an obligation to keep the entire law of Moses. And that would have emasculated the gospel of Christ, whose yoke is easy (Matthew 11:28-29). No wonder Paul exclaimed,

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is required to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace” (Galatians 5L1-4 NIV. Bold mine).

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The yoke here in Acts, is the same one in Jer 30:7-10, NOT THE SAME ONE AS MATTHEW 11:30. There is an easy yoke (the commands of Yah), then there is one which is useless, a tiring chain, a form of condemnation which we need to be freed. Paul and David which are likely more Godlier than any men alive today, both said they delighted in the law of God, called it Holy, and Perfect. This is not the ball and chain we need to be freed from. It’s the unforgiven penalty of breaking that law out of ignorance, if yet it still be unforgiven... Or if your keeping the law for salvation, you have the heavy yoke, and very well may be fallen from Grace. Even the Saints of old stood by faith, not law keeping ability. Hebrews’s “hall of Faith” is proof of this.

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The yoke refers to the obligation to keep the Torah, entirely and perfectly. One cannot choose to obey whatever he wishes to keep of the Torah. Once one swears to keep the Torah, they must keep it entirely and perfectly, otherwise they come under the curse of the Law.

Gal. 3:10
10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.
New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982.

For this reason, keeping the Torah (as it was intended to be kept) was the yoke which neither the disciples nor the fathers could bear.

The rabbis often referred to the keeping of the Torah as a yoke.

Avot 3.5
רבי נחוניה בן הקנה אומר, כל המקבל עליו עול תורה, מעבירין ממנו עול מלכות ועול דרך ארץ; וכל הפורק ממנו עול תורה, נותנין עליו עול מלכות ועול דרך ארץ.

Rabbi Nechunia ben Hakkana says, “Everyone who receives upon himself the yoke of the Torah, they remove from him the yoke of government and the yoke of the way of the earth. And everyone who breaks from himself the yoke of the Torah, they place upon him the yoke of government and the yoke of the way of the earth.”
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The yoke was the law itself, not the additional corrupt traditions of the rabbis & legalistic spirit of keeping the law. He was warning against the law, not against the enemy unbelieving pharisees. The Law of Moses was very strict and hard to keep, that is not to say it was impossible to be kept. Things that must have started as hygienic practice to avoid diseases became strict rituals of cleanliness and purification. Laws of about 613 total commandments dictated every day life of a Jew from diet to the law of clothing that forbid mixing two kinds of fabric.

Lev 19:19“.. You shall not let your cattle breed with a different kind. You shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor shall you wear a garment of cloth made of two kinds of material.

Deut 22:9“You shall not sow your vineyard with two kinds of seed, lest the whole yield be forfeited, the crop that you have sown and the yield of the vineyard. 10You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together. 11You shall not wear cloth of wool and linen mixed together. (ESV)

Smith's Bible Dictionary, Purification: in its legal and technical sense, is applied to the ritual observances whereby an Israelite was formally absolved from the taint of uncleanness. The essence of purification, in all eases, consisted in the use of water, whether by way of ablution or aspersion; but in the majora delicta of legal uncleanness, sacrifices of various kinds were added and the ceremonies throughout bore an expiatory character. Ablution of the person and of the clothes was required in the cases mentioned in Leviticus 15:18; 11:25; 11:40; 15:18; 17. In cases of childbirth the sacrifice was increased to a lamb of the first year, with a pigeon or turtle‐dove (Leviticus 12:8). The ceremonies of purification required in cases of contact with a corpse or a grave are detailed in Numbers 19:1)… The purification of the leper was a yet more formal proceeding, and indicated the highest pitch of uncleanness. The rites are described in Leviticus 14:4-32. The necessity of purification was extended in the post‐Babylonian Period to a variety of unauthorized cases. Cups and pots and brazen vessels were washed as a matter of ritual observance (Mark 7:4). The washing of the hands before meals was conducted in a formal manner (Mark 7:3). What play have been the specific causes of uncleanness in those who came up to purify themselves before the Passover (John 11:55) or in those who had taken upon themselves the Nazarites' vow (Acts 21:24; 21:26) we are not informed. In conclusion it may he observed that the distinctive feature. In the Mosaic rites of purification is their expiatory character. The idea of uncleanness was not peculiar to the Jew; but with all other nations simple ablution sufficed: no sacrifices were demanded. The Jew alone was taught by the use of expiatory offerings to discern to its fullest extent the connection between the outward sign and the inward fount of impurity.

These laws must have aimed to keep the Jewish nation separate and undefined from the pagan sinful nations for their survival and to inculcate objective truth and morality in their mindset with discipline. It is evident that the yoke of the law is heavier in comparison to the new covenant which liberates from the law and its repeated constant rituals and sacrifices (Heb 9-11; Rom 10:4-12). There were things like the ritual uncleanness of various types which they were not guilty of but were forced to be purified. The annual constant sacrifices and the overall difficulties from which the law could not free them. The law could not free from the continuation of the law itself. God freed them from the law with a permanent sacrifice and freedom from the rituals and observations in a superior covenant.

Acts 13:39 and by him everyone who believes is justified (or freed) from all things, from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses. (WEB)

We can only conclude that Peter meant about the difficulty of the law as whole that a new convert should be weary of, as Paul also warned about the curse and bondage (Gal 3:10; 5:1; Deut 27:26) as it is all or nothing. You cannot reform and change the law to your convenience. Peter did not mean anything more than Paul's arguments that it is a good thing to be liberated from it, there is no need to go back to its yoke, as it has been finished and no longer valid form of justification (Rom 11:6; Gal 3:18). He did not mean that the law was worthless, vain and impossible to be kept, but difficult to live under it. The insufficiency, imperfection and difficulty of the law itself (compared to the new covenant) rather than man's inability to keep it, which entails the law being a worthless deception of God i.e. a blasphemy.