Did Paul take a Nazirite vow? If no, then what type of vow? Was that wrong to make/do the vow?


The type of vow is not so much the issue as is the fact that he took a vow in order to secure the audience and confidence of fellow Jews in Jerusalem. For this action - whatever vow it was, violated the grace of God and contaminated Paul’s message of the gospel. For if the Jews had accepted Paul’s action they would have interpreted his message of the gospel to include human doing such as taking a vow. Lordship people do this all the time - insert human doing into what a man must do to have eternal life]


I notice that everything was fine until some enemies of Paul showed up in Jerusalem. So then who should Paul have been pleasing, James and his group, men from Asia, or live as a Gentile?


He should have been sticking to his duty of proclaiming the gospel clearly and cleanly without trying to be popular, accepted, etc.


Why is there an assumed distinction between the Jews and Gentile Believers' lifestyle requirements there in Acts 21?


This is the typical problem of minding one’s own private priesthood and not someone else’s or some other group of people. Each believer and each group of believers has their own walk before the Lord and God will deal with each individually. The Jewish believers of the early church had their struggle with holding on to legalism which came out of a misapplication of the Mosaic Law in such a way that it opposed the grace of God in their view of salvation and the Christian life. This contaminated their presentation of the gospel and the Christian life to others - which included the Gentiles. And so did the Gentiles do the same relative to their former way of life, pagan practices and attitudes.]


[Num. 6:2-5]:

(v. 2) "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: `If a man or woman wants to make a special vow, a vow of separation to the LORD as a Nazirite,

(v. 3) he must abstain from wine and other fermented drink and must not drink vinegar made from wine or from other fermented drink. He must not drink grape juice or eat grapes or raisins.

(v. 4) As long as he is a Nazirite, he must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, not even the seeds or skins.

(v. 5) " `During the entire period of his vow of separation no razor may be used on his head. He must be holy until the period of his separation to the LORD is over; he must let the hair of his head grow long.

(v. 6) Throughout the period of his separation to the LORD he must not go near a dead body.

(v. 7) Even if his own father or mother or brother or sister dies, he must not make himself ceremonially unclean on account of them, because the symbol of his separation to God is on his head.

(v. 8) Throughout the period of his separation he is consecrated to the LORD.

(v. 13) " `Now this is the law for the Nazirite when the period of his separation is over. He is to be brought to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting.

(v. 14) There he is to present his offerings to the LORD: a year-old male lamb without defect for a burnt offering, a year-old ewe lamb without defect for a sin offering, a ram without defect for a fellowship offering,

(v. 15) together with their grain offerings and drink offerings, and a basket of bread made without yeast--cakes made of fine flour mixed with oil, and wafers spread with oil.

(v. 16) " `The priest is to present them before the LORD and make the sin offering and the burnt offering.

(v. 17) He is to present the basket of unleavened bread and is to sacrifice the ram as a fellowship offering to the LORD, together with its grain offering and drink offering.

(v. 18) " `Then at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, the Nazirite must shave off the hair that he dedicated. He is to take the hair and put it in the fire that is under the sacrifice of the fellowship offering.

(v. 19) " `After the Nazirite has shaved off the hair of his dedication, the priest is to place in his hands a boiled shoulder of the ram, and a cake and a wafer from the basket, both made without yeast.

(v. 20) The priest shall then wave them before the LORD as a wave offering; they are holy and belong to the priest, together with the breast that was waved and the thigh that was presented. After that, the Nazirite may drink wine.

(v. 21) " `This is the law of the Nazirite who vows his offering to the LORD in accordance with his separation, in addition to whatever else he can afford. He must fulfill the vow he has made, according to the law of the Nazirite.' "

[Judges 16:17]:

'''So he told her everything. "No razor has ever been used on my head," he said, "because I have been a Nazirite set apart to God since birth. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man." '''


Sounds like there were temporary Nazerite vows and lifetime ones????? But the point of Paul was that He was still a Jew and what forbid a Jew from practicing the Law commands? Acts 15 only settled the lifestyle of Gentile believers. What are some proofs that Paul and Jewish believers were not to continue with their lifestyle as set forth for the nation of Israel at that time?


The doctrines of the Christian life as expounded in the epistles. Consider Romans 12-15

Note that there is a difference between the hundreds of rules the Pharisees developed and the true ones given by Moses.

Paul clearly understood that salvation didn't come by doing those things just as we understand that living the commands of Christ (love one another, etc) will never bring salvation, but that those are the commands we who are saved are to live by.


[Acts 18:18]:

"Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchrea because of a vow he had taken."


Was his hair cut off at the end of a NazIrite vow period or for a different reason? Interesting isn't it that it is a shame for a woman to have her head shaved.


Perhaps sending an unintentional message is the key issue - if a woman shaved her head in those days it usually meant that she was caught being a prostitute. This bald appearance of a woman would interfere in her witness for Christ as wearing tatoos and men with long hair does today. The issue is to not endanger the reception of the gospel and the doctrines of the faith because of issues that would detract unnecessarily from the message - even inconsequential issues]

[Acts 21:17-24]:

(v. 17) "When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers received us warmly.

(v. 18) The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present.

(v. 19) Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.

(v. 20) When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: "You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law.

(v. 21) They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs.

(v. 22) What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come,

(v. 23) so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow.

(v. 24) Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everybody will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law."


Notice that the early church was still steeped in legalism. Even the leaders! It’s a wonder that any of them were saved - but by the grace of God. Just as individuals today get saved out of such denominations such as the Church of Christ, the RC Church, Mormanism, JW’s, etc. It only takes a moment of faith alone in Christ alone to slice through all that legalism, but a lifetime to discard all of the legalism.]

(v. 25) As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality."

(v. 26) The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them.

(v. 27) When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him,

(v. 28) shouting, "Men of Israel, help us! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple area and defiled this holy place."

(v. 29) (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple area.)"


Interesting that there is no mention that what they are doing is taking a Nazirite vow, but rather a CUSTOM. The vow sounds very similar but is it truly Nazirite? Should even the vow that Paul took in Acts 18 be called a Nazirite one? Was it was common for Jewish believer to take a vow for something?


By the time of Paul, Judaism was largely unscriptural and legalistic.

A few churches now have some rather strange customs. I find the "altar calls" offensive. I heard of churches that are members only type on all things, Lord's Supper included. Some claim Lord's supper is to be done every time believers gather, etc. Some want to sing the Doxology a lot, etc.

Because it appeared that bad came from Paul doing the temple thing in Acts 21, then God set him aside. That God even had Paul tossed in prison as a result. Nothing in the text indicates that conclusion jump! In fact, it was while Paul was in Prison that he wrote some of the N.T. So actually Paul's ministry was expanded and given greater depth. Interesting that Martin Luther translated much of the Bible into the common German language while held hidden away. Yes, I would like to say Paul was wrong in listening to James and his bunch.... But if we recall it was already told Paul he was going to go to prison when he went to Jerusalem, and that it appeared God's plan was that the Gospel would be taken to the very inner courts of Rome, then why is it wrong how God accomplished that?

It is sad that man is at his best spiritually when he is under God’s discipline or testing.

I like the dymanics of that event, Paul does a rather stupid but seeming right thing. It blows up in his face JUST ABOUT when he has pulled it off! And then the situation goes from bad to worse. But notice the longer good that happens, Paul witnesses to government big wigs! Then to soldiers on a ship, finally in Rome. He writes letters that we have, new leadership is developed and take over. Paul realizes that Jesus may not return in his lifetime! But it appears that the ones doing wrong were not Paul or James and his group but the ones from Asia. What might come into play is that as long as what you are doing is your conviction of what God wants you to do and isn't being done for salvation, nor breaks a clear command of Christ, then I have no right to condemn it or to impose it on others.

Now suppose that the Gentile churches had not been shown the fallibility of the Jerusalem church? What could have been? Suppose Paul would have not been taken out of active ministry, what would have been different? What cultic tendencies might have developed? Well, that's a few random quick thoughts.