Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Antioch Incident

One of the most important texts in Galatians (and for understanding earliest Christianity) is the confrontation in Antioch between Peter and Paul as narrated in Gal. 2.11-14. This is what David Garland has to say about this text:

"If there had been a church bus at Antioch, the Gentiles would always have had to move to the back. In the church building, one might find a Gentile water fountain and a Jewish water fountain and the Gentiles would have had to sit in a special Gentile balcony section. Signs in various areas of the church might warn, "Jews Only, No Gentiles Allowed," and the bulletin logo might announce "Separate but Equal in Christ". In practice, however, the Gentile Christians were considered to be unfit for full equality. The compulsion was subtle but real. If Gentiles wanted to eat the Lord's Supper with Cephas and the other Jewish Christians, they would have to do something to make themselves fit. They would have to become Jews, submit to circumcision and abide by the Jewish dietary regulations. The truth of the gospel, as far as Paul was concerned, does not mix with this kind of compulsion."

David Garland, "Paul's Defense of the Truth of the Gospel Regarding Gentiles (Galatians 2:15-3:22)," RevExp 91 (1994): 170-71.

1 comment:

Glenn said...

Okay, I would like to know if you have read or listened to Don Carson talk about his view on the incident. I really am interested to read more of what he says, but I'm not sure where to find it. Basically, the jist of Carson is this...

James sent men to tell Peter about the persecution that the "circumcision" party was placing on Christians in Jerusalem because of the things that he (Peter) and other Jewish Christians were taking part in such as table fellowship with Gentile Christians. Thus, Peter did not fear these men that James, a ranking church official, sent to him, but he feared the circumcision party that was persecuting Jewish Christians back in Jerusalem.

This is why, according to Carson, that Peter backed off of table fellowship because he was trying to help the Jewish Christians and James not to be persecuted as much. But as we see, Paul knew that this would only further divide the church and hurt the Gentile Christians that God has already brought into the Church, who is the true Jewish family of God that must not be divided.

It's just a hard stretch to imagine that Peter would have become afraid of fellow messengers from James (who was a fellow Christian brother that wrote part of the New Testament). That's why Carson's theory makes so much more sense to me.

What do you think? I would love to hear!