Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Antioch Incident: Richard Hays' View

In preparing to write a post on the issue of James and the Antiochean incident in Galatians 2:11-14, I have decided to address the issue by surveying and critically assessing interpretations of Galatians 2:11-14. I will in each case attend to three questions, although another is no less important and certainly interesting but not relevant for my interests here. The three questions are (1) What is Paul’s issue with Peter? (2) What role does James play in the circumstances? And (3) Who are “those of the circumcision” [lit.] or as in the NIV, “the circumcision group” or in the NRSV, “the circumcision faction”? The question that is not relevant for our interest here is the question of when the incident took place. While the consensus remains that it happened after the Jerusalem council in the early 50’s C.E.—so Acts 15=Gal 2:1-11—no argument is without its problems and I remain persuaded by the view that Gal 2:1-11 is a reference to Luke’s famine visit by Paul and Barnabas in Acts 11. The incident in this scheme took place in 48 A.D. and Paul wrote his missive to churches in southern Galatia in 49 C.E. while on his way to the Jerusalem council.[1]
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I begin with Richard Hays interpretation.[2]

(1) What is Paul’s issue with Peter?
Peter’s hypocrisy (hypokrisei) according to Hays was not that he disregarded “basic Jewish dietary laws by eating meat with blood in it, or pork and shellfish”, because he reasons, “it seems unlikely that such flagrant violations of Jewish norms would have been practiced in Antioch, particularly if the Gentile converts were drawn primarily from the ranks of the ‘godfearers’, who presumably would have already assimilated to Jewish dietary practices”. Instead, Hays suggests that the issue was Peter’s disassociation from the Gentiles at the table. The likelihood of this interpretation is strengthened by Gal 2:12 which speaks not of food per se, but “eating with” the Gentiles. Hays goes on to observe that eating with Gentiles is not forbidden by the Torah, but scrupulous Torah-observant Judeans thought of this as equivalent to eating Gentile food, since their presumption was that all Gentiles were idolaters.

(2) What role does James play in the circumstances?
Hays believes James is the force in the story. This is borne out in various remarks: Hays says that the “men from James” pressured Peter to “stop eating with Gentile believers”; that “James [was] worried that too much fraternization with Gentiles would have bad results”; and that “the response of this fraction at Jerusalem [judean Jewish Christians] was to urge Peter, with the blessing of James, to avoid contact with Gentiles”.

(3) Who are “those of the circumcision”?
Hays while acknowledging the ambiguity of the phrase “those from the circumcision” he appeals to other contexts, namely Rom 4:12, to support the view that this designation denotes Jewish Christians. With no substantial support, Hays hesitantly concludes “it appears that Paul is accusing Peter of fearing other Jewish Christians in Antioch”.

Evaluation
While I find Hays answer to the first question convincing and correct, his answer to the second is lacking textual support. The text says neither that the “men from James” actively pressured Peter “to draw back” from associating with Gentiles, nor that James sent them for this purpose. The text simply states that before the “men from James” arrived Peter associated with Gentiles at the table, but after they arrived he stopped. Thus, the reason for his action could be as much his own fault as that of the guests from Jerusalem. Furthermore, the passage suggests the former (Peter’s own issue) since Paul’s confrontation is solely directed at Peter and those who joined him. One would expect that if Paul’s issue was with those from James his invective would be aimed at not only Peter, but also James and the Jerusalem church who, according to the standard view, were the real cause of the incident. As for his answer to the third question, it seems more reasonable to take ones cue from the immediate context where Paul uses the term to refer to the group that comprises Peter’s missionary scope in 2:7. In this case, clearly the group in view is non-believing Israelites and not Jewish believers in Jesus.

I will address my colleague Scot McKnight’s view in the next post.
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[1] For a similar chronology see Witherington 2004:275.
[2] Hays 2000.
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Works Cited
Hays, Richard B. 2000. The Letter to the Galatians. In NIB, 11:183-348. Nashville: Abingdon Press.

Witherington, Ben. 2004. The New Testament Story. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

12 comments:

Loren Rosson III said...

Joel,

I look forward to this series and hope that you will assess Philip Esler's treatment of Antioch, which I take to be the best available (see my Treachery at Antioch). I think Antioch was about circumcision, not dietary regs, and Paul's charge of "hypocrisy" was, well, an understatement.

Daniel Kirk said...

On point 3, it doesn't look like you're giving context its due.

At the beginning of ch. 2, the issue in Jerusalem is between Paul and a circumcision party within the church ("false brothers").

Also, why does Peter begin to fear "those of the circumcision" only when the men come from James? Peter realizes he needs to be afraid of non-believing Jews only when conservative Jewish Christians come onto the scene?

Hays' take seems to lend more coherence to the passage.

It then also fits well with other references to the conservative Jewish party known as "the circumcision" from both Acts and allusions such as Col 4:11.

My 2 cents...

Joel Willitts said...

Daniel:
Thanks for sharing your prespective. Here are a handful more of my thoughts. I will be writing more on this topic so I will look forward to your interaction as you have time.

(1) You are characterizing the "false brothers" as the circumcision party, but that is not in the text.

(2) I am not saying that there is no connection between the arrival of the "men from James" and Peter's "drawing back", but it is not explicit that the reason he acted the way he did is because these "men" are of the so-called Jerusalem circumcision party and are at the behest of James to check up on Peter's conduct in Antioch.

(3) It is interesting to me to ask why interpreters make the connections they do in "gap filling" details that are left out of the text. It is not as obvious to me what Hays and yourself are suggesting.

(4) It is as entirely possible that at a time shortly after the arrival of men from James, Peter for reasons not mentioned in the text began to fear the non-believing Israelites in Antioch.

Richard Fellows said...

Joel,

Do you equate the men from James with the men from Judea of Acts 15:1? This equation makes sense to me. This IS an important question for our present purposes because Acts 15:24 says that they had not been instructed by the Jerusalem church. This would confirm your own suspicion that James did not send the men with the purpose of putting pressure on Peter (or on anyone else).

It seems that you are still assuming that 'they came' is the original textual variant in Gal 2:12. Why so? How would you explain the origin of the well attested 'he came'?

I am intrigued by your suggestion that those of the circumcision are Jews in general and are not specifically the men from James. I imagine that if Peter had associated too closely with uncircumcised men (particularly if those uncirmcumcised men considered themselves to be sons of Abraham) he could get into trouble with the men from James, and he would worry that the men from James would inform other Judeans in Jerusalem. Peter may have feared that the men from James might leak, and that the wider Jewish population might then turn against him. He could not risk upsetting Jews because he wanted to preach to them (2:7-8). Does this address your point, Danial?

Concerning your 4th point, Joel, in your comment above, I don't think Peter would have feared the Antioch Jews. Josephus tells us the these Jews attracted Gentiles to their services and incorporated them to themselves. The Antioch Jews were tolerant.

You make an interesting observation that Paul tells the Galatians that he opposed Peter but does not say that he opposed the men from James (or for that matter the men from Judea of Acts 15:1 if they are different people). The explanation is surely that Paul is trying to persuade the Galatians that he did not get his gospel from the Jerusalem leaders. The Galatians were thinking that Paul preached non-circumcision just because the Jerusalem leaders had told him to, and that he actually believed in circumcision. He needs to show the Galatians that he preached non-circumcision out of conviction and not merely out of obedience to people like Peter, who had been the driving force behind the inclusion of Gentiles (see Acts). This explains why Paul recounts the Antioch incident. He is saying, "If, as you suggest, I include Gentiles only out of obedience to Peter and not out of conviction, I would not have opposed Peter to his face on the very issue of the inclusion of Gentiles." Therefore, just because Paul does not say that he opposed the men from James, this does not mean that he did not do so.

Richard Fellows.

James Crossley said...

v. quick one...in a rush (but couldn't resist): there's been plenty of criticism of Esler's position (inc. by me!). The reasons I went for food laws are numerous but mainly because whenever there is a problem in Jewish sources with eating with gentiles it is either food or idolatry. The reason why I do not buy the idea that idolatry was the issue is because I can't see how any significant Christian group in Antioch could be accused of idolatry!!

I don't buy the circumcision argument: in the discussion of eating with gentiles in Jewish sources a notable line is that it is possible for Jews and gentiles to eat together so long as the circumstances with the food are fine (e.g. no food banned in the Law, no praising another god etc.).

Joel Willitts said...

Richard, thanks as always. Here are a few thoughts:

(1) At this point, I don't see a clear connection between the Judean christ-believers (Acts 15:1)and the "men from James". This is for two reasons. First, the text is clear that the men in question came from James. We can mitigate this as you do to suggest that in fact they were not sent by him, but that is the one thing that the text does make clear so I am inclined to believe that the men are FROM James. In the context of Gal. their presence is neutral. These folk just arrived. No further mention of their activity is emphasized. We can read into it as Hays does, but why? The focus is not on them at all, but on Peter. Whether this is Paul's presentation of the incident or what "actaully happened" is beyond our reach in my opinion. However, it seems a solid opinion to take these men from James as a neutral group and not inpune them unnecessarily, Paul does not.

(2) My primary interest in this study is to see what role James has in the story becuase it is often the primary evidence for the view that Paul and James were on opposite sides of the Torah-observant continuium. I just don't see it here. I think we agree on this it seems to me.

(3)As for the textual variant, that is curious and I am inclined to argree with the decision of Nestle-Aland.

(3) I appreciate the way you fit the incident into the context of Gal 1-2. I will have more to say on this later, but I don't think that the context demands what you describe, although it is a compelling narrative with much gap filling.

James:
Thanks for your input. It is good to hear from you. Where have you developed your thoughts on this passage? In your dissertation?

Michael F. Bird said...

Joel,

1. I covered the Antioch incident a fair bit in SROG, pp. 119-36.

2. I think circumcision was the issue because of (a) the context in Gal. 2.1-10 that dealt with circumcision, (b) the context of Galatians itself is about circumcision and Paul uses Gal. 2.11-14 as powerful element of his narratio on this topic.

3. Crossley argues that Jews and Gentiles can eat together as long as the food was clean/pure (fine with me). But because of his own view that part of Christianity was non-law observant at this time, he thinks that the issue was adherence to the food laws with Peter and co. abandoning them to the disdain of some Jewish Christians associated with James (that's my off the cuff summary of his "Date of Mark's Gospel", pp. 141-54). I respond by noting: (a) Gentiles observing Jewish food laws was not unknown (Apion 2.282; Juvenal Sat. 14.96-106); (b) In Rom. 14 Paul argues for the "strong" not to offend the weak in their eating; (c) the Pauline opposition is called the "circumcision group" not the "Society for the Elimination of Crackling and Crustations". (d) Circumcision is the termination point of judaizing (see Nanos on this last point).

4. Thus, I conclude with Nanos, Tomson, Esler and others that the issue was the status of Gentiles as uncircumicized and the integrity of Israel's election. The fellowship meals made Gentiles equals and lowered the currency of Israel's election which the certain men from James objected to and this was pertinent in light of the nationalistic atmosphere of Judea in the 40s (see Bob Jewett's famous essay on zealotry and Galatians).

James Crossley said...

Mike's right about the reference but wrong about most other things!!

Mike claims, 'But because of his own view that part of Christianity was non-law observant at this time, he thinks that the issue was adherence to the food laws with Peter and co. abandoning them'. Actually, my view of non-observance/observance is irrelevant here. My argument would work with either circumcision or food laws. I just so happen to think the food laws issue is far more plausible.

As for Mike's point (2) an example of imposing the law (say food) from a concrete historical example would work perfectly well in Galatians. I mean, really, if there was a serious issue lover food at Antioch, why couldn't Paul use it? Why do the historical situations at Antioch and in Galatia have to be so precisely identical?

Yes, of course some gentiles could/would observe food laws, but so what? Plenty did not. Plenty found it odd. Mike. you counter argument would only work in the utterly crazy scenario of a monolithic entity of 'gentiles' who all behaved the same!!

Mike's reference to Rom. 14 is also irrelevant. The context of imposing the law is the big issue in Galatia and not in Romans. Paul's logic is to keep the unity and if people want to observe food laws when not in a position of imposing on others then no problem. That's an old and basic argument I'd have thought.

Mike's view on the name (circumcision group) is irrelevant too. It is an obvious ethnic marker to distinguish Jew and gentile. If you want to contextualise it, remember the overall issue in Galatia. That doesn't mean the situation in Antioch was the same.

On 'circumcision is the termination point of judaizing', again, so what?

What is 'the nationalistic atmosphere of Judea in the 40s' and how do you measure it, esp. i distinction from other surrounding decades?

And what about all those primary sources about Jew and gentiles eating together? That material needs to be discussed.

Geoff Hudson said...

Gal 2:12 to 2:14a is interpolated dissimulation. And thus the issue had nothing to do with eating, Gentile sinners or circumcision. Mention of Peter and Antioch (2.11)was also dissimulation.

I suggest that the confrontation referrred to in 2.11 was between James (the writer) and Ananus, James' eventual executioner. Also that the confrontation was in Rome when Ananus visited with letters of introduction to the synagogues from the high priest, possibly his father Ananias. Thus it was when Ananus came to Rome, "I opposed him to his face", not "when "Peter came to Antioch". Considering 2.12to 2.14a as fabricated interpolation, the writer continued, "I said to Ananus in front of them all" (2.14). So what did James say to the high priest Ananus? A clue to the lies in 2.16. where the the Pauline edited version is: "A man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ". Thus I suggest that James said to Ananus, "a man is not cleansed by sacrifices but by the Spirit. The issue was entirely a Jewish one about cleansing, either by animal sacrifices according to the temple cult of the priests, or by the infilling of the Spirit according to the prophets. It was the source of civil unrest, persecution of the prophets by the messianic priests, and the intervention by the Romans under Nero in a war against the priests.

Richard Fellows said...

Thanks, Joel and others. It's a fascinating discussion.

In Gal 1:10-24 Paul attempts to demonstrate that he had not received his gospel from men. In 1:18 he says that the went up to Jerusalem and met no apostles other than Peter and James. In 1:19-24 he explains that he preached his gospel in Syria and Cilicia before he had had any further contact with the Judean believers. Now, it seems to me that Paul's argument up to this point has a hole in it. He is vulnerable to the rebuttle, "But you DID meet with Peter and James so you could have got your gospel from them". Gal 2:1-14 must therefore contain Paul's defence against that rebuttle. This is confirmed by the fact that 2:1-14 focusses on James and Peter. This is surely no coincidence.

Now, if Peter and James were opponents of Paul's gospel, Paul would have said so as proof that he could not have got his gospel from them. Instead Paul writes that they did not mean anything to him and that they added nothing to him(2:7), and that he opposed Peter to his face publically. With these points Paul demonstrates that he preached his gospel out of conviction and not out of obediance to Peter and James. He thus fills the hole that 1:18 leaves open. All this shows that Peter and James were on the same page as Paul on the Gentile question.

Concerning the question of whether the issue in Antioch was dietary laws or circumcision, it is interesting that Paul does not make it clear. This shows that for Paul's present purposes it did not matter very much. Paul's point here is that he was not a subordinate of Peter when it comes to issues concerning the inclusion of Gentiles. Paul did not need to be more precise about the nature of the controversy because it did not effect his argument.

Concerning the men from James (whom I take to be the men from Judea of Acts 15:1,24), allow me to clarify my position. I DO think that James sent them. I just don't think that James endorsed their pro-circumcision view. The policy of James and the elders towards the circumcision party was one of conflict avoidance (see Acts 21:18-24). Therefore I can imaging that this group of Judeans would meet with James and would come away believing that he was on their side and would then give the Antioch church the impression that they had the backing of James. This is why Jerusalem had to state in their letter that the men had not been instructed by them (Acts 15:24). This, at least, is how it seems to me.

Concerning the textual variants in Gal 2:12, Nestle-Aland were not aware of the possibility that Peter went to Antioch twice. This suggestion was made only in 2006 by Stephen Carlson and it changes everything.

Richard Fellows.

Geoff Hudson said...

1.13 beginning "For" to 1.24 ending "me" is fabricated interpolation about the fictitious 'Paul', as implied by the editor's giveaway line "what I am writing to you is no lie." Pointedly, the editor wanted to locate James in Jerusalem thus: "I saw none of the other apostles - only James, the lord's brother." I suggest that the reality was that James was with his brother Simon in Rome where they had travelled to a number of years previously having been banished from their homeland by the high priests.

Eric Zuesse said...

Joel,

When your comment at 4:57 PM on January 23rd says "It is not explicit that the reason he acted the way he did is because these 'men' are of the so-called Jerusalem circumcision party and are at the behest of James to check up on Peter's conduct in Antioch," this observation actually supports instead of weakens the view "that the reason he acted the way he did is because these 'men' are of the so-called Jerusalem circumcision party and are at the behest of James to check up on Peter's conduct in Antioch."

When a witness is being cross-examined on the witness stand, legal/forensic practice is to hone in precisely on gaps in the witness's account, to fill in those gaps as being the likeliest portions of the person's historical account to contain whatever the witness prefers not to reveal to the court about the given incident being narrated unless forced to reveal it to the court.

This passage, Galatians 2:11-16, is full of unstated things that are crucial to making sense of it; as usual, what's implicit in it is far more important to accurately reconstructing the event than is what's explicit in it. To dismiss the implicit and focus instead only on the explicit is to serve as the lawyer for that witness in direct examination of him, not as the lawyer against that witness in his cross-examination, and therefore your orientation here is to take Paul's side unquestioningly, which is hardly justifiable from a scientific standpoint, where the objective is to get to the bottom of things, and especially to get to truths that the given witness might prefer to hide. Because that's where important things are revealed.

You are taking the position of faith, but the scientific approach is always skeptical, always on the side opposing any witness, regardless whether for the defense or for the prosecution, because science tries to get to the bottom of things.

Paul in Galatians is clearly and explicitly testifying against what today's scholars improperly call "the Judaizers," a phrase which has no scientific place in discussing these matters, and which again is based solely upon faith, specifically faith that Paul was supporting Jesus's views, and that Paul's opponents were not. If Paul's opponents were supporting Jesus's views, then Christianity, or what we know from Paul and his followers who wrote the canonical Gospels and who determined which documents to cannonize, is actually against Jesus's views.

Did Paul meet and discuss with and try to help Jesus? No, Paul merely claimed to have had a "vision" of Jesus, and, in 2 Corinthians 12:1-7 he admitted "I do not know whether this actually happened" or was merely "a vision." Paul wrote this, according to his own account there, 14 years after the event, or at some time between the year 44 and the year 47. In other words, only after he wrote this passage did Paul start insisting that his "vision" of Jesus represented his definitely encountering Jesus's ghost. At least as late as the year 47, Paul was willing to admit that he might not actually have met Jesus's ghost. Something happened between that time and the subsequent writings from Paul, which caused Paul to insist in those subsequent writings, that he really had met Jesus's ghost, the supposed risen Jesus.

By contrast, Galatians starts out, in 1:1, with Paul identifying himself as having definitely met Jesus's ghost. 1:18 says that three years after he met Jesus's ghost he went to Jerusalem to meet, for the first time, the people who had actually been Jesus's apostles, and who had personally known and served Jesus's cause, whatever that was (regardless whether it was Jesus's having started a new Jewish sect, or Jesus's having started a new religion). Regardless of whether Jesus's group constituted a new Jewish sect, or a new religion, those apostles were it, when Paul joined the group.

But now, in Galatians, Paul is saying that his authority doesn't come from them, but rather it comes from "Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from death."

Wow! I'm sorry: I don't buy it. Paul lies through his teeth here, right at the outset of Galatians, and having faith in what he says is only religion, not science at all: It can be taken only on faith.

What Paul implies but does not explicitly state is vastly more important, and not less important, such as you assume to be the case. One of the things which Paul implies but does not state is that, at the sequence of events which he recounts in Galatians 2, and which, according to his account occurred 14 years after his supposed encounter with "Christ," the person who made the decisions as the group's leader was Jesus's brother James. Why else did Peter back away from the table when James's agents unexpectedly arrived, and why else did Barrnabas join them against Paul? This action by Peter and the others displays James's supremacy, and doesn't merely assert his supremacy.

Another thing that's implied but not explicitly stated is that, whatever James's decision had been at the just-completed Jerusalem conference, he had now sent Peter to tell Paul that James had changed his mind and that Paul would now have to impose the covenant upon his followers after all.

What's crucial is to understand why James changed his mind, and what he had changed his mind about. Some say that the reason is the food laws, some say it's the circumcision law, but only if one infers that it's about circumcision can sense be made of Galatians, and of Paul's entire breakaway from Jesus's group and the creation of Christianity.

Paul's followers said that Jesus had appointed Peter and not James to be the group's leader, but Galatians was written too early for that lie to persuade anybody (everyone could see then that James was the group's leader), and so Galatians 2:12 displays (even though it doesn't explicitly state) James's leading the Jesus sect of Jews. In legal/forensic practice, things that a witness's comments display are considered as far likelier to be true than what the witness explicitly asserts. The cross-examining lawyer would ask Paul such questions as, "Why was Peter afraid of being seen by James's agents to be dining with Paul's uncircumcised men?"

Galatians 2:11-21 describes the event which started Christianity, the occasion when Paul, who for seventeen years, from about the years 32-49, had been accumulating more Gentile "converts" to Judaism than was any other Jesus-follower, was finally ordered to have them all circumcised -- subjected to a medically unnecessary medical operation at a time before the invention of either anesthesia or antibiotics, and when such an operation was therefore a terrifying mortal threat, something which Jews could easily impose upon 8-day-old infants, but not upon adult Gentile males who had a choice whether to undergo this medical operation or not.

Paul knew, at this moment, which came immediately after the Jerusalem conference: he would either have to comply with the command and lose his many "converts," or else to get out of the sect and transition his followers from Judaism (into which he had originally "converted" them) into his own entirely new religion, which replaced the Jewish covenant by an entirely new covenant with God, in which mere Christ-faith would achieve what even obedience to God's laws would not: personal salvation.

Paul's enemies are the Jesus-followers, but Paul cannot explicitly acknowledge this, because to do that would send his own followers fleeing this con man who had originally sold them on Judaism. The probably thousands of Paul's followers would be lost to him, and, as Paul admitted in Galatians 2:2, he didn't want his entire and phenomenally successful 17-year career as a salesman for the sect to crash in ignominy and to leave him with merely ashes for all his years of work.

However, James was likewise faced now with a crisis: His sect depended upon the financial contributions coming in from the economically far better-off and far larger number of people within Paul's many congregations. As Paul explicitly stated in Galatians 2:10, "They asked only that our congregations continue providing these contributions to the poor Jesus-followers, which I intended to do anyway."

According to legal/forensic methodology, Acts is far less reliable than is such a letter directly from Paul. However, in keeping with legal/forensic methodology, one may cite Acts not to formulate a theory of the case, but only to expand upon a theory of the case which has been formulated according to the higher quality evidence, in this case from Galatians. And applying this rule, the description that Acts 15 provides of this Jerusalem conference can be accepted as filling in some details which Paul left out of Galatians: specifically, the detail that Peter had defended Paul's practice of admitting uncircumcised men into the group, and that James made the ultimate decision for the group and said "We should not unnecessarily burden Gentiles who wish to join God's People [i.e, to become Jews]." Furthermore, Acts 15:1-2 explicitly asserted that the issue to be decided by this conference was whether adherence to Judaism's signature-commandment, Genesis 17:14, was obligatory. There's no hedging here about what the issue was: it was whether God meant it when he said "No uncircumcised man will be one of my people." On the one side, James's group depended financially upon Paul's numerous uncircumcised followers, and so those men couldn't be simply expelled as non-members. But on the other hand, Genesis 17:13 was as clear as it could be: "Each one of you must be circumcised, and this will be your signature in blood showing that our contract together is eternal." That, according to the Jewish legend, was the earliest of God's commandments and constituted God's offering of the covenant to his people for them to sign and to bring Judaism into effect. This contract demanded not merely that it be signed, but that it be followed. A signature, mere circumcision, wasn't enough to make one a member of God's People; one also had to comply with the contract. That's Judaism. It's what all Jews, including Jesus, believed. Jesus's followers believed it, but Paul now was being forced to choose whether to stay in the religion and have all his work turn to ashes, or else to tactfully and skillfully transition his followers away from Judaism into his own entirely new religion.

Paul's biggest threat now came from Jews -- not only from the Jesus-following ones, but from all Jews, because they were being insulted when Paul now asserted that personal salvation can now be won at far easier a price than the covenant: mere-Christ-faith will do, said Paul, starting in the year 49, in Antioch, at the event which Paul recounts in Galatians 2:11-21. Paul described there the actual event that created Christianity.

According to Paul's follower who wrote Acts, Acts 16:3 asserts that notwithstanding James's reluctant continued acceptance of uncircumcised "converts" in the immediate wake of the Jerusalem conference, Paul still, in what for him was a highly atypical act, had his assistant Timothy circumcised "because everyone knew that his father was Greek." Oddly, though James had supposedly said that circumcision would not be demanded, it evidently was now being demanded, right in the wake of the Jerusalem conference. Could this be because, in fact, James had changed his mind right after the conference? Would Paul necessarily have told his follower, "Luke," about that change-of-mind? Would it have been foolish if he had told him about it?

Acts 21:21, and forward, alleges that Paul's new doctrine of Christ-faith replacing the covenant was producing riots against him by Jews, and not just by Christ-following ones, but by Jews more broadly.

Paul was saying that the salvation which Jews had to work so hard to win was being granted by God to Gentiles -- and really to anyone at all -- at a far cheaper price. Is it not to be expected that Jews would riot against such a person?

However, would James have wanted to become explicit and to send a letter around to all of Paul's congregations publicly ordering them to either go under the knife or else get out of the sect? Could he even have afforded to do so?

The result was the vagueness that pervades the New Testament -- the writings of Paul and his followers. However, the earliest-written documents are the most revealing. Philippians 3:1-8 expresses Paul's rage against "those evildoers, mere dogs, who insist upon cutting the body. We and not they have received the true circumcision." He says "Your safety is at stake." All of his men knew it; he didn't need to tell them; Paul was saying: I'm with you, and they're against you. Paul even called Judaism there "waste-matter," which he had given up for the sake of Christ.

Galatians 1:13-14 even says that Paul used to be a Jew but isn't any longer, and that when he was a Jew, he persecuted Jesus's followers mercilessly, on account of Judaism's commandments.

Galatians 1:6-9 says that Paul's gospel has never changed, even though 2 Corinthians 12:1-7 shows otherwise, and 1 Thessalonians 4:1-17 exhibits a transitional two-gospels approach because it was written in the immediate wake of the event that created Christianity. Paul was furious there against Jews, and in 1 Thessalonians 2 he told his followers, transitioning from their adopted Judaism into the new Christian faith, that Jews are their enemies; he climaxed that passage by saying that the Jews killed Christ and are hated by God. His followers who wrote the Gospels put narrative meat on those bones.

Paul created Western Civilization, and that's how he did it, and why, and when, and where.

In 1 Corinthians 9:19-27, written either prior to the event that created Christianity or else shortly thereafter, Paul told his Gentile "converts" that Jews who had been born to Judaism and circumcised were slaves to the Law, and that Paul's followers were not, and should emulate himself: "I live like a Jew in order to win them," but "when working with Gentiles, I live like a Gentile, outside the covenant. So, I become all things to all men, in order to win the prize, which will last forever."

And so he did. He chose success over Jesus, and he succeeded: he won.

But this isn't what faith says. It's what science says: Christianity started in Antioch, in the year 49 or 50, when Paul perpetrated a coup d'etat against Jesus's brother James, who was the leader of the new Jewish sect that Jesus had begun. Paul couldn't afford to be explicit about it, and neither could James, but that's what happened.

As I said at the start, things that a document displays or implies are more trustworthy than things the same document explicitly asserts. Moreover, that is especially the case when what is said and what is displayed are in conflict with one-another, as is often the situation in Paul's letters.