As a reminder I am pursuing three questions in my study of the incident which have significant import for understanding Jewish Christianity and Paul’s relationship to it. Those 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” ?
So to Scot's views:
(1) What is Paul’s issue with Peter?
The incident concerns Peter, the first apostle (Matt. 10:2). In its essentials, the event concerns Peter who, in the normal course of affairs, was willing to shed the identifying markers of Judaism (food and table restrictions), perhaps even circumcision and Sabbath observance, to enjoy a new-found fellowship with Gentile Christians, but who also abandoned such a stance when ‘certain men came from James’ (1995:99).
So what was Peter doing? He had previously enjoyed unrestricted social fellowship with the Gentiles, speaking their language, eating their food, drinking their wine, touching their children, and sitting in their homes. When the Jewish nationalists arrived, Peter, perhaps remembering his narrow escape in Jerusalem, reversed his behavior and withdrew from the Gentiles . . . in addition he then began to force Gentile Christians to be circumcised (and to follow Jewish social laws), to reduce the threat of persecution he was beginning to free from these ardent Jewish nationalists (1995:107).
Paul was more than concerned with the ‘contradictory behavior’ of Peter. True, he changed his color, like a chameleon, but changing colors may be necessary at times (see 1 Cor 9:19-23). It is proper, when with Jews, to live like a Jew in order to reach such people. But, when with Gentiles, living like a Jew is wrong (1995:100, emphasis added).
The ‘men from James,’ may have been either Jewish Christians from Jerusalem who were either honestly or falsely representing the position of James, or they may be identical to the circumcision party, in which case they were not Christians. I suspect they were truly from James, though they may not have been representing James with full integrity (1995:104).