(1) Who are “those of the circumcision”? and (2) What role does James play in the circumstances?
Before one finishes the introduction of his essay the reader encounters Mark’s translation of the Greek phrase tous ek peritomēs (lit. “those of/from the circumcision”). Typically this phrase is translated along the lines of the NIV, “the circumcision group” or the NRSV, “the circumcision faction”. Mark, however, goes his own way by translating the ek with the preposition “for”, thus expressing the adverbial logic of “advocacy”. Hence, he translates this phrase: “the ones for [advocating] circumcision” (2002:284).
It is not just any Jewish group in view—and thus the members circumcised and advocating circumcision as a nor for Jewish people—but an interest group specifically distinguished from other groups of circumcised Jews as advocates of circumcision(2002:288; emphasis his).
This is surely not an overly controversial point [I will take some issue with it later], but Mark doesn’t stop here. He believes the type of advocacy can be delimited further: the circumcision party advocates “proselyte conversion” in conjunction with the prevailing view of the day. This view would be in direct conflict with the “coalition of Jewish believers-in-Jesus”. In sum, Mark claims that “the ones for circumcision” are likely the “representatives of the dominant Jewish communal norms” (2002:289).
One final comment related to the connection between the advocates of circumcision and the “ones from James” is in order. And we can perhaps dispense with the question of the identity of the latter here as well [question two for those keeping score]. Mark sees no compelling reason to regard these entities as one and the same as is often thought. Moreover, while not shutting the door completely to this idea, he largely disregards it as the most likely interpretation with the result that he sees James playing little to no role in the episode. An extended quote will sufficiently bear this out:
Paul does tell us not [sic] what the ones from James were advocating, or even precisely who they were or how they were or were not related to “the ones for circumcision,” but only the part the played in the timing of this incident: Peter began to withdraw and separate himself from eating with these Gentiles in the way that he had been doing so because he feared the ones advocating circumcision, and this occurred after the arrival of certain ones from James. Thus, when I refer to the ones for/advocating circumcision, or the ones that Peter fears, it should be understood that I am not referring to the certain ones who came from James (2002:292; emphasis added).
Dunn, James D.G. 2002. The Incident at Antioch (Gal 2:11-18). In The Galatians Debate: Contemporary Issues in Rhetorical and Historical Interpretation, ed. Mark D. Nanos:199-234. Peabody: Hendrickson
Nanos, Mark D. 2002. What was at Stake in Peter's "Eating with Gentiles" at Antioch. In The Galatians Debate: Contemporary Issues in Rhetorical and Historical Interpretation, ed. Mark D. Nanos:282-318. Peabody: Hendrickson
Sanders, E. P. 1990. Jewish Associations with Gentiles and Galatians 2:11-14. In The Conversation Continues: Studies in Paul & John in Honor of J. Louis Martyn, ed. Robert Tomson Fortna and Beverly Roberts Gaventa:170-88. Nashville: Abingdon Press.