As I have already on more than one occasion suggested in earlier posts, I wish to propose that the issue here is not what was eaten (traditional view), or how (the manner in which) it was eaten (Nanos’ view), but where it was eaten. The contextual marker for this is the verb “withdrew”: Peter and the other Jews who followed his lead “withdrew” from eating with the non-Jewish believers in Jesus. It is possible that the description is meant to be a figure of speech, but it is not obviously so. What if we take it to be a concrete depiction of the event: Peter left the meals. In this way, Peter’s action of which Paul so vehemently opposed was a departure from a place where the shared meals were eaten. If the space was Jewish space to where would they have withdrawn? Would not they have had to force the non-Jews to depart? This may appear to some to be an overly literal reading of the text, but I am growing persuaded that the verb “to withdraw” is more than simply a figure of speech in this context and becomes something of a key that better explains the other elements. Furthermore, the idea of a concrete withdraw can be substantiated by an appeal to Luke’s account in Acts, however controversial that may be. If one allows Luke’s narrative to have an influence here then it makes good sense of Paul’s strong rebuke of Peter.
Acts 10—11 make clear the issue at stake in Peter’s ministry to Cornelius’ household was association: the right for a Jew to enter the home of a non-Jew, even one who is a god-fearer (see 10:28). Peter’s vision corrected an apparently longstanding view that it was against law to enter the home of a non-Jew. God makes clear that this is to be no concern of Peter and he subsequently visits Cornelius at his home. This raises the concern of the Jerusalem church so a meeting is called and Peter is called to account. After his testimony the church agrees that God does not make distinctions between Jew and non-Jew and in essence a halakic principle of association is set forth that makes it appropriate for Christ-believing Jews to fellowship in the homes of non-Jewish god-fearing believers in Jesus.
On this reading, Peter and the other Jewish believers in Jesus by withdrawing from fellowship with Gentiles, presumably from fellowship in the Gentile’s own social space, were not only implying that these Gentiles needed to be judaized (2:14)—and I take this to mean not only to become circumcised but more importantly for this context to live in such a way as to create a conducive Jewish social space for intimate social intercourse—but disregarding the direct revelation from the Lord.
I think then when the context of Gal 2:11-14 is carefully considered and allowed to rightfully define the clause “living like a Gentile” (2:14), it seems to me that the clause connotes association—or lack of. In another context the description may mean something very different since “living like a Gentile” is ambiguous when disconnected from a particular context, as is “living like a Jew”. I agree that our source materials suggest that it was possible for one to live Jewishly and eat with Gentiles but it appears that the “eating with” was acceptable under certain conditions at least for some more scrupulous Jews; that is: in a controlled Jewish social space. While I am well aware that there was not one view on levels of association in the first century, clearly there were strong views of separation by some groups at least in Judea. Luke's evidence suggests there were such views among even the common folk such that Peter states it is "unlawful for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him" (10:28). Cornelius was a god-fearer so he must have had social intercourse with Jews, but it seems as if the issue rested on the place of that intercourse. E.P. Sanders voices this perspective on the situation in the Second Temple period:
Jewish food laws permitted them [Jews] to entertain Gentiles, but not to accept Gentile hospitality (unless the Gentiles could provide Jewish food and wine). The new result of this one-sided possibility would be very little entertaining of the one by the other. Social intercourse among equals involved reciprocity (1990:181; cf. Dunn 2002:209, emphasis added).
While this view is perhaps closest to Nanos’ reading, I remain unconvinced of his assertion that the issue was “how” these meals were conducted since it is unclear to me how an outsider could tell in Jewish social space that Jews were treating god-fearing Gentiles with a higher respect than was appropriate to their position. He did not provide evidence that showed concretely how this would be observed. In an earlier post Isuggested the possibility in jest of a bouncer at the door of the house who said “Drop’um!” I think the verb “withdraw” has real traction when taken concretely. Peter was eating with Gentiles in Gentile social space (as he did with Cornelius), but then withdrew from those situations. I agree with Nanos' point, however, that Paul's answer to the problem is an affirmation of the Gentile identity as equal members of the eschatological age. Interestingly, Paul's central idea in Galatians 2:15-21 is reminiscent of that of Acts 11:17-18.