Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Peter Tomson on Gal. 2.11-14

The two most persuasive cases that I've read on Gal. 2.11-14 are by Mark Nanos and Peter Tomson. Note these quotes from Tomson (pp. 222-30):

"The agreement involved mutual trust and respect: neither party would interfere with the commission of the other. Paul could expect the others not to intervene in his 'Law-free gospel' for gentiles, just as James and Peter could count on his non-involvement with their Law-abiding gospel to the Jews. This conclusion is utterly important: Paul implies here that his 'Law-free gospel' for Galatian gentiles was founded on his respect for Law-observance by Jewish Christians. All would be well as long as two separate domains remained. Problems might arise where they overlapped, or in other words, where Jews and gentiles were living and eating together, as at Antioch. Thus the question was: can Jews and gentiles eat together without endangering either the Law-observance of the former or the freedom from the Law of the latter? James' representatives apparently thought they could not, but Paul and Barnabas, as well as other Antioch Jews and Peter, thought they could. According to Gal 2:11-13 the majority of Jews of Antioch, as Peter and Barnabas and also Paul, thought it possible for Jews and gentiles to eat together without transgressing the Jewish Law."

"The conclusion is that here Paul does not urge Peter to join him again in a non-Jewish way of life. On the contrary: he urges for a Jewish life which does not force gentiles to judaize, in line with the agreement."

"If Paul really would have violated the food laws and induced others to do so in the presence of Barnabas, Peter and the Antioch Jews, he would have made the agreement [Gal. 2.1-10] null and void and his apostolate impossible."


Matt said...

Does this mean that the first century church was divided into two(largely unreconciled) key factions: law-observing Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians?
Does this mean that we had two gospels operating too - two kinds of Christianity?

Can someone help me out here, I am trying to clarify this.

Joseph Farber said...

Matt, You are exactly right. Then as now, we see in the looking glass dimly. Fortunately, we have the Holy Spirit as our companion and guide. Things haven't much changed in 20 centuries: We still find Christians at profound odds about what is required to be faithful. The good news is, we're all still struggling to do what it takes faithful, still disagreeing about what that might be, and (hopefully) still guided by the essential, radical Gospel of God's love for us. - Fr. Joseph

Jeremy Wales said...

If the agreement between Paul and Peter/James involved Peter and other Jews continuing to live as a law-observing Jews, why does Paul address Peter as "a Jew who lives as a Gentile and not as a Jew" in Gal 2:14?

Michael F. Bird said...

Matt, to answer your questions, "No". There weren't too neat factions. Because guys like Barnabas and John Mark moved between Paul and the Jeruslem church very easily. Some Jewish Christians (Acts 15.1, 5; Gal. 2.2-3; 5.13) did think that Gentiles should be circumcised. But the Jerusalem council made it emphatic that they don't have to be. But Gentile Christians should respect Jewish Christians who out of conscience feel the need to obey the Torah still. Paul argues the same in 1 Corinthians 8 and Romans 14-15. The problem in Antioch wasn't two Gospels or two tracks of salvation. It was, what standard of law observance do you have when Jews and Gentile Christians eat together.

Michael F. Bird said...


I think "live as a Gentile" means live in accord with Gentiles and not force them to convert to Judaism. I cannot imagine Peter, who had a mission to Jews, suddenly deciding to go non-kosher when it suited him. To "live as a Gentile" is the opposite of "to force Gentiles to judaize"!!!

Matt said...

thanks for that Michael.

Jeremy Wales said...

Thanks Michael.

But why *wouldn't* Peter have gone "non-kosher when it suited him"? Although in Gal 2:9 Paul talks about his agreement with Peter/James on a bifurcated Jew/Gentile mission, of course in practice didn't both Paul and Peter each take their mission to *both* Jews and Gentiles? Paul described his way of dealing with his mission to both Jews and Gentiles in 1 Cor 9:20-21. Why wouldn't Peter have approached his own mission to both Jews and Gentiles in a similar way?

It seems to me that, according to Paul, before people came from Jerusalem it suited Peter to go non-kosher but once they came it suited him no longer. This explains the references to "you a Jew who lives as a Gentile not as a Jew" (Gal 2:14) and to "we ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners" (2:15) yet "in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners" (2:17) i.e. because they were seeking to be justified in Christ rather than by works of the law they, both Paul and Peter, were actually acting like "sinners", people who do not try to keep the Jewish law except when it aided mission to their fellow Jews. The latter scenario would have been far more common for Peter than for Paul given the respective emphases of their missions, but they both did both.

Just curious, what do you see as lacking in that kind of analysis?

Anonymous said...


markmuss said...


Have you read Stephen Carlson's dissertation? If not here is the link.

Here is a quote from his dissertation.

"The most historically significant difference between this study’s critical text and the text of the Nestle-Aland edition is the change of a single letter at Gal 2:12. Rather than stating “when they came” (ἦλθον), referring to some people from James, the best attested reading states, “when he came” (ἦλθεν), referring to Cephas. Yet this tiny difference in the text results in a markedly different understanding of the Antioch incident. With the reading of the Nestle-Aland text, on the one hand, Cephas came to Antioch, ate with the local gentiles, but then was intimidated into changing his mind. With this study’s critical text, on the other hand, Cephas came to Antioch with no intention of eating with the gentiles, and this is what Paul objected to.

How in you view, would this fit with Nanos and Tomson?