Chapter 7: Paul Disbelieved Continued. After His Third Jerusalem Visit, Contest Between Him and Peter at Antioch. Partition Treaty: Paul for Himself: Peter, James and John for the Apostles
Section 1: Contest and Partition-Treaty, As per Acts and Paul's Epistles
But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?
We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
So much for the question about Jewish rites.
We come now to the state of affairs between Paul and Peter. Concerning this, we have little, as hath been seen, from the author of the Acts: from Paul himself, not much: but what there is of it is of prime importance.
On this occasion, to judge from the account given in the Acts,—between Paul and Peter, all was harmony. In their principles, in their speeches, they may be seen pleading on the same side: arguing, and arguing in vain, both of them against the superior influence of James: of that James, of whose written works, in comparison of those we have from Paul, we have so little. But presently, on one side at least,—we shall see contention—preserving contention—and rival ambition, for the cause of it.
In this pregnant and instructive letter,—Paul's second letter to his Galatians,—the authenticity of which seems to be altogether out of the reach of doubt,—among the particulars, that bear relation to this the third visit, the following are those, by which the greatest share of attention seems demanded at our hands.
In the first place, let us view them in the order in which they stand: that done, the degree of importance may determine the order in which they are considered.
1. Fourteen is the number of years, between this third visit of his to Jerusalem, reckoning either from the first of his visits made to that same holy place after his conversion, or from his departure from Damascus after his return thither from Arabia.
2. On this journey of his to Jerusalem, he has with him not only Barnabas, as mentioned in the Acts, but Titus, of whom no mention is there made.
3. It is by revelation, that this journey of his was undertaken.
4. The Gospel, which he then and there preaches, is a Gospel of his own.
5. Private at the same time, and for reasons thereupon given, is his mode of communicating it.
6. Titus, though at his disposal, he leaves uncircumcised.
7. False brethren is the appellation he bestows upon those, who, on this occasion, standing up for the Mosaic law, give occasion to this debate.
8. Elders, Apostles, kinsmen of Jesus,—be they who they may,—he, Paul, is not on this occasion a man to give place to any such persons: to give place by subjection: say rather in the way of subordination.
9. Unnamed are the persons, on whom the vituperation he discharges, is poured forth. Thus much only is said of them: namely, verse 12, that they "came from James," the brother of our Lord. Contemptuous throughout is the manner in which he speaks of all those persons whom he does not name. Quere, Who are they, to whom, in everything that goes before that same verse, he is alluding? It seems from thence, that it was with James, from whom they received support, that those scruples of theirs, out of which sprung these differences and negotiations, originated.
10. Leaving the Jews to Peter—he claims to himself as his own the whole population of the Gentiles.
11. To this effect, an explicit agreement was actually entered into; parties, he and Barnabas of the one part; James, Peter, by his Hebrew surname of Cephas, and John, of the other part.
12. Of this agreement, one condition was—that, of such pecuniary profit, as should be among the fruits of the labors of Paul among the Gentiles, a part should be remitted, to be at the disposal of Peter.
13. Paul, at the time of this visit, stood up against Peter.
14. The cause, of his doing so, was—an alleged weakness and inconsistency in the conduct of Peter, and his gaining to his side—not only Jews of inferior account, but Barnabas.
15. The weakness and inconsistency consisted in this: viz: that whereas he himself had been in use to act with the Gentiles, yet after the arrival at Antioch of those who came from James at Jerusalem,—he from fear of the Jewish converts, not only ceased to eat with the Gentiles, but to the extent of his influence forced the Gentile converts to live after the manner of the Jews.
16. On the occasion of this his dispute with Peter, he gave it explicitly as his opinion,—that, to a convert to the religion of Jesus, Jew or Gentile,—observance of the Mosaic law would, as to everything peculiar to it, be useless, not to say worse than useless,
1. As to his place in relation to the Apostles. His was not inferior to anybody's: upon terms altogether equal did he treat with the Apostles: in and by the first partition treaty,—he, with Barnabas for his colleague,—Barnabas, from whom, according to the Acts, he afterwards separated,—obtains the whole of the Gentile world for the field of their labors. Thus elevated, according to his account of the matter, was the situation, occupied by him on the occasion of this his third visit to Jerusalem, in comparison of what it had been at the time of his first,—and, to all appearance, at the time of the second. At the time of his first visit, the Apostles,—all but Peter and James, upon which two Barnabas forced him,—turned their backs upon him: upon his second visit, none of them, as far as appears, had anything to do with him: now, upon his third visit, they deal with him upon equal terms: and now, not only Peter and James, but John, are stated as having intercourse with him.
2. Of this partition treaty, important as it is, no mention is to be found in the Acts. From first to last,—in the account given in the Acts, no such figure does he make as in his own. In the Acts, of the speech of Peter, and even of that of James, the substance is reported: of Paul's, nothing more than the subject: viz. his own achievements among the Gentiles: against Paul's opinion, as well as Peter's, the compromise, moved by James, is represented as carried.
3. As to the cause, or occasion, of his third visit to Jerusalem. In the account given in the Acts, it is particularly and clearly enough explained. It is in conjunction with Barnabas that he goes thither: both of them, to confer with the Apostles and elders, on the subject of the notion, entertained by numbers among the Jewish converts, that, by conversion to the religion of Jesus, they were not set free from any of the obligations imposed by the law of Moses.
Of this commission,—creditable as it could not but have been to him,—Paul, in his account of the matter, as given to the Galatians, makes not the least mention. No: it is not from men on this occasion nor on others, it is not from men, that he received his authority, but from God: it is by revelation, that is, immediately from God, and by a sort of miracle.
4. What, in obedience to this revelation, he was to do, and did accordingly, was,—the preaching of a gospel of his own; a gospel which as yet he had not preached to any body but the Gentiles. Preaching? how and where? in an assembly of the whole body of the believers in Jesus, the Apostles themselves included? No: but privately, and only to the leading men among them: "to them which were of reputation."
A gospel of his own? Yes: that he did. Further on, it will be seen what it was: a Gospel, of which, as far as appears from the evangelists, no traces are to be found, in anything said by Jesus: especially, if what, on that occasion, he, Paul, taught by word of mouth at Antioch, agreed with what we shall find him teaching in his Epistles.
6. Does it not seem, rather, that this story, about the deputation of Paul and Barnabas to the Apostles and brethren at Jerusalem from the Apostles at Antioch, and the counter deputation of Judas Barsabas, and Silas, to accompany Paul and Barnabas on their return to Antioch, bearing all of them together a letter from the Apostles at Jerusalem,—was an invention of the anonymous author of the Acts? or else a story, either altogether false, or false in great part, picked up by him, and thus inserted?
7. Mark now, in this letter of Paul, another circumstance: and judge whether it tends not to cast discredit on what is said of Peter in the Acts.
In the Acts account we have seen Peter in the great council, supporting, in a sort of speech, the liberty side—of the question,—Jesus against Moses,—supporting it in the great council, in which, in that same account, Paul, though present, is, as to that point, represented as silent: in that same account, shall we see Peter, five years before this time, addressing himself to the Gentiles,—using this same liberty,—and, when called to account for doing so, employing his pair of visions, his and Cornelius's, Acts 10:30-41, in and for his defence: we shall see him in this new part of his career,—in this part, for which he was by both education and habits of life so ill qualified,—we shall see him so much in earliest in this part of his labors, as to have expended miracles,—a supernatural cure, and even a raising from the dead,—for his support in it.
Had any such facts really happened—facts in their nature so notorious,—would Paul, in this letter of his to the Galatians, have spoken of Peter, as if he had never made, or attempted to make, any progress in the conversion of the Gentiles? Speaking of the sticklers for Moses, as well as of Peter,—would he have said,
That, in some way or other, Peter had tried his hand upon some persons who were Gentiles—in this there is nothing but what may well enough be believed: provided it be also believed—that, in the experiment so made by him, he had little or no success:—for, that after the expenditure of two such miracles of so public a nature, besides a pair of visions,—he had after all made so poor a hand of it, as to be content to give up to Paul the whole of his prospects from that quarter,—does it seem credible?
8. As to the partition-treaty itself,—whatsoever were the incidents that had brought it about, nothing could be more natural—nothing more probable—nothing more beneficial to the common cause—to the religion of Jesus, meaning always so far as the religion taught by Paul was comfortable to it. Each retained to himself the only part of the field, for the cultivation of which he was qualified: each gave up no other part of the field, than that, for the cultivation of which he was not qualified.
Note, in this same letter, the mention made of Peter's eating with the Gentiles.
Note here, an additional reason for discrediting the whole story of Peter's expedition,—miracles and visions included,—as reported in the Acts. In regard to the visions,—from this circumstance it may be seen, that either no such visions were, as stated in the Acts 11:1-13, related by Peter, on his defence against the accusations preferred against him on this ground,—or that, if any such relation was given, no credit was given to it: for, it is after this, and, according to appearance, long after,—that, according to the Acts 15:1-33, not less than five years after, the meeting at Jerusalem took place; that meeting, at which, at the motion of James, the adherence to the Mosaic law was indeed in part dispensed with; but, so far as regards the practice charged upon Peter as an offence,—namely the eating with the Gentiles, insisted on and ordained.
If Paul's evidence was good and conclusive evidence in support of Paul's visions,—how came Peter's evidence not to be received as good and conclusive evidence in support of Peter's visions? Paul's evidence, with the visions reported by it, was not better evidence, in support of his claim to the Apostleship,—than Peter's visions, if the account in the Acts is to be believed, in support of the abrogation of the Mosaic law. Yet, as, according to the author of the Acts, by Paul's account of his visions, the Apostles were not any of them convinced; so here, according to Paul, by Peter's account of his visions, if ever really related to the fellowship of the Apostles, and to the elders,—their associates,—that same goodly fellowship was not convinced.