Final Summary to Galatians Chapter 2

In Chapter 2 we get to perhaps the very heart of Paul’s mission to the Gentiles. It comes as a result of the question of whether a Gentile has to become a Jew, and follow Jewish law–dietary and other–to be a follower of Jesus.  According to Paul, James, brother of Jesus said yes, and Paul said no.

Paul won the argument.

Then we run across this issue in Mark 7:5-15, in which the Pharisee ask Jesus why his disciples eat with unclean hands. Jesus’ response is that ‘it’s not what goes into a person that makes him unclean, but what comes out.’

IOW, Jewish dietary laws are not necessary.

I will save the brunt of this discussion for when we get to the relevant section of Mark. But, ask yourself, did Jesus really say that?  If he did, why did Paul and James have to duke it out? Why didn’t the James Gang in Jerusalem follow the teaching of Jesus on this point? Answer, because Jesus didn’t say that.

Implication: it was Paul who made it OK for new members of the Jesus community not to follow Jewish dietary laws, but, more importantly, that adult males would not have to submit to circumcision. This was a huge development. It removed a major barrier to getting non-Jews to accept the word of Jesus.

This is one reason I wanted to take these in chronological order in which they were written. What came first?

The ideas encountered:

  • A revelation tells Paul to go to Jerusalem after 14 years.
  • The revelation may be the reason he’s able to stand up to the controversy he encounters there
  • Significant rift between Paul and James about remaining Jewish.  Seems that James sent agents to spy on both Paul and Peter, to undermine the freedom these two had. Freedom, presumably, from maintaining all the Jewish dietary and other laws.
  • They reach an agreement: Paul is the Apostle to the uncircumcised, while Peter is the Apostle to the circumcised
  • Peter liked to live like a Gentile, until James’ agents caught him. Paul uses this to push his point that if Jews can’t live like Jews, how can Gentiles be expected to do so?
  • !!! Justification by Faith !!!
  • The Law vs Faith
  • Christ living in Paul. Rather a novel concept, I believe
  • If we are justified by the Law, why did Christ die?

About James, brother of Jesus

I have a BA from the University of Toronto in Greek and Roman History. For this, I had to learn classical Greek and Latin. In seminar-style classes, we discussed both the meaning of the text and the language. U of T has a great Classics Dept. One of the professors I took a Senior Seminar with is now at Harvard. I started reading the New Testament as a way to brush up on my Greek, and the process grew into this. I plan to comment on as much of the NT as possible, starting with some of Paul's letters. After that, I'll start in on the Gospels, starting with Mark.

Posted on September 4, 2012, in epistles, Galatians, Paul's Letters, Summary and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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  2. Have you had the opportunity to read about Philo’s ideas of how Jews and Gentiles should relate? It may be worth checking out. I can send you the specific links later tonight. Also, have you checked out the Sibylline Oracles (I believe this is it off of the top of my head) in which the text refers to a common Law for Jews and Gentiles in the eschaton?

  3. Hi, thanks for the comment. No, I have not read either of the pieces mentioned, My background is in secular pagan (esp history) writing with some forays into philosophy and religious practice. I have no formal background in Biblical studies. As such, I’m not up on the sorts of texts you describe. I need a lot of remedial reading, like Philo. However, my background has trained me to read non-historical texts for the incidental historical information they provide. But any links, comments, disagreements, etc are welcome and appreciated! I liked what I saw on your site. I will be spending some time catching up!

    Just out of curiosity, is there any reason you chose this particular post for comment? I ask because it is far, far and away the most popular post on my blog.

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