The Antioch Incident (Two Views)

There are many blogs that examine passages in Scripture that have what might be called a “folk theology” interpretation. These posts then try to set the record straight explaining what is a more probable interpretation. Some examples are Jeremiah 29:11, Matthew 18:20, 2 Tim 2:13, and the notion “all sins are equal in God’s eyes” or “one little lie will send you to Hell”.

A passage that is not considered very controversial today or likely to get a closer look is the description of the Antioch Incident. But for the early church the event was pondered over and hotly debated.

This event is recounted in the letter to the Galatians (2:11-14) and went something like this: Peter is visiting Antioch, perhaps to see first-hand how the gospel is spreading to the Gentiles (Acts 11:19-26). While he is there, Peter sits down to some bacon, lettuce, tomato sandwiches with some Gentile believers. While they are enjoying their meal some Jewish believers sent by James arrive in Antioch. Peter sees them, excuses himself from the table, and leaves the room. Returning with a kosher fish sandwich, he joins the new group of Jewish believers and enjoys catching up on the latest Jerusalem news. Soon the other Jewish believers are getting up from the Gentile table – even Barnabas – and sit down with Peter and the new arrivals. The Gentiles are wondering what is going on and whether they must follow the Mosaic Law too. Overhearing this Paul, who has been eating alone in the corner, stands up marches across the room and has some words with Peter. He calls him out for his hypocritical behavior, which is encouraging the Gentiles to observe the Law and distorts the gospel.

We may stop for a moment and wonder why Paul chose to include this event as part of his defense of the Gospel? Or why Peter was afraid of the “circumcision party”? We are prudent to walk away from the event humble and alert to how our actions can impact the gospel since ‘even Barnabas’ was compelled to follow actions that contradicted the truth of the gospel. But what was it that sparked debate in the early church? Continue reading

Did Paul doubt his gospel? I doubt it!

Then after fourteen years I went up to Jerusalem again with Barnabas, taking Titus along too. I went there because of a revelation and presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did so only in a private meeting with the influential people,to make sure that I was not running – or had not run– in vain. – Paul (Gal 2:1-2; NET)

Did Paul doubt his gospel message? And why, with the Galatians doubting his gospel, would Paul also express doubt in it?

In the last post we examined Paul’s presentation of his gospel to the Apostles. Based on the evidence in the letter it is highly unlikely that Paul is expressing doubt in his gospel nor is he looking to the Apostles for verification of the message he proclaimed. Paul has spent the last 14 years ministering with the gospel he received from Jesus. So why did Paul present his gospel to the Apostles in Jerusalem? In what way did Paul think he might be “running in vain”? Continue reading

Did Paul doubt his gospel?

In the last post we looked at Paul’s defense of the gospel given in the first part of the letter to the Galatians.

Paul defended his claim that his gospel is from God using two assertions.

  1. My gospel was received independent of the Apostles (1:12-24)
  2. The gospel I defend is the same gospel as the Apostles (2:1-14)

Paul, having defended his independence in receiving the gospel (1:12-24) moves the argument forward by talking about his visit to Jerusalem.

Then after fourteen years I went up to Jerusalem again with Barnabas, taking Titus along too. I went there because of a revelation and presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did so only in a private meeting with the influential people,to make sure that I was not running – or had not run– in vain. – Paul (Gal 2:1-2; NET)

This was no vacation, Paul was persuaded to go on this trip because of a revelation. Continue reading