The publication of J. Louis Martynís commentary on
Galatians was eagerly awaited by many students of Paulís letters.1
With my work on Pauline chronology, I was particularly interested in how he
would deal with the well known autobiographical texts in the letter. I found
an original and learned work, from which I have learned much, and which has
provided stimulus, if not always agreement. What particularly caught my eye
was a quite elaborate hypothesis regarding Paulís relations with Antioch,
which I will summarize.
Martyn sees Paul attaching himself to the Antioch church not
long after the first Jerusalem visit. For about a decade Paul is an
evangelist of Antioch, preaching the gospel to gentiles in Syria and Cilicia,
and working in close association with Barnabas. In due course Paul and
Barnabas are sent by Antioch to the conference at Jerusalem, which is in
effect a meeting of two churches, Antioch representing the cause of the
gentile mission, and Jerusalem the interests of the Jewish Christians.
Antioch, on the cutting edge of the gentile mission, gets approval of the
dual mission, while Jerusalem will receive regular financial support from
Antioch. The subsequent dispute in Antioch over table fellowship for Jewish
and gentile Christians comes to a head with Paulís outburst against the
duplicity of Cephas. This episode marks a political defeat for Paul, which
results in a divorce from Antioch, a break with Barnabas, and Paulís
departure to the west for work as a lone-wolf evangelist.2 Before
looking more closely at this theory, let us make the customary stop and
consider matters of methodology and chronology.
* This article is a revision of ďPaul and Antioch,Ē Proceedings:
Eastern Great Lakes and Midwest Biblical Societies 19 (1999) 87-101.
1Galatians: A New Translation with Introduction and
Commentary [Anchor] (New York: Doubleday, 1997).
2Martyn 14-15, 17-18, 153, 166, 171, 175, 182 n. 237, 189,
196, 205-10, 229-30, 236, 240.
In Search of a Methodology
Methodology involves how we get our answers; in this
case it is a question of how we arrive at a chronology, and how we approach
the Antioch episode and other Antioch issues. A defective methodology tends
to produce defective answers; a good methodology consistently applied tends
to lead to good answersónot infallible, but at least improvable, answers.
The position taken in this article, as throughout this web
site, is as follows:3
By way off comparison, Martyn affirms on the one hand the
priority of the letters, but on the other hand allows room for the use of
Acts: ďOur first and decisive attempt to discern the chronology of
Paulís work is to be made on the basis of the letters alone.Ē But
ďaloneĒ does not mean alone: ďAs a secondary and separable
step, we may turn to Acts.Ē5 Though Martyn declares that Acts
is to be used only for confirmation and supportive elucidation, clearly he
allows himself to be influenced by Acts, especially in depicting Paulís
relationship with Antioch. Martyn uses Acts, as a reading of the commentary
will show, with some frequency; uses it at crucial points (e.g., in the
depiction of Paulís association with Barnabas, where he refers to the
ďfairly reliable data in Acts,Ē 216); and elsewhere ignores it (e.g.,
not following Acts in the pre-conference founding of churches in South
Galatia, 182-6). The result is that we do not get a clear picture of either
Acts information or letters information, but a congenial harmonization of
the two which does little to advance the discussion. (Admittedly, Acts has
left a profound imprint upon us all, and it is by no means easy to avoid
reading the letters through Acts-colored glasses.)
3For a more extensive treatment of methodology, click on Letters Based Chronology (1)
and Letters Based Chronology (2).
4This exclusion of Acts is by no means arbitrary; click on
Acts as a Source (1) to
In Search of a Chronology
Regarding matters chronological, Martyn has chosen, it seems
to this writer, a chronology which follows Acts in locating the great
founding missions of Paul after the Jerusalem conference.6 (To
the extent that Martyn bases his chronology on the letters, it resembles
what we have called Chronology [B] in this web site, and for
convenience it will be so designated in the present article; click on Chart
[B].) He has chosen [B] on the basis of no new evidence or
arguments, and has (mostly) ignored the difficulties of [B].7
In all fairness, he has worked out the inferences of his preferred
chronology with consistency, but has in the process served to illustrate the
problems which [B] creates, as noted below. To be sure, [B] is
a theoretically plausible alternative to [A]; but [B] enjoys
no prima facie advantage, nor is its superiority self-evident (if it were,
we would need no hypotheses nor arguments). So is there any positive evidene
for [B]? The answer is, almost none; the letters, including
Galatians, are silent on where Paul went after the conference and after the
subsequent Antioch incident. Thus, when one considers that [B]
creates more problems than it solves,8 it hardly qualifies as a
default position. (Click on Option
B? for a fuller discussion of the problematical status of [B].)
On the other hand, when one considers that Chronology [A]
solves more problems than it creates (making better sense of the collection
and of the retrospective texts in Galatians 2:2 and 2:5, and avoiding time
compression or extension), it comes closer to qualifying as a default
position. In spite of criticisms, no Titanic-size damage to [A] has
been sustained. Exception has been taken to [A] on two counts: the
silence in Galatians 1:21 on western founding missions before the
conference, and the Barnabas question.
Galatians 1:21. This text,
taken together with the rest of Galatians 1:11Ė2:14, offers quite
sufficient evidence to support Paulís argument for independence from
Jerusalem. No reader imagines that Paul has not made his case; listing more
places he had visited before returning to Jerusalem would be rhetorical
over-kill. Paul demonstrates his distance from Jerusalem not only spatially
or geographically (headed away from Jerusalem) but also temporally (only
after fourteen years did he re-visit the city.9
The Barnabas Question.
Critics of chronology [A] offer an argument which would make Barnabas
a traveling companion of Paul during his missionary travels: (a) Since
Paul and Barnabas were partners in the gentile mission until the Antioch
episode, when Barnabas yielded to the Judaizers; but (b) since there is no
convincing evidence that Barnabas was part of Paulís founding missions in
Macedonia and Achaia; (c) hence these founding missions can not have been
before the Jerusalem conference.10 The weak link of this argument
is point (a): the letters do not justify the notion of a lengthy partnership
between Paul and Barnabas, extending as long as the Antioch episode. The
fact that the two met for the trip up to Jerusalem (Galatians 2:1) does not
require that they had been laboring together for the previous fourteen
years. The idea of such a lengthy association is of course based only upon
Acts (11:25-30; 12:24Ė15:39). With the invalidation of its major premise,
the whole argument is shown to be unfounded. Clearly chronology [A]
is to be preferred.
In reviewing Paulís relationships with Antioch, we will
first consider the period before the Jerusalem conference, then the
conference itself, and finally the Antioch episode.
6Martyn has of course not adopted all the details of chronology [B],
but in the manner of Acts has elected to place all the great found missions
after the Jerusalem conference.
7Martyn 186 n. 244, an exception.
8These problems may be summarized as follows: an
awkward view of the collection [click on Antioch and the Jerusalem Conference:
Collection]; difficulties with retrospective texts such as Galatians
pŰs eis kenon trechŰ Í edramon] and Galatians 2:5 [hina hÍ
alÍtheia tou euangeliou diameinÍi pros hum‚s];
and excessive time compression or extension.
9Martyn, by using an inclusive reckoning (in the interests
of [B]) for the fourteen years, i.e. fourteen years after the call
rather than fourteen years after the departure for Syria and Cilicia,
diminishes the force of Paulís temporal argument.
10See George Ogg, The Chronology of the Life of Paul
(London: Epworth, 1968) 90, and others. Other critics argue that Paul could
not have met Barnabas to travel to the Jerusalem conference (Galatians 2:1)
if Paul was missionizing in the west; see D. Georgi, Remembering the
Poor: The History of Paulís Collection for Jerusalem (Nashville:
Abingdon, 1992) 129. On the contrary, one may suppose either (i) that Paul
was not without ways of arranging to meet Barnabas in Antioch or some other
place, or (ii) that Paul might have known that he could find Barnabas in
Antioch if he went there.
Paul in Antioch, Before the Conference?
We have already noted that Prof. Martyn adopts a [B]
chronology, accepting the view that the great Pauline foundations were all
established following the Jerusalem conference. Martyn says that during the
period of ten years or so before the conference Paul worked in tandem with
Barnabas as an evangelist of Antioch, preaching the gospel to gentiles in
Syria and Cilicia. If one wonders how the intensely independent Paul of the
letters would be so closely tethered to Antioch for so long, Martyn answers
with the theory of a kind of vocational development. At this early period,
Paul understood his apostolate in terms of two foci: (1) He was sure of
being called to the gentile mission by the resurrected Lord himself; and (2)
he was conscious of being sent out on that mission by the Antioch church.11
Only later, after the incident at Antioch, did Paul become the lone-wolf
evangelist, no longer supported or sponsored by a church such as Antioch.12
Now the problem is that the letters provide little or no
documentation of this view, Antioch being mentioned only once, and that in
connection with the Antioch episode;13 Syria also is mentioned
once, but only in connection with the apostleís next travel stops after
Jerusalem. While the letters permit, they do not support, any kind of
extended residence of Paul in Antioch or in her hypothetical daughter
churches as an evangelist of Antioch.14 Likewise, there is only
scant circumstantial evidence in the letters for his work with Barnabas in
Antioch or elsewhere; click on Paul and Barnabas. One
suspects that reminiscences of Acts (11:22-30; 12:24Ė13:3;
consciously or unconsciously shaped Martynís thinking.
As for the notion of vocational development, it is
unsupported by the letters, and appears to be a way of accommodating
Paulís apostolate to the necessities of chronology [B].
More cautiously, as an alternative to Martynís proposal of
an Antioch attachment, one might with equal or greater plausibility,
employing a strictly letters-based methodology, suppose that Paul had
visited and even spent time in Antioch, was known and welcomed by the
believers there, was accepted as a supporter of the circumcision-free
gentile mission, and was acknowledged as an apostle. We may also suppose
that from time to time Paul was associated with Barnabas in the gentile
mission, and that they both adopted a policy of self-support, but not that
they necessarily worked together regularly; see 1 Corinthians 9:6, as
well as Galatians 2:1, 9.15 This alternative has the advantage of
rendering unnecessary any speculation about vocational development.
12Martyn 17-18, 179.
13One may suspect a case of begging the question in
Martynís attempt to explain why the letters are mostly silent on Antioch:
ďIt is, then, the later and deeply painful break with the church in
Antioch (2:11-14) that explains Paulís silence about that church in his
travelogue, and specifically his failing to mention his Antioch attachment
at the outset of [Galatians] 1:21.Ē (183) In this circular argument,
the silence about the Antioch attachment is based upon the supposed break
with Antioch, which in turn presupposes the Antioch attachment.
14There is evidence of the influence here of chronology [B],
in that the advocate of this chronology might be looking for some way to
keep Paul occupied as an evangelist in the eastern provinces for the eleven
or fourteen years between the first two Jerusalem visitsóand where else
but at Antioch, and its daughter churches? This assigning of Paul to Syria-Cilicia
is difficult to reconcile with his intention not to preach the gospel where
Christ was already named (Romans 15:20). Indeed, Martynís preference for
eleven (ten) years between the visits seems itself to be founded more upon
the exigencies of [B] rather than upon the more natural sequential
reading suggested by the series of epeitaís (Galatians 1:18,
21; 2:1). [B] creates too much time between Jerusalem visits one and two,
and allows too little time between visits two and three. What Jerome
Murphy-OíConnor wrote of A. Suhlís Acts-based chronology might well
apply to Martynís: ď. . . [He has] divided Paulís life
into a period of implausible idleness followed by a period of incredible
activity . . . Ē (ďPauline Missions Before the
Jerusalem Conference,Ē Revue Biblique 89  73).
15For further details, click on Paul and Barnabas.