Conference (1) Second Jerusalem Visit .. Issues .. Agreements
Conference (2) Importance .. Collection .. Antioch Episode
Paul set out on his second visit to Jerusalem, it had been fourteen years
since that first visit, when he had spent two weeks getting acquainted
with Cephas (Peter) and with James, the Lordís brother.
This time he came with solid accomplishments, having founded
congregations in at least three major areas:
Galatia, Macedonia and Achaia. (We cannot exclude the possibility that
the founding of a church at Ephesus in Asia also came before the conference,
but the balance of evidence supports a time afterwards.)
||If we use the letters alone, it is theoretically possible to locate all of
Paul's founding missions after the conference. Nevertheless, for good reasons, we place these three foundations before
the conference. See Letters Based Chronology (2).
Paulís gentile mission had been both successful
and novel. How could this new
phenomenon, without Jewish observance, be compatible with the Jerusalem
community which not only acknowledged Jesus as Messiah but was Jewish in root and ramification?
Could the new and old live together, faithful to the gospel, in
mutual support and growth? Paul
now felt guided (by a revelation, as he says) to go up to Jerusalem, to settle once and for all
the status of his gentile converts.
after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking
Titus along with me. 2I
went up in response to a revelation.
Then I laid before them (though only in a private meeting with
the acknowledged leaders) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles,
in order to make sure that I was not running, or had not run, in vain.
We may keep open the hypothesis that controversy over
Jewish law had erupted in Paulís churches and had motivated in part the
THE ISSUE AT THE CONFERENCE
It was something of a summit meeting, when Paul,
accompanied by Barnabas and Titus, went up to Jerusalem to meet again with
Cephas, with James the Lordís brother, and this time also with John.
The question before them: Would
the requirements of the Jewish law be imposed upon gentile converts, so
that they would be obliged to live as Jews, and even to become full Jewish
converts? Here is how the
sides lined up.
At one extreme we find zealous supporters of Christian Judaism, whom we
shall call the rigorists.
ďfalse brethrenĒ to whom Paul refers are probably to be
numbered among them.
These rigorists were ready to make the Jewish law obligatory for all gentiles
who became believers, including Titus, Paulís loyal associate.
Their position enjoyed a certain plausibility.
The earliest followers of Jesus, during his lifetime as well as in
the post-Easter period, had been Jews, and the rigorists saw no compelling
reason for this situation to change. What would gentiles be required to do?
gentiles wished to enter the community of believers, it seemed reasonable
to the rigorists to expect them to adopt not only the God of the Jews, not
only the Jewish scriptures, and not only the Jewish Jesus, as they were
willing to do, but also to require them to accept Jewish traditions and
practices. In detail, the
gentiles would be obliged to submit to circumcision, to undergo a ritual
washing, and to offer sacrifice in the Temple when a journey to Jerusalem
was deemed feasible. In
addition to these requirements for admission as Jewish proselytes,
gentiles would be expected to observe dietary rules, laws of clean and
unclean, Sabbath regulations, and other Jewish observances.
If in all of this the missionary impulse does not seem evident, we
may at least appreciate their zeal for the ancestral religion alongside of
their devotion to the risen Christ. James
is not called a false brother, but he probably leaned in the direction of
even Titus, who was with me, was not compelled to be circumcised, though
he was a Greek. 4But
because of false believers secretly brought in, who slipped in to
spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might enslave
usó[to the false believers we did not submit for a moment].
(The NRSV, in avoiding sexist language, renders the Greek pseudadelphoi [lit. "false
brothers"] as false believers.)
At the other extreme we have the inclusivists, among whom we include Paul and (at this stage)
Barnabas; these resisted every attempt to impose the Jewish law on gentile
converts. Paul took this
position, in part because he was called to be an apostle to the gentiles;
and perhaps in part because he knew that requiring gentiles to be
circumcised and to become Jewish converts before being baptized and
received into the church would have a chilling effect on his work.
Paul could not be unaware that Jews in the ancient Greco-Roman
world were the objects of ridicule for bearing the marks of circumcision. Thus, faith in Jesus Christ as Lord should be the only
requirement for admission into the church. Cephas was nominally the head of the mission to the Jews, but
probably sympathized with the inclusivists.
We do not know Johnís inclinations.
To them [the false brothers] we did not yield submission even for a moment, that the
truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.
THE APOSTLES COME TO AN AGREEMENT
James, Cephas and John, could surely see merit in the cause of Jewish
Christians to which their own efforts were largely devoted, but were
likely moved as well by Paulís accounts of missionary expansion in the
west. The deal
that was cut made the best of a difficult situation:
First, The Jerusalem apostles gave unqualified
approval to Paulís law free gentile mission, adding nothing to him; that
is, imposing no additional requirements for gentile converts.
And from those who were reputed to be something (what they were
makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)óthose, I say, who
were of repute added nothing to me. [RSV]
Next, they also gave official recognition to the
concept of two parallel missions, and assigned responsibility for each:
the Jerusalem apostles were to go to the Jews, Paul and Barnabas to
the gentiles. Thus the
legitimacy of the gentile mission was acknowledged, and the integrity of
the Jewish mission was respected: kosher
diet, Sabbath observance and circumcision were still in place for
Christian Jews. But there was
little for the rigorists to cheer about. It was no longer true that all believers were also Jews; gentiles
would be part of the community of faith, without being obliged to fulfill
the requirements of the Jewish law. This
fundamental change did not go down well at all with the rigorists; they
would be heard from again.
7On the contrary, when they saw that I had been
entrusted with the gospel for the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been
entrusted with the gospel for the circumcised 8(for he who
worked through Peter making him an apostle to the circumcised also
worked through me in sending me to the Gentiles), 9and when
James and Cephas and John, who were acknowledged pillars, recognized the
grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me the right
hand of fellowship, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they
to the circumcised.
Finally, Paul and Barnabas agreed to a proposal that
they should remember the Jerusalem poor by raising a collection; this was
a project which Paul energetically pursued during the closing period of
his work among the churches which he had already founded.
(There is no way of knowing how Barnabas went about fulfilling his
part of the bargain.)
They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was
actually what I was eager to do.
button below to continue, Jerusalem Conference (2) .
January 25, 2003