If one reads Galatians chapter one and two it is very informative as to Paul's relationship with the Jerusalem apostles. This is one of the key questions relating to the beginnings of Christianity which has never achieved a completely satisfactory resolution. It is clear enough that in Galatians itself Paul is striving to assert his independence from Jerusalem and Yeshua's Church. This cannot be disputed in light of historical facts.
Paul finds himself in rather a difficult predicament. The facts of history already betrayed Paul as Gentile convert and a Sadducee, which when spurned in his love interest in the Chief Priest's daughter, defects to the Pharisees. So now we have Paul as a self-made Pharisee. Paul, wishing to defend his honor and reestablish his position in the religious hierarchy of Jerusalem, made such a attend following his "revelation" on the Damascus road. Paul desired independence from the Jerusalem Church yet needs their acknowledgment and authority for his missions.
In Gal. 1:15-17 we find Paul's admission that he, after receiving his revelation of Yeshua, "did not confer with flesh and blood, nor did he go up to Jerusalem to those who were Apostles". Paul makes a strong case that he did not "confer" with those who knew Yeshua best. That seems strange to me considering he persecuted the "way" of the Nazarenes and caused the death of many before his "enlightenment" on the road to Damascus.
The Greek word for confer, as taken from Galatians 1:16 tells us a lot:
1) to lay upon in addition to
2) to lay upon oneself in addition
a) to undertake besides
b) to put oneself upon another by going to him,
c) to commit or to betake oneself to another for the purpose of consulting him
d) to consult, to take one into counsel
e) to add from one's store
3) to communicate, to impart
I believe that he does. In fact Paul's choice of words betrays his hidden attitude toward authority in his life. Remembering his rejection by the Chief Priest and the Sadducees, Paul set out to establish his own credibility and authority in response to his being rebuffed by the Temple authorities. If you wish to read in-depth in these issues I highly recommend H. Maccoby's The Mythmaker:Paul And The Invention Of Christianity. This book will open your eyes and only begin a life-long study into "what is the truth about Paul?"
We find from this simple word study ["convey" in Greek] that although Paul had been a severe if not major persecutor of Yeshua's Church, after his "revelation" Paul braggingly stated that was not willing to confer, to consult, to take into counsel the Jerusalem authorities, or even to "add" to his store of knowledge concerning Yeshua from those who knew him best.
This does not sound right, does it?
According to this Greek word for "consult" Paul braggingly states in Galatians that he was not willing to lay up more knowledge concerning Yeshua from those who knew him best. He did not seen to need to add to his knowledge of Yeshua other than what he had received on the Damascus road. But more enlightening is the meaning that he was not to put himself in a humbled position of submitting to another or committing to another for the purpose of consulting him in hopes of gaining needed and necessary knowledge concerning Yeshua and Yeshua's gospel. Except for the Damascus road revelation we all know Paul was in direct opposition to Yeshua and had the wrong message. Not only that but Paul did not consult with flesh and blood about the significance of the revelation he had received about his understanding of "revelation of Jesus Christ" (v.12) as a call to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. For Paul it was not necessary for him to consult with any man about the meaning of the revelation he had received by Jesus Christ. He had a private interpretation to which he assumed he needed no witness from those he had previously been persecuting. What is most amazing to me is that Paul brags about not needing to go to those who were the apostles before him (v. 17), to those, that is, who remain within the circle of Yeshua's followers who were at that time regarded as the most qualified to give an authoritative interpretation of what he (Paul) had seen on the Damascus road. By the time he did first visit Jerusalem three years had elapsed and the meaning of the "revelation of Jesus Christ" at Damascus had been clearly established "in" Paul without any reference to outside-human-agency, including the Jerusalem Apostles.
Galatians 1:18 states: "Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him 15 days". Verse 19 states: "But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother".
Thayer's Greek Lexicon translates "see" in this manner:
1) to enquire into, to examine, to investigate
2) to find out, to learn by enquiry
3) to gain knowledge of by visiting, used of some distinguished person, to become personally acquainted with, to know face to face
Now we see after three years Paul's submission to the Jerusalem Church whereby he traveled to Jerusalem to enquire and find out information which he was lacking about Yeshua. We must understand that Paul probably never met or heard Yeshua teach so his information about him would be shallow indeed. Paul needed to "catch up" especially since he fashioned himself the Apostle to the Gentiles. Paul's trip was, according to the Greek word, intended for the sole purpose of gaining information and knowledge of Yeshua by visiting those who knew him best. The word carries the implication of "gaining information" and in this case from those who knew Yeshua best; namely Peter and James.
If Paul was so concerned at this stage of his life in asserting his independence from Jerusalem he would hardly have used a word which explicitly acknowledged his own personal indebtedness to Peter for information concerning the "Christ crucified" which he preached.
But we have good reason to conclude that Paul's attempt to distance himself from Jerusalem had a much more specific issue in view; namely, his own personal interpretation of the revelation given him on the Damascus road. Understand that Paul was not trying to stand aloof from Jerusalem in respect to everything to do with the new movement. What he wanted to safeguard was quite simply the claim that his basic understanding of the gospel to the Gentiles came direct from God (v. 11-12). It was precisely his understanding of his Apostleship to the Gentiles which he refused so resolutely to attribute to any human authority (v.1). This had been made perfectly clear by Paul in his refusal to confer with the Jerusalem authorities for 3 years following his "revelation".
What is important for us to know is that Paul was NOW quite ready, as seen in these passages, to acknowledge his indebtedness to Peter and James for further information concerning the background of Yeshua's ministry while on earth as well as the very beginnings of the new movement centered on the risen Yeshua.
That Paul would have had a natural curiosity about this Yeshua who had appeared to him outside Damascus is rather obvious and we can hardly doubt that the fortnight with Peter was largely spent in passing on such information. Paul used his time with Peter, the one who had been closest to Yeshua, to make inquiry, to draw out the sort of information which had not come to him with the apostle-making gospel-giving revelation three years earlier. What I want you to grasp is that after three years we find Paul submissive to the Jerusalem Church but that was to change over the course of the next few years.
Galatians 2:1-2 states: "Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem .I laid before them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately before those of repute, lest somehow I was running or had run in vain".
The Greek word for "laid" is as follows:
394 anatithemai (an-at-ith'-em-ahee);
from 303 and the middle voice of 5087; to set forth (for oneself), i.e propound:
KJV-- communicate, declare.
This is a very interesting word. The word carries the added idea of "declaring and communicating" with the added idea that the person to whom a thing is referred is asked for his opinion. In other words, something is laid before someone for his consideration. Paul is asking for approval of the Jerusalem authorities for the message he has been preaching for the last 14 years! This word carries the idea of submitting to a higher authority an issue which the one making he submission (Paul) was incompetent to resolve on his own. Dear reader what we read here in the Greek is that Paul is submitting to the Jerusalem authorities "his gospel" for their approval. This literally is Paul's acknowledgment that the authority of his gospel depended on Jerusalem's approval.
This is of major importance as we again see for over 17 years Paul was preaching "his gospel" without the sanction of the Jerusalem Church! Wow! Let that sink in!
During these 17 years Paul has been holding a delicate balance in defining his relations with Jerusalem. On the one hand Paul makes it clear that his second visit took place 17 years after the revelation which had determined and defined for him "his" gospel and Apostleship to the Gentiles. Nothing that happened at such a distance in time from that decisive event could undermine or call in question the direction or significance of his commissioning by God through Jesus Christ. Paul goes out of his way to point out that he went up in accordance with a further revelation thus presumably excluding any suggestion that his visit to Jerusalem was in response to a summons from James and the mother church. Furthermore he calls the Jerusalem leadership "men of repute", a phrase which acknowledges the high standing in which the pillar apostles were held by others, without constituting an endorsement by Paul himself. The use of the last expression in particular reinforces the impression that Paul's choice was designed to characterize the balance between Paul's recognition of the Jerusalem's Apostles' eminence and authority and his even firmer assertion of independence in the authority of his gospel and Apostleship.
Let me set the stage for you. Paul had a revelation. Lets face it, revelations are not always easy to understand or comprehend without help from spiritual authorities at times. Paul sought no help for 3 years. Only after three years did Paul consult with the Jerusalem authorities; and then only Peter for 2 weeks where he asks for "information" about the one he preaches in hopes of "filling in the gaps" lacking in his knowledge of Yeshua. Paul then strikes out preaching this revelation for 14 years then has second thoughts as we see from Galatians 2:2. Notice Paul then, after 14 years, makes the rather phenomenal statement in Gal. 2:2: "Lest somehow I should be running or had run in vain" (Gal. 2:2). This clause certainly indicates not only serious doubt by Paul about the truthfulness of what he has been preaching for 14 years but a genuine concern on Paul's part that the success or failure of his missionary work among the Gentiles which depended upon the approval of the Jerusalem Church as well as its head Pastor James. Without a doubt the judgment of the Jerusalem apostles mattered to Paul; an adverse judgment concerning his gospel would have rendered his work past and present ineffective and useless.
Answer for yourself: How can Paul in the same breath both assert his independence of the Jerusalem apostles and yet also acknowledge that the effectiveness of his work depended on the approval of his gospel by these same Jerusalem authorities?
Paul knew, what few Christians know today, that Jerusalem's refusal to acknowledge all or part of Paul's "gospel message" would render it ineffective.
Answer for yourself: Did these Jerusalem authorities and apostles ever give Paul complete approval of his "whole gospel" or would they at the Acts 15 Church Councilcorrect many parts of it and command Paul upon his return to Asia Minor to make sure that his churches under his tutelage be taught the truth in certain areas which at that time because of Paul they did not possess? These things will be searched out in future articles so stay tuned?
Let me say at this point that one of the things Paul had been preaching was correct. Paul had been preaching that the non-Jewish believers in God, who accepted the Covenant of Noah along with the Laws of Noah, through the ministry of Yeshua and his followers, were grafted into the Israel of God without the need of circumcision. Paul was right on this. This is what the whole Galatians epistle is about; not about being "not under the Law, but only the non-Jew not being under the law of CIRCUMCISION as stated in the Covenant and laws of Noah." Christianity possibly has got nothing more incorrect than this, or maybe possibly its Christology.
You need to know that the acceptance of the non-Jew without circumcision was not the accepted or established practice of mainline Judaism at this particular time in Israel. Due to the intense Jewish hatred for the non-Jew, the rite of circumcision, given only to the Jew, was imposed upon the non-Jewish male in hope of providing an effective deterrent to his conversion to Judaism or other types of religious intercourse.
Guess what; it was working. Because of this potentially life-threatening procedure upon an adult male who no longer had his mother's antibodies to retard against infections as a child, hundreds of men wishing to draw closer to God died in such procedures. The bigoted Jews, who hated Gentiles because God had consistently used them to punish and persecute Israel for their disobedience to their covenant, were using such procedures to hold the non-Jew at arms length and limit both social and religious intercourse. Under the Laws of Noah, and the Covenant of Noah, which both preceded the Laws of Moses, such requirements were never imposed on the non-Jew. Because of the ministry of Yeshua and his followers such as James, the pastor of the Messianic Church of Jerusalem, and other, major repentance in the direction of Israel in this regard was to be accomplished. Understand however I am speaking only of the Messianic branch of Judaism only; the orthodox Judaism of the 2nd Temple period never relinquished such a requirement upon the non-Jew.
Having vindicated Paul on this point, it saddens me to say that Paul will defiantly oppose the other mandates of the Jerusalem Council which would come later as mandated by head Pastor James in Acts 15. The casual reading of Acts 15 without background in this area robs today's believer of such knowledge. A little study can show you Paul was wrong and defiant toward the apostles after Acts 15.
Because of his defiance to accept other parts of the Covenant of Noah and the Laws of Noah as binding upon the non-Jew, as it had been for Abraham, Paul would distance himself from the Jerusalem Church and begin to tout his "own personal authority" and his gospel over against the authority of the Apostles of the mother church. This explains the many examples in his epistles where he defends his "Apostleship" against those of Jerusalem which had problems with Paul and his message.
Probably for many of you this is "news" to you problems with Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles! My dear one all is not what it appears in the New Testament. If you are acquainted with our ministry we have dealt heavily with the New Testament documents and scrutinized them with the aid of scholarly research to ascertain the truth from the error within them. Such articles as this is the fruit of our labors. This information can be obtained at several websites:
Paul's refusal to accept the mandate of the Jerusalem Council would lead to such comments in the New Testament as this one:
Paul in writing Galatians following the Acts 15 Council would not and did not admit to accepting any requirements as such from the Jerusalem authorities. But as I have shown you James made a ruling and commanded letters be written of the Council's final decision and circulated among the churches in Asia Minor. James is the head of the church and not Paul!
These very important "mandates" for the Gentile Churches of Asia should have "added something to Paul". It is one thing for Paul to write in a letter intended for the churches of Galatia that the men of Jerusalem added nothing to his gospel and quite another to say that in front of James and the elders of Yeshua's Church in Jerusalem. When the cat is away the mouse will play! With such insights you should be able to re-read Paul in the New Testament and discern the tension between him and the Jerusalem elders and his self-vindication to the non-Jews of Asia Minor who knew not the decision of the Jerusalem Council. This is so lopsided it is staggering and we as believers took such rhetoric hook line and sinker never questioning what was the dynamics behind some of Paul's self-vindicating statements. You will see how serious this becomes for the non-Jewish believer as we get deeper into the dogmas and doctrines contained in the Jerusalem decree in Acts 15.
Paul knew that to acknowledge the Jerusalem apostle's overall authority to determine the terms on which the gospel could be received and Gentiles accepted into Israel's Re-Newed Covenant would have jeopardized the Gentile mission if the "Judaizers" in Galatia could have claimed Jerusalem's authority. Yet, at the same time, the pillar apostle's authoritative ruling in Acts 15 (James') was one Paul had to appeal to if his gospel was to be effective and his vision of Gentile converts being brought into the people of God to be fully realized. It was this attempt to hold on to Jerusalem's authority and yet at the same time to hold it at arm's length which explains the great lengths Paul goes to in his epistles to play up his Apostleship and play down the authority of the "pillars" of Jerusalem. Above all else Paul wanted to make it clear that the pillar apostles acknowledged the validity of his circumcision-free gospel to the Gentiles. That was where he wanted his readers to recognize the significance and force of Jerusalem's authority: Titus was not circumcised despite strong advocacy on the part of some that he should be.
Paul will tell a blatant lie in Galatians 2:6 when he says: But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man's person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me: (KJV)
Paul will later say "They added nothing, no further content, request, instruction or requirement to the circumcision-free gospel except the encouragement to remember the importance of almsgiving (Gal. 2:10)".
If you keep reading you will see this is a outright lie Paul tells in rebellion to the Jerusalem message he was commanded to communicate with his churches in Asia Minor. Paul will not do it!
What Paul writes in Galatians chapter 2 is simply not true. This is where the problem comes in. One only needs to read Acts 15 and James's decree to understand that certain stipulations from the Covenant of Noah and the Laws of Noah were mandated upon non-Jewish believers coming to faith in God, even if through Paul and his ministry. To say these "pillars" added nothing is far from true. It is in these declarations by James that Paul will cast aside when trying to "win souls to Christ". You need to understand that at this point Jerusalem's backing was absolutely crucial to Paul's whole understanding of his gospel and its outworking in his missionary strategy.
On the other hand Paul had no desire to lean on Jerusalem's authority more heavily than was absolutely necessary. Hence once again the distancing phrase, "those reputed to be of some account" and its echo three verses later "those regarded as pillars" (Gal. 2:6-9). Notice also the highly revealing parenthesis, "what they once were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality". Here Paul's language indicates clearly enough both at that time the Jerusalem apostles were accorded a status and authority ["what they once were" notice the imperfect tense] which is now a matter of indifference to him [again note the change of tense]. Notice also that in his view the Jerusalem apostles are still accorded too high a status and authority by some-but not by God. If this is not stabbing in the back I don't know what it!
It is to these actions of Paul's rebellion and defiance we will investigate in the further articles.
In closing of this article let me conclude with this thought. In laying his gospel before the Jerusalem apostles what Paul sought was not so much their approval, without which his gospel would have no validity, as their recognition of his gospels validity, without which his gospel would lose its effectiveness.
Paul would gain the apostles approval for his gospel of no circumcision for salvation and inclusion of the non-Jewish believer into the Israel of God. What escapes most Christians today is that when reading the Book of Galatians they tend to get the idea Paul opposed all the Law. He did not. It was just for Paul the Laws of Noah and the Laws of Moses were like a salad bar he would pick this one and reject this one. This is never what God intended for His children, as we said before, ones relationship with God is totally dependent upon ones Covenant and his effort to maintain Covenant stipulations thereby maintaining relationship with God. For the non-Jewish believer, the Christian, this is the Covenant of Noah.
More in the next in this series as we look deeply into what the issues were that Paul put aside from the Acts 15 Council and the following incident at Antioch where he makes full breach with the Jerusalem Church. Shalom.