The Antioch incident is usually dated in the late 40s of the first century, depending of course on such questions as the date of the Jerusalem council (Acts 15) and the relation between Galatians 2 and Acts 15. Scholars usually date anywhere between 43 C.E. and 51 C.E, but the majority of scholars prefer 48 C.E. or 49 C.E. as the most probable date (R. Jewett, Dating Pauls Life [Philadelphia: Fortress/London: SCM, 1979,1-2]. Since the crisis at Antioch was provoked by the arrival of certain individuals from James (Gal. 2.12), that is, from Jerusalem, it is important to clarify the relationship between the church in Jerusalem and the church in Antioch at that time, and to examine possible influences on these churches from the broader social and political situation within Palestine and within Palestinian and Diaspora Judaism. But for our further study you need to understand that most likely the Antioch Incident occurred in the late 40s and it was the impetus for the acts 15 Jerusalem Council which was quickly to follow in 48-49 C.E. It would be at this time and at this council that dogma would be decided that would determine how the non-Jew was to be included in the Olive Tree of Israel without complete conversion to Judaism. Dear one, this Jerusalem decree is the binding and loosing the Bible teaches about in the Old Testament and legally binding with God and His representatives regardless of what your particular denominational by-laws decree today. This is where most Christians miss it. They can be in good standing with their Pastor and Church today but totally disobedient to the Heavenly decree of James and the Jerusalem Church and not know it because they lack the necessary information about what truly went on with Peter, Paul, and the men from James.
One of the major weaknesses in many reconstructions of Christian origins and New Testament theology has been the failure to grasp the full racial and nationalistic dimensions of the early disputes within Christianity. As K. Stendahl pointed out in a famous essay, The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West, Harvard Theological Review 56 (1963) 199-215), Paul's teaching on justification through faith was not intended as an answer to a Luther-like agonizing after personal assurance of salvation. Paul's concern was rather with the relation between Jew and Gentile. His question was not, How can I be saved?, but, How can Gentiles be included within the messianic community of Israel?
You most likely need to read the above statement again.
If you can you need to procure for yourself K. Stendals Paul Among Jews And Gentiles And Other Essays (Philadelphia: Fortress/London: SCM, 1976).
Stendal brings out clearly that this essentially racial or nationalistic concept of righteousness as a consequence of God's election of and covenant with Israel. This concept is further illuminated and received fresh illumination from the major study by E. P. Sanders with his characterization of Palestinian Judaism in terms of 'covenantal nomism' (Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison Of Patterns Of Religions (London: SCM, 1977). The heart of the book and Sanders message is so needed to be heard by the Christian Church today.
This at first might not sound alarming but when you study our series of articles on the Christian and his covenant, and see how the New Testament has misrepresented the new or renewed covenant which has not occurred according to the Prophet Jeremiah regardless of what the unknown writer of the book of Hebrews attest, then one should be rather scared at the implications of such facts.
You can read all the Essene materials you want and see they thought themselves representatives of this "New Covenant" since they rejected Judaism in toto and the Temple-Priesthood. Don't look now, but if you are really familiar with their writings they are totally discredited as "falsehoods" since their prophecies failed and this relegates them to an ever growing company of "false teachers" according to the Torah. You need to learn the truth about the Essenes and their "New Covenant," because when they converted in mass to the Jesus movement following Yeshua's death, they brought their "New Covenant" theology with them. They simply were wrong as history attests! Their writings are equally wrong and is little more than apocalytpic star-wars religion. Read some good books on them; take L. Schiffman's Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls to get an accurate picture of how reliable their writings were and if they are to be trusted and believed today.
The Christian today literally stands apart from God without a Covenant in force for he is either ignorant of or rejects the only Covenant God gave to him. Being totally ignorant of the Covenant God made with the non-Jew and its stipulations and responsibilities placed upon the non-Jewish believer, he is unable to recognize and fulfill its obligations. No intention or effort is made at all to remain in a Covenant that you are not aware your in. One needs only to look at the anti-Semitism of the Catholic Church for the last 1800 years and how it influenced the writing and collection of the New Testament to understand how such truths were lost. If you want this series to see the horrible facts for themselves let us know. Now back to the Antioch incident.
The point you need to see and understand is this: that earliest Christianity was not yet seen as something separate and distinct from Judaism. It was a sect, like other sects within first-century Judaism. The first Christians had some distinct and peculiar beliefs about Yeshua; but their religion was the religion of the Jews! This important and forgotten aspect needs to be researched by every Christian alive today. Let me suggest you begin your study by reading L.H. Schiffman, "At the Crossroads: Tannaitiac Perspectives on the Jewish-Christian Schism", Jewish and Christian Self-Definition, Vol. II, Aspects of Judaism in the Graeco-Roman Period (ed. E. P. Sanders; London: SCM Press 1981) 115-156.
What the Christian Church must come to understand is that when Gentiles began to embrace these particular beliefs about Yeshua the question raised was still only in terms of what requirements were necessary for Gentiles to join themselves to the people who worshipped the one God. Historically the question was not "have you asked Yeshua into your heart?", "have you accepted the blood of Yeshua for your sin?", or "do you believe in Yeshua?" You might be amazed to find that these questions which seen to fill our pulpits today had no relevancy to the earliest Church of Jerusalem because such theologies had not yet been attached to Yeshua's life and death by his followers. Owing to Paul's teaching on these issues, and his drawing from mystery religions much of this teaching which he only reiterates to the non-Jews already familiar with such "beliefs," such will basically become the message and fruit of the non-Jewish Churches after the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. in the vacuum caused by the absence of the Jewish Authorities. The Gentiles would draw upon their prior pagan concepts of salvation and apply them to Yeshua. Since the canonization of the New Testament was entirely a Gentile endeavor it is not surprising that such traditions survive today as written in and among the scattered truths about Yeshua in the New Testament.
Contrary to what you have heard or even read in the forged New Testament, a Roman creationism, Paul's main argument in Galatians is about how one becomes Abraham's offspring, heir of his blessing (Gal. 34) and not how a non-Jew is "saved". As I will show you as we go along, circumcision was only one aspect of that debate concerning the Gentile's inclusion into the Israel of God, and it was probably the incident at Antioch which helped sharpen the issues for Paul as well as the Jerusalem Church.
Now something else that is of major importance when viewing the New Testament. This nationalistic dimension (Jew-Gentile relationship and table-fellowship) to the earliest development of Christianity within Judaism also helps us to recognize that the church at Antioch would not have seen itself as an entity independent of the Jews or of the Jewish believers in Palestine. It was simply the believing Jewish community at Antioch embracing more and more God-fearing Gentiles. The fact that the new movement was first given a distinctive name in Antioch (Christians-Acts 11:26) need not imply a distinction between the new movement and the synagogue, but only a distinction within Judaism. The absence of any mention of hostility from synagogue authorities in Antioch against the "Christians" in any of our sources is to be understood as very significant! This means that the first non-Jewish believers in God through the ministry of the followers of Yeshua understood that they were a part of Biblical Judaism and were now included in the Israel of God and not a part of something "new" and "different" as apart from Judaism! This is a major statement with profound consequences to the Christian Churches today. They did not consider themselves a new denomination!
Almost certainly the majority at heart would simply think of themselves as part of the Diaspora, with Jerusalem still serving as a source of pride and inspiration and a focus for faith and aspirations - despite the persecution which had forced many of the founding members to flee from the capital city (Acts 11.19-20). Stephen's views as represented in Acts 7 should not be understood as calling for an abandoning of Judaism. On the contrary they can be readily understood as a recall to a more primitive and purified form of Judaism. This would also involve the church at Antioch recognizing the church at Jerusalem as the fountainhead of their distinctive faith (cf. Rom. 15.27) and probably also as the authoritative interpreter of it. This is why when the men from James appeared and rebuked the church which had been taught its own version of Pauline Christianity, the church repented. The Jews removed themselves from table fellowship which included meats sacrificed to idols, meats that had not been tithed of correctly, and although not given to non-Jews, they non-Jewish believers took upon themselves the commandments concerning meats which had not been killed rabinically according to Commandments concerning how the blood was to be drained from the meat before eating. This was given to Jews and if non-Jews were to share table-fellowship then this would have to be observed by them as well. All these issues are dealt with in the Laws of Noah. The failure of the Church of Antioch to adhere to these Commandments affected not only the non-Jew since they were included in the Laws of Noah but the Jews as well as they again were included in the Laws of Moses. And the Church at Antioch and its failure to observe such necessary things which seemed good to the Holy Ghost can be traced to Pauls leadership; or should I say lack of leadership! Later we will look at each of these issues in detail.
This means we today must listen to Jerusalem before we listen to Paul and Antiochian echoes. Sadly the Christian Church of today has it just backwards and this explains the mess we have in the world today which is the direct result of Gentile Christianity's theology of grace without Law. In other words the problems we find today in the Christian World are directly traceable to the Antiochian influence over the Jerusalem influence. It was never meant to be this way but such is the fruit of the anti-Semitism of the Gentile juggernaut called the Christian Church since the 3rd century.
Most significant here is the degree to which Paul's treatment of his own relations with Jerusalem prior to the Antioch incident reinforces the impression that up until the incident over "table-fellowship" at Antioch Paul too had taken it for granted that Jerusalem had this primacy and authority. I refer to the character of Paul's self-defense in Galatians 1-2. Prior to this event Paul was in the middle so to speak. He wanted his Gentile followers to see his "independence" from the authority of Jerusalem but yet was depended upon Jerusalem's recognition for the validity of his mission and his authority among the Gentiles. The dialectic between being independent of and being acknowledged by Jerusalem and James is the keynote of this important text and must not be forgotten. If this is news to you I suggest you read B. Holmberg's Paul and Power: the Structure of Authority in the Primitive Church as Reflected in the Pauline Epistles.
In Galatians Paul is writing AFTER the incident at Antioch, after his rebuke by the men of James, and after the Jerusalem Council which reaffirmed the Laws of Noah, and his antagonist exposition toward law is heavily colored by that later viewpoint. But in trying to assert his independence from Jerusalem, and the directness of his Apostleship and gospel from Christ, he cannot escape the fact that previously he had readily acknowledged the authority of the Jerusalem apostles. We have by Paul's own hand his testimony in Gal. 1:18 that "after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter and abode with him fifteen days." Peter, the apostle who knew Yeshua best, was sought out as well as James, Yeshua's brother by Paul. Later in the same epistle we have Paul's admission again in 2:1: "Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also. And .communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run in vain".
Let me show you how Paul was dependent upon the Jerusalem Church, at least at first before he will later break away from the Apostolic decrees made at the Acts 15 Council. In Gal. 1:16 Paul states that he "conferred" not with flesh and blood in the beginning following his revelation but would do so three years later.
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
Paul's use of the word "prosanatithemi" (to consult in order to be given an authoritative interpretation) in 1.16 is an implicit acknowledgment that the Jerusalem apostles were recognized by him at that time as the appropriate authorities to consult on the interpretation of the revelation given him at Damascus - the point (as he now insists) being that he had not consulted them (1:16-17). He does not disguise the fact that his first visit to Jerusalem had been 'to get information from Cephas' in Gal. 1:18), though the information was evidently something different from the gospel already received three years earlier through the revelation of Christ (1:12). The purpose of his second visit to Jerusalem was to consult the Jerusalem leadership about his gospel, but he does not hide the fact that what they thought or decided about his gospel would make all the difference to the success or failure of his mission to the Gentiles. The point is not that Paul's gospel might be judges invalid, but that it's effect among the Gentiles might be nullified. So without a doubt one can see Paul yielding to Peter, James, and the Jerusalem Church in both of his visits. This means that Paul was in subjection to the Jerusalem authorities from Yeshua's Church and this is the way it should be. Sadly all this would change later after the Antioch incident.
The language Paul uses in Gal. 2.2 and 2:6 indicates a certain embarrassment at this admission. He calls the Jerusalem apostles "the men of repute", a phrase familiar in political rhetoric, where it was used both positively and negatively. The parenthesis of verse 6, with its noticeable change of tense - 'what they were (then) is (now) a matter of indifference to me; God shows no partiality' - is all aimed at curtailing the authority of the Jerusalem apostles in the current situation in Galatia and at reducing the significance of his earlier acceptance of that authority (D.M.Hay, "Paul's Indifference to Authority", JBL 88 (1969) 37-8; Betz, Galatians 94-95). Likewise when he says "those of repute added nothing to me" (2.6), there again the language indicates an acknowledgment on his part at that time of Jerusalem's 'right' to instruct or give directives to its daughter churches. So too, it can plausibly be argued that Paul's convoluted statement in verses 7-10 is a further attempt to obscure the degree to which Paul had been willing to accept Jerusalem's authority at that time as clearly expressed in the pillar apostles' recognition of Paul's and Barnabas' missionary success and their approval of a future division of labor (Bruce, Paul, 154, and Betz, Galatians, 96-103). All this points strongly to the conclusion that while Paul defended a position at Jerusalem, the three 'pillar' apostles delivered a verdict.
Moreover, there is a growing agreement on the view that when Paul went up to Jerusalem this second time it was not as an independent missionary or apostle, but as a delegate from the church at Antioch (so Acts 15:2; cf. 14:4, 14 - 'apostles', that is, of the church at Antioch, 13:2-3). The question discussed at the meeting in Jerusalem was not primarily whether Paul (and Barnabas) were apostles, but whether as apostles of Antioch their practice of not circumcising their converts should continue - that is, whether the church of Antioch's practice of according full acceptance to uncircumcised Gentile believers should continue without modification. The victory or rather concession won by the Antioch delegation did not call in question the authority of the Jerusalem apostles to make this concession. The point is that the church at Antioch could not make this decision by themselves, and readily referred it to Jerusalem. And when subsequently the delegation came from James, the majority of believers in Antioch just as readily accepted the authority of this further ruling regarding the practice of table-fellowship at Antioch. Paul would not and this is where the problem comes into play which would cause the quick meeting of the Acts 15 Church Council to settle the matter.
This nationalistic dimension to the Antioch incident becomes still more significant in the light of the second feature of the broader historical context to which we now turn.