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INFIGHTING BETWEEN PAUL AND THE JERUSALEM CHURCH (PETER AND JAMES)

There was a connection between Paul's struggle with the Judaizing Christians and his conflict with Peter which he described in Galatians and which is alluded to in Acts. Peter was a Jew with Jewish loyalties and identification; he was designated as the apostle to the Jews by the Nazarenes. According to the Pseudo-Clementine writings of the second century Peter had always been loyal to the Torah and was at odds with Paul and his teachings. These writings are especially important for the Christian to read and understand.

The Pseudo-Clementine writings are so-called because they had been incorrectly attributed to Pope Clement I who lived at the end of the first century C.E. Because of the ascription to Clement, the literature was preserved as patristic writings. They are now recognized by most scholars as Jewish Christian or Ebionite works of the late second or early third century (R. Graves and J. Podro, The Nazarene Gospel, H. Maccoby, The Mythmaker, p. 180, Encyclopedia Brittanica, 1972, Vol 5, pp. 900-901; The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, 1978, p.235). Peter opposed the views of Paul with regard to following the requirements of the Torah.

In Gal.. 2 Paul announced,

"I opposed Peter to his face because he was wrong."

He went on to indicate that his differences were not only with Peter but also with James and the Jerusalem Council regarding dietary observances (see the Antioch Incident articles on this site for more information). Paul accused Peter and the Jews with him of hypocrisy, a term frequently hurled at Jews in the New Testament whenever there was a disagreement. Paul criticized Peter because he discontinued eating with Gentiles after representatives from the Jerusalem Council had come to see him. Paul said that the "circumcision group" (Jews or Judaizing Christians) had frightened Peter. Paul went on to fault his fellow apostle for living like a Gentile while being a Jew and forcing Gentiles to follow Jewish customs. Since this is in Paul's letter, we have only his version and no record of Peter's response. It is not certain what Paul meant by his phrase "living like a Gentile" and which behavior he called hypocritical. It could have referred to Peter eating with Gentiles and expecting them to keep Jewish dietary practices (kashrut). However, when Peter stopped eating with them, Paul called him a hypocrite. This was a no-win situation. If Peter continued to eat with Gentiles, he was a hypocrite; when he stopped, he was still a hypocrite. Either way Peter was faulted.

It is possible that Peter was reminded by the Jerusalem delegation to avoid certain forbidden foods when dining with Gentiles. Thus one sees the strong influence of Paul. Of course, there was no prohibition against Peter or any Jew inviting Gentiles to his home for meals. Anyway we have dealt with this "Antioch Incident" in detail on other websites and have shown that Paul's conduct in this matter was a violation of the Laws of the Noahide Covenant prohibiting Idolatry and he was sternly rebuked by the men from James and this incident was the catalyst that required Paul to appear a second time before James to answer charges in Acts 21 concerning his violation of the Torah and the misrepresentation of Yeshua's teachings.

After Paul's confrontation with Peter there seemed to be no further contact between the two men and they ceased to have amicable relations (S.G.F. Brandon, The Fall of Jerusalem, p. 138; R. Graves and J. Pedro, op. cit., p. 19). This scandal is slurred over in Acts which tried to show that Paul was always on good terms with the original disciples and that he (Paul) brought Peter and James around to his view. Barnabas also deserted Paul in the dispute and this speaks volumes since they were bosom buddies!

After his exchange with Peter, Paul took the occasion to recapitulate his philosophy of justification by faith and replacement of the Law by belief in Jesus. The question has been raised whether Paul would have written as he did (on justification and supersession) if it were not for the Judaic competition and Judaizing Christians he encountered. It is possible that Jewish rejection of his teaching made him "dig-in" to a more extreme position vis-a-vis the Law which he thought would be more palatable to Gentiles. His reaction might have been a practical and calculated response to the certain loss of Jewish converts and the greater possibility of gaining Gentile proselytes. This is the politics of religion. Paul used whatever arguments he felt would convince people and add to his following.

There were significant differences between Peter and Paul. The former was a born Jew. He grew up in Galilee, a rural agricultural area where the Jews were ardently devoted to their religion and country. He knew Jesus personally, had worked with him, and was directly familiar with his precepts. Peter could remember Jesus as a teacher and a Jewish messiah figure. Paul was born in a prosperous, Gentile, urban center which served as the capital of a Roman province. He was raised in a strongly Hellenistic environment where paganism was ubiquitous and predominant. According to Acts, he came to Jerusalem as a young man, old enough to have mastered a trade and to have been influenced by certain religious ideas. He never knew Jesus in his life. He did not acquaint himself with the rustic Galilean life which had molded and influenced Jesus and all his disciples. While in the country he spent his time in Judea and Jerusalem. In fact, Paul never developed a kinship with the men who had been close to Jesus, such as his brother, James, or his other disciples who were now the leaders of the Jerusalem Council. Paul remained aloof from the people associated with Jesus and his teachings. Inevitably there would be a clash between men like James and Peter who had known Jesus and wanted to disseminate his teachings and Paul who claimed to have met Jesus only in a vision and whose religious ideas were contrary to those of Jesus' original followers.

In Phil. 3 Paul spoke of his earlier connection with Judaism prior to discovering Jesus. He described his former beliefs as worthless and said in Greek, "I consider them excrement" (3:8). It is no wonder that those who remained loyal to the beliefs of Jesus' disciples were alienated from Paul and the doctrines he introduced into Christianity and applied to Jesus whom they had known. Their writings testify to the split between Peter and Paul and express their indignation at the betrayal of Jesus' beliefs--teachings which Peter, along with James and other Jewish Christians or Nazarenes, wished to continue. The main point of contention concerned the Torah which Paul's adversaries did not feel needed to be revoked because of their belief in Jesus as a messiah. They experienced none of Paul's antagonism to Jews; they felt identified as Jews. Neither did they reject the Torah or believe that it was superseded. The literature of the sect recorded Peter's anger at Paul for transforming the traditions and beliefs of the early Church into his own personal religion and thus subverting theirs. Paul had devised such a new formula that his faith became different enough to separate him from the founders ideologically and physically.

THE EPISTLE OF JAMES....COUNTERS PAULINISM

James' differences with Paul are graphically illustrated in numerous passages in a letter written in his name. Neither the author of the Epistle of James nor its date can be established. Although many believing Christians consider the author to be Jesus' brother, most scholars doubt this. The document has been traditionally dated to around 62 A.D. This is the year that James was executed by order of the High Priest, Ananus, for which the Pharisees were outraged and had him removed from office. This incident alone shows the close feelings which the Pharisees had for Jewish Christians and the total lack of enmity between them during the time of Paul. Perhaps the writer was a Nazarene which is what Jesus' brother was and wrote in his name. The letter emphasized the importance of the Law, especially its ethical principles, which was (and is) a Jewish viewpoint. Of particular interest is the stress the author laid, not only on the value, but the necessity, of deeds to supplement faith (not faith alone as Paul said). The writer devoted several verses of this short letter to this subject. Let us read some of them:

Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. ..But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it, he will be blessed in what he does. (1:22,25)

What good is it my brothers if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such a faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well-fed" but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself if it is not accompanied by action is dead. But someone will say, ?You have faith; I have deeds.µ Show me your faith without deeds and I will show you my faith by what I do. (2:14-18)

You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see his faith and his actions were working together and his faith was made complete by what he did...You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.(2:20-26)

These phrases express the unremitting opposition James had for Paul's dogmas in regard to faith, deeds, and the Torah. James' respect for the Law is seen in his description of it as giving freedom (1:25, 2:12). This is a direct contradiction of Paul who disparagingly defined the Law as producing slavery.

James reiterated Jesus' understanding of the essence of the Torah when he said, "If you keep the royal law found in Scripture, 'Love your neighbor as yourself,' you are doing right" (2:8). He wrote of a subject dear to the spirit of the Tanakh and frequently mentioned there, "look after the orphans and widows in their distress" (1:27). The essential messages of the Epistle of James are testimony to the dichotomy between the religious views of the Nazarenes and Paul. The epistle reveals the serious disagreement which the early devotees of Jesus had with the ideas Paul imposed on their sect.

The letter of Jude, written around 90 C.E., also displays the conflict within the Church about divergent philosophies which continued to rage after the death of Peter, James, and Paul. The letter has been interpreted by some as a criticism of the Gnostics while others see it as an indication of the conflict between the Pauline and Nazarene schools.

Support for the latter view comes from 2 Peter. The author is unknown and the letter has been dated by scholars anywhere between 100 and 150 C.E. It is considered a response to some of the issues in Jude which indicates that the controversy continued for a couple of centuries.

The literature about Peter which has been preserved in the Pseudo-Clementine writings and the letter of James disclose the fact that Paul's doctrines differed from the early Christianity of Peter, James, the other disciples, and Jerusalem Church in general, despite Paul's denial of this in Gal. 2:9. But let us not forget such passages as Gal. 1:18-24 and Gal. 2:6-9 were not found in the First New Testament and the Book of Galatians in 150 A.D. but would only appear in the rebuttal of Irenaeus and his "second" New Testament in 180 A.D. We see here clearly the Gentile's attempts to bolster Pauline authority for their doctrines which were encountering stiff opposition by those who had direct links yet with the Jerusalem Church and its tradition.

Now you know the truth about the matter that the writers of the New Testament tried to conceal to later generations of believers.