James Patrick’s Blog

June 7, 2011

Amos’ Message of Hope and the Council of Jerusalem

Apologies for the infrequency of posts recently.  Study continues unabated, and in due course I will have managed to integrate properly the wealth of things I am learning about the Old Testament, enough to be able to publish them in a coherent way.  This brief post began as an observation I made during tutorials on the book of Amos, with the link to Isaiah 16:5 referred to by James A. Meeks in his recent monograph The Gentile Mission in Old Testament Citations in Acts, which I was reviewing at the time.  I trust it will provide some further clarity on the vision of the prophets.

As I have been teaching through the book of Amos, I’ve had to deal with a number of scholarly assessments which conclude that the message of hope in chapter nine has been tacked on to the end by a later ‘redactor’ of the book.  Such a conclusion assumes that prophets typically just preach messages of judgement against their contemporaries (hope is thought to weaken the impact of such a warning).  Such scholars also often place the beginning of the message of hope at 9:11 with the mention of David’s booth, but it undoubtedly begins earlier.

Verse 7 of chapter 9 clearly parallels verse 12 with their mutual message of God’s personal care for other nations in addition to Israel, and in fact both focus specifically on the idea of the ‘remnant’.  The eyes of the LORD on the sinful kingdom in verse 8 would remind the reader of the oracles against the nations in chapters one and two, each of which is destroyed for their sin, but when God holds back from total destruction in the case of the house of Jacob (9:8), this parallels God’s mercy on other nations too.  For example, just as Israel was brought out of Egypt from the house of slavery and through the midst of judgement, so Aram is described as being brought up from Kir, whither they had been told they would be taken into exile in 1:5.  The Philistines did not just originate in Caphtor [Crete or Asia Minor], but Genesis 10:14 says they were descended from a separate group in the area of Caphtor, the Casluhim, and Jeremiah 47:4 says they are in fact the ‘remnant’ of the coastland of Caphtor.  This would fit with the idea that like Israel was brought out of Egypt, so the Philistines had been brought out of Caphtor as a remnant to be settled in their own land.  Amos 1:8 says that the remnant of the Philistines will perish, but like the further judgement even on the remnant of Judah remaining after exile (Isa. 6:13), so I think this means further judgement on [but not annihilation of] the Philistine remnant, as Zechariah 9:5-7 teaches too.

The idea of a remnant from Gentile nations, epitomised by the remnant of Edom [or ‘Adam’ if pronounced slightly differently, meaning ‘humanity’ as James correctly quotes/paraphrases in Acts 15:17], is actually a theme of many prophets.  Before Amos, Joel had summoned all nations against Jerusalem, where God would enter into judgement with them and destroy their assembled armies as He had recently in the valley of Jehoshaphat (2Chr 20).  Amos then combines this idea of judgement on international armies (and their leaders) with the deliverance of even Gentile nations who suffered under their oppression, an idea that goes right back to Abram (Gen 14) who defeated an international coalition led by the king of Elam and recovered not just the remnant of his own people (Lot) but also the remnant of Sodom.  Abram was told he would rule over and thus become a blessing to all nations, and though his great-grandson Joseph was the first to model this, the promise combined with ruling over the promised land got its first proper fulfilment under David, who defeated and ruled over all surrounding nations with justice, even incorporating foreign nationals in his own army (1Chr 11:38 [cf. 5:10], 39, 41, 46).  The greater Son of David, therefore, would similarly defeat all nations who gathered against Jerusalem, and also the ruler of their international coalition (the alternative Messiah/anti-Christ), and would deliver the remnant of all nations from his hand.

Amos has been prophesying judgement on the entire nation of Israel and Judah (cf. 3:1; 5:5 [Beersheba]; 6:1), with a special focus on the northern kingdom of Israel.  This message of judgement has hardly a glimmer of hope from beginning to end (only 3:12; 5:3, 4-6, 14-15, 24; 7:1-6) so without 9:7-15 his audience would be left with the impression that God is indiscriminate in His judgements – what about the poor and needy, the righteous who have been oppressed by their rulers; will they perish also?  9:9 says that unfortunately they will all alike be taken into exile in the nations, but like grain shaken in a sieve the chaff will be removed but the good grains will remain.  9:10 clarifies that it will be the sinners who will die by the sword, rather than the oppressed.  Then when the exiles return to their land they will live in the rebuilt cities and enjoy the fruit of their vineyards (9:14), which is evidently the vindication of those oppressed by the wicked back in 5:11.

More than just the remnant of Israel, though, God’s interest is in restoring the remnant of all nations (cf. Isa 49:5-7), just as He had brought judgement on all nations as well back in chapters one and two.  In this context, therefore, the rebuilding of the ‘fallen booth of David’ does not seem to correspond naturally to the rebuilding of the temple as such, partly because David did not build the temple for the ark in the first place.  Some suggest that this describes the tent he constructed to house the ark before the temple was built, which was presumably where he ‘sat before the LORD’ in 2Sam 7:18, but again, worship does not seem to be the primary focus of this passage in Amos.  The significance of this ‘fallen booth’ idea can actually be perceived in the way the prophet Isaiah interpreted it just a few decades after Amos.  Isaiah shares many of the interests of Amos, both as regards justice and as regards the nations.  He also goes into detail about the ruler of the international coalition who will oppress all nations, naming this Elamite/Median king ‘Cyrus’ (Isa 13:17; 21:2; 22:6; 41:1-7; 45:1-3; 45:22-46:2; etc.), and it is because of this worldwide oppression that the remnant of nations will turn for help and justice to God’s true anointed saviour, the Son of David.  This is a theme that comes up again and again throughout Isaiah’s oracles against the nations also, as anticipated in Isaiah 2:2-4: messengers come from Philistia to seek refuge in Zion (14:32), the remnant of Aram are like the glory of the sons of Israel (17:3), Ethiopians bring a gift of homage to Zion (18:7; cf. Amos 9:7); Egypt is given a Saviour and Champion to deliver them (19:20-22) and therefore worship the LORD along with Assyria (19:23-25), the inhabitants of Ashdod on the coast recognise that they have no hope for deliverance apart from God (20:6), Edomites call to God’s prophet for news of hope (21:11), the Arabian fugitives are met with bread and water (21:14), and the LORD will restore Tyre after seventy years of desolation so that her profit is brought to Him (23:15-18).  It is in the description of the Moabites, however, that the ‘booth of David’ idea appears: the outcasts of Moab flee to Zion, because there “A throne will even be established in lovingkindness, and a judge will sit on it in faithfulness in the tent of David; moreover He will seek justice and be prompt in righteousness.” (16:5)

Just as Moses had met with the LORD in the tent of meeting, the Tabernacle, and there received divine judgements with which to adjudicate for the nation (Ex 18:15-26; 25:22; Lev 1:1; 24:12-13; Num 15:33-35; Deut 1:9-18; 17:8-13), so David too met with the LORD in his tent of meeting, and this would presumably be where he would have received wisdom with which to adjudicate as the ‘supreme court’ of his nation (anticipated in Deut 17:18-20; cf. 2Sam 12:6 [from Ex 22:1]; 14:4-20; 15:2-4).  The responsibility of the Son of David to act as judge for His [and other] nations is clear in Isaiah 9:6-7 and 11:1-10.  David had prayed in Psalm 72 (title can also be read as ‘For Solomon’ – see 72:20) that his son Solomon would continue to judge in righteousness, and indeed Solomon received divine wisdom to do this (1Kgs 3; 10:1-10), metaphorically (and literally) repairing the breach of the city of his father David and building up the walls of Jerusalem that had been broken down through David’s sin (1Kgs 3:1; 9:15; 11:27; cf. Ps 51:18-19 and Amos 9:11).  The ‘fallen booth of David’, therefore, refers to the failure of Israel’s kings to make righteous judgements on behalf of the poor and needy, a failure Amos ultimately blamed on Jereboam II (Amos 7:9-11), and its restoration will therefore bring justice once again to the oppressed remnant of Israel, and in fact to those of all other nations also.  Through her King, Israel will ‘possess’ the remnants of all nations, because all nations will acknowledge the authority of Israel’s King, and the nations will call on the name of the LORD as Gentiles, bearing allegiance to His anointed King yet not needing to become Jewish to do so.

It is this principle, therefore, that James was referring to in the Council of Jerusalem; he recognised that Amos’ prophecy not only spoke of Gentiles called by the Lord’s name despite remaining Gentiles (as Simon Peter had reminded the council – Acts 15:7-11, 14) but also spoke of the Son of David judging justly on matters concerning the Gentiles through His people Israel (hence this Jewish council’s authority to pass judgement on what Gentiles must avoid without putting excessive burdens on them to trouble them – 15:19-20).  The reason for this particular judgement was that [the books of] Moses were taught weekly in every synagogue throughout the Roman empire (15:21), and the laws God had laid down for all humanity (prior to the giving of the Law of Moses for Israel uniquely) were therefore already known to all Gentile God-fearers who attended synagogue: abstaining from the pollutions of idols (mankind is the only authorised image and likeness of God – Gen 1:26-27; 5:1-2); being faithful to one’s sole spouse (as God established at creation – Gen 2:18-24); and honouring God’s only condition concerning the consumption of meat after the Flood by removing all its blood (Gen 9:2-4).  The Law of Moses would only be recommended for Jewish believers in the land, its original intended audience (cf. Matt. 5:17-20; Acts 21:20-26).  Of course, the other aspect of this rebuilding of the fallen booth of David, the restoration of the Messiah’s authority over all Gentile nations, was working justice for the poor, a key value that both Jewish and Gentile missions of the Early Church shared explicitly (Gal 2:7-10).

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March 22, 2010

Date and Background of 1 Timothy (Winds of Doctrine #3)

Filed under: Exegesis,History — alabastertheology @ 4:49 pm
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At the time Paul wrote his first epistle to Timothy he was not in prison, and while on his way to Macedonia he had asked Timothy to go ahead of him to Ephesus and instruct the teachers of the churches (1Tim 1:3-4).  We do not seem to have any record of this event in Acts, because the situation in Acts 19–20 does not fit this time.  At the end of Paul’s second, extended stay in Ephesus (Acts 19), he had sent Timothy from Ephesus ahead of him to Macedonia rather than vice versa (Acts 19:22; 20:1-4).  After a few months in Macedonia and then Greece, Paul returned northwards through Macedonia and chose to travel by sea from Philippi in order to reach Jerusalem in time to present the Collection from the Gentile churches to the Jerusalem elders at Pentecost (Acts 20:16; Rom 15:25-31).  Paul [and Luke] met up with Timothy and others at Troas, where Eutychus was raised from the dead (Acts 20:12), and Paul joined the others on their ship a bit further down the coast at Assos (20:13‑14).  Paul didn’t want to take the time to visit Ephesus, so he instead summoned the Ephesian elders to him at Miletus (20:16‑38).  Paul was already somewhat aware of the danger he faced in Jerusalem, and prophesied that he would never again see the face of these elders (20:22-23, 25, 38).  It appears that as yet the Ephesian church had not encountered false teachers, though Paul knew that they would surely come, even from among the church leaders themselves (20:28‑31).  Soon after arriving in Jerusalem, Paul was indeed imprisoned, and after several years ended up in Rome.

Very early tradition testifies that Paul was released from that first imprisonment, and possibly after travelling to Spain as he had intended (Rom 15:24, 28) he returned to the eastern Mediterranean, planting churches in Crete where he had not properly visited before as far as we know (Tit 1:5; cf. Acts 27:7-15).  After this that he decided to travel north, visiting churches he had planted on previous missionary journeys throughout Greece, Macedonia and Asia Minor.  1 Timothy 1:3 says that it was on his way to Macedonia (perhaps somewhere in Greece) that he urged Timothy to ‘remain’ at Ephesus, so it seems Paul had decided to first visit the Macedonian churches again before coming around to the churches in Asia Minor (1Tim 1:3).  Timothy was apparently with him at this point, and so Paul asked Timothy to go straight over to Ephesus ahead of him and ‘remain’ there until he arrived.  It appears he had heard of their problems with false teachers, including even some of the elders themselves who had fallen away from true doctrine and upright living, but it was more urgent that he himself visit Macedonia first.  Timothy duly went over to Ephesus, but when Paul found his visits to the Macedonian churches taking longer than planned, he wanted to make sure Timothy didn’t feel unsupported or decide to leave, hence the first letter to Timothy.  Paul himself planned to arrive in Ephesus before long (3:14‑15; 4:13), having perhaps forgotten his prophecy to the Ephesian elders at Miletus several years earlier.

In his letter, Paul mentions that he has already heard enough about the false teachers Hymenaeus and Alexander to have officially excluded them from his churches in Ephesus (1Tim 1:20; cf. 1Cor 5:1‑5), but he warned Timothy not to receive accusations against other elders too quickly (5:19‑21).  It was evident, therefore, that new elders (and deacons) would need to be appointed in place of those who had fallen (3:1‑13; 5:22).  There were issues with the church having to support more widows than it could apparently afford to, hence Paul’s instructions to remove from the list any widows who could be supported by their own family, as well as any below the age of sixty (even if they had made a vow of celibacy!) who should get married and be productive rather than busybodies (5:3‑16).  There were also issues with disrespect for authority, whether that was the men who seem to have been stirring up dissension against city officials (2:1-8), or their wives who were being ostentatious with jewellery and presuming to exercise spiritual authority over their husbands (2:9-15), or slaves who were dishonouring their masters (6:1‑2).  However, the most significant problem in the church was the false teachers, whom Timothy had been specifically sent to instruct in sound doctrine, and in the next post we turn to look at false teaching in the Early Church.

September 27, 2009

Promised Land in Acts, part one [I&NC #9]

Filed under: Prophecy — alabastertheology @ 9:13 pm
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It is interesting to note that the whole book of Acts, describing the Jewish mission to the Gentiles, is started by setting it in the context of the timing of God’s promised restoration of Israel’s possession of her land under her anointed King.  This restoration is referred to again in Peter’s second sermon in Jerusalem, which also mentions the mission to the Gentiles.  Finally, Stephen’s speech to the Sanhedrin picks up on Jesus’ prophesied judgement on the nation but sets this within the context of the eventual inheritance of the land [we will deal with this speech in the next post].

Acts 1:6-11 – Having looked at the parable of the minas in Luke 19:11-27 above, the disciples’ question to Jesus in Acts 1:6 makes a lot more sense.  Often it is assumed that the disciples are still foolishly fixated on defeating the Romans and recapturing their territory, and Jesus has to turn their eyes away from themselves once again.  This is far from the truth.  On Jesus’ approach to Jerusalem approximately seven weeks earlier, He had responded to their assumptions that the ‘kingdom of God’ (the territory of Israel in their understanding) would appear immediately, by surprisingly reinforcing their ideas of judgement on enemies and territorial rewards, but simply postponing these until after His return.  Then at their final Passover meal together He promised them twelve thrones judging the tribes of Israel (Luke 22:28-30).  At the same meal He made it clear He was going somewhere that they could not follow, but He would return and gather the disciples again to live in His presence.  He explained that if He went away to His Father, He could then send the Holy Spirit who would bring them permanent joy and authority (John 14:3; 16:7‑11, 16­‑29).  He then spoke in His prayer about accomplishing His assigned task, being given all authority, and “now” coming to the Father, all of which would have later reinforced to them the idea that Jesus’ death was the prophesied ‘going away’ to the Father (John 17:1-5, 11-13, 24; cf. Luke 23:43‑46).

Therefore when Jesus returned from death after three days, He had to try as best He could to clarify that this return wasn’t the one He had been talking about; “Stop clinging to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I ascend to my Father and your Father, and my God and your God.’” (John 20:17)  But then He met the disciples and told them to ‘receive the Holy Spirit’ He was breathing on them (20:22).  Later He spoke to Peter in Galilee about someone else clothing him and bringing him where he did not wish to go, which Peter may have initially interpreted as being ‘clothed’ with authority and returning to rule in Jerusalem (cf. Luke 15:22; Zec 3:1-7), for which he certainly felt unworthy and even unwilling (John 21:3, 15-18).  He therefore suggested John for primary leadership of the Eleven (20:21, cf. 20:15-17 and Luke 22:32), but Jesus said that He might well choose for John to ‘remain’ (in Galilee?) until He ‘came’ (back again from Jerusalem?); regardless of where John was assigned, Peter had to follow Him.  Clearly that conversation was reinterpreted subsequently more than once, but it is at least plausible that the disciples were quite confused about what exactly Jesus planned to do now that He had ‘returned’.

After spending some time in Galilee with the disciples (John 21; Matthew 28:10, 16‑20), Jesus returned with them to Jerusalem, and probably at that point, significantly during a meal (Acts 1:4; cf. Luke 22:28-30), He told them to stay here in Jerusalem from now on until they received the Holy Spirit “not many days from now”, something that He had said would happen after He had returned to the Father (John 14:25‑28; 16:7).  As they were probably unaware Jesus would be leaving for good within a couple of days, the most natural interpretation of His promise would be that having ‘gone away’ in death and sorrow (John 16:19-22) to His Father, He had now returned in fullness of joy, and once the Holy Spirit was received in a few days’ time it would surely be the fulfilment of His great kingdom established here in Jerusalem.  “So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, ‘Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?’”  Very good question.

In response, Jesus did not pick up on the issue of the kingdom being restored to Israel, which He acknowledged was an epoch that the Father had fixed by His own authority for a certain time (Acts 1:7).  Instead, He answered what they were really asking, that is, the question of timing, which had been puzzling them ever since supper in Jerusalem six weeks earlier.  His reply was that they would not be given precise timings (even as Jesus Himself had not been given them – Mat 24:36), but all that they had to know was that after receiving the Holy Spirit they would be sent out from Jerusalem to testify about Jesus “even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).  Clearly, the time of them inheriting their kingdom and ruling from Jerusalem was not for now; they had a mission to accomplish first, and only when “this good news of the kingdom will be preached in the whole inhabited earth as a testimony to all nations, then the end will come” (Mat 24:14).  The rest of the book of Acts is therefore the beginnings of that mission to the ends of the earth, or at least as far as Rome, the centre of the ‘inhabited earth’; as Paul recognised, from Rome one would surely be able to reach even the furthest parts of the known world (Rom 15:20‑24; cf. Acts 28:23‑31).

Acts 1:6-8 is therefore both the most explicit recorded affirmation by Jesus of the future fulfilment of the Father’s promise of a territorial ‘kingdom’ for Israel, and also an equally clear clarification that the inheritance of this kingdom would only happen after the testimony about Jesus had reached the ‘remotest part of the earth’.

Acts 3:12-26 – In Peter’s second recorded sermon in Jerusalem, within weeks of Jesus’ ascension, we can sense his anticipation and impatience for the return of Jesus and the fulfilment of promised inheritance.  However here we also note a further element of the Early Church’s understanding about the end of this age.  Jesus had clearly declared to Jerusalem that they would not see Him again until as a nation they turned back to Him in repentance and welcomed His return with ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ (Mat 23:37‑39).  It appears that the twelve apostles initially expected this national repentance to happen within their generation, ushering in the return of Jesus (Mat 24:32‑35), but they had not given due weight to Israel’s hardness of heart and Jesus’ promise of certain judgement and exile, nor to the size of the task they had been given in first reaching the ends of the earth.  Perhaps they saw the national repentance as the best means of expanding the task force to reach the ends of the earth, and this is indeed suggested in this sermon of Peter’s.

Peter used the ‘perfect health’ of the healed beggar as an ideal example of what will be possible for the nation as a whole if they put their trust in the name of Jesus, the one glorified by the covenant God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  If the people as a whole repented and returned, their sins could be wiped away, ‘times of refreshing’ would come from God (presumably the empowering of the Holy Spirit for mission to the ends of the earth), and ultimately God would send the Messiah Jesus back to His people.  Peter now recognised from the prophets how Jesus would have to remain in heaven “until the times of restoration of all things about which God spoke”.  This reference to the words of the prophets would undoubtedly have included the permanent inheritance of their land, about which almost every prophet spoke.  Peter does warn that there would be judgement against those who refused to listen to the message of Jesus, but then encouraged the people that the days they themselves were living in had been announced ever since Samuel (cf. 1 Sam 2:10).

Finally Peter explicitly cites the covenant that God made with the Patriarchs, emphasising that his (Jewish) hearers were the heirs of that covenant and the promises made through the prophets, and therefore for the Jewish nation first (before all other nations), God had sent His Servant Jesus to turn them from wickedness and make them a blessing to every nation on earth.  Although by this early stage Peter has not thought through the pragmatic and theological implications of Jewish mission to the Gentiles (cf. Acts 10:28‑29; Gal 2:11‑14), his passionate, hope-filled emphasis on this mission, even while preaching to his own countrymen within his own promised land, is an example for all believers in their respective nations.  It is clearly possible to believe unreservedly in the certain future restoration of a nation’s territorial inheritance, according to God’s covenant promise, and still be enthusiastically committed to gospel mission to every nation.  The fact that the former cannot happen before the latter is completed will no doubt motivate the believer to go to the nations!

August 11, 2009

Synopsis of Galatians 1–2 and Acts 9–15

Filed under: History — alabastertheology @ 3:12 pm
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Both Galatians and Acts give biographical information about the first twenty years or so of Paul’s life after conversion, the first being autobiographical, and the second record traditionally attributed to Luke.  Not only have people often had difficulty matching up the two accounts, but whatever synopsis one chooses to accept for these will affect how one dates the letter to the Galatians, with knock-on effects for the development of his theology and the history of the Early Church.  What follows is my own attempt to correlate the two accounts:

Gal 1:15-16 – God “was pleased to reveal His Son in me…”

Acts 9:1-19 – Saul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, blinding, prayer by Ananias, healing, receiving Holy Spirit, water baptism

Gal 1:16 – “… I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood…”

Acts 9:19-22 – Saul was with believers in Damascus for several days, but “immediately” began to preach in the synagogues about Jesus, confounding the Jews there.

Gal 1:17 – “… nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus.”

Acts 9:23-25 – Saul’s disciples lowered him in a large basket from the wall of Damascus to escape his enemies.

[gap in record of Saul’s movements in Arabia]

Gal 1:18-19 – “Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days. But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.”

Acts 9:26-29 – [8:1 describes the significant dispersion that had happened from Jerusalem.]
“When [Saul] came to Jerusalem he was trying to associate with the disciples”, was introduced to “the apostles” by Barnabas, and then moved freely in the city speaking boldly about Jesus under threat of death.

Gal 1:21-22 – “Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.  I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea which were in Christ.”

Acts 9:30 – “But when the brethren learned of it, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus [in Cilicia].”

Gal 2:1-2 – “Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also.  According to revelation I went up…”

Acts 11:22-30 – Barnabas was sent from Jerusalem to Antioch [in Syria] where he taught new believers, leaving to look for Saul in Tarsus.  They returned and spent “an entire year” teaching together, after which Agabus and other prophets came from Jerusalem, prophesying a great famine.  Barnabas and Saul were sent with ‘aid’ to the Jerusalem elders (cf. 12:25).

Gal 2:2-10 – “… and I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but in private to those who were of reputation… Recognising the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John …gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship… only asking us to remember the poor – the very thing I was eager to do.”

Acts 12:[1-]25 – John’s brother James was executed by Herod; Peter was imprisoned and then freed by an angel.  When Peter came to the house of Mary mother of John Mark, he urged them to tell “James and the brethren”, and “Then he left and went to another place”.  “And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their mission, taking along with them John, who was also called Mark.”

[Thus John, Peter and James are all mentioned in the context of Jerusalem while Barnabas and Saul were visiting in response to a revelation, serving the poor in Judea.  John is not an actor as such in 12:2, but as ‘James’ was a common name, identifying him as the ‘brother of John’  rather than the ‘son of Zebedee’ implies that John was also well-known to the Jerusalem church.]

Gal 2:11-14 – “But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing those from the circumcision. The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not walking straightly about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, ‘…’

[It follows from the culmination in Antioch that Paul is writing to the Galatian churches from Antioch, shortly after visiting them (cf. 1:6 – “so quickly”). He doesn’t mention any conclusion to his dispute with Cephas, nor a letter from the Jerusalem apostles and elders to support his case, suggesting he hadn’t yet left Antioch for Jerusalem when he hurriedly wrote to the Galatian churches.]

Acts 13:1–15:2 – Saul [Paul] and Barnabas were set apart by fellow teachers and prophets for the first Galatian mission [Cyprus, Perga, Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, and back again]. “When they arrived [back in Antioch] and gathered the church together, they began to report …how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. And they spent not a little time with the disciples. Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’ And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue.”

[Peter had apparently come to Antioch before the arrival of the teachers from Judea, during that “not a little time” mentioned above.]

[In the following two declarations by Paul and by Peter on Jewish / Gentile believers, notice the following points of contact:
(1)  no distinction between salvation of Jews and of Gentiles

(2)  justified / hearts cleansed by faith not law
(3)  Christ lives in us by the Holy Spirit
(4)  we Jews have been found sinners under law
(5)  it amounts to rebuilding and compelling obedience to the law’s yoke which was destroyed through Christ’s crucifixion
(6)  Christ died, expressing the grace of God ]

Paul’s Declaration in Antioch

Gal 2:14-21 – “I said to Cephas in the presence of all, ‘If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews? We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles; nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; since by the works of the law no flesh will be justified. But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin? May it never be! For if I rebuild what I have destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and that which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness is through the law, then Christ died needlessly.’”

Peter’s Declaration in Jerusalem

Acts 15:7-11 – “Peter stood up and said to them, ‘Brethren, you know that from days of old God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.’”

[It appears that Peter had been convinced by Paul’s arguments, and put them into his own words for the council in Jerusalem.]

This synopsis serves to confirm the early dating for Galatians to the late 40’s AD, written to the south Galatian churches Paul had just established on his first missionary journey (Acts 13-14).  That would make it the earliest of Paul’s letters we have (before 1 Thessalonians), written less than twenty years after Jesus’ resurrection, and evidence of Paul’s thought on the question of Gentile salvation prior to the Council of Jerusalem recorded in Acts 15.

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