I mentioned in my previous posts that there are discrepancies between Paul’s letters and the book of Acts in both major and minor ways, and in my last post I dealt with some differences that appear when one looks closely at the details (the issue I addressed: what does Paul do immediately upon his conversion).  There are many instances like that throughout Acts:  if you compare what Paul has to say with what Acts has to say, on the same topic or about the same  event, you will find differences, and often these differences matter a lot to the overall narrative.

There are also of differences that emerge from the overall portrayal of Paul and his Christian mission.   In this post I’ll deal with one example, Paul’s relationship with the other Apostles.

In both Acts and Paul’s letters its clear that Paul had relations those who were apostles before him, chiefly the former disciples of Jesus (Peter, John, etc.) and Jesus’ own brother James, who was to become the leader of the church in Jerusalem.  When you read the book of Acts there is no ambiguity whatsoever about how Paul relates to these people.  He is introduced to them by Barnabas and they immediately welcome him, after some initial hesitancy (ch. 9).

Of yet greater importance,

  in the book of Acts, Paul’s entire mission to the Gentiles is endorsed with a unified voice by the Jerusalem apostles.   The big issue facing the early church involved the relationship of the Jewish messiah to the non-Jewish peoples.  For someone to be a follower of Jesus, do they have to become circumcised and begin to follow the laws and customs of Judaism?   The apostle Paul, both in his own letters and in Acts, insists that the answer is Absolutely Not.   The salvation brought by the Jewish messiah is for all people, not just for Jews, and one does not have to become a Jew in order to share in that salvation.

Acts goes out of its way to stress that everyone – including the Jerusalem apostles – was completely on board with this view.   In the narrative of Acts, it is actually Peter, not Paul, who first learns this lesson from God (ch. 10), and then acts upon it by converting a Gentile, the centurion Cornelius (ch. 11).   Then, after Paul’s first missionary journey to Gentile lands, at a conference called in Jerusalem to deal with the issue (do the Gentiles need to be circumcised), there is rousing support for Paul’s view among all the people that matter, with James and Peter speaking up for Paul’s position (ch. 15).

Here in Acts there is no opposition to Paul among the other apostles; on the contrary, Paul and the others see eye-to-eye in every way on this issue – and on all others.   Acts is keenly determined to show that there were no splits in the apostolic band, of any kind, whatsoever.   Outsiders to the group may have different opinions.  But these false beliefs are quickly and decisively put down by the apostolic unity.

You get a very different view of things from Paul.  To be fair – and to avoid being too one sided – Paul does on a number of occasions claim that his views are precisely those of the apostles before him (e.g., 1 Cor. 11:22-24; 15:3-5).   But there are instances where it is quite clear that Paul and the others do not get along or see eye-to-eye on issues of fundamental importance (in contrast to Acts).   The key example has to do with Paul’s conflict with Peter in Antioch, as narrated in Galatians 2.

Paul and Peter were both in the city, with its Christian community, which included Gentiles.   They were both enjoying “table fellowship” with the Gentile Christians – meaning they were eating their meals together.  This could be a problem for strict Jews, because it could involve breaking rules for kosher.   And then something significant happened: some “men from James” (i.e., the leader of the church in Jerusalem – a church that was, of course, Jewish in its composition) arrived, and for some unspecified reason, Peter stopped eating with the Gentile Christians.

Scholars have had long and heated debates over what the actual situation was.  In my view, it was probably that these Jewish Christians (from James) thought that it was important for Jews to continue behaving like Jews, even if they believed in Jesus; and Peter, so as not to cause them any offense, agreed to do so while they were in town.

Paul did not see this as a sensible compromise.  On the contrary, he went ballistic.  He publicly attacked Peter and went off in a huff.  In Paul’s view, not eating with Gentiles meant assuming that the Law continued to have abiding force after the messiah had come, and that view compromised the very nature of the Gospel, which was for all people, Jew and Gentile.

Paul is clear: there was a rift between Peter and himself.   And Paul never indicates that it was ever healed.  James appears to be on one side of this dispute (by implication); Paul on the other; Peter somewhere in the middle (which for Paul meant he was on the “other side”).

The other thing Paul never reports is who won the argument in Antioch, in the eyes of most of those who were present.   Since Paul does not indicate that the church in Antioch agreed with him, a lot of critical scholars (most of them?) have concluded that Peter probably was seen as having the stronger position.   Paul in any event was angry and saw this view of Peter’s as a major assault on his understanding of the salvation brought about by Christ – not as a minor issue.

Acts does not mention this episode and gives no reason to think there ever was a split in the apostolic ranks.  On the contrary, in Acts Paul and the others are simpatico from the very beginning and there is never any rift.  If you read Acts as a historical narrative that describes things “as they really happened” in the early church, you get a very, very different view from the one given by Paul himself.

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2023-06-26T18:48:12-04:00June 29th, 2023|Acts of the Apostles, Paul and His Letters|

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  1. Armas June 29, 2023 at 8:07 am

    Hi, Bart.

    Could Paul’s sarcastic “super apostles” comment in 2 Cor 11:5 refer to Peter and other Jewish Christians?

    • BDEhrman July 1, 2023 at 9:06 am

      It doesn’t seem to be, since the claims they make are not connected with an insistence on following the Torah but on their own self-claims to be rhetorically more powerful and able to do far better miracles, as proofs that they had already been raised from the dead and were already experiencing the glories of the kingdom here on earth. We don’t know of anything that connects Peter and the Jerusalem apostles to these kinds of views.

      • Parables July 6, 2023 at 8:54 pm

        I would argue the “super-apostles” do refer to the 12 apostles:

        Paul: “a man is justified by faith without the works of the Law” (Romans 3:28)
        James: “faith by itself, if it does not have works [of the Law], is dead” (James 2:17).

        Paul: “For the entire Law is fulfilled in one commandment…You shall love you neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:14)
        James: “If you really keep the royal law according to the Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself”, you do well. But if you show partiality (if you only partially keep the Law), then you commit sin, and are convicted by the Law as Lawbreakers. For whoever shall keep the whole Law, and yet stumble on one point, he is guilty of violating them all.” (James 2:8-10)

        James: “But above all, my brethren, do not swear – not by heaven or by earth or by any other oath. But let your “Yes” be “Yes” and “No,” “No” least you fall into judgement.” (James 5:12)
        Paul: “Therefore, when I was planning this, did I do it lightly? Or do the things I plan, do I plan according to the flesh, that with me there should be Yes, Yes, and No, No?” (2 Corinthians 1:17).

        • BDEhrman July 9, 2023 at 10:52 am

          It’s hard for me to imagine illiterate Aramaic-speaking apostles from a different country coming in numbers to Corinth and heavily swaying the sophisticated Greek-speaking elite Christians there. But it’s technically possible!

          • manny5 July 9, 2023 at 11:54 pm

            Some of them went to Rome, before Paul.

          • Parables July 27, 2023 at 10:40 pm

            Clearly, the representatives from Jerusalem did not have much of an impact in Corinth or Galatia, else Christianity would not turned out the way it did. Outside of the New Testament, there is further evidence of this rift between James and Paul:

            “Wherefore observe the greatest caution, that you believe no teacher, unless he brings from Jerusalem the testimonial of James the Lord’s brother, or of whosoever may come after him. For no one, unless he has gone up thither, and there has been approved as a fit and faithful teacher for preaching the word of Christ, – unless, I say, he brings a testimonial thence, is by any means to be received. But let neither prophet nor apostle be looked for by you at this time, besides us. (Clementine Recognitions XXXV)

            Paul: “Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God” (2 Corinthians 3:1-3)

  2. rezubler June 29, 2023 at 9:38 am

    This topic makes me wonder about the vision given to Peter regarding the clean/unclean diet in Acts 10 (as a setup for Gentiles being accepted as clean). Peter struggled to find the connection at first (a hint of the conflict at the mixed dinner with Paul and the gentiles) and pieced this vision together a little later (Acts 11). There needed to be some bridge from Peter or James to accept non-jewish members at the table and this vision seems to be a very convenient event to formally create that bridge after the fact (if we assume Acts 10-11 flows in chronological order). If Peter had the vision before any dinners with Paul and some gentiles, then I would have expected Peter to have restated his vision at the table and not acted as he did in Paul’s letter. If Peter had his vision AFTER the dinner with Paul and the gentiles, then Peter’s actions before and afterwards make much more sense.

    • BDEhrman July 1, 2023 at 9:10 am

      YEs, one of the big difficulties is reconciling what Acts has to say about Peter and Paul and the revelation that the gospel could go to gentiles as well as Jews. Acts indicates that the revelation first came to Peter (Acts 10, 11) and htat he convinced others of it; Paul claims it was revealed to *him* and tha the had to convince them or it (Gal. 1-2). I tend to think Paul’s view is what happened and that Acts wants to emphasize that Paul and the others were simpatico from the outset.

      • charrua July 7, 2023 at 1:16 pm

        In this series on Paul , his conversion and his relation with the Jerusalem church we have to deal with the different views, in Paul’s epistles and in Acts, of the same “historical” events.

        About Acts itself many posts (like the one of quadell) consider the possibility of Acts being “a 2nd-century work written by someone who had access to Paul’s letters”.

        I made a search here in the blog of articles on Acts, I found many , all related to its historical accuracy , its authorship and the possibility of being written by a Paul companion or not and as usual you present the affirmative and negative arguments.

        It would be great to read a new article on Acts exploring its dating (circa 80AD ? second century?) and its relation to Paul’s letters (did Luke read the letters? If so, did he reject Paul’s theology ? part of it? ..) considering the affirmative and negative arguments.

        Thanks !

      • charrua July 7, 2023 at 1:31 pm

        In reading the blog articles on Acts I came upon this interesting observation:

        “In chapters 9 and 22 Paul is told to go to Damascus to be instructed by a man named Ananias about what to do next. In chapter 26 Paul is not told to go be instructed by Ananias, instead Jesus himself instructs him.“ (https://ehrmanblog.org/is-the-book-of-acts-historically-reliable-the-negative-case/)

        In another post I used Luke’s version of Paul “conversion” as told in chapter 9 as an indication that he contradicts Paul’s own version in Galatians, my interpretation is that Luke does not want to show Jesus giving direct instructions to anybody (no direct links to Jesus , is the church that “instructs” you ).

        But, why does Luke make Paul repeat the idea in chapter 22 and then contradict himself in 26?

        Because Luke knew Galatians !

        He had the difficult task of dealing with tradition (Galatians) and his own agenda so he suggests to the reader that what really happened in Paul’s conversion is what is told in chapter 9 , Paul himself initially remembered it that way (chapter 22) but lately changed his mind and then remembered differently (chapter 26) … the way he told it in … Galatians.

  3. Neurotheologian June 29, 2023 at 10:08 am

    Peter’s hypocrisy triggered a much more serious resentment that Paul must have been harbouring against Peter: namely that Peter was actually one of the Jews who he was incensed with in the letter to the Galatians – a Judaiser, no less! “How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?” (Gal 2:14).

    I don’t think anyone found it easy to get on with Paul. Brilliant theologian that he was, he was also a fanatic fiery extremist!

    • sLiu July 10, 2023 at 7:23 pm

      St Paul didn’t walk the walk St Peter lived with Jesus.

      In fact, Western Christianity doesn’t study a NT from those who walked with Jesus.

      definitely after 2016, USA popular Christianity neither follows the Roman-Greek NT.
      “Love thy Neighbor” & “be humble”

  4. jhague June 29, 2023 at 10:21 am

    “The apostle Paul, both in his own letters and in Acts, insists that the answer is Absolutely Not. The salvation brought by the Jewish messiah is for all people, not just for Jews, and one does not have to become a Jew in order to share in that salvation.”

    Do you have any idea where/how Paul developed the idea that Jesus was the messiah for all people and Gentiles did not have to be Jewish in order to be a part of his group?

    One thought I have had is that Paul was around the god-fearing Gentiles in the synagogue, was friends with them, wanted them to be apart of the group but knew they would not join if they had to convert to Judaism.

    • BDEhrman July 1, 2023 at 9:13 am

      He *says* it happened at his conversion, and I think that’s probably right. He realized that if Jesus is the divinely appointed way of salvatoin, then the law is inconsequential for gentiles.

      • jhague July 2, 2023 at 8:59 am

        I know Paul credits his message with his conversion but it seems to me that he must have been guided or taught by other people who already thought that Gentiles did not need to convert to Judaism in order to join the movement. Do you agree that Andronicus and Junia are good candidates for teaching Paul since as he says, they were in Christ before him?

        • BDEhrman July 4, 2023 at 12:43 pm

          It’s certainly possible, but he doesn’t say that he knew those two before he converted and we don’t now what their particular views of the matter were. So there may have been people that he heard the idea from, but we don’t have any record of anyone saying it before him.

          • jhague July 4, 2023 at 2:22 pm

            Is your thought that Paul made it up himself?

          • BDEhrman July 6, 2023 at 9:23 am

            He believed (and says) that Christ revealed it to him at his conversion. My view is that Paul came to it as a realizatoin and it transformed his views of salvatoin. I wouldn’t say he “made it up” in the sense that he willfully created a fictoin to deceive others with. He worked it out himself, though, and believed it was such a powerful idea that he couldn’t have simply dreamed it up himself.

          • jhague July 6, 2023 at 10:04 am

            To make sure I understand, your thought is that this is Paul’s idea and he says that it was revealed to him by God/Christ, right?
            Similar to how I hear preacher now say that “God placed this message on their heart.”
            They are claiming that their sermon is from God.

          • BDEhrman July 9, 2023 at 10:42 am

            That’s my view: Paul came to this realizatoin in a flash. And he firmly believed God had “revealed” it to him.

          • charrua July 6, 2023 at 12:25 pm

            Yes, He says that Christ revealed it to him at his conversion…

            But he believed it?

            “Am I not an APOSTLE? HAVE I NOT SEEN Jesus our Lord?”
            1 Cor 1:9

            It seems like to have seen Jesus was a must to become “an APOSTLE”, without such a vision you can’t pretend to be a REAL APOSTLE.

            So in 1 Cor :

            “He appeared to Cephas … .then to ALL THE APOSTLES. Last of all, as to one untimely born … he appeared also TO ME”

            So Paul closed the list, years after his killing Jesus revealed himself to the last APOSTLE.

            Really happened that way?

            Or is it just that Paul invented the vision he needed to become a certified APOSTLE ?

          • BDEhrman July 9, 2023 at 10:49 am

            That’s normally how 1 Cor. 1:9 is interpreted, but lately I’ve come to realize that rather than saying the *same* think twice (I’m an apostle becuse I have seen Jesus) Paul may be making two distinct and separate statemtns (I am an apostle AND I have seen Jesus….)

          • charrua July 9, 2023 at 9:59 pm

            1) AM I NOT AN APOSTLE?
            2) Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?
            3) Are not you my workmanship in the Lord?
            4) If to others I AM NOT AN APOSTLE, at least I am to you

            with 3) Paul explains that proposition 4) it’s true , he is an apostle (at least to the corinthians) because they are his “workmanship in the Lord”, so 2) and 3) are part of what means to be an apostle not “ distinct and separate statements” they are part of the structure 1-4 where Paul concludes that indeed he is an apostle.

            Moreover 1 Cor 15:1-11 shows clearly that ALL THE APOSTLES have seen the resurrected christ.

  5. RM June 29, 2023 at 10:41 am

    I think there is another possibility at play here. Paul repeatedly in his letters gives indication as to how aggrieved he is about his low social and spiritual status, not being treated like the other apostles “but I have better stuff from Gods son directly!”, implying he was destined to be greater than Moses the highest figure in Judaism (prophet who comes with the lav vs one who comes with salvation!) and so on. It would be surprising if he just saw a chance to make Peter out to be a kind of a bad guy. Imagine challenging the top right hand man during Jesus’ mission in public? Just the thought of that boggles the mind. Now with a relatively captive audience of his own he is trying to smear Peters reputation, if this incident even happened as Paul claims it did or happened at all. Paul is known to fake things like the prophecy the end times would happen soon which didn’t pan out at all or taking advantage of his audiences illiteracy when misquoting Hebrew scriptures in his own favor. He also seems to have fielded challenges by his own converts which likely was a massive bruise.

  6. RichardFellows June 29, 2023 at 11:53 am

    Hi Bart. Galatians, when properly understood, actually reverses your conclusions. You really do need to finally read my article. “Paul, Timothy, Jerusalem and the confusion in Galatia” Biblica (2018). Readers can also refer to the three guest blog posts on this article (September 2021).

  7. tawanda June 29, 2023 at 12:50 pm

    Two quick questions,Doc.
    1. Acts 15 speaks of “certain people” who went down to Antioch. Do you think Luke was actually referring to the same incident Paul speaks of in Galatians 2, but through his [Luke’s] bias?
    2. Any ideas what Paul meant when he told Peter “You yourself live as a gentile”?

    • BDEhrman July 1, 2023 at 9:15 am

      1. Yes. 2. He appears to mean that Peter for a time was sharing meals with gentiles, until these people from James in jerusalem showed up. So he was living “like a gentile” before but then changed his tune.

  8. stevenpounders June 29, 2023 at 1:09 pm

    Does the “men from James” passage refer to James the brother of Jesus? So, by implication, Paul was in angry opposition with Jesus’ natural human brother?

    • BDEhrman July 1, 2023 at 9:16 am

      Yes it does; and it’s ambiguous whether he’s ticked off at James along with the people who came from him, or not. Paul doesn’t actually say, and it could be debated whether he is iplying it or not. (You’d have to look fully at the entire context of Gal 1-2 carefully to make a reasoned decision.)

  9. Parables June 29, 2023 at 7:09 pm

    I completely agree that Acts sugarcoated the relationship between Paul and the Jerusalem church. Notice how Paul did not possess a letter of recommendation from James.

    “Wherefore observe the greatest caution, that you believe no teacher, unless he brings from Jerusalem the testimonial of James the Lord’s brother… For no one, unless he has gone up thither, and there has been approved as a fit and faithful teacher for preaching the word of Christ, – unless, I say, he brings a testimonial thence, is by any means to be received. But let neither prophet nor apostle be looked for by you at this time, besides us. (Clementine Recognitions XXXV)

    “Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God” (2 Corinthians 3:1-3)

    Paul argued that “man is justified by faith without the works of the Torah” (Romans 3:28), while James argued that “faith by itself, if it does not have works [of the Torah], is dead” (James 2:17).

  10. mini1071 June 30, 2023 at 10:44 am

    James: Paul our friend. This no circumcision thing for gentiles isn’t playing real well here in Jerusalem.
    Paul: Well, we just need more gentiles. I’m thinking on taking this message to them. You know, all around the Med. Maybe as far as Spain.
    Peter: Oh my, how long will you be gone?
    Paul: Certainly years and years.
    James: We will miss you (ahem), but its for the greater good. How soon can, I mean, will you have to leave?

  11. bsteig June 30, 2023 at 7:39 pm

    We should remember that Paul was absolutely convinced that he went to heaven, and Jesus told him he should stop persecuting the Jesus followers, become a follower, and then go to cites and towns where most of the residents are not Jewish and tell these residents why they should become Jesus followers. To succeed in this mission, it is no longer necessary for those who were previously kosher to follow Jewish dietary rules — when among Roman citizens, you must live the way they live. He believed he had convinced Peter that he, too, had to eat what the local people ate. But when James’ associates arrived, Peter “chickened-out” and felt he had to be as kosher as the visitors were, and as James and others who lived in Jerusalem were. Paul was offended by Peter’s “back-tracking.” It is likely Paul gathered an offering to support James and the other leaders in Jerusalem in order to show them he was a successful evangelist, in part by eating whatever those he was recruiting were eating.

    Bill Steigelmann

  12. copocabana June 30, 2023 at 10:36 pm

    ok got all this stuff, Paul or whoever he was only “wrote” some stuff (scribe)…but if 97 or 98% or folks were illiterate, not including legions who seemed to have a self-improvement league….

    scribes, ok….but who were they? Hired guns?…seems apparent from your and Crossan’s and other fellow traveler’s who have spent zillions of years learning classical greek, aramaic…yada yada…

    stories are told here and there…what’s left?…know you and others try to find either common or other characteristics of testimony…(or what is logical)

    but some guy with a quill or some kind of deal he plucked from a seagull to write on papyrus or vellum this stuff…where did they find these guys? or girls?

    and after all this stuff has passed thru years and years of others hands….what’s left?

    it seems history is written by the victors, the elite, the rich, or others associated…

    so as Crossan or you said….they all sit around with Constantine at some ellaborate barbecue and discuss philosophy? Sounds like BS to me….

  13. michael2911 July 1, 2023 at 11:26 am

    1 Corinthians 1 seems to indicate that Paul hardly saw himself as diametrically opposed to Peter. The tone stressed is one of the importance of unity rather than theological dispute, which would hardly be the case if there was a serious theological rift. Indeed, his tiff with Peter comes after getting an explicit sanction from Peter AND James of his mission (Gal 2:9). It’s not even clear the difference was theological. For all we know, Peter may have said, “You’re right, Paul. Bad habit. I’m sorry.”

  14. apmorgan July 1, 2023 at 7:38 pm

    I remain inclined to see merit in the alternative view given in the guest posts by Richard Fellows. As much as it bucks the trend whereby the more we learn about early Christianity the less unified it appears, it does seem to make good sense of what’s in Galatians and to offer a more credible version of Paul — one possessing some self-awareness and psychological stability. If someone wanted to make Galatians: The Movie, Richard’s Paul is a more compelling character than Bart’s Paul, IMO.

  15. yayameen July 2, 2023 at 7:55 pm

    Maybe the question that we should be asking is: Did any of the apostles get along with James? He didn’t seem to a follower of Jesus while Jesus was alive. He seems to have believed in strict adherence to the law, which contradicts Jesus’s life according to the gospels. The fact that Peter was eating with Gentiles is not surprising since Jesus ate with people considered unclean. I wonder how welcome James was with the rest of the disciples.

    Being the brother of the Lord, it would be difficult to deny him into the faith. Not having followed Jesus, he might have a poor understanding of Jesus’s teachings. He likely hoped to influence the movement towards his own preferences. I would expect resentment from the disciples who took risks and sacrificed for following their beliefs.

  16. Parables July 3, 2023 at 6:12 pm

    I think Rabbi Adam Bernay explained the table fellowship incident the best: Jews in the first century avoided mixing with Gentiles because it was thought that they were unclean because they ate unclean foods. As Peter stated in Acts 10:28, “You known how unLawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation.” Long after Jesus’ crucifixion, Peter is reporting that “I have never eaten anything defiled or unclean.” (Acts 10:14). However, because of Peter’s vision of the 4 footed animals in Acts 10:10-16, Peter concluded that “God has shown me that I should not call any man defiled or unclean” (Acts 10:28) and that may have made him more amenable to eating with Paul’s Gentile converts. James’ men, however, still appear to follow the traditional ways and pressured Peter and Barnabas to stop eating with the Gentiles while demanding that Paul’s congregation start following the Mosaic Law and “live as Jews” (Galatians 2:15).

  17. RizwanAhmed July 3, 2023 at 9:06 pm

    What confuses me is what Paul’s view of the Law was in regards to Jewish Christians. So I have two questions: Was Paul ok with them continuing to practice it and did he himself continue to practice it? I mean, he must have been ok with it because the leadership in Jersualem apparently continued to be Torah observering Jews. Or maybe they weren’t completely Torah observing either? I guess we don’t really know, or do we?

    • Parables July 5, 2023 at 7:24 pm

      I would say that the Jerusalem church was Written Torah observant, but did not uphold the Oral Torah, also known as the tradition of the fathers.

      In Matthew 15, the scribes and Pharisees ask “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread” (Matthew 15:1). Jesus responds with “you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites!…’in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men'”(Matthew 15:6-9). “For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men – the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.” (Mark 7:8).

      “If you really keep the royal law according to the Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself”, you do well. But if you show partiality (if you only partially keep the Torah and not the whole thing), then you commit sin, and are convicted by the Law as Lawbreakers. For whoever shall keep the whole Torah, and yet stumble on one point, he is guilty of violating them all.” (James 2:8-10)

      “You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:20).

  18. Pcrtje July 4, 2023 at 3:48 am

    ” James appears to be on one side of this dispute (by implication); Paul on the other; Peter somewhere in the middle”
    Q1: Wat does it mean to say that Peter was somewhere in the middle? Would he keep the Jewish laws in the presence of Jews or jewish christians, while he would ignore the laws when in the presence of only gentiles?

    “Paul is clear: there was a rift between Peter and himself. And Paul never indicates that it was ever healed.”
    Q2: Given the fact that we have so few letters of Paul himself, wouldn’t it be a bit too much to state that the rift was never healed? I mean, sure, we do not have a letter of Paul in which he indicates that the rift was healed, but I find it hard to imagine that Paul kept a grudge and wouldn’t make amends with Peter. Do you think Paul was really unforgiving or is it equally likely that they met later and talked it out?

    Q3: What is our main source for the fact that James was the leader of the church in Jerusalem?

    • BDEhrman July 6, 2023 at 9:15 am

      1. Yes, it would mean that he appears to have waffled on his positions, unlike (so far as we know) the other two)
      2. That’s right. That’s why I say Paul never indicates it was healed. I don’t have any trouble imagining Paul holding a grudge though, given the character of his letters, esp. Galatians. He wsa always eager to be on good terms with his opponents, so long as they changed his mind and came to agree with him.
      3. Paul and the book of Acts. They are our only sources that speak about the matter, until later legendary materials kick in, and these take a similar line.

  19. DEBourque July 4, 2023 at 12:37 pm

    I did learn in my research, that on several occasions, Paul tried to have conversations with Peter and the other Apostles, but there was a strain between Peters’ Jewish Christians and Paul’s Gentile Christians. I believe on one occasion, Peter had to arrange a release of Paul from prison, (in one form or another) and after extensive consideration, (such as the question of being circumcised, as you mentioned above and the fact that Paul’s followers were not of Jewish background), it came to a head, that Peter remain as leader to the Jewish Christians while Paul perhaps stay away from Jerusalem, to lead the Gentile Christians, so not to create a division among those who equally believe in the saving gifts of Christ.
    I saw this as one of the first schisms among two believing Christian sectors. Did you see it this way as well?

    • BDEhrman July 6, 2023 at 9:20 am

      I don’t believe these views (about Peter releasing Paul from priosn or Paul staying away to avoid schism) can be found in any of our sources. When in doing your research you read someone sayting things like this, I always recommend you look at the sources they quote in support of their claims, and then read them for yourself, to see if they actually *say* that. In this case, let me know what you come up with, since nothing’s coming to (my) mind.

  20. charrua July 5, 2023 at 10:00 am

    Indeed there was a rift between Paul and Cephas/Peter in Antioch and one that made Paul leave Antioch following his own “gospel”.

    It is very interesting Paul’s assessment in relation to his gospel.

    In the BEGINNING of the GOSPEL, when I left Macedonia… (Phillipians 4:15)

    I think Act’s depiction of Paul’s voyages is wrong, he did not founded churches in Galatia BEFORE coming to Macedonia but AFTER, it was in Macedonia that he started his preaching as an independent “apostle”and then departed to Achaia.

    Why would Paul begin “his gospel” directly from Macedonia when he abandoned the Antioch church and not from the regions nearby?

    The answer is in Romans:
    It has always been my ambition to PREACH THE GOSPEL where Christ WAS NOT KNOWN, so that I would NOT BE BUILDING ON SOMEONE ELSE FOUNDATION. (Romans 15:20)

    Pauls knew that overlapping with other “apostles” would lead to all kinds of problems , so he started long from Antioch but still in the Greek speaking part of the empire.

    But it was useless, other apostles began to preach in Paul’s churches , he learned the lesson so well that his next target would be Hispania, so far there would certainly not be overlapping.

  21. jbhodge July 6, 2023 at 3:07 am


    Continuing from my post on your June 28 blog regarding that Luke/Acts is mid/latter 2nd century spread out of Antioch inspired by Marcion Canon, then assuming this is the case, then the discrepancy in Acts regarding Paul may have been from a desire to counter Marcionism. Acts leads the reader to believe that Pauls ministry was blessed by the 12 and somewhat placing Paul under James stewardship, countering Marcion’s doctrine that Paul was the only true apostle. The Gospel ties Jesus all the way back to Adam whom the God of Torah created in his image as opposed to Marcions dualism.

    What I believe is the incorrect early dating of Luke/Acts is what drives all the contridictions between Acts and Paul. If date is reset to mid/latter 2nd century and Theophilus being the Bishop of Antioch, Antioch being the birthplace of Luke, written at the height of Marcionism, then the discrepancies between Pauls account and Acts make sense if viewed the writings were to counter Marcionism. I also believe the version of Mathew we have today, and gospel of John I believe were written concurrently out of different churches to Luke/Acts with the goal of countering Marcionism.

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