Paul v. Peter in Antioch, Galatians 2

An excerpt from Carsten Theide's Rekindling the Word: In Search of Gospel Truth, 68 - 71.  "St. Peter, A New Approach to Biography."

Skip the Scripture, go to Thiede's biography of Peter.

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The text of Galatians 2 from the

CODEX SINAITICUS: The New Testament in English, Translated from the Sinaitic Manuscript, Discovered by Constantine Tischendorf at Mt. Sinai by H. T. Anderson and begun in 1861.  Get Yours  or go to the Sinaiticus page.

Galatians 2 1 Then, fourteen years after, I again went up to Jerusalem, with Barnabas, taking with me Titus also; 2 but I went up according to a revelation, and laid before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them that were of reputation, lest I should run or had run in vain. 3 But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised; 4 but because of brethren that were stealthily brought in, who had come in stealthily to spy out our freedom which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage: 5 to whom, not even for an hour, did we yield by subjection, that the truth of the gospel might abide with you. 6 But from those that seemed to be something, whatever they were is a matter of no importance with me; God accepts not the person of a man; for to me those that seemed to be something added nothing: 7 but, on the other hand, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel of  the uncircumcision, as Peter with that of the circumcision; 8 for he that wrought mightily in Peter for the apostleship of the circumcision, wrought mightily in me also for the Gentiles; 9 and, knowing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles, but they to the circumcision: 10 only that we should remember the poor, which very thing I have also been diligent to do. 11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he had been blamed. 12 For before some had come from James, he ate with the Gentiles; but when they had come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those of the circumcision; 13 and the rest of the Jews also acted hypocritically with him, so that Barnabas also was carried away with their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they walked not uprightly with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all: If thou, being a Jew, livest as a Gentile and not as a Jew, why dost thou compel the Gentiles to live as the Jews? 15 We who are Jews by nature and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 but knowing that a man is not justified by works of law, but through faith of Christ Jesus, even we have believed on Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith of Christ, and not by works of law; because by works of law shall no flesh be justified. 17 But if in seeking to be justified in Christ we are found even ourselves to be sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin? it can not be. 18 For if I build again  those things that I have destroyed, I constitute myself a transgressor. 19 For through law I died to law, that I might live to God.  20 With Christ have I been crucified: I live; however, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; and the life that I now live in the flesh, I live in the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and delivered himself up for me.  21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness is through law, then Christ has died in vain. Get Yours

3. The Apostle

... After Peter's departure from Rome (made possible by the death of Agrippa in AD 44 and the resulting end to the persecution edict), but prior to the arrival of Mark in Jerusalem at the beginning of the first mission journey in AD 46/47 (Acts 12:25), Peter himself was back in Jerusalem at a time no later than AD 48 for the so-called Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:2-29, compare Gal 2:1 -10) possibly again after stopping on the way (Antioch?).  Here he takes on the decisive role as conciliator: his speech (Acts 15:7-12) breaks the ice and makes it possible for Paul and Barnabas to report convincingly on the tactics and successes of their form of mission to the Gentiles, so that James accepts the strategy, and a joint letter of commendation can be written for both missionaries.

However, not long after the 'Council of Jerusalem', perhaps in April 49 (Dockx), there is a dispute between Paul and Peter in Antioch (Gal 2:11 to 14:21). Although the 'Council of Jerusalem' had made a decision on common table and communion between Jews and Gentiles, there was obvious not yet such a common table arrangement at Antioch (Gal 2:12), but separate house churches, as we can also assume was the case in Rome given the grouping of names in Romans 16:3-15. The different situation required flexibility in the application of the Jerusalem decision. Peter at first sided with the gentile Christians, eating with them as a Jew and thus making the decision of the 'Council of Jerusalem' real and the same time showing it in practice to the Jewish Christians. Yet he then gave in to those who 'came from James' (Gal 2:12) showing the diplomatic skills expected from a 'rock' and 'shepherd' by turning to the Jews - probably for the duration of the stay of James' people - who were his 'responsibility' anyway. In this way he managed to please both parties and avert the threat of a possible split. Barnabas, the old expert on Antioch (Acts 11:22-24) who had proved his diplomatic skills earlier (in favour of Paul, Acts 9:27) sides with Peter (Gal 2:13). Whilst this can be re-constructed in Peter's favour from Paul's sharp attack, Paul's behaviour can also be understood. In his view Peter's action was a betrayal of the Gentile Christians for who he himself had taken special responsibility. He even feared that Peter's example might force them now to join Jewish Christians with all the consequences (Gal 2:14). There is also the question in the background as to whether, when dealing with 'the truth of the Gospel', one has to walk an unalterable path (Paul), or whether one may show some flexibility in the context of the situation (Peter and Barnabas). It was thus that Peter's understanding of his office was tested in the most decisive manner. The people of Antioch obviously decided in favour of Peter. Soon thereafter Paul leaves the city and returns only once, on his way to Galatia (Acts 18:22). Peter stays, possibly for another seven years (Dockx). Paul suffered a defeat here (Dunn), which he realized later and in 1 Cor 9:20-22 works into his teaching (Tertullian, Adv. Marc. 1.20). Thus this episode and its consequences would be a sign of the stature of both apostles in terms of their ability to learn and grow.

4. The Final Years

Peter arrived back in Rome for the second time around AD 57. This second journey to Rome is not dealt with in Acts and has to be reconstructed from both Epistles of Peter, and from sources of early church history: In these he is mentioned by name with persons from the New Testament (Pudens, Linus). Claudius is no longer Emperor, and Nero has taken over the imperial reins (for the effect on Petrine writing see Neugebauer). Under Nero the Fire of Rome starts in the early hours of 19th July 64, and this is followed by the first large scale, systematic persecution of Christians, which seems to have continued with varying intensity and extent until the death of Nero. The First Epistle of Clement, commonly dated to AD 96, but probably written around 69/70 (Robinson), connects Peter's death with this persecution situation (1 Clem 5:1-4). The persecution under Nero was fresh in Clement's mind, and he calls the martyrs 'fighters of the recent past' (5:1). However, it is not Nero who is mainly blamed for the martyrs' deaths, but rather jealousy and envy inside the community itself. This could be an allusion to the 'zealot' Jewish Christians, who had already made difficulties for Paul (Acts 21:20-30, Rom 2:17-29,13:1 to 7:13, Phil 3: 2,5,19 f.), and Peter possibly returned to Rome in 57 to face them (Thiede). Unlike Paul, who was in prison when he wrote his Epistle to the Philippians, (see esp. Phil 1:15-17), Peter was able to act unimpeded. Any actions against the state had to be channelled sensibly, be they of a zealot or social reforming nature, to ensure steady development of the congregation without dangerous arguments with the civic authorities (see also 1 Pet 2:11-17, 3:1317, 2 Pet 3:14-16, Rom 12-14-21 13-1-14, 16:17-20, Phil 1:15-17, 3:2-20). The information in 1 Clem 5:1-4 is confirmed by the Roman historian Tacitus (ann. 15.3844). In 15.44 he reports, that during the persecution after the fire, at first only those who confessed were arrested, but then later also those who were denounced, Furthermore the description of the acts of persecution are similar in Tacitus (15.44,4) and Clement (1 Clem 6:1-2).

It is conceivable that Peter's (and Paul's) opponents within the various factions of the Roman congregation used the opportunity offered by the persecution to rid themselves of the insufficiently 'progressive', 'anti-Roman' apostles. 1 Clem 5.1-4 certainly suggests this expressly and Tacitus (ann. 15.44) indirectly. Here Peter himself may have remembered the prophecy of Jesus which he witnessed on the Mount of Olives (Mk 13-12): 'And brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise up against parents and have them put to death'. The date of Peter's death can only be ascertained approximately; according to Eusebius' Chronicon Peter died in the fourteenth year of Nero, that is between 13th October 67 and 9th June 68. (compare with Hieronymus, De vir. ill. 5) A date for his death towards the end of AD 67 would coincide with the twenty-five year period which according to Eusebius and others should be estimated for the whole phase of Peter's Titular-Episkopos-Office from the point of his first arrival. The earliest sources report unanimously that Peter was crucified (Lactantius, De mortuis persecutorum 2.6) and on his own request head down (Origen, Genesis commentary 3, in Eus. C.H. 3,1,2). All this can also be found in Acta Petri 37 (8) - 3 (10) with legendary embellishments, which also give us the 'Quo Vadis'story.

Peter was buried on the Vatican hill, the area where St. Peter's Basilica is now. That it was possible for relatives or followers to bury those executed during the persecution or after sentencing without then being subject to a penalty under Roman law is already shown in John 19:38. It is unlikely that a grand monument was erected, rather a simple, tiled flat tom 'alia cappucina', as are still to be seen in the necropolis of Ostia Antica. In about AD 200, however, the Roman Gaius reports an obviously significant memorial (tropaion, ref. Eus. C.H. 2. 25-7, comp. Mohrmann). Such tropaion, like the traces of tombs from the Neronian period, are established by archaeological evidence (see Guarducci). The complicated measures taken for the construction of Constantine's first St. Peter's Church about AD 315 had to take account of the awkward location of the tropaion, confirming the faithfulness and strength of local tradition preserved here (see also Lampe). The discovery of the inscription Petros eni ('Peter is in here') on the so-called Red Wall (Ferrua) emphasizes this tradition. Important Peter relics are in St John Lateran (relic of head above altar) and under St. Peter's in the tropaion, now accessible again. The result of an examination of the Vatican bones appears to point to the period of Peter (Walsh). It needs to be recorded that archaeological and church historical evidence reliably prove the tomb's location on the southern slope of the Vatican hill.