WE have now arrived at the point in our examination of the Acts in which we have the inestimable advantage of being able to compare the narrative of the unknown author with the distinct statements of the Apostle Paul. In doing so, we must remember that the author must have been acquainted with the Epistles which are now before us, and, supposing it to be his purpose to present a peculiar view of the transactions in question, whether for apologetic or for conciliatory reasons, it is obvious that it would not be reasonable to expect divergencies of so palpable a nature that any reader of the letters must at once perceive them. When the Acts were written, it is true, the author could not have known that the Epistles of Paul were to attain the high canonical position which they now occupy, and might, therefore, use his materials more freely; still, it would be natural to expect a certain superficial consistency. Unfortunately, our means of testing the statements of the author are not so minute as is desirable, although they are often of much value; and, seeing the great facility with which, by apparently slight alterations and omissions, a different complexion can be given to circumstances regarding which no very full details exist elsewhere, we must be prepared to seize every indication which may enable us to form a just estimate of the nature of the writing which we are examining.
Paul's visit to Jerusalem
In the first two chapters of his Epistle to the Galatians, the Apostle Paul relates particulars regarding some important epochs of his life, which likewise enter into the narrative of the Acts of the Apostles. The Apostle gives an account of his own proceedings immediately after his conversion, and of the visit which about that time he paid to Jerusalem; and, further, of a second visit to Jerusalem fourteen years later; and to these we must now direct our attention. We defer consideration of the narrative of the actual conversion of Paul for the present, and merely intend here to discuss the movements and conduct of the Apostle immediately subsequent to that event. The Acts of the Apostles represent Paul as making five journeys to Jerusalem subsequent to his joining the Christian body. The first, 9:26 f., takes place immediately after his conversion; the second, 11:30, 12:25, is upon an occasion when the Church at Antioch are represented as sending relief to the brethren of Judaea by the hands of Barnabas and Saul, during a time of famine; the third visit to Jerusalem, 15:1 f., Paul likewise pays in company with Barnabas, both being sent by the Church of Antioch to confer with the Apostles and Elders as to the necessity of circumcision, and the obligation of Gentile converts to observe the Mosaic law; the fourth, 18:21 f., when he goes to Ephesus with Priscilla and Aquilla, "having shaved his head in Cenchrea, for he had a vow"; and the fifth and last, 21:15 f., when the disturbance took place in the temple which led to his arrest and journey to Rome. The circumstances and general character of these visits to Jerusalem, and more especially of that on which the momentous conference is described as having taken place, are stated with so much precision, and they present features of such marked difference, that it might have been supposed there could not have been any difficulty in identifying with certainty, at least, the visits to which the Apostle refers in his letter, more especially as upon both occasions he mentions important particulars which characterised them. It is a remarkable fact, however, that the divergencies between the statements of the unknown author and the Apostle are so marked that upon no point has there been more decided difference of opinion amongst critics and divines from the very earliest times. Upon general grounds, we have already seen, there has been good reason to doubt the historical character of the Acts. Is it not a singularly suggestive circumstance that, when it is possible to compare the authentic representations of Paul with the narrative of the Acts, even Apologists perceive so much opening for doubt and controversy?
The visit described in the ninth chapter of the Acts is
generally identified with that which is mentioned in the first
chapter of the Epistle. This unanimity arises mainly from the
circumstance that both writers clearly represent that visit as the
first which Paul paid to Jerusalem after his conversion, for the
details of the two narratives are anything but in agreement with
each other. Although critics are forced to agree as to the bare
identity of the visit, this harmony is immediately disturbed on
examining the two accounts, and, whilst the one party find the
statements in the Acts reconcilable with those of Paul, a large
body more or less distinctly declare them to be contradictory and
unhistorical. In order that the question at issue may be fairly
laid before the reader, we shall give the two accounts in parallel
|ACTS 9:19 f.||EP. TO GAL. 1:15 f|
|19. And he was certain days
(hêmeras tinas) with the disciples in Damascus.|
20. And immediately (eutheôs) was preaching Jesus in the synagogues, etc.
21. And all that heard him were amazed, saying, etc. 22. But Saul was increasing in strength more and more, and confounding the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is the Christ.
23. And after many days (hêmerai ikanai) were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him;
24. But their plot was known to Saul. And they were even watching the gates day and night to kill him.
25. But the disciples took him by night, and let him down through the wall in a basket.
|15. But when it pleased
16. To reveal his son in me, that I might preach him among the Gentiles; immediately (eutheôs) I conferred not with flesh and blood;
17. Neither went I up to Jerusalem to those who were Apostles before me; but I went away into Arabia, and returned again into Damascus.
|26. And when he came to Jerusalem
he was assaying to join himself to the disciples; but all were
afraid of him, not believing that he is a disciple.|
27. But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the Apostles, and declared unto them how he saw the Lord in the way, and that he spake to him; and how he preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.
28. And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord.
29. And he was speaking and disputing against the Grecian Jews; but they took counsel to slay him;
30. But when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus.
|18. Then after three years I went
up to Jerusalem to visit [688:1]
Cephas, and abode with him fifteen days.|
19. But other of the Apostles saw I not save James the Lord's brother.
20. Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not.
21. Thereafter I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia;
22. But I was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ; but they were only hearing that he who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith which once he was destroying: and they glorified God in me.
Paul's first actions after conversion
It is obvious that the representation in the Acts of what Paul did after his conversion differs very widely from the account which the Apostle himself gives of the matter. In the first place, not a word is said in the former of the journey into Arabia; but, on the contrary, it is excluded, and the statement which replaces it directly contradicts that of Paul. The Apostle says that after his conversion "Immediately, [688:2] (eutheôs) I conferred not with flesh and blood," but "went away into Arabia." The author of the Acts says that he spent "some days" (hêmeras tinas) with the disciples in Damascus, and "immediately" (eutheôs) began to preach in the synagogues. Paul's feelings are so completely misrepresented that, instead of that desire for retirement and solitude which his words express, he is described as straightway plunging into the vortex of public life in Damascus. The general apologetic explanation is, that the author of the Acts either was not aware of the journey into Arabia, or that, his absence there having been short, he did not consider it necessary to mention it. There are no data for estimating the length of time which Paul spent in Arabia, but the fact that the Apostle mentions it with so much emphasis proves not only that he attached considerable weight to the episode, but that the duration of his visit could not have been unimportant. In any case, the author of the Acts, whether ignorantly or not, boldly describes the Apostle as doing precisely what he did not. To any ordinary reader, moreover, his whole account of Paul's preaching at Damascus certainly excludes altogether the idea of such a journey, and the argument that it can be inserted anywhere is purely arbitrary. There are many theories amongst Apologists as to the part of the narrative in Acts in which the Arabian journey can be placed. By some it is assigned to a period before he commenced his active labours, and therefore before 9:20, from which the words of the author repulse it with singular clearness; others intercalate it with even less reason between 9:20 and 21; a few discover some indication of it in the mallon enedynamouto of verse 22 -- an expression, however, which refuses to be forced into such service; a greater number place it in the hêmerai ikanai of verse 23, making that elastic phrase embrace this as well as other difficulties till it snaps under the strain. It seems evident to an unprejudiced reader that the hêmerai ikanai are represented as passed in Damascus. And, lastly, some critics place it after 9:25, regardless of Paul's statement that from Arabia he returned again to Damascus, which, under the circumstances mentioned in Acts, he was not likely to do, and indeed it is obvious that he is there supposed to have at once gone from Damascus to Jerusalem. These attempts at reconciliation are useless. It is of no avail to find time into which a journey to Arabia and the stay there might be forcibly thrust. There still remains the fact that, so far from the Arabian visit being indicated in the Acts, the eutheôs of 9:20, compared with the eutheôs of Gal. 1:16, positively excludes it, and proves that the narrative of the former is not historical.
There is another point in the account in Acts which further demands attention. The impression conveyed by the narrative is that Paul went up to Jerusalem not very long after his conversion. The omission of the visit to Arabia shortens the interval before he did so, by removing causes of delay; and, whilst no expressions are used which imply a protracted stay in Damascus, incidents are introduced which indicate that the purpose of the writer was to represent the Apostle as losing no time after his conversion before associating himself with the elder Apostles and obtaining their recognition of his ministry; and this view, we shall see, is confirmed by the peculiar account which is given of what took place at Jerusalem. The Apostle distinctly states, 1:18, that three years after his conversion he went up to visit Peter. [690:1] In the Acts he is represented as spending "some days" (hêmeras tinas) with the disciples, and the only other chronological indication given is that, after "many days" (hêmerai ikanai), the plot occurred which forced him to leave Damascus. It is argued that hêmerai ikanai is an indefinite period, which may, according to the usage of the author, [690:2] indicate a considerable space of time, and certainly rather express a long than a short period. [690:3] The fact is, however, that the instances cited are evidence, in themselves, against the supposition that the author can have had any intention of expressing a period of three years by the words hêmerai ikanai. We suppose that no one has ever suggested that Peter stayed three years in the house of Simon the tanner at Joppa (9:43); or that when it is said that Paul remained "many days" at Corinth after the insurrection of the Jews, the author intends to speak of some years, when in fact the hêmerai ikanai contrasted with the expression (18:11), "he continued there a year and six months," used regarding his stay previous to that disturbance, evidently reduces the "yet many days" subsequently spent there to a very small compass. Again, has any one ever suggested that in the account of Paul's voyage to Rome, where it is said (27:7) that, after leaving Myrra "and sailing slowly many days" (hêmerai ikanai), they had scarcely got so for as Cnidus, an interval of months, not to say years, is indicated? It is impossible to suppose that by such an expression the writer intended to indicate a period of three years.
Statements in Acts contradict Epistle
That the narrative of the Acts actually represents Paul as going up to Jerusalem soon after his conversion, and certainly not merely at the end of three years, is obvious from the statement in verse 26, that when Paul arrived at Jerusalem, and was assaying to join himself to the disciples, all were afraid of him, and would not believe in his conversion. The author could certainly not have stated this, if he had desired to imply that Paul had already been a Christian, and publicly preached with so much success at Damascus, for three years. Indeed, the statements in 9:26 are irreconcilable with the declaration of the Apostle, whatever view be taken of the previous narrative of the Acts. If it be assumed that the author wishes to describe the visit to Jerusalem as taking place three years after his conversion, then the ignorance of that event amongst the brethren there and their distrust of Paul are utterly inconsistent and incredible; whilst if, on the other hand, he represents the Apostle as going to Jerusalem with but little delay in Damascus, as we contend he does, then there is no escape from the conclusion that the Acts, whilst thus giving a narrative consistent with itself, distinctly contradicts the deliberate assertions of the Apostle. It is absolutely incredible that the conversion of a well-known persecutor of the Church (8:3 f.), effected in a way which is represented as so sudden and supernatural, and accompanied by a supposed vision of the Lord, could for three years have remained unknown to the community of Jerusalem. So striking a triumph for Christianity must have been rapidly circulated throughout the Church, and the fact that he who formerly persecuted was now zealously preaching the faith which once he destroyed must long have been generally known in Jerusalem, which was in such constant communication with Damascus.
The author of the Acts continues in the same strain, stating that Barnabas, under the circumstances just described, took Paul and brought him to the Apostles (pros tous apostolous), and declared to them the particulars of his vision and conversion, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus (9:27). No doubt is left that this is the first intimation the Apostles had received of such extraordinary events. After this, we are told that Paul was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. Here again the declaration of Paul is explicit, and distinctly contradicts this story both in the letter and the spirit. He makes no mention of Barnabas. He states that he went to Jerusalem specially with the view of making the acquaintance of Peter, with whom he remained fifteen days; but he emphatically says: "But other of the Apostles saw I not, save (ei mê) James, the Lord's brother"; and then he adds the solemn declaration regarding his account of this visit: "Now the things which I write unto you behold, before God, I lie not." An asseveration made in this tone excludes the supposition of inaccuracy or careless vagueness, and the specific statements have all the force of sworn evidence. Instead of being presented "to the Apostles," therefore, and going in and out with them at Jerusalem, we have here the emphatic assurance that, in addition to Peter, Paul saw no one except "James, the Lord's brother."
There has been much discussion as to the identity of this James, and whether he was an Apostle or not; but into this it is unnecessary for us to enter. Most writers agree at least that he is the same James, the head of the Church at Jerusalem, whom we again frequently meet with in the Pauline Epistles and in the Acts, and notably in the account of the Apostolic council. The exact interpretation to be put upon the expression ei mê Iakôbon has also been the subject of great controversy, the question being whether James is here really called an Apostle or not; whether ei mê is to be understood as applying solely to the verb, in which case the statement would mean that he saw no other of the Apostles, but only James, or to the whole phrase, which would express that he had seen no other of the Apostles save James. It is admitted, by many of those who think that in this case the latter signification must be adopted, that grammatically either interpretation is permissible. Even supposing that, rightly or wrongly, James is here referred to as an Apostle, the statement of the Acts is, in spirit, quite opposed to that of the Epistle; for when we are told that Paul is brought "to the Apostles" (pros tous apostolous), the linguistic usage of the writer implies that he means much more than merely Peter and James. It seems impossible to reconcile the statement, 9:27, with the solemn assurance of Paul; and if we accept what the Apostle says as truth, and we cannot doubt it, it must be admitted that the account in the Acts is unhistorical.
We arrive at the very same conclusion on examining the rest of the narrative. In the Acts, Paul is represented as being with the Apostles going in and out, preaching openly in Jerusalem, and disputing with the Grecian Jews (9:28). No limit is here put to his visit, and it is difficult to conceive that what is narrated is intended to describe a visit of merely fifteen days. A subsequent statement in the Acts, however, explains and settles the point. Paul is represented as declaring to King Agrippa, 26:19 f.: "Wherefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision, but first unto those in Damascus, and throughout all the region of Judaea, and to the Gentiles, I was declaring that they should repent and turn to God," etc. However this may be, the statement of Paul does not admit the interpretation of such public ministry. His express purpose in going to Jerusalem was, not to preach, but to make the acquaintance of Peter; and it was a marked characteristic of Paul to avoid preaching in ground already occupied by the other Apostles before him. [692:2] Not only is the account in Acts apparently excluded by such considerations and by the general tenor of the Epistle, but it is equally so by the direct words of the Apostle (1:22): "I was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea." It is argued that the term, "churches of Judaea," excludes Jerusalem. It might possibly be asserted with reason that such an expression as "the churches of Jerusalem" might exclude the churches of Judaea, but to say that the Apostle, writing elsewhere to the Galatians of a visit to Jerusalem, and of his conduct at that time, intends, when speaking of the "churches of Judaea," to exclude the principal city seems to us arbitrary and warrantable. The whole object of the Apostle is to show the privacy of his visit and his independence of the elder Apostles. He does not use the expression as a contrast to Jerusalem. Nothing in his account leads one to think of any energetic preaching during the visit, and the necessity of finding some way of excluding Jerusalem from the Apostle's expression is simply thrust upon Apologists by the account in Acts. Two passages are referred to as supporting the exclusion of Jerusalem from "the churches of Judaea." In John 3:22 we read: "After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea." In the preceding chapter he is described as being at Jerusalem. We have already said enough about the geographical notices of the author of the fourth Gospel. [693:1] Even those who do not admit that he was not a native of Palestine are agreed that he wrote in another country and for foreigners. "The land of Judaea" was therefore a natural expression superseding the necessity of giving a more minute local indication which would have been of little use. The second instance appealed to, though more doubtfully, [693:2] is Heb. 13:24, "They from Italy salute you." We are at a loss to understand how this is supposed to support the interpretation adopted. It is impossible that if Paul went in and out with the Apostles, preached boldly in Jerusalem, and disputed with the Hellenistic Jews, not to speak of what is added, Acts 26:19 f., he could say that he was unknown by face to the churches of Judaea. There is nothing, we may remark, which limits his preaching to the Grecian Jews. Whilst Apologists maintain that the two accounts are reconcilable, many of them frankly admit that the account in Acts requires correction from that in the Epistle; [693:3] but, on the other hand, a still greater number of critics pronounce the narrative in the Acts contradictory to the statements of Paul.
There remains another point upon which a few remarks must be made. In Acts 9:29 f. the cause of Paul's hurriedly leaving Jerusalem is a plot of the Grecian Jews to kill him. Paul does not, in the Epistle, refer to any such matter; but, in another part of the Acts, Paul is represented as relating, 22:17 f., "And it came to pass that, when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I was in a trance, and saw him saying unto me: Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem, for they will not receive thy witness concerning me," etc. This account differs, therefore, even from the previous narrative in the same book, yet critics are agreed that the visit during which the Apostle is said to have seen this vision was that which we are discussing. The writer is so little a historian working from substantial facts that he forgets the details of his own previous statements; and in the account of the conversion of Paul, for instance, he thrice repeats the story with emphatic and irreconcilable contradictions. We have already observed his partiality for visions, and such supernatural agency is so ordinary a matter with him that, in the first account of this visit, he altogether omits the vision, although he must have known of it then quite as much as on the second occasion. The Apostle, in his authentic and solemn account of this visit, gives no hint of any vision, and leaves no suggestion even of that public preaching which is described in the earlier, and referred to in the later, narrative in the Acts. [694:1] If we had no other grounds for rejecting the account as unhistorical, this miraculous vision, added as an afterthought, would have warranted our doing so.
Paul's second visit to Jerusalem
Passing on now to the second chapter of the Epistle to the Galatians, we find that Paul writes: "Then, after fourteen years, again I went up to Jerusalem … (epeita dia dektessarôn etôn palin anebên eis Ierosaluma ...). He states the particulars of what took place upon the occasion of this second visit with a degree of minuteness which ought, one might have supposed, to have left no doubt of its identity when compared with the same visit historically described elsewhere; but such are the discrepancies between the two accounts that, as we have already mentioned, the controversy upon the point has been long and active. [694:2] The Acts, it will be remembered, relate a second visit of Paul to Jerusalem, after that which we have discussed, upon which occasion it is stated (11:30) that he was sent with Barnabas to convey to the community, during a time of famine, the contributions of the Church of Antioch. The third visit of the Acts is that (15) when. Paul and Barnabas are said to have been deputed to confer with the Apostles regarding the conditions upon which Gentile converts should be admitted into the Christian brotherhood. The circumstances of this visit, more nearly than any other, correspond with those described by the Apostle himself in the Epistle (2:1 f.); but there are grave difficulties in the way of identifying them. If this visit be identical with that described Acts 15, and if Paul, as he states, paid no intermediate visit to Jerusalem, what becomes of the visit interpolated in Acts 11:30?
The first point which we must endeavour to ascertain is what the Apostle actually intends to say regarding the second visit which he mentions. The purpose of Paul is to declare his complete independence from those who were Apostles before him, and to maintain that his Gospel was not of man, but directly revealed to him by Jesus Christ. In order to prove his independence he categorically states exactly what had been the extent of his intercourse with the elder Apostles. He protests that, after his conversion, he had neither conferred with flesh and blood nor sought those who had been Apostles before him, but, on the contrary, that he had immediately gone away to Arabia. It was not until three years had elapsed that he had gone up to Jerusalem, and then merely to make the acquaintance of Peter, with whom he had remained only fifteen days, during which he had not seen other of the Apostles save James, the Lord's brother. Only after the lapse of fourteen years did he again go up to Jerusalem. It is argued that when Paul says, "he went up again" (palin anebên), the word palin has not the force of deuteron, and that, so far from excluding any intermediate journey, it merely signifies a repetition of what had been done before, and might have been used of any subsequent journey. Even if this were so, it is impossible to deny that, read with its context, palinanebên is used in immediate connection with the former visit which we have just discussed. The sequence is distinctly marked by the epeita "then"; and the adoption of the preposition dia -- which may properly be read "after the lapse of" [695:1] -- instead of meta, seems clearly to indicate that no other journey to Jerusalem had been made in the interval. This can be maintained linguistically; but the point is still more decidedly settled when the Apostle's intention is considered. It is obvious that his purpose would have been totally defeated had he passed over in silence an intermediate visit. Even if, as is argued, the visit referred to in Acts 11:30 had been of very brief duration, or if he had not upon that occasion had any intercourse with the Apostles, it is impossible that he could have ignored it under the circumstances, for by so doing he would have left the retort in the power of his enemies that he had, on other occasions than those which he had enumerated, been in Jerusalem and in contact with the Apostles. The mere fact that a visit had been unmentioned would have exposed him to the charge of having suppressed it, and suspicion is always ready to assign unworthy motives. If Paul had paid such a hasty visit as is suggested, he would naturally have mentioned the fact and stated the circumstances, whatever they were. These and other reasons convince the majority of critics that the Apostle here enumerates all the visits which he had paid to Jerusalem since his conversion. The visit referred to in Gal. 2:1 f. must be considered the second occasion on which the Apostle Paul went to Jerusalem.
This being the case, can the visit be identified as the second visit described in Acts 11:30? The object of that journey to Jerusalem, it is expressly stated, was to carry to the brethren in Jerusalem the contributions of the Church of Antioch during a time of famine; whereas Paul explicitly says that he went up to Jerusalem, on the occasion we are discussing, in consequence of a revelation, to communicate the Gospel which he was preaching among the Gentiles. There is not a word about contributions. On the other hand, chronologically it is impossible that the second visit of the Epistle can be the second of the Acts. There is some difference of opinion as to whether the fourteen years are to be calculated from the date of his conversion or from the previous journey. The latter seems to be the more reasonable supposition, but in either case it is obvious that the identity is excluded. From various data -- the famine under Claudius, and the time of Herod Agrippa's death -- the date of the journey referred to in Acts 11:30 is assigned to about AD 45. If, therefore, we count back fourteen or seventeen years, we have as the date of the conversion, on the first hypothesis, AD 31, and on the second AD 28, neither of which is tenable. In order to overcome this difficulty, critics at one time proposed, against the unanimous evidence of MSS., to read, instead of dia dekatess. etôn in Gal. 2:1, dia tessarôn etôn, "after four years"; but this violent remedy is not only generally rejected, but, even if admitted for the sake of argument, it could not establish the identity, inasmuch as the statements in Gal. 2:1 f. imply a much longer period of missionary activity amongst the Gentiles than Paul could possibly have had at that time, about which epoch, indeed, Barnabas is said to have sought him in Tarsus, apparently for the purpose of first commencing such a career (Acts 11:25 f.). Certainly the account of his active ministry begins in the Acts only in chap. 13. Then, it is not possible to suppose that, if such a dispute regarding circumcision and the Gospel of the uncircumcision as is sketched in Gal. 2 had taken place on a previous occasion, it could so soon be repeated, Acts 15, and without any reference to the former transaction. Comparatively few critics, therefore, have ventured to maintain that the second visit recorded in the Epistle is the same as the second mentioned in the Acts (11:30), and in modern times the theory is almost entirely abandoned. If, therefore, it be admitted that Paul mentions all the journeys which he had made to Jerusalem up to the time at which he wrote, and that his second visit was not the second visit of the Acts, but must be placed later, it follows clearly, upon the Apostle's own assurance, that the visit mentioned in Acts 11:30, 12: 25, cannot have taken place and is unhistorical; and this is the conclusion of the majority of critics, including many Apologists, who, whilst suggesting that, for some reason, Barnabas may alone have gone to Jerusalem without Paul, or otherwise deprecating any imputation of conscious inaccuracy to the author, still substantially confirm the result that Paul did not on that occasion go to Jerusalem, and consequently that the statement is not historical. On the other hand, it is suggested that the additional visit to Jerusalem is inserted by the author with a view to conciliation, by representing that Paul was inconstant communication with the Apostles and the community of Jerusalem, and that he acted with their approval and sympathy. It is scarcely possible to observe the peculiar variations between the narratives of the Acts and of Paul without feeling that the author of the former deliberately sacrifices the independence and individuality of the great Apostle of the Gentiles.
Paul's second visit the third of Acts
The great mass of critics agree in declaring that the second visit described in the Epistle is identical with the third recorded in the Acts 15, although a wide difference of opinion exists amongst them as to the historical value of the account contained in the latter. This general agreement renders it unnecessary for us to enter at any length into the arguments which establish the identity, and we shall content ourselves with very concisely stating some of the chief reasons for this conclusion. The date in both cases corresponds, whilst there are insuperable chronological objections to identifying the second journey of the Epistle with my earlier or later visit mentioned in Acts. We have referred to other reasons against its being placed earlier than the third visit of Acts, and there are still stronger objections to its being dated after the third. It is impossible, considering the object of the Apostle, that he could have passed over in silence such a visit as that described Acts 15, and that the only alternative would be to date it later than the composition of the Epistle, to which the narrative of the Acts as well as all other known facts would be irreconcilably opposed. On the other hand, the date, the actors, the cause of dispute, and probably the place (Antioch) in which that dispute originated, so closely correspond that it is incredible that such a coincidence of circumstances should again have occurred.
Discrepancies of the two accounts
Without anticipating our comparison of the two accounts of this visit, we must here at least remark that the discrepancies are so great that not only have apologetic critics, as we have indicated, adopted the theory that the second visit of the Epistle is not the same as the third of the Acts, but is identical with the second (11:30), of which so few particulars are given, but some, and notably Wieseler, [698:1] have maintained it to have been the same as that described in Acts 18:21 f., whilst Paley and others [698:2] have been led to the hypothesis that the visit in question does not correspond with any of the visits actually recorded in the Acts, but is one which is not referred to at all in that work. These theories have found very little favour, however, and we mention them solely to complete our statement of the general controversy. Considering the fulness of the report of the visit in Acts 15 and the peculiar nature of the facts stated by the Apostle himself in his letter to the Galatians, the difficulty of identifying the particular visit referred to is a phenomenon which cannot be too much considered. Is it possible, if the narrative in the Acts were really historically accurate, that any reasonable doubt could ever have existed as to its correspondence with the Apostle's statements? We may here at once say that, although many of the critics who finally decide that the visit described in Acts 15 is the same as that referred to in the second chapter of the Epistle argue that the obvious discrepancies and contradictions between the two accounts may be sufficiently explained and reconciled, this is for very strong reasons disputed, and the narrative in the Acts, when tested by the authentic statements of the Apostle, pronounced inaccurate and unhistorical.
It is only necessary to read the two accounts in order to understand the grounds upon which even Apologists like Paley and Wieseler feel themselves compelled to suppose that the Apostle is describing transactions which occurred during some visit either unmentioned or not fully related in the Acts, rather than identify it with the visit reported in the fifteenth chapter, from which it so essentially differs. A material difference is not denied by anyone, and explanations with a view to reconciliation have never been dispensed with. Thiersch, who has nothing better than the usual apologetic explanations to offer, does not hesitate to avow the apparent incongruities of the two narratives. "The journey," he says, "is the same, but no human ingenuity can make out that also the conference and the decree resulting from it are the same." [699:1] He supposes that the problem is to be solved by asserting that the Apostle speaks of the private, the historian of the public, circumstances of the visit. All who maintain the historical character of the Acts must, of course, more or less thoroughly adopt this argument, but it is obvious that, in doing so, they admit, on the one hand, the general discrepancy, and, on the other, if successful in establishing their position, they could do no more than show that the Epistle does not absolutely exclude the account in the Acts. Both writers profess to describe events which occurred during the same visit; both record matters of the highest interest closely bearing on the same subject; yet the two accounts are so different from each other that they can only be rescued from complete antagonism by complete separation. Supposing the author of the Acts to be really acquainted with the occurrences of this visit, and to have intended to give a plain unvarnished account of them, the unconscious ingenuity with which he has omitted the important facts mentioned by Paul, and eliminated the whole of the Apostle's individuality, would indeed be as remarkable as it is unfortunate. But, supposing the Apostle Paul to have been aware of the formal proceedings narrated in the Acts, characterised by such unanimity and liberal Christian feeling, it would be still more astonishing and unfortunate that he has not only silently passed them over, but has conveyed so singularly different an impression of his visit. [700:1] As the Apostle certainly could not have been acquainted with the Acts, his silence regarding the Council and its momentous decree, as well as his ignorance of the unbroken harmony which prevailed, are perfectly intelligible. He, of course, only knew and described what actually occurred. The author of the Acts, however, might and must have known the Epistle to the Galatians, and the ingenuity with which the tone and details of the authentic report are avoided or transfigured cannot be ascribed to mere accident, but must largely be attributed to design, although also partly, it may be, to the ignorance and the pious imagination of a later age. Is it possible, for instance, that the controversy regarding the circumcision of Titus, and the dispute with Peter at Antioch, which are so prominently related in the Epistle, but present a view so different from the narrative of Acts, can have been undesignedly omitted? The violent apologetic reconciliation which is effected between the two accounts is based upon the foregone conclusion that the author of the canonical Acts, however he may seem to deviate from the Apostle, cannot possibly contradict him or be in error; but the preceding examination has rendered such a position untenable, and here we have not to do with a canonised "St. Luke," but with an unknown writer, whose work must be judged by the ordinary rules of criticism.
Material differences undeniable
According to the Acts, a most serious question is raised at Antioch. Certain men from Judaea came thither teaching, "Except ye have been circumcised after the manner of Moses ye cannot be saved." After much dissension and disputation, the Church of Antioch appoint that Paul and Barnabas, "and certain others of them," shall go up to Jerusalem unto the Apostles and elders about this question. The motive of the journey is here most distinctly and definitely described. Paul is solemnly deputed by the Church, to lay before the mother Church of Jerusalem a difficult question, upon the answer to which turns the whole future of Christianity. Paul's account gives a very different complexion to the visit: "Then, after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus also with me. But I went up according to revelation (kata apokalypsin) and communicated to them the Gospel which I preach among the Gentiles," etc. Paley might well say: "This is not very reconcilable." [701:1] It is argued [701:2] that the two statements may supplement each other; that the revelation may have been made to the Church of Antioch and have led to the mission; or that, being made to Paul, it may have decided him to undertake it. If, however, we admit that the essence of truth consists not in the mere letter but in the spirit of what is stated, it seems impossible to reconcile these accounts. It might be granted that a historian, giving a report of events which had occurred, might omit some secret motive actuating the conduct even of one of the principal persons with whom he has to do; but that the Apostle, under the actual circumstances, and while protesting, "Now the things which I am writing unto you, behold, before God, I lie not!" should altogether suppress the important official character of his journey to Jerusalem, and give it the distinct colour of a visit voluntarily and independently made kata apokalypsin, is inconceivable. As we proceed, it will become apparent that the divergence between the two accounts is systematic and fundamental; but we may here so far anticipate as to point out that the Apostle explicitly excludes an official visit not only by stating an "inward motive," and omitting all mention of a public object, but by the expression, "and communicated to them the Gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those who," etc. To quote Paley's words: "If by 'that Gospel' he meant the immunity of the Gentile Christians from the Jewish law (and I know not what else it can mean), it is not easy to conceive how he should communicate that privately, which was the subject of his public message"; [702:1] and we may add, how he should so absolutely alter the whole character of his visit. In the Acts, he is an ambassador charged with a most important mission; in the Epistle, he is Paul the Apostle, moved solely by his own reasons again to visit Jerusalem. The author of the Acts, however, who is supposed to record only the external circumstances, when tested is found to do so very imperfectly, for he omits all mention of Titus, who is conjectured to be tacitly included in the "certain others of them," who were appointed by the Church to accompany Paul, and he is altogether silent regarding the strenuous effort to enforce the rite of circumcision in his case, upon which the Apostle lays so much stress. The Apostle, who throughout maintains his simply independent attitude, mentions his taking Titus with him as a purely voluntary act, and certainly conveys no impression that he also was delegated by the Church. We shall presently see how significant the suppression of Titus is in connection with the author's transformation of the circumstances of the visit. In affirming that he went up "according to revelation," Paul proceeds in the very spirit in which he began to write this Epistle. He continues simply to assert his independence and equality with the elder Apostles. In speaking of his first journey he has this object in view, and he states precisely the duration of his visit and whom he saw. If he had suppressed the official character of this second visit and the fact that he submitted for the decision of the Apostles and elders the question of the immunity of the Gentile converts from circumcision, and thus curtly ascribed his going to a revelation, he would have compromised himself in a very serious manner, and exposed himself to a charge of disingenuousness of which his enemies would not have failed to take advantage. But, whether we consider the evidence of the Apostle himself in speaking of this visit, the absence of all external allusion to the supposed proceedings when reference to them would not only have been most appropriate but was almost necessary, the practical contradiction of the whole narrative implied in the subsequent conduct of Peter at Antioch, or the inconsistency of the conduct attributed in it to Paul himself, we are forced back to the natural conclusion that the Apostle does not suppress anything, and does not give so absurdly partial an account of his visit as would be the case if the narrative in the Acts be historical, but that, in a few rapid powerful lines, he completes a suggestive sketch of its chief characteristics. This becomes more apparent at every step we take in our comparison of the two narratives.
Paul ignores Council of Jerusalem
If we pass on to the next stage of the proceedings, we find an equally striking divergence between the two writers, and it must not escape attention that the variations are not merely incidental, but are thorough and consecutive. According to the Acts, there was a solemn congress held in Jerusalem, on which occasion, the Apostles and elders and the Church being assembled, the question whether it was necessary that the Gentiles should be circumcised and bound to keep the law of Moses was fully discussed, and a formal resolution finally adopted by the meeting. The proceedings, in fact, constitute what has always been regarded as the first Council of the Christian Church. The account in the Epistle does not seem to betray any knowledge of such a congress. The Apostle himself says merely: "But I went according to revelation and communicated to them (autois) the Gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which seemed (to be something) (kat' idian de tois dokousin)" (Gal. 2:2). The opinion that the author of Acts "alludes in a general way to conferences and discussions preceding the congress" [703:2] is based upon the statement, 15:4-5: "And when they came to Jerusalem they were received by the Church and by the Apostles and the elders, and declared all that God did with them. But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees, who believed, saying: That it is necessary to circumcise them and to command them to keep the law of Moses. And the Apostles and the elders came together to see regarding this matter. And when there had been much disputation Peter rose up and said," etc. If it were admitted that more than one meeting is here indicated, it is clear that the words cannot be legitimately strained into a reference to more than two conferences. The first of these is a general meeting of the Apostles and elders and of the Church to receive the delegates from Antioch, and the second is an equally general and public conference (verse 6): not only are the Apostles and elders present, but also the general body of. Christians, as clearly appears from the statement (verse 12) that, after the speech of Peter, "all the multitude (pan to plêthos) kept silence." [703:3] The "much disputation" evidently takes place on the occasion when the Apostles and elders are gathered together to consider the matter. If, therefore, two meetings can be maintained from the narrative in Acts, both are emphatically public and general, and neither, therefore, the private conference of the Epistle. The main fact that the author of the Acts describes a general congress of the Church as taking place is never called in question.
Council excluded by Paul's account
On the other hand, few who appreciate the nature of the discrepancy which we are discussing will feel that the difficulty is solved by suggesting that there is space for the insertion of other incidents in the Apostle's narrative. It is rather late now to interpolate a general Council of the Church into the pauses of the Galatian letter. To suppose that the communications of Paul to the "Pillar" Apostles, and the distressing debate regarding the circumcision of Titus, may be inferred between the lines of the account in the Acts, is a bold effort of imagination, but it is far from being as hopeless as an attempt to reconcile the discrepancy by thrusting the important public congress into some corner of the Apostle's statement. In so far as any argument is advanced in support of the assertion that Paul's expression implies something more than the private conference, it is based upon the reference intended in the words anethemên autois. When Paul says he went up to Jerusalem and communicated "to them" his Gospel, but privately tois dokousin, whom does he mean to indicate by the autois? Does he refer to the Christian community of Jerusalem, or to the Apostles themselves? It is pretty generally admitted that either application is permissible; but whilst a majority of apologetic, together with some independent, critics adopt the former, not a few consider, as Chrysostom, Oecumenius, and Calvin did before them, that Paul more probably referred to the Apostles. In favour of the former there is the fact, it is argued, that the autois is used immediately after the statement that the Apostle went up "to Jerusalem," and that it may be more natural to conclude that he speaks of the Christians there, more especially as he seems to distinguish between the communication made autoisand kat' idian tois dokousin; [704:1]; and, in support of this, "they" in Gal. 1:23-24, is, though we think without propriety, referred to. It is, on the other hand, urged that it is very unlikely that the Apostle would in such a way communicate his Gospel to the whole community, and that in the expressions used he indicates no special transaction, but that the anathemên autois is merely an indefinite statement for which he immediately substitutes the more precise kat' idian de tois dokousin. [704:2] It is quite certain that there is no mention of the Christian community of Jerusalem to which the autois can with any real grammatical necessity be referred; but when the whole purport. of the first part of the Apostle's letter is considered the reference to the Apostles in the autois becomes clearer. Paul is protesting the independence of his Gospel, and that he did not receive it from man, but from Jesus Christ. He wishes to show that he was not taught by the Apostles nor dependent upon them. He states that after his conversion he did not go to those who were Apostles before him, but, on the contrary, went away to Arabia, and only three years after he went up to Jerusalem, and then only for the purpose of making the acquaintance of Peter, and on that occasion other of the Apostles saw he none save James the Lord's brother. After fourteen years, he continues to recount, he again went up to Jerusalem, but according to revelation, and communicated to them -- i.e., to the Apostles -- the Gospel which he preached among the Gentiles. The Apostles have been in the writer's mind throughout, but in the impetuous flow of his ideas, which, in the first two chapters of this Epistle, outrun the pen, the sentences become involved. It must be admitted, finally, that the reference intended is a matter of opinion, and cannot be authoritatively settled. If we suppose it to refer to the community of Jerusalem, taking thus the more favourable construction, how would this affect the question? Can it be maintained that in this casual and indefinite "to them" we have any confirmation of the general congress of the Acts, with its debates, its solemn settlement of that momentous proposition regarding the Gentile Christians, and its important decree? It is impossible to credit that, in saying that he "communicated to them" the Gospel which he preached amongst the Gentiles, the Apostle referred to a Council like that described in the Acts, to which, as a delegate from the Church of Antioch, he submitted the question of the conditions upon which the Gentiles were to be admitted into the Church, and tacitly accepted their decision. Even if it be assumed that the Apostle makes this slight passing allusion to some meeting different from his conference with the pillar Apostles, it could not have been a general congress assembled for the purpose stated in the Acts and characterised by such proceedings. The discrepancy between the two narratives is not lessened by any supposed indication either in the Epistle or in the Acts of other incidents than those actually described. The suggestion that the dispute about Titus involved some publicity does not avail, for the greater the publicity and importance of the episode the greater the difficulty of explaining the total silence regarding it of the author of Acts. The more closely the two statements are compared the more apparent does it become that the author describes proceedings which are totally different in general character, in details and in spirit, from those so vividly sketched by the Apostle Paul.
We shall have more to say presently regarding the irreconcilable contradiction in spirit between the whole account which is given in the Acts of this Council and the writings of Paul; but it may be more convenient, if less effective, if we, for the present, take the chief points in the narrative as they arise and consider how far they are supported or discredited by other data. We shall refer later to the manner in which the question which leads to the Council is represented as arising, and at once proceed to the speech of Peter. After there had been much disputation as to whether the Gentile Christians must necessarily be circumcised and required to observe the Mosaic law, it is stated that Peter rose up and said, 15:7, "Men (and) brethren, ye know that a good while ago God made choice among you that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the Gospel and believe. 8. And God which knoweth the hearts bare them witness, giving them the Holy Spirit even as unto us; 9. and put no distinction between us and them, having purified their hearts by the faith. 10. Now, therefore, why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But by the grace of our Lord Jesus we believe we are saved even as also they" (Acts 15:7-11). The liberality of the sentiments thus put into the mouth of Peter requires no demonstration, and there is here an explicit expression of convictions, which we must, from his own words, consider to be the permanent and mature views of the Apostle, dating, as they do, "from ancient days" (aph' hêmerôn archaiôn) and originating in so striking and supernatural a manner. We may, therefore, expect that, whenever we meet with an authentic record of Peter's opinions and conduct elsewhere, they should exhibit the impress of such advanced and divinely-imparted views. The statement which Peter makes, that God had a good while before selected him that the Gentiles by his voice should hear the Gospel, is, of course, a reference to the case of Cornelius, and this unites the fortunes of the speech and proceedings of the Council with that episode. We have seen how little ground there is for considering that narrative, with its elaborate tissue of miracles, historical. The speech which adopts it is thus discredited, and all other circumstances confirm the conclusion that the speech is not authentic. If the name of Peter were erased and that of Paul substituted, the sentiments expressed would be singularly appropriate. We should have the divinely- appointed Apostle of the Gentiles advocating complete immunity from the Mosaic law, and enunciating Pauline principles in peculiarly Pauline terms. When Peter declares that "God put no distinction between us (Jews) and them (Gentiles), purifying their hearts by faith (cf. Rom. 4:13), but by the grace (charis) of our Lord Jesus Christ we believe we are saved even as also they," do we not hear Paul's sentiments, so elaborately expressed in the Epistle to the Romans and elsewhere? "For there is no difference between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord of all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" [707:2] … "justified freely by his grace (charis) through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:24). And when Peter exclaims, "Why tempt ye God to put a yoke (zygos) upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?" have we not rather a paraphrase of the words in the Epistle to the Galatians? "With liberty Christ made us free; stand fast, therefore, and be not entangled again in a yoke (zygos) of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you that, if ye be circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. But I testify again to every man who is circumcised that he is a debtor to do the whole law (Gal 5:1-3) ... For as many as are of works of law are under a curse," etc. (Gal. 3:10). These are only a few sentences of which the speech in Acts is an echo, but no attentive reader can fail to perceive that it contains in germ the whole of Pauline universalism.
From the Pauline author of the Acts this might fairly be expected, and, if we linguistically examine the speech, we have additional evidence that it is simply, like others which we have considered, a composition from his own pen. [707:6] It cannot be doubted that the language is that of the author of the Acts, and no serious attempt has ever been made to show that it is the language of Peter. If it be asserted that, in the form before us, it is a translation, there is not the slightest evidence to support the assertion; and it has to contend with the unfortunate circumstance that, in the supposed process, the words of Peter have not only become the words of the author, but his thoughts the thoughts of Paul.
Peter's speech at the Council
We may now inquire whether we find in authentic records of the Apostle Peter's conduct and views any confirmation of the liberality which is attributed to him in the Acts. He is here represented as proposing the emancipation of Gentile converts from the Mosaic law: does this accord with the statements of the Apostle Paul and with such information as we can elsewhere gather regarding Peter? Very much the contrary.
Peter in this speech claims that, long before, God had selected him to make known the Gospel to the Gentiles, but Paul emphatically distinguishes him as the Apostle of the Circumcision; and although, accepting facts which had actually taken place and could not be prevented, Peter with James and John gave Paul right hands of fellowship, he remained, as he had been before, Apostle of the Circumcision (Gal 2:7), and, as we shall see, did not practise the liberality which he is said to have preached. Very shortly after the Council described in the Acts, there occurred the celebrated dispute between him and Paul which the latter proceeds to describe immediately after the visit to Jerusalem: "But when Cephas came to Antioch," he writes, "I withstood him to the face, for he was condemned. For before certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles, but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those of the Circumcision. And the other Jews also joined in his hypocrisy, insomuch that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the Gospel, I said unto Cephas before all: If thou being a Jew livest (zês) after the manner of Gentiles and not after the manner of Jews, how compellest (anankazeis) thou the Gentiles to adopt the customs of the Jews? (ioudaizein)" (Gal. 2:11-14).
Peter's conduct at Antioch
It is necessary to say a few words as to the significance of Peter's conduct and of Paul's rebuke, regarding which there is some difference of opinion. [708:3] Are we to understand from this that Peter, as a general rule, at Antioch and elsewhere, with enlightened emancipation from Jewish prejudices, lived as a Gentile and in full communion with Gentile Christians? [708:4] Meyer [708:5] and others argue that, by the use of the present zês, the Apostle indicates a continuous practice based upon principle, and that the zên is not the mere moral life, but includes the external social observances of Christian community; the object, in fact, being to show that upon principle Peter held the advanced liberal views of Paul, and that the fault which he committed in withdrawing from free intercourse with the Gentile Christians was momentary, and merely the result of "occasional timidity and weakness." This theory cannot bear the test of examination. The account of Paul is clearly this: when Cephas came to Antioch, the stronghold of Gentile Christianity, before certain men came from James, he ate with the Gentiles, but as soon as these emissaries arrived he withdrew, "fearing those of the circumcision." Had his normal custom been to live like the Gentiles, how is it possible that he could, on this occasion only, have feared those of the circumcision? His practice must have been notorious; and had he, moreover, actually expressed such opinions in the congress of Jerusalem, his confession of faith having been so publicly made, and so unanimously approved by the Church, there could not have been any conceivable cause for such timidity. The fact evidently is, on the contrary, that Peter, under the influence of Paul, was induced for the time to hold free communion with the Gentile Christians; but as soon as the emissaries of James appeared on the scene he became alarmed at this departure from his principles, and fell back again into his normal practice. If the present zês be taken to indicate continuous habit of life, the present anankazeis very much more than neutralises it. Paul with his usual uncompromising frankness rebukes the vacillation of Peter; by adopting even for a time fellowship with the Gentiles, Peter has practically recognised its validity, has been guilty of hypocrisy in withdrawing from his concession on the arrival of the followers of James, and is condemned; but after such a concession he cannot legitimately demand that Gentile converts should "judaise." It is obvious that whilst Peter lived as a Gentile he could not have been compelling the Gentiles to adopt Judaism. Paul, therefore, in saying, "Why compellest thou (anankazeis) the Gentiles to adopt the customs of the Jews? (ioudaizein)," very distinctly intimates that the normal practice of Peter was to compel Gentile Christians to adopt Judaism. There is no escaping this conclusion, for, after all specious reasoning to the contrary is exhausted, there remains the simple fact that Peter, when placed in a dilemma on the arrival of the emissaries of James, and forced to decide whether he will continue to live as a Gentile or as a Jew, adopts the latter alternative, and, as Paul tells us, "compels" (in the present) the Gentiles to judaise. A stronger indication of his views could scarcely have been given. Not a word is said which implies that Peter yielded to the vehement protests of Paul, but, on the contrary, we must undoubtedly conclude that he did not; for it is impossible to suppose that Paul would not have stated a fact so pertinent to his argument, had the elder Apostle been induced by his remonstrance to walk uprightly according to the truth of the which Paul preached, and both to teach and practise Christian universalism. We shall have abundant reason, apart from this, to conclude that Peter did not yield, and it is no false indication of this that, a century after, we find the Clementine Homilies expressing the bitterness of the Petrine party against the Apostle of the Gentiles for this very rebuke, and representing Peter as following his course from city to city for the purpose of refuting Paul's unorthodox teaching.
It is contended that Peter's conduct at Antioch is in harmony with his denial of his master related in the Gospels, and, therefore, that such momentary and characteristic weakness might well have been displayed even after his adoption of liberal principles. Those who argue in this way forget that the denial of Jesus, as described in the Gospels, proceeded from the fear of death, and that such a reply to a merely compromising question, which did not directly involve principles, is a very different thing from conduct like that at Antioch, where, under one influence, a line of action was temporarily adopted which ratified views upon which the opinion of the Church was divided, and then abandoned merely from fear of the disapproval of those of the circumcision. The author of the Acts passes over this altercation in complete silence. No one has ever called in question the authenticity of the account which Paul gives of it. If Peter had the courage to make such a speech at the Council in the very capital of Judaic Christianity, and in the presence of James and the whole Church, how could he possibly, from fear of a few men from Jerusalem, have shown such pusillanimity in Antioch, where Paul and the mass of Christians supported him? If the unanimous decision of the Council had really been a fact, how easily he might have silenced any objections by an appeal to that which had "seemed good to the Holy Spirit" and to the Church! But there is not the slightest knowledge of the Council and its decree betrayed either by those who came from James, or by Peter, or Paul. The episode at Antioch is inconsistent with the conduct and words ascribed to Peter in the Acts, and contradicts the narrative in the fifteenth chapter which we are examining.
The speech of James
The author of the Acts states that, after Peter had spoken, "all the multitude kept silence and were hearing Barnabas and Paul declaring what signs and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them" (15:12). We shall not at present pause to consider this statement, nor the role which Paul is made to play in the whole transaction, beyond pointing out that, on an occasion when such a subject as the circumcision of the Gentiles and their subjection to the Mosaic law was being discussed, nothing could be more opposed to nature than to suppose that a man like the author of the Epistle to the Galatians could have assumed so passive and subordinate an attitude. After Barnabas and Paul had spoken, James is represented as saying: "Men (and) brethren, hear me. Simeon declared how God at first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And with this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written: 'After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David which has fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and will set it up: that the residue of men may seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name has been called, saith the Lord who doeth these things, known from the beginning.' Wherefore, I judge that we trouble not those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God; but that we write unto them that they abstain from the pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses from generations of old hath in every city those who preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath" (Acts 15:13-20). There are many reasons for which this speech also must be pronounced inauthentic. It may be observed, in passing, that James completely disregards the statement which Barnabas and Paul are supposed to make as to what God had wrought by them among the Gentiles; and, ignoring their intervention, he directly refers to the preceding speech of Peter claiming to have first been selected to convert the Gentiles. We shall reserve discussion of the conditions which James proposes to impose upon Gentile Christians till we come to the apostolic decree which embodies them.
The precise signification of the sentence with which (verse 21) he concludes has been much debated, but need not detain us long. Whatever may be said of the liberal part of the speech, it is obvious that the author has been more true to the spirit of the time in conceiving this and other portions of it than in composing the speech of Peter. The continued observance of the Mosaic ritual, and the identity of the synagogue with the Christian Church, are correctly indicated; and when James is again represented (21:20 f.) as advising Paul to join those who had a vow, in order to prove that he himself walked orderly and was an observer of the law, and did not teach the Jews to apostatise from Moses and abandon the rite of circumcision, he is consistent in his portrait. It is nevertheless clear that, however we may read the restrictions which James proposes to impose upon Gentile Christians, the author of Acts intends them to be considered as a most liberal and almost complete concession of immunity. "I judge", he makes James say, "that we trouble not those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God"; and again, on the second occasion of which we have just been speaking, in referring to the decree, a contrast is drawn between the Christian Jews, from whom observance of the law is demanded, and the Gentiles, who are only expected to follow the prescriptions of the decree.
James is represented as supporting the statement of Peter how God visited the Gentiles by "the words of the Prophets," quoting a passage from Amos 9:11-12. It is difficult to see how the words, even as quoted, apply to the case at all; but this is immaterial. Loose reasoning can certainly not be taken as a mark of inauthenticity. It is much more to the point that James, addressing an assembly of Apostles and elders in Jerusalem, quotes the prophet Amos freely from the Septuagint version, [712:1] which differs widely in the latter and more important part from the Hebrew text. The passage in the Hebrew reads: 9:11, "In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old, 12. that they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord that doeth this." The authors of the Septuagint version altered the twelfth verse into: "That the residue of men may seek after the Lord and all the Gentiles upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord who doeth these things." It is perfectly clear that the prophet does not, in the original, say what James is here represented as stating, and that his own words refer to the national triumph of Israel, and not to the conversion of the Gentiles. Amos, in fact, prophesies that the Lord will restore the former power and glory of Israel, and that the remnant of Edom and the other nations of the theocracy shall be reunited, as they were under David. No one questions the fact that the original prophecy is altered. The question as to whether James or the author of the Acts is responsible for the adoption of the Septuagint version is felt to be a serious problem. Some critics affirm that in all probability James must have spoken in Aramaic; whilst others maintain that he delivered this address in Greek. In the one case, it is supposed that he quoted the original Hebrew, and that the author of the Acts, or the document from which he derived his report, may have used the Septuagint; and in the other, it is suggested that the LXX. may have had another and more correct reading before them, for it is supposed impossible that James himself could have quoted a version which was actually different from the original Hebrew. These and many other similar explanations, into which we need not go, do little to remove the difficulty presented by the fact itself. To suppose that our Hebrew texts are erroneous in order to justify the speech is a proceeding which does not require remark. It will be remembered that in the Acts the Septuagint is always employed in quotations from the Old Testament, and that this is by no means the only place in which that version is used when it departs from the original. It is difficult to conceive that any intelligent Jew could have quoted the Hebrew of this passage to support a proposal to free Gentile Christians from the necessity of circumcision and the observance of the Mosaic Law. It is equally difficult to suppose that James, a bigoted leader of the Judaistic party and the head of the Church at Jerusalem, could have quoted the Septuagint version of the Holy Scriptures, differing from the Hebrew, to such an assembly. It is useless to examine here the attempts to make the passage quoted a correct interpretation of the prophet's meaning, or seriously to consider the proposition that this alteration of a prophetic utterance is adopted as better expressing "the mind of the Spirit." If the original prophecy did not express that mind, it is rather late to amend the utterances of the prophets in the Acts of the Apostles.
Speech of James composed by author of Acts
Linguistic analysis [713:1] confirms the conclusion that the speech of James at the Council proceeds likewise from the pen of the general author, and the incomprehensible liberality of the sentiments expressed, as well as the peculiarity of the quotation from Amos according to the Septuagint, thus receive at once their simple explanation.
If we now compare the account of James's share in granting liberal conditions to Gentile Christians with the statements of Paul, we arrive at the same result. It is in consequence of the arrival of "certain men from James" (tinas apo Iakôbou) that Peter, through fear of them, withdrew from communion with the Gentiles. It will be remembered that the whole discussion is said to have arisen in Antioch originally from the Judaistic teaching of certain men who came "from Judaea," who are disowned in the apostolic letter (Acts 15:24). It is unfortunate, to say the least of it, that so many of those who systematically opposed the work of the Apostle Paul claimed to represent the views of James and the mother Church. [713:3] The contradiction of the author of the Acts, with his object of conciliation, has but small weight before the statements of Paul and the whole voice of tradition. At any rate, almost immediately after the so-called Apostolic Council, with its decree adopted mainly at the instigation of James, his emissaries caused the defection of Peter in Antioch and the rupture with Paul. It is generally admitted, in the face of the clear affirmation of Paul, that the men in question must in all probability have been actually sent by James. It is obvious that, to justify the fear of so leading an apostle as Peter, not only must they have been thus deputed, but must have been influential men, representing authoritative and prevalent Judaistic opinions. We shall not attempt to divine the object of their mission, but we may say that it is impossible to separate them from the Judaistic teachers who urged circumcision upon the Galatian Christians and opposed the authority of the Apostle Paul. Not pursuing this further at present, however, it is obvious that the effect produced by these emissaries is quite incompatible with the narrative that, so short a time before, James and the Church of Jerusalem had unanimously promulgated conditions, under which the Gentile Christians were freely admitted into communion, and which fully justified Peter in eating with them. The incident at Antioch, as connected with James as well as with Peter, excludes the supposition that the account of the Council contained in the Acts can be considered historical.
The Apostolic Decree
The Apostolic letter embodying the decree of the Council now demands our attention. It seemed good to the Apostles and the elders with the whole Church to choose two leading men among the brethren, and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, and they wrote by them (15:23): "The Apostles and brethren which are elders unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greeting. 24. Forasmuch as we heard that certain which went out from us troubled you with words, subverting your souls, to whom we gave no commandment, 25. it seemed good unto us, having become of one mind, to choose out and send men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26. men that have given up their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27. We have, therefore, sent Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by word of mouth. 28. For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: 29. that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves ye shall do well. Fare ye well." It is argued that the simplicity of this composition, its brevity and the absence of hierarchical tendency, prove the authenticity and the originality of the epistle. Nothing, however, could be more arbitrary than to assert that the author of the Acts, composing a letter supposed to be written under the circumstances, would have written one different from this. We shall, on the contrary, see good reason for affirming that he actually did compose it, and that it bears the obvious impress of his style. Besides, Zeller [715:1] has pointed out that, in a document affirmed to be so removed from all calculation or object, verse 26 could hardly have found a place. The reference to "our beloved" Barnabas and Paul, as "men that have given up their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ," is scarcely consistent with the primitive brevity and simplicity which are made the basis of such an argument.
In the absence of better evidence, Apologists grasp at extremely slight indications of authenticity, and of this nature seems to us the mark of genuineness which Bleek and others [715:2] consider that they find in the fact that the name of Barnabas is placed before that of Paul in this document. It is maintained that, from the 13th chapter, the author begins to give the precedence to Paul, but that, in reverting to the former order, the synodal letter gives evidence both of its antiquity and genuineness. If any weight could be attached to such an indication, it is unfortunate for this argument that the facts are not as stated, for the order "Barnabas and Paul" occurs at 14:12 and 14, and even in the very account of the Council at 15:12. The two names are mentioned together in the Acts sixteen times, Barnabas being named first eight times (11:30, 12:25, 13:1, 2, 7; 14:12, 14, 15:12), and Paul as frequently (13:43, 46, 50; 15:2 twice, 22, 25, 35). Apologists like Lekebusch [715:3] and Oertel [715:4] reject Bleek's argument. The greeting chairein, with which the letter opens, and which, amongst the Epistles of the New Testament, is only found in that bearing the name of James (1:1), is said to be an indication that the letter of the Council was written by James himself. Before such an argument could avail, it would be necessary, though difficult, to prove the authenticity of the Epistle of James, but we need not enter upon such a question. Chaireinis the ordinary Greek form of greeting in all epistles, [715:5] and the author of Acts, who writes purer Greek than any other writer in our Canon, naturally adopts it. Not only does he do so here, but he makes use of the same chairein in the letter of the chief captain Lysias (23:26), [715:6] which also evidently proceeds from his hand. Moreover the word is used as a greeting in Luke 1:28, and not infrequently elsewhere in the New Testament, as Matt. 26:49, 27:29, 28:9, Mark 15:18, John 19:3, 2 John 10-11. Lekebusch, [716:1] Meyer, [716:2] and Oertel [716:3] reject the argument, and we may add that, if chairein prove anything, it proves that the author of Acts, who uses the word in the letter of Lysias, also wrote the synodal letter.
In what language must we suppose that the Epistle was originally
written? Oertel maintains an Aramaic original, [716:4] but the greater number
of writers consider that the original language was Greek. It cannot
be denied that the composition, as it stands, contains many of the
peculiarities of style of the author of Acts; and these are,
indeed, so marked that even Apologists like Lekebusch and Oertel,
whilst maintaining the substantial authenticity of the Epistle,
admit that at least its actual form must be ascribed to the general
author. The originality of the form being abandoned, it is
difficult to perceive any ground for asserting the originality and
genuineness of the substance. That assertion rests solely upon a
vague traditional confidence in the author of Acts, which is shown
to be without any solid foundation. The form of this Epistle
clearly professes to be as genuine as the substance, and if the
original language was Greek, there is absolutely no reason why the
original letter should have been altered. The similarity of the
construction to that of the prologue to the third Gospel, in which
the personal style of the writer may be supposed to have been most
unreservedly shown, has long been admitted:
|LUKE 1.||ACTS 15.|
|1. epeidêter polloi epecheirêsan
3. edoxe kamoi, parêkolouthêkoti pasin arkibôs. kathexês soi grapsai.
|24. epeidê êkousamen
hoti tines etaraxan...|
25. edoxen hêmin genomenois homothumadon arkibôs, andra pempsai.
A more detailed linguistic examination of the Epistle, however, confirms the conclusion already stated. [716:5]
Turning now from the letter to the spirit of this decree, we must endeavour to form some idea of its purport and bearing. The first point which should be made clear is, that the question raised before the Council solely affected the Gentile converts, and that the conditions contained in the decree were imposed upon that branch of the Church alone. No change whatever in the position of Jewish Christians was contemplated; they were left as before, subject to the Mosaic law. This is very apparent in the reference which is made long after to the decree, ch. 21:20 f., 25) when the desire is expressed to Paul by James, who proposed the decree, and the elders of Jerusalem, that he should prove to the many thousands of believing Jews, all zealous of the law, that he did not teach the Jews who were among the Gentiles apostasy from Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. Paul, who is likewise represented in the Acts as circumcising with his own hand, after the decision of the Council had been adopted, Timothy the son of a Greek, whose mother was a Jewess, consents to give the Jews of Jerusalem the required proof. We have already shown, at the commencement of this section, that nothing was further from the minds of the Jewish Christians than the supposition that the obligation to observe the Mosaic law was weakened by the adoption of Christianity; and the representation in the Acts is certainly so far correct that it does not pretend that Jewish Christians either desired or sanctioned any relaxation of Mosaic observances on the part of believing Jews. This cannot be too distinctly remembered in considering the history of primitive Christianity. The initiatory rite was essential to full participation in the Covenant. It was left for Paul to preach the abrogation of the law and the abandonment of circumcision. If the speech of Peter seems to suggest the abrogation of the law even for Jews, it is only in a way which shows that the author had no clear historical fact to relate, and merely desired to ascribe, vaguely and indefinitely, Pauline sentiments to the Apostle of the circumcision. No remark is made upon these strangely liberal expressions of Peter, and neither the proposition of James nor the speech in which he states it takes the slightest notice of them. The conduct of Peter at Antioch and the influence exercised by James through his emissaries restore us to historical ground. Whether the author intended to represent that the object of the conditions of the decree was to admit the Gentile Christians to full communion with the Jewish, or merely to the subordinate position of Proselytes of the Gate, is uncertain, but it is not necessary to discuss the point.
The Apostolic Decree not historical
There is not the slightest external evidence that such a decree ever existed, and the more closely the details are examined the more evident does it become that it has no historical consistency. How, and upon what principle, were these singular conditions selected? Their heterogeneous character is at once apparent, but not so the reason for a combination which is neither limited to Jewish customs nor sufficiently representative of moral duties. It has been argued, on the one hand, that the prohibitions of the apostolic decree are simply those, reduced to a necessary minimum, which were enforced in the case of heathen converts to Judaism, who did not join themselves fully to the people of the Covenant by submitting to circumcision, but were admitted to imperfect communion as Proselytes of the Gate. The conditions named, however, do not fully represent the rules framed for such cases, and many critics consider that the conditions imposed, although they may have been influenced by the Noachian prescriptions, were rather moral duties which it was, from special circumstances, thought expedient to specify. We shall presently refer to some of these conditions; but bearing in mind the views which were dominant amongst primitive Christians, and more especially, as is obvious, amongst the Christians of Jerusalem, where this decree is supposed to have been unanimously adopted -- bearing in mind the teaching which is said to have led to the Council, the episode at Antioch, and the systematic Judaistic opposition which retarded the work of Paul and subsequently affected his reputation, it may be instructive to point out not only the vagueness which exists as to the position which it was intended that the Gentiles should acquire, as the effect of this decree, but also its singular and total inefficiency. An apologetic writer, having of course in his mind the fact that there is no trace of the operation of the decree, speaks of its conditions as follows: "The miscellaneous character of these prohibitions showed that, taken as a whole, they had no binding force independently of the circumstances which dictated them. They were a temporary expedient framed to meet a temporary emergency. Their object was the avoidance of offence in mixed communities of Jew and Gentile converts. Beyond this recognised aim and general understanding implied therein, the limits of their application were not defined." [718:1] In fact, the immunity granted to the Gentiles was thus practically almost unconditional.