These are some of my notes for Sunday June 7, 2008 in the Lifeway Explore the Bible series.
Books referenced in these notes are:
1.) Grace in Galatia, by Ben Witherington III
2.) New American Commentary: Galatians, by Timothy George
3.) St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians by J.B. Lightfoot
4.) Galatians, International Critical Commentary, by Ernest Dewitt Burton
5.) Hans-Josef Klauck, Ancient Letters and the New Testament, (2006)
6.) E. Randolph Richards, Paul and First Century Letter Writing (2004)
The standard form of an ancient letter was:(Klauck)
a. Body Opening
b. Body Middle
c. Body Closing
E. Randolph Richards compiled a chart of costs for components in the preparation of an ancient letter (lines, amount of papyri, scribal salary) and adjusted it to today’s dollars, coming up with a figure of $722 for Galatians. Plainly a reason for having so few Pauline letters in the New Testament is because it was an expensive business writing them. Paul’s letters are very long for ancient times, when the average letter was only one papyrus sheet long. (Richards)
The modern idea of letter writing is not appropriate to Paul’s letters. Desks were all but unknown, and literacy was divided into several categories:
1. simple ability to read
2. ability to write a little and slowly
3. ability to write well. Mostly limited to professional scribes and the wealthy.
Most letters were physically written by scribes, even for literate people, because scribes brought speed, style, and customary form to writing. Ancient letters had standard forms which scribes could make dictated letters fit by creating a final letter from dictation or written notes. The author(s) could then approve this draft letter for formal copying or work on further drafts. While this sounds like the author(s) left much to the scribe to do, ancient tradition put sole responsibility for the final letter on the signer, requiring any responsible author to be very involved in the creation of his letters.(Richards)
This section is the exordium portion of the letter, according to ancient epistolary practice. The exordium introduces the topic(s) to be discussed, works to gain readers’ attention, and establish the author’s authority. Typically the exordium establishes rapport between the author and audience by commendation or even flattery, but in a warning or accusatory letter, one might begin with blame or rebuke. 1:6-10 establishes:
1.What is true gospel
2.What does that gospel require of its receivers
This section uses a rather strong hyperbole, but one must remember that hyperbole was a typical device in ancient times.(Witherington)
Paul’s amazement here is more than rhetoric, as prove later in the letter.
Greek outos tacheos “so quickly, so soon”. Is Paul referring to the shortness between the Galatians’ conversion and falling away, or that they are accepting this new view of the gospel so quickly and easily? Or is he perhaps even mixing things up to imply both, perhaps? Most scholars seem to favor Burton’s “brevity of the interval rather than the rapidity of the process”. Burton himself thinks one cannot really date Galatians from these words, because any few years would seem a short time(Witherington, Burton)
Greek metatithesthe, “turning away”. This verb is in present tense, indicating the Galatians are in the process of turning to a different gospel. The Greek verb has a sense of changing from one condition to another, and the word is used in ancient writings to imply desertion and even apostacy. A noun form of the word is used to refer to someone changing philosophical schools. George translates the idea as Paul seeing the Galatians as “spiritual turncoats”, Burton “renegades”.(Witherington, George)
Paul says the Galatians are turning from “Him”. This likely refers to God the Father. This is based on Paul’s habitual use of “calling” , in some fifteen passages: Rom 4:17, 8:30; 9:11,24; 1 Cor 1:9, 7:15,17; Gal 1:15; 1 Th 2:12, 4:7, 5:24; 2 Tim 1:9; Rom 11:29; 1 Cor 1:26; Eph 1:18; Php 3:14; 2 Tim 1:9. Many classical commentators felt the Greek allowed “called” to refer back to “Christ” (so Jerome, Luther, and Calvin, for example), but why felicitous and possible, it simply doesn’t fit Paul’s habit. (Burton)
Paul denies there is another gospel, but instead says some are trying to spread an alternate gospel “of Christ”, which likely means “about Christ”. Modern translations are at pains to separate “another gospel” KJV 1:6 from “another” KJV 1:7. They are actually two different Greek words, 1:6’s heteros “another of a different kind” and 1:7’s allos, “another of the same sort” (George, Witherington)
“Trouble you” Greek tarasso, “to disorder, shake, agitate” is sometimes used physically, but in the NT is mostly used of mental disturbance. (George, Burton)
“Even if”, referring to sheer possibility.
“Angel from Heaven” is likely a reference to the common Jewish notion that angels were God’s instrument in giving Moses the Law, referred to again in 3:19. Paul points to the primacy of the message, not the messenger, in judging the validity of a message.
“A curse be on him” Greek anathema. This is the normal Greek for the OT Hebrew harem, which means “ban”, something set aside for destruction, usually destruction by God. Thus Paul is asking God to deal with the agitators in Galatia, the other gospelers, that they be under God’s wrath. It might also refer to expelling agitators from the assemblies, which would make this verse align with 4:30, and matching much classical commentary. However, as Lightfoot points out, the “excommunicated, excluded” meaning of anathema is a post Biblical meaning read back into this verse by the Church Fathers.(Lightfoot, Witherington)
“As we have said before” This likely refers to orders Paul laid down during his first visit to Galatia. The repetition then is to stress the seriousness of the situation and force the Galatians to act. Lightfoot discounts the interpretation that this refers immediately back to verse 8 on the basis of the pronouns, for he says “we…said before” then “I say again”. Paul speaks of himself throughout Galatians, using the singular consistently. (Lightfoot, Witherington)
These are transitional verse, bridging the idea of the importance of a correct gospel, and its power to change lives, as soon to be demonstrated by Paul’s own example. It was a standard ancient notion that a “philosopher”’s consistency of message and lifestyle was a proof of the validity of the philosopher’s message.(Witherington)
1:11-2:14 form what was called in ancient rhetoric a narratio. In this case it is a recounting of past events in order to point to readers/listeners how to act in the future. Pretty much the first two chapters in Galatians are setup for the book’s main argument, to reject the false gospel being touted at Galatia.(Witherington)
“I want you to know” is Paul stressing what he thinks is especially important for the Galatians to take notice of. (1 Cor 15:1,2; 2 Cor 8:1)(Witherington)
“Brothers” stresses the family shape of the church, something he likely learned from other Christians who got it ultimately from Christ (Mark 3:31-35; Mat 23:8). It is conciliatory language, but also marker language, for some are family and so obviously aren’t. And for Paul, as he will show later in this letter, sharing the common gospel is a strong marker of inclusion in the Christian family.(Witherington)
Paul says he did not receive his gospel from humans, nor was taught it. It was a revelation, Greek apokalypsis. George gives three definitions of apokalypsis:
1.The coming or appearance of a person
2.Disclosure of the true nature of a person or idea
3.Content of something revealed(George)
A classic argument not settled by the Greek (as these arguments almost never are, for those who might think Greek an exegetical magic bullet) is whether Christ here is the revealer or the thing revealed. This is another of those cases where one might actually have his cake and eat it, since plainly the Gospel is Christ, and Christ is the one who spoke to Paul at Damascus. In a sense the point of Paul’s Damascus Road experience was just this: Christ is God’s instrument to save mankind.(George, Witherington)
George lists some things Paul learned from the Damascus Road:
1.God had raised Jesus, thus verifying him as the Messiah
2.Jesus was exalted into Heaven, yet vitally concerned with his followers on Earth, thus to persecute them is to persecute Jesus. This is the seed of the notion of the church as Christ’s body and bride, intimately connected with him.
3.Jesus was specifically sending Paul to tell the Gentiles the gospel. (Acts 26:14-18)(George)
“Of” seems a more correct word in speaking of Christ here, for 1:16 speaks of the Son being revealed to Paul, and 1:18 speaks of Paul getting some information from Peter, so he can’t be claiming to learn NO information from others about Christianity. This is especially true considering the several times Paul speaks of passing on information he had received from others.(Witherington)
While both the HCSB and the KJV have “God” as the subject of the Greek sentence that forms our 1:15-17, the best manuscript evidence suggests a more implied noun, “he, the one” here. Ho theos is found in later manuscripts, and is pretty likely a typical case of scribes deciding to make something more clear. It is no serious change, for clearly God is indeed “him, the one” Paul is referring to.(Witherington)
Paul says he was set apart from his mother’s womb, which is likely an echo of Jer 1:5-6; Is 49:1,6; Ezk 1. Paul is both claiming a sort of prophetic selection by God and also thereby defended himself from charges of living by the gospel, a standard charge against ancient “philosophers”, who were the original TV evangelists and self-help gurus.(Witherington)
George lists six aspects of Paul’s gospel, taken from a J.A. Fitzmyer, S.J. book, To Advance the Gospel, Crossroad, 1981
1. Apocalyptic: The gospel is a revelation of hitherto unknown facts, in this case the good news of salvation.
2.Dynamic: The gospel is more than a set of ideas. It is a thing that changes lives, and thereby history.
3.Kerygmatic: The gospel is God’s work of salvation through Jesus Christ.
4.Normative: The gospel necessarily defines how people should live, hwo they should think of things.
5.Promissory: The gospel is a new thing, yet also the fulfillment of OT covenant.
6.Universal: God’s covenant people are widened by the gospel to include not only Jews but people from every group that make up mankind. (George, Fitzmeyer)
Reveal His Son in me: Similar to Gal 2:20; 4:6 and a host of Pauline passages speaking of living in Christ. Curious mix here of revealing (to Paul) in me (for those Paul evangelizes). But it was a standard notion of ancient times that the proof of a philosophy was the conduct of its teachers. Thus Paul is a witness and example in himself of the truth and good of Christianity.(Witherington)
I did not immediately consult with anyone: The Greek for consult, prosanatithemi, can be used of seeking an authoritative interpretation, but also of common conference. (Witherington)
“Immediately” Greek eutheos. There is some debate as to what the Greek word modifies, thus many translations put “immediately, at once” with “consult”, while others put it with v. 17’s “went to Arabia”.(Witherington)
The relationship between Acts 15 and Galatians 2 is a notorious problem in New Testament studies. There are three main theories:
1) Acts 15= Galatians 2
2) Acts 11, 12= Galatians 2
3) Neither Acts nor Galatians reports all of Paul’s Jerusalem journeys.
The problem is ancient, in that there are textual variants in the ancient manuscripts trying to resolve the tangled chronology, especially in Acts 12:25. 1) is the majority view, but 2) has many wise heads in favor of it. Ben Witherington lays out the pros and cons for 1) and 2) in his _Acts of the Apostles_, favoring in the end 2).(Witherington)
with Barnabas: Barnabas (originally Joseph), styled an Apostle in Holy Scripture, and, like St. Paul, ranked by the Church with the Twelve, though not one of them; b. of Jewish parents in the Island of Cyprus about the beginning of the Christian Era. A Levite, he naturally spent much time in Jerusalem, probably even before the Crucifixion of Our Lord, and appears also to have settled there (where his relatives, the family of Mark the Evangelist, likewise had their homes ; Acts 12:12) and to have owned land in its vicinity (4:36-37). A rather late tradition recorded by Clement of Alexandria (Strom., II, 20, P.G., VIII, col. 1060) and Eusebius (H. E., II, i, P. G., XX, col. 117) says that he was one of the seventy Disciples; but Acts (4:36-37) favours the opinion that he was converted to Christianity shortly after Pentecost (about A.D. 29 or 30) and immediately sold his property and devoted the proceeds to the Church. The Apostles, probably because of his success as a preacher, for he is later placed first among the prophets and doctors of Antioch (xiii, 1), surnamed him Barnabas, a name then interpreted as meaning “son of exhortation” or “consolation”. (The real etymology, however, is disputed.) Though nothing is recorded of Barnabas for some years, he evidently acquired during this period a high position in the Church. When Saul the persecutor, later Paul the Apostle, made his first visit (dated variously from A.D. 33 to 38) to Jerusalem after his conversion, the Church there, remembering his former fierce spirit, was slow to believe in the reality of his conversion. Barnabas stood sponsor for him and had him received by the Apostles, as the Acts relate (9:27), though he saw only Peter and James, the brother of the Lord, according to Paul himself (Galatians 1:18-19). Saul went to his house at Tarsus to live in obscurity for some years, while Barnabas appears to have remained at Jerusalem. The event that brought them together again and opened to both the door to their lifework was an indirect result of Saul’s own persecution. In the dispersion that followed Stephen’s death, some Disciples from Cyprus and Cyrene, obscure men, inaugurated the real mission of the Christian Church by preaching to the Gentiles. They met with great success among the Greeks at Antioch in Syria, reports of which coming o the ears of the Apostles, Barnabas was sent thither by them to investigate the work of his countrymen. He saw in the conversions effected the fruit of God’s grace and, though a Jew, heartily welcomed these first Gentile converts. His mind was opened at once to the possibility of this immense field. It is a proof how deeply impressed Barnabas had been by Paul that he thought of him immediately for this work, set out without delay for distant Tarsus, and persuaded Paul to go to Antioch and begin the work of preaching. This incident, shedding light on the character of each, shows it was no mere accident that led them to the Gentile field. Together they laboured at Antioch for a whole year and “taught a great multitude”. Then, on the coming of famine, by which Jerusalem was much afflicted, the offerings of the Disciples at Antioch were carried (about A.D. 45) to the mother-church by Barnabas and Saul (Acts 11). Their mission ended, they returned to Antioch, bringing with them the cousin, or nephew of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10), John Mark, the future Evangelist (Acts 12:25).The time was now ripe, it was believed, for more systematic labours, and the Church of Antioch felt inspired by the Holy Ghost to send out missionaries to the Gentile world and to designate for the work Barnabas and Paul. They accordingly departed, after the imposition of hands, with John Mark as helper. Cyprus, the native land of Barnabas, was first evangelized, and then they crossed over to Asia Minor. Here, at Perge in Pamphylia, the first stopping place, John Mark left them, for what reason his friend St. Luke does not state, though Paul looked on the act as desertion. The two Apostles, however, pushing into the interior of a rather wild country, preached at Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, at Derbe, and other cities. At every step they met with opposition and even violent persecution from the Jews, who also incited the Gentiles against them. The most striking incident of the journey was at Lystra, where the superstitious populace took Paul, who had just cured a lame man, for Hermes (Mercury) “because he was the chief speaker”, and Barnabas for Jupiter, and were about to sacrifice a bull to them when prevented by the Apostles. Mob-like, they were soon persuaded by the Jews to turn and attack the Apostles and wounded St. Paul almost fatally. Despite opposition and persecution, Paul and Barnabas made many converts on this journey and returned by the same route to Perge, organizing churches, ordaining presbyters and placing them over the faithful, so that they felt, on again reaching Antioch in Syria, that God had “opened a door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:13-14:27).Barnabas and Paul had been “for no small time” at Antioch, when they were threatened with the undoing of their work and the stopping of its further progress. Preachers came from Jerusalem with the gospel that circumcision was necessary for salvation, even for the Gentiles. The Apostles of the Gentiles, perceiving at once that this doctrine would be fatal to their work, went up to Jerusalem to combat it; the older Apostles received them kindly and at what is called the Council of Jerusalem (dated variously from A.D. 47 to 51) granted a decision in their favour as well as a hearty commendation of their work (Acts 14:27-15:30). On their return to Antioch, they resumed their preaching for a short time. St. Peter came down and associated freely there with the Gentiles, eating with them. This displeased some disciples of James; in their opinion, Peter’s act was unlawful, as against the Mosaic law. Upon their remonstrances, Peter yielded apparently through fear of displeasing them, and refused to eat any longer with the Gentiles. Barnabas followed his example. Paul considered that they “walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel” and upbraided them before the whole church (Galatians 2:11-15). Paul seems to have carried his point. Shortly afterwards, he and Barnabas decided to revisit their missions. Barnabas wished to take John Mark along once more, but on account of the previous defection Paul objected. A sharp contention ensuing, the Apostles agreed to separate. Paul was probably somewhat influenced by the attitude recently taken by Barnabas, which might prove a prejudice to their work. Barnabas sailed with John Mark to Cyprus, while Paul took Silas an revisited the churches of Asia Minor. It is believed by some that the church of Antioch, by its God-speed to Paul, showed its approval of his attitude; this inference, however, is not certain (Acts 15:35-41).Little is known of the subsequent career of Barnabas. He was still living and labouring as an Apostle in 56 or 57, when Paul wrote I Cor. (ix, 5, 6). from which we learn that he, too, like Paul, earned his own living, though on an equality with other Apostles. The reference indicates also that the friendship between the two was unimpaired. When Paul was a prisoner in Rome (61-63), John Mark was attached to him as a disciple, which is regarded as an indication that Barnabas was no longer living (Colossians 4:10). This seems probable. Various traditions represent him as the first Bishop of Milan, as preaching at Alexandria and at Rome, whose fourth (?) bishop, St. Clement, he is said to have converted, and as having suffered martyrdom in Cyprus. The traditions are all late and untrustworthy. With the exception of St. Paul and certain of the Twelve, Barnabas appears to have been the most esteemed man of the first Christian generation. St. Luke, breaking his habit of reserve, speaks of him with affection, “for he was a good man, full of the Holy Ghost and of Faith”. His title to glory comes not only from his kindliness of heart, his personal sanctity, and his missionary labours, but also from his readiness to lay aside his Jewish prejudices, in this anticipating certain of the Twelve; from his large-hearted welcome of the Gentiles, and from his early perception of Paul’s worth, to which the Christian Church is indebted, in large part at least, for its great Apostle. His tenderness towards John Mark seems to have had its reward in the valuable services later rendered by him to the Church.The feast of St. Barnabas is celebrated on 11 June. He is credited by Tertullian (probably falsely) with the authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the so-called Epistle of Barnabas is ascribed to him by many Fathers.(John Fenlon, Catholic Encyclopedia)
Titus:Paul’s companion in missionary tours. Not mentioned in Acts. A Greek, and therefore a Gentile (Gal_2:1; Gal_2:3); converted through Paul (Tit_1:4), “mine own son after the common faith.” Included in the “certain other of them” who accompanied the apostle and Barnabas when they were deputed from the church of Antioch to consult the church at Jerusalem concerning the circumcision of Gentile converts (Act_15:2), and agreeably to the decree of the council there was exempted from circumcision, Paul resisting the attempt to force Titus to be so, for both his parents were Gentile, and Titus represented at the council the church of the uncircumcision (contrast TIMOTHY who was on one side of Jewish parentage: Act_16:3.) He was with Paul at Ephesus (Acts 19), and was sent thence to Corinth to commence the collection for the Jerusalem saints, and to ascertain the effect of the first epistle on the Corinthians (2Co_7:6-9; 2Co_8:6; 2Co_12:18); and there showed an unmercenary spirit.
Next, Titus went to Macedon, where he rejoined Paul who had been eagerly looking for him at Troas (Act_20:1; Act_20:6; 2Co_2:12-13); “Titus my brother” (2Co_7:6; 2Co_8:23), also “my partner and fellow helper concerning you.” The history (Acts 20) does not record Paul’s passing through Troas in going from Ephesus to Macedon, but it does in coming from that country; also that he had disciples there (Act_20:6-7) which accords with the epistle (2Co_2:12): an undesigned coincidence confirming genuineness. Paul had fixed a time with Titus to meet him at Troas, and had desired him, if detained so as not to be able to be at Troas in time, to proceed at once to Macedon to Philippi, the next stage on his own journey. Hence, though a wide door of usefulness opened to Paul at Troas, his eagerness to hear from Titus about the Corinthian church led him not to stay longer there, when the time fixed was past, but to hasten on to Macedon to meet Titus there.
Titus’s favorable report comforted Paul. Then he was employed by Paul to get ready the collection for the poor saints in Judaea, and was bearer of the second epistle to the Corinthians (2Co_8:16-17; 2Co_8:23). Macknight thinks Titus was bearer of the first epistle also: 2Co_12:18; 1Co_16:12, “the brethren” (but see CORINTHIANS, FIRST EPISTLE.) His location as president for a time over the Cretan church (Tit_1:5) was subsequent to Paul’s first imprisonment and shortly before the second, about A.D. 67, ten years later than the previous notice of him in 2 Cor., A.D. 57. Probably he met Paul, as the apostle requested, at Nicopolis, for his journey into Dalmatia subsequently would be more probable from Nicopolis than from distant Crete (2Ti_4:10; Tit_3:12). Artemas or Tychicus on arriving in Crete would set Titus free from his episcopal commission to go to Nicopolis.
Titus seems to have been bolder and less timid than Timothy, whose going to Corinth was uncertain (1Co_16:10-11). Hence, he was able so well to execute Paul’s delicate commission, and see how the Corinthians were affected by Paul’s reproof of their tolerating immorality in his first epistle. Titus enforced his rebukes, and then was not less “comforted in respect to the Corinthians” than Paul himself; “his spirit was refreshed by them all”; “his inward affection” and “joy” were called into exercise, so that we see in Titus much of the sympathizing, and withal bold, disposition of the apostle himself. His energy appeared in his zeal at Paul’s request to begin at his former visit to Corinth the collection about which the Corinthians were somewhat remiss (2Co_8:6; 2Co_8:16-17; 2Co_8:18). Trustworthiness and integrity were conspicuous traits in him (2Co_12:18); readiness also to carry out heartily the apostle’s wishes. “God put the same earnest care (for the flock) in his heart” as in Paul’s.
He needed no exhortation, such as Paul gave him, but “of his own accord,” anticipating Paul’s wishes, went where the apostle desired. Luke was probably the “brother” sent with him, “whose praise is in the Gospel throughout all the churches.” Paul states his latest commission to Titus, Tit_1:5, “for this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting (epidiorthosee, ‘follow up’ the work begun by me, ‘setting right the things’ which I was unable to complete through the shortness of my stay in Crete) and ordain elders in every city as I had appointed thee” (he does not mention deacons). Paul began the due organization of the Cretan church; Titus followed up the work in every city, as Gortyna, Lasaea, etc. Paul reminds Titus by letter of the commission he had already given him orally. Titus was to “bridle” the mouths of “deceivers” and Judaizing teachers (Tit_1:11, compare Psa_32:9), to urge a becoming Christian walk on all classes, the aged, the young, men, women, slaves, subjects, fulfilling relative duties, and to avoid unprofitable speculations.
A firm and consistent ruler was needed for the lawless, self indulgent, and immoral Cretans, as they are pictured by their own poet Epimenides (Tit_1:12-13) who sarcastically remarked that the absence of “wild beasts” from Crete was supplied by its human inhabitants. Livy, 44:45, brands their avarice; Polybius, 6:46, section 9, their ferocity and fraud; and 6:47, section 5, their mendacity. To Cretanize was proverbial for “to lie”, as to “Corinthianize” for “to be licentious”. Hence flowed their love of “fables” (Tit_1:14), which even pagan poets ridiculed, as for instance their assertion that they had in their land Jupiter’s sepulchre. The one grand remedy which Titus was to apply is (Tit_2:11-15) “the grace of God that bringeth salvation” in Christ, who “gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity.” Paul tells Titus to hospitably help forward Zenas the converted Jewish lawyer or scribe and Apollos, with the latter of whom Titus had been already associated in connection with Corinth (1Co_15:12; 2Co_7:6; 2Co_7:9; 2Co_8:6; 2Co_12:18; Act_19:1). A ruined church on the site of Gortyna bears the name of Titus, whom tradition makes bishop of Gortyna. His name was the watchword of the Cretans when invaded by the Venetians. (A.R. Fausset, Bible Dictionary) Tradition adds that Titus remained Bishop of Crete until his death at over ninety years of age.
With Barnabas: Indicates that at the time Barnabas was likely still seen as the leader in the partnership of Paul and Barnabas.
Taking Titus along: Why did Paul deliberately take along an uncircumcised Greek believer? Very likely to force the issue of whether Gentiles must obey Jewish law to be Christians. (Witherington)
Because of a revelation: Whether this means a direct revelation to Paul like a dream, a vision, or such, or, as is illustrated several times in Acts, a prophecy delivered in church, we cannot say. (Witherington)
Presented to them the gospel I preach: It seems highly likely that Paul, sensing the Judaizer faction’s increasing ferocity, determined to head them off at the pass, as it were, by forcing a deliberation on the matter from the recognized church leadership in Jerusalem. Barnabas and Titus were tailored made for such a confrontation, Barnabas the senior respected Jew, Titus the Gentile believer involved in missions. How much the revelation played in this plan is impossible to say.(Witherington)
Those recognized as leaders: We can’t say exactly who and how many this includes, but taking Acts 15 as the same incident, it must include Peter and James the Just.
There is some dispute whether there was one meeting, private, with the leaders, or two, a second involving the public and the false brethren/ Judaizers.
Running, have run in vain: It is not that Paul doubted his gospel, but he was definitely aware that he was in real world terms an inferior beholden to the Jerusalem leaders, who at this time were the senior leadership and commissioners of Christian outreach, and though Paul knew he was as divinely authorized as anyone based on his Damascus road experience and continued revelations and prophecies, he could not have effectively continued his Gentile mission without the backing of leaders like Peter and James. (Witherington)
2:3 It is hard to read between the lines here. Were some in Jerusalem of the opinion Titus should be circumcised, but they were too few or not convinced enough to require circumcision, or was it simply the leadership agreed Gentiles need not be circumcised to join Christianity? Lightfoot is of the opinion that the leadership like Peter and James likely were inclined to expect Gentile circumcision, but that Paul’s vigorous opposition wore them down and changed their minds.(Witherington)
Smuggled, secretly, to spy on: All this furtive language doesn’t seem likely to be directed at regular church assemblies in Antioch which some people take to be the meaning here: that Paul went to Jerusalem for a decision on the circumcision of Gentile Christians after some Judaizing types made a fuss in Antioch. But the infiltrative language seems to point to the private meeting in Jerusalem. Thus someone in the Jerusalem group Paul addressed (Peter, John, James Jesus’ brother, likely other leaders) likely let some Judaizers into the meeting, creating a debate rather than a conference.
In order to enslave us: Slave versus free was the defining social mark in the ancient world, so using this sort of language had a strong impact on the Galatians. (Witherington)
What the Judaizers seemed to want was strict adherence to Mosaic law for a common church, or else two churches. Neither of these were correct to Paul. And if Mosaic law was made a requirement, then Paul’s ability to fellowship with Gentiles would be all but ended, and his God-ordained mission dead.(Witherington)
Paul states plainly his complete resistance to the Judaizers, and his reason for being so opposed. It was to preserve the gospel for Gentiles, like the Galatians.(Witherington)
An interesting problem in interpretation. Is Paul saying his message is unchanged by his meeting with the pillars in Jerusalem, or since he doubly refers to the pillars’ importance, is he saying that his own worth, his social honor, is not dependent on the pillars’ recognition, because he looks for God’s approval, and God judges men by His own standard, not what they think? (Witherington)
One can see here, then, (and Witherington does) a continuing thread of Paul rejecting ancient honor/shame culture to found a new Christian culture based on what God approves. (Witherington)