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Re: [XTalk] The background to Galatians

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  • Richard Fellows
    Thanks, Ken, I agree with much of what you write. Also, I take Acts to be historical, and it is precisely for that reason that I equate Gal 2 with Acts 15
    Message 1 of 25 , Jul 23, 2009
      Thanks, Ken,

      I agree with much of what you write. Also, I take Acts to be historical, and it is precisely for that reason that I equate Gal 2 with Acts 15 (see, for example, my recent email on chronology).

      You assume (I think) that the outcome of the Acts 15 meeting would have prevented the circumcision issue from arising in (south) Galatia. But is this really a safe assumption? Following the delivery of the decree the south Galatians would know that the Judean church leaders did not support circumcision, but why must we assume that the authority of the Judean church leaders held sway in south Galatia? The decree does not make its case by appealing to any words of Jesus, so the agitators in Galatia would surely wish to question its validity. Peter, James, and the elders had never been to Galatia, so why should the Galatians accept their authority as absolute?

      The scenario may have been something like this:
      1. The decree was delivered to south Galatia
      2. The agitators argued, "The doctrine of Gentile liberty is a mistaken inference from a single vision of Peter (whom you do not recognize). Paul (your 'father') circumcised Timothy so he actually supports circumcision, so you should be circumcised too. Paul's verbal support for Gentile liberty was just to please Peter and the others, so it does not represent an independent second witness to the will of God.
      3. Paul wrote the letter in response, arguing that his revelation was independent; that he was no underling of Peter and the others on this issue; and that they should not believe the rumor that he supports circumcision.

      Ken, does this answer your objection to equating Gal 2 with Acts 15? Do you see any other difficulties with the equation, or indeed with my reconstruction of the background to the letter?

      I have made my proposal available on the web here:


      Richard Fellows

      ----- Original Message -----
      From: Kenneth Litwak <javajedi2@...>
      Date: Wednesday, July 22, 2009 3:22 pm
      Subject: Re: [XTalk] The background to Galatians
      To: crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com

      > Richard,
      >    That's an interesting idea, but I'm not quite convinced.  I
      > see no way that Gal 2:1-10 and Acts 15 could refer to the same
      > event.  Rather, I am in the company of those who think that
      > Galatians was written before the events in Acts 15.  Otherwise,
      > it would be clear to Gentiles that, no matter what Paul did with
      > Timothy, they did not need to keep the Law.  I would quickly add
      > that those who take the view that Paul's autobiographical info
      > is von Rankean history, wie es eigentlich gewesen, have adopted
      > an invalid view of how history is written, no matter who wrote
      > it.  To assume that Luke was stupid or invented the story out of
      > thin air and that Paul's account must refer to the same
      > encounter is gratuitous and disingenuous at the very least.  I
      > don't see any way to match Galatians 2 with Acts 15.  Galatians
      > 2 must recount a previous event, IMHO. 
      > Ken Litwak

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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