October 6, 2011

Certain Men from James/Judea

If one gets the idea that Antioch wasn't overly fond of Jerusalem, then one should also conclude Antioch felt much the same way about James.  By the time of Acts 15, James was essentially head of the church in Jerusalem, and therefore any christian emissaries sent "from Judea" were highly likely to have been sent directly or indirectly "from James".  The same word "certain ones" (τινας, τινες, in Gal.2:12 as in Acts 15:1) is merely circumstantial, and doesn't prove my assertion, but the most logical guess is that these were the very same men.

Chronologically, this would mean that Antioch had gone unmolested by Judean controversy until these men came along.  Apparently Peter himself was the first one to visit, which seems fairly appropriate, and then while Peter was still there in Antioch, these "certain men" came to visit as well.  Again, this makes perfect sense.  Acts tells us that Peter encountered resistance after meeting Cornelius.  Paul tells us that an "circumcision party" was alive and well in Antioch on the day Paul rebuked Peter, and this "party" must have been the same group, who had just come up from Jerusalem.  It seems as if someone in the C party was deliberately following Peter, who very clearly was susceptible to their influence.

So, Paul says "men from James", instead of "men from Judea".  Well, Galatians pulls no punches anywhere, does it?  But for Luke to say, "men from Judea" may have been just a bare bit of diplomacy.  The obvious conclusion to draw here most likely correct.

In fact, the famous Judaizers (who went to Galatia) are most likely also to be identified with these very same men from Judea.  At the very least, we know of no other such devouts from the C party who would travel as far as the 300+ miles to Antioch.  So, is it easier to suppose that these troublemakers at Antioch went back home from Antioch and then some other group of devout Judaizers left Judea and walked all the way into Pisidia?  Or is it easier to suppose that these "certain men" - who had come up from James/Judea, who had already caused such controversies in Antioch - that these were in fact the same "certain men" who went on through the Lion's Gate in Cilicia and found their way to the four very young churches of Southern Galatia.

This view simply makes good logistical sense, and I believe it makes the best sense of the evidence altogether.  These men, having just been daunted by Paul in Antioch, must have also heard about Galatia while in Antioch - for Paul had not yet testified about Gentile salvation in Jerusalem (Acts 15:3) - and these men there, in Antioch, evidently decided to move on and hope for better results with new Galatian believers than they'd been able to produce while in Syria.

Finally, this could also explain Paul's literary sequence in building up to the flashback in Gal.2.  It seems absolutely certain that these Judaizers had already told Galatia about Paul rebuking Peter... Paul's self defense proves they had tried to destroy Paul's reputation... but the news of the Council (2:1-10) would have been unknown to Galatia because the Council was happening at about the same time as the Judaizers were busily brandishing knives in Derbe, Lystra, Iconium and Pisidian Antioch.

To wrap it all up:  Paul's "men from James" were the same men as Luke's "men from Judea".  The Council of Acts 15 is absolutely the focus of Gal.2:1-10, and Paul's letter was written to Southern Galatia very soon after the Council had ended.  Paul & Barnabas got back to Antioch, parted ways, and then Paul somehow heard that Galatians were in trouble.  He sent the letter ahead with Luke - and apparently Titus as well - and those two were probably also keeping Jerusalem's letter in their 'pocket' for back-up.  Luke & Titus went on then to find their pre-arranged rendezvous at "Troy", to wait there while Paul & Silas headed for follow up visits in Galatia, having deliberately given the churches some brief time to digest and respond to the letter(s) and letter carrier(s).

That's the simplest way I can see - not to harmonize seemingly divergent texts (blech!), but - to synchronize all the accounts.  Or, in other words, that's my brief sketch at a historical reconstruction.

Think upon it...


Charles said...


I would question your statement that, "Antioch had gone unmolested by Judean controversy until these men came along." I suspect that at least the seeds of the dispute go back to the origins of the church noted in Acts 11:19-20 (cf. 8:1).

"Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus."

Notice that you probably have at least two different Jewish groups (Jewish Christians from Jerusalem and Jewish {Hellenistic?) Christians from Cyprus and Cyrene. You also have two different missions, with the former reaching out to the Jewish community at Antioch and the latter reaching out to the Greeks at Antioch. While it is possible that issues related to the Law were not raised, this seems unlikely.

Ched said...

Speaking of historical reconstruction, have you seen this recent book by Andrew Steinmann? When I saw it, I thought of you (go figure!).

I'm assuming this is the type of thing you want us all to be doing ALL THE TIME. :)

Bill Heroman said...

Charles, they don't seem to have been terribly affected by such concerns. How about that?

But as for the "two different missions", I think that's also going quite a bit too far. For all we know, a few Jerusalem believers joined the Antioch synagogue and stayed there, privately devoted to Jesus. Most likely, it would have been Pentecost pilgrims finally returning home.

Again, if there were Jewish-Christians in Antioch, then evidently they either failed to immerse themselves into the gentile church that was going on there, or they at least failed to cause controversy on the size of the well known incident I blogged about.

Bill Heroman said...

Ched, I had not noticed that yet, so thanks very much for the link. Naturally, I'm not a big fan of all the conclusions drawn there, but Perrin's preface was wonderful.

The more we all start taking Nick's words to heart - that this matters, and that we *can* determine a few things with some confidence - the closer we get to having substantial historical debates over the dates and the details. And THAT is a day that I'm longing for. Oh, yeah!

All the time, though? Only until we get things put together well enough. ;-) I'll let you know if it happens. :-)

Chris Jefferies said...

Sorry Bill, couldn't think of any critical feedback. I love your analysis; it makes perfect sense to me.

Wade said...

Do you have any references for Luke & Titus going ahead of Paul to deliver the letter?

Have you considered that Paul could have written Galatians before the Jerusalem council?

Bill Heroman said...

Hi, Wade. The Luke & Titus hypothesis is my own, based on Gal.2:3, Acts 16:8,10 and 2Cor.2:12-13. Basically, it appears Luke waited at Troas for Paul, and Titus likely planted the church in Troas. Accepting that both were from Antioch, as seems most likely by any account, the most likely impetus for Luke & Titus to travel that far was to (1) deliver the letter and (2) go wait for Paul to come after.

I've previously blogged about this basic idea several times. Put "Titus Luke Galatians Letter" in my search bar at the top of this page. That should give you some background posts to scan, if you're interested.

On your second question: I have no good reason to think Galatians pre-dates the council; no good reason, that is, aside from the wishful thinking of traditionalists. As I said elsewhere, church councils simply aren't known to solve controversy everywhere. They never do.

At any rate, the question is not whether Galatians was written before or after the Council. The question is whether the Men from James/Judea themselves were IN GALATIA before or after the council. In fact, I think it was practically simultaneous. It appears Paul, Barnabas & Titus left Antioch for Jerusalem shortly after the Men from James/Judea left Antioch for the Lion's Gate thru Cilicia.

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