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Saturday, April 01, 2006

Paul in Jerusalem 

First, if you haven't already done so, I encourage you to read Jennifer's post Was Paul a True Apostle? I don't have proof (other than Paul's own writings) for my belief that he was, but it's certainly an interesting question to consider.

And now, as promised in my comment in my own blog and my preface here, I'm going to quickly survey Paul's visits to Jerusalem, including the Big One. Actually, the Big Two (if I get to that part).

Both Galatians and Acts list several visits by Paul to Jerusalem, but in my view it's not possible to construct a 100% mapping between the two, although Mark F. Fischer believes that Galatians 2:1-10 records the same visit that is recorded in Acts 15.

Let's start with two visits listed in Galatians. The first is recorded in Galatians 1:18-20 (I'm including some preceding material for context):

Galatians 1:15-20 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

15But when God, who set me apart from birth[a] and called me by his grace, was pleased 16to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, 17nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus.

18Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter[b] and stayed with him fifteen days. 19I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord's brother. 20I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.


Galatians 1:15 Or from my mother's womb
Galatians 1:18 Greek Cephas

It is not recorded whether Barnabas was there also, but we do know that Paul, Peter, and James the Just were together at this time. Their paths would intersect again.

Galatians then records another trip by Paul in Galatians 2:1-10. Here are a few excerpts:

Galatians 2:1-10 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

1Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. 2I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain. 3Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. 4This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.


9James, Peter[c] and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews. 10All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.


Galatians 2:7 Greek uncircumcised
Galatians 2:7 Greek circumcised; also in verses 8 and 9
Galatians 2:9 Greek Cephas; also in verses 11 and 14

I won't get into all of the issues at this time. Suffice it to say for now that now that I have read Galatians 2:9 in context, I am certain that the "James" in this passage truly is James the Just, the Lord's brother. Whether this was the Council of Jerusalem, or an event before the Council of Jerusalem, I cannot say.

Acts records four visits by Paul to Jerusalem:

Acts 9:26-30. This passage indicates the importance of Barnabas, who served as the initial intermediary between Saul/Paul and those he had previously persecuted.

Acts 11:27-30. This visit, also by Barnabas and Saul, was to deliver a gift to the church at Jerusalem. Luke does not say what else, if anything, Barnabas and Saul/Paul did while he was there.

Acts 15:4-29. The famous Council of Jerusalem. As is true elsewhere in Luke's writings, the order of the names listed is important. When Barnabas and Paul begin to travel together in Acts, Barnabas' name is always listed first - until Paul takes command of a difficult situation with Elymas the sorcerer on their journey. After this point Barnabas takes second place. Yet when both are present at the Council of Jerusalem, the "Barnabas/Paul" ordering takes place again.

Acts 21:17-23:31. For those who think that the Council of Jerusalem was universally accepted and immediately changed the Christian church forever, please read Acts 21. Here's an excerpt of what happened:

Acts 21:19-26 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

19Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.

20When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: "You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. 21They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. 22What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, 23so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. 24Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everybody will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law. 25As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality."

26The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them.

As to the question of why Paul consented to do this, perhaps this illustrates why:

1 Corinthians 8:4,9-13 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

4So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one.


9Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol's temple, won't he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? 11So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.

In my view, Paul recognized the difference between strategy and tactics. Interestingly enough, Paul's tactical decision to sponsor the purification rites led to his arrest, which led to his eventual arrival in Rome. Some tactics.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

Good summary! You and someone else on my blog mentioned the significance of the order of names. What is this belief based on? I have never heard it before, and I want to learn more about it.

Also: will you please email me? I see you do not have your email address on here. Mine is:

It isn't any official theological concept - or if it is, I'm not aware of it. It's based on the assumption, which may or may not be correct, that the first person in a list is the most important.
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