I have read about Judaism and Christianity in some academic books and one of them said that the doctrine of James (leader of Jerusalem church) is in confrontation with Paul's doctrine in the epistle to Galatians and also that the episode of Antioch (Galatians 2) contradicts Acts 15. Galatians say that Peter James and John didn't teach anything to Paul while in Acts they sent a letter to Gentiles. Acts say that some men went to Antioch and began to teach false doctrines (Acts 15) and Paul and Barnabas fought with them and so went to Jerusalem to talk about this with the apostles while in Galatians we see Peter going to Antioch and Paul reproving him for follow the Jews and his laws at that time (Galatians 2:11-14). It's hard to me to harmonize these texts. Finally, isn't the letter sent for the Gentiles in Acts 15 in contradiction with Paul's teachings especially in Galatians and Romans? -- Geraldo Witeze (Campinas)
Yes, many scholars who do not accept the inspiration of the Bible find a contradiction in Galatians. I am happy to explain this for you. The question about the letter for the Gentiles is also a good one. You can also find the answers in any conservative New Testament Introduction (for example those by Guthrie Tenney Drane...) James and Paul are in perfect agreement. The little letter of Acts 15 is not demanding obedience to certain laws or guidelines as a basis for salvation but rather for the sake of unity. (That's why they do not contradict Paul's teaching. Even Paul insisted on certain practices for unity's sake--for example, the custom of women and the veiling of hair.) Galatians must have been written before the Council of Acts 15. That is why Paul can claim that he did not go up to Jerusalem to be instructed. Not that he was taught anything new at the Council! (He was not.)
If Galatians were written after Acts 15, Paul would certainly have appealed to the Council decision which would have been a slap in the face to those false teachers who were pushing circumcision! Peter was not part of the Circumcision Party, it must be said. Yet he was misbehaving practically and theologically, therefore the strong words in Galatians 2:11. They were needed, and apparently Peter was at peace with them in light of his warm words for Paul in 2 Peter 3. Tying Galatians 2 in to the false teachers from Antioch seeing Peter as one of the false teachers is assuming too much. Many people came in and out of Antioch--many teachers and religious leaders of all flavors! After all, Antioch was the 3rd largest city in the Roman Empire (after Rome and Alexandria)! While the Jerusalem apostles may well have leaned too heavily on Judaism, these are not the heretical teachers Paul condemns in Galatians 1. (Those bad guys were saying that without circumcision you cannot be saved.) It is amazing how many contradictions the learned men of this world are able to find where none in fact exist. Thanks for persevering through these issues and persevering through my answers!
This article is copyrighted and is for private use and study only. © 2003. Reprints or public distribution is prohibited without the express consent of Douglas Jacoby.