of the Conference
The significance of what they were doing was surely not lost on the
apostles themselves, and historians have long recognized that the conference
was a turning point in early Christianity.
conference solved one problem by approving the dual mission, but left
another unresolved: how
Jews and gentiles were to co-exist in a single church, especially when
it came to meal time.
||What happened at Antioch after the conference
illustrates painfully the problem of interdining in a mixed
community; click on Antioch Sequel. Would--or could--the parallel
lines of mission ever meet?
| • The
agreement made clear that the church was no longer obliged to function
as a sect of Judaism but was
now free to become a world religion.
• The decision
to approve a mission to the gentiles without the requirement of Torah
observance made official what had already been happening: a greater
distance between the church and the synagogue, especially since the
church was increasingly gentile Christian.
institutional differentiation of the church from Judaism raised in ever
more urgent form the question of how much of historical Judaism the
church was going to carry over (the God of Judaism? The Jewish
scriptures? Jewish worship? a Jewish Jesus?), and how much the church
was going to leave behind (Sabbath observance? dietary
regulations? nationalistic hopes centering upon a Messiah?).
By Sabbath observance here is meant the
prohibition of all forms of work from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.
| • As
the church by stages became differentiated from Judaism, it also became
exposed to the risk of persecution by the Roman state, inasmuch as
Judaism was a legally tolerated religion, and Christianity as a religion
distinct from Judaism was not.
||This exposure to
persecution seems to be presupposed in Paul’s puzzling statement in Galatians
5:11, “But my friends, why am I still being persecuted if I am still
preaching circumcision? . . . .”
The significance of the collection for Paul’s
unfolding story is greater than is often acknowledged.
|(1) At the very least, a gift from the gentile churches to Jerusalem
would serve to relieve human need. Humanitarian
relief in itself would explain the urgency with which the apostle undertook
his side of the collection project. This
urgency or haste has important implications for Pauline
Gal. 2:10, the Greek word espoudasa
may express haste as well as eagerness:
“. . . which was actually what I have made haste to do . . . ."
| (2) The collection would also be a gesture of unity and reciprocity between the Jewish Christian mission of Cephas and the
mission of Paul.
It is probably true that by intention as well as in eventual
participation the collection was a gentile project, as is
evident from the fact that Paul and Barnabas were assigned responsibility
for both the gentile mission and the collection: “. . . that we [Paul
and Barnabas] should go to the Gentiles . . . that we remember the poor . . .”
Politically speaking, the collection would sweeten the deal for the
rigorists, who could hardly be happy with the approval of the law free
| (3) During the final several years of Paul’s apostolic career he would
be occupied with this project, and his plan to accompany those who were to
deliver the funds to Jerusalem would have probably fateful consequences in
terms of bringing his career and perhaps his life to an end.
(4) The references to the collection in four of his letters help us
establish useful chronological sequences, as we get glimpses of the
collection at various stages in the respective churches.
|| (see below)
| (5) Paul evidently
agreed to invite participation in the collection from the gentile churches
which he had founded prior to the second Jerusalem visit, namely, those in
Galatia, Macedonia and Achaia.
| (6) Of these three foundations all participated in
the work of the collection, though only Macedonia and Achaia completed their
parts of the gift. Work on the collection was begun in Galatia, but probably
lapsed when controversy arose, never to be resumed. The nonparticipation of
Ephesus (Asia) is intelligible if Paul had not yet founded the church there
when he agreed to the collection among his churches.
the lapse of the collection in Galatia, click on collection.
1 Corinthians 16:1-4
1Now concerning the collection for the saints:
you should follow the directions I gave to the churches of Galatia. 2On
the first day of every week, each of you is to put aside and save whatever
extra you earn, so that collections need not be taken when I come. 3And
when I arrive, I will send any whom you approve with letters to take your
gift to Jerusalem. 4If it seems advisable that I should go also,
they will accompany me.
Galatians 2:10 They asked only one thing, that we
remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do.
8:3-6,10-11,13-14 3[The churches of Macedonia]
voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, 4begging
us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints—5and
this, not merely as we expected; they gave themselves first to the Lord and,
by the will of God, to us, 6so that we might urge Titus that, as
he had already made a beginning, so he should also complete this generous
undertaking among you. . . . 10And in this matter I am giving my
advice: it is appropriate for
you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do
something—11now finish doing it . . . . 13It is a
question of a fair balance between 14your present abundance and
their need . . . .
2 Corinthians 9:1,5
1Now it is not necessary for me to write you about the ministry
[i.e., aid] to the saints . . . . 5So I thought it necessary to
urge the brothers to go on ahead to you, and arrange in advance for this
bountiful gift that you have promised, so that it may be ready as a
voluntary gift and not as an extortion [or, exaction].
Romans 15:25-31 25At
present, however, I am going to Jerusalem in a ministry to the saints; 26for
Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to share their resources with the
poor among the saints at Jerusalem. 27They were pleased to do
this, and indeed they owe it to them; for if the Gentiles have come to share
in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in
material things. 28So, when I have completed this, and have
delivered to them what has been collected, I will set out by way of you to
Spain. . . . 31[But pray] that I may be rescued from the
unbelievers in Judea, and that my ministry to Jerusalem may be acceptable to
Did the formulation of the parallel mission policy at
the Jerusalem Conference mean that there would be two churches, one Jewish,
the other gentile? Or if there was still to be one church, how could the two
missions coexist—especially at the dinner table? The conference had not solved that problem.
The next scene features some of the major players at
the conference: Cephas-Peter,
Paul, Barnabas, and (indirectly) James. It is set at Antioch of Syria, where the church was partly Jewish
Christian and partly gentile Christian. These Christians had for a time shared a common table, at which
Cephas participated, and of course Paul and Barnabas too.
This experiment in inclusiveness came to an end with
the arrival of representatives of James. These rigorists, as we may identify them, presumably took offence at
what would have been lax observance of food laws by the Jewish Christians in Antioch.
Under pressure from the rigorists, Cephas, the nominal leader of the
Jewish mission, withdrew from table fellowship with gentile Christians.
Even Barnabas, the nominal co-leader of the gentile (!) mission, was
carried away by the rigorist influence.
Paul saw this separation as inconsistent with the one
gospel for both Jews and gentiles, and roundly criticized both Cephas and
Barnabas. In this heated confrontation Paul probably did not succeed in
restoring a common table to the Antioch church, but his sharp words helped ensure that the
Jerusalem agreement would stand, and that the law-free gentile mission would
11But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face,
because he stood self-condemned, 12for until certain people came
from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles.
But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear
of the circumcision faction. 13And
the other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led
astray be their hypocrisy. 14But
when I saw that they were not acting consistently with the truth of the
gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like
a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like
When Paul departed from Antioch for the province of
Asia (in Asia Minor, or what is today Turkey), he did not know that some of
the same persons (or their cohorts) who had pressed the rigorist cause in
Antioch would be seeking to impose Jewish legal observance in Paul’s congregations in
Galatia, Macedonia, and possibly in Corinth and Ephesus, too.
Though Antioch was not one of Paul’s
churches, it was nevertheless a place where the cause of the law free
gentile mission could be championed, and where the agreement reached at
the Jerusalem conference was being tested.
Episode, for a fuller discussion.
button below to continue, Ephesian Headquarters (1).
January 26, 2003