The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians
The Council of Jerusalem
Galatians 2: 1-21
1 Then, after fourteen years, I went up to Jerusalem again with Barnabas,
this time taking Titus with me. 2 I went prompted by a revelation, and I
laid out for their scrutiny the gospel as I present it to the Genitles-
all this in private conference with the leaders, to make sure the course I
was pursuing, or had pursued, was not useless. 3 Not even Titus, who was
with me, was ordered to undergo circumcision, despite his being a Greek.
4 Certain false claimants to the title of brother were smuggled in; they
wormed their way into the group to spy on the freedom we enjoy in Christ
Jesus and thereby to make slaves of us, but 5 we did not submit to them
for a moment. We resisted so that the truth of the gospel might survive
intact for your benefit.
6 Those who regarded as important, however (and it makes no difference to
me how prominent they were- God plays no favorites), made me add nothing.
7 On the contrary, recognizing that I had been entrusted with the gosepl
for the uncircumcised, just as Peter was for the circumcised 8 (for he
worked through Peter as his apostle among the Jews had been at work in me
for the Gentiles), 9 and recognizing, too, the favor bestowed on me, those
who were the acknowledged pillars, James, Cephas, and John, gave Barnabas
and me the handclasp of fellowship, signifying that we should go the
Gentiles as they to the Jews. 10 The only stipulation was that we should
be mindful of the poor- the one thing I was making every effort to do.
Peter and the Judaizers
11 When Cephas came to Antioch I directly withstood him, because he was
clearly in the wrong. 12 He had been taking his meals with the Gentiles
before others came who were from James. But when they arrived he drew
back to avoid trouble with those who were circumcised. 13 The rest of the
Jews joined in his dissembling, till even Barnabas was swept away by their
pretense. 14 As soon as I observed that they were not being
straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I had this to say to Cephas
in the presence of all: “If you who are a Jew are living according to
Gentile ways rather than Jewish, by what logic do you force the Gentiles
to adopt Jewish ways?”
Paul’s Basic Teaching
15 We are Jews by birth, not sinners of Gentile origin. 16 Nevertheless,
knowing that a man is not justified by legal observance but by faith in
Jesus Christ, we too have believed in him in order to be justified by
faith in Christ, not by observance of the law; for by works of the law no
one will be justified. 17 But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ,
we are shown to be sinners, does that mean that Christ is encouraging sin?
Unthinkable! 18 If, however, I were to build up the very things I had
demolished, I should then indeed be a transgressor. 19 It was through the
law that I died to the law, to live for God. I have been crucified with
Christ, 20 and the life I live now is not my own; Christ is living in me.
I still live my human life, but it is a life of faith in the Son of God,
who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I will not treat God’s gracious
gift as pointless. If justice is available through the law, then Christ
died to no purpose!
2, 1-10: The private conference with the leaders is probably the same
described by Luke in Acts 15; see note on Acts 15, 6-12. The first time
Paul discussed the nature of the Christian gospel with the other apostles
was some fourteen years after his conversion (v 1), and then in
consequence of a prophetic inspiration (v 2). The misgivings about Paul
entertained at that time did not pertain to his doctrine, but probably to
his persistence in establishing Christian communities among the Gentiles
despite Jewish opposition ( v 2; cf Acts 13, 13f. 27). When it was
suggested by Judaeo-Christians who opposed him that the Gentile Christian
Titus be circumcised so as to display Paul’s respect for Judaism, he
refused to comply lest such a concession be turned against him (2, 3ff).
James, Cephas, and John, far from objecting to his stand, even conceded
that he possessed a God-given mission to the Gentiles, just as Peter was
founder and leader of the Judaeo-Christian communities of Palestine. It
was agreed then that Gentile Christians would not adopt the practices of
Judaism, even though the Judaeo-Christian communities continued to retain
them for cultural reasons (6-9). Paul readily acceded to the idea of
organizing a collection among the Gentile communities for the poor
Christians of Jerusalem (v 10), for he saw in it an occasion to develop
unity of faith despite the prevailing diversity of culture; cf 2 Cor 9,13.
2, 11-14: This incident, which probably occurred after the meeting of 2,
1-10, is more understandable if the policy then arrived at was not
publicly promulgated to the Judaeo-Christians of Jerusalem … When Peter
realized that sharing the agape-meal … with Gentile Christians wounded
the sensibilities of Judaeo-Christians, he abandoned the practice out of
deference to their presence. Other Judaeo-Christians in Antioch followed
suit, thereby placing in jeopardy the unity of the Antiochean church
(v13). Paul publicly criticized Peter’s conduct because it implied that,
although in theory the Judaeo-Christian could eat with Gentile Christians,
in practice the Gentile Christian should not eat with Judaeo-Christians (v 14).
2, 15-21: Although the Judaeo-Christian enjoys a certain religious
privilege by birth (v 15), he knows that he is not justified by the Mosaic
law but by faith in Christ (v 16). If he insists on his privilege as a
Jew (v 11-14), he implies that Christ has misled him (a probable sense of
v 17), and that he has sinned in abandoning his privilege by accepting
Christ (v 18). The Judaeo-Christian, like Paul, knows that his privileged
position occasioned his transgression of the law and revealed him to be a
sinner in need of the redemptive death of Christ (v 19). Therefore,
disregarding his privileged status as a Jew, he values only the new
condition received from Christ, the source of his holiness (v 20). He
seeks no privileged status in the Christian community- I will not treat
God’s gracious gift as pointless (v 21)- lest his justification seem to
come from the law and not from the sacrifice of Christ.
The New American Bible, Catholic Bible Publishers, Wichita, Kansas, Copyright 1970, 1978-1979 Edition.
Stephen J. Hartdegen, O.F.M., S.S.L.
Christian P. Ceroke, O.Carm., S.T.D.
Patrick Cardinal O’Boyle, D.D., Archbishop of Washington