Saturday, September 08, 2012

Back to Antioch: Carlson's Textual Variant at Gal 2:12

Stephen Carlson's proposal has finally hooked me. I believe we should follow "he" instead of "they" in Gal 2:12b, since "he" is witnessed in the best manuscripts. This is Gal 2:11-12:
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned; for before certain people came from James, he used to eat with Gentiles. But when [they/he] came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction.
On the traditional ("they") reading, Peter is already in Antioch, and stops eating with Gentiles when the circumcision faction (the men from James) arrive. On Carlson's ("he") reading, Peter came to Antioch with no intention of eating with Gentiles. This would be compatible with the idea that Peter's behavior was based on treachery, as I believe, with few modifications to Philip Esler's reconstruction of the Antioch incident. If anything, the "he" reading even better supports this: the pillars (James, John, and Peter) broke their agreement with Paul; Peter later came to Antioch, and knew that men from James were in place to make sure the deal stayed broken.

Carlson's dissertation, incidentally, is worth reading for well beyond what it teaches about Gal 2:12. See also Richard Fellows' post, which accepts Carlson's "he" reading with an alternative scenario.


Blogger Richard Fellows said...

Thanks for the mention. Isn't the treachery theory based on the assumption that James sent pro-circumcision men to Antioch AFTER the meeting of Gal 2:1-10. However, if Carlson's reading is correct, then these men may have arrived in Antioch before Paul's Jerusalem visit. Indeed this would explain why Paul is forced to do a time-jump in Gal 2:12. Furthermore, these men can be neatly equated with the men from Judea of Acts 15:1. It therefore does not seem likely that they went to Antioch to ensure that an earlier Jerusalem agreement stayed broken, as you suggest.

I also think we need to be cautious about assuming that there ever was a negotiated agreement. The text rather implies that the two groups were relieved to find that they were in agreement with each other. No give and take was needed. The division of labor that they decided upon may have merely resulted from the pragmatic realization that it was hard for either man to be "all things to all men" to win all. It's hard to win the trust of both Jews and Gentiles at the same time, as Peter later found out when he had to decide with whom to eat.

As for Peter, he is accused of hypocrisy, not treachery. Nor did he do anything against any commitments that he had made in Jerusalem. He had supported the decision that Paul should take on responsibilities to preach to Gentiles, without requiring law-observance, but he did not, as far as we know, commit to always eating with Gentiles himself. Indeed, the new division of labor that gave him responsibility for preaching to Jews would have made it expedient for him to be a "Jew to the Jews" to win them to Christ.

I don't think we can know whether Paul went to Antioch with no intention of eating with Gentiles. On other occasions when Peter is motivated by fear his actions are not pre-planned.

So I do think that Carlson's reading makes the treachery hypothesis redundant.

Blogger Loren Rosson III said...

Yes Richard, that is what the treachery theory is based on, but as I said, it can still be accommodated on this new reading, with some changes. We simply don't know when the circumcision faction arrived in Antioch. The other stuff we've hashed out many times before, and I'll refer readers to those old threads. Obviously Peter is accused of hypocrisy, but the treachery theory has always accounted for this (on the reconstructed events, Paul would have made an utter fool of himself to accuse his rivals of breaking a promise he had no right to expect them to keep); etc.

As always, I enjoy reading your own theories about Antioch, and I too am wondering if and when Stephen's reading will go viral and catch on. His dissertation was brilliant.

Blogger Richard Fellows said...

I agree that the treachery theory (like any theory) can be accommodated if we pile up enough assumptions. The question is whether there is enough evidence left to carry its weight. All I see are circular assumptions about Paul's purpose in Gal 1-2 and his relationship to the pillars, but that's another thread.

If Jerusalem made an agreement with Paul, but had the right to break that agreement, then how can their supposed breaking of the supposed agreement be "treachery"? If, as you suppose, Paul left Jerusalem without believing that he had made a lasting agreement, then how can the pillars' supposed change of mind be called "disturbing". Isn't treachery the wrong word, if they had every right to do it?

Remind me: on your understanding of Gal 2:1-14, why did Paul mention the consensus that he had with the Jerusalem leaders in 2:1-10? One version of the treachery theory says that Paul writes Gal 2:1-10 to say, "Look, they made an agreement and they should stick to it". You seem not to hold this view, so what purposes does 2:1-10 serve for Paul, in your opinion?


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