A Historical Commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians

By W. M. Ramsay

Part 2

Historical Commentary

Chapter 20

St. Peter in Antioch (Gal 2:11)

This third part of the autobiography is marked as a new departure. The second part began at his conversion as the epoch in his life — “but when,” ὅτε δὲ εὐδόκησεν, Gal 1:15. The third part now resumes in the same way — “but when,” ὅτε δὲ ἦλθεν, Gal 2:11.

While the second part is necessarily arranged chronologically in its parts, it does not follow that the third part is later than the second. The third part begins a new thought and makes a new departure, and its chronological relation to the second must be determined by other considerations. Those who identify the second visit in the Epistle with the third visit in Acts are perfectly justified in maintaining (as Prof. Zahn and Mr. Turner are inclined to do) that Peter’s Antiochian visit took place earlier than the incident described in Gal 2:1-10.

It is possible that Peter was sent to Antioch in the interval that elapsed between Act 11:30 and Act 13:1. On another occasion Peter and John were sent to inspect and confirm a new departure, viz., the extension of the Church to Samaria, Act 8:14. Similarly, it would be natural that Peter should be sent to inspect the new departure in Antioch shortly after the events in Act 11:26.

Whether that was done or not we cannot say; but Peter may have visited Antioch more than once in so many years, and the analysis in language and situation show that probably the visit here described occurred about the time of Act 15:1. The reasons are set forth in full in St. Paul the Traveller, pp. 158 ff, and need not be repeated here. Nor is it necessary here to describe the incident. It stands quite isolated, and few historical inferences are clear from it.1

The most important part of the incident is Paul’s address to Peter Gal 2:14 ff. This address turns into a general review of the relation between Gentiles and Jews in the Church. Gradually Paul diverges from the situation in Antioch, and at last finds himself in the Galatian question; yet it is impossible to mark where he passes away from the incident in Antioch. But the address is practically an epitome of the theme which is set forth in the following chapters; and the commentary on them is at the same time an explanation of the address, and must take frequent notice of it. After working through the rest of the Epistle, one turns back to Gal 2:14 ff, and finds in those verses the whole truth in embryo.

 

[1] See, e.g., IV, XXX. 20.

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