Re-Appraisal of Galatians 1:19

In Galatians 1:19, Paul simply states “I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother”. In my initial appraisal of this simple 12 word verse [click here for details], I suggested that the simple phrase “only James, the Lord’s brother” could have been a simple interpolation engineered by Marcion sometime in the first half of the second century. Although technically feasible, this suggestion is highly unlikely, and thus I’ve now formulated the following more plausible and more cogent interpretation of Galatians 1:19. Let me know what you think, especially if you’re a Christian.

Part 1 –Paul’s first meeting with Peter c 35 CE

We should note that Paul actually met with other apostles on two occasions separated by 14 years. The first occasion was in Jerusalem about 5-6 years after Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem. This first meeting fits into the Orthodox narrative as follows. First, a Gospel-Jesus was crucified and resurrected in Jerusalem. This resurrection was witnessed by all of Jesus’ apostles, by Jesus’ brother James and at least 500 other unspecified people. Immediately after the resurrection, Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem gathered together and formed the first “Jerusalem Church” led by Peter and Jesus’ brother James. Sometime later, Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus. This life changing meeting caused Paul to revise his opinion of Jesus, and consequently, he stopped persecuting Jesus’ followers. About three years after his life-changing experience on the road to Damascus, Paul travelled to Jerusalem to visit Peter. In Galatians 1:18-19, Paul refers to this first meeting as follows:

“Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother”.

In the Orthodox narrative, the Jerusalem resurrection is taken for granted, and several important assumptions relevant to this crucial first meeting are then made. It’s assumed Paul told Peter and James about his conversion experience on the road to Damascus, and its assumed Peter and James accepted Paul’s claims at face value. It’s also assumed Peter and James told Paul about Jesus’ resurrection in Jerusalem several years earlier, and assumed Paul simply accepted Peter and James claims at face value. These reasonable assumptions, then allow Orthodox dogma to assert that Paul’s knowledge of the Jerusalem resurrection was gained directly from two reliable eye-witnesses, both of whom were pillars of early Christianity with impeccable credentials. The veracity of Peter and James’ eye witness evidence is then reinforced by asserting Peter was later martyred in Rome, thus proving he didn’t lie to Paul.

This first meeting in Jerusalem is crucial for two reasons.

  • The meeting initiated a chain of events that eventually changed the world.
  • Paul’s entire knowledge of the alleged resurrection in Jerusalem was gained at this first meeting.

The Orthodox narrative circumvents any suggestion that Paul’s knowledge is based entirely on Peter’s unsubstantiated hearsay claims, by asserting James was also present at this crucial first meeting. However, we should note that in Galatians 1:18-19, Paul simply confirms he stayed with Peter for 15 days, and confirms he saw no one other than James whilst there. Paul does not say when exactly he saw James, and he does not indicate how long James was present. The Orthodox narrative simply interprets the terse phrase “only James, the Lord’s brother” to mean James was actually party to Peter & Paul’s exchanges at this first crucial meeting. This is a necessary assertion to make the Orthodox narrative work, but given the paucity of data, it’s a totally unjustified assertion. This critical apologetic assertion is actually, nothing more than very convenient unsubstantiated conjecture. We should also note that apologists make no attempt to explain Paul’s other claim that he saw none of the other apostles. They simply ignore it.

Part 2 – Was James present at this crucial first meeting?

The Orthodox narrative claims that, shortly after Jesus’ resurrection in Jerusalem, Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem gathered together to form the early Jerusalem Church led by Peter and by James. Orthodox dogma implies those who witnessed Jesus’ resurrection were now members of this early Jerusalem Church. Given this first meeting occurred in Jerusalem only 5-6 years after Jesus’ alleged resurrection, and given Paul stayed 15 days in Jerusalem with one of the patriarchs of this early Jerusalem Church, Paul’s claim that he saw only James and none of the other apostles throughout his 15 day stay, is totally incongruous and difficult to explain. Why didn’t Peter invite Paul to attend his Jerusalem Church? Why didn’t Peter introduce Paul to other apostles & other church members whilst he was in Jerusalem? Why didn’t Peter and the other apostles actually celebrate Paul’s belated redemption?

Orthodox Christianity makes no attempt to address any of these questions. Orthodox dogma simply ignores the first phrase in Galatians 1:19, and takes poetic license with the second phrase. However, given the ramifications associated with Galatians 1:19, it’s essential that we try to interpret Galatians 1:19 exactly as Paul meant it to be interpreted. The Orthodox interpretation is just one possible very convenient interpretation. The actual paucity of data leaves ample room for alternative interpretations to be considered. We can, for example, simply postulate that James did make a brief appearance during Paul’s visit, but he didn’t stay very long. This perfectly reasonable alternative interpretation of “only James, the Lord’s brother” can be justified as follows.

In the absence of data to the contrary, and given Paul’s reputation as a zealous persecutor of Jesus’ followers, we can reasonably postulate that Peter would have been very perturbed by Paul’s sudden arrival in Jerusalem. Initially at least, Peter would have been very wary of Paul’s presence. He would also have been very skeptical of Paul’s claims that he was now a reformed character after meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus three years ago. Peter already knew Jesus had died in Jerusalem 5-6 years earlier. He had actually seen him die. So there was no way this zealous persecutor of Jesus’ followers could have seen Jesus on the road to Damascus three years ago. Thus Paul was obviously lying. He was simply trying to trap Peter into revealing the whereabouts of Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem. Thus it would have taken Paul some considerable time and some considerable effort to persuade Peter that his claims about meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus were genuine, and to convince Peter that he was no longer a threat to Jesus’ followers. How long it took we’ll never know, but we can reasonably postulate, that sometime during this initial uncertainty phase, James did actually visit Peter. He was, after all, a fellow leader of the early Jerusalem Church. Because James would have arrived not knowing Paul was there, we can reasonably postulate that James would have been both surprised and perturbed by Paul’s presence. We can thus reasonably postulate that James quickly excused himself and rushed off to warn people to keep their heads down until Paul left Jerusalem.

This postulated “James just popped-in but didn’t stay” scenario is both reasonable and plausible, and it’s totally compatible with the know facts. Unlike the unsubstantiated conjecture in the Orthodox narrative, this alternative scenario explains both of Paul’s claims in Galatians 1:19. This scenario also implies that James was not party to any of Peter and Paul’s later exchanges.

That said, we can reasonably postulate that Paul’s entire knowledge of the alleged resurrection in Jerusalem was gained directly from Peter, and Peter alone. This totally reasonable postulation then raises the obvious question. Did Peter lie to Paul about a Jerusalem resurrection that never happened? We know the resurrection claims made at this meeting have never been independently validated elsewhere, and we also know that the only evidence supporting this alleged resurrection in Jerusalem is the partisan evidence found in the New Testament. Given these circumstances, it’s not unreasonable to postulate that Peter did in fact, just lie to Paul about an alleged Jerusalem resurrection that never happened. The totally feasible and totally plausible justification used to support this “Peter just lied to Paul” postulation can be found in “CHRISTIANTY on TRIAL”. [E-Book version $1.99 on Amazon.com & £1.40 on Amazon.co.uk – click appropriate link for details]. This inexpensive, quick and cogent read, covers all you need to know about first-century Christianity. It contains the following twenty chapters.

CONTENTS

1Introduction11
2Confirmation Bias13
3Religiosity16
4Temporal Lobe Epilepsy18
5The Historicity of Jesus28
6Are the Gospels Historically Accurate?31
7Was Peter Martyred in Rome?34
8Paul’s Conversion [Orthodox Argument]44
9Paul’s Conversion [Scientific Argument]50
10Paul’s First Meeting in Jerusalem56
11Was James Present at this First Meeting?59
12Did Peter Lie to Paul at this First Meeting?63
13Did Paul & Peter Preach the Same Message?69
14Why Does the Notorious Gospel Gap Exist?74
15Were the Gospels Deliberately Fabricated?76
16Why Are the Gospels So Different?81
17Why Did Christianity Survive?85
18Christianity’s Many Short Comings90
19The Old Model v The New Model95
20Outcome of the Investigation99

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