Dating Galatians – Before or After Acts 15?

For many students of the New Testament, the dating of Galatians is tedious work which does not seem to have much pay-off in reading the book itself.  Whether the book is addressed to Northern or Southern Galatia or before or after Acts 15 seems like a pointless question, but it is in fact important since it will influence how we read the conflict between Paul and Peter in Gal 2.

On the one hand, Gal 2:1-10 could refer to the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15).  This is in fact a  traditional view found in most commentaries. The issue is gentile circumcision and the consensus reached according to Gal 2 is that Gentiles are not required to submit.  As I read Polhill (138-139), he seems to lean toward this view, and the fact that he treats Acts 16:1-5 in a section preceding Galatians implies that he is taking the more traditional / majority view.  If it this is the case, then Paul writes Galatians in response to a report he has heard from the Galatian churches while he is in Ephesus or Corinth, perhaps in 53, but possibly as late as 57.  Assuming the Jerusalem meeting was in 48, this would mean that the Judiazers were still causing problems in Galatia five to ten years after the agreement found in Acts 15.

There are a few problems with the description in Galatians 2.  Paul states in Gal 2:1-2 that he took Titus with him to Jerusalem and that the went to Jerusalem in response to a “revelation.”  Neither item is mentioned in Acts 15, although Galatians 2:1-2 is not incompatible with Acts 15.  In 2:3 we are told Titus was not forced to undergo circumcision, which is more or less the conclusion of the Jerusalem conference.  One other minor point, Paul mentions John as a pillar of the community, but Acts does not include John in the discussion.  Again, these can still be complimentary descriptions of the same event.  Luke is free to describe the events any way he wants to.

On the other hand, Gal 2:1-10 could refer to another incident prior to the Acts 15 conference., perhaps even contributing to the need for the parties involved to meet face to face.  In this view, Paul was in Antioch for some time when he went to Jerusalem with Titus to deliver famine relief sent by the church in Antioch (Acts 11:29-30).  Paul then does ministry in Galatia and establishes churches in Gentile communities.  He then returned to Antioch where he learned that there were people teaching his Gentile converts that they needed to fully convert to Judaism before they were right with God.  Paul writes Galatians then goes up to Jerusalem to discuss the matter formally with James.

This view has the advantage of placing the “Antioch incident” of 2:11ff between the first meeting with James and Peter and the Jerusalem council, and chapter two of Galatians is telling the stories chronologically. In fact, the Antioch Incident might be the point of Acts 15:1-2 – Paul and Barnabas encounter people allegedly from James and have “no little dispute with them,” ultimately resulting in the conference of Acts 15.  Luke chooses not to record the confrontation with Peter since one of his main theological points is unity in the church.

For me, the fact that Paul never mentions the decision of the in the letter to the Galatians is a persuasive argument against a later date for Galatians. One would imagine that if the Judaizers claimed to be from James, Paul simply had to hold up the letter from the council and say, “Look here, the man you claim as your authority disagrees with you, go back to Jerusalem as get a bit more education on the issue of Gentiles!”  That he does not is powerful evidence the council has not yet occurred.  It seems best to me, at any rate, to see Galatians as Paul’s response to the Judaizers prior to meeting with James and Peter in Jerusalem.

As many of you know, I am currently infatuated with the ESV Study Bible, and I was please to find that the Galatians notes (written by Simon Gathercole) has the letter written in 48, just prior to the Jerusalem conference.

33 thoughts on “Dating Galatians – Before or After Acts 15?

  1. Although I am no theologian, I would have to agree that Galatians 2 took place before Acts 15. Like you said, I can not understand why Paul would not bring up the council in his letter to the Galatians. Another fact that guides me toward this direction is the fact that Luke does not mention Titus, John, and that this council was a revelation to Paul to come to the council. I would think that these three things would be quite important for Luke to include.
    As I read the dispute between Paul and Peter in Galatians 2, it seems that this would also be an argument to say that Galatians was before the council. I would think that after the council, it would have been known that the Jewish law was for the the Jews, and only the Jews, and that Peter would not have had such a problem with the whole thing. After the council, things/rules seem to be put in place and if anyone should know what was decided, it should have been Peter and Paul. Therefore I still think that the council would have happened after Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

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  2. Well, I would say that the Galatians happened before Acts, because of these omissions both because of the ‘Antioch incident’ which “Luke chooses not to record the confrontation with Peter since one of his main theological points is unity in the church.” and the business with Paul mentioning the council to the church at Galicia. The letter would have surely been a ‘weapon’ in Paul’s hands as he would have confronted the Judaisers, because of the authority of James and Peter.

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  3. I really expected a different topic for the your post, but I am glad you chose to emphasis this point otherwise I would have missed it. I had always just assumed that Paul was referencing the Jerusalem council in Gal. 2. After reading your arguments for an early writing of Galatians, I tried to find counter arguments in the text to link the two. I didn’t find any. But taking this stance of a Gal. 2 being written before the Jerusalem council makes sense of the frustration of Paul in his ending of his letter to the Galatians. The conclution makes clear that Paul’s sole focus is to prove to the Galatians that they should not give in to the pressure to live under the law. From this point you have me convinced that Galatians was written before Acts 15.

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  4. Phillip,

    You offer some arguments, but I don’t find any of them to be persuasive.

    1. You say that those who equate Acts 15 with Gal 2 must suppose that Judaizers were operating in Galatia 5-10 years after Acts 15. This is not true. Galatians could have been written from Corinth in 50-51, just a two or three years after the council. Incidentally, we should not assume that the agitators in Galatia accepted the authority of the Jerusalem church, and nor can we be confident that they came from outside Galatia.

    2. It is true that Acts 15 does not mention Titus or John, but neither does Luke connect these people with the famine visit.

    3. You are right that Acts does give a revelation as a reason for the Acts 15 visit. However, in Gal 2:1-2 Paul mentions the presentation of his gospel in the same breath as the revelation. The implication is that the purpose of the visit had something to do with presenting his gospel (Fee’s recent commentary puts this very well). This fits Acts 15 but not the famine visit.

    4. I like your equation of the “men from James” of Gal 2:12 with the men “from Judea” of Acts 15:1, but this equation can also be neatly combined with the Gal 2=Acts 15 theory. The sequence is this: Peter visits Antioch and eats with Gentiles and returns to Jerusalem; men purporting to come from James arrive in Antioch and preach circumcision; Paul, B, & T go to Jerusalem; they return to Antioch; Peter goes back to Antioch; the men from James are still there and Peter withdraws from table fellowship with Gentiles. Note that two visits by Peter to Antioch are required because Gal 2:12 reads “he came”, not “they came” (this is Carlson’s insight).

    5. You say that Paul would have mentioned the decree if it was in the past. I would like to offer an alternative reading of the background to Galatians. Paul delivered the decree to the (south) Galatians and circumcised Timothy (Acts 16:1-3). This naturally confused the Galatians about what Paul really believed. They concluded that Paul believed in circumcision (Gal 5:11) and that he had preached non-circumcision only to please the Judean church leaders (who had written the decree). Paul wrote Galatians to respond to this confusion and the slur on his commitment and sincerity. This explains why he writes that he received his gospel independently of the Jerusalem church, and why he claims that they meant nothing to him. It also explains why he selects the Antioch incident as proof that his support for Gentile liberty was sincere and not just to please people like Peter. If this understanding of Galatians works (and if it does not, do tell) there was no need for Paul to mention the decree. The decree was already well known to the Galatians and no-one doubted that the Jerusalem church leaders were supportive of Gentile liberty.

    I like your date of 48 for Acts 15. 48-49 was a Sabbatical year, and there is evidence that Gal 2:1-10 was in a Sabbatical year. Firstly, Paul recalls the interval of 14 years (14=2×7). No-one remembers such long intervals so precisely without the help of a chronological cycle. If Paul was converted during a Sabbatical year and went up to Jerusalem two Sabbatical years later, it would make sense that he would know that the interval was 14 years. The same is true of the 14 years in 2 Cor 12:2. Secondly, Paul and Barnabas were asked to ‘remember the poor’ and this makes sense during a Sabbatical year since the ban on agricultural activity produced poverty.

    Finally, how do you solve the chronological difficulty of equating Gal 2 with the famine visit? Don’t you have to place the conversion of Paul too early for comfort?

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    • There’s a couple things in point 5 that are a little confusing to me.

      First, (circumcised Timothy (Acts 16:1-3). This naturally confused the Galatians) Acts says that Timothy was circumcised not because of the message Paul was preaching, but because of the Jews in the area. That seems to be an indication that Paul was doing it to be a witness to the Jews, not because of what he believed about the act of circumcision.

      Second, (that he had preached non-circumcision only to please the Judean church leaders) the Judean leaders only wrote the decree after Paul went up to address the issue of circumcision and dining. This was something that was strictly influenced by Paul’s presence at the council, not the other way around. Paul was sent up to address the issue, so it seems logical that before Paul arrived to justify his gospel, the council would have been opposed to this message.

      Finally, (his support for Gentile liberty was sincere and not just to please people like Peter) I thought Peter had been turned around from Gentile liberty. Wasn’t that what the whole conflict between Paul and Peter was about in the first place? How could Paul be advocating Gentile liberty for the sake of someone who was not supporting it. To me, that just doesn’t make sense.

      I hope you can clarify these thoughts for me…but as for whether Galatians being written before or after Jerusalem, until these things can be cleared up, the argument that Paul did not mention the decree put out by the council seems pretty compelling to me.

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  5. I am not going to lie. I was a little skeptical of the idea of Galatians being written before the Jerusalem council up until P. Long brought up the lack of mention of the decision being made there. From that point on I must say I agree with an earlier writing for Galatians. Galatians 2:11-13 when Paul opposes Peter makes very little sense, to me, if Galatians was written at a later date. If that was the case then Peter was explicitly ignoring the decision of the council due to some pressure from people who were also ignoring the councils decision.

    After looking into things a little bit more, I cast my vote for a pre Jerusalem Council writing of Galatians.

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  6. Josh, you do not avoid this problem by placing the Gal 2 visit earlier than the Acts 15 visit. Gal 2:11-14 was later than Gal 2:1-10 whatever we do with Acts 15. In Gal 2:1-10 the pillars, including Peter endorse Paul’s gospel and his mission, then in Gal 2:11-14 Peter seems to lapse from his earlier endorsement of Paul’s position. This requires explanation whether Acts 15 is equated with Gal 2 or not.

    I believe that Peter’s action can be explained. Firstly, it fits his pattern of behavior of showing commitment but then falling away when faced with persecution. Secondly Peter and Paul had agreed a new division of labour whereby Peter could henceforth focus on the evangelization of Jews. This renewed focus on the Jews made it expedient for Peter to become ‘a Jew to the Jews to gain the Jews’ (as Paul would put it).

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  7. I would have to concur with tradition, the ESV and most of the class up to this point that Galatians was in fact written prior to the Jerusalem Council. P. Long especially drew out the point that had James’ letter from the Jerusalem council been in circuit, there would be insurmountable evidence coming from the opposition’s authority (James) that they were in fact preaching what was wrong. However, expanding a little on Zach’s comment on the frustration with which Paul addresses the Galatians displays even more evidence: “Paul was absolutely livid. He was angry with the Galatians for so quickly deserting the true gospel for a perversion (1:6)…They were alienating themselves from Christ, falling away from the way of grace into the way of the law (5:2-4). He was angry with the disturbers for proclaiming such a perversion of the gospel.” (139). The problem and frustration reflects Paul’s concern for his gospel being ‘in vain’ (Gal. ) which in turn allowed him to resolve to go to Jerusalem to settle the matter. This also gives us an insight into Paul’s continued zeal (‘something done with a knife’)… “Paul was so angry with these purveyors of the gospel of circumcision that he expressed his wish for that they would finish the job and castrate themselves (5:12).” (140). (Maybe NT Wright did not mean this use of a knife?)

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  8. Hmm…I would love to say that I am turning the tide and going with a later date for the letter, but, I am not.

    I do have to agree as well that it makes sense that this letter was written before the Jerusalem council because Paul would have been able to use so much more authority and backing if the Jerusalem Church had already confirmed what Paul is saying. Like Caleb said, Paul is livid when he talks to them. He is thoroughly disappointed with them and how they have traded the truth for a lie. If he was so livid then he would have used all his resources and references to disprove the Judiazers. He would have used the Jerusalem Council if it had happened.

    But I do have to say, I am not sure how much of a difference it makes on a whole if this was written later or earlier. Paul’s message stays the same to me. Salvation is not by works and it is done by our faith in what Jesus accomplished for us. This does not change if it was written early or late.

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  9. For me I am taking the more traditional view of the order of Galatians and Acts. Reading Polhill and Galatians to me I get the notion and wonder how fast does news travel back in Paul’s time? Especially from Jerusalem to Galatia. I ask this just because, to me it seems that these Judaizers may not have heard of what went down at the Jerusalem council. They may have just been telling these new Galatian Christians what they thought needed to happen and had no clue that Paul went all of the way to Jerusalem to bring up the point of circumsicion.

    Maybe after feeling all high and might that he, (Paul) meet with the council and they agreed with him that no Gentiles need to follow table fellowship or circumsicion, had his ego checked when hearing what was going on in Galatia at that time.

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  10. “if Galatians was written at a later date. If that was the case then Peter was explicitly ignoring the decision of the council due to some pressure from people who were also ignoring the councils decision.”

    I really liked this point that you made. Was Peter being swayed by the judizers? I think that this is interesting because we get to see the human in him. Yah, what he did was wrong, and we don’t like it of course, but I appreciate this flaw. Only because I mostly see these men as “saints,” that can do no wrong. But once I read this it makes it more real. I think that sometimes we look at the people in the Bible who do work for God and we say that we can’t do what they did. Well maybe not in the same capacity, but we can work for God just as hard as these men did. And yes, we will have flaws just like Peter and Paul, but that is why God uses us. To show grace.

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  11. Since we’re taking votes, I’m not sure which side of the fence to lean on at this time, nor am I sure of the relevance this would have on the message of the letter. Either way the point of the letter is about freedom from the law, or the gospel of Grace. So whether the judiaizers were attacking this church before or after the council bears little on the purpose of the letter, although I will yield to the fact the language of the letter has little to say about the council in Jerusalem. But this may, or might not be important in light of Mr Fellows’ (related to Will Fellows at Frontier School of the Bible, perhaps?) arguments posted in a previous post.

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  12. Well, this is a very interesting topic. I have never thought about it before in my life. I did not really think that it made that much of a difference. So I am not going to lie and say that I know much about it at all. But the arguments that you have and from what I read, I think it does make sense that Galatians was written before Acts. I still do not know if I fully understand why it makes that big of a deal. I am one of those simple people who would rather not argue about a date. I understand that it is important and people like to study that kind of stuff, but it is just not for me. I would just rather give someone the simple facts, than argue about something like this. To me, this is just a pointless topic that christians argue about and it causes divisions in the church. I am not saying that it is wrong to talk about it, because talks like this can be a lot of fun. But at the same time, I think we need to be very careful with them too.

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  13. After looking back over the book of Galatians, I find myself wanting to date it after the Acts 15. Only because of verses 9-10. Plong and several others keep asserting that Paul does not bring up the Acts 15 counsel, but if 9 and 10 do not belong to that event, I am hard pressed to find other connections. Especially one that supports the idea of James, Peter, and John giving support to Paul’s mission.

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  14. If we are taking votes, as PJ refers to it, I would have to take the stand toward more of a conventional/traditional standing. It is clear in Galatians that Paul, Barnabas, and Titus were at the Jerusalem council. As we know, a big discussion in the Jerusalem council was wether or not gentiles can be saved with or without circumcision. In Galatians 2:1-10 it is expressed that circumcision was a big deal in their trip to Jerusalem. This was their answer in Galatians 2:6  “As for those who seemed to be important—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance—those men added nothing to my message.” This is an answer to the council decision which could have been years after the actual meeting.

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  15. Although I feel this is contrary to the belief most of the class is putting forward, I agree with Shaun’s, richard, and elyse. I can see the arguement regarding why the conclusion of the council wasn’t brought out and wielded as a final say when speaking to the Galations but that does not mean Paul had not yet been there. If Galations was written after Acts 15 then Paul may be assuming that mention of the his trip to the council would prove his point because being a controversial topic the answer would have been well spread.

    Shaun brings up a good point as well, where does verses 9-10 go from Galations 2? These hold significant relevance to Paul but if they are not placed with his trip to the Jerusalem council were do they go? If Paul had recieved blessing from the pillars for the gospel he had been preaching, why then would he have to recieve another blessing later? That doesn’t equate for me. Gal 2:2 says, “I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles” this tells us why Paul went to Jerusalem and in verse 9 we read, “James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews.” Verse 9 tells us that the message Paul was preaching was “approved” by the “pillars.” Why then would Paul seek later another “approval” from the pillars in Acts 15 unless Paul’s message were to have changed from circumcise to don’t circumcise.

    Doesn’t add up for me.

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  16. Yeah I agree with the Jarrod, Shaun, Elyse, and Richard group at this point. Galatians seems to fit better with the later date. At first the earlier date seemed most convincing, the point that he did not bring up the results of the Jerusalem council as proof made perfect sense, I mean, why would he not just end the argument with “here let me prove it!” But when I saw the point made that he may not have mentioned the results of the Jerusalem council because everyone would have already been aware of them this seemed quite possible. You always have to be thinking in the shoes of the people there! What was going on culturally? We have to remember they didn’t just have the letter they had the culture…anyways then I was pushed over to the later date side of the argument with the fact that Galatians 2:9-10. Here the blessing or validation of their mission to the Gentiles was validated, if this was before the council why would they make a point about the validation/blessing later in Acts?

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  17. See, this is where I claim that both parties are wrong, and that you all have a hidden agenda. However, I can’t seem to find where I stand on this issue.

    I like Jed’s point on news. They don’t have wi-fi or 3G, news travels by foot and we know how rumors can be. We might have a case of a rumor is fed with a rumor which feeds Paul’s anger. After Paul’s discussion at the conference, news (via people) may have spread ahead of Paul to Galatia, and in return, rumors of this may have reached Paul’s ear at Corinth (or maybe even right after the conference with a pit stop at Antioch?). At this point, what started as “Paul schooled James” would have turned into “Paul was schooled by James because Paul was preaching circumcision” and then Paul would have heard it as “Paul is a heretic because he has a false gospel”. However, this theory is extremely hard, nigh impossible, to prove or find any evidence for. I also like Fellows point 5, even though Casey doesn’t. Mainly because it helps my rumor theory (sorry Rich for associating your theory with my heresy!), the Galatians would have heard it wrong, and it would have sparked Paul already short fuse for hypocrisy and falsehood.

    HOWEVER, I still think that Paul would have STILL presented the decree in his argument. He already tells them to go castrate themselves (yes! that’s twice I used that! score!) after he’s done telling them how bogus they are to add insult to injury! It would make since to further crush them with embarrassment would be to say “Look! James says to go castrate yourself too!” (seems vulgar, but I have a feeling Paul would have said it if he could). He didn’t hold back in his anger towards these Judaizers, so why didn’t he pile this on top? Possibly because it didn’t happen? Or did he just want tell them to do really filthy things without giving a legit reason why they should other than because “they are telling lies!” It seems if he could he would.

    So who is more convincing? I’m not sure, because I think either way he’s poed and no one is going to stop him. He’s zealous and I think he wished he had a knife with him.

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  18. Firstly, thanks everyone for allowing me to join in the join in the conversation, since I am not from your class.

    Casey, I agree with you that Paul circumcised Timothy to facilitate evangelism of Jews. This view is supported by 1 Cor 9:19-20 and has been popular at least since Tertullian (2nd century). But Paul would surely not have advertised the fact that the circumcision of Timothy was an act or expedience to gain an audience with Jews. If he had done so he would have alienated the very Jews that he wished to convert, and Timothy’s circumcision would have been in vane. We should assume that Paul kept quiet about why he circumcised Timothy and we should not be surprised by Gal 5:11, where we learn that Galatians believed that Paul actually supported circumcision.

    Concerning your second point, Casey, I do not agree that the council would have been opposed to Paul’s message prior to his Acts 15 visit to Jerusalem. Peter had been committed to the inclusion of Gentiles since the Cornelius episode (Acts 10-11) and he had persuaded the Judean believers (Acts 11:1-18). The decree was necessary only after Judean Christian supporters of circumcision arrived in Antioch and upset the believers there.

    Concerning your final point, you are right that Peter compromised on Gentile liberty in Antioch. However, the fact that Paul tells the Galatians about Peter’s lapse is an indication that they did not already know. In any case, Paul accused Peter of hypocrisy not treachery, so it is hard to argue that Peter had actually switched sides. Whatever the Galatians believed about Peter’s current views, they had received the decree so they knew that the leadership as a whole in Judea supported the inclusion of Gentiles. This move to include Gentiles (Acts 10-11) occurred before Paul and Barnabas preached non-circumcision to (south) Galatia (Acts 13-14). So the Galatians can be forgiven for assuming that Paul had preached Gentile liberty to them out of obedience to the Judean church leaders who later wrote the decree. They believed that Paul supported circumcision (Gal 5:11), so how else were they to explain why he had preached non-circumcision to them?

    Some assume that Paul primarily defends his authority in Galatians, but I think that he emphasizes his commitment. He uses over-statement and profanity to show that he really is committed to Gentile liberty, lest his readers think that he is writing out of obedience to Jerusalem. So, while some assume that Paul is being angry in his letter, I think it is a rhetorical device to show that he is being sincere.

    For a more on all this take a look at my web page here: http://members.shaw.ca/rfellows/Site/T-T_Galatians_background.html

    I feel that the discussion has too quickly assumed that the agitators in Galatia respected the authority of the Jerusalem church leaders. The move to include Gentiles starts in Acts 10, at least 5 years after the resurrection, and Jesus was not explicit on this issue. We should not be surprised that there arose a faction that did not respect the decision of the Jerusalem church leaders to include Gentiles without circumcision.

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  19. Richard – good to have your comments. The point of an open forum is exchange of ideas, so it is good that you join in. With respect to this issue, while I prefer the early date based on my comments, I am not deaf to scholarship which dates the good slightly after Acts 15, or even as late as Paul’s time in Corinth. I have been re-reading Dunn quite a bit lately, and his latest on Acts is quite good on the Acts 15 / Antioch incident, almost convincing me for a later date for Galatians. But not quite. For me, the early date answers more problems than it raises additional problems. There is room for disagreement on this issue, and a need for continued study and discussion.

    You said “I feel that the discussion has too quickly assumed that the agitators in Galatia respected the authority of the Jerusalem church leaders.”

    Good point, and I am sure that I would stick to “men allegedly from James” when pressed. I think that James is not actually responsible for the agitators, although he is closer to them than Paul (obviously). Since I am working within a southern Galatian framework, these agitators have entered churches claiming the authority of Jerusalem, but that does not mean that James sent them, or that they have traveled from Jerusalem. Acts 13-14 indicates that there are Jews in Psidian Antioch willing to confront Paul publically (not to mention violently), and there could have been a rift between Paul and Syrian Antioch (the “Antioch Incident”), perhaps there are even conservative Jews from there who are “clarifying” Paul’s teaching on Gentile participation in the Law.

    I’ve said this in a couple of other places, but it bears repeating here. I think that Diaspora Jews were in many ways more conservative on the so-called “Works of the Law” than Jerusalem, although we need to always remember that the closer we get to the revolt, the more strongly nationalistic feelings were felt within the Land itself. I see the emphasis on circumcision in the period as somewhat Maccabean – without circumcision one is not properly honoring God.

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  20. I’ve cast my vote both ways on this – not unlike Polhill, who definitely hedges his bets in the chapter we all read – and I have to say, the debate seems slightly more pointless with each post I read. Not because they aren’t good posts – they are – but because none of the best points on either side, that is to say those most clearly based on Biblical accounts, seem mutually exclusive.

    In other words, the things we know for sure can be read either way, so how are we supposed to know? More to the point, and I’m joining forces with PJ and Jessica here, is there a reason we should care?

    P Long blogged in the first paragraph of this entry that the issue, “seems like a pointless question, but it is in fact important since it will influence how we read the conflict between Paul and Peter in Gal 2.” I’ve read and reread that passage while teetering on each side of our debating fence, and I can’t say I really see much difference, the fence is the same color whichever way I go. Paul corrected a fault in Peter’s actions regarding table fellowship, and uses that to undershore the point he is making to the Galatians regarding circumcision. The theme of salvation by grace rather than through works is the same, and application to our day seems to me totally unaffected by the date at which Paul wrote the epistle. Am I missing something?

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  21. Some have suggested that these historical questions do not matter much, and I have some sympathy for this view. However, the relationship between Galatians and Acts is important for those who are interested in the question of the reliability of Acts. Many academics still (mistakenly) reject the reliability of Acts in large part because they have been unable to reconcile the data in Galatians with those in Acts.

    Phillip, thanks for your thoughts. I am interested in your comment that Diaspora Jews were more conservative than Jerusalem Jews. South Galatia seems to have been particularly conservative because:
    a) it was for the south Galatian Jews that Timothy had to be circumcised.
    b) Paul and Barnabas were persecuted there (but not in Antioch, Cyprus or Perga).
    c) John-Mark turned back at Perga, just before the journey to south Galatia. If John-Mark turned back because of the prospect of persecution over the issue of Law observance, this would explain why Paul took such a hard line with him (just as he did with Peter in Gal 2:11-14), and it would also explain why Barnabas sided with Mark (for he sides with Peter on a similar issue).
    d) Paul’s letter to the Galatians shows that (south) Galatia was fertile ground for conservative views on the Law.

    Syrian Antioch, on the other hand, seems to have been rather ‘liberal’:
    a) Josephus says of the Jews of Antioch that “they were constantly attracting to their religious ceremonies multitudes of Greeks, and these they had in some measure incorporated with themselves” (BJ 7.45).
    b) Christianity first spread to Gentiles in Antioch.
    c) The NT gives no hint that Christians were persecuted by Jews in Antioch.
    d) The Antioch incident of Gal 2:11-14 arose not because of local Jews, but only as a result of the presence of Jews from Judea.
    e) There are reasons to believe that Timothy was a native of Antioch. The marriage of his Jewish Mother to a Gentile man confirms that Antioch was liberal on such matters.

    You make the interesting point that some people thought that “without circumcision one is not properly honoring God.” Philo (and Paul) thought otherwise. Philo wrote:

    the “proselyte” is one who circumcises not his foreskin but his pleasures and desires and the other passions of the soul. …. But what is “the soul of the proselyte,” if not alienation from the polytheistic belief and familiarity with the honoring (TIMHS) of the one God and Father of all.
    (Questions and answers on Exodus 2.2)

    I believe that this is why Titus was renamed “honoring God” (Timothy).

    A further argument for Gal 2 =Acts 15 is that it solves the problem of Gal 2:10. Many have found it difficult to identify an occasion when Paul responded to this request to “remember the poor”. We have no evidence of Paul organizing a collection shortly after the famine visit, but we DO have evidence of a collection from south Galatia immediately after the Acts 15 visit. Firstly, 1 Cor 16:1-3 refers to a collection from Galatia and the period at the start of the second missionary journey fits best. Secondly, this collection explains why Timothy was in Lystra at the start of the 2MJ: he was organizing the collection.

    On the identity of the agitators in Galatia, I do not think that they should be equated with the men “from James”. I think that these were different people. I am not even sure that they were from outside Galatia. Nanos identifies them as Galatian non-Christian Jews. I think they might be Galatian Christian Jews, but I don’t know.

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  22. Where does the book of james fit into all of this. Could it be that Paul was writing this letter in response to James’ letter? James also uses a reference to Abraham and also talks a lot about how works tie into faith. Could it be that the “men from james delivered his letter and then used it as a platform for circumcision?” If this were the case then it would make sense that the Jerusalem council would be nessecary to set the record straight.

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  23. I am very interested in this topic…a brief comment on this excellent thread… I believe that Paul’s letter to the Galatians would have been too strong and anti- Judaic for many of the Elders in Jerusalem and in addition, if they had seen a copy of this letter, they would probably not have allowed Paul and Barnabas to return to Antioch with their own letter to the Gentiles.

    Paul comes across as being very fanatical and self-righteous and I feel that his letter was written after the conflict in Antioch. It is certainly written with a combination of anger and love. His feelings are hurt and he absolutely does not want to lose the converts he has already made. He speaks of being taken in and looked after and probably hopes to visit the communities again at some point although right now he is unable to do so and a letter will have to suffice. He is also angry at having been let down by Peter, Barnabas and other members of his group and has an axe to grind. Writing is cathartic and healing! Paul needs to reaffirm his own beliefs and makes it very clear that to be a Christian it is absolutely not necessary to follow the Laws of the Torah or to be circumcised physically.

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    • This is a good point, Duncan. What would the reaction be if James (for example) read Galatians? I think that the letter has to be after the Antioch Incident, since that appears in Gal 2. The hard part is determining if it was before Acts 15 or not, since he is not as clear in Gal 1-2 about whether the meeting he had with the Pillars was or was not the meeting described in Acts 15.

      Paul is not saying that the Law is bad, only that the purpose of the Law had a specific time and place, and that time and place is now in the past. For a Jew to claim that the eternal Law of God has a terminal point is radical in the extreme!

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    • As Paul presents his Epistles, his experiences are guided by the Holy Spirit’s inspiration (God breathed).

      The Gospel covers the whole life, from faith to faith. He exhorted Peter publically to his face because he was not walking uprightly in the Faith. The Law was irrelevant for Paul and all believers. Romans 7. We are now married to Another and walking in the Spirit, bearing fruit, against such, there is no Law.

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  24. I’m in the middle of discussion about “Peter’s hypocrisy” in Galatians 2 with some Christian friends. I myself is not a Christian. I don’t know Paul’s chronology in complete yet during the discussion. What I propose to my friends is “on the time he wrote the Galatians, Paul didn’t know about Peter and Cornelius event. That’s why he still wrote the original event (flashback) of the incident with Peter in Antioch to the Galatians”.

    I told my friends that my proposal is just based on logical thinking with arguments : It seems strange that Peter was afraid to those of the circumcision party from James if Peter himself already facing Cornelius event (Acts 10) and already describing why he ate at one table with the gentiles (Acts 11) when the circumcision party scolded Peter of what he did.

    On the other hand, if Peter has not experienced the Acts 10 and 11 – then I think it’s possible Peter was afraid to James’ men (the circumcised) that’s why he moved away from the gentiles when he eats together with them.

    My friends told me that the time frame of that incident is after the Jerusalem Council then of course it’s after Peter experienced the Acts 10 and 11. So, I open the bible and read the Acts 15.

    But after I read the story of Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, I told my friends it’s even more strange that Peter who himself said “by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the message of the Gospel” in the Council is still afraid to James circumcised party. How come Peter need the hypocrisy and need to be afraid to those circumcised party, after he experienced the Acts 10, 11 and 15 ? How come Paul wrote that Peter is hypocrite and afraid to those circumcised when Paul himself already knew about Peter (Acts 10, 11 and 15) ? And how come Barnabas whom already accompany Paul preaching to the gentiles and experienced the Jerusalem Council suddenly carried away by Peter’s act ?

    “so, why then Peter moved away from the table where he was with the gentiles ?” asked my friend.

    “well maybe because that time Peter want to avoid a dispute with those James circumcised party. But it’s not because Peter was afraid of them that they are going to beat/scolded him. It’s not also because Peter want to be look OK in the point of view of those circumcised” answered me.

    My conclusion is Paul didn’t know yet about Peter (Acts 10 and 11) let alone Paul already experienced Jerusalem Council when he wrote Galatians.

    Holding my own logical conclusion, I start to look the internet and then found this article. And to my surprise, it turns out some people also think that Galatians letter was written before Jerusalem Council.

    So to answer “Dating Galatians – Before or After Acts 15?”, I prefer to choose “before Acts 15” :).

    Please forgive my broken English.
    Thank you.

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  25. Thank you brother, that was a very helpful chronology. It was important, as you stated in how you the view Acts 15 Meetings background, in providing the 4 Decrees. I personally believe they were Universal, not associating them with the Law of Moses, even though they were included in it as was Circumcision. But the Decrees were given specifically to Antioch, as a “sensitivity ” toward the Jews who were in their midst. This could be also a Principle in evangelizing the Jews. For it was to the Jews first, then the Gentiles.

    Paul continued the Pattern, going to the synagogues first, before establishing the churches in homes of the believers.

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    • Thank you for your comment, I really do appreciate it. I think the four decrees could be universal but I also suspect that they are rooted in activity in and around pagan temples that Gentiles would have thought were acceptable even though they are in Christ.

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