Polhill on the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15)

I realize I have wrestled with this question quite a bit lately, but I ought to address the Jerusalem Conference and Galatians one more time since I ran across something interesting on the issue.

In Polhill’s chapter on Galatians in Paul and his Letters (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1999) it is less than clear if he believes that Galatians comes before or after the Jerusalem council. He gives both sides of the argument and deals with Galatians after the council. I was under the impression that he was opting for the later view, which he states clearly as his view on page 111 of P&HL. In his excellent commentary on Acts, he says “Although the two accounts contain significant differences, the similarities seem to outweigh these, and it is probable that they relate to the same event” and a bit later “it will be assumed in the commentary that follows that Paul and Luke were referring to the same conference” (Acts, NAC 26; Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2001) page 321.

However, John Pollhill also wrote the notes on Acts for the ESV Study Bible. In this shorter commentary on Acts, he states “Though some scholars think that Paul is referring to this meeting in Gal 2:1-10, it is better to see that passage as referring to private contacts made during his famine relief visit to Jerusalem” (ESVSB, 2114). I suppose this indicates some change of thought for Polhill on the chronology of Acts and Galatians.

It is good to know that scholars develop their ideas over time.

9 thoughts on “Polhill on the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15)

  1. This is interesting. I did not realize that Polhill had changed his view. I personally think that Galatians 2 corresponds to Acts 11. By the way, if you have not done so already, you might want to check out my blog: http://www.bibleexposition.net. While my blog is not specifically devoted to Acts, I post fairly regularly on Acts in general, and the Jerusalem Council, in particular as part of some research that I am currently involved in.

  2. Hi Charles – I assume that this note in the ESV reflects a change, since the way he states it in his commentary is certainly “Gal 2 = Acts 15”. On the other hand, I wondered if this is an editorial decision, since the notes on Galatians by Simon Gathercole also argue for “Gal 2 = Acts 11.” If you noticed back a few entries on this blog, there has been a passionate argument for Acts 15 by some readers.

    I have visited your blog several times, your links to the Goldengay lectures (for example) were a great find, thanks.

  3. Hi Phillip,

    I was referring to the ESV note in my comments.

    As you know, the Gal 2 = Acts 11 view is probably a minority opinion in biblical studies as a whole. I think that some good recent discussions of the issues can be found in James Dunn’s Beginning from Jerusalem which argues for Gal 2 = Acts 15 and Darrell Bock in his Acts commentary who argues tentatively for Gal 2 = Acts 11

  4. I am well aware that the early date for the writing of Galatians is minority, and Dunn’s latest almost convinced me to shift a bit, but in the end, Galatians as a response to the Galatian agitators before Acts 15 solves the problems without causing too many more questions.

    I think that it is not necessary to equate Gal 2:1-10 and Acts 11, although I do think that is the best solution if you have already opted for Galatians written before Acts 15. Bottom line, there is some room for discussion here, I am not sure anyone has written the final word on the topic!

  5. Do you happen to know what David Peterson’s view is on this issue? I know that he discusses it in his recent PNTC commentary but I can’t recall what his conclusions were.

  6. Sorry, I have not read the Peterson volume yet. I think I will browse it next time I visit the Bookstore, though! I have never done a lit review on the topic, that might be an interesting comparison. My guess is that more recent commentaries on Acts and Galatians are more or less open to the early view, older commentaries assume the later date for Galatians (ie. Acts 2 = Acts 15) and move on.

  7. I think that it is good that Polhill has given more though into what he believes. That is always a good thing. I know that I need to do that with something in my life, but I have also done that with many other things that I believe. I think that it developes our character. I still do not really know what to believe about the dating of the books. The more I read about it the more I get confused. I know that it is important to some people, but it is not an area in my life that is important to me. I think that he has some good points for both. But I still can not say that I have made up my mind.

  8. I think Polhill represents the best part about the pursuit of knowledge. You never know where you are going to end up. The fact that Polhill was willing to publish both opinions, and I mean actually publish them, makes me even more likely to listen to what he has to say. Anyone that is willing to make a public statement about what he believes and then, later, make another public statement leaning the other way, is someone that shows an openness in their learning. It shows that he has an open mind and is willing to change his opinion depending on where he thinks the most support is. Now I don’t know whether it was the same story or not, and I don’t even care whether Polhill changed from the correct answer to the incorrect answer. The important lesson that I think is here to be learned is to make sure that in our quest for truth, we don’t become so set in our ways that we make a statement just because that is what we have always said.

  9. Interesting. Thanks for pointing that out.

    I was looking for a “like” button, but this isn’t facebook…

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