The Apostles and Paul’s Gospel (Galatians 2:6-10)


Commenting on his meeting in Jerusalem, Paul says that the Pillars “added nothing” to him (2:6). This can be taken in two different ways. First, the Pillars did not add anything to Paul’s gospel, meaning they “approved” of the Gospel Paul was teaching and did not require him to include something more in his preaching to the Gentiles. Second, this may mean the approval of the Apostles did nothing to enhance Paul’s honor or prestige, since he was already commissioned by God to preach this Gospel (Witherington, Galatians, 140).

In the context, Paul’s dismissal of the honor of the Apostles indicates he did not require their approval and it did not matter if they agreed with him or not, since he knew he was right. This might be something like a doctor who is has an M.D. getting an approval to practice medicine from a local high school. The approval of Jerusalem does not matter to Paul since a higher authority has already given him all approval he needs.

The Pillars give Paul the “right hand of fellowship.” Does this indicate some sort of formal agreement? The “giving of a hand” is found in the Hebrew Bible several time (2 Kings 10:15 for example). In general, this is an offer of friendship between equals, but occasionally it is a gesture from a superior person to a socially inferior person. Giving the “right hand” is ambiguous. It is possible Paul understood this gesture as friendship between equals, but the Apostles understood it as friendship with an inferior Paul. Whatever the case, Paul takes the presence of the opponents in the Galatia churches as a breach of this agreement.

Was the agreement a “division of labor”? Peter will go to the Jews, while Paul goes to Gentiles? It may be the division ethnic or geographical. According to 1 Peter, Peter ministers in northern Asia Minor. 1 Corinthians implies Peter had some influence in Corinth, but this may not imply he actually ministered in that city. It is likely Peter continued doing the sort of ministry Acts 10-12 describes. Like Jesus, Peter seems to have ministered primarily to the Jews, but especially to those on the fringe of Judaism. James may have remained in Jerusalem and minister to Jews who remained faithful to the Law (Acts 21:20).

Paul, on the other hand, continued to go to synagogues as a part of his regular pattern of ministry (Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea and Corinth) and in 2 Cor 11:24 Paul indicates he has been disciplined in the synagogue several times before A.D. 52. But Paul did avoid regions which were already evangelized by others; his intention was always to move west into regions which had not yet heard the Gospel (Rom 15:23-24).

As it stands in Galatians, what is Paul’s point in recounting this encounter with the Jerusalem Leadership? It is possible Paul’s reasons for including the information in Galatians differ from Luke’s reasons for omitting it (if the encounter is not Acts 15) or Luke’s emphasis on the unity between Paul and Jerusalem.