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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Antioch incident

Michael Bird argues the following on the incident at Antioch:

The real problem was not the food but the company it was consumed in. The objection of "those of the circumcision" and "certain men from James" was that these meals made Gentiles equals and not simply guests in the Jewish Christian community! Gentiles did not have to judaize/do works of the law/be circumcized in order to have the membership status and privileges of Jews. Circumcision of Gentiles is what links Gal 2:1-10 and the rest of Galatians with Gal 2:11-14.

Ok, here's some fairly non-systematic thoughts on the matter. As one of Michael's quotes makes clear, there are two major issues which arise in Jewish literature: food and idolatry. So it is at least possible that this pattern continues in earlyies Christianity. Idolatry can be eliminated for obvious reasons but food cannot be eliminated that easily. Moreover, the problem involves something to do with a Jew like Peter not doing 'works of the law' (Gal. 2.15-16) which appears to imply that some kind of law breaking (real or perceived) is going on and that Peter is involved in some way (I am hesitant to say if Peter did eat banned food as there is no explicit evidence - he may not have been able to stomach it for all we know - but the perception is clear). Given the range of Jewish and pagan texts which discuss the issue of food then this seems to me to be a very good contender for the problem. If Peter is associated too strongly with people eating pork or whatever it does (cf. Sanders) discredit his mission to Jews.

As for company, there is a problem with this argument. Paul's mission is recognised in Jerusalem (Gal. 2.9) and combined with this is the lack of any major evidence that Jewish and gentile Christians were not eating with one another or that this was an issue in earliest Christianity. Does this not suggests that there was no problem with the company being kept at Antioch?

And is circumcision an issue here. Again there is no problem in Jerusalem with circumcision. This is why I think food laws are a problem because if Peter is associating too much with lawless gentiles then he is effectively being identified with those kinds of people and this, again, seriously discredits a Jewish mission. Furthermore, is circumcision really included in the term 'Judaise' (cf. Gk Esther 8.17; War 2.454, 462-63; and Dunn's argument)?

4 Comments:

Blogger Rafael Rodriguez said...

James,

A few thoughts: first the picture stays. As we learn from reception critics, if you have a problem with the picture YOU have the problem. And, from experience, I know I can take your abuse.

I hate to say it, but I think you're right on this (and Michael is, I suppose, less right). While there may have been issues with 'who' was seated round the table (it's anachronistic, I know), I think Paul frequently had problems with people getting upset about 'what' those associated with him were eating.

I'm thinking here of the discussion in 1 Cor. 7-8 (? I don't have a text here in front of me). In Corinth, when speaking to people who were asserting their right to eat meat sacrificed to idols, he teaches 'the strong' to forego their rights to eat meat for the sake of 'the weak'. He does the same in Rom. 14-15.

In Antioch, however, the 'strong' (those with the more aggressive tact?) aren't the ones eating nonkosher foods; rather, they are the ones sanctioning those who do. So Paul finds himself arguing the other side of the 'eat meat'/'don't eat meat' debate. For Paul, the real issue isn't what you eat or with whom you eat, but rather the advance of the gospel. And whenever any ideo- or theological axe-to-grind gets in the way of the gospel programme, he takes issue with it. (I think this makes sense of some of the difficulties in nailing down 'Paul's theology', as well as of his rhetoric in 1 Cor. 9.)

Anyway, this is certainly less focussed than it should be, but I think the 'who eats' and 'what is eaten' are related, but in the incident at Antioch the problem that riled Paul up had to do with what was served.

April 12, 2006

 
Blogger Michael F. Bird said...

James and Rafael, if the problem was the food, the why didn't the Jacobean delegates ask for a change of menu? Why would Peter withdraw from fellowship? Why would Paul object that Gentiles have to judaize if all they had to do was observe more kosher laws for the sake of unity (i.e. Rom 14-15)? Circumcision is what links Gal 2.1-10 and the situation in Galatia with the Antioch incident in Gal 2.11-14. Oh, and contra Dunn, I think judaize is more likely to signify circumcision, same texts you cite, Jos. War 7.454, Esth 8.17 (LXX), etc.

April 12, 2006

 
Blogger J. B. Hood said...

James, thanks for chiming in on this. Any chance that the meal was something more than dinner, i.e., Lord's Supper? And that circumcision then becomes an issue, i.e., a question of who is really a member?

I'd also ask if "Judaize" couldn't mean dift. things to different folks.

As for company, there is a problem with this argument. Paul's mission is recognised in Jerusalem (Gal. 2.9) and combined with this is the lack of any major evidence that Jewish and gentile Christians were not eating with one another or that this was an issue in earliest Christianity. Does this not suggests that there was no problem with the company being kept at Antioch?

It seems like this is precisely the issue Paul is dealing with here, though probably related to either diet or lack of circumcision. I agree "company" doesn't become much of a major issue elsewhere in the NT (though compare Acts), though the reality of 'the wall of separation' etc. is celebrated in such a way that it appears as though it might have at one point. Rather, I think this means "Paul won"...

April 13, 2006

 
Blogger James Crossley said...

Jason, when I question 'company' I mean 'gentiles just because they are unconverted gentiles'. Of course, food and other things are related to that in one analytical sense but I don't unconverted gentiles as the problem at Antioch. I think that is also what you are getting at...? As for what kind of meal, there is no indication. I don't know, but would it have been mentioned if something particularly sacred? But really, no idea to be honest.

Mike,why didn't the Jacobean delegates ask for a change of menu? Well I think that is because there was agreement on what gentiles could do and that included eating almost whatever they wanted. The problem is when Peter, associated with the mission to Jews, becomes associated with banned food. It is a practical problem presumably not seen at the Jerusalem conference. The food laws in Romans is a different issue as there it is not about food laws being a requirement for salvation (or membership or whatever) so it can be practised so long as in honour of the Lord (see also Rafael's comments). It is imposition of the law which links Gal. 2.11-14 with the situation in Galatia and so the use of food laws is a perfectly useful illustration to fire at those imposing whatever in Galatia. And, again, the term 'Judaise' when meaning circumcision has uses like 'do Jewish practices' AND THEN followed by 'and then circumcise (e.g. War 2.454).

Rafael: two times in a week! And picture. No that's go to go. Sorry. It's providing too much ammo (yes, I know, as if there wasn't enough already). I too have to admit with a heavy heart that I agree with what you say on Pauline thought. I'll survive.

April 13, 2006

 

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