October 30, 2009
volume 20, no. 303
St. Paul and the Papacy: The First Generation

Backgrounder on 2 Thessalonians 2: 6-7


Stephen Grieve

    Editor's Note: Stephen hails from across the pond in England and has agreed to provide interesting articles that should stir the sensibilities of those who continue to elude the inevitability that a true pope would never and could never do what the conciliar leaders in Rome have done for the past 50 years. Steve continues a multi-part series on proving the basis for a sede vacante stance based on holy Scripture itself. Thus the title of his columns, "Our Scriptural Roots", all based on the divine Word; the same Word Who was made flesh, suffered and died for us, all prophesied in the Old Testament. Steve continues his treatise on the meaning of St. Paul's words in 2 Thessalonians 2: 6-7, turning to some backgrounder on this by focusing on the fact the Petrine Primacy was known to more than a few from early on as he documents in Holy Writ in citing St. Luke and St. Paul's own words in acknowledging Peter as the first among the apostles. This is important in realizing the syllogism of the restrainer/withholder (κατέχων) being the Primacy of Peter, ergo the Vicar of Christ - the Pope. Steve shows that politics is nothing new and even in the early years of Christianity there were many disputes.

    The reason for this lengthy appendix (in several parts, if you will) is to demonstrate that the pivotal position and role Catholics ascribe to St. Peter in the earliest years of our history is not a product of later wishful-thinking. Our forefathers in the Faith were every bit as aware of the supreme authority of St. Peter then as Catholics have always been aware of the Pope's in the succeeding centuries. In other words, Christians in Corinth, Ephesus, and Thessalonica, in the first century, were distinctly Papal.

    That being so, our interpretation of 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7 as referring to the Papacy, is in no way outlandish or forced. We do not just encounter the bare 'germ', the very minimum required that would later allow us to build up a doctrine of Petrine/papal supremacy - the Primacy of Peter is well understood and is part of the underlying structure of the New Testament as a whole. As for St. Paul's cryptic caution in the Thessalonian passage we have been studying, the reason for this will become clearer in a following appendix, "The 'Secret' and the Roman Connection", which will show the precariousness of St. Peter's position with regard the authorities.

The Petrine Primacy in the Gospel of St. Luke

    From the Acts of the Apostles we know that, starting from St. Paul's second journey, St. Luke became Paul's 'constant collaborator and an almost inseparable fellow traveler'. Luke was with Paul at the time of Paul's first imprisonment during which the Epistles to the Colossians and Philippians were written (Colossians 4:14; Philemon 24). He was also with him during the second imprisonment when the second Epistle to Timothy was written, and which ended with a martyr's death. Luke was loyal to Paul until the end (2 Timothy 4:11).

    While commentators are quick to notice the themes that are common to both Paul and Luke (Luke's Gospel is known to be primarily the godspel to the Gentiles), few pay much, if any, attention to Luke's consistently 'pro-Petrine' stance. In fact, of all the four gospels, St. Peter's primacy, as we shall see, is woven into its very fabric. Luke, more than anyone, would have known what Paul thought of Peter, and Paul would have known what Luke thought of Peter.

    (I must add that much of what I am to write here is based on memory of a tattered old Catholic Truth Society pamphlet I found at the back of my church in, perhaps, 1969. The pamphlet itself had been written in the 40's, I believe. Long lost, I do not even remember the venerable author's name but it may have been a Monsignor Montgomery. It was an absolute gem and I very much regret its disappearance and if anyone out there would have a copy I would be happy to buy it from them.)

    In his account of the Gospel, St. Luke consistently assigns a privileged status to Peter, with all the appearance of wishing to systematically lift the Primacy to even greater prominence than his synoptic counterparts. Luke contains status-enhancing narratives about Peter not present in Matthew and Mark, while omitting or significantly modifying some of Peter's statements, found in them, that could possibly diminish his reputation in the mind of the reader.

    In St. Luke 5:1-11, our 'dear and glorious physician' devotes eleven verses to Peter's individualised calling (as opposed to 3 verses in St. Matthew and St. Mark), focusing on him solely and not even mentioning St. Andrew.

    Only Luke mentions that it was from Peter's boat that our Lord gave His first recorded address to 'the multitude', that it was from this boat that there is the first miraculous catch of fish, and the Lord's prediction that henceforth Peter was to be a 'fisher of men.' Already, in just these few introductory verses we have the kernel of the Catholic 'mythos' (if I may use that term) of 'Urbi et orbi', 'the Barque of Peter', and 'The Fisherman'.

    In St. Matthew 16 (23) and St. Mark 8 (33) Peter has the audacity to rebuke the Master regarding His prediction that He would suffer and die: 'Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him ('never, Lord', he said, 'never shall this happen to You!') but Jesus turned and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter: 'get thou behind Me satan!', He said. 'You have not the things of God in mind but the things of men.' Luke (9:18ff) misses out the rebuke entirely. The omission is all the more telling because the text immediately preceding and following closely parallels the Matthean/Markan material (actually Peter's?).

    Both St. Matthew (26:40) and St. Mark (14:37) report that on finding the Apostles asleep in Gethsemane Jesus scolds Peter in particular. Luke leaves out mention of Peter and has Our Lord scolding the group as a whole (St. Luke 22:45)

    In St. Luke (22:33), Peter never falsely promises not to deny Jesus; he simply states he is ready to follow Jesus to prison and death. But compare this with St. Mark 14:29 and St. Matthew 26:33. In St. Luke ( 22:60) Peter neither swears nor calls down a curse on himself during the denial in the courtyard as he is seen to do in St. Matthew 26:74 and St. Mark 14:71.

    There is St. Luke 22: 31-32, verses with which Catholics are well familiar for they present one of the three major Petrine texts together with St. Matthew 16:18 and St. John 21:15-17. What many may not realise the significance of is that this text follows on immediately from the dispute that had arisen among the Apostles as to which of them should be the greatest (vs.24-30). (To be noted, in passing, is that Our Lord does not say that there should not be one who is recognised as 'the greatest' or 'leader' - He says that there will be one - only that this leadership must not be in terms of brute power but of service).

    24 And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest. 25 And He said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called `Benefactors.' 26 "But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant.

    So who is 'the greatest'? Our Lord turns immediately to Peter:

    31 "Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you wheat; but I have prayed for thee (singular, Peter), that thy (singular) faith fail not: and thou (singular) being once converted, confirm (strengthen, establish, stErizO [στΕριζΟ]) thy brethren."

    In St. Luke 24:34, the evangelist crowns Peter's primacy in that he tells us something the others do not, i.e. the very significant fact that, after His Resurrection, Jesus appeared exclusively to Peter: To the two returning from Emmaus, the disciples declare, "The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon"

    This doggedly pro-Petrine stance will be seen again throughout the first 15 chapters of the Acts of the Apostles.

    The point to keep constantly in mind is that Luke was particularly Paul's friend and disciple, not Peter's as such.

The Petrine Primacy in St. Luke's Acts of the Apostles Compared with Paul in Galatians

    In Saul's First Visit to Jerusalem as we see in Galatians 1:18, Paul says that he went up to Jerusalem for the first time specifically to see Peter.

    18 Then after three years, I came to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.

    The Greek for 'see' here is historeO [ηιστορΟ] which means to declare or to relate one's story.

    He says 'I saw none of the apostles - only James the Lord's brother'. He then goes on to make the curious remark 'I assure you before God that what I am writing to you is no lie.'

    He takes an oath! And what is the purpose of this oath? It is to reassure his listeners that he had Petrine authority backing him up. The thing is, Paul was extremely jealous of his God-given authority and 'independence'. Paul could have remained 'freelance' but he needed to confirm that 'his gospel' was in conformity with that of the original Apostolic Nucleus, and Peter in particular.

St. Luke's Account

    Saul returns to Damascus (Galatians and Acts) where he spends some time 'with the disciples'. He is known to them because of his baptism by Ananias 3 years previously; but we do not know if his authority was well received or not. It doesn't seem so.

    Having stayed 'several days' (3 or 4?) with the disciples (or 'brethren'), he then seems to go his own way and starts preaching in the synagogue apparently independently of his hosts (and certainly still independently of Peter and the Apostles), entirely on his own authority (cf. Galatians 1:17). Furthermore, he preached to Jews, no mention is made of Gentiles.

    After 'many days had passed' the Jews conspire to kill him. Saul escapes with the aid of 'his followers' (significantly not termed 'the disciples' or 'brethren'). So Paul has now got a following but these are not referred to as disciples; and the disciples are not necessarily to be thought of as the ones who helped Paul escape through the wall.

First Visit to Jerusalem - St. Luke (Acts 9)

    Saul goes to Jerusalem (1st official visit) and tries to join 'the disciples' there but they were still afraid of him and he has no joy. However, Barnabas is obviously impressed with Saul and so takes him to the apostles and vouches for him. Saul 'stayed with them' (i.e. 'the apostles') and then 'moved about freely, in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.' Saul is now preaching, in Jerusalem, with the consent of the Apostles.

    His preaching provokes the wrath of the Jews who again seek to kill him, and so the brethren took him to Caesarea and then send him back to Tarsus (Saul's home town) no doubt for his own protection and safety. There is no contradiction in these accounts.

    1. Paul does not relate the details because, in his mind, he had only one objective for going to Jerusalem and that was to see Peter and it is Peter's original endorsement that he wants to tell the Galatians about.

    2. The fact that when Saul got to Jerusalem he was unable to go directly to Peter is almost certainly because, afraid that this was some plot, the brethren, vigilant for Peter's safety, didn't want to let Saul anywhere near Peter. Paul does not relate this because it is not to the point of his writing to the Galatians.

    3. Barnabas, who was (I would say hierarchically) closer to the apostles, with easy access (perhaps, among the brethren mentioned, he was the only one to even know where Peter was), then introduces him 'to the apostles' because of certain scenes, where we might imagine Peter strolling around Jerusalem in quite a care-free manner but this was not the case; and to get close to Peter in person may well have presented difficulties for people who were not known to the disciples. There is room to think that Peter was surrounded by 'body guards' - not the thuggish type we see today of course, but people who would have spirited Peter away first sign of trouble. As to where Peter could actually be found at any given time, every reason to believe that this would have been known only to the 'inner circle'. Now, for Luke, 'the apostles' means 'Peter and the Eleven' or 'Peter and John' or 'Peter and James'. It would help harmonisation if Luke had simply said that Barnabas had presented Saul to 'Peter and the others' but he doesn't. Until Chapter 11, 'the apostles' referred to Peter and the others; there is no need to single him out here, especially as Paul himself had already specifically made Peter the object of the visit in Galatians I written some 15 years before the Acts of the Apostles.

    4. The Apostolic endorsement, and the outcome of Saul's liberty to preach, is recorded by both.

    5. Luke records that Saul, for safety's sake, was sent to Tarsus. Paul mentions that he passed through Syria and Cilicia (Tarsus was in Cilicia, Syria adjacent).

As Things Stood 36 -37AD

    Peter and the mother church in Jerusalem advise the brethren throughout Judea not to be afraid of Saul. He is 'safe'. There is as yet no question of respective Jewish and Gentile missions; in fact it seems that Saul was not yet mandated to preach outside of Jerusalem. He is sent home to Tarsus where he continues in patient obedience. He is, at this point, a junior' member of the brethren with no special consideration. Saul has yet to gain his reputation as The Apostle, or Apostle to the Gentiles.

    Saul is next mentioned in Acts 11:25. St. Luke tells us that men from Cyprus and Cyrene had gone to Antioch and had started evangelizing non-Jews. A controversial thing since heretofore the practice had been to preach only to Jews. Notice that it is a question of anonymous men first openly preaching to the Gentiles, not Paul. News of this got to the authorities in Jerusalem and they sent Barnabas to investigate.

    Barnabas recognised that the Holy Ghost was at work in Antioch. He encouraged the new Gentile converts. And he knew just the man who, together with him, would be able to make the most of this manifestation of God's favour to the Gentiles: Saul of Tarsus.

    So Barnabus goes to Tarsus and searches for Saul. Evidently Saul was not known as a preacher. It does no violence to these texts to suggest that Saul had previously told Peter and the others of his vision of expanding the Church to include the Gentiles. They knew that this was to happen at some point but the Lord had left no instructions as to how they were to go about it. They did not immediately take Paul up on the idea (probably to Paul's chagrin) but were brooding on it and God was soon, the very next chapter in fact, to give Peter the go-ahead. St. Luke underlies the fact that Barnabas was 'full of the Holy Ghost and faith' and it was no doubt this that persuaded him to look for Saul, apart from the fact that he knew of Paul's great skill in preaching (witnessed in Jerusalem) and was probably familiar with Saul's passion for the Gentiles.

    Having found Saul, Barnabas then takes him back to Antioch where, for a whole year, both Barnabas and Saul evangelized 'a great many people'.

    In Acts 11: 30 we see Barnabas and Saul went back (from Antioch) to Jerusalem in order to deliver a collection made for the Church in Judea which was experiencing famine. I do not call this the 'Second Visit' because it was not to do with Authority or doctrinal issues. Paul in Galatians does not mention it since it was not germane; and it seems that Saul and Barnabas had no sooner delivered the collection than they were back in Antioch.

The Second (recorded) Visit in 49 AD (Galatians 2)

    St. Luke omits this visit because the cause, subject and outcome of the issue (the Judaising Threat in Antioch and its resolution) is the same and the two incidents are separated by only a very short time, a matter of weeks or months. The evangelist will periscope everything into his treatment of the Council (which Paul does not record in Galatians since, I suggest, he wrote to them just before the Council).

    Now St. Paul says he went to Jerusalem because of a 'revelation'. The content of this revelation seems to be that Paul has to make contact with the Apostles explaining to them exactly what he was preaching. The revelation appears to have knocked Paul's confidence a bit since he says he is going to see the Apostles 'for fear that I was running, or had run my race in vain'.

    Besides, he says, some 'false brethren had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus'. This infiltration, obviously, does not concern the Church in Jerusalem, but the Church in Antioch. So, while he's about it, he intends to clear the matter up with Jerusalem.

    The Apostle goes on to report a clandestine meeting with 'James, Cephas, and John' only. Paul mentions James first because he is going to Jerusalem specifically to see James: the problem is coming from his province and James is the one to deal with it. It is, I suggest, a surprise to Paul that he finds Peter there at all since the last he knew Peter had been in Rome.

    Unbeknown to the rest of the Church, then, it appears that Peter, James, John and Paul reach agreement on an unofficial policy of unencumbered outreach to Gentiles - Paul could go ahead. There was a temporary policy of respective missions. Why was this not made public? Because the Jerusalem Church was walking a tight-rope with the authorities. It could not afford to unnecessarily rock the boat. Let Paul do what he likes away from Judea among mostly Gentiles. Meanwhile, we have to keep 'a professional distance'. By offering Paul the 'right hand of fellowship' Peter was finally telling Paul 'We accept you as having an apostolic authority on a par with our own' with the proviso: 'But at the moment we cannot let it be seen (in Judea) that we directly, officially approve what you are doing.'

    Such a (diplomatic and officially secret) strategy was bound to give mixed messages and be responsible for much confusion.

    Shortly after this second visit, Paul hears that the Galatians are also falling prey to a Judaising party which they think is official Church policy and since this is at variance with Paul's teaching they now doubt Paul's credentials'. Jerusalem (in their mind) has priority because Jerusalem is the seat of the 'Magisterium'. Paul needs to strenuously defend his credentials and he does so very forcefully, telling them, twice, that he had fixed things with Peter. Galatians was almost certainly his earliest epistle, written AD 49-50.

    I suggest that no sooner had he dispatched this letter (telling them of his second visit to Jerusalem) than another and more virulent clash occurred as reported by St. Luke.

The Third Visit. The Council in 50 AD (Acts 15)

1. Preliminaries.

    1 And some coming down from Judea, taught the brethren: That except you be circumcised after the manner of Moses, you cannot be saved. 2 And when Paul and Barnabas had no small contest with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain others of the other side, should go up to the apostles and priests to Jerusalem about this question. 3 They therefore being brought on their way by the Church, passed through Phenice, and Samaria, relating the conversion of the Gentiles; and they caused great joy to all the brethren. 4 And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received by the Church, and by the apostles and ancients, declaring how great things God had done with them. 5 But there arose some of the sect of the Pharisees that believed, saying: They must be circumcised, and be commanded to observe the law of Moses.

    Personally, I fail to see how those commentators who see this Lucan account as being the same incident reported by Paul to the Galatians (some 'false brethren had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus') arrive at that conclusion. While the outward issue is the same (Judaisers and the need to clear things up with Jerusalem), the differences in detail are so truly remarkable as, I think, we must here see two entirely separate incidents: they cannot be merely a difference of perspective or audience. Meanwhile a question: Why couldn't the Church in Antioch simply ignore the Judean emissaries and just take Paul's teaching? How is it that Paul and Barnabus are described as greatly, sharply 'dissenting' from the teaching of a few 'men from Judea'?

    It is necessary to be absolutely clear as to the importance Jerusalem held. It was the current 'mother Church' and the seat of the Magisterium (the Apostolic Teaching Authority). The emissaries are apparently coming from the Apostle James, bishop of Jerusalem (although it is likely that they had not in fact been sent by him*) and thus appeared to speak authoritatively. And what they said was at sharp variance with what Paul had been teaching. Paul and Barnabas are made out to be innovators.

    Because Jerusalem (apparently) demands it, the Antiochan Gentile Christians are on the verge of abandoning their freedom in Christ and submit to Jewish observance. Furthermore, Paul's own authority is on the line. He may even have felt 'double-crossed': no sooner had he reached an agreement (albeit unofficial) with the 'Pillars' than lo and behold Jerusalem is up to its old tricks, interfering and undermining Paul's authority. Paul had felt that the issue had been resolved during the clandestine meeting but evidently not: matters were now out of control. The unofficial policy had come undone at the seams and was no longer tenable. I get the impression that Paul may even have forced Peter's hand somewhat. In any case: the entire matter must go to Council. Paul needs Peter's public and unequivocal backing if his ministry among the Gentiles is to be no more than a nod in their direction.

COMMENT: 2 "And when Paul and Barnabas had no small contest with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain others of the other side, should go up to the apostles and priests to Jerusalem about this question." Catholics would like the text to read: 'should go up to Jerusalem to Peter and the Apostles'. Schismatic Orthodox and heretical Protestants point to this text as implying that Peter did not hold universal jurisdiction.

    But there was no reason for the Antiochans to think that Peter was in Jerusalem in the first place. For all they knew, Peter was still in Rome or possibly on his way back with the Jews who had just been expelled. Well, whether in Rome or not, they were not expecting to see Peter since they have heard little of him for about 7 years! (Peter disappears from view after his escape from prison around 42-43 AD as I will show in a future installment.

    In Peter's absence it had been James who had 'held the fort' in Jerusalem, and John. Even Paul had still not really come into his own (although it is now a question of 'Paul and Barnabas' rather than 'Barnabas and Saul' a change in precedence - and name - that doesn't occur until after Saul's temporary blinding of Elymas the sorcerer (Acts 13:6ff).

    True, Paul had just written to the Galatians informing them that Peter was in Jerusalem. But there is a curious thing here. As we have seen, concerning that meeting, Paul put James first. One of the reasons being, as we said, because it was principally with James he needed to deal; but it is also possible that, by putting Peter second, he was deliberately deflecting Peter's pre-eminence. James was already known to the authorities as 'the head of the Church' and his policy was preserving the peace, no real threat from James - keep it that way, James was safe. But as if to say 'but WE know differently' Paul now inexplicably gives Peter his (Grecisised) Aramaic name: CEPHAS, Rock In fact some commentators have opined that Peter and Cephas are two different individuals in these verses. Could it not be said that Paul is deliberately trying to muddy the waters in a bid to protect Peter? If the letter were intercepted it would simply confirm what the authorities thought they already knew and were comfortable with, i.e. James is 'head' and that's fine. But, lest the Galatians should think that James has really supplanted Peter in the order of priority, Paul reverts to Rock thus establishing Peter's priority over James even though he has put Peter in second place.

The Council of Jerusalem

    7 "And when there had been much disputing,"

    The Apostles and elders take the floor offering their opinions both for and against the issue to hand. The matter is carefully examined from every angle. Then:

    7... "Peter, rising up, said to them: Men, brethren, you know, that in former days God made choice among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel, and believe."

    Peter reminds the apostles of Caesarea Philippi where he had been especially chosen. God had made a choice and He had chosen him, Peter, no one else. Peter stakes his claim to divine authority superseding that of anyone else present. Now actually, in the Matthean account, we find no words of Jesus referring to the opening up of the Church to the Gentiles as such, and neither is there any written instruction to be found elsewhere in the Gospel as to what relations with the Gentiles should be with regard eventual admission into the Church. Peter is using the Keys and he alone has the authority to use them in such a definitive manner: 'by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe'

    Peter, as we have seen, had probably been in Rome for the past 7 years as I shall provide more on in a future installment. Also, earlier, by baptizing Cornelius and his household (Acts 10), Peter was the first to bring Gentiles into the Church without imposing any Jewish burdens on them. Notice that his action, then, had been the cause of consternation:

    1 "And the apostles and brethren, who were in Judea, heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him, 3 Saying: Why didst thou go in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them? 4 But Peter began and declared to them the matter in order, saying: 5 I was in the city of Joppe praying, and I saw in an ecstasy of mind a vision, a certain vessel descending, as it were a great sheet let down from heaven by four corners, and it came even unto me.

    18 Having heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying: God then hath also to the Gentiles given repentance unto life" (Acts 11: 1-5,18).

    The issue is really the same as that which had provoked the Council, but with this difference: what Peter could get away with in Acts 11, Paul cannot get away with in Acts 15. When Peter had brought Gentiles into the Church without burden, the conservatives did not like it but they 'held their peace' because, precisely, it was Peter. But when Paul does the same thing, the whole matter has to go to Council.

    While Peter comes out, definitively, in Paul's favour, he also makes it known that it is not because of Paul's authority that the Church is opened up to the Gentiles but because of his, Peter's, prior authority. Any agreed respective Jewish or Gentile mission is strictly relative and subordinate to this. Paul has been called by God to be the Apostle to the Gentiles (in his vast missionary endeavour), but he is not the Apostle of the Gentiles. So Paul is actually put in his place here. He may justifiably glory in his Gentile mission but neither he nor anyone else must think that Peter is in any way restricted: Peter can go to both Jews and Gentiles. Similarly, St. Luke does not miss any opportunity for pointing out that St. Paul, likewise, was never restricted to the Gentiles since Luke tells us that Paul always preached to the Jews first wherever he went.

    Peter conveys his teaching and when he finishes: 12 "And all the multitude held their peace;"

    The verb "esigese" (hush, hold one's peace, become silent) is past tense aorist-meaning that the assembly remained silent after Peter's address. Once Peter had stood up and taught, all debate stops: the matter is settled. "and they heard Barnabas and Paul telling what great signs and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them."

    Perhaps Paul and Barnabas had spoken previously during the debate, we don't know. But what we can see here is that they were NOT debating. They were describing. And what they described was not at variance with Peter, trying to re-open the debate, but in corroborative support of Peter.

    13 And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying: Men, brethren, hear me. 14 Simon hath related how God first visited to take of the Gentiles a people to his name. 15 And to this agree the words of the prophets, as it is written...19 For which cause I judge that they, who from among the Gentiles are converted to God, are not to be disquieted."

    If the matter were finished, how is it that James now intervenes and appears to have the deciding say?

    1. James did not have 'the final say'. The final 'say' was said when Peter definitively closed all further debate.

    2. He introduced nothing new.

    3. He based his comments on two observations:

      (1) the witness of Peter (as in our later 'Peter has spoken', and St. Augustine's 'Roma locutus, causa finita est'). James did not mention either Paul or Barnabas although both had spoken; and

      (2) the witness of Scripture:

        19 "For which cause I judge that they, who from among the Gentiles are converted to God, are not to be disquieted."

    Who had been troubling the Gentiles? Peter hadn't. Paul hadn't. The only people troubling the Gentiles were members in St. James' Jerusalem church. James must have known what his own men were saying but he had allowed it. Why? Probably because diplomacy and expediency dictated. Indeed Peter, on leaving for Rome, may very well have left James with the specific task of keeping the Church from looking like a threat to the Jewish authorities. Now keeping Jewish practice may have been all very well and good for the Jewish converts (it could be retained without compromising the Gospel). But now men, apparently from St. James, had tried to extend this 'Jewish accommodation' to Gentile converts and were seriously undermining Paul's ministry.

    James' 'Therefore I judge' is not a judgement directed at St. Peter or St. Paul or meant for the universal Church. It is a judgement directed to, and concerning solely, that Judaising party in his own local Jerusalem church. That is the significance of the 'that we do not trouble the gentiles'. Peter binds the whole universal (Catholic) Church with His solemn (in Council) teaching which closed the debate. James binds only the Jerusalem church. He renders judgment on the matter for his Jewish party, not as a superior or equal of Peter but simply as a bishop responsible for bringing a fractious party within his own local church to heel.

    In Acts 15, Peter appears to be visiting; he does not act as a bishop of an episcopal See but as Pastor of the whole Church. No sooner does he arrive (from out of nowhere) than he disappears not to be heard of again (in Scripture) until around 63 AD, i.e. 13 years or so later, definitely in Rome. Yet, his office and teaching authority are recognised by all.

Stephen Grieve

Next: Part Five: St. Paul rebukes Peter to his face - More Backgrounder on 2 Thessalonians 2: 6-7

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