2. Historical survey, 1:11-2:14

ii] Paul's confrontation with Peter at Antioch, 2:11-14


In this passage, Paul records his clash with Peter in Antioch following the arrival of the Jerusalem council's letter. The letter sought to regulate "table fellowship" between Jews and Gentiles - that the Gentile believers "abstain from" food sacrificed to idols, marital union within prohibited kindred and affinity, strangled meat and blood. In response to these regulations, Peter withdrew from the Gentile believers in Antioch. Paul was incensed and sought to maintain the authority of his gospel of grace against Peter, whose actions interfered with "the freedom we have in Christ Jesus".


i] Context: See 1:11-2:10.


ii] Background: See 1:1-10.


iii] Structure: Paul's conflict with Peter:

The fact of the matter, v11;

Description and evaluation of the conflict, v12-14.


iv] Interpretation:

Although a matter of conjecture, it seems likely that this passage records the fallout from a letter produced by those who attended the Jerusalem Council recorded in Acts 15. At the conclusion of the council, this circular letter was sent out to Paul's mission churches; it addressed those who "without authorization" were "troubling your minds", Act.15:1. The council determined that as far as the ethical requirements for Christian living are concerned, sensitivity in matters of "table fellowship" between Jews and Gentiles is all that is required - "abstain from" food sacrificed to idols, marital union within prohibited kindred and affinity, strangled meat and blood.

Paul's historical survey climaxes in 2:11-14, with the account of his clash with Peter in Antioch, a clash which followed the arrival of the Jerusalem Council's letter (reading "before certain things came from James", Gal.2:12, as a reference to the regulations from the council, Acts 15:29). Peter had sat at table with the Gentiles, but following the letter, he withdrew due to the ritual uncleanness of the Gentiles, ie., they ate meat that had blood in it, etc. As far as Paul is concerned, even the limited requirements of the Council cannot be treated as law and thus a means of specifying holiness, cf., Mk.7:17-23. So, Paul confronts Peter over this issue. In doing so, Paul maintains the authority of his gospel of grace apart form law, even against Peter and the mild regulations of the Jerusalem Council.


The motive behind Paul's actions: Paul's rather strong reaction to Peter's behavior is driven by his fear of a heresy promoted by the circumcision party in the Jerusalem church, a heresy which was infecting Paul's mission churches. Debate rages as to the actual character of this group, but it is likely that they were primarily converted Jews, although some believing Gentiles and God-fearers may well have joined their ranks. It seems clear that they regarded obedience to the Mosaic Law as an essential element of the Christian life, ie., they were pietists. It is unlikely that they believed that obedience saves a person; as with all believers they would have happily affirmed that their salvation rested on faith in Christ. Even a Jew understands that their salvation is dependent on the grace of God. Yet, it is likely that they saw their standing in the sight of God maintained and progressed through obedience to the Law - the Mosaic law, but also God's law in general, along with the "law of Christ" (ie., they were nomists, not legalists). For a nomist, law-obedience serves to restrain sin and progress holiness for the full appropriation of the promised covenant blessings, namely new life in Christ.

For Paul, such a view strikes at the very heart of the gospel. A person's covenant standing / righteousness before God, and thus their full appropriation of the promised covenant blessings, is eternally secure in God's covenant mercy appropriated through faith alone (Christ's faith / faithfulness approached in faith). To return to the law to further secure our standing before God, is to place ourselves under the curse of the law and thus ultimately undermine the standing we already possess in Christ. Peter's move to maintain ritual purity in table fellowship, undermined the very core of the gospel and thus provoked Paul's reaction.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage can be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 2:11

Paul's confrontation with Peter, v11-14. Following the Jerusalem Council, Peter visits Antioch and his actions, during his stay at Antioch, bring him into conflict with Paul. Paul confronts Peter over his inconsistent behavior and in the strongest of terms tells him, face-to-face, that "he stood condemned before God."

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative, probably with an adversative edge. All has gone well at the Jerusalem Council, "but" then at Antioch there is a confrontation between Peter and Paul. "but when Cephas ...", Moffatt.

oJte "when" - Temporal particle introducing a temporal clause. The wording implies a well-known visit of Peter to Antioch, certainly the confrontation would have been well-known.

Antioceian (a) "Antioch" - [cephas came to] antioch. The church in Antioch, although not founded by Paul, served as his missionary base.

anesthn (anisthmi) aor. "I opposed" - i stood against, opposed to. Expressing active opposition.

autw/ dat. pro. "him" - Dative of direct object after the anti prefix verb "to oppose."

kata + acc. "to [his face]" - according to [face]. Here expressing opposition. Idiomatic for a direct person-to-person encounter, although not necessary a confrontation. "I told him face to face", CEV.

oJti "because" - that. Causal, "because", serving to introduce a causal clause; "since he was manifestly in the wrong", NJB.

kategnwsmenoV h\n perf. pas. part. + imperf. verb to-be. "he was clearly in the wrong" - he had been condemned. A periphrastic pluperfect construction, expressing a past existing state, "had been." Possibly "self-condemned by the inconsistency of his own actions", Lightfoot, treating the participle as middle rather than passive. That is, his actions did not square with what he believed. Yet, a passive is more likely, expressing Paul's view that because of Peter's actions "he stood condemned before God", Longenecker.


Peter, following the Cornelius incident, Act.10:1-11:18, shared in table fellowship (fellowship meals, and in particular, the Lord's Supper) with the Gentiles. By this action he demonstrated that both Jew and Gentile are equally approved before God, by grace through faith, apart from works of the law (Deuteronomic law forbids such contacts with "unclean" Gentiles). When the letter from the Jerusalem church arrives, outlining the decisions of the Jerusalem Council concerning the requirements for table-fellowship, Peter begins to draw back, quietly disassociating himself from the "unclean" Gentiles.

Although most translations say "before the arrival of certain men from James", there is an important variant reading in the Greek which is neuter - "the certain things." Taking "certain things" as original, it most likely refers to the matters of table fellowship contained in the letter from the Jerusalem council. The problem with the council's letter is that it is easily misunderstood. Although the regulations only sought to encourage sensitivity on the part of the Gentiles toward the Jews, they could be taken as if supporting ritual cleanliness. Peter went on to apply the regulations, obviously trying to keep in with the circumcision party, a party made up of Jewish believers centered on the Jerusalem church who insisted on the strict observance of Mosaic law.

gar "for" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why Paul opposed Peter; "because ...."

pro tou elqein (ercomai) aor. inf. "before [certain men] came" - before [certain ones / things] came [from james]. This construction, the articular infinitive led by the preposition pro, forms a temporal clause, antecedent time. It is likely that the prepositional phrase "from James" depends on "certain men/things" rather than "came", so underling the fact that the "men/things" came from James. "Before the arrival of certain men/things from James", cf. Bligh.

tina "certain men" - certain things. The neuter variant, as here, is rarely accepted by translators, yet it is easy to understand why the neuter would be changed to masculine, but there is no reason whey a masculine would be changed to neuter. Dr. Donald Robinson, former Anglican archbishop of Sydney Australia, argues for "certain things", taking the view that they are the instructions contained in a circular letter from the Jerusalem council concerning matters of sensitivity to Jews which, for the maintenance of table fellowship, should be addressed by Gentiles. These matters are namely: food sacrificed to idols, marital union within prohibited kindred and affinity, strangled meat and blood. There is, of course, much debate as to the purpose of these instruction and their nature. It is likely that their purpose is for the maintenance of table fellowship between Jew and Gentile. As to their nature, porneia, "fornication / sexual immorality" is unclear, but again Robinson suggests it is possibly a kindred and affinity issue. Paul's terminology here probably indicates that he has little time for these "things". As a guide to table fellowship between Jews and Gentiles, they have some use, but in their potential to divide Jew and Gentile, or even worse, to give the impression that purity is somehow realized by law, rather than grace, makes them less than useful. "Prior to the arrival of the instructions from James and the Jerusalem church concerning matters of table fellowship, Peter used to eat with Gentiles."

apo + gen. "from [James]" - Expressing source / origin.

sunhsqien (sunesqiw) imperf. "he used to eat" - he was eating. The imperfect expressing past ongoing, habitual action, "he used to always eat." General table fellowship may be intended, or in particular, the Lord's Supper.

meta + gen. "with" - Expressing association / accompaniment; "in company with."

twn eqnwn "the Gentiles" - The word may generally refer to "people", but it is more likely that "Gentiles" is intended.

de "but" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step to a contrasting point, as NIV.

o{te "when" - Temporal conjunction.

uJpestellen (uJpostellw) imperf. "he began to draw back" - he was drawing back. Probably an inceptive imperfect, as NIV, indicating a subtle drawing back, possibly not done openly. The verb often takes the sense of withdrawing out of cowardice.

afwrizen (aforizw) imperf. "[he began] to separate [himself]" - [and] was separating [himself]. Inceptive imperfect again, although possibly tendential, "tried to completely separate himself", Barclay.

foboumenoV (fobew) perf. pas. part. "because he was afraid" - fearing. The participle is adverbial, best treated as causal, "because", as NIV. What was he afraid of? "Barrett suggests that the circumcision party, centered in the Jerusalem church, was obviously very powerful and Peter feared the threat of their breaking off fellowship.

touV "those who [belonged to the circumcision group]" - the ones [of circumcision]. The article serves as a nominalizer, turning the prepositional phrase "from circumcision" into a substantive. The noun peritomhV, "circumcision", refers to "the circumcision party", the "judaizers". The preposition ek, "out of / from", may take the sense "converts from Judaism", Lightfoot, or "belonged to", although this is unlikely. The preposition is probably being used for a partitive genitive, "those of the circumcision party" = "those in the congregation who were members of the circumcision party." "The party who insisted on the observance of the Jewish law", Barclay.


Peter's actions were inevitably an affront to the gospel of God's free grace and sadly, his behavior led others astray; even Barnabas was swept along with it. Paul describes Peter's behavior as "hypocrisy", it was sinful, and Peter had now led others into this sin.

loipoi adj. "the [other] Jews" - [and] the [rest of] jews. Obviously referring to the Jewish believers in the Antioch fellowship, or more widely those committed to the law of Moses..

sunupekriqhsan (sunupokrinomai) "joined [him] in his hypocrisy" - [and = also] joined in pretense, together acted insincerely [with him]. Used of hiding ones true feelings or thoughts under a guise, so for instance, an actor behind a mask. Possibly indicating that the Jewish believers didn't fully agree with their separation from the Gentile believers, or at least, didn't understand the theological import of their actions; "the other Jewish Christians showed the same lack of principle", REB.

kai "-" - and. Variant, probably adjunctive, "also"; "The rest of the Jews also acted hypocritically with him."

autw/ dat. pro. "him" - Dative of direct object after a sun prefix verb; "acted hypocritically along with him", ESV.

wJste "so that" - Expressing result, "with the result that ......"

th/ uJpokrisei (iV ewV) dat. "by [their] hypocrisy" - by the hypocrisy. The dative is instrumental, expressing means, as NIV. A sense like "false play", Moffatt, "insincerity", NJB, "pretence", Williams, is too soft. Paul regards this behavior as evil, so "hypocrisy", as NIV. "Even Barnabas with swept along with their hypocrisy", Bligh.

autwn gen. pro. "their" - of them. Often classified as verbal, object, but adjectival, possessive, may be better; it was their hypocrisy that even led Barnabas astray.

kai "even [Barnabas]" - and. Ascensive; "even".

sunaphcqh (sunagw) aor. pas. "was led astray" - [barnabas] was led away together. "Swept along", Bligh.


Paul exposes Peter's hypocrisy by showing how his actions do not "square with gospel truth." Peter, although a Jew, is no different to a Gentile sinner. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God; none are righteous, no not one. Peter, as with his Gentile brothers and sisters, stands before God only by the grace of God, appropriated through faith in Christ. His standing rests on Christ's death and resurrection, not on obedience to Biblical law. "How then", says Paul, "can you, a person who believes that none are righteous no not one, pressure Gentiles into Jewish law-obedience?" Why must Gentiles adopt the law when purity before God has nothing to do with obedience? Paul's words are very harsh, and this because Peter's position in the church would serve as a powerful influence on others, and this is exactly what has happened. The following passage, v15-21, contains the gist of Paul's theological argument against Peter, although his words are focused, not on Peter, but on the "circumcision group" in Galatia.

alla "-" - but. Strong adversative, contrasting the action in v12-13. "But when I saw", Williams.

oJte "when" - Temporal conjunction introducing a temporal clause.

eidon aor. "I saw" - The aorist is punctiliar, "once I noticed that .."

oJti "that" - Here introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what Paul saw.

ouk orqopodousin (orqopodew) pres. "they were not acting in line with" - they did not walk consistently, straightforwardly, unswervingly. Possibly in the sense of "sincerely", but more likely in the terms of the right direction, "they were not on the right road toward the truth of the gospel", Kilpatrick.

proV "in line with" - toward. Spacial, metaphorical; "toward" here in the sense of "in conformity with", "according to", or reference / respect, "with respect to."

tou euaggeliou (oV) "[the truth] of the gospel" - Possibly, "the gospel in its integrity", Lightfoot, so, "the true gospel", Bligh, taking the genitive as adjectival, attributed. Possibly possessive, "the truth contained in, and so belonging to the gospel", Burton, or attributive, "gospel truth."

tw/ Khfa/ (aV a) dat. "[I said] to Cephas" - Dative of indirect object.

emprosqen + gen. "in front of[ them all]" - before [all]. Spacial. The anarthrous (without an article) "all" indicates "in the presence of the whole congregation", rather than "all the hypocrites."

ei + ind. "-" - if, as is the case [you being a jew live as a gentile, then how did you compel the gentiles to live as jews]? Introducing a first class conditional clause where the condition is assumed to be true. The present tense of "live" indicates that Peter habitually lives like a Gentile. Paul is possibly saying that Peter normally doesn't observe Jewish dietary laws and that therefore his behavior on this occasion is inconsistent, but it is more likely that Paul is making the point that Peter, by his return to ritual purity, shows he has forgotten that when it comes to obedience to the law, that he, as with all believers, is like a Gentile sinner - none are righteous, no not one; none are pure, all are like filthy rags. The issue is not inconsistency, but rather the overturning of "gospel truth", ie., Peter's actions imply that justification is by obedience to the law (purity regulations etc.) rather than by grace through faith. Jew and Gentile stand pure before God (covenant compliant), not by submission to the Mosaic law, but by grace (God's covenant mercy) appropriated through faith (a faith like Abraham's).

tw/ Khfa/ (as) dat. "[I said] to Cephas" - Dative of indirect object.

uJparcwn (uJparcw) pres. part. "[you] are [a Jew]" - [you] being [a jew]. The participle is possibly adjectival, attributive, limiting "you", "you who are a Jew", although being without an article it may well be adverbial, concessive, "you although a Jew."

eqnikwV adv. "yet you live like a Gentile" - Hapax legomenon. Adverb of manner; "in Gentile manner", Silva. Also IoudaikwV, "in a Jewish manner."

pwV "How is it, then, that" - how. This interrogative adverb serves to introduce the apodosis of the conditional sentence. The sense of the question is unclear because it is typically Semitic. The question serves to identify an inconsistency which the person facing the question is bound to accept. So, the question is: "how can you, a person who believes that none are righteous no not one, and that includes you (the protasis of the conditional sentence), pressure Gentiles into Jewish law-obedience." The answer is "obviously, I can't."

anagkazeiV (anagkazw) pres. "you force" - are you compelling, forcing, making necessary. Possibly a tendential present where the action is being contemplated, but it would seem more likely that Peter's action is achieving results, so the sense is probably "bring pressure to bear", Bligh.

ioudaizein (ioudaizw) pres. inf. "to follow Jewish customs" - to live as a jew. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of "compel". The NIV "customs" is far too soft. "To live as a Jew" is to live under the law of Moses. "To live by the Jewish law", Barclay.


Galatians Introduction.



[Pumpkin Cottage]