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What did Peter and Paul Discuss?

07 Mar

Paul told the Galatians that he had stayed with Peter at Jerusalem for fifteen days (Galatians 1:18), immediately following his escape from Damascus, and the three years since his dramatic life-changing experience with Jesus. Someone in Galatia was claiming Paul’s Gospel was learned from the original 12 Apostles and therefore should be subservient to what they taught the Jews. On the other hand, Paul’s point was he was specifically called by Christ and, seeing that he spent three years in Arabia and Damascus before he sought a meeting with Peter, how could the two weeks he spent with him be construed to mean he was dependent upon him or any of the original Twelve for his Gospel? If we can agree with this conclusion, we may then ask, what was discussed between these two men? I think we can be assured it wasn’t the weather.

According to the Didache, an early Christian manuscript believed by some to have been written around the turn of the century and reflecting the teaching of the Twelve, a Christian traveler should be treated as a guest for two or three days, if there is a need (Didache 12:3-5), but after three days he should work to contribute to his support, if he wishes to remain a guest. With this in mind, we can see that the fact that Paul was Peter’s guest for fifteen days shows this was a very important visit—important to both. If Paul’s visit was not mutually important, then why did Paul seek Peter’s audience, and why did Peter permit him to stay as his guest for two weeks? Moreover, it is not clear as to why the visit ended. It seems to have begun suddenly and ended just as abruptly with Paul fleeing Jerusalem for his life. The fact that Paul was Peter’s guest for two weeks presumes a personal interest by Peter. Therefore, the subject of discussion between them was not one sided. Both had an interest in one another, otherwise the meeting would never have taken place, or if it occurred through chance, it would not have lasted as long as it did.

With the crucifixion only about six years in the past, we can presume that Jesus was at the forefront of their discussion, because for both Peter and Paul the person of Jesus and the salvation found in him was at the center of both their lives. Certainly, we can presume the oral traditions we see in 1Corinthians 15:1-8 and 11:23-25 were brought up. However, there had to have been a very intense exchange between the two over Paul’s Gospel. Remember, years later Peter had been caught by the “men from James” living as a gentile (Galatians 2:14), that is, celebrating the Lord’s Supper with them. When he separated himself from the gentile brethren (Galatians 2:12), Paul claimed Peter was breaking a mutual trust. If there had not been a mutual understanding between the two concerning this, how could Paul have included Peter in knowing a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Jesus (Galatians 2:15-16)?

Therefore, Paul’s meeting with Peter at Jerusalem did several things. First, the two got to know one another. You can’t live with someone for two weeks without becoming acquainted. This would have built up a relationship between the two founded upon mutual trust and thereby tear down the prejudice and fear, which had to have been present to some degree when they first met. Secondly, the fact that Paul was Peter’s guest for so long tells of Peter’s own interest in what Paul had to say about Jesus, that is, how Paul understood the whole spectrum of salvation effected in Jesus’ death. Finally, Paul had his own interest in Peter. He needed the oral traditions, such as those mentioned above to complete his Gospel, but any discussion of circumcision or law would have been for Peter’s benefit, not Paul’s.

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Posted by on March 7, 2011 in Paul, Theology

 

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