In Galatians, there were Jews from the School of Shammai who came and told the Galatians that they needed to become Jews through ritual circumcision. This came up in Acts 15.1 and it was dealt with, and it is the issue here in Galatians. Is what Paul says in Galatians in line with everything he has been teaching? Yes, but without the proper backround, people read Galatians and can get a whole different interpretation which is often anti-Torah. What has resulted is “another gospel” (Gal 1.6). We have already gone over in other teachings about what the first century understanding of the “basar” or gospel. In Christianity, it is how you become a believer, but biblically it is much more than that.
In Gal 2.1-2, Paul submitted his gospel concerning the non-Jews and how they did not have to become a Jew through ritual circumcision. This was hard to take at the time, so he talks to those of high reputation to make sure they were informed of what he was teaching. We know that there was a “rumor mill” going on about Paul (Acts 21. 21-24) so he wanted everyone to know where he was at. He was not teaching that non-Jews had to be ritually circumcised to be saved (Gal 2.3) and not even Titus (a non-Jew) felt compelled to do so. In Gal 2.4-10 Paul talks about those from Beit Shammai who were teaching non-Jews to be circumcised in order to be saved. He said this false teaching would bring people into bondage. He says that those of high reputation (James, Peter, etc) didn’t impress or intimidate him and they found no fault in what he taught (2.6). In fact, when they saw that he was entrusted with the “basar” (gospel) to the non-Jews, they accepted him and endorsed his teaching that non-Jews did not need to be ritually circumcised to be saved. Peter was entrusted with the basar to the Jews (2.7-10). James, Cephas and John gave Paul the right hand of fellowship, meaning there was no disagreement between them. They would work together, but they also knew there was going to be different challenges. Both groups were to remember the poor, which was a cornerstone of the synagogue and the “Judaisms” of the first century. This was to be remembered in any congregation Paul was to establish.
In Gal 2.11-13, we have a controversy. Paul is going to oppose Cephas to his face (as friends), and not go behind his back on this particular issue. Antioch is in Turkey, and Cephas would eat with the non-Jews. Then it says that “certain men from James” came and he withdrew and would not eat with the non-Jews, which was one of the 18 Edicts of the School of Shammai. The word “from” in Aramaic is “towards” meaning these men knew James but were not sent by him, which makes sense because James would not have endorsed the way they believed because we already know that James approved of Paul’s message of not ritually circumcising non-Jews to be saved. So, when these men came, Cephas began to “withdraw, fearing the party of the circumcision (believing Pharisee’s from the School of Shammai). He would not eat with the non-Jews because of this party, who endorsed the 18 Edicts. Remember, the 18 Edicts were passed by Beit Shammai in 20 B.C. and they were enacted so that there would be no interaction between the Jew and non-Jew. As a result, a “wall of partition” between Jew and non-Jew had been built, but that wall was torn torn beginning in Acts 10, and referred to in Eph 2.14-15. Paul is saying that Cephas put up the wall again by not eating with the non-Jews. Even Barnabas got carried away with this hypocrisy. These verses in Gal 2.11-13 is the heart and thrust of the Book of Galatians.
In Gal 2.14, Paul confronts Cephas about the truth of the Basar. He says, “You being a Jew live like the Gentiles” (meaning he had relations as a Jew with the non-Jew) and not as the Jews (with the “separatist” theology of Beit Shammai and the 18 Edicts) compel the Gentiles to live as Jews” (who were under this separatist theology of the 18 Edicts of Beit Shammai). This verse causes much confusion. This verse needs to be amplified.
The problem with some people who teach Galatians is they teach Galatians alone, or they will take verses of what Paul said about the Torah out of context. Not one time did Paul ever attack the Torah. He only said that the Torah was not meant for salvation, or a part of a “works righteousness” system. Salvation came by “emunah” (faith, confidence) and the Torah was meant for instruction according to Paul. The two went hand in hand. If you put what Paul has said here back into the context of everything Paul does and says about the Torah, you will read Galatians differently.
Cephas (who some say was Peter) feared the comments of the brethren from Shammai concerning eating with the non-Jews. He feared he would be ostracized. One of the 18 Edicts says that Jews cannot eat with someone who is not circumcised (not Jewish). Now, we know we have two groups, Jews and non-Jews. The Jews were under the guidance of the Torah, called a “yoke.” Everything that was required of Jews they were doing. The non-Jews kept kosher, kept the Sabbath and the festivals and were taught what applied to them out of the Torah (idolatry, abstaining from blood, not eating carrion, sexual immorality, family life, etc). Both groups were under the leadership of the synagogue of believers.
Before Acts 10, this was impossible because there was the “wall of separation” between the two groups because of the 18 Edicts of Beit Shammai. When Yeshua died, he nailed to the cross this wall and the enmity of the man-made laws contained in the 18 Edicts, and any other man-made law that separated the two groups (Eph 2.14-15). This made the two groups “one” in Messiah, making peace. But that didn’t mean you stopped being Jewish or stopped being a non-Jew. What Replacement Theology in Christianity says is that he nailed the Torah to the cross, thus “abolishing” it. The Torah was then replaced by “grace” and now they try to convince the Jews to stop following Torah once they come “to church.” It was not the Torah that was nailed to the cross, but the man-made laws of the 18 Edicts of Beit Shammai, the “wall of separation.” He abolished those ordinances because they were not consistent with the Torah (God’s word).
So, Cephas ate with the non-Jews in v 12 because there was no wall of separation anymore. But, when the men from Beit Shammai showed up, he withdrew and did not eat with them, thus putting up the wall again that Yeshua broke down. The Basar (gospel) is “good news” and it means the Messiah has come and the Kingdom of God is being established in our hearts spiritually. When Yeshua comes a second time, the Kingdom will be established physically on earth, and then the Torah will go forth from Jerusalem (Isa 2.2-3). But, part of the good news (Basar) is that the wall of separation between Jew and non-Jew has been broken down, and that was part of Paul’s gospel. The different “gospel” of Gal 1.6 was that the 18 Edicts and the “wall of separation” was still valid, and it was trying to be imposed on the Galatians. The “truth of the gospel” in 2.14 was that this wall was gone. These “brethren” were straightforward about the coming kingdom and all the other aspects, but they missed it when it came to the fact that non-Jews had a place in the kingdom without being ritually circumcised to become a Jew. They did not see Jews and uncircumcised non-Jews in that kingdom.
Paul goes on to say in Gal 2.15 that “we are Jews by nature” meaning that they were Jews by birth, not through being ritually circumcised to become a proselyte. He goes on to say that they were “not sinners from among the Gentiles” meaning they had the Torah and were not like the Gentiles who had no Torah, and as a result, didn’t know what sin was. In Gal 2.16, Paul says that man is not justified in “works of the Torah, or the “mitz’vot.” In this case, it is becoming a Jew through ritual circumcision. It comes through faith, or emunah (confidence). To balance this out, James 2.26 says that “faith without works is dead” so let’s touch on this. In Christianity, “works” is witnessing, going to church on Sunday, giving to the building fund and so on. But, biblically, “works” are the commandments found in Scripture and the believer has a desire to keep them. One who does not desire to keep the commandments of God has a faith that is “lip service” and nothing more. His faith is dead because he doesn’t desire to keep the Torah, and is “lawless” (Matt 7.21-23).
In Part 19, we will pick up here and develop this concept further, using 1 Cor 7.17-19, and then moving on to Gal 2.17-20.