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1. In the epistle, ii. 2., St. Paul tells us, that he went up by revelation, and that he addressed himself privately, and with much caution, to them of the greatest authority, and to them only.
In the Acтs, xv. 2. 4. 6. 12. 22., we read, that he was sent by the church of Antioch, and received publickly by the whole church at Jerusalem, that is, by the apostles and elders, and all the multitude.
2. In the epistle, Barnabas and Titus are both mentioned as the companions of Paul, ii. 1.: and those are his only companions.
In the ACTS, Paul, and Barnabas, and certain others (more than three), are sent on that mission, xv. 2. No Titus is mentioned.
But what is yet more decisive, the apostles with whom Paul had his conference, were expressly James the Less, Cephas or Peter, and JOHN, ii. 9.
In the Acts, St. John most certainly does not appear an omission perfectly unaccountable, supposing him (in the early part of the ACTS) the constant associate of Peter, to have been in Jerusalem at so critical a time.
3. Nor again were the objects of the journey in the two cases less dissimilar.
In the epistle, the direct object was to have Paul's apostleship to the Gentiles as a peculiar and separate commission duely recognised : and that end, as we read in vv. 7...12. was accomplished.
In the ACTs, the question to be settled was this: whether it should be accounted essential to the profession of Christianity, that Gentile converts must conform themselves to the law of Moses. A wise and temperate arrangement was the result. vv. 20. 29.
4. In the epistle, the single question about the Gentile Titus, as the acknowledged companion of Paul,
arose incidentally, and was rather overcome in itself for the time, than productive of any ultimate decision.
In the Acts, it was the general question, clearly so, which came in form to be determined. And if we suppose the quarrel on the particular case of Titus to have then arisen, and by the firmness of St. Paul to have been then settled against the rite of circumcision being obligatory; is it credible, that an affair so directly decisive of one principal point on which the council was held, could have been passed over in utter silence by the historian? Surely not.
These proofs of discrepancy, if taken alone, might establish the irreconcileable difference betwixt the one transaction and the other; even if no narrative had existed of the rebuke given by Paul to Peter, GAL. ii. 11...14. in the affair of Antioch.
But when that dispute betwixt the two apostles is taken into the account, which, on the supposition of the journies being identical, must have taken place after the council of Jerusalem; then the hypothesis of such identity assumes an aspect of more glaring awkwardness. For on the occasion at Antioch, not only did the question entirely turn upon the lawfulness of Jewish believers eating with Gentile Christians, the very point which Peter had been a principal party in deciding, viz. that such communion of the table might, on certain easy conditions, without offence, be allowed. But what is hardly, perhaps, less remarkable, Barnabas also, one of the very persons delegated to carry the decree of the council to Antioch, would be represented (v. 13.) in that very city either as not understanding the decree or as absolutely in his conduct running counter to it. The rationality of making the rebuke precede the
council, has been clearly seen by some eminent persons, as a Note at the close of this article will show; and they might have drawn the just conclusion immediately arising, that the private journey (here so called) must, in that case, as being prior to the rebuke, have been a separate concern from the public mission to Jerusalem, and of course antecedent to it.
Finally, and to wind up the argument, when it is once clearly understood, that the journey related by Paul to the Galatians was prior, say by a year, as it easily might be, to the council of Jerusalem; let us observe how beautifully then all things proceed in natural consecution and consistency, instead of appearing, as else they must do, retrogressive and embarrassed.
When, on the first of those occasions, Paul and Barnabas visited the Holy City, to all appearance they had proceeded directly to their journey's end; and most assuredly without stopping by the way, to promulgate what it was their design not to disclose till their arrival, and then only to certain leading persons of the church at Jerusalem.
During that journey, on the contrary, under different circumstances narrated in the Acts, they should seem to have passed through Phenice and Samaria, (xv. 3.) on purpose to declare the conversion of the Gentiles, and to share the great joy which their tidings caused to all the brethren and when they were come to Jerusalem, they in like manner to the church there openly declared (vv. 4. 12.) all things which God had done by them as ministers of the gospel of His Son.
But on their arrival in that city, we read that the same zealots and Judaising Christians who had previously given so much trouble to the apostle, GAL. II.
3...5., were ready as soon as ever he appeared, to raise the same angry controversy on a larger scale again.
Providentially, however, by this time both Peter, in consequence partly of that just rebuke administered by Paul at Antioch, and St. James, who must have profited by his report of that striking remonstrance, had learned, on mature reflection, to entertain firmer sentiments; and under divine guidance, by inspired authority now, gave a decisive ratification to articles of peace for the harmony of the church.
NOTE on p. 144. It is well known that St. Augustine disagreed, much to his honour, with St. Jerome on the subject of the rebuke at Antioch. He maintained, that Paul was justified in plainly reproving Peter, if that rencontre took place after the council of Jerusalem, or even if it took place, as he was rather inclined to think (quod magis arbitror), before the time of the council. Epistola lxxxii. ad Hieronymum, capp. x. xi. Benedictine edition.
Heinrych Bullinger, in his Series et Digestio Temporum et Rerum Descriptarum a Beato Luca in Actis Apostolorum, TIGURI, M.D.XLVIII., assigns much too early a date to the rebuke, for he makes it precede the First of the Progresses, in these pages so styled; but then he disjoins it so much the farther from the council, by an interval of eight years, in the Tabula Seriei, &c. prefixed to the work.
The learned Basnage, as quoted in Lardner's History of the Apostles, &c. ch. xviii. s. iii. on St. Peter, shall here be given at full length: on that one point of the priority of the dispute at Antioch to the council, nothing can be more strong and decisive.
"Illud nobis verosimilius, Concilii Hierosolymitani celebrationi antecessisse Petrinam hanc in Syriæ metropoli commorationem. Argumento est disceptatio Pauli cum Petro, cujus dissimulationem obruisset autoritate Synodi, si jam coacta fuisset. Quin immo nulla Petro, et timendi Judæos,
et eorum gratiâ sese separandi a Gentibus caussa fuit, si tum temporis promulgata fuisset Concilii Hierosolymitani Epistola: quo, veluti clypeo, ad omnes telorum Judaicorum ictus tutus ·Basnag. Ann. 46. num. xxv.
Dr. Paley, in H. P.106., timidly, but distinctly, says,
“There is nothing to hinder us from supposing that the dispute at Antioch was prior to the consultation at Jerusalem."
Before concluding this article, may I be pardoned for saying, that to meet the difficulty started in H. P. 101... 104. as to the decree not being noticed in the Epistle to the Galatians, a more direct solution, brief at once and satisfactory, may be found here in the Continuous History, pp. 29. 35. on Acтs xv. 22. and xvi. 4.
APPENDIX B. p. 48.
On the early date of the Epistle to the GALATIANS.
This address to the churches of Galatia is evidently marked with striking characters of earliness both in the style and temperament of the writing, and in the principal points of its subject also, the circumcision of the Gentile converts, and the apostolic authority of the writer himself. And I refer with much pleasure to the opening pages of H. P. 78...80. for remarks highly valuable in the way of general introduction to its perusal, and as bearing on the high probability, at least, of a very early date.