Now I will look at the problem between Paul’s version of reality versus Acts.
Question: How many times did Paul visit Jerusalem?
Answer according to Acts: 3
- Acts 9:26: Where Barnabas brought Paul to see the Apostles.
- Acts 11:30 12:25: Brought money to the church elders.
- Acts 15: the church appointed Paul and Barnabas and some others from among them to go up to meet with the apostles and elders in Jerusalem
Answer according to Paul: 2
- Galatians 1:18: after three years he went up to Jerusalem and met only with Peter and James
- Galatians 2:1: fourteen years after he went up again to Jerusalem by revelation
Did Paul visit only Peter or all the apostles on his first visit? Was Paul appointed by the church on his last visit or did he go up by revelation? And did Paul present the gospel he was preaching in private (Gal 2:2) or was his message received by the church and the apostles and the elders (Acts 15:4)?
Question: What was the result of the last visit?
Answer according to Acts:
Therefore I conclude that we should not cause extra difficulty for those among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we should write them a letter telling them to abstain from things defiled by idols and from sexual immorality and from what has been strangled and from blood. For Moses has had those who proclaim him in every town from ancient times, because he is read aloud in the synagogues every Sabbath.
They sent this letter with them:
From the apostles and elders, your brothers, to the Gentile brothers and sisters in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia, greetings! Since we have heard that some have gone out from among us with no orders from us and have confused you, upsetting your minds by what they said, we have unanimously decided to choose men to send to you along with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul, who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas who will tell you these things themselves in person. For it seemed best to the Holy Spirit and to us not to place any greater burden on you than these necessary rules: that you abstain from meat that has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what has been strangled and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from doing these things, you will do well. Farewell.
No circumcision required but other certain Law requirements that have always been proclaimed are to be kept. And from here on out we see Paul entering a region and preaching at the synagogues. In Acts 18:6 Paul says “Your blood be on your own heads! I am guiltless! From now on I will go to the Gentiles!”
Answer according to Paul:
those influential leaders added nothing to my message. On the contrary, when they saw that I was entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised just as Peter was to the circumcised (for he who empowered Peter for his apostleship to the circumcised also empowered me for my apostleship to the Gentiles) and when James, Cephas, and John, who had a reputation as pillars, recognized the grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, agreeing that we would go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. They requested only that we remember the poor, the very thing I also was eager to do.
Nothing required except to remember the poor! And Paul was entrusted the gospel to the gentiles as the rest (Peter) was entrusted the gospel to the Jews. No where to my knowledge does Paul minister to the Jewish people other than in Acts. Acts has Paul going to synagogues, Paul’s letters talk about starting believing communities among the gentiles – church.
Oh, and by the way, Paul seems intent in making sure that the reader understand that he is telling the truth almost like there are other versions of his life and ministry out there that are twist the truth: “I assure you that, before God, I am not lying about what I am writing to you!” Galatians 1:20
So I have three possible solutions:
- Become a liberal (read with an intonation like this is a bad thing).
- Eisegesis the scripture in a manner that mitigates the problem.
- Accept that the scriptures are inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work, even as these same scriptures are a human library full of errors and contradictions.