The Jerusalem Council
In my last blog post I wrote about how my alternative reading and translation of the Greek of Galatians 1:15-16 gives a more humble and different understanding of Paul. The present translations into English make Paul sound very self-willed and almost arrogant in his claims to "preach" the Gospel. Paul does take pains to stress that he was called to God's grace and given his mission of proclamation to the Gentiles by a direct revelation of the Resurrected Messiah and not by any man- made group. However when read and translated slightly different, the present almost hostility in the text, in regard to the Jerusalem Church is lessened and even removed.
The Greek word δοκοῦντες (thokountes) and its variants are found in Galatians 2:2,6 and 9. Based on the root meaning of δοκεω (thokeo) meaning I think, appear, seem it has been translated in to English as reputed which in modern English has a rather negative inference as if one is questioning the reputation. Thayer's Greek Lexicon however states:
"...2. intransitive, to seem, be accounted, reputed: Luke 10:36; Luke 22:24; Acts 17:18; Acts 25:27; 1 Corinthians 12:22; 2 Corinthians 10:9; Hebrews 12:11; ἔδοξα ἐμαυτῷ δεῖν πρᾶξαι, I seemed to myself, i. e. I thought, Acts 26:9 (cf. Buttmann, 111 (97)); οἱ δοκοῦντες ἄρχειν those that are accounted to rule, who are recognized as rulers, Mark 10:42; οἱ δοκοῦντες εἶναι τί those who are reputed to be somewhat (of importance), and therefore have influence, Galatians 2:6 (9) (Plato, Euthyd., p. 303 c.); simply, οἱ δοκοῦντες those highly esteemed, of repute, looked up to, influential, Galatians 2:2 (often in Greek writings as Euripides, Hec. 295, where cf. Schafer; (cf. Winer's Grammar, § 45, 7))..."Thus δοκοῦντες in Galatians 2 should be translated as "esteemed ones" or "highly esteemed ones" of the early Church of Jerusalem. Paul is not questioning their authority but he is humbly acknowledging their esteemed positions as the leaders of the Church and he humbly goes to see them in Jerusalem to submit his style of proclaiming the gospel to the Gentiles, with gentleness that doesn't burden the new believers with too much too soon, for their approval.
It would seem Ananias who baptised Paul sent him to the desert of Arabia for three years where he most likely lived in a Essene-like monastic community of new believers from among the Essene mystical Jews learning more about his new Messianic faith and planning his strategy for his future mission to the Gentiles. This would explain Paul's preference for the simple life and his great appreciation of the celibate life. It is probably there he learnt the Essene mystical secrets and the Essene method of studying Scripture (from these disciples of Menachem the Essene) which he combined with the seven principles he learnt from the Pharisee House of Hillel under Rabban Gamaliel.
After Paul's return to Damascus he goes to see Peter and James before he undertakes his mission to the Gentiles in Syria and Cicilia. He spent 15 days with Peter and it may have been Peter who ordained him as a priest and Bishop or it may have been Ananias in Damascus after he returned from Arabia. We see that the early church used the model of training men for the priesthood for at least 3 years in imitation of Yeshua training his 12 apostles for three years before their ordinations to the new covenant priesthood.
As Paul took his revelation of the crucified Messiah very seriously so does he take the further divine revelation given to him to go to Jerusalem to submit his strategies for evangelisation of the Gentiles (after he had been practicing them for 14 years) to the people and leaders of the Churches in Judea (Gal.1:22). Paul is concerned to confirm that his revelations and strategies are true and valid and that he is not being led astray. He thus besides meeting with the Churches of Judea, goes humbly to the "highly esteemed ones" (δοκοῦντες) of the Jewish Mother Church in Jerusalem - Peter, James and John. These three hold the three high seats of the New Covenant Sanhedrin with Peter as the Messianic Av bet Din (chief Rabbi or Teacher), James (the Lord's Brother) as the Messianic Davidic Nasi or President and John (the Presbyter) as the Messianic High Priest.
Galatians 2:2 thus reads:
"Moreover I went up (to Jerusalem) according to a divine revelation and set before them (the Jewish Churches of Judea), the good news that I proclaim to the Gentiles, as well as a personal meeting with the "Highly Esteemed Ones" lest by some manner I was running or had run in vain."
Paul was obviously pleased with reception of his plan for the Gentile evangelisation and their acceptance that the Gentile believers did not have to be circumcised and become Jews. He saw his success in that his Gentile disciple Titus was not made to be circumcised. He had to fight hard against a group of false brothers who wished to burden these new believers with certain Jewish customs and circumcision as necessary to salvation in the Messiah. This is recorded by Luke in the Book of Acts. Paul in Galatians uses a play on words and refers to these false brothers as the δοκούντων εἶναί τι (certain ones reputed to be someone) as opposed to the apostles who are the true οἱ δοκοῦντες (the Highly Esteemed Ones) who added nothing extra to Paul's proposal for the Gentile believers. Galatians 2:6-7 reads:
"Moreover there are those certain ones reputed to be someone (the false brothers) but what sort they were at one time doesn't make a difference to me. God doesn't take notice of the outward appearance of a man. Indeed the Highly Esteemed Ones (the true Apostles) had nothing to add to me (his position in regards to the Gentiles) but on the contrary they saw that I have been entrusted with the evangelisation of the uncircumcision, just as Peter with the circumcision."Paul does not undermine Peter's role but proclaims it while proclaiming his unique mission to those who would question it under the influence of the false brothers. In verse 9 he once again refers to these Highly Esteemed Ones (οἱ δοκοῦντες) of Peter, James and John who approve his apostleship. Paul adds another title to them as the Pillars (στῦλοι/ styloi). His respect for them however doesn't blind him to the fact that they can be wrong and need godly correction from a fellow apostle when they don't practice what they teach. Nor does it mean that the apostles can't have disputes in good Jewish style for the sake of the Kingdom in order to come closer to the truth. Galatians 2:9 reads:
"And having known the grace given to me James, Peter and John the Highly Esteemed Ones, being the Pillars, they gave to Barnabas and I, the right hands of Eucharistic Communion which we should take to the Gentiles and they to the circumcision (Jews)."
Anti-Semites in the church often quote Galatians which has been translated by those with anti-Jewish and anti-Judaism prejudices throughout the history of the Gentile Church. However many times this is done unwittingly, just out of Gentile ignorance of the Jewish background of Paul and his teachings. Paul would be horrified at this distortion of his wonderful plan of freedom in the Messiah for both Jews (allowing them to be Jews) and Gentiles (allowing them to be truly of their distinct cultures). It is time that we Catholics take seriously the call of Cardinal Schonborn to take the propositions of the Messianic Jewish Rabbi Mark Kinzer in his book addressed to the Catholic Church on Nostra Aetate and its further development in the living Tradition of the Church. Is Rabbi Kinzer a new reversed St Paul coming to proclaim the place and freedom of the Jewish believers in the Church?