- Paul is accompanied to Jerusalem by Barnabas and other(s).
- The point at issue is Gentiles and the Law, specifically circumcision.
- There is discussion with the chief apostles about the future for the Gentile mission
- These chief apostles are identified, in both, as Peter and James. (Paul also names John).
- Both accounts assume the presence of others who are inimical to Paul and Barnabas.
- In both, Paul (and Barnabas) make report of their mission, Gal. 2.2, I "set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles"; Acts 15.4, "they reported everything God had done through them", cf. also Acts 15.11, "they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them".
- In both, there is agreement between Paul and Barnabas and the Jerusalem apostles, Gal. 2.9, "James, Peter[c] and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me" and Acts 15.4, "When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders".
- In both, the account is followed by a split between Paul and Barnabas in Antioch (Acts 15.33-41, Gal. 2.11-20), in Acts because of a disagreement about John Mark, in Galatians because Barnabas joined Peter in withdrawing from table fellowship with Gentiles.
It certainly looks as though these accounts cover the same history, for it would be hard to imagine two such councils, on the same subject, involving the same people, with the same sequence of events, in the same places, and with the same denouements -- right down to a quarrel between Paul and Barnabas ("Once More, Acts and Galatians", JBL 86 (1967): 175-82 ).In spite of these links between the two passages, some align Gal. 2.1-10 not with Acts 15 but with a previous visit to Jerusalem in Acts 11.27-30 (for a recent blog defence of this view, see Michael Pahl on The Stuff of Earth). In contrast to Acts 15, here there are few correspondences between the two accounts. The only clear one is that in both, Paul goes to Jerusalem with Barnabas, something that Gal. 2.1-10 also has in common with Acts 15. So why the popularity of the view that Gal. 2.1-10 = Acts 11.27-30? In part it is because the apparent conclusion of the Acts 15 account appears to be different from the conclusion of the Gal. 2.1-10 account. In the former, a letter is composed in which certain basics are stressed. In the latter, Paul is insistent that nothing was added to him or his gospel. Moreover, it is noted that Paul speaks of speaking "privately to those who seemed to be leaders" (Gal. 2.2) whereas Acts 15 appears to depict a public meeting. But the main reason for this identification is that Acts 11.27-30 is the second time that Paul has visited Jerusalem, just as Gal. 2.1-10 is the second time that Paul has visited Jerusalem. Gal. 1.18-20, Paul's first visit, would therefore parallel Acts 9.26-30, Paul's first visit in Acts. And if Acts 11.27-30 is Paul's second visit, the argument runs, it is noteworthy that where Paul says that he went up "by revelation" (Gal. 2.2), which would be paralleled in Acts 11.28, where Agabus has a prophecy about world-wide famine, the prophecy that provides the basis for this so-called "famine visit".
This major motivation, to defend the historicity of Acts by aligning Paul's second visit in Acts with Paul's second visit in Paul (Galatians), is actually unnecessary if one pays careful attention to Luke's narrative practices. I will repeat here my remarks from my previous post. Paul's first two visits to Jerusalem in Acts 9 and 11 are in fact the same visit narrated by Luke twice. On the second occasion that he narrates it, in 11.27-30, the notes of time are specific. On the first occasion that he narrates it, in 9.26-30, the notes are vague. Luke is telling this as (what we would call) a flash forward. Notice the phrasing:
Acts 9.25-26: 25 λαβόντες δὲ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ νυκτὸς διὰ τοῦ τείχους καθῆκαν αὐτὸν χαλάσαντες ἐν σπυρίδι 26 παραγενόμενος δὲ εἰς Ἰερουσαλὴμ ἐπείραζεν κολλᾶσθαι τοῖς μαθηταῖς καὶ πάντες ἐφοβοῦντο αὐτόν μὴ πιστεύοντες ὅτι ἐστὶν μαθητήςLuke is careful here not to say "Then Paul came to Jerusalem . . ." or "After a year Paul came to Jerusalem". He is narrating the event that Paul himself dates as "after three years", and which Luke places in its proper place in the narrative in 11.27-30. As I argued in my previous post on Pauline Chronology, one can see that Luke knows the true chronological location of the first visit because of the anachronistic mention of "his disciples" in Acts 9.25, at a point before Paul has any disciples.
Acts 9.25-26: 25 But his disciples took him at night and let him down through an opening in the wall by lowering him in a basket. 26 When he had appeared in Jerusalem, he attempted to associate with the disciples, and they were all afraid of him, because they did not believe that he was a disciple.
But if this is the right way of reconstructing what is going on in Acts, what are we to make of the interesting correlation between Paul's "by revelation" (Gal. 2.2) and Agabus's prophecy (Acts 11.28)? It is important to see what Paul actually means by "revelation". Here in Galatians, and elsewhere, Paul is talking specifically about direct communication between himself and God, not via external human agency. Notice, for example, the way that Paul sees his gospel as coming by "revelation" shortly before the mention of "revelation" in 2.2:
Gal. 1: 11 γνωρίζω γὰρ ὑμῖν ἀδελφοί τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τὸ εὐαγγελισθὲν ὑπ' ἐμοῦ ὅτι οὐκ ἔστιν κατὰ ἄνθρωπον 12 οὐδὲ γὰρ ἐγὼ παρὰ ἀνθρώπου παρέλαβον αὐτό οὔτε ἐδιδάχθην ἀλλὰ δι' ἀποκαλύψεως Ἰησοῦ ΧριστοῦIn Gal. 2.2, Paul is continuing the emphasis on direct divine motivation for his actions with respect to Jerusalem. He is clearly not talking about the words of a prophet who had come from Jerusalem. Paul does not use the term "revelation" when he is talking about words that come through human agency, even prophetic ones.
Gal. 1: 11 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12 For I did not receive it or learn it from any human source; instead I received it by a revelation of Jesus Christ.
What, then, of the objection that Galatians 2 apparently speaks of a private meeting where Acts 15 speaks of a public meeting? Here it is worth remembering that one is going to expect divergences like this between two accounts of the same meeting, and alongside this it is worth noticing that Paul only speaks about "laying out the gospel I preach among the gentiles" to those of repute (Gal. 2.2). He does not depict the remainder of the exchange as a private, closed one. But even if one does read the whole of Gal. 2.1-10 as depicting a private meeting, and stresses this as a difficulty for the Gal. 2.1-10 = Acts 15 identification, this only increases the difficulties for the Gal. 2.1-10 = Acts 11.27-30 identification. For those who identify Gal. 2.1-10 with Acts 11.27-30 also identify Gal. 1.18-20 with Acts 9.26-30, and this identification only moves issues connected with public / private to another place. Contrast the two accounts:
Gal. 1: 18. Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord''s brother. 20 (Now in what I am writing to you, I assure you before God that I am not lying.)Let me be quite clear about what I am arguing here. Those who think that Acts 11.27-30 equates with Gal. 2.1-10 regularly say that Acts 15 cannot equate with Gal. 2 because the latter depicts a private event. But for the Acts 11.27-30 = Gal. 2.1-10 equation to work, one has to overcome exactly the same difficulty with respect to Acts 9.26-30 // Gal. 1.18-20, where one depicts a private and the other a public event.
Acts 9: 26 When he came to Jerusalem, he was trying to associate with the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 And he was with them, moving about freely in Jerusalem, speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord.
The biggest problem, however, with the attempt to identify Acts 11.27-30 with Gal. 2.1-10 comes with the burden placed on the proportions of Luke's narrative in Acts. Remember that Paul says his first visit to Jerusalem (Gal. 1.18) was "after three years" and his second was "after fourteen years" (Gal. 2.1). No one is agreed on whether this is seventeen years in total, or whether the fourteen years includes the initial three, but either way we have at least fourteen years between the events depicted in Acts 9 (Paul's conversion and first visit to Jerusalem) and Acts 11 (Paul's second visit to Jerusalem). Even if it did not seem bizarre that fourteen years are thought to have gone by in the space of less than two chapters, the indications in the text are in fact suggestive of a much shorter period. Luke's narrative leaves Paul (still Saul at this point in Acts) in Tarsus in 9.30 and picks him up from there in 11.25, after having told the story of Peter and Cornelius in the mean time. In 11.26, Barnabas takes Paul to Antioch where they stay for a year (11.26) before going to Jerusalem together (11.27-30). This rather precisely timed scenario fits very well with Paul's "after three years" of Gal. 1.18. Luke is here narrating, in Acts 11.27-30, Paul's first visit to Jerusalem, and Acts 9.26-30 was a flash forward. This is a far more satisfactory reading than one which tries to find fourteen years in between Acts 9 and 11.
As if this were not enough to persuade us of the difficulties of the identification between Acts 11.27-20 and Gal. 2.1-10, it is worth adding that in Acts 12, Herod Agrippa dies. Herod's death is usually dated to 44 CE, which does not give us anything like enough time for the at least fourteen years between Paul's conversion and his second Jerusalem visit. In other words, to grid Galatians 1-2 onto Acts 9-11 places an intolerable burden on the Acts narrative. Far from harmonizing Paul with Acts, which is the intention, it just creates anomalies.