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  • Writer's pictureChapman Chen

Paul Yells at Peter for Shunning a Table of Flesh-eaters. By Dr. Chapman Chen




 

Executive summary: When Peter visited Paul's Antioch church in A.D. 50, immediately after Paul's return from a conference with the vegan Jerusalem Council, Paul yelled at Peter for shunning a table of Gentile flesh-eaters (Galatians 2:11-14). The apostolic decree issued by James the Just on behalf of the Jerusalem Council in the conference merely required Gentile converts to abstain from BLOOD, strangled animals, FOOD sacrificed to idols, and fornication, rather than to undergo circumcision (Acts 15:20). As life is blood, blood is life, to abstain from blood must mean to avoid causing animals and humans to be killed.

 

The conflicts between Paul and the Jerusalem Council are primarily over veganism rather than circumcision (cf. Akers 2020:149-157), for Pauline Christianity and Jesus' Jewish Christianity represent two different faiths. Paul wanted to do away with the Mosaic Law, especially food restrictions, while the Vegan Christ and His disciples aimed at restoring the original compassionate vegan law of God.

 

 

1. "No Small Dissension"

 

Around A.D. 50, Paul "had no small dissension and disputation" (Acts 15:2 KJV) with certain men from Judea (the capital of which was Jerusalem) allegedly because they maintained that circumcision was a pre-requisite for salvation (Acts 15:1). Paul and Barnabus, etc. were then appointed to go up to Jerusalem from Antioch to negotiate with the Jerusalem Council, which comprised Jesus' 12 disciples and other elders, with Jesus' biological brother James the Just, Peter and John as the triple pillars, and to report to them that gospel which Paul had preached among the gentiles for 14 years (Galatians 2:2 KJV). Nonetheless, circumcision was probably just a pseudo dispute topic. For Tius, who was with Paul, being a Greek, was not compelled to be circumcised (Gal. 2:3).

 

2. Four Minimum Requirements

 

After "much disputing" (Acts 15:7 KJV), James passed the judgment that the gentiles be required to comply with Moses' Law on merely four points -- "to abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from thing strangled, and from blood" (Acts 15:20). It was also agreed that Paul should preach to the uncircumcised gentiles and the Jerusalem Council to the circumcised Jews (Gal. 2:7, 2:9).

 

3. More Veganism than Kosher Laws

 

Notably, three of the four prohibitions concern food. Akers (2020:157) argues that The apostolic decree pertains more to veganism than to kosher laws for the following reasons.

 

Firstly, Paul's contention that it is alright to consume animal flesh offered to pagan idols is straightforwardly contradicted by the apostolic decree as well as two sayings of Jesus' in Revelation.

 

In I Corinthians 8:4-13, Paul argues that eating meat offered to an idol is not immoral, because “an idol is nothing at all” (I Cor. 8:4 NIV). “Food,” he asserts, “does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do” (I Cor. 8:8 NIV). "To the pure, all things are pure" (Titus 1:15 NIV).


On the other hand, in His message to the church in Pergamum, Jesus reproaches them for having "some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching... the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols" (Revelation 2:14 NASB); similarly, in the letter to the church of Thyatira, Jesus rebukes them for tolerating a prophetess who "seduce[s] my servants to ... eat things sacrificed unto idols" (Revelation 2:20 KJV).  

 

Secondly, the prohibition against animals strangled (πνίγω/pniktos) has been perplexing theologians and commentators, for this sort of strangling was literally unheard of in the Middle East in those days and in our modern world (Akers 2020:152). A second likely meaning of the term pniktos is to a way of cooking meat, e.g., roasting, baking, stewing or cooking in a rich sauce. I have found that according to Liddell-Scott-Jones's (1843) A Greek-English Lexicon, πνίγω means 1. strangled, 2. air-tight, 3. baked or stewed. (Note 1). The ban on pniktos would then appear to either suggest or even recommend a vegan diet (cf. Akers 2020:152). A third likely meaning of pniktos is killing in general.

 

Thirdly, it is at times claimed that the ban on blood is a reference to a kosher rule. But the decree never tells people to abstain from consuming blood; it just tells the believers to abstain from blood. "'Blood' could mean violence against either humans or animals; and some early Christians regarded blood as referring to violence against either humans or animals" (Akers 2020:152).

 

Indeed, according to Keith Akers (2000:240),

 

Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 5.1.26, reports an early Christian martyr who interpreted the prohibition of the blood of animals to imply vegetarianism. Minucius Felix refers to bloodshed in the arena and the blood of animals in the same breath (Octavius 29.6). Tertullian points out that Christians are forbidden both human and animal blood (Apology 9). Sandmel states that blood could refer either to the blood of a sacrificed animal or to human violence: Judaism and Christian Beginnings, p. 408.

 

Fourthly, for all sentient beings, life is blood, blood is life. As well put by Prof. Andrew Linzey (1993), "after all, who can take animal life without the shedding of blood? Who can kill without the taking of blood, that is, the life itself?... For the early Hebrews life was symbolised by, even constituted by, blood itself. To kill was to take blood."

 

4. Confrontation at Antioch  

 

Right after the Jerusalem of A.D. 50, Paul returned to Antioch, and Peter came. Initially, Peter shared a dining table with the Gentiles. But when "certain men from James' arrived, Peter "withdrew and separated himself" and "the other Jews dissembled likewise with him" (Gal. 2:13 KJV). Paul then chided and lectured Peter in front of everybody, "If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?" (Gal. 2:14 KJV). In Galatians, this is followed by "For by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified... for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain," (Gal. 2:16-21 KJV). It is uncertain whether this denunciation of Moses' Law is an after-thought on the part of Paul or a real-time onsite continuation of his "lecture" to Peter.

 

5. Who's being Intolerant? Paul or the 12 Apostles?

 

Ironically, it's Paul himself who really lived after the manner of Gentiles, in view of how vehemently he renounced Moses' Law. So much the more, when Paul cited the Old Testament, he always used the Greek of the Septuagint whenever the Septuagint and the Hebrew version differed (cf. Akers 2020:143).

 

To be fair to the Jerusalem apostles, they did include uncircumcised converts, as confirmed by the A.D. 50 Jerusalem Council meeting, whereas Paul told his followers that if they underwent circumcision, they were automatically cut off from Christ (Gal. 5:2-4). So who's compelling whom? Who's excluding whom?

 

6. Table of Devils

 

According to Paul, Peter withdrew from the table of the Gentiles because he discriminated against the uncircumcised (Gal. 2:12). But the real issue was probably, again, food-related. Endorsed by the apostolic decree, the Jewish Christians abstained from dead flesh (Clementine Homilies 7.4). To them every meal is sacred and for that reason -- like the Eucharist to this day -- is to be shared exclusively with other believers, as noted by Akers (2020:154, 156). Meanwhile, the Jewish Christianity regarded any table with meat on it the "table of devils" (Clementine Homilies 8.20, 9.9).  Devils possess whoever sheds blood, consumes dead flesh or animals strangled or sacrificed to idols (Clementine Homilies 8.19).

 

Now those Gentile followers of Paul were probably meat-eaters for Paul taught them to eat any meat sold in the market without questions of conscience (1 Corinthians 10:25). Perhaps, initially, Peter thought that it was okay to dine with those meat-eating Gentiles as long as he himself ate only vegan food. Probably, when James' men arrived, they reminded him of the apostolic decree and he joined them at their vegan table, which Paul exaggeratingly interpreted as social segregation or Apartheid. It was the vegan decree which infuriated Paul and triggered off his spiteful denunciation of Peter and the Law itself (cf. Akers 2020:156) once he had returned to his own territory in Antioch.

 

7. Even Barnabas Sides with Peter

 

It is also noteworthy and revealing that during the Antioch confrontation, even Barnabas, Paul's loyal missionary partner, took the side of Peter. As Acts tells us, Barnabas was a Levite, a member of a group that most strictly followed Moses' Law. Barnabas had close relations with the Jerusalem apostles (Acts 4:36); it was actually he who first introduced Paul to them (Acts 9:27; 11:25-26).  

 

And presumably, not long after the Antioch confrontation of around A.D.50, Paul and Barnabas had a bitter quarrel and "departed asunder one from the other" (Acts 15:39 KJV), the ostensible cause being that Paul proposed to Barnabas that they go to other cities and preach the word of God, and that Barnabas wanted to take a certain guy named John Mark but Paul disagreed. The real reason, however, may be Barnabas seing through Paul's anti-vegan, anti-Law stance at the Antioch confrontation, which even Barnabas, having worked by Paul's side for so long, had not been aware (cf. Akers 2012:215). 

 

In other words, to borrow Tabor's words (2012:216), "up until around A.D. 50, during the first decade of Paul's missionary work in the cities of Asia Minor, when he was working with Barnabas, he was not expressing, at least publicly, the full implications of" his hostile attitude towards Moses' Law and Jesus' vegan church. It is not till roughly A.D. 56, with his epistles to the Galatians, Corinthians, and Romans, that we start to have a glance at "Paul's full views about the implications of 'his' gospel" (Tabor 2012:216).

 

8. Paul Revealing his True Anti-Law Features

 

In those letters, Paul blatantly attacks Moses' Law, e.g., "all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse" (Galatians 3:10 NIV). In particular, in relation to food, Paul tells people to eat "anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience" (1 Corinthians 10:25 NIV). Those who are strong in faith may eat anything; whose those who are weak eat only herbs (Romans 14:2), "For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure" (Romans 14:20 KJV). Meat here includes but is not limited to animal flesh sacrificed to idols, that is to say, Paul renounces not only the Kosher law but also Christian veganism itself (Akers 2020:149).

 

9. Paul Lashing out at Jesus' 12 Apostles

 

In those letters, Paul, of course, does not hesitate to lash out at Jesus' 12 apostles who, emulating Jesus, staunchly uphold Moses' Law. Paul calls them "false apostles, deceitful workers" , transforming themselves into apostles of Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:13-15 NKJV). "Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more:  in labors more abundant, stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often" (2 Corinthians 11:22-23 NKJV)); "I have become a fool in boasting...in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles, though I am nothing. Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds" (2 Corinthians 12:11-12 NKJV), Paul asserts, seemingly humbly but actually unashamedly arrogantly.

 

10. An Unqualified Apostle

 

Ironically, Paul himself was an unqualified apostle; he does not meet the eligibility requirements to be considered an apostle. “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" Jesus tells his 12 apostles (Matthews 19:28 NIV). But, alas, the twelve foundations of the wall of the new Holy Jerusalem do not contain Paul's name (Revelation 21:14 KJV). In Acts 1:21-22 KJV, Peter, in conjunction with the other 10 apostles and around 120 disciples, as well as "the women, Mary the mother of Jesus and... his brethren", clearly laid out the eligibility criteria to be considered a replacement for Judas the traitor:- the candidate must have "companied" with the other apostles "all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,"  "beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day he was taken up from us"; and must be "a witness with us of his [Jesus'] resurrection".   

 

Then two candidates were nominated, namely, "Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias" (Acts 1:23 KJV). "And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles" (Acts 1:23 KJV).

 

Not only are there eligibility requirements to be considered an apostle, but the number of apostles is strictly limited. In accordance with Revelation 21:14, God never endorses Paul's status as the 13th apostle, for the wall of the new Holy Jerusalem has only twelve foundations, which contain only twelve apostles' names.

 

Thus, Paul is just a unverified, self-proclaimed apostle:-  "Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead" (Galatians 1:1 NIV). He is a thief shouting "Stop! Thief!" He who smelt it dealt it.

 

 

11. Clash between two Systems of Beliefs

 

The clash between Paul and the Jerusalem apostles is a consequence of the discrepancies between two systems of beliefs -- Pauline meat-eating Christianity and Jesus' vegan Christianity.

 

Whilst Paul bad-mouthed Moses' Law, Jesus tried hard to restore the eternal law that commanded non-violence towards all creatures and simple living.

 

12. Paul Repeatedly Debases the Law

 

Paul debases, devalues and degrades Moses' Law in at least 37 places in the New Testament, for instance,

"But there was the introduction to The Written Law that sin would increase," (Romans 5:20 American Bible in Plain English)

"sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful." (Romans 7:13 KJV)

"So the former commandment is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect)" (Hebrews 7:18-19 Berean Study Bible)

"In that He says, "A new covenant, he hath made the first obsolete. Now that what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away." (Hebrews 8:13 NKJV)

"The old way, with laws etched in stone, led to death, though it began with such glory that the people of Israel could not bear to look at Moses’ face." (2 Corinthians 3:7 NLV)

"Before this faith came, we Jews were perpetual prisoners under the Law," (Galatians 3:23 Weymouth New Testament)

"Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law," (Galatians 3:13 KJV)

"Having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man..." (Ephesians 2:15 NKJV)

"touching the righteousness which is in the law blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ...I...do count them but dung, that I may win Christ." (Philippians 3:4-8 KJV).

"For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements."(Galatians 2:19 NLT)

 

 

Contrariwise, "Jewish Christianity strove to make the Jewish law stricter than the Jewish tradition seemed to teach", as argued by Akers (2020:8). “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them," stresses Jesus (Matthew 5:17 ESV). 

 

13. Jesus Teaches Veganism

 

Whilst Paul said the weak ate only vegetables, Jesus the Vegan Christ taught veganism (Panarion 30.18.9) and the Jerusalem apostles were strictly vegan (Homilies 7.4, 7.8; Eusebius, Proof of the Gospel 3.5).

 

In Matthew 9:13 and Matthew 12:6-7, Jesus twice quotes Hosea 6:6 in stating "I desire compassion, rather than sacrifice" (ESV). On the second occasion, He develops it in further detail:- "But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here. But if you had known what this means: ‘I desire COMPASSION, rather than sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the INNOCENT" (New American Standard Bible). "The innocent" must mean the innocent animals. Who else could the Vegan Christ have referred to as being unjustly condemned? The Contemporary English Version, as noted by me, interprets "the innocent" as "innocent disciples of mine". But this is unreasonable for Jesus distinctively states that it is the Pharisees' being short of understanding of Hosea 6:6 that has brought about their condemnation of the innocent, and Hosea 6:6 is absolutely unrelated to the picking of the heads of grain (the protestation the Pharisees are putting froth in the preceding verses) but as closely related to the sacrifice of animals as possible (cf. Akers 2020:120-121).

 

Similarly, the Jewish Christians were adamant that God commanded people "not to taste dead flesh" (Clementine Homilies 7.4), but to "abstain from the table of devils, that is, from food offered to idols, from dead carcasses, from animals which have been suffocated or caught by wild beasts, and from blood; not to live any longer impurely..." (Clementine Homilies 7.8).

 

Whilst Paul preached salvation by faith alone (Eph 1:13; Rom 5:1), Jesus and James taught salvation by works as well as faith (1 John 2:3; Matt 25:32-46). Whilst Paul preached a Gospel of Grace (Rom 3:22-26, Rom 3:22, Rom 16:25) Jesus taught a Gospel of the Kingdom of God (Matt 3:2, Matt 6:10, Luke 1:69, Acts 3:21-25 ).

 

14. To Jerusalem for the Last Time

 

When news about Paul's problematic anti-Law preaching finally reached the ears of the Jerusalem apostles, they summoned him again to the Jerusalem Council (Acts 21:21). Paul went there for the last time, but in front of the elders, he present no explanation. The Jerusalem apostles again tolerantly let him off. They just reiterated the former minimum restrictions to be placed on the Gentiles: No food offered to idols, no blood, no strangled animals and no fornication (Acts 21:25), and requested Paul to take part in a purification ceremony, which Paul diplomatically did (Acts 21:26).

 

Apparently, Paul pretended to follow instructions without actually executing them, his cunning strategy, in his own words, being "To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law...so as to win those not having the law" (1 Corinthians 9:19–22 NIV).    

 

15. Aftermath

 

With the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman Empire in A.D.70, most early vegan Jewish Christians were killed. The survivors continued to be persecuted by mainstream Judaism, Pauline Christianity, and the Roman Empire. On the other hand, Pauline gentile Christianity continued to grow and prosper, eventually to be adopted as the nation religion by Emperor Constantine. Jesus' vegan church has then become a heresy until today (Akers 2020:171, 173).

 

16. Whom to Follow? Paul or Jesus?

 

To join Paul's carnivorous expedient Christianity or to follow Jesus' Compassionate Vegan Christianity is a crucial decision to make. You can't follow both.

 

Notes

 

 

References

 

Akers, Keith (2000/2020). The Lost Religion of Jesus. New York: Woodstock & Brooklyn.

 

Linzey, Andrew (1993). "The Bible and Killing for Food." Between the Species: Vol. 9: Iss. 1, Article 8.

 

Tabor, James D. (2012). Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity. New York: Simon & Schuster.

 

 

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