Friday, June 22, 2007

Petrine Primacy and the Council of Jerusalem

This has been brought up more than once, so I thought I'd post it on my blog...
If Peter was deemed the head of the Apostles by Jesus, then why is James acting as the leader at the Council of Jerusalem, and why does Peter seem to be on the wrong side of the circumcision argument in the epistles?
After there had been "much disputing" (Acts 15:7) at the Council of Jerusalem, Peter said [literal translation, YLT]: "Men, brethren, ye know that from former days, GOD AMONG US DID MAKE CHOICE, THROUGH MY MOUTH, for the nations to hear the word of the good news, and to believe" (Acts 15:7).

The above is how Peter prefaced his decision regarding the dispute, by pointing out to all present that God chose Him to be the voice from which the nations would hear and believe. This is Petrine primacy straight from the mouth of Peter himself. James made no such claim, nor did the dispute end until Peter, the chief apostle, decided the matter, not by the cleverness of his argument, but by citing his singularly distinctive Divine authority among the other apostles. After Peter spoke, "
all the multitude did keep silence." (Acts 15:12).

So why did James formulate the response to those troubled by the Circumciser Party?

I'm an officer in the Air Force. Often I am asked to formulate the wording in policy on behalf of and subordinate to the policy of my General officer. This is not the "leg work" of the one who has universal primacy, but is more like the authoritative concurrence of a subordinate commander writing a letter to his specific unit from whence the dispute has come.

After all, elsewhere in Scripture, the "circumcision faction" is said to have come "from James" (Gal 2:12), right? It is prudent then that James would be the one to formulate what had been decided by Peter, the chief apostle who ended the dispute on the matter definitively.

As for Peter being "on the wrong side of the circumcision argument in the epistles," you'll have to cite the Scripture passage, because I don't get what you are saying. He did fail to dine with gentiles when the "circumcision faction" from James was present. But I don't see how this bad example had anything to do with an assertion that he agreed with the circumcision faction.

God bless,