The Ethnic Conflict In Early Christianity: An Appraisal Of Bauckham’s Proposal On The Antioch Crisis And The Jerusalem Council -- By: Cornelis Bennema

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 56:4 (Dec 2013)
Article: The Ethnic Conflict In Early Christianity: An Appraisal Of Bauckham’s Proposal On The Antioch Crisis And The Jerusalem Council
Author: Cornelis Bennema


The Ethnic Conflict In Early Christianity:
An Appraisal Of Bauckham’s Proposal On The Antioch Crisis And The Jerusalem Council

Cornelis Bennema*

* Cornelis Bennema is senior lecturer in New Testament at Wales Evangelical School of Theology, UK, and research fellow in the Research Institute for Theology and Religion at the University of South Africa.

I. Introduction

The topic of this study is the ethnic conflict in early Christianity. Early Christianity developed from a messianic sect within the matrix of late Second Temple Judaism into a religion distinct from Judaism by the second century AD.1 However, far from being smooth, this development was marked by conflicts within the emerging movement itself, of which the ethnic conflict was the most poignant. I will examine how the early church dealt with the crucial issue of admitting Gentiles into the people of God, with specific reference to the Antioch crisis (Galatians 2) and the Jerusalem council (Acts 15).2 The study will address the following questions: Do the events in Gal 2:1–10 refer to those in Acts 11:27–30 or Acts 15? Did the Antioch crisis recorded in Gal 2:11–14 occur before or after the Jerusalem council in Acts 15? Did Paul and the Jerusalem church differ and grow apart or were they in entire agreement with each other?

The majority view holds that Gal 2:1–10 relates to Acts 15 and that, therefore, the Antioch crisis occurred after the Jerusalem council. Moreover, despite the liberal ruling on circumcision in favor of Paul’s position in Acts 15:19, the Jerusalem decree by James also favored Jewish conservatism, because to abstain “from what is strangled and from blood” in Acts 15:20 probably referred to the kosher laws, effectively regulating table fellowship between Jewish and Gentile Christians on

Jewish terms.3 Contra the majority view, I seek to support Richard Bauckham’s proposal that the Antioch crisis was the lead-up to the Jerusalem council and that the Jerusalem church remained central by prov...

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