11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned; 12 for before certain people came from James, he used to heat with Gentiles. But when he came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction.
11 ὍCarlson writes,
Paul’s account ofarrival of Cephas triggered the incident, which is what Paul claimed in v.11. With the ἦλθον reading, on the other hand, there are two separate triggering events for the Antioch incident.On any hypothesis, Paul first mentions the dispute with Cephas (2:11) and then mentions Cephas's earlier practice of eating with Gentiles (2:12a). At first sight this time jump seems unnecessary. Why did Paul not place the events in chronological order? Well, the text is explicable if Cephas's practice of eating with Gentiles was before Paul's Jerusalem visit of Gal 2:1-10. That fact gave Paul no choice but to skip back in time. Paul therefore wrote Gal 2:1-10 and Gal 2:11 in their correct chronological sequence, then went back in time to give the background information about Cephas's earlier practice in Gal 2:12a, and then resumed his chronological sequence in Gal 2:12b. He indicates that he is resuming his chronological sequence by repeating the phrase, ὅτε δὲ ἦλθεν. Cephas presumably visited Antioch twice and ate with Gentiles on his first visit, but not on this second. This confirms the ἦλθεν reading and gives us the following sequence of events:
2. Some men from James arrived in Antioch (Gal 2:12; Acts 15:1).
3. Paul, Barnabas, and Titus went to Jerusalem (Gal 2:1, Acts 15:2-3) and met with James, Cephas and John (Gal 2:1-10), and (then) with a larger assembly (Acts 15:4-29).
4. Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch (Acts 15:30-35).
5. Peter made a second visit to Antioch and did not eat with Gentiles (Gal 2:11, 12b)
I have argued at length that the background to Galatians is as follows.
1. James and the elders wrote a decree, saying that Gentile believers did not need to be circumcised.
2. Paul visited (south) Galatia and delivered the decree, but circumcised Timothy, a Gentile.
3. Paul left Galatia.
4. Some agitators in Galatia debated with the Galatian believers:
Agitators: You should be circumcised because the scriptures require it. Paul knows this and that is why he circumcised Timothy with the intention of preaching circumcision in his new mission fields.
Galatians: But Paul told us that circumcision was not necessary.
Agitators: He does not really believe that. He delivered the decree out of loyalty to the Jerusalem church leaders (who are not experts in the scriptures). He preaches against circumcision to you because your territory comes under the jurisdiction of the Jerusalem church.
This ties in nicely with thereading of 2:12, which exonerates James. This dramatically changes our understanding of why Paul brings up the Antioch incident. It is usually supposed that Paul is here trying to discredit Cephas. However, on my hypothesis, Gal 2:11-14 serves to show the Galatians that Paul's support for Gentile liberty was genuine and not just motivated by a desire to please Cephas and the other Jerusalem church leaders. To illustrate this I will quote the "Sydney incident", which is part of an account of someone's experience in the Australian army:
One evening my section was on a boys night out on the town in Sydney, doing bit of a pub crawl. I was not a heavy drinker, so I was the only sober one in the group by 9. 00 p.m. In one of our excursions across a park, several of us walked passed a couple of gay men innocuously holding hands as they strolled through the park. As they walked by, however, one of my group (the highest ranked member in fact) began yelling all sorts of hateful things interspersed with vicious expletives at them. He pushed his way over towards them as the couple quickly hurried their pace. Sensing the potential for fruitless violence at two innocent citizens, I grabbed my superior (and let it be known that this guy was built like Sylvester Stallone in his 80s physique) and dragged him back towards the groupNow, why did the author write this? At first sight it might appear that his purpose was to show that the Australian army contains drunken homophobes, even among the higher ranks. However, the original readers of this piece, which was written by a famous biblioblogger, knew the background: the blogger had been accused of bigotry and was writing to have us believe that he was not homophobic. This piece is not about the Australian army at all. It is about the blogger himself. In the parentheses he slips in the key pieces of information that he wants us to know: he had courageously been the first to take a stand against homophobia by taking on a man who was his superior officer and was aggressive and built like Sylvester Stallone. The emphasis in this story is on the commitment of the author.