“Elohim has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.”
IN REALITY, SHA’UL DID not get along with the actual Apostles. His biographer had good reason to gloss right over the specifics of their dispute in hopes of smoothing things over. Fact of the matter is, Sha’ul’s very first contribution to the 66-book Canon, a letter to the Galatiyim, was hastily dictated under the aroused and unprohibited emotions of anger. Before the ink even had time to dry, Torah was broken. In the centuries since, the church has often relegated his slander to the rants and ravings of Seminary students in an elders meeting. Centuries of pastors and ministry leaders have tapped into his fuel, rather than the tone of Ya’aqob’s rebuttal, to feed their own inspiration and desire.
After all, Sha’ul said it.
“Imitate me as I imitate Christ.”
On the outset, this is what we know of the circumstances leading up to and finally surrounding Sha’ul’s outburst. First and foremost, Kepha had already been identified as the emissary to the nations (Acts 13:7-9) long before Sha’ul wrestled the title from him. The very purpose of his vision regarding the beasts of the earth had everything to do with people—a simple fact which the church has long attempted to explain away. To the Hebrew thinker, unclean animals were never intended as food. Torah forbids! Rather than unclean animals becoming food, it was the Gentiles who were not unclean. Compare this with Galatians 2:9, whereas Sha’ul claims he would go to the uncircumcised, while the others and Kepha would remain with the circumcision.
What was Kepha doing in Galatia then?
WE DO NOT KNOW EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED in Galatia, except that a series of events happened in quick succession. We know Kepha was having table fellowship with brothers from the nations. Ya’aqob then sent somebody from Yerushalayim. That Somebody arrived. And for whatever reason, Kepha withdrew himself.
Sha’ul was not pleased.
The self-proclaimed emissary then wrote Galatiyim because of a disagreement he had with Kepha. His resulting letter to the assembly in Galatia is at best a one-sided account, and this is important to note. We have Sha’ul’s side of the story. But we do not directly have the circumcision parties’ perspective. That is not to say we cannot fit the pieces together or understand Ya’aqob’s epistle for what it is—a rebuttal. Sha’ul was on one side of the issue, while virtually everyone else was on the other. Sha’ul did not win this argument. It was everybody against Sha’ul.
Still, Sha’ul would have us believe that turning away from him is turning away from Elohim. In the centuries to follow, the Christians of Antioch and the Roman Catholic church agreed.
The Apostles “seemed to be pillars,” Sha’ul scoffed.
I withstood Kepha to his face.
“He was at fault.”
If his alpha-male dog-eat-dog approach to conflict resolution with Yerushalayim’s emissaries of the Good News did not incite a tinge of excitement among his congregation, then publicly wishing that they would emasculate themselves likely did.
“Oh, that those who disturb you would cut themselves off!”
Here is Sha’ul’s initial account. Kepha was eating with the nations. “But when they came, he began to withdraw and separate himself, in fear of those of the circumcision. And the rest of the Yehudim joined him in hypocrisy, so that even Barnaba was led away by their hypocrisy.”
Barnaba’s decision to join with the Yerushalayim group must have stung.
It cut. Deeply. Sha’ul desperately needed to flip the script. Therefore, the emissaries seemed to be pillars. Seemed. Sha’ul wrote: “But from those who were esteemed to be whatever—what they were, it makes no difference to me, Elohim shows no partiality—for those who were esteemed contributed naught to me (Galatians 2:6).” No partiality, apparently, except for Sha’ul. Fact of the matter is, Sha’ul was not taught by them, and he furthermore cared nothing about them.
The emissaries in Yerushalayim were a formality.
Still, Barnaba wasn’t the only one to follow Kepha. Others had seen the error, to which Sha’ul wrote: “I marvel that you are so readily turning away from Him who called you in the favor of Messiah, to a different ‘Good News,’ which is not another, only there are some who are troubling you and wishing to pervert the Good News of Messiah.” Knowing what we do of Sha’ul’s road to Dammeseq experience, his following illustration is fascinating, to say the least. “However, even if we, or a messenger out of heaven, bring a ‘Good News’ to you beside what we announced to you, let him be accursed (Galatiyim 1:6-8).”
“As we have said before, and now I say again, if anyone brings a ‘Good News’ to you beside what you have received, let him be accursed.”
Clearly, Sha’ul did not want to identify the men who had arrived from Yerushalayim for his readers, those whom he wished to curse, because they were important figures in the assembly of Messiah. Passive agressivism at its finest. Had he done so—sympathy might further be cast towards their doctrinal belief. His best response was to attack them indirectly in a roundabout way. Make no mistake about it, the circumcision group was not a faction within the assembly. They were not Pharisees haunting Sha’ul’s ministry. They were the Yerushalayim assembly. Ya’aqob was the bishop of the circumcision. Therefore, Kepha and those whom he represented, including Yohanan the Revelator, were the Yehudim—the Judaizers.
The issue was in fact circumcision. Perhaps Sha’ul felt such strict requirements for entry into the assembly of Messiah would be a much less appealing religious choice for those among the nations, thereby hampering the growth of his ministry. What if he simply made it optional? The evidence however afforded in Sha’ul’s letter exhibits the complete opposite. In fact, a great many converts were readily disposed to adopt those requirements. When Kepha removed himself from fellowship, others stood up in turn and followed. Sha’ul was already losing the swath of his providence. Therefore, Sha’ul strenuously labored throughout the remainder of his letter to dissuade them from taking the next and logical step of obedience.
“Say this to me, you who wish to be under Torah, do you not hear the Torah?”
“See, I, Sha’ul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Messiah shall be of no use to you. And I witness again to every man being circumcised that he is a debtor to do the entire Torah. You who are declared right by Torah have severed yourselves from Messiah, you have fallen from favor.”
Sure, Sha’ul was thrilled to have Kepha’s indorsement of his ministry, so long as his frail ego wasn’t advanced upon. After all, Sha’ul spoke for Elohim. He may have even felt he’d reeled him in to his side of the argument, hence, the fear Kepha apparently exhibited when the other arrived. The fear more likely—if indeed he was fearful—was not of his brothers’ acceptance, but the news they brought of Sha’ul. The thirteenth apostle had been outed. Problem was, Sha’ul had undoubtedly already told his assembly that his was the Good News given to him by Yahshua by way of revelation. If Kepha and the circumcision group, who had known and been taught by Yahshua personally, called even one leg of his doctrine into question, then his entire authority was toppled.
“For do I now persuade men, or Elohim? For if I still pleased men, I should not be a servant of Messiah. And I make known to you, brothers, that the Good News announced by me is not according to man. For I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but through a revelation of Yahshua Messiah.”
That being the case, Sha’ul would have us know that the emissary’s entire discipleship process under Yahshua was a disastrous failure. They therefore only seemed to be as pillars. Sha’ul wrote: “But when I saw that they are not walking straight according to the truth of the ‘Good News,’ I said to Kepha before them all, ‘If you, being a Yehudite, live as the nations and not as the Yehudim, why do you compel the nations to live as the Yehudim?’”
We are not given Kepha’s rebuttal, and we are furthermore led to believe that Kepha was put in place, when in fact it is Sha’ul who was rebuked. But his rebuttal may have been something like this. The decision in Yerushalayim in Acts 15:19, according to Sha’ul’s own biographer, doesn’t match up with Sha’ul’s personal recollection of it in Galatiyim 2:9. In Acts 15:19, Ya’aqob concluded of the nations being brought in, “Therefore, I judge that we should not trouble those from among the nations who are turning to Elohim, but that we write to them to abstain from the defilements of idols, and from whoring, and from what is strangled, and from blood. For from ancient generations Mosheh has, in every city, those proclaiming him—being read in the congregations every Sabbath.”
And yet, for his audience in Galatia, Sha’ul claims of the Yerushalayim assembly, “So when Ya’aqob, Kepha, and Yohanan, who seemed to be supports, came to know the favor that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnaba the right hand of fellowship, in order that we go to the nations and they to the circumcised, only that we might remember the poor, which I myself was eager to do.”
Either Sha’ul has a poor memory, which is unlikely, or Kepha has called him out—and he’s lying.
In Sha’ul’s version, there is no decree made about the Yerushalayim assembly regarding anything which Luqas wrote about. In reality, he was not following their guidelines. Sha’ul is therefore covering his tracks. Hence, “And what I write to you, see, before Elohim, I do not lie (Galatiyim 1:20).”
Sha’ul was caught preaching disobedience to Torah. Plain and simple.
And though it is true that Sha’ul had much to say concerning obedience to Torah—in fact he did preach Torah over the course of his career—he would speak out of both ends of his mouth. The doublespeak began right here in Galatiyim.
“We, Yehudim by nature, and not of the nations, sinners, knowing that a man is not declared right by works of Torah, but through believe in Yahshua Messiah, even we have believed in Messiah Yahshua, in order to be declared right by belief in Messiah and not by works of Torah, because by works of Torah no flesh shall be declared right. And if, while seeking to be declared right by Messiah, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Messiah then a servant of sin? Let it not be! For if I rebuild what I once overthrew, I establish myself a transgressor. For through Torah I died to Torah, in order to live in Elohim. I have been impaled with Messiah, and I no longer live, but Messiah lives in me. And that which I now live in the flesh I live by belief in the Son of Elohim, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the favor of Elohim, for if righteousness is through Torah, then Messiah died for naught.”
And then it continues.
“O senseless Galatians! Who has put you under a spell, not to obey the truth—before whose eyes Yahshua Messiah was clearly portrayed among you as impaled? This only I wish to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by works of Torah, or by the hearing of belief?”
Galatiyim 3: 1-2
It continues and continues.
“For as many as are of works of Torah are under the curse, for it has been written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continues in all that has been written in the Book of the Torah, to do them.’ And that no one is declared right by Torah before Elohim is clear, for ‘The righteous shall live by belief.’ And the Torah is not of belief, but ‘The man who does them shall live by them.’”
Galatiyim 3: 10-13
It’s pretty obvious what the problem was. Torah observance. Judaizing was akin to obeying YAHUAH. The apostolic fathers, like Ignatius, understood that point. After men from Yerushalayim reported to Kepha that there were disciples among Sha’ul who were not keeping Torah as they ought, Kepha withdrew himself. Sha’ul had been exposed as a liar.
Naturally, Sha’ul snapped.
To the man who had once endorsed him with table fellowship, Sha’ul wrote:
“So then, have I become your enemy, speaking truth to you….? They [the circumcised group] are ardent towards you, for no good, but they wish to shut you out, that you might be ardent towards them.”
Again, regarding Kepha and his brethren:
“And he who is troubling you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is. And I, brothers, if I still proclaim circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the stake has been set aside. O that those who disturb you would even cut themselves off! For you, brothers, have been called to freedom, only do not use freedom as an occasion for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”
Here, in his very first hastily written epistle, Sha’ul would begin to develop his Good News. Circumcision was an act of the flesh. The flesh and the spirit are at war with one another. Therefore, if you dare to confuse the two, as the circumcision group did, then follow through to the end and lop it off.
“But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under Torah.”
WE FINALLY LEARN WHO the other was in Acts, partly because Sha’ul has already let slip that he was the person responsible for pulling Barnaba away. Yohanan called Mark.
Acts 13:13 already let us in on the fact that Yohanan was part of the Yerushalayim assembly. Yohanan Mark knew something wasn’t right with Sha’ul and withdrew in Pamphulia, returning to Yerushalayim. It was Yohanan Mark who reported to the brothers what he had seen and heard of Sha’ul’s fruit. Ya’aqob therefore sent men to investigate Sha’ul in Antioch. Kepha was already there. Kepha withdrew when he caught wind of the issue.
It was Yohanan Mark who exposed him.
Who is Yohanan Mark?
ABOUT THE SAME TIME that the term Christian was first being coined by Sha’ul and his followers in Antioch, Herodes the Sovereign went about hoping to hamper the Yerushalayim assembly. Ya’aqob the brother of Yohanan was killed by the sword. This pleased the Yehudim. Herodes therefore proceeded to arrest Kepha during the feast of Unleavened Bread.
An angel of YAHUAH broke him from prison.
Acts 12:12 records that Kepha went to the house of Miryam, the mother of Yohanan, who was also called Marqos, where many had gathered to pray for his wellbeing. When Kepha told them how the Master had brought him out of prison, he said, “Report this to Ya’aqob and to the brothers.” Most likely, Yohanan Mark was another family member of Yahshua, along with brothers Ya’aqob, Shim’on and Yohanan. If another member of Yahshua’s inner circle did indeed out Sha’ul, let alone a physical brother, his anger might be better understood. From the very beginning, Sha’ul was on the outer circle.
And now that Kepha had removed himself from the table, he was an apostate.
The book of Galatians was written as damage control.