As part of his argument, while admonishing Peter to live in accordance with the Gospel, Paul stated that he (Peter) while being a Judean, “lived” as a member of the nations and not (uniquely) as a Judean (Gal.2:14). Most people today wrongly conclude that Paul was describing Peter’s non-Jewish lifestyle, which is why Paul’s argument seems to make no sense. Yet the very basis of the conflict between the two apostles suggests otherwise. After all, the conflict was over fellowship with Gentiles who did not go through proselyte conversion.

These Gentiles worshiped Israel’s God in Christ, but did not completely obligate themselves to full Torah observance. They, therefore, remained members of the nations of the world. (Remember that the basic problem with Gentiles was not their genetic identity, but their non-Jewish lifestyle, which would have put them out of the possibility of fellowship with the rest of the Jewish people). This background, together with Peter’s apostolic commissioning to primarily minister to Judeans, renders our modern de-Judaized interpretation (of “you live as a Gentile”) nothing short of absurd.

Paul also told Peter that: “We who are Jews by birth and not Gentile ‘sinners’ know that a man is not justified by works of the Torah” (Gal. 2:15-16a). The Apostle Paul did not refer to Peter’s lifestyle, but rather to his experience in Christ! This was very much in line with what Peter witnessed himself when Israel’s God poured out His Spirit on Gentile God-fearers (Acts 10). That is without becoming proselyte converts (meaning without becoming fully committed to the entire Torah) the Gentile God-fearers became recipients of the Holy Spirit of Israel’s God!

In other words, “live as a Gentile” did not mean that Peter abandoned his Jewish lifestyle, but that he was now alive in Christ in exactly the same way as Gentiles were – by grace through faith, and not because of obedience to the Torah (Eph.2:1-22).

So, did Peter, and for that matter, Paul, “live” as Gentiles? Absolutely! They were made alive in Christ in the same way as Gentiles were! (Gal.2:15-16).

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94 COMMENTS

  1. I am still not clear about this. If both Peter and Paul live as Gentiles then why was Paul accusing Peter, saying he was wrong and by his conduct misleading other Jews even Barnabas? Like others, I have always felt that his argument here portrays bad blood.Paul it was, who argues that Peter’s ministry was to the Jews and not Gentiles, contradicting Peter’s testimony in Act 15:5,6. A good Christian leader will not rubbish the image of a fellow leader in public, which is the attitude we see in Peter when speaking about Paul.

  2. I don’t think that Paul rubbish the image of Peter. Galatians church needed the correction.To present. the truth forcefully Paul brought all these thing fearlessly and I believe Paul did the right thing. Paul emphasised that one cannot add anything to Salvation which is only through the faith in Jesus redemptive work at the Cross.

  3. “So, did Peter, and for that matter Paul, “live” as Gentiles? Absolutely! They were made “alive” in Christ in the same way as Gentiles were! (Gal.2:15-16).” There is no such thing as Apostles leaving as Gentiles, If you’re talking about non converted Gentiles, because Gentiles did not keep the 10 Commandments. When Gentiles made a Covenant with Christ they committed to keep the 10 Commandments. John 14:15 (KJV) “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” The new Covenant never got rid of keeping the Law of God (10 Commandments) Jesus made it clear NKJV “Do not think that I came

    • Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. This is true that while Christ was on earth he lived under the Law. However Christ fulfilled the Old Covenant upon His death. Just like any legal document once it is fulfilled it is null and void. The commandments that Christ was speaking of were the ones that are part of the New Covenant. The other part to this verse is for the Apostles alone at that time for they were under the Old Covenant.

      • Not true, If you run a red light and you get a ticket, and the judge forgives your trespass, are you allowed to run red lights again? When Jesus Christ forgives your trespass, are you allowed to sin again? If you do, you got to asked for forgiveness. But you are supposed to keep the 10 Commandments. John 14:15-31 If you love Me, keep My commandments. 1 John 2:4 He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. Revelation 22:14 Blessed are those who do His commandments

    • Gab, it sounds like you’re a strong believer, however, you may be taking John 14:15 out of context. It is true that Jesus said that, but what commandment(s) was he talking about? Was it ‘the 10commandments’ or was it the ‘New commandment he gave in John13, that we love each other as he loved us..?

  4. I find no support for a claim that Peter’s primary mission was to Jews and Paul’s mission was to Gentiles. The claim is Pauline and is made by Paul’s secretary, Luke, and comes from no apostolic authority. The claim is contrary to fact. In fact, if we were to name the Apostle who most successfully ministered to Gentiles it would have to be Thomas. His work in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Southern India not only is well documented but lasts even to this day. The question of whether G-d-fearers need to follow all the precepts of Judaism was answered long ago.

  5. Acts 15:21 shows us that the returning tribes were to continue their Torah education in the Shabbat portions read every sabbath and in every city from which thay came. Then, eventually all the details would be received and incorporated into their lifestyles. Sadly some teachers stop and forget the early verses of Acts 15 and make a case for returning lost sheep not having to to obey all the Torah. A careful study of the study proves יהוה requires all of both houses of Yisrael to be equal and identical benefits and blessings, associated with Torah complience.

    • Luis, the verse you refer to is specifically about the law for eating Passover. It specifies that whoever eats it must be circumcised, whether native born or a sojourner. Paul says to remain uncircumcised if you are called alive in Christ as a Gentile.so SOMETHING is new and different in the new covenant, yes? In Christian churches we say you must be a believer to take the Lord’s supper. An unbeliever cannot partake. Some churches say you must be baptized, some say only you must be a believer. Perhaps representing spirit of vs letter of?

  6. I don’t understand . Who was ministering to gentiles ? Paul or Peter? I thought that Paul and Peter , (actually let’s call them by their real names: Saul and Simeon) had an argument because Saul corrupted Jesus’ teachings and Simeon (and James the brother of Jesus) wanted to follow a different line of teachings, the real one.

  7. So are you essentially saying that the way in which every believer should “live“ is in the manner physically manifested by the inner work of the Spirit: alive only through Christ (as described below)? I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me; (Eph. 2:20) …for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; (Acts 7:28)

  8. Torah consists of instruction specifically for the priests and their Temple duties, instructions just for men, instructions just for women and instructions for His all His people. Don’t confuse Torah with rabbinic teaching over the past 2000 years. Look at the heart of Torah and you will see the Savior. He is the one who gave the instructions and said in Matt 5:17-19 that Torah would not pass away and anyone who teaches that will be least in the kingdom of heaven. We get all confused because we mix 2000 years of negative teaching about Judaism with G-d’s Word.

  9. Sir, I am not sure what your essay is really about. Paul stood up to Peter, who acted as a hypocrite. When the Judiazers came he abandoned eating with Gentiles to eat with them because he couldn’t stand up to social criticism. If Paul had not stood up to Peter, then there might have been a long lasting rift between Jewish and non-Jewish early Christians. I wonder why you state that God is Israel’s god. The possessive case seems inappropriate. God is everyone’s god. Grace and not works, including works arising from the Torah. and so on.

  10. Salvation is a free gift that comes by grace. However, we must show our love for Yahweh & our readiness to dwell in His coming kingdom by obeying His commandments –1 John5:2-3; Matt 7:21. Sadly, most Christian leaders would tell you that salvation by grace cancels the need to keep Torah. This is like telling a pardoned criminal not to bother keeping the law of the land anymore; after all, he has been pardoned by grace. What a nice way to follow Yahshua who kept the Torah & did not even abolish it!

  11. That Peter and Paul did not get along well, that their reporters and friends supported some differences and the Bible sometimes seems to paper over their differences–all that seems to come through. In my view, their differences are worthwhile. Peter is integral to the life of Jesus, and his Resurrection. Paul is integral to the community afterwards and of Jesus alive–whose past is to him irrelevant. Like two sides of a coin, and the differences between Gospels and Letters, they remind us that different people come to God according to the Call they are given–conformity is the bane of salvation.

  12. Paul confronted Peter that in Christ there was not a distinction between Jew and Gentile. Meaning that there was one Gospel and the Old Covenant was fulfilled. One did not have to become a proselyte. Peter preached the one Gospel until the party from James came. Paul told Peter that to teach anything other than one being saved through Christ was wrong. Jesus left the plan of salvation for all. The plan which has been used since the beginning of Christianity is: Hear, Believe, Confess, Repent, and be Baptized for the remissions of sins. Read Acts 2.

  13. I need some clarification, please. Your last two paragraphs seem to be saying there was a difference in salvation in the “Old Testament” and the “New.” Is this the case?

  14. Dr Eli, confusion seems to reign supreme among the commentators. Paul who was an upstart never knowing Jesus personally was at loggerheads with not only Peter but James as well, started by first persecuting Jesus followers and then seeing the light decided he was the better person to create/start the early church. Thus today he is regarded highly by all Christians as his messages to the early church dominate the Bible.

  15. I believe Peter was stuck at having to become Jews to fully accept this Jewish sect, Paul said circumcision was an exclusive command to the Israeli. That Israeli bloodline was important for proof of heritage to Adam and circumcision was a prophecy of the eighth day following the Millennium Reign. Circumcision will not make a gentile a Jew and Peter living as a gentile meant he lived a life under the grace that freed him from the penalty of sin just as the gentiles did. Peter finally understood this was more than Judaism, was time to go to the gentiles.

  16. After read this I it applies perfectly to the first part “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles…” if Paul here is referring to Gentile followers. But what do you do with the rest “…and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?” Are these non Jewish followers or Jews in General? Why the admonition not to compel gentiles to live as Jews. I am aware circumcision was about conversion.

    • The general sense here, (and for those who are just reading this now, please, make sure to reread the article a few times), is that Gentiles are alive in Jewish Christ the same way as Jews are. So not being alive as Jews are basically – not being alive uniquely as Jews (being bound by covenantal responsibility to obey the Torah applicable to the Israelites alone). So the logic then if both Jews and Gentiles alive through the same Jewish Christ and apart from Him they are not, what is the point then to get Gentiles to become Jews at all?! (Now… Paul, I

  17. My take on all this is: First, the covenant was not made by Yahshua, but by the Father and He never died, so the covenant is still alive and well. Yahshua never taught that believers should not keep the commandments, on the contrary, He stated clearly that we should keep the commandments. The laws concerning the levites and the priesthood were abolished because animal sacrifices are no longer needed, necessary or accepted. Neither are the rites and ceremonies associated with the levite priesthood. Torah is the instruction of the Father for all mankind what was made in His image.

    • William, hi. You are going way further then I go in this article. I present here a view that helps people to see that the Jewish man Peter/Kefas KEPT UP with his Jewish life-style in-spite of becoming one of the greatest Christian Apostles of all time.

  18. Dr Eli, I am not convinced by your interpretation. After all, Peter was shunning the Gentiles. That is the reason Paul was angry. If Peter had always been living a Jewish lifestyle, why did he feel the need to shun the Gentiles and ingratiate himself with the Judaizers who arrived from Jerusalem?

    • First of all not being convinced is fine :-). Life is so much more than just being convinced of things, but please allow me to clarify. In Judaism, acceptance of Gentiles was NEVER a problem as long as a Gentile joins Israel through proselyte conversion – meaning becomes a Jew in everyday. But there was a problem (and still is) about joining Gentiles to Israel WITHOUT PROSELYTE conversion!!!!! So this is the new and radical things that Jewish Apostle Paul is all about that GENTILES together with JEWS are coheirs of the promises of God (key point: WITHOUT PROSELYTE CONVERSION).

      • Dr. Eli, when Paul was called by God on the road to Damascus, he was Saul….after his conversion and became Paul, he was to take the gospel to the gentiles…..he visited Cornelis and his family who were gentiles and not Jews…..They accepted the gospel and became Christians….Paul went to Antioch to take the gospel to the gentiles there….teaching them salvation by Jesus Christ alone….the Christian Jews had a problem not Paul…..they still want the Gentiles to be circumcised for them to be saved to be like the Jews….when Paul heard about what was happening in Antioch he went back there to remind them that the Gentiles do not have to be circumcised to be saved

  19. Contextually: “11 When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.” The issue is not so much his “life style,” but his hypocrisy – contextually speaking.

    • The issue in this post Rudy is exactly his lifestyle. Of course the Holy Scriptures has many other big and small issues that it covers :-).

  20. Jesus did not come to abolish the Torah, but to fulfill its just demands: the consequential penalty of disobedience. He said not one dot of the Ten Commandments was to be made void. Obedience will not bring salvation; only faith in the atoning blood of Christ will do that. However, the Torah commandments were given as a blue print for functional and right living: initially to a people who had come out of slavery, the immorality of Egypt and were without guidance. Today, those commandments still apply to us and are part of our walk in the Spirit.

  21. The Gospel to both! The coming of God’s Kingdom, through belief in God and his son.Salvation both of Hebrews and incoming Gentiles are able to enter into God’s Kingdom! God gave a SIGN. of Circumcision to Abraham and those with him.Later, to the Mixed Multitude.Parents that circumcise hopefully, then will raise a child in the Lord’s ways.Incoming Gentiles had been like orphaned children finding their way to God.Paul had to remind Peter, to live and treat both as the same!Peter even wrote: Paul is right. No Conflict there.

  22. Letter of Paul to Galatians tells about Paul reprehending Peter in a quite strong way, as a coward and nearly as a traitor because the arrival of those of James, the jew-christians. In the theological thougt of Paul ,the Law, The Torah, is not longer the way, the regime, of relatinship between God and human being, after the death of Christ as “damned of the Law , the new regime is based on faith in Christ and life in Holy Spirit. To live as a gentile of Peter would mean, then, to live whitout following the rules of the Law.

  23. Luis, Many years ago when I studied theology in Sydney. Our OT lecturer pointed out to us that “Old Testament” is a misnomer. it should be called “ The older Testament.”. Pls do not discard Our history. learn Biblical Hebrew which I did for 4 years and your eyes will open up and you will see how often in the West we get poorly taught about our Christianity. OT is very essential in our life.

  24. Therese, Iagree with you, we,as christian, can’t untie our faith from OT, it´s the inescapable basis and reference of our belief. Jesus was a jew, rooted in Israel’s faith and we are also rooted in it. If it doesn’t mean humiliation to recognise own ignorance, it doesn’t necessarily arrogance to recognise own knowledge. I can say rightly that I know theological thougt of Paul quite well, quite well I can understand him.And no, it isn’t a matter of western reading ,it’s just a matter of reading Paul himself.

  25. Paul claim himself as jew, from the tribe of Benjamin, he claim his love for his People, and he does very clearly, but at the same time about the Law, the Torah, he says just what he says and we can read.

  26. No, he did not. He lived as one new man in Christ. Neither Jew nor Gentile. Although Yeshua says salvation is from the Jews he lived as the Son of Man who is neither Jew nor gentile. Both Peter and Yeshua were described by the “educated” people as uneducated because of their radical approach in speaking to people about God. What dies formal education achieve? Only titles approved of men. They have the form but not the power and authority of God. I would rather be in Christ approved by God.

    • I wish you would make your point and stay with it argue it well (no education is needed for that). Many people with street wisdom and not much education are smarter and wiser than those with formal education, but what you are doing here is a hit below the belt nothing more :-). You are most certainly incorrect by assuming that you Peter stopped being a Jew when he has met the Risen Jewish Messiah :-). I wish you would make a commitment to learn more. I do invite you to become a member of learning community and consider things careful before you reject them in favor of traditional interpretation.

  27. I enjoy reading the comments you all make, but I am surprised that some think that the 10 commandments are not in force they are in force because if we did not have the 10 commandments we would not know what sin is or was, it is because of the 10 commandments that we realize that we have sinned against God, Jesus and the people we have wronged. I am wondering if any of you say a pray and ask the Lord for help in understanding His word because He wrote the Bible and the Torah. the thing is that i read the Bible with the understanding i get from the Lord not my own but because He is guiding my thoughts to point that I view Paul not either gentile or Jew but just an Apostle and Peter is the same in my view point. Peter was living the life style that fit him at the time and so was Paul, Paul wore many different Hats when it came to talking with people in order to win them over.

  28. Shalom Dr. Eli, just wanted to let you know that I appreciate very much your explanation. A tremendous Blessings.

    “Be Blessed”

    • In reality Paul was confronting Peter why do you live as Gentile while you are a Jew and then he goes on to say why do you say that the gentiles should live like the Jew when are not living like a jew and are a Jew. but i still think that they both lived a life unlike we have now a day. so they were trying to reach each person and they were willing to do what it takes to reach them even if it meant to live like a Gentile to reach them with the Gospel message. Paul admits that he has done exactly that but he put it very delicately that no one would be offended by what he stated. He state he become what ever to reach the people so in reality Paul and Peter were doing the same thing but Paul called Peter on the carpet for it when he was doing the same exact thing.
      I really do not think that you can put a Jewish or Gentile attitude on either one because they were reaching the people in a way that no one would have expected them to do. this bothered the Pharisees because they were reaching and a lot of Jews were becoming Christians, it also bother the rulers in Rome as well.

  29. IF we ignore the Holy Spirit we have a problem,with all these issues Torah,..Judaism..,…Gentile..,..Jews,…we are one in Christ…no perfection by our traditions and beliefs..,..otherwise Jesus died invain..

    John 6:28 Then they said unto him ,what shall we DO that we might work the works of GOD.See they wanted to DO..
    Jesus said..John6:29 Jesus answered and said unto them,This is the WORK of God ,that believe on him whom he has went.

    Its a SINGLE WORK.Thats what we are called to do..
    You believe with your heart remember..not opinions and views with the WISDOM OF MEN which is foolishness to God.

    If you miss your SAVIOUR you have a problem..

  30. I suspect that Paul’s recollection of his own words “If you, though a Jew, are living like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (Gal 2:14) implies that Peter may have regularly “lived like a Gentile” (i.e. shared table fellowship with Gentile believers in Jesus) when he found himself among Gentile believers, and perhaps without any Judaic believers in Jesus – from the Jerusalem/Judean congregations – around either. EP Sanders does an interesting job of making sense of Peter’s behavior (can’t remember the bibliography) suggesting that Peter’s “withdrawal” from table fellowship, once the folks from Jerusalem arrived, made sense since he would likely have been concerned about causing Judean believers to “stumble” if word made it back that he wasn’t taking Torah seriously enough.

    Check out my article “Engendering Gossip in Galatians 2:11-14” ( http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0146107917715589 )

  31. Shalom Dr. Eli, just wanted to let you know that I appreciate very much your explanation. A tremendous Blessing.

    “Be Blessed”

  32. Gab,
    With all due respect, please read or carefully reread Jeremiah 31 beginning in verse 31. You will see that the Torah is written on hearts of flesh rather than tablets of stone. It is all of God’s instructions, not just the big ten. I think that your understanding is a bit skewed due to incorrect Western teaching. In addition, if you knew any Hebrew, you would know that the Hebrew word translated new can also mean renewed. It depends on context. Finally, Yeshua (Jesus) taught all of Torah correctly and the Torah (Law) is an eternal covenant document. You might say that it is our marriage contract with the Lord.

    • thank you for your reply, and you are correct in the fact i have not studied Hebrew which i will some day correct because i need to be able to pay for it plus i think the Hebrew language and the Torah is a great understanding i need but i will have it some day. as for Jerimiah 31. it is amazing you picked Jeremiah because i must agree there is more to this chapter than what meets the eye. Jeremiah is one of the Books i enjoy reading as well. Yes Jesus taught from the Torah in all truth and he knew it and understood to the correct understanding that even today we still do not have. Honestly I am enjoying the learning that i am getting conversing with you even because i learn something i did not realize this evening, which what i like about my Bible studies and readings. I learn every time i open my Bible and may i ask a question of you do you learn something new each time you read or study your Bible. thanks for the Lesson i really appreciate the insight.
      DEB

  33. Dr. Eli,
    Thanks for this article and others you have written. In trying to understand this passage and your article, I have a couple clarifying questions. Was Peter teaching the surrounding Gentiles that they needed to “live like a Jew” by his words, or by his action of withdrawing from eating with them (and perhaps eating certain foods as well), or both/neither? Also, these men “from James,” were they teaching a false gospel, then? It seems to me that Peter was intimidated by these men from James to live/eat in a certain way that was not inherently wrong, but viewed by some to be the way to be justified before God. So, by Peter acting this way when James’ men were in town, it was sending a message to the Gentiles that you have to “live/eat like a Jew (by the works of the law)” if you want to be justified. Yet, surely that is not what James was preaching, was it? Thanks.

    • Jonathan, hi. Remember justification in first century was not yet defined in terms of protestant reformation. Justification meant something like being counted among God’s people (being in right standing before God with God’s people). So I think the issue had to do with conversion (full joining of the Jewish people as proselyte converts).

  34. You can’t read Galatians without understanding that the Galatians were most likely previously very pagan Celts who had converted to Judaism, and then were confronted by Paul and his new message. So their understanding of Judaism was probably fairly sketchy at best, and then the new teaching would have been even more confusing to them. Galatians were the same cultural/racial group who at that time populated Gaul (today’s France), Switzerland, much of the Iberian Peninsula, all of Britain, and part of Italy and various parts of what is now eastern Europe. They were culturally far different from Jews, and even though they had been Romanized to some extent, they differed from Greco-Roman culture as well. They still spoke the same Celtic language as their cousins in Gaul, and traded with them, though those who lived in Romanized cities in what is now Turkey also spoke Greek and probably Latin as well. They obviously presented Paul with considerable challenges far different from what he had encountered in Jerusalem among fellow Jews regarding what Judaic laws should and should not be followed by Gentile followers of Christ. In short, the Celts were a real handful to a well-educated, cosmopolitan Jew like Paul: even the city dwellers were still very superstitious, causing Paul to exclaim “O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you?” Their Judaism was probably still only a veneer; underneath, they had not lost most of their cultural characteristics; these were the same people who brought us Halloween, after all…

  35. I love your language skills Dr. Eli. I can agree that man is not justified by works, but for years and years I lacked the language to explain my experience in Christ. I grabbed hold of the Ten Commandments (God’s goodness). How could one let go of the Law and see Justice (Jesus)! You see my language problem. What I notice is that in Gen 32:36 Jacob described his experience (seeing God face to face) as wrestling with an angel, not the Law. I grabbed hold of the Law, but I let go of God (faith). Do I call it wrestling with an angel, a revelation?

  36. I still love ALL of your Biblical skills 🙂 So we (not me) were law-free. I still struggle to use the word Holy Spirit because there seems to be a contradiction. Where is the image of God (obedience to the Torah)? This obedience is what made my “experience” Strong. Most of the time I hear “not by works”, but that by itself seems like a description of “powerlessness”, not Holy Spirit (Power). Maybe the trinity is confusing me.

    • Salvation is by God’s grace through faith, but faith is evidenced by good works that are pleasing to God and are facilitated by the power of His Holy Spirit.

  37. So what revelation are you trying to show us using this provocative question, that we are all one in Christ by faith through good works and not by obeying the Jewish law!

  38. Yes, for through the newer teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ, he has allowed all to come to God the Father through their faith in Jesus and his teaching

  39. My Jesus said: “Love the Lord your G-d with all your heart, soul, mind and your neighbour as yourself, against this there is no law”.

  40. In reading this article and the comments, it seems the controversy arises from equating “living in Jesus” with “being alive in Jesus.” There is a difference.

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