Why did Paul confront Peter?

I’m confused as to why this happened.:confused:

Peter screwed up. But there is more to the story than that.

On Peter, Paul and Hypocrisy

In their effort to deny the primacy of Peter and the doctrine of papal infallibility, many non-Catholics point to Paul’s rebuke of Peter over the issue of eating with Gentiles as recorded in the Paul’s Letter to the Galatians.

Galatians 2:11-14
11When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. 12Before 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. 13The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. 14When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, "You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?

In this passage, we see that Paul opposed Peter for not practicing what he preached. Although Peter may have been wrong to draw back from eating with the Gentile believers, we must note that is apparently James, and not Peter, who was the leader of the “circumcision group” in Jerusalem. Thus, those who assert that it was James, and not Peter, who was the real leader of the Church must answer for this error. However, Peter’s actions do not constitute formal teaching, and the doctrine of infallibility does not apply to Peter’s private opinions or behavior. Therefore, this passage does nothing to disprove either Peter’s primacy or the doctrine of papal infallibility. Peter, like his successors, was not above reproach nor impeccable.

However, it must also be noted that Paul was not above taking prudent measures out of fear of those who held to the tradition of circumcision, either. One such measure is found in the following passage:

Acts 16:1-3
1He came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was a Jewess and a believer, but whose father was a Greek. 2The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. 3Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.

Paul wrote that “circumcision means nothing” (1 Corinthians 7:19, Galatians 6:15). Moreover, in the same letter in which Paul accused Peter of hypocrisy and boasted of having opposed Peter to his face, he writes the following:

Galatians 5:2-3
2Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law.

Imagine how Timothy must have felt when he first heard these words. He had let himself be circumcised by the very man who condemned the practice. Was Christ of no value to Timothy at all as a result of being circumcised?

This was not the only time that Paul had acted out of fear of the Jews. Later in the book of Acts, we find the following:

Acts 21:17-26
17When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers received us warmly. 18The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present. 19Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. 21They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. 22What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, 23so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. 24Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everybody will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law. 25As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.” 26The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them.

Clearly, the brothers in Jerusalem were concerned that some harm might come to Paul from those who knew that Paul taught against circumcision. Paul agreed to purify himself according to Jewish customs and to pay the expenses of those who were purified along with him rather than openly admit that circumcision was of no value. Was this a wise course of action? Assuredly as subsequent events indicate.

However, it cannot be denied that Paul was preaching one thing (at least in private to Gentile Christians) while practicing another—the very thing he accused Peter of doing.

So how does this have anything to do with me being a Christian?
What bearing does this have for me?

Because you screw up in ways similar to the way that Peter did. He is you model for how to accept correction when one is in error.

What bearing does this have for me?

It is for you benefit.

Seems like to me a textbook example of how no Christian can agree with another because so many things have been mistranslated, books left out, things interpreted so many different numbers of ways.

Makes me just not want to be a Christian.

No comment. Too vague. And it does not relate to what I posted.

Def relates to what you posted. And your comment WAS a comment.



It means that as a Christian…you should accept reproof with humility, accept a correction when your actions are clearly against the teachings of Christ.

On the other side, you also have duty as a Christian to point out what is wrong and offer correction with humility.

What’s the alternative?

I think instead of giving up and throwing out the whole thing, you should go back to basics: Love God. Love your neighbor. Take care of those in need. If something is wrong, try to make it at least a little better. Jesus said “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

It is good if you wish to examine and understand Scripture. I suppose a student of Scripture needs to worry at some level (intellectual or academic) about translations and interpretations (and missing books?), but this needn’t shake our faith or cause us to disagree with fellow Christians on the fundamentals.

Here’s an old thread that might help explain what happened and why:
CAF - Did Paul Correct Peter?

1)You have been told to take it to the Church to settle disputes.
2)What has been mistranslated? Please give examples. It would be helpful to others who can help you get answers.
3) Which books have been left out? The Catholic Church already fixed the books to be left in. Please clarify.

Makes me just not want to be a Christian.

Because of what? The above? There are answers out there, have you tried to accept them? Or are these just excuses in trying not to be a Christian? If not Christ, who else would you rather believed in then?

It means that you can have confidence that Peter’s human weakness did not prevent him from exercising the leadership of the Church that Jesus promised to build.

Jews were Jews when they heard about Jesus and believed the Gospel proclaimed to them and asked to be baptized as Catholics. (they did not know the word Catholic, but knew there was only one church). They continued at that time to practice their Jewish traditions and worship, because it was not a new God, but a new understanding of this God to them - now they knew the Messiah, and that God was also their Father, and the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Paul was sent to the Gentiles, and Peter himself was involved in the conversion and acceptance of Gentiles, and so was Philip. In these encounters, they all three knew and found that God accepted the Gentiles into the Catholic faith because of their faith in the Word of the Gospel that the apostles delivered to them from Jesus. They were justified in understanding themselves as Catholic, fully Catholic, even though not converting also to Judaism.

Peter, however, when in this Gentile Catholic mission field, began to avoid contact with the Gentile Catholics when a group of Jewish Catholics came to town, and spent all his time with them and did not want them to know he associated with those who were Gentiles, and this brought about a problem there - the question of whether they were really Catholic. It is the same problem faced in Rome by the Gentile Catholics there, that prompted Paul to write his letter to the Romans. In Romans we see his message to the people losing their understanding of being fully Catholic, where in Acts we see how he worked to stop the Church leadership from being the cause of the problem. (It was the local Jewish community in Rome causing the problem there, not Jewish Catholics as with Peter in Acts)

So, Paul confronted Peter to reason with him about the true nature of being Catholic, which is obedience to the Gospel that was delivered, and not combining that with other requirements. Jesus did not require that you had to become a Jew to also become Catholic, but only that you believe in him in the ones he sent to you. If you believed with a Jewish background, that is what you turned from when you believed in Jesus. If you came from a Gentile background, then that is what you turned from when you believed in Jesus. You might say that Jews had to turn from false self-righteousness and Gentiles had to turn from false Gods, though it is not completely that simple.

Paul did the confrontation because he was led by the Holy Spirit. If he had not been led by the Spirit he would have protested at a distance and began a new denomination based on public opinion of Peter and worked to sway others away from the Catholic Faith. Instead he went to the other bishops, the Apostles, and to the Pope, and presented his theological arguments, so that the Church would act in unity. Which it did. The council met. Peter stated the way things had to be, and James made the suggestion for the strategy of how to relate the decision to the Gentile Catholics, with the Letter to them.

What it means to us, is that we see a unified voice coming from the Councils of the Church, and we get a glimpse into the first council of a real problem faced and resolved with the result of a unified message from our Head to us. In the future, Peter would not show partiality depending on who was around, but would help Jewish converts know that Gentile converts were fully Catholic.

St Jerome responded to this charge of Paul rebuking Peter by observing that,
*]Peter was well aware of the law of Moses, but was playing to those who were weak in their faith and out of fear that he might lose them, did what he did so like the Good Shepherd, would not lose ANYONE given to him. Now look at what Paul did
*]In Acts 16:1-3 Paul took a disciple named Timothy… and on account of the Jews of that region, Paul had Timothy a gentile, circumcised. Then
*]Acts 18:18, Acts 21: 18-26 Paul shaved his head, purified himself and made sacrifice according to the Mosaic law, which he had previously said is no longer to be followed.
[/LIST]Catch that? Paul rebukes Peter while giving himself a pass on far more. But actually, Paul learned from Peter in this exercise that he would enjoin later in his ministry… Because Paul later in his travels explains HIS behavior by saying, to the Gentiles he becomes as a Gentile, to win them over, as to the Jews he became a Jew so that some might be saved. [1 cor 9:20] This is exactly what Peter did earlier with the gentiles and was rebuked by Paul for it. Then Paul embraces this behavior for himself…

St Jerome points out.

“O blessed Apostle Paul, who has rebuked Peter
for hypocrasybecause he withdrew himself from the
Gentiles for fear of the Jews who’ came from
James, why are you, not withstanding your own
doctrine, compelled to circumcise Timothy, the son of a
Gentile, for he was not a Jew, having not been circumcised? Will you answer, ‘Because of the Jews which are in these quarters.? If so, then forgive yourself the circumcision of a disciple coming from the Gentiles, and forgive Peter also, who has precedence above you, his doing some things of the same kind through fear of the believing Jews.”

Jerome continues, “Why did you [Paul] shave your head, why did you walk barefoot according to the Jewish ceremonial law, why did you offer sacrifices, why were victims slain for you
according to the law? Will you answer, ‘To avoid giving offense to those of the Jews who had believed.’ To gain the Jews, you did pretend to be a Jew”. [snip]

I tried to highlight and compress ( albeit a poor job on my part) what Jerome writes to Augustine concerning this subject. I focused particularly starting with ch’s 3…. of his letter. Here is Jerome’s full letter. Please read all of it in the following link. Forget my inept job at trying to summarize. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1102075.htm

WOW!!! You should give classes or something! I love reading your posts, always has lots of info.

Reminds me of Proverbs 9:7-9. Paul’s correction of Peter exmplifies the wisdom of this scripture.

“He who corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man and he will increase in learning.” Proverbs 9:7-9 (RSVCE)


It’s called fraternal or brotherly correction. It’s a good thing to lovingly correct someone when they error.

As Bayou Catholic noted above:
“. . . . reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man and he will increase in learning.” Proverbs 9:7-9

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