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Jerome on Gal. 2:14 -- A Lie or Blasphemy By Paul Anyway You Cut It. 


This is a side-note to our book review on Gray's book: Paul as a Problem in History and Culture. See link.



Jerome's explanation of Gal. 2:14 to Augustine most pointedly spoke against Paul in two ways.

For Jerome said unless we accept Paul is untruthful in Gal. 2:14 -- he is lying -- about actually condemning Peter as a hypocrite, then Jerome says Paul would be guilty of "blasphemy" (insult) to condemn Peter for dissimulation / hypocrisy. (See letter ch, 3 pt. 6.)


What did Jerome mean by this? Paul himself in Acts 23:1-5 quoted the law in Exodus that you must not "speak evil" (insult) a "ruler" in public?


And the solution of Origen to that dilemma (which Jerome repeated) was premised upon Paul indeed being untruthful in Gal. 2:14 that he truly condemned Peter publicly. Jerome has that premise in mind when he accepts Origen's plausible pious purpose for Paul's lying in Gal. 2:14, as explained next.

Jerome relayed to Augustine that Origen suggested Gal. 2:14 was part of a scheme of Paul with Peter to pretend to disagree about something, and then allow Paul to appear to condemn Peter publicly for hypocrisy, but it did not really represent what happened between the two men. Then Gal. 2:14 simply allegedly represents a boast of this event by Paul without disclosing to the Galatians that it was a pious fraud from the beginning.

Jerome explains to Augustine that he put forth Origen's solution as plausible, but that Augustine is free to find another solution. I will summarize Jerome's letter on this topic but you can find it at this link, especially ch. 3 parts 4-6.

Jerome begins his letter to Augustine by making clear what he knows is at minimum true: what Paul says happened in Galatians 2:14 cannot be true  (i.e., Paul is lying)  Jerome explains why: Paul cannot ethically condemn Peter for a deception  / dissimulation similar to what Paul himself had done over circumcising Timothy, and was "confessedly guilty."  In other words, Paul would be ascending the heights of hypocrisy for condemning someone for the very same thing Paul was "confessedly guilty" as Jerome put it.

Thus, Jerome says Augustine is left with only two options:

[1] either Paul is lying in Galatians 2:14 that he condemned Peter publicly, i.e., it never happened; or

[2] Paul is guilty of "blasphemy" for accusing Peter of dissimulation about a sin that Paul could never ethically accuse another as Paul practiced dissimulation and deception himself, proven in the book of Acts when compared to Paul's epistles. 

Augustine previously replied to Jerome that his commentary is wrong for assuming Paul is lying in Galatians 2:14.

Hence, Jerome does not ever dwell on Origen's solution includes that Peter would be  equally engaged in play-acting / dissimulation with Paul in front of the Galatians. Rather in Jerome's letter, Jerome emphasizes Paul is in the hot-seat no matter how you look at this. He is clearly lying or committing blasphemy. Take your pick, he says to Augustine, in effect. So if Augustine does not agree to Origen's solution, Jerome says Paul is a blasphemer of a ruler in the kingdom of God. If Augustine will accept Origen's solution, on the other hand, then Paul might be excusable as a pious fraudster in Gal. 2:14 -- a nice term for lying to advance the "gospel."

Here is a quote setting forth Augustine's dilemma in the words of Jerome's found at this linkJerome is restating his Commentary on Galatians 2:14 to which Augustine objects: 

4. You [Augustine] ask, in the second place, my reason for saying, in my commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, that Paul could not have rebuked Peter for that which he himself had done, Galatians 2:14 and could not have censured in another the dissimulation of which he was himself confessedly guilty; and you affirm that that rebuke of the apostle was not a manœuvre of pious policy, but real; and you say that I ought not to teach falsehood, but that all things in Scripture are to be received literally as they stand.

So in this quote, Jerome told Augustine that at minimum we know that what Paul said happened did not literally happen, and is an untruth by Paul. Otherwise, Paul would be criticizing another for a behavior that Paul is "confessedly guilty" himself.  Later Jerome will explain it is a "blasphemy" for Paul to have truly condemned Peter, his senior.  (
Link ch. 3, pt. 6.)

In fact, one may infer Jerome believes Origen's solution does not truly work at all because it implies Peter engaged in dissimulation / hypocrisy jointly with Paul, misbehaving for a moment - refusing to eat with Gentiles - so Paul could look like he could condemn Peter as an inferior. Jerome obviously knew Peter's action was blessed in the story of Prophet Daniel who refused the King's meats, and preferred vegetables. The Paul apologist -- the Cambridge Bible -- concedes how Peter's Jewish mind would justifiably not eat with Gentiles for good Biblical reasons: "we may understand the sort of offence that they ["Jewish minds"] were likely to feel from Daniel's refusal to eat of the food supplied by King Nebudchadnezzar ...[presumably meats sacrificed to idols as] this food and those who ate it the Jews would abhor." (Press "Comment" tab at this link.) So if Daniel refused out of concern of likely eating meat sacrificed to idols, Peter acted properly too not eating with Galatians. Jerome as translater of Daniel to Latin had to know that was Peter's legitimate Biblical role model.

Thus, Jerome is offering what he knows is untenable that Origen claimed -- there a pious possible explanation. Instead, Jerome actually is taking a jab at Paul for dishonesty over repeating in Gal. 2:14 that the supposed play-acting in front of the Galatians was a sincere rebuke by Paul of Peter. Origen's solution has Paul and Peter not just play-acting, but Paul directly lying in Gal. 2:14 that it was seriously true. Jerome's comments let you truly take a different choice than accept this solution from Origen. That is, instead Paul did truly condemn Peter but in error on multiple grounds: (1) Peter followed Daniel's example; (2) Peter was his senior, which Jerome mentions as making Paul wrong to publicly rebuke; (3) and Paul would be guilty of blasphemy to condemn Peter due to Peter's stature in the church. Peter allowing such an attack would only prove kindness of Peter. Jerome implied Paul would always be wrong to give such an example of blasphemous evil in front of the Galatians. Origen's solution is worse because Peter would be conniving with Paul to defraud the Galatians, plus give them a bad example of Christian behavior to a superior apostle and one's elder.  

Jerome is no slouch. Origen's solution does not work. 

Why is Origen's solution wrong, which Jerome gave you clues to see?

Origen is trading one blasphemy (Paul's accusation that blasphemes Peter for hypocrisy for not eating with gentiles when previously he did) for another (both Paul and Peter are acting with hypocrisy / dissimulation to support of Paul's alleged lie in Gal 2:14 that Paul supposedly publicly condemned Peter earlier). Hence, if Jerome truly accepts Origen's solution which impliedly accuses Peter of dissimulation too -- which in the same letter Jerome says is blasphemy when Paul claims to have done the same, then Origen's solution is more of the identical blasphemy which Origen sought to avoid by concocting the pious fraud solution. Hence, Jerome could not truly believe Peter engaged in dissimulation, or endorse that, as he ruled that out as blasphemy of a superior in the very same context. This leaves only one solution that is truly on Jerome's mind: Either Paul lied in Gal. 2:14 about an event that never happened; or Paul truly condemned Peter but for something that was no sin, Paul sinning thereby for publicly condemning a senior for what is not a sin, besides violating Jesus' command to use private confrontation first. 

Comment on Gray's Choice to Bring in Origen's Solution.

Even if Jerome thought Peter and Paul acted as hypocrites, as Gray reads into this letter, it would still mean Paul was a hypocrite in yet a third event. Gray possibly chose only this example evidently because when so isolated, Paul’s hypocrisy appears to be palliated by the fact a true apostle — Peter— is suggested to have equally been pretentious. But such palliative is not present in Paul’s honoring either the Nazarite vow or circumcising Timothy. Paul’s obvious hypocrisy in each event belongs to Paul alone. And Gray ignores Jerome's famous remark that these are acts of hypocrisy of which Paul is "confessedly guilty." (See Jerome Letter, ch. 3, pt. 4 at link.)

Thus, Gray by focusing on just merely this alleged issue has distracted our attention so we never hear Jerome’s more problematic quote about two other acts of obvious hypocrisy solely by Paul. The quote which Gray should have quoted necessarily was the more famous quote from Jerome about Paul‘s acts of pretense by doing the following: 1. taking the vow from Numbers 6 in Acts 21 and 2. circumcising Timothy.