One of the ideas we teased out during our reading of the Acts of the Apostles was the basis for authority in the early church. We discussed how kinship (e.g. James) and proximity (e.g. Peter/Cephas) to Jesus seem to be two major ways to establish credibility. Another, of course, was compelling interpretation of Jesus’s message and significance (i.e. Paul/Saul).

Some might use Chapter 15 of the Acts of the Apostles among other sections to suggest that all was copacetic among teachers of The Way. Paul’s interaction with the Jerusalem Council might suggest a mutual respect.

But two things we might note about Acts’s approach to history. First, the Lukan evangelist appears quite interested in harmonizing potential rivalries by way of inventing new traditions. It is in Luke after all that we learn that Jesus and John the Baptist are not only contemporary sign prophets with their own sets of disciples, but also cousins. Might Acts 15 be a similar instance of sublimating difference?

In your notebook, reflect on the following:

As you read Galatians, read how Paul describes the Jerusalem Council? How does it differ from the telling in Acts?

Then I want you to take a look at this image by the 17th century painter El Greco. How would you interpret this image according to Acts 15 and how would you interpret it according to Galatians?

A bald St. Paul (right) is pointing to the text and St. Peter (left) is holding a key. Peter and Paul's other hands are parallel with each other.
El Greco, St. Paul and St. Peter