The ESV has Paul's rebuke to Peter consist of just verse 2:14 and verses 15-21 are directed back at the Galatians. This is indicated with a section heading and the lack of quotation marks starting verse 15:

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The NASB in contrast indicates with quotation marks that verses 15-21 continue the speech:

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Which is the correct interpretation?

1 Answer 1


According to Meyer's NT Commentary, many commentators have taken different positions on this question, those that view 15-21 as a continuation include Chrysostom, Theodoret, Jerome, Estius, Bengel, Rosenmüller, Tittmann, Knapp, Flatt, Winer, Rückert, Schott, Baumgarten-Crusius, de Wette and Möller, Hilgenfeld, Ewald and Holsten. Those opposed include Theodore of Mopsuestia, Oecumenius, Calvin, Beza, Grotius, Semler, Koppe, Matthies, Hermann, Hofmann, Wieseler and Reithmayr.

I take the former view, for the following reasons:

  1. It seems unlikely that Paul would stand up and oppose Peter publicly with a dozen words. In a time and culture that highly valued oration1. A short speech including explanation, justification and exhortation is much more likely

    14But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” ESV

  2. The 'we' in verse 15 can refer to Paul and Peter, but can't refer to Paul and the Galatians, who appear to be mostly gentile2

    15We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; ESV

  3. Paul's conclusion in verse 21 exactly sums up the essence of his rebuke to Peter, who was tacitly condoning the opponents of the Gospel who were preaching by their actions that righteousness comes through the law

    21I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. ESV

  4. Paul does explicitly address the Galatians again in the next verse

    3:1O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. ESV

1 c.f. Paul's speech in Acts 17 for example

2 See for example 1:13-14 where Paul speaks of 'Judaism' as '...the traditions of my fathers'

  • 2
    Just as a way of note: Paul continues to use "we" and "us" in chapter 3 perhaps in seeming distinction between the Jews and the Galatians - see especially the transition between "we" in 3:23-25 and "you" in 26-29.
    – Soldarnal
    Jul 13, 2015 at 13:31
  • Hi, Jack. Could you fit Barnabas into this picture? Barnabas and Paul had parted ways because of their sharp disagreement over John Mark (Acts 15:38). This break-up occurred right after the confrontation with Peter (Acts 15:35). That is, Barnabas was aligned with Peter when Paul confronted Peter (and Barnabas) in Antioch. Could the sharp disagreement over John Mark therefore have had more to do with Paul's confrontation with Peter and Barnabas? In other words, could Barnabas's sharp disagreement with Paul stem from his own indignation of public correction (and perceived humiliation) from Paul?
    – Joseph
    Jul 13, 2015 at 13:37
  • Acts 15:34 is actually an insertion from a later manuscript. Thus, in order for the reader to see a gap of time between Acts 15:33 and Acts 15:35, there was the insertion of the phrase,"But it seemed good to Silas to remain there." Silas was the one who accompanied Paul when Barnabas parted ways with Paul. Thus between Acts 15:33 and Acts 15:35 there was a gap of time in which Peter had to travel to Antioch to clarify matters regarding the role of Jewish Law in Christian living. It was at this time that Paul confronted Peter and Barnabas publicly, for which Barnabas was less than appreciative.
    – Joseph
    Jul 13, 2015 at 13:45

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