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[Gal 1:14 NIV] (14) I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.

Paul seems to be writing to gentiles and explains that he was biased TOWARD Judaism rather than against it, so it wouldn't make sense for him to make up a gospel contrary to Judaism. He seems to be pointing to the level of achievement he had reached to show that he would certainly not frivolously let that status go.

But Paul was a Pharisee and it seems to me that they were somewhat congregationalist.

So what exalted and valuable status might he have had in the Jewish community?

Sanhedrin? Or maybe just the praise of men?

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As I read it, Paul isn't saying that he ascended ranks in Judaism. At this point in his letter, he's describing his former persecution of Christians because he was "zealous for the traditions of my fathers". His advancing in Judaism means Judaizing, i.e. acting like a Jew (the -ισμός suffix of Ἰουδαϊσμός derives from verbs ending with -ίζω), observing Jewish laws and traditions. This complements his zealotry for the same traditions.

The criticism of Cephas later in the letter (2:14) clarifies the usage: "If you, a Jew, conduct yourself like a gentile, and you don't live like a Jew (Ἰουδαϊκῶς ζῇς), how can you require the gentiles to Judaize (Ἰουδαΐζειν)?" The two opposites clarify each other: Cephas was requiring the gentiles to Judaize while he himself wasn't Judaizing, "living like a Jew." So when Paul said he was advancing in Judaism, he was acting like a Jew, unlike Cephas, according to his criticism of him.

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Paul's criticism of Peter was because of his returning to the unbiblical tradition that in table fellowship with gentiles (even Believers in Yeshua), Jews risked ritual defilement. After all, wasn't that the message in the Joppa dream: You can't be defiled by what God has already called "clean."

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  • Welcome, from another relatively new member! The post you made confused me at first, because it shows up as an ANSWER to the question posted. It doesn't seem to address the question at all! However, when I read the prior answer submitted, your response fits quite nicely. I believe you posted this as an ANSWER, when the correct posting would be as a COMMENT to the first answer. – Papa Pat Dec 7 '19 at 20:45

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