1. In Galatians 2:11-12, Paul claims Peter should be scorned for acting like a gentile with gentiles, and jew with jews:
for before certain men came from James, he [Peter] would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he [Peter] withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. ( πρὸ τοῦ γὰρ ἐλθεῖν τινας ἀπὸ Ἰακώβου μετὰ τῶν ἐθνῶν συνήσθιεν· ὅτε δὲ ἦλθον ὑπέστελλεν καὶ ἀφώριζεν ἑαυτόν φοβούμενος τοὺς ἐκ περιτομῆς)
  1. Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:20-21 is not disgraceful? when Paul proudly culture shifts (the same disgraceful way Peter gains popularity among jews & gentiles in Galatians 2:11-12)?
To the Jews I [Paul] became like a Jew, to win the Jews (ἐγενόμην τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις ὡς Ἰουδαῖος)
To those not having the law I [Paul] became like one not having the law (τοῖς ἀνόμοις ὡς ἄνομος )

Question : Based on 1 Corinthians 9:20-21, Why is Paul allowed to be hypocritical of Peter's social skills in Galatians 2:11-12?

  • Do you mean "hypercritical" = extremely, over-the-top critical, or, "hypocritical" = only very slightly critical??
    – Dottard
    Commented Apr 28, 2022 at 11:46
  • 1
    These are not 'social' issues or 'social skill' issues. They are issues regarding the law and the gospel. Paul is standing for the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Apr 28, 2022 at 21:54

3 Answers 3


There is a very important principle here in what Paul did.

It is quite true that Paul encouraged Christian leaders to blend into the culture of the company in which they found themselves according to 1 Cor 9:20, 21. However, there were to be definite limits - no Christian moral principle was to be disregarded in doing so.

Peter crossed that moral line by not only acting like a Jew with Jews BUT ALSO treating the gentiles with disdain!! Culture can be observed provided it does not do anything immoral or unethical. The Jewish attitude to gentiles amounted to racism which is inexcusable under any circumstances.

Paul rightly rebuked Peter for this moral lapse in Gal 2:11, 12.


Paul's evangelistic practice of "when in Rome, act like Romans" was only out of respect for socio-culture diversity for the sake of building friendship and enter into their world (Act 16:3; Act 21:26). It did not include deception as a spy.

He was not a hypocrite in judging Peter, whose error was to show partiality in favour of the Jewish party. Peter ditched the Gentiles, avoided eating with them. It might give the Gentiles the impression that they were living an inferior way, and may be compelled & attracted to imitate the Jews (in eating habits, and keeping the Jewish customs). Peter was unknowingly doing the grave mistake of Judaizing the Gentiles. It was very important for the Church to uphold the decree of Acts 15, by not allowing anybody to impose the Jewish customs, circumcision, dietary practices etc upon the Gentiles. Gentiles are to remain as they are (despite following the Jewish religion, Gal 3:7-9, Eph 2:19) in the sense that circumcision and Jewish customs are not obligatory under the new covenant. The law of Moses is not applicable any more.

The difference is that Peter was behaving partial to one party when both parties were present. This is not the same as behaving as Jews among the Jews because Gentiles were present there as well. He was required to show unity and impartiality among both parties.


The general reading of Gal 2:11-12 etc… would imply that Paul felt Peter was being disrespectful in the way he was treating the gentiles and treating the Jews more favourably and that all should be treated equally.

Unfortunately, we only have Pauls side of the story and not Peters or anyone else’s.

Why would they be arguing – did Peter or James not know what Jesus was preaching, was Jesus not following Abraham and Moses and David lineage?

However, looking at other supporting passages, there appears to be a conflict between Peter and Paul to become the leader of the Gentiles

Paul carries on arguing against the others Gal 2:11-21 – basically condemning all Jewish Christians including Peter, James & Barnabas.

Gal 2:13The 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?

Some examples of Paul breaking the Law

Gal: 2:15"We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' 16know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.

Romans 14:20 - Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble.

Galatians 3:1-3 - 1You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? 3Are you so foolish?

Genesis 17:14, the covenant is broken if there is no circumcision

14 But if any male is not circumcised, he will be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.”

Acts 15:29 - 29You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell.

Note 1 - Jesus followed the law below for more.

Paul will say and do anything to gain favour

1 Corinthians 9:21-22 - 21 When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. 22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.

Paul is inventing his own Gospel

1 Corinthians 3:10 - According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon.

2 Timothy 2:8 - Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel:

2 Timothy 1:11 And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher.

***Jesus says only one teacher - Matthew 23:8–12 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher etc….

Peters right of authority & filled with the Holy Spirit

Acts 4:31 - After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

Matthew 16:18 - And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

Mark 3:14 – Then he appointed twelve of them and called them his apostles. They were to accompany him, and he would send them out to preach,

Rev 21:14 - 14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations bearing the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

Act 15:7, 14 - 7 After much discussion, Peter got up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you that the Gentiles would hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe.

14 Peter has told you about the time God first visited the Gentiles to take from them a people for himself.

Paul does what he is told without question

Already suspicion Paul is not following the law and his preaching is hard to understand Note 2

2 Peter 3:15-16 - 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

Acts 21:21-24 21 They 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. 22 What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, 23 so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. 24 Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law.

Acts 15:22 - Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to select men from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas called Barsabbas and Silas, two leaders among the brothers,


Clearly Peter has higher authority – Paul said nothing when told what to do & at best he was low level in the hierarchy that had to be accompanied by others.

Therefore, Paul had not authority to question or tarnish Peter. As I said at the beginning – we only have Paul’s side of the story. I’m sure Peters version would have been a lot different.

Note 1 - https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/60694/33268 Note 2 - https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/62976/33268

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