Where Does Galatians 2:1–10 Fit in Acts?

Many equate Paul’s description of his meeting with Peter, James, and John in Galatians 2:1–10 with the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15:1–29. Both meetings were provoked by Judaizers (Acts 15:1, 24; Gal 1:7, 22; 6:17), attended by Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:2; Gal 2:1), and concerned with whether or not Gentiles must be circumcised and keep the Mosaic Law in order to be saved (Acts 15:1; cf. 15:5). And, in both passages, the outcome was to deny that neither circumcision nor keeping the Law were necessary for salvation (15:10; Gal 2:6)—salvation was by faith (Acts 15:9; Gal 2:16). Fellowship with saved Gentiles was formally recognized (Acts 15:23; Gal 2:9).

Though this equation is a very tempting option, it is possible Gal 2:1–10 refers to a meeting distinct from the one in Acts 15. Paul does not mention the letter from the Jerusalem church to the Galatians (see Acts 15:23–29), and Paul clarifies that his meeting in Gal 2:1–10 was private (see Gal 2:2), unlike the public nature of the meeting in Acts 15 (see Acts 15:6, 12, 22). It is not surprising that a meeting like this happened more than once in the early church. An ongoing theme in Acts and beyond in the NT was how believers worked through the practical differences of the Law-free Gentiles and Law-abiding Jews (see, e.g., Rom 14:1–15:7).

A plausible parallel to Gal 2:1–10 may be found in Acts 11:27–30. As we have seen, Acts 9:3–30 may be matched to Gal 1:11–24, and it works in the timeline of Acts to match Galatians 2:1–10 to Acts 11:27–30 as well. As in Galatians 2, this visit in Acts involved Paul and Barnabas (Acts 11:30; Gal 2:1). Also, we could identify the request to Paul and Barnabas to remember the poor (Gal 2:10) as their giving help to those who were suffering famine (Acts 11:29–30), the very thing they were eager to do. We could even further identify the revelation that prompted Paul to go to Jerusalem (Gal 2:2) as the one given to Agabus who predicted the famine (Acts 11:28). Moreover, Paul told the Galatians that the result of his meeting was “so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you” (Gal 2:5), which could mean that, looking back at how things unfolded, the gospel was faithfully upheld and came their way in Acts 13–14.1

If Gal 2:1–10 can be matched with Acts 11:27–30, what Luke does not tell us, however, is about the meeting that transpired between Paul and Barnabas and Peter, James, and John. Neither does he mention Titus. (Actually, he never mentions Titus.) But each writer has his own purposes, faithfully giving us the details necessary for each purpose, and comparing Scripture to Scripture helps us to answer questions that might leave us guessing if we had only one text or another.

  1. See Douglas J. Moo, Galatians (BECNT; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013), 118–30, and Thomas R. Schreiner, Galatians (ZENCT; Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 115–31. []
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