menu

James Listed Before Peter (Gal 2:9)? (vs. Jason Engwer)

James Listed Before Peter (Gal 2:9)? (vs. Jason Engwer) December 3, 2021

Galatians 2:9 (RSV) and when they perceived the grace that was given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised;

Protestant anti-Catholic apologist Jason Engwer remarked:

Another relevant passage that uses the pillar metaphor is Galatians 2:9. It’s doubtful that people would have been grouping Peter with other apostles as pillars of the church and naming him second, after James, if he was thought of as a Pope. Remember, Catholics are the ones who place so much emphasis on the alleged significance of Peter’s being a foundation of the church in Matthew 16, which is similar to the pillar concept in Galatians 2:9. It’s highly unlikely that the early Christians believed that Peter was such a unique foundation of the church, the infallible ruler of all Christians, including the other apostles, yet perceived him as described in Galatians 2:9.

Protestant commentaries shoot down this claim even before we get to Catholic replies:

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary James—placed first in the oldest manuscripts, even before Peter, as being bishop of Jerusalem, and so presiding at the council (Ac 15:1-29).

Expositor’s Greek Testament The name of James is placed before those of the Apostles Peter and John. This was probably because as permanent head of the local Church he presided at meetings (cf. Acts 21:18).

Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges James . . . is named first, because the reference is to a special act of the Church in Jerusalem, of which he was president or Bishop. “When St Paul is speaking of the missionary office of the Church at large, St Peter holds the foremost place”. Lightfoot. Compare Galatians 2:7-8 with Acts 12:17; Acts 15:13; Acts 21:18.

Bengel’s Gnomen James . . . is put here first, because he mostly remained at Jerusalem, . . .

Pulpit Commentary James . . . is named first, before even Cephas and John, though not an apostle, as being the leading “elder” (bishop, as such a functionary soon got to be designated) of the Church of Jerusalem; for in the classification of the component members of that meeting in Acts 15:6, “the apostles and the elders,” James must be assigned to the latter category.

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers The way in which St. Paul speaks respectively of St. Peter and St. James is in strict accordance with the historical situation. When he is speaking of the general work of the Church (as in the last two verses) St. Peter is mentioned prominently; when the reference is to a public act of the Church of Jerusalem the precedence is given to St. James.

Meyer’s NT Commentary The mention of his name here before the other two . . . is quite in due form, as the apostle is relating an official act done in Jerusalem, where James stood at the head of the church . . . The higher rank possessed by Peter and the apostles proper generally as such, is surely enough established by Galatians 1:18 f. But James . . . had already attained a certain archiepiscopal position in the Jewish-Christian mother-church, and consequently for Jewish Christianity generally, agreeably to the monarchic principle which was involved in the latter. If James had been precisely one of the twelve, Paul would not (comp. Galatians 1:18) have given him precedence over Peter; for, as mouthpiece of the twelve, Peter was the first for Jerusalem also and for the whole of the Jewish Christians (Galatians 2:7).

Benson Commentary James — Probably named first because he. was bishop of the church in Jerusalem; and Cephas — Speaking of him at Jerusalem, he calls him by his Hebrew name . . .

So none of this has any bearing on whether Peter was the leader of the original disciples and the apostles (and, we believe, the first pope), as explained. St. Peter’s primacy is based on many many indications:

*
*
*
50 Biblical Indications of Petrine Primacy and the Papacy [National Catholic Register, 11-20-16]
*

Top 20 Biblical Evidences for the Primacy of St. Peter [National Catholic Register, 1-8-18]

*
*
*
Practical Matters: Perhaps some of my 3,900+ free online articles (the most comprehensive “one-stop” Catholic apologetics site) or fifty books have helped you (by God’s grace) to decide to become Catholic or to return to the Church, or better understand some doctrines and why we believe them.
*
Or you may believe my work is worthy to support for the purpose of apologetics and evangelism in general. If so, please seriously consider a much-needed financial contribution. I’m always in need of more funds: especially monthly support. “The laborer is worthy of his wages” (1 Tim 5:18, NKJV). 1 December 2021 was my 20th anniversary as a full-time Catholic apologist, and February 2022 marked the 25th anniversary of my blog.
*
PayPal donations are the easiest: just send to my email address: apologistdave@gmail.com. You’ll see the term “Catholic Used Book Service”, which is my old side-business. To learn about the different methods of contributing, including 100% tax deduction, etc., see my page: About Catholic Apologist Dave Armstrong / Donation InformationThanks a million from the bottom of my heart!
*
***
Photo credit: Thomas Hawk (9-18-13). Peter and Paul [Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0 license]

***

Summary: Protestant anti-Catholic apologist Jason Engwer argues that James listed before Peter in Gal 2:9 proves that Peter is of lesser (and non-papal) authority. Wrong!


Browse Our Archives