I’m really excited that Rob Orlando is coming back to Butler University. Hopefully there won’t be any sense of tension between continuing to draw attention to his new movie The Divine Plan, and continuing my series about his earlier movie, Apostle Paul: A Polite Bribe (as well as its sequel that will be one of Rob’s next movies). Today’s clip from A Polite Bribe focuses on the identity of “the poor” whom Paul was supposed to remember in his agreement with the Jerusalem apostles.
I suspect that many readers of Galatians assume that the leaders of the Jerusalem church simply said to Paul something like “don’t forget to be charitable.” That would be an odd thing for them to mention in this context. Not that it is ever entirely inappropriate to remind people to be considerate of the poor! But given the conversation, and the things that they were focused on, it would be odd for them to focus on this as an abstract principle. Many scholars thus think that they were referring specifically to their own church, the poor in Jerusalem, and indicating that Paul in establishing churches among Gentiles should direct their generosity there. From the perspective of the Jerusalem church, this may have seemed to be the least these newcomers could do. But more than that, there was an expectation that the nations would bring their wealth to Jerusalem when the messianic kingdom dawned. And so Paul doing this would be a fulfilment of prophecy. And conversely, Paul’s failure to do that would show that his mission was not part of the plan of God that was unfolding in their time.
One later conservative Jewish group that you may have heard of was known as the Ebionites. Their name comes from the Hebrew word for “poor.” And so there seems to be a direct link between that and what is happening here. Ebionites looked back to James the brother of Jesus as a crucial influence on them, one who stood up to Paul and resisted his efforts to loosen the requirements of Torah and thus dilute the Jewish character of the Jesus movement. James’ actions and motives in all this are of course a major focus of Rob Orlando’s movie Apostle Paul: A Polite Bribe. If you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend it. You can order it for viewing on demand here: