(Gal. 2:2, 6, 9) Why does Paul write that these men were of reputation? Is he being condescending?

CLAIM: Paul writes about the other apostles in a bizarre way. It almost seems as though he is talking down to them. He writes, “To those who were of reputation…” (Gal. 2:2), “Those who were of high reputation (what they were makes no difference to me)…” (Gal. 2:6), and “Who were reputed to be pillars…” (Gal. 2:9) These descriptions almost seem sarcastic. Was Paul trashing the other apostles?

RESPONSE: Paul is not speaking negatively about the other apostles. Instead, he was speaking negatively about the view that the Judaizers had of the apostles. Stott writes, “Probably his expressions were influenced by the fact that the Judaizers were exaggerating the status of the Jerusalem apostles at the expense of his own.”[1] Paul was chastising “the arrogant and extravagant claims which the Judaizers were making for the Jerusalem leaders.”[2]

However, Paul said that the apostles “contributed nothing” to his gospel message (Gal. 2:6), and they gave him “the right hand of fellowship” (Gal. 2:9). While Paul got along with the other apostles, he was rejecting the view that he received his personal authority from them. Instead, he received his authority directly from Christ.

[1] John R. W. Stott, The Message of Galatians: Only One Way, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 44.

[2] Ronald Y. K. Fung, The Epistle to the Galatians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1988), 95.