What did Paul mean in Galatians 2:14?

In Galatians 2:14 Paul publicly reprimands Peter for shrinking back from true gospel faith to trying to please the Judaizers. My confusion comes with the statement, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew.” Why did Paul not say instead, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Judaizer.” The answer is probably staring me in the face, but for some reason, I have always struggled to understand the meaning behind Paul’s statement. Thank you in advance for shedding some light on this.


Hi @mary,

This is a great question! I’m so glad you asked it because it led me to engage the Scriptures again and to think deeply about them. I look forward to your insights and what others might share.

I think the heart of the answer is in Galatians 2:12, where we learn that Peter had been accustomed to eating with the Gentiles. This demonstrated that he no longer felt that keeping the Jewish dietary regulations was necessary to please God.

With that verse in mind, here’s my “amplified” version of verse 14:

If you, who are a Jew, have been living like a Gentile by eating with Gentiles and not keeping Jewish dietary rules, how can you now change, just because the circumcision party has arrived, and start to compel Gentiles to live like Jews?”

That is, Paul is pointing out Peter’s hypocrisy and people-pleasing tendencies.

I wish the implications were limited to Peter’s half-hearted embrace of the gospel.

But I wonder… what are some ways that we tend to limit our freedom in Christ — and even place burdens on those around us — in order to fit in with influential people in our religious context?


This question took me on a road of research because it’s not as simple as it appears. I agree with all that Carson said, but I wanted to find out the background behind it.
Peter and the other apostles and believers had been spreading the gospel to only the Jews in Antioch. But, when Peter was in Joppa, he had his encounter with Cornelius, a Gentile, and discovered that the gospel had been made available to the Gentiles, as well.
When those from Jerusalem heard about this, they came to investigate. The leaders accepted Peter’s story about Gentiles being included. Scripture isn’t explicit as to the timing of all of this, but it does say that Peter then was joined by Barnabas and Saul (Paul) who were teaching (and eating with the Gentiles) in Antioch. Again, somewhere along the line, Judaizers came along insisting that the Gentiles be circumcised, thus binding them to the law when they had been freed from the law by Christ.
Peter must have backed down from his freedom to be free, fearing non-acceptance from born Jews. In so doing, he influenced Barnabas and others to do the same.
In my mind, Paul’s criticism was aimed at Christian Jews who were freed from the law, and free to associate with Gentiles, but who were acting like “sinful Gentiles” in requiring the Gentiles to be bound by the circumcision law. They should have been living as freed Christian Jews, not binding the Gentiles with the law which they, themselves had been free from.
You have to go back to Acts 11 and 15 to get a sense of what Paul was telling the Galatians. I hope this helps in some way.



I love your “amplified” version. This brings it up to the present tense and makes me examine if I am guilty of following the same principle (in other ways) that Paul was observing 2000 years ago. This reminds me of something my mom said more than once: “The Bible is more current than today’s newspaper.” I appreciate your wisdom and insight and always pointing us to Christ.


@sharon Thank you for your reply. I apologize for the delayed response. We have been away at an extended family gathering and I am just now getting back into the daily routine again.

I never considered that Paul’s audience was Jews who were also Christian, with the exception of Peter and Barnabus and maybe a very few others. I had always assumed the majority in attendance were unconverted Jews because they were mixing works plus grace for salvation. Because of that formula, I wasn’t sure if they were really converts. I found your answer insightful.

Thanks again, Sharon and I am glad to see you here in the UP community. I always gleaned a lot from your perspective in our prior service together. I know you will be a blessing here as well.

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