Jerusalem conference

Hyam Maccoby h.z.maccoby at
Fri Aug 30 06:15:36 EDT 2002

Eric Zuesse wrote:

 But doesn't Exodus have vastly higher authority for Jews than Daniel, on
> account of Exodus being Pentateuchal and Daniel not?

Daniel was renowned for his strict observance of Torah law, for which he was
prepared to sacrifice his life.  He was well aware of the text of Exodus,
but knew that this did not prevent him from eating with the uncircumcised
provided that he ate vegetarian food.  I regard your misunderstanding of
Exodus 12:48 as an elementary error, which you should certainly eliminate
from your projected book.  This verse prohibits sharing with the
uncircumcised in a meal that took place once a year in Temple times:  the
eating of the Passover sacrifice. After the destruction of the Temple in 70
CE even this meal ceased to be eaten except in symbolic form. I would also
point out that the late Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom took part
regularly in State banquets where he was provided with kosher food.  The
same practice is followed by his successor Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, and
if you enquire you will find that Orthodox rabbis in the USA also attend
State banquets if provided with kosher food.  There is nothing in Exodus
that prohibits this.
    As for Peter's withdrawal from the meal at Antioch, this may possibly
have been because he discovered that the meal was Eucharistic in character.
As an observant Jew, he could not partake in the Eucharist, any more than
observant Jews today take part in the Mass.  Many scholars now agree (on the
evidence of Acts and the Didache) that the Jerusalem Church did not practise
the Eucharist, which they regarded as an unacceptable imitation of
mystery-religion meals.  If Peter withdrew for this reason, this has nothing
whatever to do with Exodus 12:48.

Hyam Maccoby


Dr.Hyam Maccoby
Research Professor
Centre for Jewish Studies
University of Leeds
Direct lines: tel. +44 (0)113 268 1972
                   fax +44 (0)113 268 0041
e-mail: h.z.maccoby at

----- Original Message -----
From: "Eric Zuesse" <cettel at>
To: "Corpus-paul" <corpus-paul at>
Sent: Wednesday, August 28, 2002 4:13 PM
Subject: [corpus-paul] Re: Jerusalem conference

> Re: Hyam Maccoby's:
> > This is totally wrong.  Exodus 12:48 refers to only one meal in the
> > the Passover meal, in which uncircumcised men are forbidden to partake.
> > Circumcised Jews may share meals with Gentiles at any other meal,
> > that they do not eat any forbidden kind of food that may happen to be on
> the
> > table.  A good example of this is the case of Daniel, who shared meals
> with
> > Gentiles but confined himself to vegetarian food(Daniel 1).
> But doesn't Exodus have vastly higher authority for Jews than Daniel, on
> account of Exodus being Pentateuchal and Daniel not?
> I may be wrong here, but my understanding, such as it is, is that the
> evidence regarding the ways in which the followers of Jesus interpreted
> Torah is not so definitive that Hyam's categorical rejection will stand.
> First of all, Exodus 12:48 presents, as I understand Judaism, nothing less
> than a commandment from God Himself, that is, moreover, recorded in the
> Torah, the very highest, most authoritative, source of all sources. The
> "evidence" regarding just how strictly Jesus took the Torah is, so far as
> know, not so clear that it would be possible to assert with any certainty
> what Jesus's interpretation would have been of Exodus 12:48. Nor do we
> what James or Peter would have inferred from Exodus 12:48.
> Clearly, Exodus 12:48 does refer to Passover, but it also expresses a
> concern about Jews dining with non-Jews, and if that were not a  concern
> that were embodied in it, then it would not have been a stricture
> even the Passover meal itself.
> The Passover meal was specified in this commandment, presumably, because
> that meal is of special importance to Judaism and to Jews. We
> have no way of knowing how important to this sect of Judaism and to these
> particular Jews the meal was that Peter was sharing with Paul's men in
> Galatians 2:12. On the basis of my own analysis of the evidence, I infer
> that, to this particular sect, this meal would have been extremely
> significant, and moreover, significant to them as Jews, and not for any
> non-Jewish reason; this meal related to how this sect was defining itself.
> That's as religiously significant as you can get. But even if we had or
> no way of knowing how important this meal was to *those* Jews, we don't
> know whether this was the Passover meal itself.
> It therefore seems to me that Hyam's categorical rejection of this detail
> my hypothetical reconstruction is not warranted.
> I should therefore make clear, in this context, that this particular
> of my reconstruction of the event is not a critically important one. What
> critically important is that Peter was caught by James's agents dining
> Paul's uncircumcised men, in contravention of James's instructions to
> to transmit to Paul the command to reject those men as members unless they
> were to become circumcised--which they had not yet been; this meal took
> place right after the conference in Jerusalem, and that's too soon for
> to have become circumcised. Consequently, Peter was caught here dining
> non-members of the sect, people whom James had declared to be not his
> people.
> My own hypothesis regarding Exodus 12:48 is that it does express a concern
> that was probably relevant to Galatians 2:12; but it seems to me that
> certainty on that score would be impossible either for or against that
> hypothesis, because the details are lacking for such certainty, not only
> regards Galatians 2:12, but as regards Exodus 12:48.
> I shall remove the reference to Exodus 12:48 from my book if you, Hyam, or
> anyone else, provides evidence that it is, indeed, wrong. But it seems to
> that the sentiment imputed to God in Exodus 12:48 would probably have been
> interpreted by Jesus's followers to be a prohibition against any
> or other religiously significant meal being shared by non-covenant
> people--in other words, by non-Jews.
> I would think that prior to the council in Jerusalem, this would not have
> been such a big issue, but afterwards, when James finally came down
> Paul's practise of accepting non-circumcised men as members, Peter's
> with those men would, it seems to me, have been seen by James's people as
> violation of Exodus 12:48. And I feel that this would especially have been
> the case because that meal which Peter was sharing with these men must
> been viewed by all persons present as an especially significant meal.
> it was not a Passover meal, but would you not say, Hyam, as a Jew, that
> was probably a very special, highly significant, meal?
> I appreciate your input on this, and look forward to knowing further your
> opinions on this matter.
> > It must have been because he [Peter] realised that
> > Paul was contravening the agreement reached at the Jerusalem Council and
> > that it was time to make a final break with Paul.  I have argued this in
> > full in THE MYTHMAKER.
> You seem to be assuming that Peter was acting on only his own authority
> during the event recounted in Galatians 2:11-21, but I interpret that
> passage as Peter's having been simply the first of James's agents to have
> arrived, the one whose responsibility it had been to be the first to break
> the bad news to Paul, because Peter had been Paul's own predecessor and
> mentor in the mission to the Gentiles.
> I understand your seeing Peter as his own agent, and not as James's in
> matter, but I believe that your seeing things that way is unduly
> by the later writings, from Paul's followers who wrote the Gospels,
> James out of Christian history and replacing him with Peter because Peter
> was Paul's mentor and James was (especially after this event recounted in
> Galatians 2:11-21) Paul's enemy.
> > There is no reason whatever to think that James
> > changed his mind about the conclusions reached at the Jerusalem Council,
> but
> > every reason to think that Paul did not abide by these conclusions.
> My own book will argue to the contrary. In doing so, I construct my case
> the way that a legal/forensic investigator does, granting higher
> status to documents (such as Galatians) earlier and closer to the events
> they describe and refer to, and lower evidentiary status to purely hearsay
> accounts (such as the Gospels and Acts). This does not mean that I ignore
> hearsay; I simply use it merely to confirm, and never to state, my
> hypotheses. The reason a legal/forensic investigator applies that rule is
> as not to prejudice or contaminate his hypothetical explanation of events
> inferior "evidence"--which a judge might throw out, thereby blowing the
> entire conviction.
> Best,
> Eric Zuesse
> cettel at
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