Paul's Final Trip to Jerusalem:
Despite opposition from the Jerusalem church Paul could not afford to alienate them. In what turned out to be his last trip to Jerusalem, Paul decided to make a final attempt at some reconciliation. We will analyze the primary documents to see if we can find out what exactly happened. This relates to the Paul's last visit to Jerusalem.
|1. Acts 21:1-9||Journey to Miletus from Caesarea|
|2. Acts 21:10-14||Agabus's Prophecy & Paul's Reaction|
|3. Acts 21:15-16||Journey to Jerusalem; Staying at Mnason's House|
|4. Acts 21:17-20a||Paul's Reception by the Brethren|
|5. Acts 21:21:20b-21||Christian Zealots and The Rumors About Paul|
|6. Acts 21:22-26||Advice Given to Paul|
|7. Acts 21:27-40||Uproar in Temple and Arrest of Paul|
These are all, very likely, traditional sources. Furthermore the whole account from Paul's travel to Miletus up to his arrest "proceed in a straight line with no internal tensions or gaps".  This strongly suggests a continuous source.
That the traditional source used by Luke is also historically reliable is extremely likely. This is shown by (as we have seen above) the presence of elements which actually contradict what Luke tries very hard to portray in Acts:
Thus we can safely conclude that Luke used a continuous, traditional and historical source when he wrote Acts 21. We will have occasion below to pose a very important question about this.
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earlier that the so-called Jerusalem council was by no means a smooth affair. The Jewish Christians in Jerusalem were probably skeptical about Paul from the beginning. It was probably Paul's generous gesture to initiate a collection from his Gentile congregations for the Jerusalem church that won them over (at least initially). Indeed as Rudolf Bultman commented "Therefore the most important resolution was the least apparent: the collection for the Jerusalem community; and Paul's further efforts for this collection were among the most important of his activity." 
Galatians 2:9-10 |
[A]nd when James and Cephas and John, who were acknowledged pillars, recognized the grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do.
With this agreement Paul initiated a process of collection that was to last for the next five to six years until his final trip to Jerusalem. [b] We find references to this collection spread throughout his later epistles:
I Corinthians 16:1-4 |
Now concerning the contribution for the saints; as I have directed the Churches in Galatia, so you are also to do...And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.
II Corinthians 8:1-4
II Corinthians 9:1-2
If we recap all that we have seen in the Pauline epistles we can conclude that Paul took the agreement at Jerusalem very seriously. He spent the next five to six years initiating and gathering the collection in the various churches he founded. Although he initially did not have firm plans to go to Jerusalem with the collection (I Corinthians 16:4), in the end he decided to go (Romans 15:27). We can conclude therefore that the collection was, for some reason, very important to Paul.
The next question is: why did Paul changed his mind from initially not accompanying the collection to finally deciding he had to go himself to Jerusalem with it? The verses immediately following Romans 15:27 give us a clue:
Romans 15:30-31 |
I appeal to you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints..
From this section we have uncovered three major points about the collection:
In his narrative about what was Paul's last journey to Jerusalem we are simply told in Acts 19:21 that Paul "resolved in spirit" to go to Jerusalem. It gave no reason why Paul was going there in the first place. Yet in his speech to the Ephesian elders at Miletus (Acts 20:22) he clearly outlined his concern about what awaits him in Jerusalem. Similarly the prophecy of Agabus (Acts 21:10-13) forewarns of dangers in Jerusalem. All the while Paul simply asserted his resolute desire to go there. This is all extremely strange. Amidst all the uncertainty of the dangers facing Paul, no reason is ever given in Acts as to why he felt so compelled to go to Jerusalem. 
Similarly we find no mention of the collection of the account of Paul's arrival in Jerusalem and his meeting with the James and the brethren there (Acts 21:17-36).
Yet as we have seen above, we have every reason to believe that the traditional source used by Luke is continuous and historical. Thus it is extremely unlikely that there was no mention of the collection in that source.
That Luke knew about the collection we can be certain. Since he, finally, gave it as the reason for Paul's visit; but he place it in Acts 24:17 when Paul was being interrogated after his arrest. There Paul was made to say:
Acts 24:17 |
Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation...
This is an obvious reference to the collection for the poor in Jerusalem. Yet it was placed in a scene long after Paul's arrest when questions about what happened to the collection would not have arisen in the readers mind. Also by putting the reference here it made the collection seemed a lot less important that (as we have seen) it actually was.
Thus far we can conclude that Luke used a source that must have mentioned the collection and that he knew about the collection being Paul's reason for coming to Jerusalem.
So the obvious question is this: Why did Luke completely remove all references to the collection both as the reason for Paul coming to Jerusalem and what he did with it when he arrived there?
A step towards answering this is to remind ourselves about Luke's modus operandi. Note that in the accounts of the Jerusalem council and the Incident at Antioch Luke completely and consistently obliterated the most contentious issues: about Titus' being compelled to circumcise in the former and about Peter's argument with Paul in the latter. Luke tends to consistently omit issues which do not put the relationship of Paul and the Jerusalem Church in a good light and which could be somehow "swept under the rug".
These considerations lead us to right answer: Luke omitted all references to the collection prior to Paul's arrest because it was rejected by the Jerusalem Church. This is the only consistent explanation for Luke's silence. Had the collection been accepted by the James and his congregation, Luke would certainly have included the account since he was always anxious to portray the relationship of Paul and the Jerusalem apostles in a positive light.  [d]
The rejection of the collection meant that after Antioch, the split between Paul on the one hand and James, Peter and the Jerusalem Church on the other, was permanent. Paul was never reconciled with the people who knew the earthly Jesus and who disagreed with the self-proclaimed "Apostle to the Gentiles" and rejected his interpretation of what Jesus actually taught.
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Let us start at the end. Note that although Luke mentioned there were many thousands Jewish Christians in Jerusalem, none came to Paul's aid during the commotion at the temple which led to his arrest. Similarly no one from the Jerusalem church came to Paul's defense during his trial. This has been noticed by many scholars.  Indeed the strange passivity of the whole Jerusalem Church is hard to explain. The only one who did anything to help Paul was his own nephew (Acts 23:16-22). 
Furthermore, considering the fact that unfriendly rumors were circulating about Paul, having him go the temple to accompany four Nazirites would surely be tantamount to instigating a riot. Some scholars have suggested that James and his congregation actively plotted to have Paul arrested by this ploy. Since they knew that something like the commotion that Luke narrated would almost certainly had to take place.  Others have suggested that the proposal by James in Acts 21:22-24 was meant to put Paul in his place. Since the suggestion for Paul to participate in such a vow would show the Gentiles, who accompanied Paul with the collection to Jerusalem, that despite his protestations, the Tarsiot was subordinate to the Jerusalem Church. Secondly having him participate in a Jewish religious ceremony would certainly discredit Paul's teaching about the abrogation of the Torah and the sufficiency of Christ. The arrest was merely a "bonus" for James and his men. 
With the information available, all we can say with some probability is that, whether intentionally or otherwise, the Jerusalem Church "had a hand" in the arrest of Paul. By forcing Paul's hand to pay for the expenses of the four Nazirites, they either didn't care what would happen to him or perhaps may even had hoped that something untoward would happen. But clearly it was Paul's presence at the Temple in fulfillment of this request that led, almost certainly inevitably, to his arrest and final execution in Rome.
And surprisingly Luke only made one weak attempt at a positive spin, that the brethren "received him gladly" (Acts 21:17) upon his arrival in Jerusalem. We have seen that subsequent events show that this spin was the free composition of Luke with no historical basis.
Thus ends the story of Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles, rejected by all the apostles who knew the earthly Jesus!
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|a.||Among other things, he called the law "so much dung" (Philippians 3:8), declared that "all who rely on the law are under a curse" (Galatians 3:10) and said that the Mosaic laws put "a veil over their eyes" (II Corinthians 3:14).|
|b.||It is impossible to identify this collection with Paul's so-called famine relief visit to Jerusalem, given in Acts 11:27-29. We have seen earlier that this trip as recorded in Acts contradicts Paul's own accounts. Furthermore, the famine relief collection before the council whereas the collection was agreed upon at and initiated after the Jerusalem council.|
|c.||From our previous analysis of the opposition to Paul by emissaries from Jerusalem we can understand why. Paul had already prevailed in the face-to-face confrontation with the Apostle before despite some initial problems. Doubtless he hoped that since he did not go "all out" in his attack on emissaries from Jerusalem, there is still a good possibility he could be reconciled to James and his congregation by the offering of the collection. According to SGF Brandon, the collection was Paul's desperate solution to save his mission to the Gentiles. |
|d.||The idea [and accompanying proof] that Paul's collection was rejected by the Jerusalem Church was first presented by Gerd Lüdemann, [then] Professor of New Testament in the University of Götingen, in his book Opposition to Paul in Jewish Christianity [p60-61]. [The original German edition was published in 1983] Since then his idea has been accepted by an increasing number of scholars. These scholars (and their works citing their agreement with the idea that Paul's collection was rejected by the Jerusalem church) include:|
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|1.||Lüdemann, Opposition to Paul in Jewish Christianity: p52|
|2.||Lüdemann, Early Christianity According to the Tradition in Acts: p230-235|
Lüdemann, Opposition : p52-57
|3.||Lüdemann, Opposition : p58|
|4.||quoted in Lüdemann, Heretics: p41|
|5.||Lüdemann, Paul: Studies in Chronology: p80-88|
|6.||Lüdemann, Opposition : p60|
|7.||Brandon, The Fall of Jerusalem and the Christian Church: p150|
|9.||Lüdemann, Opposition : p60-61|
|10.||Brandon, op. cit: p151|
Lüdemann, Opposition: p61
Painter, Just James: p57
|12.||Porter, Paul in Acts: p172-186|
|13.||Brandon, op. cit: p151|
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