Jerome, Commentary on Galatians, [J.P. Migne, Editor]. Patrologiae Tomus XXVI. Paris: D’Ambroise, Pres La Barriere D’Enfer, ou Petit-Montrouge, 1845. pp. 307-438.
Commenting on Galatians 2:11-13, Jerome notes that Peter’s eating with Gentiles showed that he had not ignored God’s command “to call no man common and unclean” (Jerome, Galatians, 338, personal translation). He knew that none of the apostles was requring converts to hold to the Mosaic Law. He was compelled to his separation from the Gentiles by forceful Judaic teachers. Jerome takes this to be motivated by Peter’s desire that the Jews should believe (Jerome, Galatians, 339).
Paul’s confrontation of Peter could seem difficult to understand. Jerome reminds his readers that Paul made offerings in Jerusalem and even had Timothy circumcised, explaining his actions “sine offendiculo estote Judaeis et Ecclesiae Dei” (Jerome, Galatians, 339). The principle was that Christians would attempt to be personally inoffensive both to Jews and other Christians. Jerome takes Peter’s action of separating himself from the Gentiles as an act of hypocrisy which would be offensive to his fellow Christians with whom he had previously dined. It was the change of behavior, not the actual dining, which Paul confronted. Jerome gives several examples from Israel’s history, illustrating the bad outcomes of similar deceptive behavior. His conclusion is that Christians need to present the same persona in most matters regardless of the company (Jerome, Galatians, 340). Jerome continues with a more detailed reference to the reports of Peter’s defense of his ministry to the household of Cornelius in Acts 11. Peter had already concluded that the Gospel was received in the same way by Jews and Gentiles (Jerome, Galatians, 341). Jerome observes that some commentators have suggested this “Cephas” is not the apostle Peter, but he rejects their theory, saying the event and person was clearly known by Paul but omitted in Luke’s account.