Most scholars have put the Apostolic Conference before the founding of the church at Corinth. This is because most assume Acts gives us the historical sequence. The Apostolic Conference happens in Acts 15. Paul founds the church at Corinth and has an 18 month ministry there in Acts 18. Hurd disputed this chronology. He disregarded Acts and worked just with Paul’s letters. He had the Apostolic Conference happening after Paul founded the church and before 1 Corinthians.
I agree with Hurd, but on other grounds. This is because I have had the advantage of reading Robert Jewett’s invaluable study, A Chronology of Paul’s Life.
Scholars who follow the order of Acts usually date the Apostolic Conference in about 49 C.E. This would mean that Paul was in Jerusalem in 49 and then traveled all the way across Syria and Asia, possibly founded the Galatian churches (the North Galatian theory), crossed over into Macedonia, founded the congregation at Philippi, founded the congregation at Thessalonica, preached at Berea, preached at Athens, and arrived at Corinth around the beginning of 50.
The ministry at Corinth corresponds to dates we know from Roman records: the edict of Claudius expelling some Jews from Rome and the appointment of Gallio as proconsul in Achaia. Also the sequence of events in Acts that begin at Troas may come from a travel journal and actually be in chronological order.
Jewett has shown that it is just plain impossible to cram all of Paul’s activities leading up to founding the church at Corinth into a time period following a visit to Jerusalem in 49 or even 48.
The solution to this is that Acts 15 is where it is at for theological purposes, not as a precise chronology. The cryptic statement in Acts 18:22 that Paul went up from Antioch and greeted the church at Jerusalem probably points to the actual Apostolic Conference. Jewett puts this event in the fall of 51 C. E.
If this is the right date for the Apostolic Conference, then we still have to take Hurd’s thesis seriously. The conference happened after Paul founded the church and before he wrote 1 Corinthians.
The biggest problem for Hurd’s idea that Paul tried to enforce the Apostolic Decree at Corinth is the letter to the Galatians. There Paul seems to describe the Jerusalem Conference. But he says only that the leaders offered him the right hand of fellowship as an apostle to the Gentiles and asked him to remember the poor. He does not mention the Apostolic Decree about idols, sex, and food.
This has led some scholars to argue that Paul opposed the decree or thought his churches were exempt. It was members of the supposed Peter faction at Corinth who supported the decree.
Hurd claimed that Galatians is not silent about Paul’s adherence to the Apostolic Decree. He showed that Paul is in accord with two parts of the compromise reached at Jerusalem. He signed on to a kind of comity agreement whereby Peter would reach out to Jews and Paul would reach out to Gentiles. He also agreed to raise a collection for the church at Jerusalem. And the statement that the Apostles “added nothing” to him (Galatians 2:6) only addresses the issue of circumcision.
However, Galatians does describe a big dust-up between Paul and Peter at Antioch. And the issue was not just circumcision, but table fellowship. So Hurd does not convince me about this.
Here is a possibility to think about. What if Paul left Jerusalem for Antioch with the agreement about comity and the collection that he describes in Galatians? And what if, after the commotion about his conflict with Peter, the Jerusalem leaders met again in Paul’s absence and issued the Apostolic Decree? Further, what if Paul was ignorant of that at the time he wrote Galatians, but came to accept it as part of a compromise with Jerusalem by the time he wrote the previous letter to Corinth?
In Galatians Paul seems to reject the authority of Jerusalem over his churches. In 1 Corinthians Paul seems to accept the content of the Apostolic Decree. But he never argues for it by citing the authority of Jerusalem. Instead, he tries to show “a more excellent way” based on mature wisdom.