Monday, October 09, 2006

The Jerusalem Council: Gal. 2.1-10 = Acts 15: Response to Critics

I am very grateful to those who have commented with such intelligence and insight on my recent post on The Jerusalem Council: Gal. 2.1-10 = Acts 15. There are several issues that I would like to respond to directly. Let me take them under several headings.

(1) Flash forwards

My suggestion that in Acts 9 Luke is anticipating the later Jerusalem visit of Acts 11 has been criticized in particular for its use of the term "flash forward". Ben Witherington points out that such a technique is unparalleled among Hellenistic historians -- it is a "modern notion". This is a good point, and it is why I qualified the term by saying "Luke is telling this as (what we would call) a flash forward" (emphasis added). Sometimes a contemporary analogy or current terminology helps one to see a point that otherwise one might miss, even though one thereby runs the risk of anachronism.

With respect to the content of the claim, though, I think Stephen Carlson's point (also in comments) is right, that Luke clearly writes this way, e.g. in 3.19-20, when John is arrested before Jesus' baptism (3.21-22). Perhaps one should avoid the term "flash forward", given its misleading contemporary resonance, and instead speak of dislocated sequence, noting that ancient writers regularly set traditions in their narratives out of their historical sequence in a kind of preferred narrative sequence. It is quite clear that Luke does this regularly on the assumption that he knows Mark's Gospel, drawing some traditions forward (e.g. Luke 4.16-30, Rejection at Nazareth) and taking others later (e.g. Luke 8.19-21, Mother and Brothers). On the whole, Lucan commentators tend to be fairly relaxed about that. No one serious thinks that the Mother and Brothers story happened twice, once in the Marcan setting and once in the Lucan one. But when it comes to the Acts narrative and Paul's movements, Luke is often allowed much less liberty, which I find odd, especially given that we actually possess Paul's own first hand accounts of parallel traditions.

This brings us to a broader, related point which is well expressed by Ben Smith (also in comments):
The events of Acts 9.26-30, the proposed flash forward, end with Saul being sent to Tarsus. The purportedly actual visit to Jerusalem in 11.27-30 is set up in 11.25 by Barnabas going to look for Saul in Tarsus. It looks to me as if Luke wants the reader to suppose that Saul has been in Tarsus from 9.30 to 11.25.

Furthermore, if 9.26-30 is a nonchronological parenthesis, as it were, to what exactly is the ουν of 9.31 answering? If 9.26-30 is chronological, the answer is clear enough; the departure of Saul diminished the ill will from his opponents.

Finally, if Luke intends 9.26-30 and 11.27-30 to be the same visit, why does he send Saul and Barnabas into Jerusalem together in the latter but make it appear that Saul entered the city alone in the former, with Barnabas taking him in only after he encountered resistance from the disciples?
These are all excellent points and they suggest to me still further that the term "flash forward" is potentially misleading and needs to be dropped (though I may be tempted to continue its use as an admittedly anachronistic contemporary analogy -- I'll just need to flag this up much more clearly). It is quite clear, as Ben points out, that 9.26-30 is not a kind of parenthesis but rather has its own logical part in the narrative sequence. While there is no direct cause (Paul just appears in Jerusalem, we know not why or when), there are direct effects (Paul is threatened with death and gets taken to Caesarea and then sent to Tarsus). Clearly, Luke embeds the story in his narrative sequence and does not narrate it as a self-contained unit unrelated to its immediate context. But I am reminded here of examples of the same thing elsewhere in the New Testament. Matthew, for example, tells the story of the beheading of John the Baptist as a kind of flashback in Matt. 14.3-12a ("Now Herod had arrested John . . . ., explaining 14.1-2) but then continues with the narrative as if this has just happened (14.12b-13, "Then they went and told Jesus. When Jesus heard what had happened . . ."). Luke is doing something similar in Acts 9.26-30.

My thesis is that he knows that Paul's first visit to Jerusalem was in fact a couple of years after his conversion, and he shows us that he knows this, perhaps inadvertently, by dropping in "his disciples" in 9.25 and offering a particularly vague note of time in 9.26. The historical location of Paul's first visit is, we know from Gal. 1, after three years, just about where Luke puts it in 11.27-30. So I don't think it is a "mistake" that Luke puts the first visit in Acts 9. Rather it is a deliberately dislocated tradition, a piece of typical Lucan dramatic licence.

(2) Public and Private

In comments, Ben Witherington writes:
Secondly, there are far more correspondences between Acts 11 and Gal. 2 than you allow, not the least of which is that Gal. 2 is not describing in any way a public meeting, and Acts 15 is. None of the speaking parties in Acts 15 could be described as 'those who slipped in to spy out our freedom', not even by Paul. And if Paul could actually have appealed to a judgment by James that circumcision was not to be imposed on Gentiles, then it is inexplicable why he does not mention it in Galatians.
The issue about public (Acts 15) and private (Galatians 2.1-10) I discussed in the original post, to which I refer the reader, and underline the point made there that if one wishes to stress this apparent discrepancy between Gal. 2.1-10 and Acts 15, all one does is to throw exactly the same kind of discrepancy, this time between Gal. 1.18 (private) and Acts 9.26-30 (public), into sharp relief.

On whether any of the parties in Acts 15 "could be described as 'those who slipped in to spy out our freedom'", I'd guess that the party described by Luke in Acts 15.5 comes pretty close -- it is a group outside of the inner group of the pillars, Paul and Barnabas, regarded in each account as hard-line. Given the difference between authorship, perspective and date that one has here with Galatians and Acts, one could not really wish for more.

Ben's additional point is that "if Paul could actually have appealed to a judgment by James that circumcision was not to be imposed on Gentiles, then it is inexplicable why he does not mention it in Galatians." On the contrary, Paul spends most of Gal. 2.6-10 attempting to make clear that Peter, James and John did not add anything to the gospel he had been preaching to the Gentiles, thus that Paul had not been running in vain, and that his preaching to the uncircumcised (ἀκροβυστία, 2.7) was legitimate and agreed upon and should continue. Indeed, this is the whole point of Paul's anger in Gal 2.11-20, that Peter was acting hypocritically. Having previously agreed on the gospel to the uncircumcised (2.6-9), he was now compelling Gentiles to Judaize (ἰουδαΐζειν, 2.14. Incidentally, cf. Josephus's fascinating use of this verb in relation to the Roman Mitelius in B.J. 2.454, καὶ μέχρι περιτομῆς ἰουδασειν).

(3) Defending the historicity of Acts

I commented that a "major motivation" in the alignment of Acts 11.27-30 with Galatians 2.1-10 is "to defend the historicity of Acts". Michael Pahl commented that this was not a major motive for him, which is fair enough. I am pretty sure that this is a pressing concern for others, though. Ben Witherington III says, for example, at the end of his discussion of the matter in The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Study (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997),
I must conclude that there are no views that are without problems, but the one which creates the most problems is the suggestion that Luke's account has little or no historical value and involves major distortion (94).
Or similarly, "Luke has not deceived us about the meetings mentioned in Acts 11 and Acts 15 and their impact" (ibid., 97) and so on. But my general point is that the desire vigorously to defend the historicity of Acts is unecessary here when one pays attention to narrative techniques used by Luke, techniques that show that Luke is not at all times pursuing a wooden, historical-chronological sequence. Luke uses the same liberty in Acts that we can see him using in the Gospel in his use of Mark and Matthew. And as with Synoptic study, the key is often to look carefully at the interesting little narrative indicators here in Acts too.

4. By revelation

Michael Pahl, in agreement with Matthew Bates, also in comments to the original post, feels that Paul's going up to Jerusalem "according to revelation" (Gal. 2.2) makes sense as Paul's going up in response to Agabus's prophecy about famine (Acts 11.27-30). He notes that "apokalupsis can refer to a prophetic revelation mediated through a human prophet" and cites 1 Cor. 14.6, 26. Of course it is the case that in Paul's usage a given revelation is conveyed to or through a human being; it is the divine-human contact that makes it a revelation. But the point is about how Paul uses the term with respect to his own autobiography. We are lucky to have several examples of the way that Paul speaks about receiving revelation with respect to events in his life. When he speaks of the source of his gospel in Gal. 1.11-12, he specifically contrasts "a human source" with "a revelation of Jesus Christ". In 2 Cor. 12.1-10, he speaks of revelations that he has received, again with clear reference to his own communication with God, famously in the third heaven here. Again, it is clearly not with reference to a human prophet talking to him about his or her revelations. And likewise here in Gal. 2.2, it does not make good Pauline sense to see this as a reference to a prophet's word; he has gone up to Jerusalem "according to revelation", that is his own revelation received from God. His whole point is that God had communicated directly with him on this, and that that was his motivation. Gal. 1-2 is largely about Paul's independence from Jerusalem; it would be a weak point if in fact it was well known that Paul had gone up in response to a Jerusalem prophet's word. The evidence of Paul's usage in 1 Cor. 14.6, 26, to which Michael refers, confirms the point: in each case [a] revelation is given to a certain person, whether Paul (v. 6), or a member of the congregation (v. 26). From the perspective of the person doing the speaking, the message has come from God, by revelation.

12 comments:

Eric Rowe said...

On whether reconciling the chronology of Acts with that of Galatians requires us to see Acts 9:26ff. out of sequence I can't contribute any more than what others have said.

But, even if this explanation holds, I don't think the phrase "his disciples" gives any evidence for it. The fact is, this phrase would be a problem no matter where it appeared in Acts. In Acts, disciples are Christians. They are always disciples of Jesus, never of an apostle.

Several options avoid this problem. We could accept the reading auton, which is not poorly attested, and is a reading that could easily give rise to autou, which, though the more difficult reading, might be just too difficult.
We could read autou as the direct object of labontes. Lidell & Scott give a section of their entry on lambano to its use with genetive direct objects, in which the meanings given would fit this context well.
We could read "his" to mean "Jesus's" not "Paul's."
And if you really think I'm just stretching it too much with all of these possibilities, I have to ask, just what would Paul's disciples be in Acts anyway, no matter where they are in the chronology? Would they not simply be those who believed on account of his preaching? And if that's all the phrase means, then why can't they appear here just as easily as anywhere else? After all, he had just spent many days there proving Jesus was the Christ.

Christopher Shell said...

Re 'his disciples':
Could be his retinue on road to Damascus and/or the many converts whom, on the impressive pauline average, he would have attained after the many days Luke says he spent there. Luke also leaves out Arabia (which may have taken up a good proportion of the 3 years), and some of the disciples may have been converted after the Arabia episode. Not that it takes that many disciples to let down a basket.
The main sticking point for me is: why the *need* for a flash-forward or for a double-mention of the visit?

Frank McCoy said...

Perhaps the scenario is this: 1. The Twelve were Hebrews and James the brother of Jesus was the head Hellenist 2. The persecution in Acts 8:1-4 was primarily against the Hellenists, so the Twelve were premitted to stay in Jerusalem. 3. Besides helping to execute the Hellenist named Stephen, Paul threw James down the steps of the temple, leaving him for dead, but he survived and was taken by others to Jericho (an incident in the Pseudoclementines which, Robert Eisenman maintains in his new work, The New Testament Code, really did happen). 4.Paul got converted c. 33 CE 5. The persecution ended, so some Hellenists, including James, returned to Jerusalem 5. Paul made first trip to Jerusalem c. 36 CE (Acts 9:26-30/Gal 1:18-19). The Hellenists, including James, wanted to kill him so he ran to Peter's residence, where he cowered for fifteen days under the protection of this chief Hebrew. Peter got James to meet Paul at his residence under a flag of truce so to speak and James agreed to let Paul live if he would immediately leave and not come back to Jerusalem until he had a sin offering so to speak for the Jerusalem church sufficiently ample to atone for what he had murderously done to the Hellenists. 6. Paul raised the "sin offering" funds c. 38CE, but, not fully trusting the Hellenists in Jerusalem to leave him unharmed, he did not take them to Jerusalem but, rather, to a group of Hebrew elders somewhere else in Judea (Acts 11:29-30). Luke is incorrect in saying the funds were for famine relief (that famine wasn't until at least 45 CE). 7. The funds were brought to Jerusalem by the Hebrew elders (rather than, as incorrectly claimed by Luke in Acts 12:25, by Paul and Barnabas). This pacified the Hellenists, who pledged to leave Paul unharmed if he ever returned to Jerusalem. 8. Paul made his second trip to Jerusalem c. 50 CE (Acts 15:1-29/Gal 2:1-10).
Frank McCoy

Stephen C. Carlson said...

why the *need* for a flash-forward or for a double-mention of the visit?

I think that's asking the wrong question -- or at least one structured to give an unhelpful response. Given a certain amount of authorial freedom, there's hardly a "need" for any particular decision.

The real need to understand Luke's narrative. In the examples I posted on the earlier post, Luke sometimes engages in proleptic narration (if you don't like the term "flash-forward"). The two examples I gave in the Gospel of Luke also feature panel boundaries: Luke 1:80 ends a John the Baptist panel by narrating his future growth, and Luke 3:19-20 also ends a John the Baptist panel by jumping forward to his imprisionment. Like these two examples, Acts 9:26-30 ends a Paul panel before switching to a Peter panel (9:31-11:18).

That Luke ends other panels with a proleptic narration suggests to us that he may have done so at Acts 9:26-30 as well. Our suspicions are confirms not only by cross-checking Luke's narration with Galatians but also by finding the "his disciples" clue to the event's chronological context.

Christopher Shell said...

Hey Stephen-
Got to say I strongly disagree!! Don't know where to start but...:
(1) Paul himself says in Gal (so confirming Ac) that he went directly to Jerusalem from Damascus. By your argument, the double witness of Ac and Gal is less reliable than a hypothetical 20th century reconstruction that makes impossible the most natural face-value interpretation of both NT books even at a point where they agree. Now, how could two NT books just so happen to agree in precisely the same half-truth?
(2) The two John the Baptist examples could not be more thematically relevant to context. Luke has only two contexts for JohnB narrative anyway, and each time he chooses the obvious context thematically. Contrast Acts 9. Luke is simultaneously doing 2 unnecessary things: (a) mentioning an event twice which he could easily have mentioned once (-and even then he doesn't make the link between the 'two'); (b) lumping together Paul material in a chronologically second-best place when it was already in the chronologically best position as well, Ac 11-12 clearly being by your own admission a preferable context chronologically.
(3) This chronological point leads us to another: the Jerusalem famine aided by Queen Helena peaked (from memory) 46-8 AD; if the same famine is in mind here, as it may well be given that Luke says it was a particularly severe one, Paul and Barnabas are unlikely to have sent their aid that much earlier. There is no way of squaring this dating with Gal's 'after 3 years' - not that there was much hope of doing so anyway.

Stephen C. Carlson said...

Hi Christopher, I just noticed your response. Apologies for not answering it earlier.

1. You wrote: "Paul himself says in Gal (so confirming Ac) that he went directly to Jerusalem from Damascus." Where does Paul say that? Not in Gal 1:17 "nor did I go up to Jerusalem". Not in v. 18 "Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem." So what part of Galatians am I missing that states that Paul went directly to Jerusalem from Damascus?

2. For John the Baptist, I'd say that it is "unnecessary" to discuss putting him into prison before mentioning Jesus's baptism.

3. I don't see how dating the famine 46-8 helps or hurts any identification. It sits smack in the middle of the 14 year period.

Christopher Shell said...

hi Stephen - to take your points one by one:
(1)Paul says he went from Damascus to Arabia and then back to Damascus. So, clearly, he is not merely describing the place he went instead of going to Jerusalem (ie Arabia) but rather giving a more detailed itinerary. If he is going to mention the return to Damascus at all, why not also mention his sojourns in Antioch etc? Presumably because we have
no reason to assume there were any such sojourns - yet.
At any rate the last place that we know him to have been in Gal before Jerusalem visit 1 is Damascus. That could be too much of a coincidence in its precise correspondence with Acts 9. What your theory proposes is that, despite two independent documents (and 100% of the documents that we have) tending to indicate that Paul came to Jerusalem from Damascus, this is incorrect, even though no document, taken at face value, mentions any alternative itinerary. It generally takes a lot for zero to outweigh two. Normally (all things being eqwual, of course) to outweigh two it would need to be three or four, whereas so far it is not yet even a positive integer at all. (Sorry that this reads so pedantically!)

(2) Agreed - but not agreed if Luke had already made the prior (and rather unlukan, in my view) decision not to include the markan account of John's death. The Great Omission, whatever its causes, appears to be at the root of this.
The main points are that (a) he chooses the best available context in his gospel for each incident; (b) this doesn't involve him in any duplication, unlike the proposed duplication of Jerusalem visit 1 in Acts. Also add (c) there is a far stronger topical link in the case of JohnB. What is the topical link in Acts 9 that demands the flash-forward?

(3)Exactly. We are smack in the middle of the 14 years (or at least, somewhere in the 14 years) as opposed to being 'after 3 years'. That's an argument *against* the first visit being the famine visit.

Stephen C. Carlson said...

Thanks for your comments, Christopher.

(1) The purpose of Paul's mentioning Arabia is not to present a complete itinerary (a supposition contradicted by Gal 1:18 "then after three years"), but to underscore Paul's independence of Jerusalem. Paul's point is that the first place Paul went to after Christ was revealed in him was Arabia, not Jerusalem. As for whether Paul and Acts are "tending to indicate that Paul came to Jerusalem from Damascus," as you put it, that is exactly the point in question and it would not be helpful to beg that question. I don't read the texts that way.

(2) Luke's "Great Omission" corresponds to Mark 6:45-8:26. Since Mark's account of the death of John is at 6:17-29 and falls outside of the Great Omission (n.b. Mark 6:30-44 parallels Luke 9:10-17), I doubt that Luke's Great Omission is the cause of Luke's proleptic narration in Luke 3:19-20. At any rate, John reappears in Luke's narrative at 7:18-23, which, if "chronologicality" was Luke's intention, would be a "better" place after which to mention the death of John.

(3) Actually, it is against identifying the Queen Helena famine with either visit.

Michael Pahl said...

Mark, thanks for this ongoing interaction with your initial proposal and subsequent comments. As my name has been invoked more than once, let me offer three general comments in response:

1) A clarification on my perspective on Acts' historical reliability: What I objected to was not the ascription of belief in Acts' historicity, but the ascription of "defence" of this belief as a "major motivation" for aligning Acts 11 = Gal 2. I'm not particularly interested in defending the historical reliability of Acts at all costs; rather, I'm interested in understanding the historical witness of Acts on its own terms. For a variety of reasons I do believe Acts to be a generally reliable historical source in line with its genre within ancient historiography and the author's intention as a Christian historian. In light of this general conclusion, then, I think it is prudent to give Acts the benefit of the doubt in its historical reliability in specific cases. However, this historical reliability must always be understood within Luke's intention, style, and rhetoric; thus, for example, if Luke does employ techniques such as "flash forwards," these need to be taken into account in understanding his history.

2) A comment on "public" vs. "private" meetings: For Acts 9 = Gal 1, the issue of "the apostles" vs. "Peter and James only" is a problem I don't think I'd ever considered, so thanks for noting it. I don't think its an impossible difficulty, however, "especially when one allows for the difference in perspective inevitable when one has two different writers separated by time, perspective and person" (to borrow your words). For Acts 9 = Gal 1, Luke may simply be ignorant of exactly who Paul met, only being aware that Paul met apostles. Nevertheless, both accounts seem to indicate a private, not a truly public, meeting: Acts 9 describes Barnabas bringing Paul especially to meet "the apostles"; Gal 1 describes Paul meeting Cephas and James as "apostles." (By the way, both seem to be clear that this is a first-time meeting.) I'll grant that this is not a perfect match, but on the general issue of public vs. private both seem to describe private meetings. The match of Acts 15 = Gal 2 is still the much more difficult one on this matter, in my view.

3) A comment on apokalupsis: As I read the evidence in Paul in light of broader usage, apokalupsis refers to the revelation given by God to the individual person. If it is then communicated by that person to another individual within a community or to the community as a whole, that event is called a prophēteia. However, the prophēteia does not cease to be an apokalupsis. The problem with your analysis is that we don't have any clear place for comparison in Paul where he refers to his own knowledge or action on the basis of a revelation to another that was communicated to him as prophecy. So we can't really say for sure how Paul might have referred to such a prophetic revelation through another person. Would he use apokalupsis or prophēteia? I would suggest that the evidence from 1 Cor 14 seems to indicate that he could use either, and that if it were a prophecy he could still use apokalupsis to emphasize the divine revelation underlying the prophetic communication.

Thanks again for the discussion on this.

Christopher Shell said...

Thanks again Stephen
(1) First: Why then do you think he mentions the return to Damascus at all? Wouldn't that be irrelevant to his independence or otherwise from the Twelve?
Second: On your hypothesis (assuming you're following the Acts itinerary?) he went to Syria (as opposed to exclusively Damascus) and Cilicia before the first visit as well as before the second. If this were the case, I could understand him mentioning them both times, neither time, or only the first time. What I think is unlikely is that he would have mentioned these areas *only* the *second* time had he visited them both times.
'Then after three years' doens't contradict anything. Paul could well mean that he spent 3 years in Damascus, either in total or on his second visit.
(2) Agreed Luke 7 is an equally good context. But better? If John is put in prison, then to mention this (a) too early, at the end of the preceding John episode or (b) too late, at the beginning of the succeeding John episode are equally good options. (a) could even be better if the eclipse of John corresponded to the rise to prominence of Jesus, either in fact or in the Lukan picture.
Consequently of my 3 points (best available context; no duplication; topical link) the last 2 still stand and the first either stands or at least doesnt fall (if that's not Irish).
The great omission point is not central to this discussion; it is possible that the editorial/compositional reason[s] for this further adjacent omission may not be unrelated to the reasons for the great omission.

(3) Famines were numerous, of course. But (a) Luke would be well aware of that; (b) he describes this famine as empire-wide, implying that this at least was something notable and rare; (c) doesn't he probably imply that there was only one such in Claudius's reign?

Stephen C. Carlson said...

Thanks, Christopher. Some brief comments:

(1-1) Arabia is closer to Jerusalem than Damascus. The purpose of mentioning the return to Damascus is to state that he did not go from Arabia to Jerusalem.

(1-2) Paul's mention of Syria and Cilicia is not to give an exhaustive itinery of his travels, but to state where he went to after the first Jerusalem visit. Paul also says where he went to after the second visit (Antioch).

(2) I don't think that your last two point stand either. As for "no duplication," Acts famously duplicates Paul's road to Damascus experience, not once but twice. As for topicality, the Acts 9:26ff. "flash-forward" is to explain how is it that the people who Paul persecuted would meet with Paul (because Barnabas mediated).

(3) I don't see the precise famine identification at this point to be helpful one way or another.

Christopher Shell said...

Thanks again.
To summarise:
The proposal is to identify Ac 9 visit with Ac 11 visit. What is held to make this probable?
A: The fact that Paul may in Gal call Jerusalem council his 2nd visit. But it is not clear whether he is talking of the council visit. Even if he is, his overall aim is to enumerate his personal links with the 12, not his visits to Jerusalem: (i) he was well familiar with Jerusalem (as opposed to the 12) already: he can hardly minimise his contacts with the city. (ii) he includes the Antioch incident which involved one of the 12 but was not in Jerusalem; (iii) his whole argument indicates that his main focus is on contact with the 12. Even his a/c of the first visit in Gal indicates that to visit Jerusalem by no means impies meeting up with any of the 12. Maybe on his 2nd visit he saw none of them, or none of the pillars, just 'the elders'.
B: 'His disciples': Even if all his original entourage deserted him (and the evidence suggests they were sympathetic) even a day or 2 preaching in Damascus would have given him (given his normal average success-rate) enough disciples or converts to lower a basket. But he was in Damascus on and off for 3 years. How many disciples is that? (I guess if we're being literal minded 'disciples' may be a hindsight term, like the instances of 'Holy Spirit' and 'Lord' in Luke.)
If the 'probables' don't stand up, how about the 'possibles'? The flash forward thing does not qualify as an argument in favour, just as an argument to show that the position is at least tenable/possible. Certainly Luke can flash forward if he wishes: the issue is whether he's doing so here. (Having said that, rearrangement of markan pericopae does not equate to flash forwards; and the two John Baptist examples don't work. The former is not a sudden flash-forward from A to B, but an A-through-B summary; the latter corresponds with the markan chronology, & therefore is in its correct chronological place. And both are one-sentence summaries, which couldn';t stand up on their own, whereas Ac 9 has a whole pericope, which could.)
(a) Topicality: the topical link is not strong enough to demand a flash-forward; (b) Repetition: why would Luke repeat the incident without indicating that he's doing so: quite unlike the Damascus road where the shape of each of the 3 accounts is so clearly the same? (c) Context: the chronological context in Ac 11 is not only preferable but allows the itinerary to be clear and face-value rather than opaque.
The above summary finds nothing positively in favour of the harmonising exercise. Though intended to remove (chronological) discrepancies it has removed none in a clear way, but has rather multiplied discrepancies of chronology and itinerary, thus nullifying its raison d'etre. For example: (a) we could have left Acts as it was, assumed a 3-year period in and around Damascus as in Gal, and explained 'his disciples' without further complication; (b) we would also be allowed to keep in toto Paul's complex itinerary between his first and second visits (is it all invented? by your argument at least some of it must be); (c) we would honour the evidence of both Ac and Gal agreeing in mentioning Damascus and only Damascus directly before the first visit; (d) we would allow the famine incident to be in the reign of Claudius (so Luke) and not Caligula, as would be demanded by Paul's leaving Damascus by basket (so to speak) around 37 (a fairly secure date for political reasons).
This is too long - sorry! Promise not to overrun in future.