Paul was not a missionary. Wherever he travelled, Christian communities already existed. He was

Patmos, Monastery of St. John
Patmos, Monastery of St. John

a visitor, organiser and theologian. Paul gave structure to the organisation and theology of the Gentile Christian communities that were joyfully full of the gifts of the Spirit, but lacked theology, cultic practices and organisation.

We owe to Paul the Jewish basis of early Christian theology that is reflected in the New Testament.

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Jewish mission
The temple in Jerusalem was finally completed in 64 AD; two years later the Great Revolt against the Romans

Bogazkale, Yazilikaya
Bogazkale, Yazilikaya

started. It doesn’t require much imagination to picture the Jewish mission in this period. The Jews linked the completion of the temple with their hopes of the Messiah, since it was a condition of his coming that the Jews comply with the religious laws.

In this situation what is known as the Antioch Incident occurred (Gal. 2:11ff): the Jewish Jesus Group in Antioch insisted on compliance with the Jewish dietary laws and refused to share meals with the Gentile Christians. Cephas, the leader of the Gnostic Jesus movement, initially ate with the Gentile Christians but then joined the Jewish Jesus-supporters in refusing to share meals with them. As a result he became the target of Paul’s anger.

The Jewish mission was not a permanent conflict lasting decades; it was only explicable in the specific situation just before the Jewish war. Paul was right to be angry, because the situation threatened his core concerns, freedom from the law and unity of the church.