Paul of Tarsus and Peter of Galilee: as different as two Jews could possibly be. Paul was a city boy; Peter was a red-neck. Paul spent most of his young years in a Rabbinic school where he learned the Torah and the Prophets in both Hebrew and Greek. Peter was lucky he could speak Aramaic, the language of his fishermen buddies who spent their time on Peter’s boat. Paul loved to argue; Peter loved to fish. The two of them lived 400 miles apart and never saw each other.
One day Peter met at man from Nazareth named Jesus, and Peter left his home and his boat and his buddies, and he traveled all over Galilee with this charismatic young man who attracted hundreds of peasants. Jesus talked to them about a topic as familiar to them as the Super Bowl is to us today. It was called: “The Kingdom of God.” Every Prophet in their Bible (the Tanakh) spent pages of scroll space on it: Zachariah (2:10), Micah (4:10), Amos (9:11), Jeremiah (30:9), Ezekiel (37:24).
But the Prophet Isaiah said it best, I think: “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders …There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace.” (9:6). Peter heard Jesus enlarge on this theme over and over again as they traveled from one Galilean village to the next, and Jesus said that this Kingdom has come; it’s here now! I’m your man. I will bring about a new government (not the Roman one) and a real peace (not the fake peace of the Pharisees and Sadducees.)
Jesus wasn’t the only one claiming this messianic mantle; these were the years when many others were singing the same song. It sounds pretty harmless to us today, but it was treason to the Romans and blasphemy to their Jewish Leaders, and within a few years, it got Jesus and the other would-be messiahs killed. Peter stayed in Jerusalem with his other buddies and for several years they built up a Jewish group who followed the teachings of Jesus.
At this same time, Paul moved from his elite Greek town of Tarsus on the Sea down to Jerusalem and joined the Temple Police. It was his job to round up these Jesus–Jews and kill them. And, according to his own account (Galatians) he did a good job. However, he tells us that God got inside of him, and he transformed himself into the “Apostle to the Gentiles”, preaching to the Greeks he had known and loved in his home town of Tarsus, just as Peter was preaching to the Jewish peasants in Galilee. But, wait a minute! What were they preaching?
Peter preached the Jesus of Nazareth whom he had known for the past three years. They had hunted together; fished together, ate together, and argued about the Kingdom of God. Peter knew Jesus, and he knew that Jesus was a Jew who went to the Synagogue and followed all the Kosher laws.
Paul, however, preached the Christos, the Messiah of the Prophets, a god-man like the Greek god-man Herakles who “died and rose from the dead.” Paul never knew Jesus of Nazareth, and he didn’t want to know Peter and the others in Jerusalem, and he certainly didn’t want to inflict the 613 laws of Judaism on his Greek converts.
I have previously described the Heavy–Weight fight between Peter and Paul. Peter lost. But then what? Did Peter, James, and John quit teaching the “Jewish” Jesus and begin to teach Paul’s “Christos?” I doubt it. These Jewish fishermen couldn’t speak Greek. So what happened?
Well, we know they didn’t have any “churches” in Jerusalem; they still attended the Synagogue. And we also know that if the Jesus–Jews lasted until the year 70AD, they were scattered when the Roman Emperor sent Titus down from Rome to destroy the Temple in Jerusalem.
During this same time, however, Paul’s “Christos cult”, which eventually became Christianity, had already established itself in all the Greek towns along the Mediterranean Sea and had spread all the way to Spain and Rome. They really didn’t need the “Jewish Jesus” anymore.
I know most Christians today believe that Jesus started Christianity and they quote Mt. 16:18 to prove it, and I won’t argue that point at this time, but it’s my humble opinion that if Paul had not entered the scene, we would not be "Christians."
We would all be Jesus–Jews going to the Synagogue.