Besides propounding and spreading doctrines of the new religion by way of the epistles, Paul and other apostles also used the vehicle to fight competition both from within their ranks and outside of the faith. Many passages allude to a division in the Church which seems to reflect a conflict between Paul and his rivals within the movement. Verses in several chapters in First Corinthians (1, 2, 4, 6, 10) and Philippians 1:15-18 speak of quarrels among contesting factions.
Not everyone was a follower of Paul and many rejected him and his peculiar Gospel that contradicted Moses and Yeshua
More numerous are references to the ideological differences with "those who would lead them astray." These were people who were perceived by Paul as serious and dangerous adversaries and came to be known as "Judaizers" (Encyclopedia Judaica, 1971, Vol. 10, p. 398; New Catholic Encyclopedia, 1967, Vol. 8, p. 13) The word is not found in the New Testament. The term is used loosely to identify persons who practiced some Jewish customs and observed some Jewish laws.
This is a complex subject. Writers have distinguished three groups among Judaizers:
The Jewish Christians were Jews who believed in Jesus, yet continued to observe Jewish law.
The Judaizing Christians group consisted of Gentile Christians who adopted certain aspects of Jewish law; some of them had observed certain Jewish practices prior to their conversion (to Christianity) because of their attraction to these customs. Others had not kept any Jewish rites before becoming Christian (Robert Wilken, John Chrysostom and the Jews, pp. 69-70).
The God-Fearers class of people were variously called "God-fearers, God-worshippers, or sympathizers." They were half-way Jews. Scholars differ in their interpretation of archaeological and literary evidence. Some authorities believe that God-fearers are a literary and theological invention. Others are convinced, from archaeological remains and literary documentation, of the existence and ubiquity throughout the Roman Empire of Godfearers (Biblical Archeology Review, Sep/Oct. 1986, Vol. 12, the following articles: Robert F. Tannenbaum, "Jews and God-Fearers in the Holy City of Aphrodite," p. 54: Louis H. Feldman, The Omnipresence of the God- Fearers, p. 58; Saul Lieberman, Greek In Jewish Palestine, pp. 77, 81. This scholar wrote that the God-fearers were semi-proselytes who existed in the first century C.E. and were highly regarded by the rabbis).
The chief identifying mark of all groups was the same: observance of some Jewish law such as the celebration of festivals and the Sabbath, studying Jewish Scriptures, and keeping certain fasts.
There are references to Judaizers and God-fearers in Philo, Josephus, Acts, Greek and Roman writers, and the Talmud. Judaizers and God-fearers seem to have been very numerous and their large numbers probably resulted from proselytizing by Jews (Salo Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, pp. 170, 370- 372). According to Louis Feldman, the concept of God-fearers (theosobeis in Greek and yirai shamayim in Hebrew) was not limited to Gentile sympathizers with Judaism but also referred to full converts to Judaism and to natural-born Jews.
It is difficult to determine exactly who these Judaizers and God-fearers were in terms of their original background and to what extent they overlapped. Probably, more often than not, God-fearers were Gentiles, who maintained an attachment to Jewish practices. They attended, and were accepted in, synagogues where they had made an accommodation to Judaism. They were monotheists and participated in some ceremonial requirements of the Law such as Sabbath and dietary observance. However, they found circumcision a deterrent to full conversion. Judaizers were either Gentiles or Jews who had espoused a belief in Jesus, but continued to observe certain Jewish practices. Those who were "original" Gentiles were a target of Paul's proselytizing efforts, especially if they had converted to Christianity and continued to observe Jewish rites.
Paul was angry and frustrated that so many followers of Jesus were Judaizers who remained stubbornly faithful to Jewish practices. Jewish missionaries were attracting actual and potential Christians to their religion. Christianity was forced to regard Judaism as a serious rival for the allegiance of pagans and committed Christians alike (John Gager, Origins of Anti-Semitism, p. 6). Gentile Judaizing Christians were objects of scorn and animosity by Church leaders from Paul to John Chrysostom, the fourth century patristic whose vituperative sermons against Jews and Judaizers were notorious John Chrysostom was a bishop and Church Father. He preached eight sermons in Antioch in 386-7. They were directed against Gentile Judaizing Christians who were observing Jewish holidays and customs along with Christian rites. He considered this apostasy. Chrysostom fought against the attractions of Judaism to his Christian congregation. His sermons were tirades which could and did serve as models for obscene attacks on Judaism and provocations to violence against Jews. This man was elevated by his church to sainthood (Rosemary Ruether, Faith and Fratricide, Chapter 3; Robert Wilken, op. cit., p. 161-2). It is Wilken's belief that Chrysostom did not influence his congregation to violence against Jews but that he exerted a powerful influence on later Christianity. Chrysostom's works were circulated through the Church over the centuries and were a factor in forming Christian attitudes toward Jews in times and places far removed from Antioch. They were effective in rousing Russian hordes to pogroms and medieval church-goers throughout Europe to slaughter Jews.
Several epistles are largely or partly devoted to attacks on Jewish missionaries and the backsliding proselytes of Paul. The letters range from warnings to avoid those who mislead them away from Christianity to threats of forfeiting salvation by leaving the faith (Hebrews for example is a treatise written trying to stop those leaving Pauline Christianity for a more Biblical example of Biblical Faith as taught by Yeshua).
Paul realized that prevention was the best cure. He, therefore, admonished his reader to stay away from "unbelievers" who questioned or challenged his teachings.
This is an exact description of Paul's objective: to win over converts who would be committed exclusively to his doctrines and to turn those converts against their former beliefs and against those who still held them. In psychology it is called projection, for he projected onto the Judaizers his own methods and goals.
Paul endured no competition. He was not about to give the same quarter to others which he had been afforded. Prior to becoming the apostle exclusively to the Gentiles, Paul had preached to Jews in synagogues according to Acts. It is conventional wisdom among New Testament scholars to consider events in Acts which are not corroborated in Paul's epistles as unreliable. Despite this, some scholars, like Lloyd Gaston (in Paul and the Torah, p. 16) believe that Paul was a student of Gamaliel, although there is no claim in Paul's letters to that effect or evidence in them of sufficient knowledge of Torah or even of Hebrew to warrant a conviction that he studied at such an advanced place of Jewish learning. There is the possibility, however, that some of the events in Acts occurred and either were not mentioned by Paul because they weren't relevant in his letters or they were mentioned in epistles that were lost. F.J. Foakes-Jackson in The Acts of the Apostles, p. 148, mentioned another possibility. He stated "points of difference with Paul's epistles may be explained by the fact that he was relating events from a different viewpoint." He and his colleagues had entered the synagogues of Greece and Asia Minor claiming to be Jews. They had been given freedom to preach about Jesus and his messiahship and resurrection. Of course they had gone beyond those beliefs of the Nazarenes and had propounded their own dogma. Wherever Paul had success in convincing his listeners, he did not want them exposed to any challenge to his philosophy or to any views which might attract his converts (back) to Judaism. Hence his constant warnings against contacts with anyone who disagreed with him and "his gospel" whom he labeled as "unbelievers," whom he transformed into the enemy. His successors learned Paul's lessons well and put them into practice.
Paul's strongest invectives against Judaizers are found in his Epistle to the Galatians. He denounced any other teaching as false. His alone was true. He pronounced a solemn curse on those who preached a different doctrine. Let us read his words in 1:6-9:
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel--which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other titan the one we preached to you, let him be cursed. As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be cursed.
Such was Paul's reaction to the competition of Judaizers! How different are these words from his self-righteous claim in 1 Cor. 4: 12-13:
When we are cursed, we bless...When we are slandered, we answer kindly.
Not only did Paul's opponents not curse him--he did not record a single imprecation against him--but he initiated the anathema. Nor was he slandered. His adversaries had come to clarify certain crucial religious matters. Paul's churches in Galatia (and possibly elsewhere) were visited by Christian Jews who preached at least a partial observance of Mosaic Law. Today, in normative Judaism, there is no such designation as a Christian Jew. (Jews for Jesus are not considered Jews by any recognized group in Judaism.) At the time of Paul, the Nazarene Church believed that Jesus was a messiah, not a deity, and that observance of Mosaic Law was incumbent on its adherents. This group was a sect of Judaism. It persisted as a small sect for three or four centuries after Paul until its members merged with Christianity or Judaism. Most became Christians. By the fifth century there were no more Judaizing Christians or Jewish Christians.
The immediate issue at hand was whether Christians of Gentile or Jewish background should observe Jewish law. Apparently missionaries from Jerusalem presented themselves and Paul as subject to the authority of the Jerusalem Church. Paul denied this and responded with vilification of his antagonists and their religious ideas.
Paul asserted that he received his commission directly from Jesus in a revelation and insisted on his complete independence from the Council in Jerusalem. He went on to complain that the problem arose because "false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves" (Gal. 2:4). Again these "false brothers" were none other than the Jerusalem Church and the Apostles that knew Jesus best! This idea is totally preposterous!
The freedom Paul wanted was to distort the Torah by making spurious claims about it, such as insisting that the entire law must be obeyed in order for its followers to be in the covenant (receive salvation) and disregarding or denying the importance of repentance in Judaism for its adherents to achieve God's forgiveness (grace). This subversion of Judaism was offered to unsuspecting listeners like the Gentiles who had little or no prior understanding of Judaism in the first place.
Answer for yourself: Is this situation any different from the majority of Gentile Christians today?
Many of the people who came to hear Paul believed he represented the religion of the Jerusalem Church inasmuch as that was the central authority and original disseminator of the faith after Jesusµ death. Understanding that Gal. 1:18-24 and Gal. 2:6-9 were not in the original book of Galatians in the First New Testament in 150 A.D. such passages were "created" to bolster Pauline authority for his Torahless Gospel and portray him and his message as sanctioned by the Jerusalem Church before his Gentile audience. This is effective yet today but understand that these passages were not present until 180 A.D. when Irenaeus responds to Marcion First New Testament with one of his own making. Let us see what "authority" for Paul was lacking in the first Galatians collected as we see what passages were simply not there:
Gal 1:18-24 18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. 19 But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother. 20 Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not. 21 Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; 22 And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ: 23 But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed. 24 And they glorified God in me. (KJV)
Gal 2:6-9 6 But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man's person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me: 7 But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; 8 (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:) 9 And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. (KJV)
These passages were written much later to give a false "support" of Paul supposedly by the Jerusalem Church and this played in the hands of the Gentile Church, who without Paul, had no authority for their doctrines or their actions. As you can see as shown extensively on this website as well as others, Paul was not accepted but constantly under the inspection of the Jerusalem Church and was called on the carpet twice for his heretical views as seen in Acts 15 and Acts 21. For all his claims of independence, Paul was obliged to report to the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15, Gal. 2:1-9). He had been reluctant to do this and had delayed visiting there for as long as he could. Accounts of Paul's preaching against the Torah had reached Jerusalem. The Council members were apparently disturbed enough to request his appearance before them and to send out envoys to clarify their position and to repudiate Paul's. If he indeed were not accountable to the Jerusalem Church, as he insisted, he would not have presented himself before it.
Paul recognized the implications for himself and his religion if the Galatians returned to Jewish practices. He met the danger head-on. He repeated the usual arguments of "justification by faith" and "no righteousness through law" and then pulled out all the stops as he resorted to hyperbole. He equated Judaism with enslavement. He rhetorically asked his listeners:
How is it you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you. (Gal. 4:9-11)
What Paul feared was the loss of his converts in Galatia and the spread of this trend to other towns and cities and churches. In the heat of battle Paul defended his turf against those from whom he has snatched it in his proselytizing. With his back to the wall, he responded with name-calling and malicious comparisons. He termed the laws "miserable principles" and the return to them, enslavement. The "slavery" Paul threatened for observing special occasions has long since been taken over by his Church. Instead of the Sabbath day, Christians subsequently designated Sunday as holy. As for a special month in which there are restrictions or limitations, the Church was not lax in instituting such a custom. For six weeks before Easter, during Lent, Christians give up certain foods and engage in other rites to commemorate Jesus' fasting in the wilderness. How different is this in terms of restrictions from the mourning period which Jews observe during the month of Av, a Hebrew month which usually falls in August. For three weeks before the Ninth of Av religious Jews refrain from swimming or celebrations in memory of the destruction of both Temples. Paul may have referred to the first month of the Hebrew calendar as a special season for it marks the celebration of several holidays. Christians, likewise, enjoy a Christmas season which, for many, lasts well over a month. Although the Sabbatical year has not been incorporated into Christian theology, most academics eagerly avail themselves of its benefits. The observance of the sabbatical year in agriculture has proven beneficial to the earth and the fanners who depend on its produce whether or not they live by the Mosaic laws. Paul's warning of hardships--enslavement-- resulting from keeping special holy days and festivals by ritual practices was a red herring. Every nation, religion, and culture has its special events observed with specific rites or ceremonies that add a richness to the lives of the people and a uniqueness to the individual groups.
Good taste and fair play did not figure in Paul's preaching when he spoke of his opponents. He must have been in a rage when he wished "they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves." He was referring to his rivals who practiced and advocated circumcision (Gal. 5:12).
He accused the Judaizers of urging circumcision on his audience in order to become indistinguishable from the Jews and thereby to avoid persecution. The dishonesty of his claim was only surpassed by its irony in light of subsequent Jewish history. Both in Paul's time and afterward there was no record of Jewish persecution of Gentiles. Furthermore, the latter were welcome in their synagogues, a fact which caused Paul distress. In the course of history during which the Church reached ascendancy, Jewish men were identified by their circumcision for the purpose of Christian persecution.
In the same manner of verbal excess which he used in Galatians, Paul wrote in Phil. 3:2:
Watch out for those dogs, those who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh.
Paul knew, either from his own experience since he claimed to be circumcised or from the many Jews he had met, that circumcision is not mutilation.
Paul's verbal assaults on his adversaries were often venomous, despite his avowal of love and the need for love of humanity. Although he said that the Spirit brought love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22), it didn't seem to have that effect on him: When he was dealing with opponents or competitors, his brotherly love disappeared into anathemas, name-calling, spurious accusations, and intimidation. His attacks showed neither restraint nor compassion. His extreme feelings and behavior project a picture of an unstable personality (Howard Kee, op. cit., p. 217)
In the Epistle to the Colossians the author wrote of freedom from human regulations through life with Christ. The writer primarily reprimanded gnosticizing Christian tendencies, and secondarily, Judaizing tendencies.
This Epistle censures the worshipping of angels. The writer urged the Colossians to ignore talk of food and drink, festivals and the Sabbath day by people who worship angels (2:16-18). Within the context of the letter and the time it was written, this passage was not directed against Jews. Unfortunately, however, most non-scholars reading this letter generations and centuries later might well assume that Jews were the object of this criticism, inasmuch as they are principally associated with Sabbath observance and food restrictions. Since the author of Colossians connected the people who observed these practices with angel-worship, it seems necessary to note that Judaism forbids worshipping angels as it does people or another deity. In some pseudepigraphal writings there is mention of angels. This is precisely why such literature was unacceptable in the codified Jewish Scriptures.
The chief motivation for the Epistle to the Hebrews was the fear of Christian converts backsliding to Judaism. The author warned that a return to Judaism from Christianity would mean a permanent loss of salvation; there would be no second chance. "It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened...who have shared in the Holy Spin if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance because they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace" (Heb. 6:4-6; 10:26-3 1).
Heb 6:4-6 4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. (KJV)
Heb 10:26-31 26 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, 27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. 28 He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: 29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (KJV)
So we see that every technique available to the apostles was put into play to forestall the return of converts to Judaism or the participation in Jewish practices of Gentile Christians or Judaizing Christians. Paul expressed his determination to cut off access to his followers in his statement in 2 Cor. 11:12: "I will continue doing what I am doing to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be equal with us in the things they boast about." Christians were discouraged from any contacts, social or religious, with Judaizers and from continuing any Jewish observances alongside of Christian beliefs, for fear that such activity would weaken and undermine their Christian faith. These signs of insecurity are common among founders of new ideologies. They feel threatened and perceive the need to protect themselves by isolating their members from the established rival groups. Paul's efforts to prevent Jewish proselytizing and to preclude meaningful contacts between Jews and Christians set a precedent for his Church for hundreds of years after his death.
Another factor here was Paul's personality and ambition. Paul was a go-getter, par excellence. He originated a concept and, like a latter-day entrepreneur, he developed the market for it. He was a master of public relations and endowed with all the skills that profession called for: community organization, public speaking, fund-raising, familiarity with the potential patrons, and enthusiasm for the product. He had resourcefulness and a keen awareness of the competition. He tried to prevent competition where he could and fought it aggressively elsewhere in order to retain his clientele and enlarge his market share. As one scholar put it, "When Paul became a Christian, he gained status and power in the Christian community which he protected fiercely, especially when his authority was at stake" (A. Saldarini, Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees, p. 143).