Christianity began within the Jewish religion. But now the number of Gentiles in it was growing fast, and the founder-members faced a problem. Should Christianity continue as part of the Jewish religion?

Paul’s Missionary Journey II, AD 49 to 52
Image source: © Carta, Jerusalem

If so, Gentile converts must observe Jewish customs. On the other hand, if Gentile converts were to be free from such requirements, if the confession of Jesus as Lord was the only condition for membership hi the Christian community, there would be a tendency for Jewish Christians also not to keep the Jewish law so strictly, and the breach between church and synagogue would be widened.

A special meeting was held at Jerusalem to deal with the question. While the more conservative members of the Jerusalem church wanted Gentile Christians to keep all the Jewish laws, the meeting decided it would be enough if they kept the most important ones, about marriage and food.

Paul himself took a more liberal line: he would impose no food-restrictions but encouraged Jewish and Gentile Christians to show each other consideration and courtesy. He thought it important to keep good relations with the Jerusalem church, but these inevitably continued to be strained.