I really can’t stand it when I am reading Acts 9 and the paragraph title is something like this: Paul’s Conversion on the Road to Damascus”
First of all, his name wasn’t Paul- it was Shaul. and second of all, he NEVER converted.
Historically, there was only one other religion at that time for him to convert to in that area of the world, and that would be the pagan Roman religion. I think everyone can agree Shaul didn’t convert to that.
During the First Century C.E. in Israel there were Jews and Romans- that was it. Among the Jews some accepted Yeshua as the Messiah and followed Him as such, and others (the majority) did not. But they all followed Judaism. There were also some Romans who accepted Yeshua as a Messiah and they converted- to Judaism!
The name “Paul” was used for him when the written accounts (some becoming scripture) were translated into Greek.
Shaul never converted. He was a Pharisee, he was a real “Jew’s Jew”, and his entire life was spent practicing Judaism.
In Acts 18:18 Shaul proves his Judaism by taking a Nazarite vow and sponsoring others to do so. It is clear from the writings in Acts and from his own letters that Shaul never, ever, not-even-once said anything about not being Jewish. He never said to disobey or ignore the Torah, he never said he converted, he never said that Gentiles should not follow the Torah.
Throughout the book of Romans Shaul is writing an apologetic for Torah- he is saying that following Yeshua is not ignoring Torah. And that Torah is still valid- a very Jewish viewpoint.
In 1 Peter 4, the word “Christian” is used. I do not believe that the other two times, both in Acts, that the word “Christian” is what the original writing had. The people who followed Yeshua in the First and Second Century were the first Messianic Jews, and the word “Christian” was used (most likely) by scribes copying the written accounts down in Codex A and Codex B much later, when the term Christian was widely used. They just (naturally) used it when copying and condensing the texts. The word that was most likely used originally would have been “Christiano’s”, which in Greek has no real meaning. The scribes “knew” that these people were Christians because that is what they were called then, so they just wrote “Christians.”
There was no “church” in the First and Second Century, either- you can thank King James for using that term, despite being told it was incorrect. I guess when you are the King you can even re-write the bible any way you want to; like they say, “It’s nice to be the King!”
The use of the word “Christian” in 1 Peter was, in fact, used as a derogatory term. Shaul said he would accept it because he knew what following Yeshua really meant.
If you are Christian, or Jewish, or thinking about accepting Yeshua, please do not be fooled by the subtle (or sometimes not-so-subtle) anti-Jewish bias of most New Covenant interpretations. The people who followed Yeshua in the 1st and 2nd Century C.E. were Messianic Jews (composed of Jews and pagans who were in the process of converting to Judaism.)
Let’s look at Acts 15:19-21:
19 “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21 For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”
I purposely bold printed verse 21 because that sentence is proof that the only conversion that occurred was from Gentile to Jew. When James told the Council of Elders (all Jews, by the way) to have only those 4 restrictions, that wasn’t the end-all of it. That was just the beginning, because (as he said) they (the Gentiles converting to Judaism) will be learning the law of Moses every Shabbat. “…read in the synagogue on every Sabbath.” clearly indicates that the Jewish religion and the Jewish lifestyle is what was expected from the Gentiles who accepted Yeshua.
Shaul was never called “Paul”; Yeshua was never called “Jesus”; Jews and Romans who followed Yeshua were not called Christians until many years after He was resurrected, and only then as a derogatory term. It wasn’t until Constantine and the Council of Nicene that Christianity, as we know it today, began. Before then it was Jews, Jews and Gentiles who accepted Yeshua (Messianic Jews), and Pagans.
Shaul was, always remained, and still is a Jew. Just like Yeshua.