The gospels and Acts tell a story of how Christianity spread from Jews to the Gentiles. The epistles spend more time nailing down the theology of the takeover, plus taking opportunities for not-so-subtle digs at Jews who hadn’t accepted the new message.
In this post, I discuss three key epistles:
- Romans (where Paul sidelines the law in favour of grace and faith).
- Galatians (where Paul particularly attacks the Jewish idea that circumcision is required for salvation, and in passing appropriates many elements of Jewish religion).
- Hebrews (where the author presents Jesus as the answer to everything in the law and the prophets).
I also include some of the most relevant verses from other epistles.
As with my previous post, this list of verses is not exhaustive, but is intended to err on the side of thoroughness. I don’t claim to be able to expound the One True Meaning of these letters, since my theology is out of practice and I just don’t care enough anyway. However, I think the themes I present do run through these letters, and they have certainly been used to justify the hostile takeover whether or not they were originally intended to be used that way.
Romans: Sidelining the law
This letter lays a lot of the ground-work for Christians appropriating the Jewish religion. Jews were still to be accepted, but they would no longer be a privileged people as before. Paul declared that both Jew and Gentile alike were sinners in need of God’s mercy, and this mercy was to be obtained through Jesus. And along the way he rejected the law in favour of faith, and appropriated Abraham, the revered Jewish patriarch, in support of his faith agenda.
The claims start early on:
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints.Romans 1:1 - 7a (ESV)
The gospel Paul preaches has been predicted in advance in the Jewish scriptures. Jesus comes from the promised kingly line, but is also super-special because of the resurrection and how this declared him to be the Son of God. This message is to go to all nations, not just the Jews, and obedience is to come through faith rather than through the law.
All themes that Paul will expand on in the rest of the letter.
But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law.Romans 2:17 - 23 (ESV)
And this is where the hostility really starts. I think Paul is trying to establish that everyone, Jew or Gentile, is a sinner in need of God’s salvation and the good news of Jesus. But it just ends up sounding like a smear campaign (I’m sure the Jews weren’t perfect, but I doubt the typical Jew did all this).
He faintly praises the Jews for being entrusted with “the oracles of God”, but then continues the demolition job. No, they’re not special. How does he establish that? With cherry-picked quotes from their own scripture:
What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.Romans 3:9 - 12, 20 (ESV)
Instead, he claims true righteousness comes from outside the Jewish law:
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one. He will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.Romans 3:21 - 31 (ESV)
And I think there’s some pretty bad double-speak here: he claims to uphold the law, but is effectively getting rid of it and replacing it with faith. But that’s OK, because it’s scripture to the rescue again. Honest, the Law and the Prophets say that God’s righteousness will be shown outside the law. Jesus is the solution, and the unity of God positively demands that he should reach out to Gentiles as well as to Jews. It doesn’t even matter that the Gentiles are uncircumcised:
[Abraham] received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void.Romans 4:11 - 14 (ESV)
Remember, circumcision was given to Abraham as an eternal covenant. And yet Paul wants to make his message applicable to the uncircumcised. Basically, it’s co-opting Abraham and his promise of inheriting the world to suit Paul’s narrative. It goes on:
No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.Romans 4:20 - 25 (ESV)
So again, Abraham’s faith is meant to be important to Christians who believe in the resurrection of Jesus and his salvation mission. The message is really for them, not for Jews who were actually descendants of Abraham.
After this Paul largely steps away from the Jews for a few chapters, before returning to them in verses that I’ve already discussed. And, for the record, I’m inclined to believe him that he worries about the many Jews who (according to his teaching) won’t be saved. But, while he holds out hope for a possible future mass salvation of Jews, his current solution is clearly “If they become Christians it will solve all their problems”.
I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.Romans 9:1 - 8 (ESV)
So, he doesn’t expect Jews to get special privileges because of their race. They may have had the law, the promises, even his claimed Messiah - but only ones specially chosen by God are “true Israelites”.
Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.Romans 10:1 - 4 (ESV)
Paul is happy to acknowledge the zeal of the Jews, but only as unenlightened zeal. It’s their fault for being ignorant of his claimed standards of “God’s righteousness” and of Christ ending the law.
Jews are to become Christians, as in my paraphrase of Romans 11:1 - 2:
God has not rejected his people - he tells them to become Christian like Paul.
But the chapter gets more nasty from there:
What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, as it is written,
“God gave them a spirit of stupor,
eyes that would not see
and ears that would not hear,
down to this very day.”
And David says,“Let their table become a snare and a trap,
a stumbling block and a retribution for them;
let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see,
and bend their backs forever.”Romans 11:7 - 10 (ESV)
I’m not quite sure why he thinks God deliberately concealing the message from the Jews and then punishing them for it is a selling point of the religion, but apparently it is.
Galatians: The problem of circumcision
Much of Galatians is about whether circumcision should be required for Gentiles. It’s not clear whether Paul was against all Jews promoting circumcision, or just against Christians who were trying to impose circumcision on other Christians. But in order to build his case he needs to appropriate many important elements of Judaism and to dismiss those who still hold to the law. And in his view of the world, believers have to choose one side or the other: They can’t just sit on the fence.
Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.Galatians 2:4 - 5 (ESV)
To Paul, those who disagree with him are “false brothers” trying to bring Gentiles into slavery and corrupt the truth of the gospel. We’re not just talking minor details here - the conflict is irreconcilable:
For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.Galatians 2:19 - 21 (ESV)
Paul has died to the law, and preaches salvation through Christ. And he claims this salvation can only really work because the law doesn’t.
He then tries to build theological support for his arguments by appropriating the promises to Abraham, an important Jewish patriarch who conveniently pre-dated the law (though, for the record, the “eternal covenant” of circumcision was also made with Abraham and pre-dated the law).
Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.Galatians 3:7 - 9 (ESV)
So the Gentiles were part of God’s plan before the law was present. But there’s more:
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.”Galatians 3:10 - 12 (ESV)
In an unfortunate choice of words, everyone who is under the law is cursed. What’s more, Abraham’s promises were not meant for Israel, but just for Jesus, and, ultimately, those who follow him:
Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. … In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.Galatians 3:16, 26 - 29 (ESV)
Like in Romans, Paul is not explicitly excluding Jews from his wonderful plan of salvation. However, he does appropriate their distinguished ancestor, and he does insist that they come to God through Jesus and accept uncircumcised Gentiles as fellow heirs of the promises. Otherwise they remain under the curse of the law.
And worse is to come:
Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. … Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman. For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.Galatians 4:21 - 26, 4:28 - 5:1 (ESV)
Those under the law are in slavery, and Christians are advised not to join them. Jews may think they belong in Jerusalem, the city of God - but Christians are the ones who are truly part of “the Jerusalem above”. Basically, the Jews have been cast out from their privileged position as the chosen people of God. They may persecute Christians, but they will not succeed.
And Paul continues to present it as a direct choice between remaining Christian and choosing circumcision and the law. There’s no sitting on the fence:
Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.Galatians 5:2 - 4 (ESV)
He continues to claim that he’s being persecuted, and calls for those preaching circumcision to castrate themselves:
But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!Galatians 5:11 - 12 (ESV)
Then in conclusion he doubles down on his criticisms:
For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.Galatians 6:13 - 16 (ESV)
According to him, the circumcised are hypocrites, because they still preach circumcision despite not keeping the law themselves. And once again, it all comes back to Christ. I assume that the reference to “the Israel of God” is another attempt to say that Christians, whether Jew or Gentile, are the true Israelites, in the same way as they were said to be children of “the Jerusalem above”.
Basically, in order to reach out to Gentiles without having them circumcised, Paul rejects the law and claims that the true Jewish religion is mediated by Jesus Christ. He then derides Israelites as slaves under the curse of the law because they haven’t followed his sleight of hand. And his complaints about “persecution” suggests that even back then Christianity and Judaism were two rival religions.
Hebrews: Jesus is the answer to everything
Like Romans, Hebrews tries to systematically undercut the practices of Judaism and replace them with Christianity. Jesus is presented as the replacement for just about everything - not only is he better than the angels and Moses, but he is a better priest, a better sacrifice, and as a consequence inaugurates a new and better law.
From this book many Christians have felt a sense of how wonderful Jesus is, and how God’s plan secures them a better hope. And I wasn’t immune: Hebrews used to be about my favourite book, and certain passages from it came up frequently in my exhortations. This was because I took its replacement message as gospel truth.
I took it as gospel truth. Now I want to give a sense, not of the wonder but of the arrogance of them.
For this post I don’t want to give a sense of the book’s wonder, but of its breath-taking arrogance. And it starts early:
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.Hebrews 1:1 - 4 (ESV)
This makes it pretty clear that the author views Jesus and his teachings as the final revelation of God. By implication, Jews who don’t accept that are rejecting God. And the replacement theme continues through the book.
The Jews held Moses as the founder of their law, but Jesus is greater:
For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.Hebrews 3:3 - 6 (ESV)
He then moves on to the priesthood, and particularly the high priest, the appointed mediator between God and man:
For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people. And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.Hebrews 5:1 - 4 (ESV)
This office too was replaced by Jesus (at the command of God).
So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him,
“You are my Son,
today I have begotten you”;
as he says also in another place,
“You are a priest forever,
after the order of Melchizedek.”Hebrews 5:5 - 6 (ESV)
And the net result of that was to be a change from the law given by Moses, with that former commandment set aside as “weak and useless”:
Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. … On the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.Hebrews 7:11 - 14, 18 - 19 (ESV)
Which also meant a change to the temple and the covenant with the Jews. The author claims that the tabernacle Jews were worshipping is just a shadow of the proper, heavenly temple that Jesus is administering, and that Jesus has set up a new and different covenant to replace the old, Jewish covenant (now obsolete and ready to vanish):
Now if [Jesus] were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. … In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.Hebrews 8:4 - 7, 13 (ESV)
And finally that Jesus as high priest has made one perfect sacrifice - himself - and that by so doing he has replaced all the existing, imperfect Jewish rituals:
According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation. But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.Hebrews 9:9b - 12 (ESV)
The heroes of the Old Testament are then co-opted to provide examples of faith. For example, Moses again:
By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.Hebrews 11:24 - 26 (ESV)
At the time of Moses, there probably wasn’t even a concept of the Messiah, and yet the author here wants to claim that Moses’ sufferings were suffered for Christ.
Finally, at the end of the letter the author refers to an “eternal covenant” (presumably the same as the “new covenant” talked about earlier):
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.Hebrews 13:20 - 21 (ESV)
I do find this ironic, since Christianity did put aside various eternal covenants God had with the Jews. In fact, one of those eternal covenants was with the Levitical priesthood - an institution that this letter is busy trying to replace. What’s the use of an eternal covenant if it’s not, well, eternal?
There’s more I could say here (I said Hebrews was one of my favourite books…), but the beauty I saw in it needed me to trust it as true. Now that I no longer believe it’s true, I see it as nothing but a naked spiritual land grab.
Some more letters
In addition to those three letters, there are various passages in the other letters that are hostile, appropriative, or both. I’ve selected a few of them here, starting with perhaps the most hostile passage of all:
For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But God’s wrath has come upon them at last!1 Thessalonians 2:14 - 16 (ESV)
I find these verses completely bizarre. Apparently, the Thessalonians in Greece were suffering because of what fellow Greeks did to them, but Paul saves all his violent language for the Jews. Why such hatred? Just because the Jews were getting in the way of his mission to the Gentiles?
Anyway, Paul charges the Jews with not just the death of Jesus but also of their own prophets, and sounds pleased that finally God’s wrath has caught up with them. Hostile much?
In 2 Corinthians, Paul talks about the blindness of the Jews who have not recognised his particular religion because of their hard hearts:
Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? … For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory. Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.2 Corinthians 3:5 - 8, 11 - 16 (ESV)
Jews are following a “ministry of death”, and their “old covenant” has been replaced by Paul’s “new covenant”. They are blind, because a veil is over their eyes and over their hearts. And they need to accept Christ to truly lift that veil.
But there’s still more appropriation to come. Old Testament examples were specifically there for Christians, and in fact Christ and baptism were involved in the wilderness wanderings (note that this does not present the early Jews in a good light):
I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.1 Corinthians 10:1 - 6 (ESV)
They had Jesus as the True Passover lamb:
Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 (English Standard Version)1 Corinthians 5:7 - 8 (ESV)
They were the new temple of God (and were supposed to be a totally separate religion as a result):
What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,
“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
Therefore go out from their midst,
and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing;
then I will welcome you,
and I will be a father to you,
and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.”2 Corinthians 6:16 - 18 (ESV)
Jewish rituals like the sabbath and food laws were just a shadow of what Jesus brought:
Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.Colossians 2:16 - 17 (ESV)
In short, for Jews accepting the Christian gospel meant rejecting many distinctive parts of their Jewish heritage. Otherwise they were part of a rival religion, and were subject to criticism and abuse for not seeing the supposedly clear Christian message in their scriptures.
And for Gentiles it became clear that the Jews were stubborn and didn’t properly understand their own scriptures. This was not a recipe that would end well.