He wrote to various groups scattered throughout the Empire, and desperately insisted they believe only his theology. He was so obsessed with snaring converts that little else in his life mattered. In Romans 15:16, he wrote that Gentiles were an offering he would bring to God.
“That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.”
Most of the people he wrote to were Gentiles (pagans) associated with Jewish synagogues, (“God-fearing Gentiles,”) although he wrote to some Jews in the diaspora too. From Paul’s perspective, his patrons were in desperate need of direction and an authoritative, charismatic leader to look up to. He considered himself just the man. He knew how to win the hearts, minds, and souls of people, as he imagined himself as one of the few god fearers (i.e. Jews) who understood Gentile cultures.
Paul’s theology probably had a long and carefully thought out gestation. He knew that in order to appeal to his customers he needed a product very different to traditional Judaism, because Judaism required obedience to cumbersome dictates. The Jews believed one had to be circumcised, a painful and embarrassing procedure, not easy to sell to an adult man. They worshipped Yahweh, who is portrayed in Jewish scripture as a thunderous and violent pro-Jewish anti-gentile God. They could only eat kosher food, marry only fellow Jews, and had to stop work on the Sabbath. Jewish heritage and history were regarded as superior, and all Jews were expected to take part in the fasts and feasts celebrating the ancient epic of Israel. Many Jews thought they were one day going to be the masters of the world. Their messianic dreams were an obstacle to the peace Rome imposed on the people of the empire. Paul knew that gentiles found all this inconvenient, irksome and out of touch with reality, so he labeled these Jewish rules and beliefs as a type of “slavery.” He had to jettison the old rules, so he did, by reinventing Judaism so that it was more to the gentile world’s liking.
According to Paul, there was now no need for circumcision or to stop work on the Sabbath. The dietary kosher rules were out; bacon was back on the breakfast menu. He downplayed the importance of the Jewish Temple, and replaced the Jews’ hope for a political messiah of their own with Christ, the spiritual savior of all mankind. The “kingdom of God,” according to Paul, became a place in heaven, not in Israel. He declared Yahweh was such a decent deity he’d sent his own precious son, the Christ, to earth. He alleged gentiles were descendants of Abraham too, and that the centuries-old Jewish Law was a “curse,” and a type of “slavery.” All that was now required was faith in his claims about Christ. Voilà! The Christ myth and Christian theology were born.
Paul was one of history’s first examples of an ambitious cult leader who, when the rules of the established religion were no longer convenient, simply invented new ones to suit himself. He replaced what he called the “old covenant” of the Jews with his entirely fabricated “new covenant.” He was trying to reinvent Judaism and I think doing his best to dampen down Jewish messianic dreams. He was bending over backwards to infiltrate Judaism with Gentiles and Gentile ideas. He had no idea he was creating an almost entirely new religion, yet that’s precisely what his writings helped do many years later.
To help realize this remodeling of belief, he undermined Yeshua’s family and disciples behind their backs. He was surprised and angry to find himself competing with them for people’s allegiance. They were treading on what he considered his turf. How dare they preach old-fashioned Jewish theology and disrupt his mission to set up communities of believers! Those annoying war-mongering Jews were full of subversive fantasies about a messiah, but God had revealed to him the real Christ, the up-to-date modern Christ! He, not them, was plugging the “good news.” He knew what the newly flexible, expansionist, less violent, less Judaic God expected in these modern, pro-Roman times. He was an educated, savvy, Greek-speaking sophisticate who knew a stack more about selling religion to the subjects of the Empire than the old fashioned anti-Roman bumpkins from the backwater of Galilee!