For centuries, the Jews had looked for a messiah who would liberate them from their captors. His advent had been foretold by the prophet Isaiah. The Jews distinguished themselves from the other nations by the strict observance of the “levitical” laws, most famous (or probably infamous) of which was the ritual circumcision of all Jewish males.
The deliverance brought by the messiah was to be exclusively for the Jews, or so they thought. It was not for the uncircumcised or gentiles, derogatory names used to refer to the various non-Jewish peoples around them. In order to please Jehovah, their God, it was imperative that they kept themselves separate from the gentiles.
The arrival of Christ on the scene did not reach Jewish expectations, so while he was accepted by many as an influential prophet and teacher; he was largely rejected as the promised messiah. As a result, Christ’s disciples and those who taught that Jesus was the messiah and that He was resurrected and had returned to heaven, were severely ridiculed and persecuted by mainstream Jews.
Paul of Tarsus, a devout Jew, was particularly antagonistic towards this new sect. He travelled all around flushing out followers of Christ and stoning, burning at the stake or otherwise eliminating these people who were viewed as heretics. It was on one such journey to carry out raids against followers of Jesus that he encountered Christ who appeared to him in a vision so intense, that his sight failed for several days.
During this time, he was instructed by Ananias and given a new mission which was to preach Christianity to the gentiles. When his sight was restored, Paul embarked with renewed vigor on a series of missionary journeys to preach of Jesus the Christ and his resurrection to the gentiles. Dunbar (2003) attributes Paul’s ability to reach as vast and varied an audience as he did, to his tactic of preaching along common trade routes. At any rate, his extensive travels coupled with his.