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WHAT IF PAUL HAD TRAVELLED EAST RATHER THAN WEST?

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For first-century Jews the eastern disapora was at least as important as the western. When Paul returned from Arabia (Nabatea) to Damascus, his intention was to travel east from Damascus to Mesopotamia, where the synagogue communities, descendants of the original exiles of both northern and southern tribes of Israel, would have been his starting point for mission to the Gentiles of the area. But when he escaped arrest by the Nabatean ethnarc, Nabatean control of the trade routes south and east of Damascus left him no choice but to travel to Jerusalem, where he re-thought the geographical scope of his mission. Had Paul travelled east, the Christian communities of both north and south Mesopotamia might have flourished already in the first century and Paul's writings might have had more influence on Syriac theology. Considering how Christianity in the Roman Empire would have developed without Paul entails rejecting such exaggerated views of Paul's significance as that Paul invented Christianity or that without Paul Christianity would have remained a Jewish sect. The Gentile mission began without Paul and took place in areas, such as Rome and Egypt, which were not evangelized by Paul. Without Paul much would have been different about the way the early Christian movement would have spread across the Roman Empire, but it would still have spread, with much the same long-term effects.

Affiliations: 1: University of St. Andrews

10.1163/156851500750119150
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2000-01-01
2016-12-04

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