Paul was clearly right on the issue of circumcision for Gentile Christians. Paul's insistence on freedom from Jewish ceremonial law enabled Christianity to stand as a "Second Israel" rather than a mere messianic sect of Judaism. According to the Divine Principle, this was a providential necessity, given the fact of Jesus' crucifixion, which nullified God's first intent for Jesus. Originally, God hoped that Jesus would fulfill the role of the Messiah during his lifetime by establishing a "true family" together with a physical bride, ultimately bringing his message of love to the entire world.
Paul was also right about the issue of "table fellowship" between Jews and Gentiles. The "men from James" were mistaken to place their Jewishness above the principle of "loving one's neighbor" in the Christian community. Whether Paul was also right to publicly oppose Peter on this issue is an interesting question. Was he correct to challenge his elder brother in Christ, or was this a case where he should have remained quiet and tried to resolve the matter less controversially?
There is a profound irony about the Epistle to the Galatians. Paul adamantly insisted that the Jews and Gentiles should eat together in loving fellowship, and he also declared that "neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything." However, his letter was ultimately used more to divide Jews and Christians than to unite them. Equating Judaism with the concubine Hagar and Christianity with the Abraham's true wife, Sarah, Paul had urged: "Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman's son."
This attitude of disowning the shared kinship between Jews and Christians led rulers such as the Constantine I, the first Christian emperor, to declare that Christians should have nothing to do with the "detestable" Jews. And during the Spanish Inquisition, Jewish converts to Christianity could even face death for circumcising their sons.
Paul's own attitude about circumcision for Jewish Christians is another interesting matter. Paul himself had no sons, but according the Book of Acts, he circumcised his spiritual son, Timothy, who had a Jewish mother (Acts 16:3). Apparently, Paul took the attitude that one did not have to change one's "religion" to be a Christian. As a Jew, Timothy needed to be circumcised, but this was unnecessary for Gentiles. In thinking that Jewish ceremonial law was essential, the Galatians had fallen into serious error, for it is through faith, not "works of the law" that one finds God's grace and salvation. In Christ, Paul said, there is "neither Jew nor Greek." Thus, Greeks did not need to be become Jews in order to be true Christians, and Jews did not need to become Gentiles either. Christianity in later ages would not share this view, insisting instead that Jews must leave their Judaism behind in order to become Christians.
The Reverend Sun Myung Moon
adopted a Pauline attitude on the issue of conversion when he declared that one does not need to join the Unification Church in order to receive the Holy Marriage Blessing. Jews remain Jews, Muslims remain Muslims, Hindus remain Hindus, and Christians remain Christians; but all are united in the Blessing through which—in Unification Theology—we become one true family under God.