It is an oft-noted irony that the religions that want to heal and save us seem so frequently to be riven by conflict. In Christianity, the first major row took place within ten years of Jesus’s death. According to the Book of the Acts of the Apostles and attested in the letters of Paul, a serious disagreement erupted between Peter and Paul over whether it was necessary for non-Jewish followers of Christ to adopt the Jewish legal requirements – circumcision, avoidance of pork and so on – or whether they could retain their Gentile customs.

A Council was called in Jerusalem, attended by Peter, whose authority was derived from the fact that he had been with Jesus, and by Paul, who claimed the authority of his conversion. The two camps were unable to agree. It was finally decided that Peter and his followers would remain in Jerusalem working with the Jews, and Paul and his followers would go to the Gentiles.

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