The Final Jewish-Christian Schism
The Bar Kokhba Revolt (132-135 CE) did much to highlight the differences between Jews and early Christians. Bar Kokhba’s leadership was supported by the hope – shared by sages and laymen alike – that he was a messianic figure. This was a belief that could not be shared by early Christians, who had designated Jesus as the messiah.
Under the leadership of Paul and Peter, Christianity turned toward the Greco-Roman pagan world and spread throughout Asia Minor, the Greek Isles and Rome. This meant that increasingly, the Jewish-Christian population of Palestine was of lesser importance when compared with the Gentile Christians spread throughout the Roman world. These Greco-Roman Christians were Gentiles and were not considered Jews by the rabbinic leadership. Although groups which kept a majority of Jewish laws persisted in Christianity for a few centuries, they were not halakhically Jewish and disappeared altogether by the advent of Islam.
When the city of Jerusalem became off-limits to Jews, including Jewish Christians, in the aftermath of the Bar Kokhba Revolt, the Jerusalem Church came under the control of Gentile Christians. The Roman prohibition of circumcision also distanced Christians from Judaism and the rabbis began to see them as a separate group and not a Jewish sect. Christian sources also increasingly saw Jews as another religious group.
As long as believers in Jesus were a Jewish group, the rabbis maintained an ambivalent attitude toward them. But as soon as the majority of Christians were Gentiles who had not converted to Judaism, they were no longer a sect but a separate religion.