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Monday, 9 January 2017

Saint Paul


Saint Paul was born in the city of Tarsus–one of the largest trade centers on the Mediterranean coast likely between the years of 5 BC and 5 AD.

He was born into a devout and important Jewish family in Tarsus, where his parents were Roman citizens.

Schooling would have begun in a room attached to a synagogue. Then as a youth Paul was sent to a school of Rabbi Gamaliel of Jerusalem where he studied exegesis, Jewish dogma, traditional law and casuistry.

Paul spoke Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek and possibly Latin.

As a young man he was a strict Jew with a hatred of the new followers of the Christ sect, whom he persecuted with a great rage.


Paul was the most zealous, rigorous and careful of all Pharisees, one of the strictest Jewish sects. As a model Pharisee he persecuted the new religious sect called Christians until the risen Christ appeared to him and transformed him.

The Conversion of Saul, fresco by Michelangelo, 1542–45

After his conversion, Paul spent some time in Arabia studying and meditating on his new understanding of the Jewish scriptures before returning to Damascus where he was befriended by Barnabas and introduced to the apostles.


For eight or nine years little is known of Paul's activities, until around 46 AD when he set off on the first of three missionary journeys throughout the eastern Mediterranean European area. During these tours, Paul founded many churches.

Pauls four tours organizing the Christian Church were:
First Tour Cyprus, Pamphylia, Pisidia and Lycaonia.
Second Tour Phrygia, Galatia, Macedonia, Phillipi, Thessalonica and Athens.

Saint Paul delivering the Areopagus sermon in Athens, by Raphael, 1515.

Third Tour Ephesus, Macedonia, Corinth, Aegean Islands.

Paul supported himself during his travels and while preaching, a fact he alludes to a number of times (e.g. 1 Corinthians 9:13-15); according to Acts 18:3, he worked as a tentmaker. He also had a Patroness named Phoebe.

Paul signaled the start of a break between Jews and Christians by abolishing the obligations of the Torah. This move made the new Christian faith more attractive to the majority of Gentiles.


St Paul was the first man to give Christianity a systematic theology.

Paul wrote a number of letters to the churches he founded, which were highly valued and many were collected after his death.

Paul Writing His Epistles, painting attributed to Valentin de Boulogne, 17th century

His First Letter to the Thessalonians is the earliest Christian document known to exist.

By 100 AD St Paul's collected letters were already accepted on an equal basis with other scripture.


Paul performed miracles of healing including raising a young man to life after he'd died in a fall. The youngster had fallen out of the third storey window after falling asleep during a long sermon by Paul.

The apostle, who was temporarily blinded when he was converted, suffered from what he called a "thorn in the flesh". It is thought he could be referring to poor or deteriorating eyesight.

In 63 AD Paul of Tarsus wrote to his younger missionary colleague Timothy who was having problems with stomach pains. The water Timothy was drinking was possibly contaminated so Paul instructed him to drink a little wine for his stomach. Earlier Paul had contrasted in a letter to Christians in Ephesus the adverse effects of getting drunk on wine with the positive effects of being filled with the Holy Spirit.


His Roman name "Paul" means "little".

According to Acts 21 v 38, he was Egyptian looking.

A second century document refers to Paul as a man of less than impressive physical appearance, small, bald and bandy legged.

Bartolomeo Montagna - Saint Paul - Google Art Project

He would have had scars and other disfigurements from his many beatings.


When Paul's ship was wrecked off the Maltese coast, the centurion commanded that to save their lives, all the able to swim should do so. The fact that Paul reached the shore shows he was an efficient swimmer.

Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 4 v 8 that bodily exercise profits a little but godliness is profitable for all things. He did not mean that physical exercise has little value. Indeed he was acknowledging that there is a short term profit to it.


In 58BC Paul was arrested in Jerusalem. The Jews attempted to kill him but succeeded only in having him arrested by the Roman authorities who kept him captive at Caesarea for two years. As Paul had appealed to Nero Caesar, they sent him to Rome where after two more years of captivity he was set free in AD63.

Acts describes Paul's journey from Caesarea to Rome in some detail. The centurion Julius had shipped Paul and his fellow-prisoners on a merchant vessel, on board which Luke and Aristarchus were able to take passage. At Myra in Lycia the prisoners were transferred to an Alexandrian vessel transporting wheat bound for Italy, but the winds being persistently contrary, Paul advised that they should spend the winter at a place in Crete called Goodhavens. His advice was not followed, and the vessel driven by the tempest drifted aimlessly for fourteen whole days, being finally wrecked on the coast of Malta.

February 8, 58, may be the day that Paul sailed from Malta for Rome. Pliny tells us in his Natural History that February 8 was the date Spring opened its seas to voyagers. If the sailors acted on the traditional date, we may actually have pinned down an exact moment in Paul's life.


Eusebius of Caesarea states that Paul was beheaded by a sword in the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero; this event has been dated either to the year 64, when Rome was devastated by a fire, or a few years later to 67, possibly on June 29, 67.

The Beheading of Saint Paul by Enrique Simonet, 1887

Tradition has it that he was beheaded at the place now called The Fontane, Rome and his body is buried where the Basilica of Saint Paul outside the wall stands.

Caius mentions in the late 2nd century both Peter and Paul's tombs being in Rome. He wrote: "I can point out the trophies of the apostles. "For if you are willing to go to the Vatican or to the Ostian Way, you will find the trophies of those who founded this Church."

In 2002, an 8 foot long marble sarcophagus, inscribed with the words "PAULO APOSTOLO MART" ("Paul apostle martyr") was discovered during excavations around the Basilica of Saint Paul on the Via Ostiensis. The sarcophagus was examined by means of a probe, which revealed small bone fragments. The bone was radiocarbon-dated to the 1st or 2nd century. According to the Vatican, these findings support the conclusion that the tomb is Paul's.


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