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Homepage / People and Places of the Bible / Paul


Paul is known as the Apostle to the Gentiles. His first mention in the New Testament is during the stoning of Stephen in Jerusalem (Acts 7:58). Paul's role in the execution of the first Christian martyr is unclear (cf. Acts 22:20). All we are told is that those who acted against Stephen, "laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul." Concerning the Apostle's name, Paul never calls himself in his epistles by his Hebrew name (Saul). Instead he always uses his Greco-Roman cognomen, Paul (Rom 1:1; 1 Cor 1:1).

In the chronicle of Paul's embrace of the Christian faith and subsequent missionary efforts, Luke refers to the Apostle as Saul until the beginning of his missionary activities to the Gentiles (Acts 13:9). Thereafter, the only occasions when Paul is referred to as Saul are in the repeated accounts of his experience on the road to Damascus, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" (Acts 22:7, 22:13, 26:14). We do not know precisely where he had his vision of Jesus. Two of the three accounts (Acts 9:1-19, 22:4-11, 26:12-18) of Paul's encounter in Acts relate that he was nearing Damascus (Acts 9:3, 22:6).

Blinded from his vision, Paul stayed a few days at a private home in Damascus, until a disciple named Ananias arrived and laid hands on him "so that he might regain his sight" (Acts 9:12). It is to Ananias that the Lord first reveals the purpose of Paul's calling: "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel…" (Acts 9:15). Paul's sight is restored, and he then is baptized and takes a meal. Soon, Paul publicly declares his new faith in Jesus to the skepticism of some of his fellow believers who have heard of his reputation and the consternation of the Jewish authorities.

Discovering a plot to kill him, Paul escaped by night and returned to Jerusalem where he once again engages in disputations, this time with Greek-speaking Jews. After renewed threats, he was taken to Caesarea, where he traveled by ship to Tarsus, the place of his birth.

We next hear about Paul when he is sought by Barnabbas in Tarsus and brought to the church in Antioch. Here the two ministered for a year. At the time of a great famine during the reign of Claudius, Paul and Barnabbas were appointed by the church in Antioch to take relief offerings to the believers in Jerusalem (Acts 11:27–30).

Paul went on three missionary journeys. As the number of Gentiles increased in the church, it brought to the fore the question of the Gentiles' relationship to the Law and the people of Israel. Some argued, "Unless you are circumcised and walk according to the custom of Moses you cannot be saved" (Acts 15:1).

Paul and others from Antioch were appointed to go to Jerusalem to meet with the Apostles and address these issues. The leadership in Jerusalem reached a decision: rather than requiring conversion with circumcision and full adherence to the Law, they applied minimal requirements to the Gentile Christians that approximated the basic statutes of the Noachide Laws (Acts 15:28–29).

Some time after his return from his third missionary journey, he went up to Jerusalem to meet with James and the elders of the church. In order to dispel the false rumors surrounding Paul’s message “that (he teaches) all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or observe the customs” (Acts 21:21), the elders recommended that he offer to pay the expenses for four men concluding a Nazirite vow. They also proposed that Paul accompany the men and purify himself, i.e. that he join the men in the rite of ritual immersion before ascending to the temple precincts. Certain Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, created a tumult by falsely charging him with defiling the temple. Paul was brought in front of the Sanhedrin. Paul argued that he was "…a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees…" Dissension broke out among the religious council.

After a plot against Paul's life was discovered, he was taken to Caesarea, where he was turned over to the governor of Judea. Charges were brought against Paul. In his defense, Paul said: "Neither against the law of the Jews, not against the temple, nor against Caesar have I offended at all" (Acts 25:8). As a Roman citizen, Paul appealed to Caesar. He was taken in a boat, on a voyage much delayed by bad weather. In Rome Paul was placed under house arrest.

According to Christian tradition, Paul was martyred during the persecution of Christians by Nero after the fire of Rome in 64 CE.

Other Biblical Figures:
AbrahamAgrippa IAhab
Alexander the GreatHasmoneans (the Maccabees)Herod the Great
JesusJohn the BaptistJoshua
MosesCyrus II (the Great)
SamsonAaronAlexander Yannai (Jannaeus; Jonathan)
AmalekAmosAntigonus II (Mattathias)
Aristobulus I (Judah)Bar Giora, SimeonBar Kokhba, Simeon
Eleazar the HasmoneanElishaEssenes
Esther, QueenEzekiel, Book ofEzra
GibeonitesGog and MagogHabakkuk
Jeremiah (Heb. Yirmiyahu)JethroJob
JoelJohanan ben ZakkaiJohanan the Hasmonean
John HyrcanusJohn of GiscalaJonah, Book of
Jonathan the HasmoneanJosephJosephus Flavius (Joseph ben Mattathias)
Joshua son of NunJosiahJudah Maccabee
Julius CaesarLeahLevites
MalachiMatriarchs (Heb. Imahot)Mattathias
NazarenesNazirite (Heb. Nazir)Nehemiah
Obadiah, Book ofPatriarchsPharisees (Heb. Perushim)
RehoboamRuthSadducees (Heb. Tzedukim)
Salome AlexandraSamaritansSamuel
Simeon bar YohaiSimeon the HasmoneanSolomon
Titus, Flavius VespasianusTribes of Israel, TheZadok, The House of
ZealotsZechariah, Book ofZephaniah, Book of
See also: Biblical Places