St. Paul (or Paul the Apostle or Paul of Tarsus), although not one of Jesus’ Twelve Apostles, was among the first apostles who spread the word of God during the first century. He is regarded as one of the greatest Christian writers and thinkers.
He was born at Tarsus, Cilicia, which is now modern Turkey. That’s why he is also called Paul of Tarsus or Saul of Tarsus. Tarsus used to be one of the biggest hubs for trade and business on the Mediterranean coast.
According to 2 Corinthians 10:10, King James Version: “For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.”
It is mentioned in Acts 23:16 (King James Version): “And when Paul’s sister’s son heard of their lying in wait, he went and entered into the castle, and told Paul.”
Both Paul’s sister and his nephew (her son) are unnamed in the Bible. The nephew, upon hearing of the enemies plotting to kill his notable uncle, came to Paul and told him about it, thus saving Paul’s life.
Gamaliel was one of the most eminent Jewish rabbis during his time, a leading authority of the Jewish Sanhedrin. Like Paul, Gamaliel was also a Pharisee and the grandson of another notable rabbi, Hillel. At the school in Jerusalem, Paul studied classical literature, philosophy, and ethics.
In simpler terms, a Pharisee was a member of a group of Jews who thought they maintained God’s commands. Although most Pharisees opposed Jesus’ teachings, some of them realized that God sent Jesus, so they trusted Him. Paul was also a tentmaker from Tarsus.
Although it’s not clear that Paul was born with a silver spoon, many believe that he may have been wealthy for a lot of reasons. One of them is coming from a wealthy family. First, Paul was born a Roman citizen, as his father or grandfather had to “buy” the citizenship — and becoming a Roman citizen wasn’t that cheap.
Before his conversion, Paul actively participated in the persecution of Christians. One of them is his involvement in the stoning of Stephen, the Protomartyr.
Since his conversion, Paul had preached that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. His strong and persuasive influence, leadership and legacy led to the establishment of several Christian communities.
Fourteen of the 27 books in the New Testament have been credited to Paul. However, Luke is still considered as the most prolific writer, having written 37,933 words (compared to Paul’ 32,407), about 27% of the New Testament.
Paul’s conversion from a merciless Christian persecutor to one of the staunch figures of Christianity is one of the most well-known. Being struck blind while he was on the way to Damascus serves as a metaphor of sudden and swift enlightenment and conversion.
Although the Bible doesn’t say when or how Paul died, Christian tradition holds that Paul was beheaded in Rome during the reign of Emperor Nero.
The incident is called the Great Fire of Rome. Many Romans believed Nero himself had started the fire to commence his plans of building his dream villa, the Domus Aurea. As rumors started to spread that Nero was the one who had set the flame, he began to direct the blame on Christians for the destruction. He then ordered their imprisonment and death.
Following the appearance of the risen Jesus in front of Saul, his subsequent blindness and restoration of sight, Saul was baptized and changed his name into Paul (meaning “small” in Latin).
Paul undertook missions to bring the Word of God to several places such as Cyprus and Asia Minor, Macedonia, Ephesus, Rome, and Jerusalem. And these are just a few of Paul’s missionary journeys.
Paul — then known as Saul — was a cold and merciless persecutor who pursued, beat, and imprisoned the Christians and put them to death.
However, that radically changed one day when he was on the way to Damascus carrying a warrant of arrest against Christians. Suddenly, he and his companions were struck down by a blinding light. Saul heard a voice telling him, “Saul, Saul why do you persecute me?” When he asked who was speaking to him, the voice replied, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
His companions heard the voice but weren’t able to see the image of the risen Jesus, and Saul was the only one who could see Him. He became blinded and had to be taken by the hand to Damascus. Ananias, through orders from Jesus, helped restore Saul’s sight. Following that life-changing event, Saul became Paul and began preaching that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah and the Son of God.