Academic Papers,  Catholic Theology,  History

St Paul Theologian, Apostle, and Missionary

St. Paul was born as Saul in Tarsus, modern day Eastern Turkey. While there is not much know about Saul’s parents it is known that they were of the Tribe of Benjamin, and that Saul’s father was a Roman citizen. Saul’s parents were natives of Gischala in Galilee and had moved to Tarsus before Saul’s birth.[1] Saul’s parents sent him to Jerusalem to study the Torah under the Rabbi Gamaliel. Through Gamaliel’s guidance, Saul would become one of the greatest Apostles, and travel further than any of the Apostles. What we know about Saul comes from his letters and from Acts. The three main missionary trips that Saul goes on before his first arrest made the faith strong in the Asia Minor and in Eastern Europe, and the majority of his letters is written during this time.

Gamaliel was the grandson of Hillel, who as a Pharisee, did not interpret the Jewish law very strictly. Gamaliel was unique in his toleration of Christianity, and many suspects that he was secretly a Christian like Nicodemus.[2] Saul’s relationship with Gamaliel allowed him to gain “entry into the upper echelons of the religious authorities.”[3] In Acts 7:58, Luke states that Saul was a young man at the time of Stephens stoning. Saul did not comprehend how much his teacher influenced him until after his conversion. At this point Saul was a Pharisee that believed in the strict enforcement of the law, and believed the Pharisees tenants; “that God would liberate the Jewish people and reunite the twelve tribes of Israel by sending the Messiah only when the people of Israel had purified themselves and dutifully observe the works of the Law of Moses.”[4] Those that followed Christ taught that Jesus was the Messiah and that he had already established the Kingdom of God. And to the Christians, the uniting of the twelve tribes also included the gentiles. Enraged at the Christians Saul went to the High Priest according to Acts chapter 9, and requested letters for the synagogues in Damascus that allowed him to arrest those of the Way, Christians. It is in the same chapter that Saul received his conversion. It is most likely that on the way to Damascus, he contemplated the words Stephen spoke as he died, and the teachings of Gamaliel. It was as he prayed at noon, the Jesus appeared to him asking him:

Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the goad.

 And I said, Who art thou, Lord?

And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But arise, and stand upon thy feet: for to this end have I appeared unto thee, to appoint thee a minister and a witness both of the things wherein thou hast seen me, and of the things wherein I will appear unto thee; delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom I send thee, to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive remission of sins and an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith in me. (Acts 26:14-18)

And upon rising, Saul found that he could no longer see. Saul continued on his way to Damascus and was received by the Christians that he came to persecute, and when Ananias laid hands on Saul saying “Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, who appeared unto thee in the way which thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mayest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9:17). Saul’s sight returned at once and he was baptized.

After Saul’s conversion and baptism, the Christians were suspicious of him, questioning among themselves “Is not this he that in Jerusalem made havoc of them that called on [the name of Jesus]? And he had come hither for this intent, that he might bring them bound before the chief priests” (Acts 9:21-22). However, Saul’s conversion was true, and many began to follow him. His teachings confounded the Jews that lived in Damascus, and they conspired to kill him. The plot made known to Saul left Damascus by night, and his followers helped him over the wall by lowering him in a basket to the ground on the other side. According to Luke in Acts, Saul went back to Jerusalem where he tried to join the disciples, but because of his persecutions before his conversion, they were afraid of him. Barnabas seeing that Saul had changed brought him before the Apostles, where Saul told the Apostles how he had seen the Lord, and that he now believed that Jesus is the Son of God. Saul preached openly about Jesus, and his discussions with the Hellenist Jews would get heated, and they began to seek to kill him. When the Apostles found out that the Hellenist Jews were after Saul’s life, they sent him Tarsus.

Saul’s First Missionary Trip

 

 

Saul went on his first missionary trip aproxamtly in 46AD or 47AD. Barnabas went with Paul on this missionary trip. They went to Seleucia and sailed to Cyprus. They stopped in Salamis to proclaim the word of God to the Jews. They afterwards traveled through the whole Island, stopping at Paphos were they found a Jew by the name of Bar-Jesus, also known as Elymas, that was a sorcerer and false prophet, and he was with the prosonsul, Sergius Paulus, who called upon Barnabas and Saul to learn about the word of God. Elymas not wanting the proconsul to learn about the faith, withstood them, however, Saul “fastened his eyes on him, and said, O full of all guile and all villany, thou son of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness”, will you not cease to pervert the true ways of the Lord? (Acts 13:9-10) Elymas was struck blind for a season, and the proconsul seeing what was done, believed in the teachings of God. It is at this point that when Saul is among the Gentiles he is called Paul. It is important to note that Saul’s name was not changed, but that Paul is his Hellenist/Greek name, and Saul is his Hebrew name. According to Greg Lanier, Author of the Gospel Coalition and dean of students at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orland, says that many of the Greek speaking Jews would have a Hebrew name and a Hellenistic name, and that when Paul is addressing Greek speakers he goes by his Hellenistic name.[5] Saul is known mostly by Paul, because he spent most of his time among the Gentiles.

Paul and Barnabas left Paphos and came to Perga. And while they were passing through Perga, they stopped in Antioch of Pisidia to observe the Sabbath. As was custom for Jews, Paul and Barnabas went into the synagogue. The leaders of the synagogue, after the reading of the law, asked Paul and Barnabas if they had words to say unto the people. Paul stood up and preached about the salvation history, starting with Moses and the freeing of the people of Israel from the Egyptians, to King David four hundred and fifty years later and how from his line was to come a Savior, who is Jesus. Paul tells how the leaders of Israel, that despite reading of the prophets every sabbath, they did not know Jesus, and condemned him; how the Sanhedrin surrendered Jesus over to Pilate and asked Pilate to crucified him. Paul then told them about Jesus death and resurrection and the remission of sins. When they were through speaking, they left the synagogue and many members followed Paul and Barnabas, urging them to continue speaking. When the Jewish leaders saw how much attention Paul and Barnabas was receiving they grew jealous and claimed that Paul was a blasphemer. Paul chastised the Jews quoting Isaiah 49:6 “ I have set thee for a light of the Gentiles, That thou shouldest be for salvation unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Though the Gentiles were glad to hear this, the Jews stirred up trouble and the chief men of the city casted Paul and Barnabas from the town. They left and shook the dust off their feet and went to Iconium. And as the Jews had made trouble in Antioch, the Jews in Iconium did the same. Paul and Barnabas left Iconium went unto the Lycaonia, Lystra and Derbe and preached the Gospel.

While Paul and Barnabas were in Lystra, there was a man, crippled from birth and could not walk, and Paul seeing that he had faith told him to “Stand upright on thy feet” (Acts 14:10) and the man jumped and could walk. The people saw this they began to call Paul and Barnabas gods and worship them. Paul and Barnabas heard this they tore their garments, crying out in anguish “Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and bring you good tidings, that ye should turn from these vain things unto a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that in them” (Acts 14:12-15). Now in this crowd were some Jews that had come from Antioch and Iconium, and they persuaded the people to stone Paul. They dragged him out of the city and believing that he was dead, left him. The disciples came to Paul, and Paul got up and entered the city, and the next day Paul and Barnabas left Lystra and went to Derbe. After a period of time among the people of Derbe, they returned to Jerusalem by the way they came. Stopping in Lystra, Iconium and Antioch for a period of time, encouraging the disciples there to continue in the faith despite trials and tribulations. In each city they appointed elders to lead the Church in that city. And when they arrived in Jerusalem, they told disciples of all the things God had done with them, and with the Gentiles.

Paul’s Second Missionary Trip and Letters Written to the Thessalonians

 

 

Between year 49-51 AD, Paul decided to go a second missionary trip. This time taking Silas instead of Barnabas. Barnabas had wanted to bring John (Mark) with them, however, Paul was not pleased about his attitude during the first missionary trip and since they could not come to an agreement on the matter, they agreed to go their separate ways. With Silas, Paul revisited the places from his first missionary trip, strengthening the Churches he established. After preaching in each town as before, he had a vision of a man begging Paul to come to Macedonia. Paul and Silas left for Macedonia the next morning. In Macedonia, they found a place where they could meet and preach the word, and whole families were baptized. One of the women, Lydia, had been baptized, invited them to stay in her house while they were there. It was in Macedonia where Paul drove the spirit out of a young slave girl. The spirit gave the girl soothsayer power, and her masters were using her power to make money. Seeing what Paul had done, the girls masters laid hold of Paul and Silas and brought them before the magistrates, where they were beaten with rods and imprisoned. During the night that they were in prison, they prayed and sung hymns, and there was a loud quake and the prison doors opened and the prisoners bonds were loosened. The prison guard, in seeing the power of God, became a disciple. Paul and Silas were released the next day, and asked to leave the city. After going to Lydia’s house and comforting the believers there, they left. (Acts 15:36-41; 16:1-40)

The next place Paul and Silas came to was Thessalonica, where as Paul’s custom preached in the synagogues. At first the Jewish leaders listened, like before in other towns, but grew jealous because of their popularity among both Jews and Gentiles, caused such an uproar that the disciples sent them away to Beroea in the night. While in Beroea, Paul went to the synagogue there, and the Jewish people were more openminded, and searched the Scriptures to verify what they were saying. When the Jews from Thessalonica heard that Paul was teaching the word of God in Beroea, they came and stirred up trouble. The disciples sent Paul by sea to Athens by himself, with Silas and Timothy to gain him later. While Paul waited for Silas and Timothy, Paul preached the Gospel in Athens. Athens was well know for its philosophers, and many of them were curious about this new religion. They brought Paul to the Areopagus and asked him to tell them about his teachings. Some openly mocked him, while many believed and was baptized. Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. According to Luke in Acts, Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and six months.

While Paul stayed in Corinth, we have the first of the Letters of Paul written, the first and second letters to the Thessalonians. Paul wrote these letters to encourage the Church in Thessalonica. The first letter, Paul teaches about the second coming of Jesus and on the principles of Faith, Hope and Love. Paul emphasized Love and Hope in chapters 4-5 of 1st Thessalonians. Paul ends the first letter reminding the pray constantly and to “hold fast that which is good; abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thess 5:21-22). The second letter to the Thessalonians was written to emphasize the coming return of Jesus, and to correct the misunderstanding that Jesus had already returned. Paul starts this letter explain Jesus’ future return and that the time is unknown by anyone. He also commends the Church for persevering during persecution, and reminds them that God will punish those that does the persecuting. The body of the second Thessalonians explains how the antichrist had to arrive and admonishing those that do not do any work and are busybodies (2 Thess 2:1-17; 3:1-18). [6]

Paul left Corinth and went unto Syria and stopped in Ephesus. Paul despite the Jews asking him to stay, left for Caesarea, promising to return if God willed it. Paul went down to Antioch, “And having spent some time there, he departed, and went through the region of Galatia, and Phrygia, in order, establishing all the disciples.” (Acts 18:23)

Paul’s Third Missionary Trip and Letters Written to the Corinthians, the Galatians and the Romans

Paul’s third trip would be the last one taken before he was imprisoned for the first time. Paul was imprisoned two times with the last one resulting in his beheading in 68 AD. It is during this missionary trip, a large portions of Paul’s letters are written. Paul begins his journey by returning Ephesus as he had promised. There he found disciples that were baptized by John the Baptist, and Paul baptized them in the name of Jesus and Paul laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. He stayed in Ephesus for three months. He then went to the Lecture hall of Tyrannus and for two years taught the Gospel in the hall daily. He left Tyrannus and traveled through Macedonia and Achaia, headed to Jerusalem, preaching the word of God everywhere he went (Acts 19:1-10; 21-22).

During Paul’s third missionary trip, he wrote four letters, two to the Corinthians, one to the Galatians, and one to the Romans. The first letter to the Corinthians was written while he was in Ephesus to address and correct the immorality and divisions that he had heard had arisen among them. He reminded them that those that are:

unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God .. [that] neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, not effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with men, not thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor. 6:9-10)

Paul finishes the letter clearing up some confusion about practices of worship, and reminding them about the Resurrection.[7] The second letter to the Corinthians was written while he was in Macedonia. Paul describes the characteristics of an Apostle, and gives an account of his own Apostleship.[8] Paul writes to the Galatians when he was in Greece. Here he is giving an account of how he received the Gospel. Moreover, Paul reminds the Galatians that we are justified by faith, and that our fruits/works must reflect our desire to live a holy life in the eyes of God.[9] The final letter written during the third missionary trip is to the Romans. This letter to the Romans causes many controversy, namely Luther. Luther and many protestants like him us this letter to prove that faith alone is needed that works are meanless. However, according to Taylor Marshall, Romans 3:28 that says that we are justified by faith apart from works of law, does not mean that faith is only necessary, but that the six hundred and thirteen precepts of the Torah. Paul has been against the idea that a Christian must believe in Jesus and obey the Jewish Ceremonial Law of circumcision and dietary restrictions. Paul is writing to the Romans to introduce himself to them. He is trying to gain funds to support a missionary trip to Spain. He does this first by letting the Roman Christians know who he is, and proves that he teaches the same Gospel that they received and the duties of Christians. He also reminds the Jewish Christians that the Gentile Christians did not have to comform to the Jewish Ceremonial Laws.[10]

St. Paul is such a great Apostle, theologian, missionary and writer that it is almost impossible to summarize his life, even with the limited sources we have to know about Paul, from Acts and his own Letters, we are able to largely determine where Paul went and what the Gospel that he took to the Gentiles.

 

Bibliography

Saint Jerome. “5.” In De Viris Illustribus. 393.

“A Chronology of Pauls Writings.” Bible Charts. Accessed July 29, 2018. http://www.biblecharts.org/newtestaament/achronologyofpaulswritings.pdf.

Lanier, Greg, PhD. “No, ‘Saul the Persecutor’ Did Not Become ‘Paul the Apostle’.” The Gospel Coalition. May 3, 2017. Accessed July 29, 2018. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/no-saul-the-persecutor-did-not-become-paul-the-apostle/.

Marshall, Taylor. The Catholic Perspective on Paul: Paul and the Origins of Catholic Christianity. Dallas, TX: Saint John Press, 2010. Kindle Edition.

“Paul’s Three Missionary Journeys.” 2001. Accessed July 29, 2018. http://www.tcbchurch.org/sites/tcbchurch.com/files/pictures/Messages/Colossians/Paul’s Three Missionary Journeys.pdf.

“Romans – Introduction.” United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Accessed July 30, 2018. http://www.usccb.org/bible/romans/0.

Smith, Jay. “1 Corinthians Summary.” Bible Hub. Accessed July 30, 2018. http://biblehub.com/summary/2_corinthians/1.htm.

______ “2 Corinthians Summary.” Bible Hub. Accessed July 30, 2018. http://biblehub.com/summary/2_corinthians/1.htm

______ “Galations Summary.” Bible Hub. Accessed July 30, 2018. http://biblehub.com/summary/galatians/1.htm

______ “1 Thessalonians Summary.” Bible Hub. Accessed July 30, 2018. http://biblehub.com/summary/1_thessalonians/1.htm.

______ “2 Thessalonians Summary.” Bible Hub. Accessed July 30, 2018. http://biblehub.com/summary/2_thessalonians/1.htm.

The New American Bible. Saint Joseph Edition ed. Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 2005. Accessed July 29, 2018. https://www.biblegateway.com/versions/New-American-Bible-Revised-Edition-NABRE-Bible/#booklist.

Clementine. “Tumult Stilled by Gamaliel.” In Clementine Recognitions 1, translated by Thomas Smith.

[1] Saint Jerome, “5,” in De Viris Illustribus (393).

[2] Clementine, “Tumult Stilled by Gamaliel.,” in Clementine Recognitions 1, trans. Thomas Smith.

[3] Taylor Marshall, The Catholic Perspective on Paul: Paul and the Origins of Catholic Christianity (Dallas, TX: Saint John Press, 2010), Kindle Edition, Chap 1.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Greg Lanier, PhD, “No, ‘Saul the Persecutor’ Did Not Become ‘Paul the Apostle’,” The Gospel Coalition, May 3, 2017, , accessed July 29, 2018, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/no-saul-the-persecutor-did-not-become-paul-the-apostle/.

[6] Jay Smith, “1 Thessalonians Summary,” Bible Hub, , accessed July 30, 2018, http://biblehub.com/summary/1_thessalonians/1.htm.; Jay Smith, “2 Thessalonians Summary,” Bible Hub, , accessed July 30, 2018, http://biblehub.com/summary/2_thessalonians/1.htm.

[7] Jay Smith, “1 Corinthians Summary,” Bible Hub, , accessed July 30, 2018, http://biblehub.com/summary/1_corinthians/1.htm

[8] Jay Smith, “2 Corinthians Summary,” Bible Hub,

[9] Jay Smith, “2 Galatians Summary,” Bible Hub,

[10] Taylor Marshall, The Catholic Perspective on Paul, Chap 3; “Romans – Introduction,” United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, , accessed July 30, 2018, http://www.usccb.org/bible/romans/0.

 

About the Author

Frances LeJeune is a student at Catholic Distance University that has multiple cats, dogs, and chickens. She will be receiving her Associate degree June 2019.  This essay was submitted on July 29, 2018 for the class CHIST – 314 Church History I: Early Christians to Middle Ages that was taught by Dr. Matthew Bunson

July 29, 2018

 

Frances Lejeune is a student at Catholic Distance University and is a Theology Major. She is expected to receive her Associates June of 2019. She also writes about day to day life about living with depression, anxiety and loss.

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