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Paul

A Christian missionary who once persecuted the church. 

Background

Paul was an apostle who proclaimed the gospel mainly to Gentiles. His journeys, sufferings, words, and works are described in letters that he wrote to Christians in Rome, Corinth, and other places. The Acts of the Apostles also narrates many stories about him.

The book of Acts depicts Paul, whose Hebrew name was Saul, as a Pharisee, strictly trained in the law and Jewish traditions. He was born a Roman citizen. He persecuted the young church prior to his encounter with Jesus Christ. His conversion occurred as he traveled on the road to Damascus, when a light from heaven flashed about him and he heard a voice saying, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" Thereafter, Paul was zealous to proclaim publicly Jesus as the Christ. People were astonished because Paul had formerly persecuted the church. Acts recounts his work in various locales in Asia Minor and Greece. Paul helped establish Christian congregations in many cities around the eastern and northern Mediterranean. He preached the gospel while practicing his trade as a tentmaker.

Acts describes Paul's arrest Jerusalem, charged with bringing Gentiles into the temple. Following a two-year imprisonment in Caesarea, he appeals his case to the emperor and is sent to Rome. In Rome, he lives under house arrest for two years. Although his death is not recorded in the Bible, later traditions say that he was martyred near Rome, probably between 60-64 C.E., during Emperor Nero's reign.

Paul's letters, which were probably written between 47-57 C.E., come after he spent many years in Arabia, Damascus, Syria, and Cilicia. He refers to these years briefly in Galatians 1:15-2:1. The letters he wrote reveal him as a man deeply shaped by the Jewish Scriptures and by Greek culture. He lived in and was familiar with the urban world of the Roman Empire. He conducted ministry along with an extensive network of male and female coworkers.

AUTHOR: Robert Brusic, Seminary Pastor Emeritus

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