Apostle Paul

Saint Paul the ApostleOf all the apostles, Saint Paul stands out as the one who was the traveler par excellence. His journeys through the length and breadth of the ancient world are nothing short of remarkable and given the difficulties of traveling in these times, let alone the animosity and danger he faced trying to convert populations to the new faith, it is a credit to the endurance and tenacity of the man that he accomplished as much as he did. Paul, originally Saul, was born in Tarsus in what is now southern Turkey and changed his name after converting Sergius Paulus. He is traditionally represented as a stocky little man, with a bald head and a grey, bushy beard. He studied Jewish law in Jerusalem under the famous rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). He and his parents were Roman citizens, having special rights and privileges. Roman citizens could not be imprisoned without a trial nor could they be scourged or crucified. His Roman citizenship saved Paul many times during his ministry. He made three great missionary journeys before being arrested in Jerusalem and taken to Rome where he was beheaded in AD 62.

Saul witnessed the stoning and death of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, and guarded the clothes of his executioners (Acts 7:58). He then started persecuting the Christians and imprisoned many of them (Acts 8:3). The followers of Jesus Christ were regarded as heretics by the Pharisees. The persecution in Jerusalem caused the believers to disperse abroad and preach the Word everywhere they went (Acts 8:4).

Saul planned to persecute Christians even abroad. He obtained letters to the synagogues in Damascus from the high priest in Jerusalem, and set out to bring Christians bound from there to Jerusalem. On the road to Damascus the most famous conversion in the history of Christianity took place, described in Acts, chapters 9,22 and 26. At midday, light shone down suddenly from heaven, encompassing Saul. He heard Jesus Christ's voice,

Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?

This man who hated Christ and all Christians capitulated in the front of the living God. Then Jesus told him to go into Damascus, and there he would be told what to do. Paul became blind and did not eat or drink for three days. In Damascus, the Lord sent a disciple called Ananias to him, who restored his vision, filled him with the Holy Spirit and baptized him. After his conversion, Saul is mentioned in the Bible by his Latin name, Paul. He then began to preach about Jesus in the synagogues in Damascus. The Jews wanted to kill him, but he escaped with the help of some Christians who lowered him in a basket from the top of the city wall.

Paul went away to Arabia for a period of time, then returned to Damascus (Gal. 1:17), and after three years journeyed to Jerusalem (Gal. 1:18). The disciples there did not trust him, knowing he had previously persecuted Christians, but Barnabas took him to the apostles who were staying in Jerusalem at that time (Gal. 1:18-19, Acts 9:26-27). Paul preached boldly in Jerusalem, but after 15 days had to flee again, this time to Tarsus (Acts 9:29-30).

In Antioch, the capital of Syria then, Gentiles were turning to Jesus Christ, and the church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas there to instruct these new believers. Barnabas in turn took Paul from Tarsus to be his companion (Acts 11:19-25). The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch (Acts 11:26). Christians in Antioch sent relief funds by Barnabas and Paul back to Christians in Judea (Acts 11:27-30). They returned with young John Mark, Barnabas' nephew from there (Acts 12:25).

Paul's Letters

The New Testament contains fourteen epistles written by Paul to Christian congregations and individuals:

  • Romans
  • First Corinthians
  • Second Corinthians
  • Galatians
  • Ephesians
  • Philippians
  • Colossians
  • First Thessalonians
  • Second Thessalonians
  • First Timothy
  • Second Timothy
  • Titus
  • Philemon
  • Hebrews

Please click on the link in order to read Paul's letter to Ephesians.

2008 Saint Paul Year

Pope Benedict XVI has declared 2008 the "Year of St Paul" in honour of the saint, to mark 2000 years since St. Paul's birth. The anniversary year formally began on the 28th of June 2008 and gathered millions of Christian pilgrims to his birth town Tarsus, in southeastern Turkey.


Paul's Journeys

On all of his journeys he traveled along the coast of Asia Minor and there are many places along the coast where he stopped and taught, or changed boats, or sheltered from the weather. The Book of Acts covers most of his exploits and journeys as well as his last voyage as a prisoner to Rome.

At the instruction of the Holy Ghost, the leaders of the church in Antioch sent out Barnabas and Paul as missionaries (Acts 13:1-3). Paul's missionary trips are described in the Book of Acts and are divided into three separate journeys plus a last journey to Rome.

First journey with Barnabas and John Mark

Acts 13:4-14:28

Paul, Barnabas and John Mark departed to Seleucia, from where they sailed to Cyprus. On Cyprus they preached in Salamis and Paphos. In Paphos a sorcerer Jew, a false prophet named Barjesus turned against them before the Roman deputy of the island, but God blinded him. As a result, the deputy became a believer in Jesus Christ. From Cyprus the three men sailed back to the mainland of Asia Minor, to Perge in ancient Pamphylia, where John left them and returned to Jerusalem.

Paul and Barnabas journeyed to Antioch in Pisidia, where many Jews and Gentiles accepted the word of God and believed after hearing them preach. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas and expelled them out of their coasts. The same thing happened in Iconium (Konya), where unbelieving Jews and Gentiles planned to stone them. They fled to Lystra, where Paul healed a crippled man and as a result the people thought they were gods and wanted to sacrifice to them, but Barnabas and Paul managed to stop them. The same crowd later stoned Paul and left him to die, when certain Jews arrived in the city from Antioch and Iconium and stirred up the people against the apostles. Paul survived and departed with Barnabas to Derbe the next day. Then they returned again to Lystra, Iconium, Antioch, Perge, to strengthen believers and ordain elders in every church. From Attalia (Antalya) they sailed back to Antioch, where they gathered the church together to tell them about their experiences and how God "opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles".

The council in Jerusalem (Acts 15:1-32)

Some Jewish Christians from Judea told Gentile Christians in Antioch, that they should circumcise themselves and keep the Law of Moses in order to be saved. To decide this fundamental question, Paul, Barnabas and some other Christians were sent from Antioch to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders. A conference was held in Jerusalem, where the church leaders, inspired by God, declared that Gentile Christians are equal to Jewish Christians and they did not have to be circumcised or keep the law to be saved, because faith in Jesus Christ is sufficient, but they should abstain from meats offered to idols, blood, strangled animals and from fornication. A letter was sent about these decisions to the Christians in Antioch by Paul and Barnabas, and two prophets, Judas Barsabas and Silas, to confirm its content.

Second journey with Silas

Acts 15:36-18:22

Paul and Barnabas planned to visit the churches they planted on their first journey. Barnabas wanted John Mark to accompany them, but Paul disagreed, so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus, while Paul chose Silas and went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches everywhere. Paul and Silas then visited Derbe and Lystra (near Konya), where Paul chose a young Christian named Timothy to accompany them. They went through Phyrgia and Galatia and arrived in Alexandria Troas, where the Lord told Paul in a vision to go to Macedonia to preach.

Luke, the evangelist probably joined them in Troas, for from this point on he begins referring to the missionaries as "We". The four men sailed to Europe to Samothracia, Neapolis and to Philippi, where a godly woman named Lydia invited them into her house after she and her household was baptized. In Philippi Paul healed a demon-possessed slave girl, who made a profit for her masters by soothsaying. As she was not able to make profit after this, her masters brought Paul and Silas to the magistrates. They were beaten and cast into prison, but at midnight, as they prayed and sang praises to God, an earthquake shook the prison, all the doors opened and everyone's bands were loosened. Paul and Silas then preached the gospel to the frightened jailer and his household, and all believed and were baptized on the same night. Paul and Silas were publicly freed by the magistrates themselves the next day.

The four men then passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia and went to Thessalonica, a main seaport and an important commercial center in Macedonia, where Paul spoke in the synagogue of the Jews on three Sabbath days. Some of the Jews and many Greeks believed, but the unbelieving Jews stirred some crowds against them, so Paul and Silas had to leave the city by night. They moved on to Berea, where the Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word and searched the Scriptures to see if those things were so. Many Jews and Greeks in Berea believed, but the Jews of Thessalonica came to Berea and stirred up the people again. Afterwards, Paul went to Athens, a city full of idolatry and pagan philosophers. He disputed in the synagogue and in the market daily, and preached on the Areopagus. A few Greeks believed him but the others mocked.

Paul then journeyed to Corinth, one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire, where he convinced many Jews and Greeks, among them the chief ruler of the synagogue and all his household. In a night vision Lord Jesus encouraged Paul to continue to speak in Corinth, so he preached in the city for a year and a half. The Jews there stirred up persecution against Paul and tried to indict him in front of Gallio, the Roman deputy, but Gallio did not listen to them. Paul then sailed to Ephesus, the capital of the Roman province of Asia, where he stayed for a short time. He traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover, then back to Antioch.

Third journey

Acts 18:23-21:16

After spending some time in Antioch, Paul revisited the churches in Galatia and Phyrgia to strengthen the disciples, then went to Ephesus. In Ephesus Paul found twelve followers of John the Baptist and baptized them in the name of Lord Jesus Christ. He laid his hands on them and the Holy Ghost came on them and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. Paul preached in the synagogue for three months, but when some hardened unbelievers spoke evil before the multitude, he separated the disciples from them and chose another place to teach daily. He continued this for two years, so that all Jews and Greeks in the Roman province of Asia (part of Asia Minor) heard the gospel of Christ. God did special miracles in Ephesus through Paul, as even the garments worn by him healed the sick and the demon-possessed. Many believed in Ephesus and many who practiced magic before brought their books together and burned them publicly. As many pagans turned to Christianity in Ephesus, formerly a center of pagan Diana worship, craftsmen and silversmiths, who manufactured idols and shrines, saw their profit diminishing. These craftsmen stirred up the pagans against Paul and his companions, but nobody was hurt in the end.

One of the most well known incidents on Paul's travels is the riot of the silversmiths in Ephesus. Towards the end of his time there Paul preached that "...gods made by human hands are not gods at all", a direct jibe at the silversmiths who made silver statuettes of Artemis and the temple for sale to pilgrims and tourists. Sales soon began to decline and one, Demetrius, a leader of the silversmiths, led a group of artisans against Paul saying "...the sanctuary of the great goddess Diana will cease to command respect; and then it will not be very long before she who is worshipped by all Asia and the civilized world is brought down from her divine pre-eminence". His speech caused an uproar and the band of silversmiths, and likely a number of merchants worried about the decline in business, rushed into the theatre shouting "Great is Diana of the Ephesians". Paul was not forced to leave the city by the authorities after this riot, but he evidently decided it was prudent to do so and set off for Macedonia.

Paul revisited the churches in Macedonia, then went to Greece, where he stayed for three months. As he was about to sail to Syria, some Jews laid wait for him, so he returned through Macedonia. In Alexandria Troas he raised up a young man who died after he fell down from the third floor of a house where Christians were gathered. Paul departed to Assos, from where he sailed with other disciples to Miletus via Mitylene, Chios, Samos and Trogyllium. In Miletus he met with the elders of the church from Ephesus and in his moving speech he bid farewell to them, knowing he would never see them again. He charged them to feed the flock, and warned them that wolves would enter their congregation and men would speak perverse things to draw away disciples.

From Miletus they sailed to Cos, Rhodes, Patara and Tyre, Syria, where disciples inspired by the Holy Spirit warned Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Paul and his companions departed to Ptolemais, then to Caesarea, where a Judean prophet named Agabus prophesied that Paul will be bound by the Jews in Jerusalem and will be delivered into the hands of the Gentiles. The disciples tried to persuade Paul not to go up to Jerusalem, but Paul answered that he is ready not only to be bound, but also to die for Jesus Christ, so they went up to Jerusalem.

Paul in Jerusalem (Acts 21:17-23:30)

In Jerusalem Christians received Paul and his companions gladly, but some Jews from Asia stirred up the people against him and accused him of bringing Gentiles into the temple. The people wanted to beat and then kill Paul. Roman guards saved Paul but at the same time took him into custody. On the stairs of the castle, before the multitude, Paul gave a speech in his defense and a testimony of his conversion in Hebrew, but when he said he was sent by Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, the Jews made such an uproar, that the captain wanted to interrogate him by scourging. Paul appealed to his Roman citizenship so they did not dare touch him. The next day the captain led Paul before the Sanhedrin, where Paul told he was a Pharisee and believed in the resurrection of the dead. This divided the Pharisees and Sadducees in the council, a great dissension arose and the Romans had to rescue Paul again. Hearing that more than 40 Jews made a vow and conspired to kill Paul, the chief captain sent him by night to Caesarea to Felix the governor.

Paul in Caesarea (Acts 23:31-26:32)

After five days, the elders and the chief priest arrived in Caesarea and accused Paul before the governor of profaning the temple but couldn't prove anything, so Felix deferred them but left Paul in custody. After two years Felix was replaced by Festus, who asked Paul's accusers to come to Caesarea again. They couldn't prove any of their many complaints against Paul. As a Roman citizen, Paul then appealed to Caesar. While he was waiting to go to Rome, King Agrippa and Bernice arrived in Caesarea, and one day Festus brought Paul before them. Acts 26 records Paul's speech, where he tells his upbringing, his former madness against Christians, his conversion on the road to Damascus and his preaching of the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles. Here we find the most complete version of what Jesus said to him on the road to Damascus. King Agrippa said to Festus that Paul had done nothing wrong and he could have been set free, had he not appealed unto Caesar.

Journey to Rome

Acts 27:1-28:31

Festus then sent Paul with other prisoners and soldiers on a ship to Rome. This journey is described in Acts 27 and 28: "And putting to sea from thence, we sailed under the lee of Cyprus, because the winds were contrary. And when we had sailed across the sea which is off Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, a city of Lycia. And there the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing for Italy; and he put us therein. And when we had sailed slowly many days, and were come with difficulty over against Cnidus, the wind not further suffering us, we sailed under the lee of Crete, over against Salamone; And with difficulty coasting along it we came unto a certain place called Fair Havens; nigh whereunto was the city of Lasea."

It was by now the beginning of winter and the voyage onwards was beset with strong and adverse winds. From Crete a gale blew them down to Malta. After many dangers and a storm, during which God's angel informed Paul in a vision that everybody on the ship would survive, the ship was wrecked on the island of Melita (Malta) in what is now called St Pauls Bay but everybody escaped safe to land. Many miracles happened during their three-month stay on the island. Paul healed many diseased people and he got bitten by a viper, but this did not harm him. After three months they boarded another ship and arrived in Rome. Christians in Rome received Paul warmly. In Rome Paul was placed under house arrest. He lived in a rented house for two years and could receive visitors, so he could continue teaching and preaching God's kingdom. He invited the chiefs of the Jews to hear the gospel, after which some of them believed and some not. Paul ended his speech with the following: "Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it."

Paul was beheaded in Rome around AD 67, the same day Peter was crucified. It is apocryphally told that when Paul was beheaded milk and not blood flowed from his body. However dubious this may be, few could have predicted what the result of Paul's work was to be as Christianity went from strength to strength to become the dominant faith in the country where he met his end.

The Cities Where Paul Preached

City Explanation
Antioch Capital of ancient Syria, the eastern capital of the Roman Empire, the modern Antakya province in southern Turkey
Antioch in Pisidia Near the border of ancient Pisidia, in Yalvac, a few kilometers south-west from modern Aksehir, central Turkey
Athens Greatest city of classical Greece, capital of modern Greece
Berea City of ancient Macedonia, modern Veria in Greece
Caesarea Seaport of ancient Palestine, capital of the Roman province, modern Tel Aviv-Yafo in Israel. Not to be confused with Caeserea (Kayseri) in Turkey
Corinth City of ancient Greece, near modern Corinth, southern Greece
Damascus City of ancient Syria, capital of modern Syria
Derbe Ancient city in south-eastern Asia Minor, modern Turkey, near Konya
Ephesus Town on the western coast of Asia Minor, 70 km south of modern Izmir, Turkey
Iconium Capital of the ancient province of Lycaonia in Asia Minor, modern Konya in central Turkey
Jerusalem Old capital of the southern Kingdom of Judah and the place of the temple of God, the capital of modern Israel
Lystra City of the ancient province of Lycaonia in Asia Minor, near province of Konya
Miletus Coastal city of ancient Ionia, 50 km south of Ephesus and 100 km south of modern Izmir in the Aegean region
Paphos Town in south-western Cyprus on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea
Perge Capital of ancient Pamphylia in Asia Minor during the Roman period, a few kilometers north of modern Antalya
Philippi City of ancient Macedonia, near modern Kavala, Greece
Rome Capital of the Roman Empire and Italy, located on Tiber River
Salamis Town located on the east end of Cyprus, 5 km north-west of modern Famagusta
Tarsus City of ancient Cilicia on the river Cnydus near the Mediterranean Sea, near Adana province in southern Turkey
Thessalonica Coastal city of ancient Macedonia, modern Szaloniki in northeastern Greece
Troas On the coast of northwestern Anatolia, near Canakkale
Tyre City on the central coast of ancient Phoenicia, modern Sur in southern Lebanon
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  2. J.I. Packer, Merrill C. Tenney, William White Jr.; Nelson's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Bible Facts; 1995
  3. John Foxe, The Book of Martyrs
  4. The HarperCollins Concise Atlas of the Bible, 1991
  5. Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia Deluxe, 1999
  6. Christian Bible Encyclopedia, Hungarian Edition, 1993
  7. György Szikszai, Pillar of Martyrs (Mrtirok Oszlopa), 1789
  8. World maps