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Paul, Saint

Saint Paul, d. AD 64? or 67?, the apostle to the Gentiles, b. Tarsus, Asia Minor. He was a Jew. His father was a Roman citizen, probably of some means, and Paul was a tentmaker by trade. His Jewish name was Saul. He was educated in Jerusalem, where he studied under Gamaliel and became a zealous nationalist; he was probably a Pharisee. The chronology of St. Paul's life is difficult, but there is general agreement (within a few years) on almost all details. The hypothetical dates given here are according to one chronological system.

The sources for St. Paul's life are the Acts of the Apostles, in which he is the dominant figure, and the Pauline Epistles. The value of the latter depends on the extent to which they are accepted as genuinely written by the apostle. Romans, First and Second Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, First Thessalonians, and Philemon are undoubted; Ephesians and Second Thessalonians are rejected by most critics; First and Second Timothy and Titus are generally considered to be in their present form later and non-Pauline; finally, Hebrews was not written by St. Paul himself.

Paul's first known contact with Christianity is his presence at the martyrdom of St. Stephen. Soon after this he got a commission from the chief priest to go to Damascus to help suppress Christianity there (AD 33). As he approached Damascus he suddenly saw a blinding light and heard Jesus ask, "Why persecutest thou me?" Paul was temporarily blinded and was led into Damascus, where he was found (on the Lord's direction) by the disciple Ananias. On regaining his sight, Paul was baptized and immediately began preaching. (Acts 8.1–3; 9.1–30; 22.3–21; 26.9–23; Gal. 1.12–15.)

Paul spent the next 13 years learning the faith, part of the time living in seclusion in the Arabian desert. He visited Jerusalem probably twice (AD 37, 44) and dwelt at Tarsus and Antioch for some time. (Acts 11.) From Antioch, Paul set out on his first missionary journey (Acts 13–14.27; AD 47–49), on which he was accompanied by St. Barnabas and for a time by St. Mark. In general the method was to go from city to city preaching in synagogues and in marketplaces. Among the stops on this first mission were Cyprus, Antioch, and Derbe. Churches were set up, and as soon as the little Christian groups seemed strong enough the apostle and his companions would move on. Among their stops were Cyprus, Pamphylia, and Derbe. About AD 50 there was a council of the apostles at Jerusalem to discuss whether Gentile Christians should be circumcised, i.e., whether Christianity was to be a Jewish sect. St. Paul opposed the Judaistic group vigorously, and the council decided against them. (Acts 15; Gal. 2.)

On his second mission (Acts 15.36–18.22; AD 50–53) Paul, having quarreled with Barnabas, was accompanied by Silas. During visits to Philippi and Salonica they founded two churches that were to become great. They later sailed to Athens where Paul delivered his famous address on the "unknown god" in the market. (Acts 17.16–34.) From Athens, Paul went to Corinth. In the course of a long stay there he wrote First and Second Thessalonians (AD 52). Possibly about this time he also wrote his letter to the Galatians, although some scholars think this was the earliest of the epistles (written from Antioch), while others believe it was written later from Ephesus. At length Paul sailed to Caesarea in Palestine and visited Jerusalem again. He spent some time in Antioch.

The third missionary journey of St. Paul (Acts 18.23–21.26; AD 53–57) took him to Galatia, then Phrygia, and over to Ephesus. His two-and-a-half-year stay in Ephesus was one of the most fruitful periods of his life; in this time he wrote his two letters to the Corinthians (c.AD 56). He went to Corinth to help the Christians there, and he probably wrote the Epistle to the Romans there. Thence he returned to Ephesus and finally to Jerusalem. This was his last visit there (AD 57–59), for soon after he arrived he was arrested for provoking a riot.

After being held prisoner for two years and after hearings before the council of priests, before the Roman procurator Felix and his successor Festus, before Herod Agrippa II, and again before Festus, he appealed to Rome on his citizen's right. So he was sent to Rome under guard. (Acts 21.27–28.31.) On the way they were shipwrecked on Malta but finally landed at Puteoli (Puzzuoli). Paul was imprisoned (AD 60) in Rome but was allowed to conduct his ministry among the Roman Christians and Jews who visited him. Of his final fate tradition says that he was beheaded south of the city, near the Ostian Way, probably during the persecution of Nero. A lesser tradition claims that Paul was released after his first imprisonment and that he went East again, and perhaps also to Spain, before his martyrdom. Some scholars believe that Paul was executed after his initial imprisonment, probably AD 62. St. Paul's tomb and shrine are at the Roman basilica of St. Paul's Outside the Walls.

St. Paul's figure dominates the apostolic age, and his epistles have left a tremendous impress on Christianity. The first Christian theological writing is found in them, where it is characterized rather by spiritual fervor than by systematic analysis. St. Paul became a fountainhead of Christian doctrine, and countless interpretations have been given of his teachings. Thus, Roman Catholic theology leans upon him at all times, and Martin Luther derived from the Epistle to the Romans his principle of justification by faith alone. There can be no doubt that Paul's interpretation of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, his doctrine of the church as the mystical body of Christ, his teaching on law and grace, and his view of justification have been decisive in the formation of the Christian faith. The feast of St. Peter and St. Paul, June 29, is one of the principal days of the church calendar; the conversion of St. Paul is commemorated Jan. 25.

See D. R. McDonald, The Legend and the Apostle (1983); J. A. Ziesler, Pauline Christianity (1990); E. P. Sanders, Paul (1991); B. Chilton, Rabbi Paul: An Intellectual Biography (2004); J. Murphy-O'Connor, Paul: His Story (2004); G. Wills, What Paul Meant (2006).

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Paul, St

Paul, St (d. c.65 CE). The most important early Christian missionary apostle and theologian.

The main source for Paul's biography is Acts, which however must be tested against the sparse data in Paul's own letters. Paul (originally ‘Saul’) was a Jewish native of Tarsus in Cilicia. He was brought up as a Pharisee and probably studied in Jerusalem. He opposed the Christian movement, but while on a mission to Damascus (c.33 CE) to arrest Christians he was converted by an encounter with the risen Christ (described in Acts 9. 1–19), probably while practising merkabah mysticism. Paul's main missionary work appears to have begun fourteen or seventeen years later (Galatians 1–2). According to Acts it took the form of three missionary journeys beginning and ending at Antioch: 13–14, 15. 36–18. 23, 18. 23–21. He thus established congregations in south and central Asia Minor, Ephesus, and Greece. These were largely Gentile congregations, although he continued to preach in synagogues. He was constantly harassed by local authorities and Jewish communities (2 Corinthians 11. 24–7). He was at last arrested in Jerusalem, and sent for trial to Caesarea, and then (on his appealing to Caesar) to Rome (Acts 21–8). An early tradition holds that Paul was acquitted, and then preached in Spain before being re-arrested and put to death by the sword under Nero. The church of St Paul Outside the Walls in Rome was built over the site of his burial. Feast days: with Peter, 29 June; conversion, 25 Jan.

Of the thirteen letters in Paul's name in the New Testament (Hebrews makes no claim to be by Paul), scholars generally, but not unanimously, distinguish seven as certainly genuine (Romans, 1–2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, Philemon) and six as ‘deutero-Pauline’. The latter (Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1–2 Timothy, Titus) reflect Paul's thought more or less weakly, but are by no means certainly not written by Paul. The genuine letters date from the period from c.51 (1 Thessalonians) to c.58 (Romans). Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, and Ephesians, known as ‘captivity epistles’, if from Paul, may have been written later in Rome, or from an earlier time in prison in Ephesus or Caesarea.

Although they are not systematic writings, Paul's letters laid the foundations for much of later Christian theology. Paul's doctrine, starting from the traditions he ‘received’ (1 Corinthians 15. 3–11), was further worked out in controversy with right-wing Jewish Christians, against whom Paul held that sinful humanity is redeemed and justified by God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ, independently of keeping the Jewish law. Christ's death had abrogated the Law and ushered in the new era of the Holy Spirit. Christians therefore form a new ‘Israel of God’ (Galatians 6. 16) and inherit the promises of God to Israel (see especially Galatians and Romans). The local congregation is likened to a body by Paul, and in Colossians 1. 24 the whole church is called the body of Christ. Paul expected a speedy return of Christ to judge the world (e.g. 1 Thessalonians 4) but this theme recedes in the later letters.

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Paul, St

Paul, St1 (d. c.64), missionary of Jewish descent; known as Paul the Apostle, or Saul of Tarsus, or the Apostle of the Gentiles. He first opposed the followers of Jesus, assisting at the martyrdom of St Stephen, but while travelling to Damascus he experienced a vision (and was temporarily struck blind), after which he was converted to Christianity; he became one of the first major Christian missionaries and theologians, and his epistles form part of the New Testament.

After a number of missionary journeys, Paul was arrested in Jerusalem for preaching against the Jewish Law; as a Roman citizen, he appealed to Caesar, and was sent for trial to Rome. He was martyred there during the persecution of Nero, traditionally on the same day as St Peter (see Peter1).

Paul's experience on the road to Damascus has become proverbial as a life-changing revelation.

Paul's emblem is the sword with which he is said to have been executed. His feast day is 29 June; the feast of the Conversion of St Paul is 16 January.
if Saint Paul's day be fair and clear, it will betide a happy year traditional weather rhyme, late 16th century (but recorded in Latin from the mid 14th century); the day in question is 25 January, traditionally the day on which the feast of the Conversion of St Paul is celebrated.

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Paul, Saint

Paul, Saint (active 1st century ad) Apostle of Jesus Christ, missionary, and early Christian theologian. His missionary journeys among the Gentiles form a large part of the Acts of the Apostles. His many letters (epistles) to early Christian communities, recorded in the New Testament, represent the most important early formulations of Christian theology following the death of Jesus Christ. Named Saul at birth, he was both a Jew and a Roman citizen, brought up in the Roman colony of Tarsus. He saw the teachings of Jesus as a major threat to Judaism, and became a leading persecutor of early Christians. Travelling to Damascus to continue his persecution activities, he saw a bright light and heard the voice of Jesus addressing him. Having thus undergone his religious conversion, he adopted the name Paul and became an energetic evangelist and teacher of Christianity. In c.60, he was arrested and taken to Rome, where he died sometime between 62 and 68, probably suffering a martyr's execution.

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Paul, St

Paul, St2 (d. c.345), said to have been the first Christian hermit, who had gone into the desert to escape persecution, and lived there for many years; Anthony of Egypt visited him there. A raven is said to have dropped a loaf of bread beside them at their meeting. According to legend, his grave was dug by two lions at Anthony's request, and in art Paul is often shown with them, a crow or raven, or with the palm-tree from which he gained food and shelter. His feast day is 10 January in the Western Church and 5 or 15 January in the Eastern Church.

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St Paul

St Paul (Paulus). Oratorio by Mendelssohn, Op.36, for SATB soloists, ch., and orch., comp. 1834–6, f.p. Düsseldorf 1836 cond. composer.

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