Saint Paul the Apostle
Saint Paul is very significant for numerous reasons and in various ways. He was very essential for the faith of Christianity. One way he was important (later on in life) was his upbringing as a Jew, and his miraculous conversion to Christianity. In addition to that Saint Paul was important for his campaign work, spreading Christianity to new lands. And most importantly he is essential for all of his writings that contributed to a majority of the New Testament. All of Saint Paul’s experiences throughout his lifetime are what molded him into what he was.
Every stage in his life was crucial in how (later on in life) he defined Christianity to many people. He risked his life trying to share the belief Christianity all over the world. Saint Paul is undoubtedly one of the most important figures in the history of the Western world. “Paul was probably born sometime between the years 3 and 15 A. D. ” (Buckmaster 1) Paul was born on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in a Provence named Tarsus. Tarsus was a very large and important trade center under the rule of Rome. Over a quarter of a million people resided there due to the abundance of work and the excellent quality of life. Tarsus was a lodestar for merchants, philosophers, and the footloose rich who traveled tirelessly in pursuit of the sights” (Buckmaster 1) Tarsus was a very wealthy place mainly because of its trade. Also Tarsus was also known for being a center of well-educated and well-skilled people. His family worked as tent-makers and he also acquired the skill at a young age. Tarsus did not grant Roman citizenship for every citizen that resided there. If a citizen of Tarsus was from a family of social standing of four generations or more, they were generally granted citizenship status. Tarsus was a fusion of civilizations at peace under the rule of Rome” (Pollock 4) “Saul was a freeborn Roman citizen, and a Jew. ” (Buckmaster 2) Being a Roman citizen Paul had two names. One name would show heritage apart from Rome, and the other name would show the Roman heritage. Paul’s Roman name was Saul Paulus; Saul was Hebrew and Paulus was Roman. Saul meant, “desired for” and Paulus meant “small. ” He was born into his Jewish heritage because his family converted to Judaism well before he was born. There were three main sections to Judaism, it included Pharisees, Sadducees, and the Essenes.
The Essenes were very generous and virtuous. They would work hard and take care of the less fortunate. The Sadducees were strictest of the three in the sense that the most elite, rich and powerful fell in this category. The Pharisees was the largest and most popular. Paul and his family were of Pharisees. Pharisees believed in following the laws of Moses precisely. “Phariseeism cooled and ordered the spirit. The Pharisees laid great stress on the ritual and forms of pious law. In defense of Judaism they evolved a great body of precepts which went beyond the law of Moses. ” (Buckmaster 6)
At a young age Paul went to and lived in Jerusalem, to attend the Pharisaic school. He was a student of the Rabbi Gamaliel, who was one of the greatest teachers of the first century. “During the next five or six years he sat at the feet of Gamaliel… Paul learned to dissect a text until scores of possible meaning were disclosed according to the considered opinion of the generations of rabbis, who had obscured the original sense by layers of tradition to protect an Israelite from the least possible infringement of the law; and illogically, to help him avoid its inconveniences.
Paul learned to debate in the question-and-answer style know to the ancient world as the “diatribe,” and to expound, for a rabbi was part lawyer who prosecuted or defended those who broke the sacred Law, and part teacher. ” (Pollock 6, 7) He studied the Hebrew bible and also was educated in ethics, Greek writings and philosophy. Paul did not become a rabbi after he completed his education; instead, he became a member of the temple police. His goal was to go after and persecute the followers of Jesus Christ and/or Christianity. “With his sworn followers Paul now instituted a reign of terror among the Hellenistic Nazarenes of Jerusalem. (Kraeling 45) Paul would even go into synagogues and arrest their members. He attempted to do whatever he could to destroy the church of God. The high priest instructed Saul to travel to Damascus and arrest the important members of the Jerusalem Church. “The High Priest gave him [Saul] letters of authority to seize the Nazarenes who had escaped to Damascus. ” (Buckmaster 20) On his way to Damascus, “As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? “Who are you, Lord? ” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do. ” The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. ” (Acts 9:4-8) In Damascus there was a man named Ananias. Ananias was a follower of Jesus, he placed his hands on Paul and took away the blindness. That is when Paul was baptized into the faith.
From that moment on he was a follower of Christ and began his journey. After his vision on the way to Damascus, Paul was fully converted. He was no longer a terror and persecutor to the followers of Jesus. It was a calling for Paul, it was his new life, and he would pursue it with more passion than he did Judaism. From that moment on Paul went on numerous missionary journeys spreading the name of his Lord, Jesus Christ. Paul traveled throughout the Mediterranean preaching the gospel. He used Rome’s advanced road systems and the sea to voyage around.
Paul was documented taking at least 3 major missionary journeys. Paul’s missionary journey began in the year C. E. 44. He traveled to Cypress and converted their governor. From that moment on he was known as Saint Paul. “In little more than ten years St. Paul established the Church in four provinces of the Empire, Galatia, Macedonia, Achaia and Asia. Before A. D. 47 there were no Churches in these provinces; in A. D 57 St. Paul could speak as if his work there was done. ” (Bruce 18) Along his travels he built churches and he debated. Paul also fought against a Jewish-Christianity.
That is Christianity that had to follow the laws of the Jews. For example like their dietary laws (no shellfish or pork) and circumcision. “This transition from a pure mission to the Jews to a mission to the Gentiles conducted by Hellenists should be understood not as a one-time event, but rather as a process. ” (Riesner 109) Paul was also known for writing many letters, they “provide an authoritative interpretation of the Gospel. ” (Selby 235) He wrote in his letters that Christians were freed from the law. So he built a Christian faith apart from Jewish traditions and made it much more accessible to Greeks.
He also wrote letters to churches and church leaders. These letters intention was to teach the new churches Christian doctrines, correct any problems that might have occurred and to inspire the followers. “Whatever the Church’s needs, his letters have helped to find an answer. Moral instruction, courageous example, hope, exhortations to true piety profound theological ideas—they are all there. ” (Selby 10) In total Paul wrote 13 letters, which were in turn the writings of the New Testament. Throughout his life Paul was in and out of various prisons all around the world.
This was because many Jews hated the fact that the Apostles were on their conquest. Unfortunately it ultimately catches up with Paul and leads to his death. All in all Paul was arrested 4 times and spent around 6 years in prison. He was beaten and tortured numerous times throughout his life. “Paul was arrested for the last time probably in the summer of A. D 66. ”(Pollock 234) He was arrested in Rome and was held there until A. D. 68. “Of Paul’s final trial nothing is known beyond a tradition that he was condemned by resolution of the Senate on the charge of treason against the divine Emperor. (Pollock 237) Eventually the Romans beheaded him in the year A. D. 68. Saint Paul’s life was simply amazing and he singlehandedly changed the course of Christianity. In a way he set the tone for Christianity. Paul made a large impact for Christianity as an Apostle, writer and interpreter. He had expanded the church while traveling tens of thousands of miles to distant places. He was crucial in moving Christianity from a Jewish-based belief in practices and in location to entire Mediterranean. Every voyage he put his life on the line to spread the name of Jesus Christ.
He was detained a total of 6 times and was beaten and tortured numerous times. Saint Paul wouldn’t be as influential as he was if he didn’t experience what he did in his early life. Growing up he was a faithful Jew and even was educated for 6 years to essentially hate all forms of Christianity. On his way to Damascus when he saw Jesus and he spoke to him it changed everything for him. He transformed from a passionate Christianity hater to a passionate Christianity advocate. In my opinion that drastic leap of faith gave him the best view of both worlds.
With that being said I think that’s the reason why he was such a great advocate. He knew what he was exactly preaching for, and he knew what he was preaching against in precise detail. He knew because he experienced it. That’s one reason why he was so popular and successful. His letters created most of the New Testament and it gave people an understanding of the faith itself. Saint Paul was a very learned kid growing up, even spending multiple years studying under one of the top Rabbi’s in history at an elite school. He meticulously studied the Hebrew bible, ethics, Greek writings and philosophy.