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Easton's Bible Dictionary

 

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Paul
        =Saul (q.v.) was born about the same time as our Lord. His
        circumcision-name was Saul, and probably the name Paul was also
        given to him in infancy "for use in the Gentile world," as
        "Saul" would be his Hebrew home-name. He was a native of Tarsus,
        the capital of Cilicia, a Roman province in the south-east of
        Asia Minor. That city stood on the banks of the river Cydnus,
        which was navigable thus far; hence it became a centre of
        extensive commercial traffic with many countries along the
        shores of the Mediterranean, as well as with the countries of
        central Asia Minor. It thus became a city distinguished for the
        wealth of its inhabitants.
        Tarsus was also the seat of a famous university, higher in
        reputation even than the universities of Athens and Alexandria,
        the only others that then existed. Here Saul was born, and here
        he spent his youth, doubtless enjoying the best education his
        native city could afford. His father was of the straitest sect
        of the Jews, a Pharisee, of the tribe of Benjamin, of pure and
        unmixed Jewish blood (Acts 23:6; Phil. 3:5). We learn nothing
        regarding his mother; but there is reason to conclude that she
        was a pious woman, and that, like-minded with her husband, she
        exercised all a mother influence in moulding the character of
        her son, so that he could afterwards speak of himself as being,
        from his youth up, "touching the righteousness which is in the
        law, blameless" (Phil. 3:6).
        We read of his sister and his sister's son (Acts 23:16), and
        of other relatives (Rom. 16:7, 11, 12). Though a Jew, his father
        was a Roman citizen. How he obtained this privilege we are not
        informed. "It might be bought, or won by distinguished service
        to the state, or acquired in several other ways; at all events,
        his son was freeborn. It was a valuable privilege, and one that
        was to prove of great use to Paul, although not in the way in
        which his father might have been expected to desire him to make
        use of it." Perhaps the most natural career for the youth to
        follow was that of a merchant. "But it was decided that...he
        should go to college and become a rabbi, that is, a minister, a
        teacher, and a lawyer all in one."
        According to Jewish custom, however, he learned a trade before
        entering on the more direct preparation for the sacred
        profession. The trade he acquired was the making of tents from
        goats' hair cloth, a trade which was one of the commonest in
        Tarsus.
        His preliminary education having been completed, Saul was
        sent, when about thirteen years of age probably, to the great
        Jewish school of sacred learning at Jerusalem as a student of
        the law. Here he became a pupil of the celebrated rabbi
        Gamaliel, and here he spent many years in an elaborate study of
        the Scriptures and of the many questions concerning them with
        which the rabbis exercised themselves. During these years of
        diligent study he lived "in all good conscience," unstained by
        the vices of that great city.
        After the period of his student-life expired, he probably left
        Jerusalem for Tarsus, where he may have been engaged in
        connection with some synagogue for some years. But we find him
        back again at Jerusalem very soon after the death of our Lord.
        Here he now learned the particulars regarding the crucifixion,
        and the rise of the new sect of the "Nazarenes."
        For some two years after Pentecost, Christianity was quietly
        spreading its influence in Jerusalem. At length Stephen, one of
        the seven deacons, gave forth more public and aggressive
        testimony that Jesus was the Messiah, and this led to much
        excitement among the Jews and much disputation in their
        synagogues. Persecution arose against Stephen and the followers
        of Christ generally, in which Saul of Tarsus took a prominent
        part. He was at this time probably a member of the great
        Sanhedrin, and became the active leader in the furious
        persecution by which the rulers then sought to exterminate
        Christianity.
        But the object of this persecution also failed. "They that
        were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word." The
        anger of the persecutor was thereby kindled into a fiercer
        flame. Hearing that fugitives had taken refuge in Damascus, he
        obtained from the chief priest letters authorizing him to
        proceed thither on his persecuting career. This was a long
        journey of about 130 miles, which would occupy perhaps six days,
        during which, with his few attendants, he steadily went onward,
        "breathing out threatenings and slaughter." But the crisis of
        his life was at hand. He had reached the last stage of his
        journey, and was within sight of Damascus. As he and his
        companions rode on, suddenly at mid-day a brilliant light shone
        round them, and Saul was laid prostrate in terror on the ground,
        a voice sounding in his ears, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou
        me?" The risen Saviour was there, clothed in the vesture of his
        glorified humanity. In answer to the anxious inquiry of the
        stricken persecutor, "Who art thou, Lord?" he said, "I am Jesus
        whom thou persecutest" (Acts 9:5; 22:8; 26:15).
        This was the moment of his conversion, the most solemn in all
        his life. Blinded by the dazzling light (Acts 9:8), his
        companions led him into the city, where, absorbed in deep
        thought for three days, he neither ate nor drank (9:11).
        Ananias, a disciple living in Damascus, was informed by a vision
        of the change that had happened to Saul, and was sent to him to
        open his eyes and admit him by baptism into the Christian church
        (9:11-16). The whole purpose of his life was now permanently
        changed.
        Immediately after his conversion he retired into the solitudes
        of Arabia (Gal. 1:17), perhaps of "Sinai in Arabia," for the
        purpose, probably, of devout study and meditation on the
        marvellous revelation that had been made to him. "A veil of
        thick darkness hangs over this visit to Arabia. Of the scenes
        among which he moved, of the thoughts and occupations which
        engaged him while there, of all the circumstances of a crisis
        which must have shaped the whole tenor of his after-life,
        absolutely nothing is known. 'Immediately,' says St. Paul, 'I
        went away into Arabia.' The historian passes over the incident
        [comp. Acts 9:23 and 1 Kings 11:38, 39]. It is a mysterious
        pause, a moment of suspense, in the apostle's history, a
        breathless calm, which ushers in the tumultuous storm of his
        active missionary life." Coming back, after three years, to
        Damascus, he began to preach the gospel "boldly in the name of
        Jesus" (Acts 9:27), but was soon obliged to flee (9:25; 2 Cor.
        11:33) from the Jews and betake himself to Jerusalem. Here he
        tarried for three weeks, but was again forced to flee (Acts
        9:28, 29) from persecution. He now returned to his native Tarsus
        (Gal. 1:21), where, for probably about three years, we lose
        sight of him. The time had not yet come for his entering on his
        great life-work of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles.
        At length the city of Antioch, the capital of Syria, became
        the scene of great Christian activity. There the gospel gained a
        firm footing, and the cause of Christ prospered. Barnabas
        (q.v.), who had been sent from Jerusalem to superintend the work
        at Antioch, found it too much for him, and remembering Saul, he
        set out to Tarsus to seek for him. He readily responded to the
        call thus addressed to him, and came down to Antioch, which for
        "a whole year" became the scene of his labours, which were
        crowned with great success. The disciples now, for the first
        time, were called "Christians" (Acts 11:26).
        The church at Antioch now proposed to send out missionaries to
        the Gentiles, and Saul and Barnabas, with John Mark as their
        attendant, were chosen for this work. This was a great epoch in
        the history of the church. Now the disciples began to give
        effect to the Master's command: "Go ye into all the world, and
        preach the gospel to every creature."
        The three missionaries went forth on the first missionary
        tour. They sailed from Seleucia, the seaport of Antioch, across
        to Cyprus, some 80 miles to the south-west. Here at Paphos,
        Sergius Paulus, the Roman proconsul, was converted, and now Saul
        took the lead, and was ever afterwards called Paul. The
        missionaries now crossed to the mainland, and then proceeded 6
        or 7 miles up the river Cestrus to Perga (Acts 13:13), where
        John Mark deserted the work and returned to Jerusalem. The two
        then proceeded about 100 miles inland, passing through
        Pamphylia, Pisidia, and Lycaonia. The towns mentioned in this
        tour are the Pisidian Antioch, where Paul delivered his first
        address of which we have any record (13:16-51; comp. 10:30-43),
        Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. They returned by the same route to
        see and encourage the converts they had made, and ordain elders
        in every city to watch over the churches which had been
        gathered. From Perga they sailed direct for Antioch, from which
        they had set out.
        After remaining "a long time", probably till A.D. 50 or 51, in
        Antioch, a great controversy broke out in the church there
        regarding the relation of the Gentiles to the Mosaic law. For
        the purpose of obtaining a settlement of this question, Paul and
        Barnabas were sent as deputies to consult the church at
        Jerusalem. The council or synod which was there held (Acts 15)
        decided against the Judaizing party; and the deputies,
        accompanied by Judas and Silas, returned to Antioch, bringing
        with them the decree of the council.
        After a short rest at Antioch, Paul said to Barnabas: "Let us
        go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have
        preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do." Mark
        proposed again to accompany them; but Paul refused to allow him
        to go. Barnabas was resolved to take Mark, and thus he and Paul
        had a sharp contention. They separated, and never again met.
        Paul, however, afterwards speaks with honour of Barnabas, and
        sends for Mark to come to him at Rome (Col. 4:10; 2 Tim. 4:11).
        Paul took with him Silas, instead of Barnabas, and began his
        second missionary journey about A.D. 51. This time he went by
        land, revisiting the churches he had already founded in Asia.
        But he longed to enter into "regions beyond," and still went
        forward through Phrygia and Galatia (16:6). Contrary to his
        intention, he was constrained to linger in Galatia (q.v.), on
        account of some bodily affliction (Gal. 4:13, 14). Bithynia, a
        populous province on the shore of the Black Sea, lay now before
        him, and he wished to enter it; but the way was shut, the Spirit
        in some manner guiding him in another direction, till he came
        down to the shores of the AEgean and arrived at Troas, on the
        north-western coast of Asia Minor (Acts 16:8). Of this long
        journey from Antioch to Troas we have no account except some
        references to it in his Epistle to the Galatians (4:13).
        As he waited at Troas for indications of the will of God as to
        his future movements, he saw, in the vision of the night, a man
        from the opposite shores of Macedonia standing before him, and
        heard him cry, "Come over, and help us" (Acts 16:9). Paul
        recognized in this vision a message from the Lord, and the very
        next day set sail across the Hellespont, which separated him
        from Europe, and carried the tidings of the gospel into the
        Western world. In Macedonia, churches were planted in Philippi,
        Thessalonica, and Berea. Leaving this province, Paul passed into
        Achaia, "the paradise of genius and renown." He reached Athens,
        but quitted it after, probably, a brief sojourn (17:17-31). The
        Athenians had received him with cold disdain, and he never
        visited that city again. He passed over to Corinth, the seat of
        the Roman government of Achaia, and remained there a year and a
        half, labouring with much success. While at Corinth, he wrote
        his two epistles to the church of Thessalonica, his earliest
        apostolic letters, and then sailed for Syria, that he might be
        in time to keep the feast of Pentecost at Jerusalem. He was
        accompanied by Aquila and Priscilla, whom he left at Ephesus, at
        which he touched, after a voyage of thirteen or fifteen days. He
        landed at Caesarea, and went up to Jerusalem, and having
        "saluted the church" there, and kept the feast, he left for
        Antioch, where he abode "some time" (Acts 18:20-23).
        He then began his third missionary tour. He journeyed by land
        in the "upper coasts" (the more eastern parts) of Asia Minor,
        and at length made his way to Ephesus, where he tarried for no
        less than three years, engaged in ceaseless Christian labour.
        "This city was at the time the Liverpool of the Mediterranean.
        It possessed a splendid harbour, in which was concentrated the
        traffic of the sea which was then the highway of the nations;
        and as Liverpool has behind her the great towns of Lancashire,
        so had Ephesus behind and around her such cities as those
        mentioned along with her in the epistles to the churches in the
        book of Revelation, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis,
        Philadelphia, and Laodicea. It was a city of vast wealth, and it
        was given over to every kind of pleasure, the fame of its
        theatres and race-course being world-wide" (Stalker's Life of
        St. Paul). Here a "great door and effectual" was opened to the
        apostle. His fellow-labourers aided him in his work, carrying
        the gospel to Colosse and Laodicea and other places which they
        could reach.
        Very shortly before his departure from Ephesus, the apostle
        wrote his First Epistle to the Corinthians (q.v.). The
        silversmiths, whose traffic in the little images which they made
        was in danger (see DEMETRIUS T0001013), organized a riot
        against Paul, and he left the city, and proceeded to Troas (2
        Cor. 2:12), whence after some time he went to meet Titus in
        Macedonia. Here, in consequence of the report Titus brought from
        Corinth, he wrote his second epistle to that church. Having
        spent probably most of the summer and autumn in Macedonia,
        visiting the churches there, specially the churches of Philippi,
        Thessalonica, and Berea, probably penetrating into the interior,
        to the shores of the Adriatic (Rom. 15:19), he then came into
        Greece, where he abode three month, spending probably the
        greater part of this time in Corinth (Acts 20:2). During his
        stay in this city he wrote his Epistle to the Galatians, and
        also the great Epistle to the Romans. At the end of the three
        months he left Achaia for Macedonia, thence crossed into Asia
        Minor, and touching at Miletus, there addressed the Ephesian
        presbyters, whom he had sent for to meet him (Acts 20:17), and
        then sailed for Tyre, finally reaching Jerusalem, probably in
        the spring of A.D. 58.
        While at Jerusalem, at the feast of Pentecost, he was almost
        murdered by a Jewish mob in the temple. (See TEMPLE, HEROD'S
        he was conveyed as a prisoner to Caesarea, where, from various
        causes, he was detained a prisoner for two years in Herod's
        praetorium (Acts 23:35). "Paul was not kept in close
        confinement; he had at least the range of the barracks in which
        he was detained. There we can imagine him pacing the ramparts on
        the edge of the Mediterranean, and gazing wistfully across the
        blue waters in the direction of Macedonia, Achaia, and Ephesus,
        where his spiritual children were pining for him, or perhaps
        encountering dangers in which they sorely needed his presence.
        It was a mysterious providence which thus arrested his energies
        and condemned the ardent worker to inactivity; yet we can now
        see the reason for it. Paul was needing rest. After twenty years
        of incessant evangelization, he required leisure to garner the
        harvest of experience...During these two years he wrote nothing;
        it was a time of internal mental activity and silent progress"
        (Stalker's Life of St. Paul).
        At the end of these two years Felix (q.v.) was succeeded in
        the governorship of Israel by Porcius Festus, before whom the
        apostle was again heard. But judging it right at this crisis to
        claim the privilege of a Roman citizen, he appealed to the
        emperor (Acts 25:11). Such an appeal could not be disregarded,
        and Paul was at once sent on to Rome under the charge of one
        Julius, a centurion of the "Augustan cohort." After a long and
        perilous voyage, he at length reached the imperial city in the
        early spring, probably, of A.D. 61. Here he was permitted to
        occupy his own hired house, under constant military custody.
        This privilege was accorded to him, no doubt, because he was a
        Roman citizen, and as such could not be put into prison without
        a trial. The soldiers who kept guard over Paul were of course
        changed at frequent intervals, and thus he had the opportunity
        of preaching the gospel to many of them during these "two whole
        years," and with the blessed result of spreading among the
        imperial guards, and even in Caesar's household, an interest in
        the truth (Phil. 1:13). His rooms were resorted to by many
        anxious inquirers, both Jews and Gentiles (Acts 28:23, 30, 31),
        and thus his imprisonment "turned rather to the furtherance of
        the gospel," and his "hired house" became the centre of a
        gracious influence which spread over the whole city. According
        to a Jewish tradition, it was situated on the borders of the
        modern Ghetto, which has been the Jewish quarters in Rome from
        the time of Pompey to the present day. During this period the
        apostle wrote his epistles to the Colossians, Ephesians,
        Philippians, and to Philemon, and probably also to the Hebrews.
        This first imprisonment came at length to a close, Paul having
        been acquitted, probably because no witnesses appeared against
        him. Once more he set out on his missionary labours, probably
        visiting western and eastern Europe and Asia Minor. During this
        period of freedom he wrote his First Epistle to Timothy and his
        Epistle to Titus. The year of his release was signalized by the
        burning of Rome, which Nero saw fit to attribute to the
        Christians. A fierce persecution now broke out against the
        Christians. Paul was siezed, and once more conveyed to Rome a
        prisoner. During this imprisonment he probably wrote the Second
        Epistle to Timothy, the last he ever wrote. "There can be little
        doubt that he appered again at Nero's bar, and this time the
        charge did not break down. In all history there is not a more
        startling illustration of the irony of human life than this
        scene of Paul at the bar of Nero. On the judgment-seat, clad in
        the imperial purple, sat a man who, in a bad world, had attained
        the eminence of being the very worst and meanest being in it, a
        man stained with every crime, a man whose whole being was so
        steeped in every nameable and unnameable vice, that body and
        soul of him were, as some one said at the time, nothing but a
        compound of mud and blood; and in the prisoner's dock stood the
        best man the world possessed, his hair whitened with labours for
        the good of men and the glory of God. The trial ended: Paul was
        condemned, and delivered over to the executioner. He was led out
        of the city, with a crowd of the lowest rabble at his heels. The
        fatal spot was reached; he knelt beside the block; the
        headsman's axe gleamed in the sun and fell; and the head of the
        apostle of the world rolled down in the dust" (probably A.D.
        66), four years before the fall of Jerusalem.

Bibliography Information
Easton, Matthew George. M.A., D.D., "Biblical Meaning for 'Paul' Eastons Bible Dictionary".
bible-history.com - Eastons; 1897.

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