Category:Paul of Tarsus (subject)

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Paul of Tarsus (Home Page)
Paul of Tarsus (Home Page)

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Paul of Tarsus (1st century CE) was a Second Temple Jewish religious figure, a former Pharisee who became one of the leaders of the nascent Christian movement.

< Life of Paul  : Paul's Early Life -- Paul Persecuting the Church -- Conversion of Paul -- Paul's First Missionary Journey -- Council of Jerusalem -- Incident at Antioch -- Paul's Second Missionary Journey -- Paul's Third Missionary Journey -- Paul's Last Visit to Jerusalem -- Paul in Caesarea -- Paul's Journey to Rome -- Paul in Rome -- Martyrdom of Paul -- Relics of Paul >

< Writings : Acts of Apostles -- 1 Thessalonians -- 1 Corinthians -- 2 Corinthians -- Galatians -- Romans >

< Scholarship : Paul of Tarsus (research) -- Paul of Tarsus (sources) >

< Fiction : Paul of Tarsus (art) -- Paul of Tarsus (literature) -- Paul of Tarsus (cinema) -- Paul of Tarsus (music) >

Paul of Tarsus -- Overview
Paul of Tarsus -- Overview

The Pauline Letters and the Acts of Apostle offer some information about Paul's life before he joined the Jesus movement (see Paul's Early Life). In Philippians (3:5), Paul refers to himself as being "of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee". A native of Tarsus, the capital city in the Roman province of Cilicia, he was fluent in both Greek and Aramaic. He was also a Roman citizen.

Paul grew up as Pharisee, and a disciple of Gamaliel in Jerusalem. According to his letters and the Acts of Apostles he supported the Sadducees in the persecution of the Hellenist Christians; see Paul Persecuting the Church.

Then, something happened. He left the Pharisaic party and joined the Jesus movement that he so harshly had persecuted (see Conversion of Paul).

Paul soon became a leader in the new Jewish movement, active especially in spreading the "good news" to the Gentiles. The Acts of Apostles records three missionary journeys by Paul (see Paul's First Missionary Journey, Paul's Second Missionary Journey, Paul's Third Missionary Journey). Many letters also survive of his missionary activity.

Paul promoted a more liberal interpretation of the Christian message in relation to the status of the Gentile within the new community. His views were often opposed by James and the Jerusalem leadership. See Council of Jerusalem and Incident at Antioch.

Paul was eventually arrested in Jerusalem during a visit to the Jerusalem Temple; see Paul's Last Visit to Jerusalem. He was transported to Caesarea Maritima and then to Rome to be put on trial as a Roman citizen. See Paul in Caesarea and Paul's Journey to Rome.

According to Christian traditions, he was released from prison but died a few years later during a time of persecution under Nero. See Paul in Rome and Martyrdom of Paul.

Paul remains a central figure in the memory and veneration of the Christian Church. See Relics of Paul.


An entire field of studies, that of Pauline Studies, is devoted to the figure of Paul of Tarsus. Scholars have explored his contribution to Christian Origins, his relation with the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and his role within Second Temple Judaism. While traditionally Paul was seen as the "founder" of Christianity and the one who fostered the separation of the new religion from Judaism, today scholarship is engaged in understanding him as a Second Temple Jewish author; see Paul the Jew.

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Paul of Tarsus is mentioned only in Christian tradition, which has handed down a group of letters written by, or attributed to, him. He is also one of the major characters, if not the protagonist, of the Acts of Apostles.

Authentic Letters of Paul

Letters Attributed to Paul

Acts of Apostles

1 Clement

1 Clement 5: But not to dwell upon ancient examples, let us come to the most recent spiritual heroes. Let us take the noble examples furnished in our own generation. Through envy and jealousy, the greatest and most righteous pillars [of the Church] have been persecuted and put to death. Let us set before our eyes the illustrious apostles. Peter, through unrighteous envy, endured not one or two, but numerous labours, and when he had finally suffered martyrdom, departed to the place of glory due to him. Owing to envy, Paul also obtained the reward of patient endurance, after being seven times thrown into captivity, compelled to flee, and stoned. After preaching both in the east and west, he gained the illustrious reputation due to his faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world, and come to the extreme limit of the west, and suffered martyrdom under the prefects. Thus was he removed from the world, and went into the holy place, having proved himself a striking example of patience.

1 Clement 47: Take up the epistle of the blessed Apostle Paul. What did he write to you at the time when the Gospel first began to be preached? Truly, under the inspiration of the Spirit, he wrote to you concerning himself, and Cephas, and Apollos, because even then parties had been formed among you. But that inclination for one above another entailed less guilt upon you, inasmuch as your partialities were then shown towards apostles, already of high reputation, and towards a man whom they had approved. But now reflect who those are that have perverted you, and lessened the renown of your far-famed brotherly love. It is disgraceful, beloved, yea, highly disgraceful, and unworthy of your Christian profession, that such a thing should be heard of as that the most steadfast and ancient Church of the Corinthians should, on account of one or two persons, engage in sedition against its presbyters. And this rumour has reached not only us, but those also who are unconnected with us; so that, through your infatuation, the name of the Lord is blasphemed, while danger is also brought upon yourselves.

2 Peter

2 Peter: ...we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home. 14 Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; 15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation. So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures...

Ignatius of Antioch' Letter to the Romans

I do not, as Peter and Paul, issue commandments unto you. They were apostles of Jesus Christ, but I am the very least [of believers]: they were free, as the servants of God; while I am, even until now, a servant. But when I suffer, I shall be the freedman of Jesus Christ, and shall rise again emancipated in Him.

Polycarp to the Philippians

Chap. 3 -- 1 These things, brethren, I write to you concerning righteousness, not at my own instance, but because you first invited me. 2 For neither am I, nor is any other like me, able to follow the wisdom of the blessed and glorious Paul, who when he was among you in the presence of the men of that time taught accurately and stedfastly the word of truth, and also when he was absent wrote letters to you, from the study of which you will be able to build yourselves up into the faith given you; 3 "which is the mother of us all" when faith follows, and love of God and Christ and neighbour goes before. For if one be in this company he has fulfilled the command of righteousness, for he who has love is far from all sin.

Chap. 9 -- 1 Now I beseech you all to obey the word of righteousness, and to endure with all the endurance which you also saw before your eyes, not only in the blessed Ignatius, and Zosimus, and Rufus, but also in others among yourselves, and in Paul himself, and in the other Apostles; 2 being persuaded that all of these "ran not in vain," but in faith and righteousness, and that they are with the Lord in the "place which is their due," with whom they also suffered. For they did not "love this present world" but him who died on our behalf, and was raised by God for our sakes.

Chap. 11 -- 1 I am deeply sorry for Valens, who was once made a presbyter among you, that he so little understands the place which was given to him. I advise, therefore, that you keep from avarice, and be pure and truthful. Keep yourselves from all evil. 2 For how may he who cannot attain self-control in these matters enjoin it on another? If any man does not abstain from avarice he will be defiled by idolatry, and shall be judged as if he were among the Gentiles who "know not the judgment of God." Or do we "not know that the saints shall judge the world?" as Paul teaches. 3 But I have neither perceived nor heard any such thing among you, among whom the blessed Paul laboured, who are praised in the beginning of his Epistle. For concerning you he boasts in all the Churches who then alone had known the Lord, for we had not yet known him. 4 Therefore, brethren, I am deeply sorry for him [i.e. Valens] and for his wife, and "may the Lord grant them true repentance." Therefore be yourselves also moderate in this matter, and "do not regard such men as enemies," but call them back as fallible and straying members, that you may make whole the body of you all. For in doing this you edify yourselves.

Martyrdom of Polycarp

In Martyrdom of Polycarp (12:2), the same words once referred to to Paul: "This one is the teacher of Asia, the father of the Christians, the destroyer of our gods, who teaches many not to sacrifice nor to worship." (Acts 16:20-21) are repeated by "the entire crowd of heathen and Jews who lived in Smyrna" in reference to Polycarp.


Numerous works of fiction have been devoted to Paul of Tarsus, even thought as a fictional character he was never reached the same popularity and success as Jesus of Nazareth or other New Testament figures.

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