St. Paul of Tarsus can be considered the first missionary of the Christian church. The contribution he made to the spread of the Gospel message is incomparable. His story is highly particular, especially when one thinks of his conversion from a ferocious persecutor of Christians to a pastor and defender of the faith.
His life is a testimony of divine greatness and the saving power of God’s grace. Let’s discover together the story of St. Paul of Tarsus.
Who is Paul of Tarsus?
Paul of Tarsus, born as Saul but known as Saint Paul, was a Christian writer and theologian. In the religious community, he is recognized as the apostle of the Gentiles, the leading missionary of the Gospel of Jesus among the Greek and Roman pagans. According to the sacred texts, Paul was born as a Jew and enjoyed Roman citizenship. He never knew Jesus in person, even though their lives coincided in the same era. And despite Paul, he came to persecute the church established by Jesus himself directly.
The sources concerning his life could be more transparent. We know that he received solid Greek-Hellenist training in his native Tarsus. An important cultural center, and after his early youth, he continued his path in Jerusalem.
In the scriptures, there is not much talk of the life of St. Paul of Tarsus except about his faith and what happened following his conversion. He was a “ Pharisee as regards the law, “Which is part of a movement that had been created a few centuries before the Christian era and which, in the first century, was opposed to the aristocratic- action of the Sadducees on various doctrinal aspects.
Biography of St. Paul of Tarsus
|Full name:||Paul (Saul)|
|Date of birth:||5 AD|
|Year of death:||64 BC|
|The thread of life:||59 years old|
|Place of birth:||Tarsus, Turkey|
Representation of St. Paul of Tarsus
Life as a persecutor
His first appearance in biblical texts describes him as a persecutor. According to the scriptures, the first Christian martyr, Stephen, was killed at the hand of Paul. Although he did not personally participate in the stoning, he commanded to kill him.
Before his conversion, Paul held numerous positions of particular importance in the high Jewish religious spheres and was closely connected with the persecution of Christians. His work is testified to in numerous Acts and letters.
His persecutory action seems to be aimed only at Christians of Greek cultures. Such as Stephen and Philip, thus excluding Christians of Jewish culture. There are also uncertainties about the ferocity of the persecution. As well as the vote for the death sentence, according to the scriptures, was simple consent and not action carried out by Paul in the first person.
After a lifetime of fighting Christians, something happens that can hardly be ignored. Paul receives the call of the Lord and understands that the time has come to change his life mission radically.
The conversion of St. Paul of Tarsus
The conversion of St. Paul of Tarsus is one of the most exciting. It is often used during catechesis to teach children the greatness of God’s grace. The event is described in the Acts of the Apostles and is implicitly mentioned in the Pauline letters.
Below is the story that describes the event: “Meanwhile Saul, constantly quivering threat and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, presented himself to the high priest and asked him for letters for the synagogues of Damascus to be authorized to lead men and women in chains to Jerusalem, followers of the doctrine of Christ, he had found. And it came to pass that as he was on his way and about to approach Damascus, suddenly, a light from heaven enveloped him.
As he fell to the ground, he heard a voice saying: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” He replied: “Who are you, oh Lord?” And the vote: «I am Jesus, whom you persecute! Come on, get up and enter the city, and you will be told what to do. ” The men who made the journey with him had stopped speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul got up from the ground but, opening his eye; he saw nothing. So, leading him by the hand, they took him to Damascus, where he remained for three days without seeing and without taking food or drink. ” (Acts 9: 1-9)
In the artistic tradition, Paul’s fall is represented as a fall from a horse. Even if this detail is not present in any story, it remains a possible condition since the event occurred during a trip.
The story of a missionary
After the electrocution, St. Paul of Tarsus went to Damascus to receive baptism as a Judeo-Christian and regained sight. He began preaching in the synagogues and spreading the Christian message to the Jews. But soon, the population tried to kill him by forcing him to flee with the help of his disciples.
From Damascus, he went to Jerusalem, where Christians received him with a certain coldness and fear because of his persecutory actions in this city. The Judeo-Christian Barnabas became his guarantor and began collaborating with Paul for the following years. But even here, shortly after that, he was forced to flee.
He, therefore, went to Tarsus, his hometown. We do not know much about his movements, but we do know that he dedicated his life to spreading the message of God in the population and guiding the faithful on the journey of faith. Today the church recognizes him as one of its most outstanding scholars and the first of its preachers.
You may also want to know.
- What is the message of St. Paul?
The center of Paul’s message was the proclamation of the death and resurrection of Jesus, whose sacrifice on the cross replaced the rites and gifts of the Old Testament. Therefore, not only Jews but also Gentiles could obtain salvation by believing in Jesus as Savior.
- How is Saint Paul depicted?
Saint Paul is depicted with the sword of martyrdom as his traditional attribute, along with the scroll of the Law symbolically received from the hands of Christ. Sometimes the apostle carries a book alluding to his many writings.
- Why is St. Paul important?
St. Paul is important because he attracted people to Christianity. He was a Roman citizen named Saul in the beginning. From a Jewish family, he persecuted Christians harshly until, after having a vision, he converted to the new faith. Taking the name Paul, he dedicated himself to spreading the Christian message.