The Person of Paul
We have seen in the previous section that there exists distinct differences between Paul's teachings and what we know to be Jesus'. Yet, who is this man? On what authority did he preach the things that he preached?
The Acts of the Apostles tells us that Paul was a diaspora Jew born in the city of Tarsus in Cilicia (today a part of modern Turkey).
Acts 22:3 (Also Acts 21:39)|
Then Paul said: "I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia"
His given name was Saul (Hebrew: Shaul) which he eventually latinized to Paul (Latin: Paulus).  A near-contemporary of Jesus [a], Paul was a devout Jew before his conversion to Christianity, as he himself tells us:
I was born of the race of Israel and the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrew parents, and I was circumcised when I was eight days old. As for the law, I was a Pharisee...as far as the law can make you perfect I was faultless.
Paul was tent-maker by profession:
Paul went to see them, and because he was a tent-maker as they were, he stayed and worked with them.
He was a Roman citizen:
The commander went to Paul and asked, "Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?" "Yes, I am." he answered.
This Tarsiot Jewish tent-maker, a Roman citizen and a Pharisee initially persecuted the followers of Jesus as he himself admits:
I was a persecutor of the church.
On that day a great persecution broke out against the church of Jerusalem...Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison.
According to Acts, he even consented to the stoning to death of Stephen [b], ostensibly the first martyr of the new religion:
While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord do not hold this gainst them." When he had said this he fell asleep. And Saul was there, giving approval to his death.
It is also important to note that we have no evidence, neither in the Acts of the Apostles nor in his epistles, that Paul ever met the human Jesus. Indeed, in his epistles as we will show letter, he did not consider meeting or having known the earthly Jesus of any great importance. The mark of apostleship is, for him, having seen the risen Jesus. Paul was converted by his own experience of the risen Jesus. The account is given three times in Acts:
Acts 9:1-9 (Also 22:6-16; 26:12-18)|
Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 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 the Lord 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 travelling with Paul 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. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
The account above continued with the story of his conversion and baptism by a follower of the Way (as the early followers of Jesus seemed to have been called) who was in Damascus, a man called Ananias (Acts 9:10-19). Just as he has zealously persecuted the followers of the Way earlier, now with equal zeal Paul preached the new religion; but with a twist not found in it before.
Paul, together with his followers went on three missionary journeys throughout the cities of the eastern Mediterranean. He also wrote epistles to the various places that he had visited to guide his newfound converts. It was Paul who first started preaching the Christian message to the Gentiles. He had problems with the leaders of the religion, Peter and James because of this Gentile conversions, something we will look into more detail later.
The final phase of Paul's life started with his visit to Jerusalem around AD58. There he was accused of being a transgressor of the law, was beaten up by the Jewish mob and rescued by the Roman soldiers. Being a Roma citizen Paul appealed his case to Caesar and he was sent to Rome around AD60 for his trial. He remained under house arrest in Rome for two years (from AD61-62). The book of Acts ends at this point:
For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.
Tradition placed Paul's death in Rome during the Neronian persecution of AD64. 
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|a.||Karen Armstrong estimated his date of birth to be around AD5 to 10. |
|b.||While I think Stephen's matrydom is in all probability historical, the linking of Paul to the events surrounding his death is almost certainly not. It contradicts Paul's own assertion (In Galatians 1:22) that he was still unknown by sight to the church in Jerusalem when he visited there three years after his conversion. This statement would have been impossible had he been in Jerusalem taking part in the death of Stephen before his conversion. Some members of the Jerusalem Church would almost certainly have seen him.|
|1.||Craveri, The Life of Jesus: p158|
|2.||Armstrong, The First Christian: p180|
|3.||Livingstone, Dictionary of the Christian Church: p385-386|
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