St. Paul The Apostle
St. Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, belonged to the tribe of Benjamin and his Hebrew name was Saul. He was born at Tarsus in Cilicia (Acts 21:39). His father was a Roman citizen who sent his son to study in Jerusalem with the great rabbi Gamaliel. Because of his Roman citizenship, Saul also carried the Latinized name Paul; it was common for Israelite men to have two names at this time. Saul was a devoted Pharisee, thoroughly against the followers of Jesus for he thought this “new way” violated the teaching of his ancestors. He stood by holding the cloaks of the men who stoned Stephen (Acts 7:58-60) and he later obtained authority to persecute the Christians. He put both men and women in jail. On his way to Damascus to arrest Christians, he fell to the ground upon seeing a bright light from the sky and he heard a voice saying “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me.” Saul said “Who are you Lord?” “I am Jesus, who you are persecuting, but rise and enter the city and you will be told what you to do.” (Act 9:3-6). From then on Saul dedicated himself entirely to Christ and used his Latin name Paul, since he was preaching mainly to Latin and Greek speaking Gentiles. Between 45 and 57 Paul undertook three lengthy and fruitful missions; each started at Antioch. These missions are outlined in the Acts of the Apostles, which was written by St. Luke, Paul’s companion on many of his journeys. The Acts ends with Paul imprisoned in Rome, but in rented lodgings at which he was allowed to have visitors. It is thought that he was released from this imprisonment, and went to Spain. He later re-arrested and beheaded in A.D. 67 at Rome possibly on the same day as St. Peter was crucified. Paul preached through much of the then known would. He explained the truths of the faith in fourteen epistles (letters), all of which are part of Scripture. He was instrumental in the decision of the Council of Jerusalem to not require the Gentile converts to follow Jewish customs, such as circumcision. From ancient sources outside of Scripture we know that Paul short and somewhat bald, with the beard worn by all Jewish men at the time. The feast of the conversion of St. Paul is January 25 and the feast of St. Peter and St. Paul is June 29.