Paul the apostle.

The apostle to the gentiles.


Attributed text(s).
Epistle to the Romans 1-4, 5-8, 9-12, 13-16.
Epistle 1 to the Corinthians 1-4, 5-8, 9-12, 13-16.
Epistle 2 to the Corinthians 1-4, 5-8, 9-13.
Epistle to the Galatians 1-6.
Epistle to the Ephesians (or Laodiceans) 1-6.
Epistle to the Philippians 1-4.
Epistle to the Colossians 1-4.
Epistle 1 to the Thessalonians 1-5.
Epistle 2 to the Thessalonians 1-3.
Epistle 1 to Timothy 1-6.
Epistle 2 to Timothy 1-4.
Epistle to Titus 1-3.
Epistle to Philemon 1.
Epistle to the Hebrews 1-4, 5-8, 9-13.
Epistle to the Laodiceans.
Epistle 3 to the Corinthians.
Correspondence with Seneca.
Epistle to the Alexandrians (nonextant, described in the Muratorian canon).

Related text(s).
Acts of Paul.

Useful links.
Saul of Tarsus in the Jewish Encyclopedia.
Paul in the Catholic Encyclopedia.
Mark Goodacre, NT Gateway Blog:

Paul is known mainly both from his own epistles and from the Acts of the Apostles, the second half of which he dominates almost biographically. I doubt many of his contemporaries could have guessed the impact this controversial figure would later have on the course of Christianity. For, in retrospect, after Jesus himself, no one stands taller in that first critical generation than the apostle Paul.

It was above all his decision to preach to gentiles that molded the future of the church. What evidently began strictly as a Jewish movement in Palestine soon spread far and wide amongst the gentiles, and none too soon, as the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 appears to have broken the back of the Jewish segment of the church; it would never recover, and the church was destined to become predominantly gentile, looking back on Paul with a fondness that he may not have often experienced among his own contemporaries.

Jerome, On Famous Men 5:

Paulus apostolus, qui ante Saulus, extra numerum duodecim apostolorum, de tribu Beniamin et oppido Iudaeae Giscalis fuit, quo a Romanis capto cum parentibus suis Tarsum Ciliciae commigravit, a quibus ob studia legis missus Hierosolymam, a Gamaliele viro doctissimo cuius Lucas meminit, eruditus est. cum autem interfuisset neci martyris Stephani et acceptis a pontifice templi epistolis ad persequendos eos qui Christo crediderant, Damascum pergeret; revelatione compulsus ad fidem, quae in actibus apostolorum scribitur, in vas electionis de persecutore translatus est. cumque primum ad praedicationem eius Sergius Paulus proconsul Cypri credidisset, ab eo quod eum Christi fidei subegerat, sortitus est nomen Paulus et iuncto sibi Barnaba, multis urbibus peragratis, revertensque Hierosolymam a Petro, Iacobo, et Ioanne gentium apostolus ordinatur. et quia in actibus apostolorum plenissime de eius conversatione scriptum est, hoc tantum dicam, quod post passionem domini vicesimo quinto anno, id est, secundo Neronis, eo tempore quo Festus procurator Iudaeae successit Felici, Romam vinctus mittitur et biennium in libera manens custodia adversus Iudaeos de adventu Christi quotidie disputavit. sciendum autem in prima satisfactione, necdum Neronis imperio roborato nec in tanta erumpente scelera quanta de eo narrant historiae, Paulum a Nerone dimissum ut evangelium Christi in occidentis quoque partibus praedicaretur, sicut ipse scribit in secunda epistola ad Timotheum, eo tempore quo et passus est de vinculis dictans epistolam: In prima mea satisfactione nemo mihi affuit, sed omnes me dereliquerunt: non eis imputetur. dominus autem mihi affuit, et confortavit me, ut per me praedicatio compleretur, et audirent omnes gentes, et liberatus sum de ore leonis. manifestissime leonem propter crudelitatem Neronem significans. et in sequentibus: Liberatus sum de ore leonis. et statim: Liberabit me dominus ab omni opere malo et salvabit me in regnum suum coeleste, quod scilicet praesens sibi sentiret imminere martyrium. nam et in eadem epistola praemiserat: Ego enim iam immolor, et tempus resolutionis meae instat. hic ergo quarto decimo Neronis anno, eodem die quo Petrus, Romae pro Christo capite truncatur, sepultusque est in via Ostiensi, anno post passionem domini tricesimo septimo. scripsit autem novem ad septem ecclesias epistolas, ad Romanos unam, ad Corinthios duas, ad Galatas unam, ad Ephesios unam, ad Philippenses unam, ad Colossenses unam, ad Thessalonicenses duas, praeterea ad discipulos suos, Timotheo duas, Tito unam, Philemoni unam. epistola autem quae fertur ad Hebraeos non eius creditur propter styli sermonisque dissonantiam, sed vel Barnabae, iuxta Tertullianum, vel Lucae evangelistae, iuxta quosdam, vel Clementis Romanae postea ecclesiae episcopi, quem aiunt ipsi adiunctum sententias Pauli proprio ordinasse et ornasse sermone. vel certe quia Paulus scribebat ad Hebraeos et propter invidiam sui apud eos nominis titulum in principio salutationis amputaverit. scripserat ut Hebraeus Hebraice, id est, suo eloquio disertissime, ut ea quae eloquenter scripta fuerant in Hebraeo, eloquentius verterentur in Graecum, et hanc causam esse, quod a caeteris Pauli epistolis discrepare videatur. legunt quidam et ad Laodicenses, sed ab omnibus exploditur.

Paul, formerly called Saul, an apostle outside the number of the twelve apostles, was of the tribe of Benjamin and the town of Giscalis in Judea. When this was taken by the Romans he removed with his parents to Tarsus in Cilicia. Sent by them to Jerusalem to study law he was educated by Gamaliel, a most learned man whom Luke mentions. But after he had been present at the death of the martyr Stephen and had received letters from the high priest of the temple for the persecution of those who believed in Christ, he proceeded to Damascus, where constrained to faith by a revelation, as it is written in the Acts of the apostles, he was transformed from a persecutor into an elect vessel. As Sergius Paulus, proconsul of Cyprus, was the first to believe on his preaching, he took his name from him because he had subdued him to faith in Christ, and having been joined by Barnabas, after traversing many cities, he returned to Jerusalem and was ordained apostle to the gentiles by Peter, James, and John. And because a full account of his life is given in the Acts of the Apostles, I only say this, that the twenty-fifth year after the passion of our Lord, that is the second of Nero, at the time when Festus succeeded Felix as procurator of Judea, he was sent bound to Rome and, remaining for two years in free custody, disputed daily with the Jews concerning the advent of Christ. It ought to be said that at the first defence, the power of Nero having not yet been confirmed nor his wickedness broken forth to such a degree as the histories relate concerning him, Paul was dismissed by Nero so that the gospel of Christ might be preached also in the west. As he himself writes in the second epistle to Timothy, at the time when he was about to be put to death dictating his epistle as he did while in chains: At my first defense no one took my part, but all forsook me; may it not be laid to their account. But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and that all the gentiles might hear, and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion, clearly indicating Nero as a lion on account of his cruelty. And directly following he says: The Lord delivered me from the mouth of the lion, and again shortly: The Lord delivered me from every evil work and saved me unto his heavenly kingdom, for indeed he felt within himself that his martyrdom was near at hand, for in the same epistle he announced: For I am already being offered and the time of my departure is at hand. He then, in the fourteenth year of Nero on the same day with Peter, was beheaded at Rome for the sake of Christ and was buried in the Ostian way, the twenty-seventh year after the passion of our Lord. He wrote nine epistles to seven churches: To the Romans one, to the Corinthians two, to the Galatians one, to the Ephesians one, to the Philippians one, to the Colossians one, to the Thessalonians two, and these to his disciples besides, to Timothy two, to Titus one, to Philemon one. The epistle which is extant to the Hebrews is not believed to be his on account of its difference from the others in style and language, but it is reckoned to be either according to Tertullian the work of Barnabas, or according to others that of Luke the evangelist or of Clement afterwards bishop of the church at Rome, who, they say, arranged and adorned the ideas of Paul in his own language, though to be sure, since Paul was writing to Hebrews and was indisrepute among them, he may have omitted his name from the salutation on this account. He being a Hebrew wrote Hebrew, that is, his own tongue, and most fluently while the things which were eloquently written in Hebrew were more eloquently turned into Greek, and this is the reason why it seems to differ from other epistles of Paul. Some read one also to the Laodiceans, but it is rejected by everyone.

The Gallio inscription, in conjunction with Acts 18.12-17, is a potential cornerstone in dating the Pauline journeys. The following reconstruction of this inscription is based on Daniel J. Theron, Evidence of Tradition, page 22, which in turn is based on Adolf Deissmann, Paul, A Study in Social and Religious History, page 272:

Τιβερ[ιος Κλαυδιος Κ]αισ[αρ Σεβαστ]ος Γ[ερμανικος, αρχιερευς μεγιστος, δημαρχικης εξου-]
σιας [το ιβʹ, αυτοκρατωρ τ]ο κςʹ, π[ατηρ π]ατρι[δος, υπατος το εʹ, τιμητης, Δελφων τη πολει χαιρειν.]
Παλ[αι μεν] τη π[ολει τ]ων Δελφ[ων προθ]υμο[ς εγενομην... και ευνους εξ αρ-]
χης, αει [δ] ετηρη[σα τη]ν θρησκει[αν τ]ου Απο[λλωνος του Πυθιου... οσα δε]
νυν λεγεται και [πολ]ειτων ερι[δες ε]κειναι ω[... καθως Λουκιος Ιου-]
νιος Γαλλιων ο φ[ιλος] μου κα[ι ανθυ]πατος [της Αχαιας εγραψεν... δια τουτο συγχωρω υμας]
ετι εξειν τον προ[τερ]ο[ν....]
[....]
ε[...των αλ....]

Tiber[ius Claudius C]aes[ar August]us G[ermanicus, great high priest, with tribunician pow]er [for the twelfth time, autocrat for t]he twenty-sixth time, f[ather of the f]athe[rland, consul for the fifth time, censor, to the city of the Delphians, greetings.] From lon[g ago I have been desi]rou[s] of the c[ity of t]he Delph[ians... and I have been well-minded from the be]ginning, [and] always I have kep[t th]e religi[on of t]he [Pythian] Apo[llo... but as much as] now is said and [t]hose stri[fes of the cit]izens... [just as Lucius Ju]nius Gallio, my f[riend] an[d pro]consul [of Achaia wrote... on this account I give you leave] still to have the for[m]e[r....]

Yet another potential archaeological link with Paul was discovered in 1929 in the ruins of ancient Corinth, as John Dominic Crossan and Jonathan L. Reed explain on pages 329-330 of In Search of Paul:

In 1929 American excavators working just below the theater [in Corinth] discovered a paving stone from the first century that once bore an inlaid bronze inscription.... The bronze had been long since removed, but the hollowed-out spaces could still be read: ERASTVS. PRO. AED. S. P. STRAVIT, "Erastus, in return for his aedileship, laid this pavement at his own expense." This Erastus was elected to civic office as an aedilis in charge of public buildings and facilities and in exchange paid for the pavement (patronage then, bribery now?). In his letter to the Romans Paul mentions one Erastus, "the city treasurer" (oikonomos), who sends his greetings from Corinth to Rome (16:23), but an oikonomos in Greek or an ararius in Latin is a notch below the office of aedilis. Maybe it is not the same person, or maybe Paul did not know about those civic distinctions. We are inclined to think, however, that Erastus was ararius while Paul was at Corinth, but had sponsored (recall euergetism as public good works) his way up the ladder to become an aedilis by the time he laid that pavement.

There is extant an interesting physical description of our intrepid apostle among the accounts of his acts. Acts of Paul and Thecla 3:

Και επορευετο κατα την βασιλικην οδον την επι Λυστραν, και ειστηκει απεκδεχομενος αυτον, και τους ερχομενους εθεωρει κατα την μηνυσιν Τιτου. ειδεν δε τον Παυλον ερχομενον, ανδρα μικρον τω μεγεθει, ψιλον τη κεφαλη, αγκυλον ταις κνημαις, ευεκτικον, συνοφρυν, μικρως επιρρινον, χαριτος πληρη· ποτε μεν γαρ εφαινετο ως ανθρωπος, ποτε δε αγγελου προσωπον ειχεν.

And [Onesiphorus] journeyed along the royal road that goes to Lystra, and he stood earnestly expecting him, and he looked at those who were coming according to the information of Titus. And he saw Paul coming, a man small in height, bald of head, crooked in his legs, healthy, with joined eyebrows, nose a little long, full of grace; for sometimes he appeared as a man, but sometimes he had the face of an angel.

Clement, epistle to the Corinthians 5.1-7:

Αλλ ινα των αξρχαιων υποδειγματων παυσωμεθα, ελθωμεν επι τους εγγιστα γενομενους αλητας· λαβωμεν της γενεας ημων τα γενναια υποδειγματα. δια ζηλον και φθονον οι μεγιστοι καιδικαιοτατοι στυλοι εδιωχθησαν και εως θανατου ηθλησαν. λαβωμεν προ οφθαλμων ημων τους αγαθους αποστολους. Πετρον, ος δια ζηλον αδικον ουχ ενα ουδε δυο αλλα πλειονας υπηνεγκεν πονους, και ουτω μαρτυρησας επορευθη εις τον οφειλομενον τοπον της δοξης. δια ζηλον και εριν Παυλος υπομονης βραβειον υπεδειξεν, επτακις δεσμα φορεσις, φυγαδευθεις, λιθασθεις, κηρυξ γενομενος εν τε τη ανατολη και εν τη δυσει, το γενναιον της πιστεως αυτου κλεος ελαβεν, δικαιοσυνην διδαξας ολον τον κοσμον και επι το τερμα της δυσεως ελθων· και μαρτυρησας επι των ηγουμενων, ουτως απηλλαγη του κοσμου και εις τον αγιον τοπον επορευθη, υπομονης γενομενος μεγιστος υπογραμμος.

But, not to dwell upon ancient examples, let us come to the most recent athletes. Let us take the noble examples furnished in our own generation. Through envy and jealousy, the greatest and most righteous pillars1 have been persecuted and put to death. Let us set before our eyes the good apostles. Peter, through unrighteous envy, endured, not one or two, but numerous labors, and, when he had at length suffered martyrdom, he departed to the place of glory due to him. Owing to envy, Paul also obtained the reward of patient endurance, after being seven times2 clapped in chains, compelled to flee, and stoned.3 After preaching both in the east and west, he gained the illustrious reputation due to his faith, having taught justice to the whole world4 and come to the extreme limit of the west,5 and testified6 under the leaders. Thus was he removed from the world, and went into the holy place, having proved himself a striking example of patience.

1 Confer Galatians 2.9.
2 Confer 2 Corinthians 11.23, which, however, does not number the imprisonments at seven.
3 Confer 2 Corinthians 11.25.
4 Confer Romans 15.19, 23.
5 Confer Romans 15.24.
6 Or suffered martyrdom.

Ignatius, epistle to the Romans 4.3:

Ουχ ως Πετρος και Παυλος διατασσομαι υμιν· εκεινοι αποστολοι, εγω κατακριτος· εκεινοι ελευθεροι, εγω δε μεχρι νυν δουλος. αλλ εαν παθω, απελευθερος Ιησου Χριστου, και αναστησομαι εν αυτω ελευθερος. νυν μανθανω δεδεμενος μηδεν επιθυμειν.

I do not issue you orders as Peter and Paul; they were apostles, I condemned; they were free men, but I am until now a slave. But, if I should suffer, then I am a freedman of Jesus Christ, and shall resurrect free in him. Now I am learning while bound to desire nothing.

Polycarp, epistle to the Philippians 9.1:

Παρακαλω ουν παντας υμας πειθαρχειν τω λογω της δικαιοσυνης και ασκειν πασαν υπομονην, ην και ειδατε κατ οφθαλμους ου μονον εν τοις μακαριοις Ιγνατιω και Ζωσιμω και Ρουφω, αλλα και εν αλλοις τοις εξ υμων και εν αυτω Παυλω και τοις λοιποις αποστολοις.

I exhort you all, therefore, to yield obedience to the word of justice, and to exercise all patience such as you have seen before your eyes, not only in the case of the blessed Ignatius, and Zosimus, and Rufus, but also in others among yourselves, and in Paul himself, and the rest of the apostles.

Eusebius, History of the Church 2.25.5-7, writing of Nero:

Ταυτη γουν ουτος, θεομαχος εν τοις μαλιστα πρωτος ανακηρυχθεις, επι τας κατα των αποστολων επηρθη σφαγας. Παυλος δη ουν επ αυτης Ρωμης την κεφαλην αποτμηθηναι και Πετρος ωσαυτως ανασκολοπισθηναι κατ αυτον ιστορουνται, και πιστουται γε την ιστοριαν η Πετρου και Παυλου εις δευρο κρατησασα επι των αυτοθι κοιμητηριων προσρησις, ουδεν δε ηττον και εκκλησιαστικος ανηρ, Γαιος ονομα, κατα Ζεφυρινον Ρωμαιων γεγονως επισκοπον, ος δη Προκλω της κατα Φρυγας προισταμενω γνωμης εγγραφως διαλεχθεις, αυτα δη ταυτα περι των τοπων, ενθα των ειρημενων αποστολων τα ιερα σκηνωματα κατατεθειται, φησιν· Εγω δε τα τροπαια των αποστολων εχω δειξαι. εαν γαρ θελησης επελθειν επι τον Βασικανον η επι την οδον την Ωστιαν, ευρησεις τα τροπαια των ταυτην ιδρυσαμενων την εκκλησιαν.

In this way then was he the first to be heralded as above all a fighter against God, and he was raised up to slaughter against the apostles. It is related that in his time Paul was beheaded in Rome itself, and that Peter likewise was crucified, and the title of Peter and Paul, which is still given to the cemeteries there, confirms the story, no less than does a writer of the church named Gaius, who lived when Zephyrinus was bishop of Rome, and who in a written discussion with Proclus, the leader of the opinion among the Phrygians, speaks as follows of the places where the sacred relics of the apostles in question are deposited: But I can point out the trophies of the apostles, for if you will go to the Vatican or to the Ostian Way you will find the trophies of those who founded this church.