St Paul

Paul the Apostle, Apostle to the Gentiles, Martyr

Saint Paul the apostle (Hebrew: שאול התרסי‎ Šaʾul HaTarsi, meaning “Saul of Tarsus”, was, together with Saint Peter and James the Just, the most notable of early Christian missionaries. Unlike the Twelve Apostles, there is no indication that Paul, born in Tarsus, ever met Jesus before the latter’s crucifixion. According to Acts, his conversion took place as he was traveling the road to Damascus, and experienced a vision of the resurrected Jesus. Paul asserts that he received the Gospel not from man, but by “the revelation of Jesus Christ”.

Early life

As he belonged to the tribe of benjamin he was given at the time of his circumcision the name of Saul, which must have been common in that tribe in memory of the first king of the Jews (Philippians 3:5). As a roman citizen he also bore the Latin name of Paul.

According to Christian tradition, his parents lived in Jish, Galilee. According to Acts, he studied in Jerusalem under the Rabbi Gamaliel, He described himself as a Pharisee (Philippians 3:5). He supported himself during his travels and while preaching. According to Acts 18:3 he worked as a tentmaker.


Following his stay in Damascus after his conversion, where he was baptized, Paul says that he first went to Arabia, and then came back to Damascus (Galatians 1:17). According to Acts, his preaching in the local synagogues got him into trouble there, and he was forced to escape, being let down over the wall in a basket (Acts 9:23). He describes in Galatians, how
three years after his conversion, he went to Jerusalem, where he met James, and stayed with Simon Peter for 15 days (Galatians 1:13–24. When a famine occurred in Judaea, around 45–46, Paul, along with Barnabas and a Gentile named Titus, journeyed to Jerusalem to deliver financial support from the Antioch community. According to Acts, Antioch had become an alternative centre for Christians, following the dispersion after the death of Stephen. It was at this time in Antioch, Acts reports, the followers of Jesus were first called “Christians.”


Saul’s conversion took place as he was nearing the city of Damascus, on his way to deliver letters of introduction to those who were followers of the Lord, so that he could arrest them. He suddenly saw a light from the sky which flashed around him. He heard a voice saying, “Saul, saul, why do you persecute me?” For three days he was not able to see, and during that time he did not eat or drink anything. A Christianby the name of Ananias is said to have been sent by God to give his sight back.


It has been suggested that Paul suffered from a condition of Ophthalmis. This has been referenced in many of Paul’s writings.

Arrest and death

According to Acts 21:17–26, upon his arrival in Jerusalem, the Apostle Paul provided a detailed account to James regarding his ministry among the Gentiles, it states further that all the Elders were present. James and the Elders praised God for the report which they received. Afterward the elders informed him of rumors that had been circulating, which stated that he was teaching Jews to forsake observance of the Mosaic law, To rebut these rumors, the elders asked Paul to join with four other men in performing the vow of purification according to Mosaic law, in order to disprove the accusations of the Jews. Paul agreed, and proceeded to perform the vow.

Some of the Jews had seen Paul accompanied by a Gentile, and assumed that he had brought the Gentile into the temple, which if he had been found guilty of such, would have carried the death penalty. The Jews were on the verge of killing Paul when Roman soldiers intervened. The Roman commander took Paul into custody to be scourged and questioned, and imprisoned him, first in Jerusalem, and then in Caesarea.

Paul claimed his right as a Roman citizen to be tried in Rome, but owing to the inaction of the governor Antonius Felix, Paul languished in confinement at Caesarea for two years.

When a new governor (Porcius Festus) took office, Paul was sent by sea to Rome. During this trip to Rome, Paul was shipwrecked on Malta, where Acts states that he preached the Gospel, and the people converted to Christianity. The Roman Catholic church has named the Apostle Paul as the patron saint of Malta in observance of his work there. Paul spent another two years in Rome under house arrest, where he continued to preach the gospel and teach about Jesus being the Christ.

Paul suffered martyrdom near Rome at a place called Aquae Salviae (now Tre Fontane), east of the Ostian Way, about two miles from the splendid Basilica of San Paolo fuori le mura which marks his burial place.