Paul | Biography
Here are Paul's greatest moments, told in the Bible's own words...
The road to Damascus
A close escape
Paul on love
Paul, a contemporary of Jesus, was born in the (now Turkish) town of Tarsus and became a Pharisee, passionately devoted to the law of Moses. He responded to the new Christian movement with "holy" violence, spearheading a campaign to wipe it out. On his way to round up Christians in Damascus, he unexpected received a vision of the risen Jesus and became a Christian himself.
Paul became a Christian teacher in the city of Antioch, and it was from there that he began his travels through much of the Roman Empire, spreading the good news of Jesus and establishing small Christian communities wherever he went. Most of his converts were non-Jews.
This embroiled him in a fiery debate with more conservative Christians about whether non-Jewish males needed to be circumcised into the law of Moses. Paul convinced the church that Gentiles could be full Christians without circumcision, and thus transformed Christianity from a Jewish sect into a world religion in embryo.
Paul wrote letters to his converts as he travelled, and these were collected to become several of the "books" of the New Testament. Between seven and 13 books in the New Testament are his letters.
Tradition has it that Paul was executed in Rome during the Emperor Nero's ferocious attack on Christians in the year AD64. He is said to have been executed by the sword.
Paul is the patron saint of authors, evangelists, rope-makers and hospital public relations personnel. He is invoked against hailstorms, snake bites and newspaper reporters.
According to medieval legend, when Paul was executed, his severed head cried "Jesus Christ" 50 times, and milk poured out of his neck.
According to ancient tradition, Paul was short, dark and balding, and had a forked beard.
By his own reckoning (about five years before he died), Paul in his travels as a missionary had been whipped five times, beaten with rods three times, stoned once and shipwrecked three times.
"A man small in size, bald-headed, bandy-legged, well-built, with eyebrows meeting, rather long-nosed, full of grace."
The Acts of Paul and Thecla
"His preaching was a blazing fire carrying all before it. It was the sun rising in full glory. Unbelief was consumed by it, wrong beliefs fled away, and the truth was made manifest, like a great candle lighting the whole world with its bright flame."
Bernardine of Siena, 15th century
"He robbed human life of its healthy impulses, the human soul of its faith in its own regenerating powers, of its belief in its own self and in its inherent tendencies to goodness, by declaring sin to be, from the days of Adam, the all-conquering power of evil ingrained in the flesh, working everlasting doom."
The Jewish Encyclopedia
"Our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction."
St Peter (in 2 Peter 3:15-16)
"Paul nailed Jesus to his cross. The life, the example, the teaching, the death, the meaning and rule of the whole gospel nothing was left once this hate-filled forger seized whatever he could use."
"People who are afraid to tell God, or even Jesus, how angry they are with him or them, are often glad to be able to take out such anger on someone like Paul."