The year of St Paul: the man, the mission

11 Jun 2008

By The Record

The Apostle Paul was born in Tarsus of Galilean parents and was given the Hebrew name Saul and the associated Latin name Paul.

He was trained in making mohair for tents, but at an early age was sent to Jerusalem to study in the school of the famous Rabbi Gamaliel.
He is next heard of as a young man at the stoning of the first martyr, St Stephen.
He was on his way to Damascus in pursuit of further persecution of Christians when Jesus appeared to him and called him to conversion.  He was baptised in Damascus.
Paul preached for a while but then withdrew to Arabia, returning eventually to Damascus, but was forced by the Jews to flee.  He spent 15 days at Jerusalem with St Peter and returned to Tarsus, with nothing heard about him for 5 or 6 years.
Barnabas located him and the two spent a year in Antioch, preaching very successfully, before returning to Jerusalem with alms for the community there.
His main Apostolic work covered the years 45 – 57 and involved three main journeys.
The first covering at least three years involved going with Barnabas to Cyprus and then Asia Minor, taking in Perge, Antioch, Iconium, Lystra (where he was stoned by the Jews and left for dead), Derbe and back to Antioch.  From there he went to Jerusalem for the meeting of the Apostles which overrode the need for circumcision and other aspects of the Law of Moses. The rules that were imposed were imposed in the name of the Holy Spirit, not the Mosaic law.
The second journey saw Paul and Silas go to Antioch, Tarsus and Derbe and then overland to Macedonia where they spent 18 months preaching to the Greeks at Athens and Corinth before returning to Jerusalem and finally Antioch. His third missionary journey was through Galatia and Phrygia to Ephesus where he spent 2 1/2 years before returning to Macedonia and then to Corinth.
Following his arrest, he spent 2 years in captivity under Governor Felix before a replacement, Festus, sent him to Rome for trial. He was shipwrecked at Malta, but eventually reached Rome where he spent two years preaching. He may have gone to Spain before returning to the churches he had founded in the East. He was arrested in Troas and again sent to Rome where he died and was buried at about the same time as St Peter, a tradition which is the origin of their sharing the same feast day, June 29.


St Paul the Apostle mosaic