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Jesus Fish 3

New Testament Survey: Biography Of Paul

Written By: Steve Shirley


  • Name means: “little” (Saul: “asked of God”). Paul was called Saul until (Acts 13:9), when he began his 1st missionary trip. He is not called “Saul” again after this.
  • Hometown: Born at Tarsus: (Acts 9:11)(Acts 21:39). A city of Cilicia. (Turkey today) (Likely born between 1-5 A.D.)
  • Occupation: Tentmaker (Acts 18:3)
    • A goat hair cloth called Cilicium was manufactured in Cilicia, and was largely used for tent making. Tentmaking was a common trade in Tarsus.
    • Tradition says that tentmakers often made sails for boats in the winter months.
  • Paul was Jew (Acts 21:39)(Acts 22:3), a “Hebrew (Jew) of the Hebrews (Jews)” (Phil 3:5).
  • He was descended from the tribe of Benjamin (Phil 3:5), and a Pharisee (Acts 23:6)(Phil 3:5), therefore, his father would also have been. We know nothing of Paul’s mother, but she was likely a “pious woman.”
  • Even though Paul was a Jew, he was a Roman citizen (Acts 16:37)(Acts 22:25-28).
  • Paul would have known the local language of Aramaic, but he also knew Greek (Acts 21:37), and Hebrew (Acts 21:40).
  • Paul had at least one sister, and she had a son (Acts 23:16). (Rom 16:7,11,21) may indicate that he had other relatives (the preferred reading of “my countrymen” is “my kinsmen.”)
  • An Apocryphal book called “The Acts of Paul and Thecla” says that Paul was: “a man little of stature, thin haired upon the head, crooked in the legs, of good state of body, with eyebrows joining, and nose somewhat hooked, full of grace, sometimes he appeared like a man, and sometimes he had the face of an angel.”
  • At a fairly early age, probably before his teens, Paul was sent to Jerusalem to study “at the feet of Gamaliel” (Acts 5:34)(Acts 22:3). Gamaliel was one of the top rabbi’s of that time.
  • Paul clearly stated that he was single (1 Cor 7:7-8), however, some believe that based on (1 Cor 9:5), he may have been married at one time and his wife died. Paul may have been a member of the Sanhedrin (Acts 26:10)(kind of like our Supreme Court today), and one of the requirements for its members was that they be married. (For more on the “Sanhedrin,” you can go here:
  • When “some of them of Cilicia disputed with Stephen” (Acts 6:9), and made him the 1st Christian martyr, Paul was at the stoning and consented to it (Acts 7:58)(Acts 8:1)(Acts 22:20).
  • Before he was converted, Paul was a merciless persecutor of Christians (Acts 9:1-3)(Acts 22:3-5)(Acts 26:9-11)(1 Cor 15:9)(Gal 1:13)(1 Tim 1:13).
  • Paul was converted (app. 33-37 A.D.) on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-19)(Acts 22:6-21)(Acts 26:12-23), at about noon (Acts 26:13).
  • After this encounter, he was left blind, and taken on into the city of Damascus, where he did not eat or drink for three days (Acts 9:8-9).
  • God appeared to a man named Ananias in a vision and told him to go to Paul, because God had given Paul a vision that Ananias would come and put “his hand on him, that he might receive his sight” (Acts 9:12). Ananias did this, and then baptized Paul (Acts 9:17-18).
  • After his conversion, Paul went into Arabia for 3 years (Gal 1:17-18), probably to study and reflect on the revelation given to him by the Lord.
  • After the 3 years, he went back to Damascus and began to preach the Gospel “boldly in the name of Jesus” (Acts 9:27), but soon after had to flee for his life (Acts 9:23-25)(2 Cor 11:32-33).
  • As a result of his seeing the resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus, he called himself an “Apostle” (one classic definition being “one who has seen the risen Christ”) who was “born out of due time” (1 Cor 15:8).
    *** Some scholars believe that Paul was God’s choice to replace Judas as the 12th apostle, but those in the “upper room” got ahead of God’s timing, and chose Matthias instead (Acts 1:15-26). (I discuss this more here:
  • God called Paul to be “the apostle to the Gentiles” (Acts 9:15)(Acts 22:21)(Gal 1:16).
  • The biggest part of Paul’s of ministry was done during the 3 missionary trips that he took, which went from approximately 46 to 57 A.D.
  • At the end of his 3rd missionary trip, Paul was warned by the prophet Agabus not to go to Jerusalem (Acts 21:10-11), but he went anyway (Acts 21:15).
  • In Jerusalem, he was falsely accused by “Jews from Asia,” and then beaten by an angry mob (Acts 21:27-32). Paul was saved from the mob by the Romans, who arrested him, put him in chains, and carried him away (Acts 21:33-36). After informing the Romans that he was a Roman citizen, he was “released from his bonds” the next day (Acts 22:24-30). However, that same day, the Romans took him into custody again when they thought Paul would be “pulled in pieces” by another mob (Acts 23:10).
  • The next day, “more than forty” Jews plotted to kill Paul (Acts 23:12-22), so he was transferred to Caesarea (about 75 miles away), and Governor Felix under heavy guard (Acts 23:23-35).
    (He had been in Jerusalem for 7 days: compare Acts 24:11-12 with Acts 24:1.)
  • After 5 days, Paul pled his case before Felix (Acts 24:1-24). Felix said he would decide his case when Lysias the commander came (Acts 24:22) (there is no indication he ever sent for Lysias, or that he ever came). Several days later, he and his wife Drusilla sent for Paul and listened to him again. He continued to talk to Paul frequently for the next two years, but made no decision to let him go (Acts 24:26-27).
  • Porcius Festus then replaced Felix (Acts 24:27), and retried Paul (Acts 25:1-11). Paul made an appeal to have his case tried before Caesar, and Festus granted it (Acts 25:11-12).
  • A few days later, he appeared before King Agrippa (Acts 25:13-26:32). He was then sent to Rome as a prisoner (Acts Ch. 27-28), spending two years there under house arrest (Acts 28:30). Apparently, he was temporarily released, but then rearrested, with a much more severe imprisonment under Emperor Nero (app. 65-67 A.D.).
  • Tradition tells us that he was beheaded in about 67 A.D. on the Ostian Way, shortly after writing his last Epistle (2nd Timothy). (The site where he was martyred is still visible today.)
  • The place of Paul’s burial is said to be near the Basilica of St. Paul.
  • Paul faced numerous trials during his lifetime, possibly more than any man in the Bible. He talks about some of these in (2 Cor 11:23-28). He was:
    • Put in prison over and over.
    • Flogged an uncounted number of times.
    • Faced death over and over.
    • Received 39 lashes from the Jews 5 times.
    • Beaten with rods 3 times.
    • Stoned one time.
    • Shipwrecked 3 times.
    • Spent a day and night in the sea.
    • Was in continual danger from rivers, robbers, his own people and the Gentiles.
    • Was in danger in the city, in the country, at sea, and from false brothers.
    • Was weary and in pain often, without sleep.
    • Often hungry and thirsty, cold and naked.
    • Continually concerned about the health of all the churches.

(2 Cor 12:1-10) describes how Paul was caught up into paradise and heard words no man may utter. (Many scholars believe this occurred when Paul was stoned and left for dead in Acts 14:19-20). (2 Cor 12:7) says that because of the abundance of revelation given to him, he was given a “thorn in the flesh” to keep him from being proud. (2 Cor 12:8) says that Paul asked for it to be removed 3 times, and God refused saying His “grace was sufficient.” People disagree as to what this “thorn” was, but whatever it was, it was apparently very debilitating. (I believe it was a disease of the eyes:

  • It was said by some in the Bible that Paul was not very impressive in appearance or speaking (2 Cor 10:10), but he was arguably the most important person in the New Testament aside from Jesus.

Copyright: © Steve Shirley