×

Error

Articles Anywhere cannot function. Regular Labs Library plugin is not installed.

Modals cannot function. Regular Labs Library plugin is not installed.

Modules Anywhere cannot function. Regular Labs Library plugin is not installed.

ReReplacer cannot function. Regular Labs Library plugin is not installed.

Biblical People
Paul. [Gr. Paulos, from the Latin Paulus, a Roman surname meaning “little,” or “small.”] The great apostle to the Gentiles. He is introduced in the Bible as Saul (Gr. Saulos, from the Heb. Shaul, “asked [of God],” or “lent [to God]”; Acts 7:58) and is referred to by that name in the narrative of the book of Acts through ch 13:9. There has been considerable speculation as to why, halfway through the book of Acts, Saul is abruptly referred to as Paul, and is called by that name exclusively from that point on, except when he himself relates the story of his conversion (chs 22:7, 13; 26:14). A simple and plausible answer is that he, like others (Acts 1:23; 13:1; Col 4:11; etc.), had more than one name; in his case a Hebrew name, Saul, and a Grecized Roman name, Paulos, or Paul. His Hebrew name was probably commonly used in his home and in his intercourse with Jews. His Greco-Roman name would be in keeping with the Hellenistic influence and environment of the city where he was born, and with his enviable status as a Roman citizen. Later, when he began his work among the Gentiles, it was to his advantage to be known as Paul. It is worthy of note that up to Acts 13 Paul is mentioned only in reference to his contact with the Jews. But in that chapter the record of his activities among the Gentiles begins, as does also the use of his Gentile name, Paul.

I. Paul, the Man.

1. Background. By birth, religion, education, and sentiment Paul was a Hebrew; so much so that in spite of his early contacts with Greek and Roman culture and philosophy he could call himself a “Hebrew of the Hebrews” (Php 3:5). He was of the tribe of Benjamin (Rom 11:1), and was perhaps a namesake of Saul, the 1st king of Israel, who was also a Benjamite (1 Sa 9:1-2; Acts 13:21). Little is known of his family. His father was a Roman citizen (Acts 22:28), and probably a Pharisee (ch 23:6). Just how Paul's father gained his Roman citizenship is unknown, but there were certain procedures whereby a prominent Jew in a city such as Tarsus could become a Roman citizen. Assuming that he gained his citizenship through these provisions, we may then also assume that Paul came from a family of some importance. He had at least one sister (ch 23:16). In Rom 16:7, 21 he refers to several men as being his “kinsmen.” But this term, a translation of the Gr. suggeneis, could mean simply fellow countrymen, so that it is uncertain whether blood relatives are referred to. Paul may have been disowned by his family after he became a Christian (cf. Php 3:8), but if so he does not mention it.
Paul was born in Asia Minor, in the prosperous metropolis of Tarsus (Acts 21:39), a city noted for its philosophy, science, education, and culture—a culture in which there was a mingling of Greek, Roman, and Jewish elements. The date of his birth cannot be approximated with any degree of certainty. When he is 1st mentioned in ch 7:58 he is referred to as a “young man” (Gr. neanias). However, this broad term, used of men anywhere between the ages of 20 and 40, offers little in ascertaining Paul's age.

According to a tradition from the 2nd cent., Paul's family lived originally in Gischala, of Galilee, but were captured by the Romans and taken as slaves to Tarsus about 4 b.c., where they later gained their freedom and Roman citizenship. If this is so, Paul was born after these events, for he was a Roman citizen by birth (Acts 22:28).


2. Education. There was probably a synagogue school in Tarsus that Paul attended. In the multilingual city of Tarsus he learned not only Hebrew and the spoken language of his people, Aramaic (Acts 21:40; 22:2), but also Greek (ch 21:37), and probably Latin. He learned tentmaking, probably from his father, by which he later made his living (Acts 18:1, 3; cf. ch 20:34; 1 Cor 4:12; 1 Th 2:9; 2 Th 3:8). He went as a youth to Jerusalem (Acts 26:4) and sat at the feet of the most renowned rabbi and Pharisee of his day, the great Gamaliel (ch 22:3; cf. ch 5:34). Under his instruction Paul was “taught according to the perfect manner of the law” (Acts 22:3; cf. ch 24:14), and as a result lived “after the most straitest sect” of the Pharisees (ch 26:5). So brilliant a scholar was he, and so ardent for the doctrines and traditions of Judaism, that he went beyond many of his peers in learning and zeal (Gal 1:14); and in his fanatical hatred of the Christians, at least, he outstripped his master, Gamaliel (Acts 8:3; 9:1; cf. 5:34-39). There can be little doubt that he was marked for great things by the leaders of the Jewish nation.

3. Personal Appearance and Health. It would appear that, while Paul was intellectually impressive, physically he was not prepossessing. His enemies said of him “his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible” (2 Cor 10:10). Tradition describes him as being short, stooped, and bowlegged. He seems to have suffered from some chronic affliction (2 Cor 12:7-10; Gal 4:13); many believe this was some malady connected with his eyes, basing their conclusion on the facts that he generally dictated his letters (see 2 Th 3:17), that he referred to himself as writing with large letters (Gal 6:11, RSV), and that he mentioned the willingness of the Galatian believers to pluck out their own eyes and give them to him, if it were possible (ch 4:15). Other afflictions have been suggested, but Biblical evidence is insufficient definitely to establish what Paul's “thorn in the flesh” was.

II. Paul, the Convert.

1. First Contacts With Christianity. Paul's 1st known contact with Christianity was in connection with the death of Stephen. It has been conjectured that he was one of the Cilicians who, with others, were bested in debate by Stephen (Acts 6:9, 10; cf. ch 21:39). He apparently cast no stones at Stephen, but “was consenting unto his death” (ch 8:1), and watched the garments of the witnesses (ch 7:58). The mob action that resulted in the stoning of Stephen marked the beginning of the 1st period of persecution that ravaged the infant church; and Saul, it seems, was foremost in the persecution. In a fanatical frenzy of hatred against the Christians (ch 26:11), intensified by a pricking conscience (v 14), he dragged them from their houses and thrust them into prison (ch 8:3); he punished them in the synagogues (chs 22:19; 26:11) and gave his consent to their death (chs 22:4; 26:10). Paul carried on this harassment first in Jerusalem (chs 8:1, 3; 26:10), then followed the scattered believers to other cities and hounded them there “beyond measure” (Acts 8:4; 26:11; Gal 1:13).

2. Conversion. It was on one of these persecuting excursions that the course of Paul's life was spectacularly and completely changed. Hearing that there were Christians in Damascus, he sought from the high priest letters—evidently letters of extradition—authorising him to arrest and bring to Jerusalem any Christian found in that city (Acts 9:1, 2). There are 3 accounts of subsequent experiences on that journey: chs 9:1-9; 22:4-11; 26:9-18. The 1st is in the 3rd person; the others in the 1st, recounted by Paul himself, one to a Jewish mob in Jerusalem, the other to King Agrippa and his sister, Bernice. As Paul approached Damascus at midday with a company of men to aid him in his murderous designs, he was suddenly surrounded by a blinding light, brighter than the sun. Paul and his companions fell to the earth (ch 26:14), and a voice, identifying its owner as Jesus of Nazareth, inquired, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” adding, “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” Paul, overwhelmed by the experience, asked what he was to do, upon which Jesus informed him that he was to become a witness for Him to the Gentiles (vs. 16, 17). He was instructed to go into Damascus, where he would receive further information. Meanwhile his amazed and fearful companions, who had arisen from the ground (see ch 9:7), understood nothing of what was taking place, for although they saw the light and heard the words of Jesus, they could not understand what was being said (cf. chs 9:7; 22:9). Rising to his feet, Paul discovered that he was blind.

In that condition Paul was led by his companions to the home of a certain Judas in Damascus, where he stayed 3 days without food or drink (Acts 9:8, 9, 11). While Paul was engaged in prayer, Jesus appeared in vision to one Ananias and directed him to the home of Judas, on the “street which is called Straight,” where he would find Paul, who had been given a vision of his coming. Ananias respectfully reminded Jesus of Paul's acts of persecution, but was informed that the erstwhile persecutor had been chosen of God (vs. 11-16). Following instructions, Ananias found Paul and laid his hands upon him, whereupon Paul's sight was immediately restored and he received the gift of the Holy Spirit and was baptised (vs. 17, 18).

How long Paul remained in Damascus after this is not known. The record seems to indicate that it was a brief period (Acts 9:19). We know that he associated with the Christians there. Also, true to his character—and to the wonderment of those who knew him—he began to preach in the synagogues the Christ he had once vilified but had recently come to worship (vs. 19-21). So powerfully and convincingly did he preach that none could defeat his logic or deny his power (v 22).

3. Preparation and Early Preaching. The narrative in Acts omits the next event in Paul's life, but Paul refers to it in the book of Galatians, where he says that following his conversion and his first brief evangelistic venture, he went into Arabia and returned to Damascus (Gal 1:17), before his trip to Jerusalem recorded in Acts 9:26; Gal 1:18. The exact area referred to as “Arabia” is unknown (although it was most likely the country of the Nabataeans), as is the length of time he remained there. This period of retirement gave him time for meditation upon the great change that had come into his life, solitude in which to re-examine, prayerfully and carefully, the whole foundation of his new convictions in the light of Scripture, and the opportunity to settle for all time his faith in Christ and in His gospel.

Following this apparent time of inaction, Paul once again returned to Damascus (Gal 1:17), from which point the narrative continues in Acts 9. Paul, it would seem, resumed his preaching in the synagogues with the same results as before (v 22). Consequently the Jews laid plans to murder him (vs. 23, 24). They were supported in their scheme by the governor of the city, who served under the Nabataean king Aretas (2 Cor 11:32, 33). Since Aretas ruled that area probably between a.d. 37 and c. 54, this event must have occurred somewhere within this period. However, the soldiers, who were watching the gates to prevent Paul's escape from the city, were frustrated in their design, for some of the local believers lowered Paul in a basket from a window of a house built on the city wall, thus enabling him to evade his enemies (Acts 9:25; 2 Cor 11:33).

4. Visit to the Apostles at Jerusalem. With his opportunity for working in Damascus at an end, Paul turned his eyes toward Jerusalem. Three years had now elapsed since his conversion, but up to this time he had had no contact with any of the church leaders (Gal 1:17, 18), which fact he later offered as proof that his gospel had originated, not with the disciples of Christ, but with Christ Himself (Gal 1:10-12; cf. 1 Cor 15:3-8). His primary reason for going there was to see Peter (Gal 1:18). On arriving in the city he endeavoured to join with Peter and the other believers as a Christian brother, but swiftly discovered that 3 years had not sufficed to dim the memory of his previous persecutions, or to remove their fear and suspicion of him (Acts 9:26). The resulting impasse was broken by the Cypriote, Barnabas, who showed his confidence in Paul's account of his experience by relating it to the others in Paul's presence (v 27).

Paul demonstrated the genuineness of his experience by preaching Jesus in the city of Jerusalem. His incontrovertible logic aroused the ire of certain Hellenistic Jews, who set about to take his life (Acts 9:29). In a later account of his experience (ch 22:17-21), Paul told how God appeared to him in a vision in the Temple, and over his remonstrances directed him to leave Jerusalem, informing him that the Jews would not receive his message, and that he was to be sent to the Gentiles. His brethren immediately accompanied him to the seaport of Caesarea (ch 9:30), about 53 mi. (c. 85 km.) north-west of Jerusalem. There they probably placed him on board ship to ensure his escape from his enemies.

5. In the Regions of Syria and Cilicia, and Antioch. From Jerusalem, where he had stayed 15 days (Gal 1:18), Paul went into the regions of “Syria and Cilicia” (v 21). His activities during the next few years are not revealed in Scripture. We may well suppose that he was active in the ministry in Tarsus and the surrounding areas (see Acts 11:25; Gal 1:21-23). It may have been during this period that he had the visions alluded to in 2 Cor 12:2-4. In v 2 he describes it as an experience he had 14 years before the writing of 2 Corinthians. That epistle was written about a.d. 57, which would point to about 43 as the date of the vision. Paul was at Tarsus or the surrounding area from about 38 to 44, which would bring the vision within that period.

Meanwhile, during Paul's stay in Cilicia, Christianity had been progressing in other areas. A growing interest had developed at Antioch in Syria, and Barnabas had been dispatched from Jerusalem to foster it (Acts 11:19-24). Deciding that he needed help, he journeyed to Tarsus, found Paul, and brought him back to Antioch with him (vs. 25, 26). Paul and Barnabas worked together there for a full year, with noteworthy success.

As they laboured in Antioch certain ones having the prophetic gift came from Jerusalem (Acts 11:27). One of these, by the name of Agabus, was divinely inspired to predict a world-wide famine (v 28). As a result of this the believers in Antioch determined to send relief to the Christians of Judea. They chose Paul and Barnabas to take the contribution to Judea (vs. 29, 30). Upon the fulfilment of their mission, Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch, taking with them John Mark, a relative of Barnabas (Acts 12:25; cf. Col 4:10).

III. Paul, the Foreign Missionary.

While at Antioch the 2nd time, Paul received the call that started him upon his great missionary journeys into Asia Minor and Europe, which earned for him the title of “Apostle to the Gentiles.” As certain ones of the church “ministered to the Lord, and fasted,” they were commanded by the Holy Spirit to set apart Paul and Barnabas for a special work (Acts 13:2). This was done, accompanied by solemn fasting and prayer; then, directed by the Holy Spirit, those apostles set out upon the 1st Missionary Journey, accompanied by John Mark (vs. 3, 5).

1. First Missionary Journey. Going to Seleucia, which was Antioch's seaport, some 16 mi. (c. 25.5 km.) from that city, they took ship to the island of Cyprus (Acts 13:4).

(1) Cyprus. Landing at Salamis, on the east coast of Cyprus (Paul's First Missionary Tour), they began to preach in the Jewish synagogues (Acts 13:5), as Paul's custom was (cf. chs 9:20; 17:1, 2; 18:4; etc.). They traversed the island from east to west, and came to the city of Paphos (ch 13:6). Paphos was the headquarters of the Roman proconsul, or governor, of the island—Sergius Paulus, a man of sense and discernment (v 7). Sergius Paulus was attended by a certain Jew named Bar-Jesus, or Elymas, who was a charlatan and a sorcerer (vs. 6, 8). The governor heard of the preaching of Paul and Barnabas and, wishing to hear the gospel, sent for them (v 7). Fearful of losing any influence he might have had over Sergius Paulus, Bar-Jesus opposed the apostles in the presence of the governor (v 8), whereupon Paul (it is here that he is for the 1st time called “Paul”), “filled with the Holy Ghost,” fixed his eyes intently upon the sorcerer, bitterly condemned him for misrepresenting and opposing God, and predicted that he would be temporarily blind. The prediction was instantaneously fulfilled (Acts 13:9-11). This remarkable incident convinced the governor of the truth of the gospel, and he accepted it (v 12).


(2) Perga. Following their stay in Paphos, Paul and his group embarked for Perga (Acts 13:13), a city near the coast of Asia Minor, in a north-westerly direction from Paphos. Here John Mark, doubtless discouraged at the hardships and difficulties, left them and returned to Jerusalem (v 13).

(3) Antioch of Pisidia. Paul and Barnabas continued on to Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:14), a city some 100 mi. (c. 160 km.) north of Perga, in the Taurus Mountains. Invited to speak in the synagogue on the Sabbath, Paul preached of the resurrection of Christ (vs. 15-41). The sermon made such an impression that he was invited to preach to the Gentiles the following Sabbath (v 42). On this occasion “almost the whole city” came to hear the gospel (v 44). This aroused the jealousy and opposition of the Jews (v 45); thereupon Paul stated that, seeing the Jews spurned salvation, he would preach to the Gentiles (vs. 46, 47).

It is not known how long Paul and Barnabas laboured in this region. In any case it was long enough for the whole area surrounding the city to learn of the gospel (Acts 13:49). Their success finally aroused the active opposition of the Jews, who succeeded in persuading the magistrates to expel them from the city (v 50).

(4) Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. Some 80 mi. (c. 130 km.) east-south-east of Antioch was Iconium, the next place where Paul and Barnabas laboured. Great success attended their efforts (Acts 14:1), and they preached in that city a “long time,” their work being accompanied by miraculous attestations of divine favour (v 3). Meanwhile, the Jews who had rejected their message succeeded in turning many Gentiles against Paul and Barnabas, so that 2 factions arose in the city (vs. 2, 4). Finally it was planned to use violence against the apostles (v 5). Hearing of this, they fled to “Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia” (Acts 14:6; cf. Mt 10:23), about 23 mi. (c. 37 km.) south-south-west, and 52 mi. (c. 83 km.) south-east, of Iconium, respectively.


At Lystra Paul healed a man who had been a lifelong cripple (Acts 14:8-10). This miracle led the superstitious Lystrians to conclude—probably from an ancient myth describing the gods Zeus (Jupiter) and Hermes (Mercury) as visiting that part of the world—that Barnabas and Paul were Zeus and Hermes (Acts 14:11, 12). They prepared to offer sacrifice, and only with great difficulty was Paul able to dissuade them (vs. 13-18).

The apostle's labours in Lystra ended when Jewish enemies from Antioch and Iconium stirred up a mob, which stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city as dead (Acts 14:19). Miraculously preserved, Paul revived and re-entered the city, but departed the next day, accompanied by Barnabas (v 20).

Paul and Barnabas laboured next at Derbe, where they probably remained for some time, for they “made many disciples” (Acts 14:20, 21, RSV).

(5) Return to Antioch in Syria. From Derbe they began to retrace their journey back through Lystra, Iconium, and Pisidian Antioch, visiting each church on the way, strengthening the believers and appointing leaders (Acts 14:21-23). They also preached at Perga, where John Mark had deserted them near the beginning of their itinerary (v 25). Doubtless impatient to return to their home base at Antioch, the apostles embarked from the port of Attalia, a few miles from Perga, and sailed to Antioch in Syria (see Paul's First Missionary Tour). Arriving there they recounted to the church the story of their success among the Gentiles (vs. 25-27). Thus ended the 1st Missionary Journey, which had probably taken about 2 years to accomplish (c. a.d. 45-47). Paul remained in Antioch for some time (v 28), during which he no doubt continued to attract many Gentiles to Christianity.

2. Judaizers and the Jerusalem Council. A crisis now developed which, if not quickly resolved, could have greatly hindered the spread of Christianity to the Gentiles. A group of Jewish Christians from Judea visited the church at Antioch and began to teach that circumcision and the keeping of the Mosaic law were necessary for salvation (Acts 15:1). Paul and Barnabas, however, held that circumcision was not necessary for the Gentile converts. As a result “no small dissension and disputation” arose between the 2 parties (v 2). Finally the believers at Antioch decided that the matter should be taken to the leaders of the church at Jerusalem, and that Paul and Barnabas and certain others were to go there (v 2). This move may have been suggested by Paul, who later said that he had received a revelation concerning the matter and had gone up with Barnabas and Titus, a Greek convert, to consult the leaders (Gal 2:2, 3).


Arriving at Jerusalem, Paul and his companions were cordially welcomed by the believers (Acts 15:4). They began to recount how God had blessed the work among the Gentiles, but certain Pharisees, members of the church, soon raised the question of the necessity of circumcision and the keeping of the Mosaic law (v 5). Consequently, a council convened to decide the question (v 6). The matter was debated at length, with Peter, Barnabas, and Paul speaking against pressing the ceremonial law upon the Gentiles (vs. 7-12). Their view prevailed, and it was ruled that the Gentile converts should not be expected to be circumcised or to keep the Law of Moses. They were, however, told to abstain from pollutions of idols, fornication, things strangled, and blood (vs. 13-21).

Their mission successfully completed, Paul and the rest of the delegation from Antioch returned to that city, accompanied by certain brethren commissioned to go with them, carrying with them letters from the Jerusalem church. The outcome of the meeting was favourably received by the Antioch believers (Acts 15:22-31). The Jerusalem Council was held probably in a.d. 49.

Once again Paul and Barnabas took up their work of teaching and preaching in Antioch (Acts 15:35). It is possible that the sequel to the Jerusalem Council, which is related in Gal 2, took place during this time. Peter came to visit the believers at Antioch, and in keeping with the spirit of the council decision he ate with the Gentiles, a practice that was anathema to the Jews. However, when certain Judaizing Christians arrived in the city, Peter, possibly fearing a repetition of the former disputes on the subject of the ceremonial law, discontinued this practice (Gal 2:11, 12). In this compromise he was joined by Barnabas and others (v 13). Learning of this, Paul severely rebuked him in public for his behaviour (vs. 14-21).

Paul's mind now turned to the churches of Asia Minor. He suggested to Barnabas that they again visit them (Acts 15:36). Barnabas agreed, with the insistence that John Mark also go with them (v 37), but Paul refused on the ground that Mark had failed them before and was not to be depended upon (v 38). This difference of opinion grew into a contention that caused the 2 to separate; Paul chose a new travelling companion, Silas, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus (Acts 15:39).

3. Second Missionary Journey. Paul and Silas now began what is termed Paul's 2nd Missionary Journey. Travelling overland (see Paul's First Missionary Tour), they called upon the churches in Syria and Cilicia (Acts 15:40, 41). Doubtless they visited the believers in Paul's home town of Tarsus, in the latter province. Arriving in the area of Derbe and Lystra, Paul found another travelling companion, Timothy, a young man of good reputation, whose mother was Jewish and his father Greek (ch 16:1-3).

(1) Through Phrygia and Galatia. From Derbe and Lystra Paul and his fellow missionaries “went through the cities,” informing the churches of the decisions arrived at by the Jerusalem Council (Acts 16:4). These decrees, declaring that the Gentiles were not required to observe the ceremonial law, doubtless had much to do with the subsequent growth of the church in that region (v 5).
Paul and his companions next travelled “throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia” (Acts 16:6). It was at this time, according to the view adopted by this dictionary, that the church to which the Galatian epistle was addressed was established (see Galatia). It was consequently during this itinerary into Galatia that Paul was stricken with the “infirmity of the flesh” referred to in Gal 4:13. Paul planned next to do evangelistic work in the area west of Galatia, known at that time as Asia (Paul's First Missionary Tour), but was forbidden to do so by the Holy Spirit (Acts 16:6). Consequently, he and his companions turned toward Mysia in the north-west, intending to enter the region of Bithynia (Paul's First Missionary Tour) and preach there, but these plans were also thwarted by the Spirit (v 7). So they bypassed Bithynia and Mysia and continued their journey until they came to the city of Troas (Paul's First Missionary Tour), on the shore of the Aegean Sea (v 8).

(2) The Call to Macedonia. At Troas Paul's labours were turned to a new and challenging field. In a night vision he was urged by a man of Macedonia to bring the gospel to that country (Acts 16:9). Immediately he and his companions prepared to answer the call, which they recognised as being from God (v 10). Boarding a ship bound for Neapolis in Macedonia (Paul's First Missionary Tour), they arrived at that city on the 2nd day (Acts 16:11). From there they went to Philippi (v 12).


(3) At Philippi. There was apparently no Jewish synagogue in Philippi (Paul's First Missionary Tour), but learning of a certain place for prayer outside the city beside a river, Paul and his company resorted thither on the Sabbath, and Paul preached to a group of women gathered there (Acts 16:13). As a result, a woman merchant named Lydia, a halfway proselyte to Judaism, was converted and, with her household, was baptised. Her house then became the headquarters of Paul and his fellow workers (v 14).

Soon an incident occurred that halted Paul's endeavours in Philippi. A young female slave, supposedly possessing certain supernatural abilities which were used to the financial advantage of her masters, began to follow the missionaries, crying out that they were the “servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation” (Acts 16:16, 17). The annoyance reached the point where Paul could tolerate it no longer, so in the name of Jesus he cast out the evil spirit that had been controlling her (v 18). Since her supposed oracular abilities were now destroyed, her masters were deprived of the income she had brought to them. Incensed at Paul and Silas, they dragged the 2 before the civil authorities and accused them, as Jews, of teaching things inimical to the laws of Rome (vs. 19-21). This was sufficient to stir up the populace and the authorities against them. They were severely flogged and placed in stocks in an inner dungeon of the prison (vs. 22-24).

At midnight, while Paul and Silas were engaged in prayer and hymns of praise, a sudden earthquake shook the prison, threw open the doors, and released the fetters of all the prisoners (Acts 16:25, 26), probably by loosening the chains from the walls to which they were fastened. The prison keeper, awakened by the earthquake and seeing the doors open, concluded that the prisoners, for whom he was apparently responsible with his life, had escaped. He was about to take his own life when the reassuring voice of Paul informed him that not one had escaped (vs. 27, 28). Convinced by now that Paul and Silas were men of God, the jailer secured a light and, falling before them, asked how he might be saved. Paul told him of salvation by faith in Christ. Thereupon the jailer took the 2 apostles from the prison, treated their wounds, set a meal before them, and gathered his family to listen to their instruction. Before morning the jailer and all his family were baptised (Acts 16:29-33).

When morning came the civil authorities sent officers to the prison asking that Paul and Silas be released (Acts 16:35, 36). But Paul refused to go, stating that he and Silas, as Roman citizens, had been illegally beaten and imprisoned without a fair trial, and that therefore the ones who had unfairly condemned and publicly mistreated them must come and make amends publicly. Upon hearing this the city magistrates apologetically entreated them to leave the prison and the city. After visiting the house of Lydia and the brethren, the 2 men departed from Philippi (vs. 37-40).

(4) To Thessalonica and Beroea. Paul and party now journeyed westward (Paul's First Missionary Tour) to the cities of Amphipolis and Apollonia, and finally to Thessalonica (Acts 17:1). The statement that there was a Jewish synagogue at the latter place implies that there were none at the other cities; this probably explains why they did not stop there. At Thessalonica Paul followed his usual custom of preaching Christ in the synagogue. This he did for 3 successive Sabbaths, with the resultant conversion of some Jews, “of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few” (vs. 2-4). It would seem that Paul followed his trade of tent-making in the intervals between the Sabbaths (see Acts 18:3; 1 Th 2:9; 2 Th 3:8). But now a situation began to develop, the general pattern of which Paul was quite familiar with by this time. Certain of the unbelieving Jews, jealous of the success of Paul, threw the city into an uproar by stirring up a mob against him and his companions. This mob attacked the house of a certain Jason, where Paul and his friends had been staying. Failing to find them there, they dragged Jason and some other believers to the city authorities, accusing them of disturbing the peace and of setting up Jesus as a rival king to Caesar (Acts 17:5-7)—accusations that disturbed the citizens and rulers of Thessalonica. Consequently, Jason and the others were required to pay “security,” probably as a guarantee that they would keep the peace, and then were released (v 9), but the tense situation demanded that Paul and Silas leave the city. They travelled by night to Beroea (v 10).

Arriving at Beroea, Paul once again resorted to the synagogue, where he preached the gospel to the Jews. The Beroeans proved to be “more noble than those in Thessalonica,” in that they were willing to receive the gospel after verifying it from the Scriptures (Acts 17:11). Consequently, a large group, including an unspecified number of Greek women, became Christians (v 12). Meanwhile, word had gone back to Thessalonica of the work of Paul in Beroea, and so, not content with having expelled him from their own city, the Thessalonian Jews determined to drive him from Beroea also. Going to the city, they stirred up the populace against Paul. The believers immediately placed the apostle aboard a ship bound for Athens (Paul's First Missionary Tour), to which he sailed, accompanied by some Beroean Christians. Silas and Timothy, however, remained at Beroea (vs. 13-15).

(5) In Athens. It would appear from Acts that Paul had probably not intended to preach in Athens (Paul's First Missionary Tour) but had planned merely to await the coming of his co-workers. However, there is no mention in Acts of Silas and Timothy joining Paul in that city, although 1 Th 3:1-5 suggests that Timothy did go to Athens, but was almost immediately sent by Paul to the church at Thessalonica. In any case the sight of the many idols in Athens provoked him to action. According to one ancient report there were more than 3,000 statues there in Paul's day, the greater number of which were linked with pagan worship. Paul began to preach in the synagogue and in the market place, or agora . He gained the attention of certain Greek philosophers who, wishing to know more of his teachings, took him to the Areopagus (Acts 17:16-22), or Mars' Hill, in the civic centre of the city . Paul's address, a portion of which appears in vs. 22-31, was masterfully adapted to the thinking of his pagan listeners, but was successful only in causing them to mock him (v 32). He succeeded, however, in winning converts in that city (v 34).

(6) In Corinth. Following his experience at Athens, Paul journeyed westward alone to Corinth (Acts 18:1). (Paul's First Missionary Tour.) There he came in contact with Aquila and his wife, Priscilla, Jews who had recently come from Italy subsequent to a decree by the emperor Claudius banning Jews from Rome (v 2). Since these people, like Paul, were tentmakers, he stayed with them and plied his trade (v 3). Paul most probably arrived in Corinth early in a.d. 51; he remained there more than a year and 6 months (Acts 18:11, 18). At first he laboured with the Jews in the synagogue (v 4), as was his usual practice when entering a new city. However, when once again the majority of the Jews opposed and reviled him, he turned from them and began to work more directly for the Gentiles (v 6). No longer able to preach in the synagogue, he held his services in a house owned by a worshiper of God, next door to the synagogue (v 7). The gospel bore much fruit in that city, and among the converts was the ruler of the synagogue (v 8).

Meanwhile Silas and Timothy had arrived with cheering news of the faithfulness of the Thessalonians (Acts 18:5; 1 Th 3:6). These tidings inspired Paul, probably in a.d. 51, to write 1 Thessalonians, his first epistle that has been preserved. This was followed—possibly during late 51 or early 52—by 2 Thessalonians. See Thessalonians, Epistles to.

At last, active persecution, that had usually come so quickly in other cities, began to threaten Paul at Corinth also. His Jewish enemies accused him before Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia, of teaching a religion not legally recognised by Rome. However, Gallio drove the accusers away, refusing to become involved in a case that he regarded as a dispute over Jewish, rather than Roman, law. At this the crowd seized the ruler of the synagogue at that time and beat him in the sight of Gallio (Acts 18:12-17).

After an unspecified period, during which he was apparently able to preach without active opposition, Paul set sail for Syria (Paul's First Missionary Tour), accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:18). He tarried briefly in Ephesus, and preached in the synagogue. His message was received with favour by his hearers, who were probably both Gentiles and Jews, and he was invited to remain longer. However, he decided to continue his journey, promising to return if possible. He took ship for Caesarea (Paul's First Missionary Tour), leaving Priscilla and Aquila at Ephesus, doubtless to carry on the work begun there. Landing at Caesarea he briefly visited Jerusalem to salute the church, and then went on to Antioch, from which place his missionary journeys had begun (vs. 19-22). Thus ended Paul's 2nd Missionary Journey, which had lasted about 3 years, probably from some time in a.d. 49 to possibly late in a.d. 52.

4. Third Missionary Journey. The length of Paul's stay at Antioch after his 2nd Missionary Journey is not known. It is likely that some months, at least, elapsed before he started from there on his 3rd Missionary Journey (Paul's First Missionary Tour). He “went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia,” strengthening the churches he had earlier established (Acts 18:23). Having passed through the “upper coasts,” he at length arrived at Ephesus (ch 19:1), which was to be his chief centre during this itinerary.

(1) At Ephesus. In Ephesus (Paul's First Missionary Tour) Paul found about 12 men who had evidently been taught by Apollos, but who had not received a full knowledge of the gospel. These he instructed more fully, and upon being rebaptised they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:1-7). For about 3 months Paul preached and reasoned in the synagogue. Then because of opposition he and his converts moved to “the school of one Tyrannus,” where Paul held daily meetings (vs. 8, 9). This school became his headquarters for “two years,” during which “all they which dwelt in Asia” heard the gospel (v 10). Many miracles were wrought (vs. 11, 12), and a great number were converted, for “mightily grew the word of God and prevailed” (vs. 18-20).

Toward the end of his stay in Ephesus, Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, probably in the spring of a.d. 57 (see Corinthians, Epistles to). In that epistle he revealed his plans to visit Corinth via Macedonia after remaining at Ephesus until Pentecost (1 Cor 16:5-8; see Acts 19:21). However, circumstances soon arose that hastened his departure from that city. Opposition that had been building up for some time (see 1 Cor 15:32) came to a head shortly after his letter was dispatched. This happened when a silversmith named Demetrius, probably a prominent member of a guild of manufacturers of shrines in honour of the goddess Artemis (KJV “Diana”), became greatly concerned over the loss of business occasioned by so many turning to Christianity. He therefore called the craftsmen together and pointed out that Paul's preaching against the worship of idols had affected their business, not only locally but throughout much of the province of Asia. He further pointed out that Paul's preaching was undermining respect for the goddess and her temple, which “all Asia and the world” worshiped (Acts 19:23-27). At this Demetrius' hearers became highly incensed and began shouting, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians.” They succeeded in stirring the whole city to indignation. Seeking for someone upon whom to vent their wrath, they dragged 2 of Paul's travelling companions into the theatre . Paul decided to go in also, but was prevented by his disciples and some prominent Ephesian friends (vs. 28-31). The mob was finally calmed by the town clerk and dispersed without doing any damage (vs. 32-41). After this tumult Paul deemed it advisable to leave Ephesus, where he had spent “three years” (ch 20:1, 31), probably from about a.d. 54 to 57. Taking leave of the believers, he set out for Macedonia. For the possibility of a visit to Corinth during Paul's stay at Ephesus.

(2) To Macedonia, and to Corinth Again. Luke's account in Acts 20 passes very quickly over Paul's visit to Macedonia and Achaia, but certain details are supplied by his epistles. He went from Ephesus to Troas (Paul's First Missionary Tour), where his preaching was favourably received. In Troas the apostle expected to find Titus with a report of the reaction of the Corinthian church to his epistle (1 Cor) sent a short time before, and disappointed at not finding him there, he hurried to Macedonia (Paul's First Missionary Tour), with the believers at Corinth weighing heavily upon his heart (2 Cor 2:12, 13; cf. ch 1:9). There he found Titus, and he had encouraging tidings for him from Corinth (ch 7:5-7). Cheered greatly by this report, the apostle wrote 2 Corinthians, in which he promised to visit the Corinthian church (ch 13:1, 2), and dispatched it evidently by Titus (ch 8:6, 16, 17, 23). Paul then went southward into Greece (Acts 20:2) and visited the believers there. While at Corinth for about 3 months he wrote the epistles to the Romans and the Galatians (v 3), about a.d. 58.

(3) Return via Macedonia. Paul now planned to take ship for Syria, but just about the time for embarkation he learned of a plot by some Jewish enemies to kill him, probably while he was aboard ship. Consequently, he changed his plans and went by way of Macedonia, thus foiling the plot of his would-be murderers (Acts 20:3). He travelled northward, probably by way of Beroea and Thessalonica (Paul's First Missionary Tour), to Philippi. While several other companions crossed over to Troas, Paul and Luke remained at Philippi for the Passover and then “after the days of unleavened bread” sailed to join the others (Acts 20:4-6).

(4) Troas and the Voyage to Palestine. Paul spent a week at Troas. The evening before his departure a farewell service was held. About midnight a young man named Eutychus, who was sitting in an open window of the 3d-story room in which the meeting was being held, went to sleep, fell to the ground below, and was “taken up dead.” Hastening down, Paul embraced him and stated that his life was in him, and the youth revived (Acts 20:7-10, 12). Returning to the meeting room, the group celebrated the Lord's Supper, after which Paul conversed with them until dawn. Then he bade them farewell and departed (v 11) for the 20-mi. (c. 32 km.) walk across the peninsula to Assos, to rejoin the ship in which he had been travelling, and which had sailed around the point (Paul's First Missionary Tour). Having rejoined his companions in the ship, Paul sailed via Mitylene, Chios, and Samos to Miletus (vs. 13-17), some 40 mi. (c. 64 km.) south of Ephesus (Paul's First Missionary Tour). He had purposely bypassed Ephesus, for a stop there would unquestionably have made impossible his arrival at Jerusalem for Pentecost, which was but a short time away. He sent word to the elders of the Ephesian church to meet him at Miletus. The record of this meeting, during which Paul warned the elders against heresy and exhorted them to faithfulness, is one of the most touching passages of Acts (vs. 18-35). Before departing, Paul prayed with his visitors, then bade them a tearful farewell and boarded ship to continue his voyage (vs. 36-38). Having at length arrived, via Cos and Rhodes, at Patara, a city on the coast of Lycia, Paul and his companions boarded another ship and eventually reached Tyre (Paul's First Missionary Tour)in Phoenicia (ch 21:1-3). There they found some believers, and remained with them a week. During this time Paul was prophetically warned of the danger of going to Jerusalem. When it was time for him to rejoin his ship, the entire group of believers accompanied him to the shore. Paul's ship stopped next at Ptolemais, where he and those accompanying him spent one day with the brethren, and then continued the journey, probably by foot, to Caesarea. Here they stayed at the home of Philip the evangelist and deacon (Acts 21:4-8; cf. 6:5). At some time during the several days Paul stayed at Caesarea the prophet Agabus predicted that evil results would follow Paul's visit to Jerusalem. Upon hearing this both those accompanying the apostle and the church at Caesarea pressed him not to go, but he remained inflexible in his decision (ch 21:10-14).

IV. Paul, the Prisoner.

1. Paul Arrested at Jerusalem. When Paul and his company arrived at Jerusalem they were gladly received by the Christians there. The report that Paul gave to the leaders of the church regarding the spread of the gospel among the Gentiles caused great rejoicing. However, at the same time the leaders informed Paul that reports were circulating that he was urging the Hellenistic Jewish Christians, as well as the Gentile converts, not to follow circumcision and the other Mosaic laws (Acts 21:15-21). This report was untrue and obviously an invention of his enemies (cf. chs 16:3; 18:18; 24:14; 25:8). Nevertheless, it was suggested that, in order to prove that the accusations were false, Paul should join 4 other Jewish Christians, who were under vows, in performing an act of ceremonial purification in the Temple, thus publicly demonstrating that he had not rejected the Mosaic laws. To this Paul agreed. The period of this vow was almost ended when certain Jews from Asia, probably visitors to Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost, recognised Paul and stirred up the people against him by falsely accusing him not only of preaching against Jewish customs and institutions but also of having defiled the Temple by bringing Greeks into it (ch 21:22-29). The report of this alleged Temple desecration spread rapidly, attracting a crowd to the sacred precincts. Paul was seized and dragged from the Temple by the mob, who intended to kill him. Meanwhile, Claudius Lysias (ch 23:26), the military tribune in command of the Roman garrison, evidently stationed in the adjacent Tower of Antonia overlooking the Temple, heard of the disturbance. He hastily led soldiers to quell the uproar. Seeing that it was centred around Paul, the commander arrested him and had him fettered. This being done, he inquired who Paul was and what his crime was that had caused such a tumult. Failing to get any satisfactory answer from the mob, he ordered the apostle to be escorted to the “castle,” or “barracks,” evidently the Tower of Antonia. After being taken with difficulty through the angry crowd, Paul was able to convince the commander that he was not a criminal wanted by the Roman authorities. He was then granted permission to address the mob, which he did from the steps leading to the fortress (Acts 21:30-40), telling in “Hebrew,” that is, in Aramaic, the story of his life. His audience listened quietly until he told them how God had commissioned him to preach to the Gentiles. At these words the Jews broke into a tumult again and demanded his death.

Thereupon the commander, probably not understanding Aramaic and thus not knowing the reason for the sudden outburst, ordered that Paul be examined by scourging. As he was being bound for this purpose Paul disclosed the fact that he was a Roman citizen, and this saved him from torture. The next day Lysias, desiring fully to understand the reason for the disturbance, convened the Sanhedrin and set Paul before them, that the matter might be made clear (ch 22). Paul was in the presence of the Sanhedrin for only a few minutes when it became apparent that he was not to have a fair trial (ch 23:1-5). Thereupon he shrewdly split the council by stating that he was on trial for his belief, as a Pharisee in the resurrection of the dead. At this the Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection, began to contend with the Pharisees. Thus the Pharisees were forced into the position of defending Paul. So fierce did the contention grow that Lysias, fearing that the apostle would be dismembered in the struggle, sent his soldiers to rescue him and take him to the tower (vs. 6-10). That night Paul was given divine assurance that God was leading and that he would witness at Rome, as he had hoped (v 11). The next day his nephew (v 16), who had learned that a group of more than 40 men had taken a vow to assassinate Paul (vs. 12-15), came to the tower and informed the apostle, who bade him tell the story to Lysias. The commander, upon learning that he was to be asked to bring Paul before the Sanhedrin the next day in order to give the assassins an opportunity to murder his prisoner, immediately ordered that a strong army escort be prepared to take Paul that very night to Caesarea (vs. 17-24), the Roman capital of Judea.

2. Hearings at Caesarea. At Caesarea Paul was turned over to Felix, the governor of Judea, with a letter from Lysias. Felix questioned Paul and then directed that he be confined to the praetorium until his Jewish accusers should arrive from Jerusalem (Acts 23:25-35). After 5 days Ananias, the high priest, accompanied by certain elders, and Tertullus, a professional orator, appeared and accused Paul of sedition and of profanation of the Temple (ch 24:1-9). After the accused had spoken in his own defence, Felix delayed making a decision until further evidence was available. In the meantime Paul was granted a large measure of freedom (vs. 10-23). Some time later he was again brought before Felix and his Jewish wife, Drusilla. Apparently this hearing was not in the nature of a trial, but merely a pretext to hear what Paul had to say. On this occasion Paul “reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgement to come,” with the result that Felix' conscience was greatly, but evidently only temporarily, disturbed (vs. 24, 25). Following this event, Paul was kept a prisoner for 2 years, until Felix was replaced by Porcius Festus (vs. 26, 27). This was about a.d. 60.

Almost as soon as Festus took office the Jews requested that he send Paul to Jerusalem for trial, intending to assassinate him on the way from Caesarea. Festus refused, but invited them to make their charges against the apostle at Caesarea. This they did, making many unproved charges. Festus inquired whether Paul would be willing to stand trial in Jerusalem. Doubtless considering that an order to renew the trial in Jerusalem would be the equivalent to his death sentence, Paul decided to invoke his rights as a Roman citizen, and appealed to Caesar (Nero). The appeal was accepted, and Paul awaited transportation to Rome, safely out of reach of his angry countrymen (Acts 25:1-12).

Shortly after this Herod Agrippa II, king of territories north and east of Judea, came with his sister Bernice to pay a courtesy visit to Festus, the new governor of Judea. Festus related to them the story of Paul; whereupon Agrippa requested to hear the apostle for himself. The following day Paul was brought before the rulers (Acts 25:13-27), and was given permission to speak. He described his background, his conversion to Christianity, and his experiences of persecution from the Jews. When he told of Jesus and His resurrection from the dead, the pagan Festus declared the apostle to be mad. Nevertheless Paul strongly appealed to the king's convictions, but with no apparent success. Following Paul's defence the rulers decided that the prisoner might have been liberated had he not already appealed to Caesar (Acts 26:1-32).

3. The Voyage to Rome. The decision being made to send Paul to Rome (probably in the fall of a.d. 60), he, with other prisoners scheduled for the same journey, was placed in the custody of a centurion named Julius, who was charged with taking them to the capital (Acts 27:1). During this trip Paul had at least 2 Christian companions, Aristarchus (v 2), and Luke, the writer of Acts, as is shown by Luke's frequent use of “we” in the narrative. Soon after departure the vessel stopped at Sidon (Paul's First Missionary Tour). There Paul, who was well treated by the centurion, was permitted to visit the believers. From Sidon the ship sailed between the island of Cyprus and the mainland (Paul's First Missionary Tour) and finally reached Myra in Lycia (vs. 3-5), where the whole company boarded another ship bound for Italy (v 6). This ship then had 276 people aboard (v 37). Putting out to sea from Myra, they evidently encountered strong head winds so that it took several days to sail the less than 200 mi. (c. 320 km.) to Cnidus (see Paul's First Missionary Tour). At length the ship reached the island of Crete (B-3/4) and with difficulty sailed to a place called Fair Havens (vs. 7, 8). There they spent some time, debating whether, because of the lateness of the season, the voyage should be continued. Paul counselled against doing so, but the shipowner and the captain spoke in favour of it, and the centurion was influenced by the latter. Because Fair Havens was not suitable to winter in, they decided to try to reach Phoenix (Phenice), farther along the coast of Crete (vs. 9-12). Consequently, as soon as a suitable wind arose they left Fair Havens and headed toward Phoenix. Shortly afterward, however, a great tempest arose, blowing from the east or east-north-east, which drove the ship before it. When they found temporary shelter under the lee of a small island named Cauda (Clauda), they succeeded in hoisting aboard the ship's boat, which had heretofore been towed. At the same time the sailors, fearing that the ship would founder, fastened ropes completely around its hull for undergirding. They also lowered the gear to check the speed of their drift, for they feared that the ship would be driven upon the Syrtis (KJV “quicksands”), the treacherous sandbanks off the northern coast of Africa (Acts 27:13-17). Paul's First Missionary Tour. On the following day, since the storm continued unabated, it was deemed necessary to lighten the ship by jettisoning some of the cargo (cf. v 38).

The tempest persisted for several days until all hope was abandoned (Acts 27:20). At about this time Paul was given a vision, in which he was shown that no lives would be lost and that he would have the opportunity of standing before Caesar. He related this experience to his companions, exhorting them to be of good courage (vs. 21-26). At last, one night, 2 weeks after the storm struck, the sailors suspected that they were nearing land. Soundings of the depth of the water confirmed this, so that they began to fear that the ship would be driven upon the rocks and destroyed. The sailors anchored the ship, then sought to leave the vessel secretly in the boat. Paul insisted that the crew must remain at their posts if all were to be saved; so the soldiers cut the boat adrift (vs. 27-32). While all aboard were waiting for the dawn to decide what further to do, Paul urged them to partake of food, pointing out that they had been “fasting” for 14 days (vs. 33, 34).

After all had eaten, the anchored ship was further lightened by jettisoning the wheat (v 38). Dawn revealed unfamiliar land with a bay. Into this they decided to try to run the ship. They raised the anchors and endeavoured to steer into the bay. Drawing close to land, they were caught by violent crosscurrents, which hurled the ship upon the rocks, where it grounded. The stern was then broken off by the pounding waves. The soldiers, obviously considering that they were responsible for the prisoners with their own lives, now urged that the prisoners be killed lest they escape. However, the centurion, wanting to save Paul, forbade this. Instead he commanded all to attempt to get ashore as best they could, and all on board reached land safely (vs. 39-44). The land proved to be the island of Malta (KJV “Melita”), about 560 mi. (c. 900 km.) from their last landfall, the island of Cauda. The people of Malta treated the castaway group hospitably, and endeavoured to care for their needs. Paul, gathering fuel for the fire, was bitten by a viper, whereupon the superstitious Maltese concluded he was some great criminal being punished for this crimes. However, when he suffered no ill effects they decided instead that he must be some god (Acts 28:1-6). Paul and his company were invited to be guests of Publius, the “chief man” of Malta, and stayed with him 3 days (v 7). By the prayers of Paul, Publius' father was healed of dysentery. When the knowledge of this spread, many others who were sick came and were also healed. These happenings prompted the islanders to heap many gifts upon Paul and those with him. Finally, after spending 3 months on the island (v 11), the shipwrecked company sailed for Rome, probably in the spring of a.d. 61 on an Alexandrian ship that had wintered there (vs. 8-11). After stopping for 3 days at Syracuse, on the island now known as Sicily, the ship sailed to Rhegium at the southern tip of Italy, and then continued on to Puteoli, which was about 230 mi. (c. 370 km.) farther north-west (Paul's First Missionary Tour). At Puteoli Paul found some Christians—an evidence of the spread of the gospel in Italy . After a week with them he, with the rest of the travellers, started for Rome. Meanwhile, the report of his arrival in the country had preceded him to that city, so that groups of believers set out to meet him. These met Paul at the Forum of Appius (“Appii forum”) and Three Taverns , about 40 and 30 mi. (c. 64 and 48 km.), respectively, from Rome on the Appian Way. Paul was highly gratified and encouraged at this welcome (vs. 12-15).

4. First Imprisonment in Rome. Upon his arrival at Rome, Paul, with the other prisoners, was delivered to “the captain of the guard” (Acts 28:16, KJV), probably the chief of the Praetorian Guard (the imperial guard stationed at Rome) in charge of prisoners who appealed to the emperor. At this time the office was held by Burrus, a man of good principles, one whose restraining influence had helped to curb the emperor Nero's excesses. Paul, presumably on the recommendation of the centurion who had escorted him from Caesarea, was permitted to stay in his own living quarters, being guarded, however, by a soldier (v 16), to whom he was chained (see Acts 28:20; cf. Eph 6:20; Col 4:18). It should be noted, however, that important textual evidence may be cited for the omission of the clause “the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard”.

Three days after his arrival in Rome, Paul invited the Jewish elders to visit him. After he had explained to them the reason for his imprisonment they agreed on a time for Paul to expound to them the Christian doctrines. On the appointed day many came to his lodging to hear him as he “testified the kingdom of God.” This meeting lasted all day, during which the truths that Paul preached were doubtlessly debated back and forth. At the end of the meeting some believed and some, probably the majority, did not; “they agreed not among themselves.” At this Paul quoted from Is 6:9, 10, reproving the unbelieving for refusing to accept the light that had come to them (Acts 28:17-28). The book of Acts and the Bible account of the apostle's life is rather abruptly ended at this point with the statement that Paul, clearly still a prisoner, was nevertheless able to live for 2 years in his own rented lodging , obviously under guard, and had visitors to whom he preached Christ (vs. 30, 31).

For the rest of the story of Paul's life we must depend upon scant clues found in his various epistles written during and after his 1st imprisonment in Rome, upon statements contained in other early writings, and upon tradition. The epistles of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon were written during this 1st period in Rome. These epistles reveal that the imprisonment was a trying experience for the aged apostle (Eph 3:1; 6:20; Col 4:18; Phm 1, 9, 10). From Acts 27:2 and Eph 6:21 we know that Luke, Aristarchus, and Tychicus were his companions. He also had with him Mark, Justus, Epaphras, and Demas, possibly for only part time (Col 4:10-12, 14; cf. 2 Ti 4:10) Epaphroditus delivered Paul's epistles to the Philippians (Php 2:25-30). Tychicus carried the letter to the Ephesians (Eph 6:21, 22) and, accompanied by Onesimus, the letter to the Colossians (Col 4:7-9), and the one to the Christian slaveowner, Philemon. Onesimus, Philemon's slave who had escaped to Rome, seems to have been converted by Paul at Rome (Col 4:9; Phm 10). From Php 4:18 we learn that the Philippians sent gifts to Paul delivered by Epaphroditus.

5. Acquittal and Subsequent Activities. At the end of 2 years (probably a.d. 63), Paul was tried at the judgement seat of Nero and released. The epistles written during this period of freedom, 1 Timothy and Titus, show that the apostle once more conducted missionary travels after his release. Clement of Rome (The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians 5) says that Paul preached in both East and West. Since the apostle had planned to go to Spain (Rom 15:24, 28), it is possible that he now visited that country. The Muratorian Fragment (c. a.d. 190) states that he did visit Spain. Paul probably also carried out his expressed purpose of visiting Philippi (Php 2:24) and Colossae (Phm 22; cf. Col 4:9; Phm 10). From 1 Ti 1:3 we can conclude that he went to Macedonia and Ephesus. He also apparently visited Crete (Tit 1:5), and possibly Corinth (2 Ti 4:20). He also may have spent a winter (perhaps a.d. 65) at Nicopolis (Tit 3:12), on the western coast of Greece.

6. Second Imprisonment at Rome, and Death. The Scripture narrative is silent concerning the events that led to Paul's final arrest. It may well be that the occasion for it came in connection with Nero's cruel persecutions of the Christians at that time. Paul was a prominent leader among them, and therefore a natural target for the sadistic ferocity of the emperor. Nicopolis, Ephesus, and Troas have been suggested as possible places where Paul was seized, with Troas being the most likely (2 Ti 4:13). He was taken to Rome, where he received none of the favours granted him during his former imprisonment. According to tradition he was confined in the Mamertine prison, on the Roman Forum, and was chained (ch 2:9) like a common criminal. He was forsaken by practically everyone (ch 4:16; cf. vs. 11, 20). Paul's last extant epistle, that of 2 Timothy, was written at this time. When it was penned Paul had doubtless already been brought to trial once and had defended himself (vs. 16, 17). He seemingly expected a 2nd trial shortly and he evidently expected to be sentenced to death (v 6). However, he urged Timothy to put forward every effort to visit him before his death (2 Ti 4:9, 21). Early Christian authors are unanimous in declaring that Paul died under Nero at Rome. His execution, then, which tradition says was by decapitation somewhere on the Ostian Way, must have taken place at least by a.d. 68, for Nero himself died that year. He was executed probably sometime between a.d. 66 and 68. The apostle's own words in 2 Ti 4:7, 8 offer a fitting epitaph of his life and the purpose of his life: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” -- Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary.

Sign Up for our Newsletter