Paul: Biography from Acts

The following is a simple, chronological biography of St. Paul as described in Acts:

Persecutor. Paul, initially named Saul, was a Roman Citizen (Acts 22:25-29), a Jew of Tarsus (Acts 21:30) who was educated in Jerusalem under Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). He defended a strict form of Pharisaism (Acts 22:3; 23:6) and persecuted Christians (Acts 7:58; 8:3; 26:9-10) and went to Damascus on the authority of the High Priest for that purpose (Acts 9:1-2; 22:5; 27:12).

Conversion. on the way he saw a vision of the risen Christ which convinced him that He was the Messiah (Acts 9:3-8; 22:6-10; 26:13-19). Completing his journey to Damascus (Acts 9:8) he was cured of his temporary blindness and baptised by Ananias (Acts 9:10-19). He preached in Damascus but rising Jewish hostility (Acts 9:19-25) drove him to Jerusalem where the Disciples' fear of him was overcome by Barnabas (Acts 9:26-27). He stayed some time attempting to convert Greek Jews but after a plot to kill him he went to Tarsus (Acts 9:28-30) for an indeterminate period but his preaching must have had some impact as he was called by Barnabas to assist in Antioch (Acts 11:22-26). They went briefly to Jerusalem in the time of famine (Acts 11:27-30) before returning (Acts 12:25).

First Journey. In a revolutionary move Paul and Barnabas were sent with John Mark out of the Province of Syria Cilicia on a mission (Acts 13:1-5) first to Cyprus (Acts 13:4-12) and then to Perga in Pamphylia (Acts 13:13) where John Mark left them before they went to Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:14-50), Iconium (Acts 13:51-14:5) Lystra (Acts 14:6-20) and Derbe in Galatia (Acts 14:20-21); then they returned to Perga (Acts 14:21-25), and via the neighbouring port of Attalia to Antioch Acts 14:25-26.

Council of Jerusalem. Controversy arose in Antioch because of an influx of missionaries from Jerusalem stipulating circumcision for gentiles (Acts 15:1) so Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem (Acts 15:2) to attend the 'Council' which ruled in favour of Antioch (Acts 15:4-21) recorded in a letter (Acts 15:22-32).

Second Journey. Paul and Barnabas resolved to re-visit the places from their first journey but apparently fell out over John Mark who went with Barnabas to Cyprus while Paul went with Silas to Derbe, Lystra (where Timothy joined them) and Iconium (Acts 15:36; 16:2). What happened next is disputable as Acts 16:6-8 is enigmatic but he did reach Troas, then Neapolis (Cavalla), Philippi (Acts 16:11-40), Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-9), Beroea (Acts 17:10-14), establishing the Macedonian church. Leaving Timothy and Silas, he went to Athens (Acts 17:15-34) and then Corinth, where Timothy and Silas rejoined him, staying for more than a year (Acts 18:1-17) before returning via Ephesus, and possibly Jerusalem, to Antioch (Acts 18:18-22).

Third Journey. Travelling through Galatia and Phrygia in the province of Asia, Paul stayed in Ephesus (Acts 18:23) for 2.1/4 years (Acts 19:1-10) but was forced to leave by Demetrius the silversmith (Acts 19:23-41). He passed through Macedonia, visited Achaia (Acts 20:1-2) (probably Corinth) intending to sail to Syria; but following news of a plot he went overland through Macedonia to Philippi (Acts 20:1-6) and Troas (Acts 20:4-6). He then went by land and sea to Jerusalem via Assos (Acts 20:6; 20:13), Mitylene, Chios, Samos, Miletus (where he said goodbye to the Ephesian Presbyters) (Acts 20:14-38), Cos, Rhodes, Patara, Tyre, Ptolemais, Caesaria (Acts 21:1-8) (where the party stayed with Philip the Evangelist (Acts 21:8-9) and where Agabus foretold Paul's imprisonment Acts 21:10-11).

Imprisonment and Appeal to Rome. At Jerusalem Paul was received by St. James (Acts 21:18) who suggested he should take a vow to pacify the Jews (Acts 21:19-24) but before it was completed Asian Jews accused him of bringing Greeks into the Temple (Acts 21:25-29) and his life was saved in the ensuing tumult by Lysias, the head of the Roman Garrison (Acts 21:33; 23:36).

Paul was tried four times over more than two years (Acts 24:27) without a decision; by: the Sanhedrin (Acts 22:30; 23:10); Governor Felix in Caesarea (after he had been moved there to foil an assassination plot) (Acts 23:12-27); Felix' successor Festus after which he appealed to Rome (Acts 25:1-12); Herod Agrippa II (whose favourable verdict was annulled by Paul's prior appeal) (Acts 25:13; 26:32).

Paul, accompanied by st. Luke (Acts 27:1-2) left Caesarea for Myra via Sidon (Acts 27:2-5) before taking an Italian bound ship which laboured towards Crete but in spite of late Autumn the captain pushed on, was caught in a fierce North-Easterly and was wrecked on Malta (Acts 27:6-44) where he wintered (Acts 28:1-10) before taking ship for Syracuse, Regium and, finally, Puteoli (Acts 28:11-13). Paul was met at the Three Taverns by Roman Christians (Acts 28:14-15) and was lodged in the custody of a soldier (Acts 28:16) but he was free to preach (Acts 28:30-31) and did so for at least two years.

This account conflicts in some important respects with Paul's own accounts of his life, notably in Galatians. apart from some interesting but not particularly important itinerary problems, the main issue is the sequence of his meetings with the Church at Jerusalem.

It is not known what the result was of his trial but, given Roman court proceedings, it is highly likely that he would have been acquitted for want of credible witnesses. Tradition says that he died a martyr.

Map of Paul's Three Journeys to be provided at the meeting of the group.

KC viii/06

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