The Life of Paul

This may sound strange, but one of my favorite things to do when I have a few moments to waste is to watch movie trailers.  Yes, strange I know.  However, the other day, after watching the trailer for the upcoming movie about the life of Paul, I conducted a quick review of his life as depicted in the Bible and provide a brief synopsis.

First, Paul’s background is somewhat different than other New Testament writers.  He was born in Tarsus as a Jew, but inherited the rights of a Roman citizen.[1]  This allowed him to blend in and gain access to both cultural groups, which he used to his advantage during the years of his ministry.  In the area that he grew up, it is safe to assume that he came into contact with many Hellenistic ideas and practices.  However, his training as a Rabbi in Jerusalem solidified his adherence to the Jewish faith and Mosaic law.  In fact, due to his training, he became a staunch Pharisee intent on enforcing the law, but his views greatly differed from his rabbinic teacher.  This enforcement included, ironically, persecuting Christians and dismantling the early Church, which greatly skewed his interpretation of the rabbinic training that he received.[2]

Second, the conversion of Paul to Christianity was a divine act of God, and included a personal message and confirmation from God in the form of temporary blindness.[3]  I believe that God chose Paul to be his messenger to the Gentiles due to his notorious reputation as a persecutor.  This demonstrated to both Jews and Gentiles that God can use anyone, despite their past, to spread his Message to the world.

Third, the exact chronology of Paul’s life is difficult to determine based on the sources of evidence available.  Even though it is fairly easy to lay out a general order of events in his life using Acts and his own letters, transferring these events to a specific timeline is not.  However, by cross-referencing historical documents, events, and individuals with events mentioned in Canonical texts, we can assign general time periods to events in Paul’s life.  Some credible sources include the Gallio Inscription and the Claudius Edict.[4]  The book of Acts is vital to this process since it provides a baseline for comparison.

Finally, after Paul’s conversion, he began his ministry with a trip to Arabia.  Upon his return to Jerusalem, his ministry became a highly mobile, church-planting force that spanned the Roman Empire.  With a church base in Antioch of Syria, Paul and his associates conducted three missionary journeys that covered Syria, Asia Minor, Greece, and Rome.  During these trips, Paul was imprisoned, shipwrecked, and even stoned.  However, due to the power of the Holy Spirit guiding his actions, Paul persevered and spread the message of salvation to both Jews and Gentiles.[5]


[1] Thomas D. Lea and David Alan Clark, The New Testament: Its Background and Message, (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2003), 346.

[2] Ibid., 347.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., 349-350.

[5] Ibid., 348.

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