Paul of Tarsus

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An examination of Paul of Tarsus life and teachings as seen in the early Christian literature likely written by him

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                                             Paul of Tarsus Unit One

                                      Lecture One



The Apostle Paul, to the many Christians who have had the opportunity to do a cursory study of this remarkable 1st century icon of the primitive church, still remains a highly enigmatic figure, even though he did much of the writing of the New Testament. Paul, through no fault of his own, has not been given enough extant historical material that can be mined to give us a thorough analysis of this fascinating figure who has come to dominate much of the New Testament Theology embraced by Western culture.

It is possible, however, to combine scriptural analysis and anthropological research, with extra-biblical source information to produce a reasoned analysis of the possible cultural milleu, education, and other environmental influences in the early life of Paul that helped to shape him into the man that was divinely called to shepherd the new church into it's mission to all humanity. To the extent this is possible, the ultimate purpose of this paper is to shed additional light upon the early years of Paul, ending with a brief analysis of the effect of his upbringing on his theology.

There is always the danger present in giving a reasoned historical analysis of the bible and biblical figures of allowing too much "higher criticism" of the scriptural text to "creep" into the analytical process. To avert this, this paper will take a "high view" of scripture, and a more "pedestrian" approach in terms of presenting historical reasoning and extra-biblical information. It is with this in mind that most of the writing contained in this paper will be in a "conversational" form, rather than in an intensely analytical format. This is to help the reader digest the information readily, and to give the reader the distinct impression that the information given in this paper was meant to affirm the inspired writ, and not to challenge, disprove, or belittle God's word.

I. Paul's Background:


His Birthplace

The exact year of the birth of Paul is unknown to us, however many biblical historical scholars have given a time frame of as early as 4 B.C.E. to as late as 5 C.E. Biblical historical scholar F.F. Bruce has given the following statement concerning this: "Saul, who is also called Paul, was born in Tarsus, the principal city of Cilicia, probably in one of the first few years of the Christian era."1 Scholar George T. Montague gives us this statement: "In A.D. 5 Paul was born in Tarsus, in Cilica (Acts 21:39, 22:3),2 no insignificant city" (Acts 21:39). The city of Tarsus, where Paul was born, was a very important city in Paul's day, as it was one of the largest trade centers on the Mediterranean coast. It was a seaport city, about twelve miles up the river Cydnus, with a harbor that was well protected by natural rock fortifications.

The general population of Tarsus in Paul's day was over a quarter of a million people. People came to Tarsus from all over the Roman empire to live and work in this prosperous city. Tarsus had become a rich city mainly because of trade. Merchants from Tarsus were well known throughout the Roman empire. Tarsian merchants were noted for their love of their craft, and their almost fanatic zeal in their monetary investments in their city's infrastructure. The merchants of Tarsus invested in good roads, education, public health and city beautification projects. One of the largest sources of income for merchants was the Tarsus mountains, about twenty five miles north of the city. The Tarsus Mountains were rich in minerals and lumber. The mountain slopes were populated by huge herds of black goats. From the hair of the goats a strong cloth was woven, called cilicium. Cilicium was used for many purposes, such as cloaks, floor coverings, house partitions, bags to transport corpses, and tents. Throughout the Roman world, Tarsians were known for the quality of their tents. Historian John Pollock had the following to say about the popularity of tents from Tarsian craftsmen: "The black tents of Tarsus were used by caravans, nomads, and armies all over Asia Minor and Syria"3 (italics mine). 

Tarsus had been in existence as a city centuries before Paul was born. Several hundred years prior to his birth, during the period of Alexander the Great, the city was the most influential in Asia Minor. Alexander the Great brought Hellenization (Grecian thought, influence, and customs) with him when he took over the city and all of Asia Minor. After Alexander's death, one of his generals Seleucis took over the region that included Tarsus, proclaimed himself king and established the Selucidic dynasty that lasted several hundred years. One of the kings in that dynasty, Antiochus Epiphanes, fell in love with the city, and recognizing how important the city was to his kingdom, gave the citizens virtually anything they wanted. In 170 B.C.E. the citizens of the city asked Antiochus if they could govern themselves without outside influence other than Antiochus' own, and he granted them their request. Antiochus gave Tarsus the status of a Greek city-state in 170 B.C.E. In 64 B.C.E., Rome defeated the Selucidic dynasty and Tarsus became part of the Roman empire. The Romans, who understood that for a hundred years Tarsian citizens had enjoyed privileged status because of their importance in trade, followed the example left by their predecessors. The Romans made Tarsus the capital city of the Roman province of Cilica, and gave the city special status. Historian Robert Picirilli had the following to say concerning the special status given to Tarsus by the Roman senate: "It was also awarded, by the Roman senate, the privileged standing of Libera Civitas."4 The term Libera Civitas simply means "free city." The Romans, following the example of the previous Seleucidic rulers, allowed Tarsus to govern herself separately from the provincial government. This meant that Tarsus was exempt from paying any taxes to Rome, and all Tarsian merchants were exempt from all duty taxes. Under Roman rule, the status of the city enhanced five-fold, and the city's population increased dramatically. 

Tarsus was widely known in antiquity as a "university city," as well as a city of commerce in Paul's day. Educators from all over the Roman empire came to teach at the schools of learning at Tarsus. Grecian, Egyptian, Roman, African, and many other scholars came, bringing their learning and culture with them. Tarsian merchants and others invested heavily in the education of Tarsian citizens, and no expense was spared in the recruitment of top educators from all over the empire. Historian Robert H. Gundry had the following to say concerning Greco-Roman education and the university at Tarsus: 

"Greco-Roman education was liberal in its scope. Slaves supervised boys in their earlier years by giving them their first lessons and then leading them to and from private schools until they graduated into adulthood with a great deal of ceremony. As young men, they could then attend universities at Athens, Rhodes, Tarsus, Alexandria, and other places to study philosophy, rhetoric, law, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, geography, and botany" (italics mine).5

It becomes immediately obvious that Tarsus was an ancient "ivy league" university, one in which students could receive a top flight education. This university was known to have intellectual leanings toward "Stoicism," and one of it's most famous graduates was the personal teacher and tutor of the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus. Moreover, the Roman Historian Strabo once ranked Tarsus above Athens and Alexandria as an intellectual community. Historian Howard Clark Kee had the following to say concerning this: "Strabo, the historical geographer of the period, ranked Tarsus even above Athens and Alexandria as a center of intellectual life. Athenodorus, the Stoic teacher of Caesar Augustus, had come from Tarsus."6 Historian F.F. Bruce also mentions that the Stoic teacher Athenodorus returned to Tarsus in 15 B.C.E. to teach, and become involved in local politics: "Athenodorus, who could number the Emperor Augustus among his pupils, returned to his native Tarsus in 15 B.C. and reformed the civic administration."7 It is within the context of this intellectually stimulating university community that Paul is born, unquestionably being exposed to the university's dominant Stoic philosophy while growing up in Tarsus. Historian Howard Clark Kee makes this speculation about the influence of Stoic philosophy on Paul: 

"It is not surprising, therefore, that traces of Stoic ethics and religious vocabulary may be found in the letters of Paul. Perhaps the sympathy of Paul with the Gentiles is traceable in part to the impression made upon him by the earnestness of the Stoic preachers who stood in the streets and market places of the city, seeking to inculcate virtue in their listeners."8 

Stoicism was the dominant philosophy in the university town of Tarsus, and it had an effect upon the populace, both Jews and Gentiles. No citizen was totally immune to it's influence, as it was pervasive in all aspects of the culture of Tarsus. 


Paul The Roman Citizen

Paul was born a Roman citizen, in a prominent, wealthy family in Tarsus. Roman citizens commonly had two names, one which indicated their background or heritage apart from Rome, and the other, which would be their Roman heritage. Paul's Roman name Saul Paulus was such a name. "He bore two names, the Hebrew Saul meaning "desired" or "asked for," and the Roman Paulus, meaning "small."9 Roman citizenship in Tarsus, even for the wealthy, was not automatic. Rome had made Tarsus a self-governing city, but did not grant Roman citizenship for every citizen of Tarsus. If a citizen of Tarsus was from a family of social standing of four generations or more, they were generally granted citizenship status. Paul's father more than likely inherited citizenship from his father, and Paul inherited citizenship from his father. In the book titled Great People of the Bible And How They Lived, edited by Harvard Old Testament historian G. Earnest Wright, the following excerpt is given:

"Paul was born into a devout Jewish family in the city of Tarsus, capital of the small Roman district of Cilicia in Asia Minor. His father, a member of the ancient tribe of Benjamin, named him Saul, after Israel's first king. (Later in life, Saul became better known by his Roman name Paul.) A man of standing in the community, he held the privileged status of Roman citizen, an honor rarely conferred upon Jews. His son inherited this legal advantage."10 

Roman citizenship had many advantages. If a Roman citizen was arrested by local authorities, they were automatically entitled to a fair trial. If they felt the outcome was not fair, they could appeal directly to the emperor for judgment. Local Tarsian citizens who did not have Roman citizenship did not have the same privileges. Roman citizens could also serve in government posts, vote in Roman affairs, join the Roman legion, and become members of the senate. Anyone who was a citizen of Rome had a tremendous advantage as a resident of Tarsus. 


Paul And His Grecian Cultural Environment

Paul had been raised in a Hellenistic (Greek thought, influence and customs) society in Tarsus. In the book of Acts, chapter 21, we find that Paul spoke fluent Greek to the Roman military captain, Lysias, to stop a crowd from lynching him. Historian and exegete William Barclay stated the following: "The captain was amazed to hear the accents of cultured Greek coming from this man (Paul) whom the crowd were out to lynch."11 Paul was fluent in Koine Greek, a Greek tongue commonly spoken in his native city of Tarsus, as well as being fluent in Classical Greek, which indicated that he had been exposed to Greek learning at the university level. George T. Montague had the following to say concerning Paul's use of "Classical" Greek and his possible exposure to the university or philosophical schools in his training:

"His mastery of the Greek literary technique of the diatribe and his occasional citation of Greek authors (Aratus in Acts 17:18; Meander in 1 Cor. 15:23; Epimenides in Tit 1:1) are considered by some as evidence that he frequented the Hellenistic schools of rhetoric."12 

Church History scholar John Drane takes the argument to another level, discussing the following speculative reasonings concerning Paul's exposure to Greek philosophy:

"Of the many philosophical schools of the time, Stoicism was probably the most congenial to Paul. One or two of the great Stoics came from Tarsus, and Paul may have remembered something about their teachings from his youth. Some scholars have suggested that Paul's acquaintance with Stoic philosophy was closer than this. In 1910 Rudolf Bultmann pointed out that Paul's reasoning sometimes resembles the Stoics' arguments. Both use rhetorical questions, short disconnected statements, an imaginary opponent to raise questions, and frequent illustrations drawn from athletics, building, and life in general. It is even possible to find phrases in Paul's teaching which could be taken to support Stoic doctrine; for example the statement that "all things were created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together " (Colossians 1:16-17)....Paul's letters also often reflect Stoic terminology - as when he describes morality in terms of what is "fitting" or "not fitting" (Colossians 3:18; Ephesians 5:3-4). No doubt Paul would know and sympathize with many Stoic ideals."13 

This highly reasoned argument by Drane is based upon the many parallels of Stoic doctrine and the Bible. Both are monotheistic, both believe in living according to the will of God, (or nature in the case of Stoicism). British Scholar F. W. Walbank, who was the Rathbone Professor of Ancient History and Classical Archaeology at the University of Liverpool, had the following to say concerning Stoicism:

"This school, set up in the Painted Hall (Stoa Poikile) by Zeno of Citium in Cyprus (335-263), taught a complete philosophical system which with certain modifications was to flourish throughout the Hellenistic period and to become the most popular philosophy during the first two centuries of the Roman Empire. It had several main tenets. The only good is in virtue, which means living in accordance with the will of god or nature - the two being more or less identified. One's knowledge of what that is depends on an understanding of reality, which (contrary to the views of the skeptics) can be acquired through the senses by a 'perception conveying direct apprehension' (kataleptike phantasia), as the Stoic jargon described accepting the evidence of the senses. Such virtue is the only good: all else (if not positively evil) is indifferent."14 

Stoic philosophy, it would appear, was embraced as the "popular philosophy" of the Roman Empire in Paul's day. It is easy to see how Paul, being taught Stoic fundamentals, used Stoicism in metaphorical language to get his audiences to understand his point. This approach would have been the one that would have made the most sense in the impartation of God's word. It is very easy to picture Paul intertwining Stoic philosophical techniques and ideas with the truths contained in the gospel, to assist Gentile audiences in their understanding of the word of God. Paul utilized his Grecian cultural and educational background as leverage in his efforts to convert and train Gentile hearers in the way of the Lord.


II. Paul As A Jew 

Paul's Religion: Judaism

Judaism, in Paul's day was considered to be influential, with many followers in Palestine and throughout the Roman empire. It was considered to be the "official" religion of the Jews, and as such, was deemed legal by Rome. Although first and foremost considered to be a Jewish religion, there were many non-Jews (Gentiles) who had converted to Judaism's monotheistic and ethical beliefs, which had wide appeal to those who had already embraced much of it's tenets found in philosophy, but were dissatisfied with the limitations found in Greek philosophy. Judaism can best be described as a religion based upon the law given to Moses by God. The keeping of the law was the most notable characteristic emphasis of Judaism. It was the most important duty a Jew or believing Gentile could do to fulfill their obligation as a member of the "covenant community" of believers. In Paul's day rabbis were the teachers and exegetes of the sacred writings found in the Torah. Scribes were the professional copiers of the law, and also assisted rabbis in the interpretation of the law. Synagogues, scattered throughout much of the Roman Empire, were places that were devoted to the study, training, preaching and teaching of the law. The Synagogue was the place where most Jews went to be educated by the rabbis, attend synagogue social functions, and hear the message from a rabbi or qualified layman on the Sabbath.

There were three different main sects within Judaism in Paul's day, Pharisees, Saducees, and the Essenes. Of these three, the Essenes were the most strict as a religious order. They generally shunned marriage, and were a male only order. They lived very austere lives, much like the monks of Christian religious orders in the Catholic Church many centuries later. They generally lived in remote places in the country and desert. There they studied and copied their scriptures, and worshipped God together. The 1st century Jewish Historian Josephus was very impressed with their piety toward God and their industriousness. He said the following concerning this:

"And as for their piety toward God, it is very extraordinary; for before the sunrising they speak not a word about profane matters, but put up certain prayers which they have received from their forefathers, as if they made a supplication for its rising. After this every one of them are sent away by their curators, (supervisors) to exercise some of the arts wherein they are skilled, in which they labor with great diligence to the fifth hour."15 

The Essenes were pious and very industrious. They benefited themselves and society as a whole by their labors. They fed the hungry, taught the illiterate, and preserved the law of Moses and other OT writings by their diligence in the copying of it. The recent discovery in the 20th century of the Dead Sea Scrolls of scripture were made possible by the work of the Essenes. 

The Sadducees were a small sect of Judaism, populated mostly by the rich and powerful in Jewish society. The Sadducees did not believe in angels or in life after death. According to Robert Picirilli "Their real interests were concerned more with this life and the present than with the life to come and the future."16 Most of the high offices in the Jewish religious courts, most notably the Sanhedrin, were tightly controlled by the Sadducees. The priesthood of the great temple of Jerusalem was also controlled exclusively by the Sadducees. The Sadducees were always trying to gain an economic or political advantage whenever possible. Religion to the majority of them was just a convenient way to gain power, money, and influence. They were treacherous, even to each other. Josephus had this to say about them: "The behavior of the Sadducees one towards another is in some degrees wild; and their conversation with those that are of their own party is as barbarous as if they were strangers unto them."17 The Sadducees were only in Judaism for political or economic gain. Their religion had deteriorated to a sham. There were only a few pious followers among the Sadducees.

The Pharisees were the largest sect of Judaism. The majority of Orthodox Jews were Pharisees, as was Paul and his family. Their religion centered around the law of Moses and was legalistic in nature. Josephus had this to say concerning the Pharisees, of whom he was a member: "The Pharisees are those who are esteemed most skillful in the exact explication of their laws."18 

The Pharisees believed that following God meant obeying the laws of Moses with exact detail. Laws of ceremonial purity were also zealously kept by the Pharisees, as well as rules for keeping of the Sabbath day. The Pharisees, in their zeal for keeping the law of Moses, built a set of rabbinic rules to build a hedge and "protect" the sacred laws of Moses. In Paul's day it was known as the "Oral Torah" or traditional sayings applicable to daily living. Eventually, in later centuries it evolved into the Talmud, which consisted of the Mishnah (oral law) and the Gemara (rabbinical comments). The rabbinic rules were incredibly detailed in Paul's day. If the Mosaic law forbade one to work on the Sabbath, the rabbinic rule to build a hedge and "protect" that part of the law took it a step further. The rabbinic rule would not only inform the people that they could not work on the Sabbath, it would tell them that they could not carry or touch any of their tools on the Sabbath. Because of this tradition of rules, rabbis became very prominent in Jewish society. The people were constantly going to the synagogues to consult with rabbis to make sure that they were following their religion to the letter, and not offending God.


Paul's Education

For Paul, as an Orthodox Pharisee, his education would have started in the synagogue very young at around the age of five. This is because of traditional Jewish belief that the instilling of the law must start early in life. The Jewish philosopher Philo said the following concerning this:

"For all men are eager to preserve their own customs and laws, and the Jewish nation above all others; for looking upon their laws as oracles directly given to them by God Himself, and having been instructed in this doctrine from their very earliest infancy they bear in their souls the images of the commandments contained in these laws as sacred."19 

In addition to this, the following statement is a direct quote from the Jewish Mishnah:

"At five years old one is fit for the Scripture, at ten years for the Mishnah, at thirteen for the fulfilling of the commandments, at fifteen for the Talmud, at eighteen for the bride-chamber, at twenty for pursuing a calling, at thirty for authority, at forty for discernment, at fifty for counsel, at sixty for special strength, at ninety for bowed back, and at a hundred a man is as one that has already died and passed away and ceased from the world."20 

From the writings of the Jewish Historian Josephus we learn the following concerning the tradition of teaching young children the precepts of the law:

"Nay, indeed, the law does not permit us to make festivals at the births of our children, and thereby afford occasion of drinking to excess; but it ordains that the very beginning of our education should be immediately directed to sobriety. It also commands us to bring those children up in learning, and to exercise them in the laws, and make them acquainted with the acts of their predecessors, in order to their imitation of them, and that they may be nourished up in the laws from their infancy, and might neither transgress them nor yet have any pretense for their ignorance of them."21 

Gleaning from these sources, we can assume that Paul started his education at or around the age of five, studying the Pentateuch. At the age of ten, he would have advanced to the Mishnah, which dealt with detailed tradition. At the age of thirteen he would have completed his study of the Mishnah, and would have been ready for formal rabbinical school training. It was more than likely at this age that Paul left Tarsus to live in Jerusalem, probably with his married sister (Acts 23:16) to begin his formal training at the Hillel rabbinical school in Jerusalem. Paul studied under the renown rabbi Gamaliel I, who was one of the greatest rabbinical teachers of the first century (Acts 22:3). Noted Christian education scholar Elmer Towns had the following to say concerning Paul's rabbinical school education:

"Rabbinic education focused on the Hebrew Bible and its traditional interpretations. But it also exposed neophyte rabbis to the "wisdom of the Greeks." The Talmud reports that Rabbi Simeon ben Gamaliel II, a second century teacher, implemented a dual curriculum by having five hundred students study the traditions of the Hebrews and another five hundred the writings of the Greeks, midpoint in their program reversing the relationship. Despite its antagonism to all Hellenistic systems of thought, Judaism was not averse to borrowing ideas and forms from the Greek world if it could press them into service for the God of Israel."22 

It would be reasonable to assume that Paul, studying under one of the greatest rabbinical scholars of all time in the liberal Hillel school, would have received a wide range of exposure to Greek philosophy along with his traditional Hebrew training, to keep him abreast with the most recent philosophical knowledge of his day. Concerning Paul's Hebrew education, Robert Picirilli said that Paul had studied "the Midrashim, expositions of the Hebrew Scriptures; the Halacha, legal customs and practices added by the rabbis to the Old Testament practices; the Haggadah, non legal narratives exegeting the scriptures."23 In addition to his studies, Paul had to memorize the ancient Hebrew language Targums, and be able to translate it into Aramaic. Paul, when he had finished rabbinical school, had received the best education that his religion had to offer. The Hillel school could only be attended by the best Jewish minds of Paul's day.



When analyzing the cultural and educational influences upon the remarkable life and theological reasonings of the Apostle Paul, one can only step back and marvel at the tremendous accomplishments made in his life, utilizing all of the broad exposure to the world and learning that life afforded him. Paul was not adverse to using any tool in his broad arsenal for the cause of Christ, utilizing them to the fullest. Paul's early life in his hometown of Tarsus exposed him to Hellenistic Judaism, which allowed for Grecian learning and influence, even though his parents were devout Jews. Without doubt in those early formative years in Tarsus, Paul became exposed to different cultures and teaching as well as Orthodox Pharisaic Judaism, which allowed him to learn "Classic Greek," Greek philosophy, Koine Greek (This form of Greek was spoken by everyone in Tarsus, even Orthodox Pharisaic Jews) and other disciplines. By his family being wealthy tentmakers and Roman citizens, he was no doubt exposed to ranking Roman officials, and Roman practices, law, and customs.

Paul's rabbinic education was first class, as he learned his craft from one of the most noted rabbis in history. Along with his rabbinic education, the Hillel school was noted for giving their students a balanced education, giving Paul broad exposure to classical literature, philosophy, and ethics. Paul, in his letters, borrowed heavily from his knowledge of Stoic philosophy, using Stoic terms and metaphors to assist his new Gentile converts in their understanding of the revealed word of God. Paul also relied heavily upon his training received concerning the law and the prophets, utilizing this knowledge to convince his Jewish countrymen of the unity of past OT prophecy and covenants with the fulfilling of these in Jesus Christ. Paul, as the evangelist, is without peer. God, in his divine wisdom and grace, exposed Paul to a wide spectrum of experiences and education, giving the Apostle to the Gentiles the tools to effectively spread the Gospel and establish the church solidly in all parts of the Roman Empire.

End Notes

1 F.F. Bruce, New Testament History, (New York: Doubleday, 1980), pg. 234. This would most likely give us a date of between C.E. 1 to C.E. 4, however, this statement by Bruce was only meant to give his best guess concerning the timeframe of Paul’s birth. The precise placement within history of Paul’s birth is problematic, and fraught with problems.

2 George T. Montague, The Living Thought of St. Paul, (Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Co, 1966), pg.1.

3 John Pollock, The Apostle, (Wheaton, Ill: Victor Publishing, 1972), pg 5. This reference was given to show the importance of the probability that Paul’s family and ancestors, who were tentmakers by trade, most likely had broad contact and favorable relationships through the years with the Roman military, who undoubtedly used their products and services extensively. It is highly probable that through these close business relationships with the Roman military generals, that the grandfather or father of Paul was awarded Roman citizenship. This argument could be made on the fact that two Roman generals immediately prior to the Christian era, notably Pompey and Antony, were provincial generals in the area. Roman generals, by virtue of the powers invested in them by the senate and Ceasars, had supreme authority (imperium) in their respective provinces, and had the power to give Roman citizenship to loyal subjects within their provinces who were deemed worthy to receive it. In a personal letter written by Sir William Calder in February 18, 1953, he makes the following convincing statement: “Had not his father (or possibly grandfather) been made a citizen by Antony or Pompey? Were they not a firm of skenepoioi {tentmakers}, able to be very useful to a fighting proconsul?” (This excerpt is from F.F Bruce, New Testament History, pg. 235).

4 Robert Picirilli, Paul The Apostle, (Chicago, Moody Press, 1986), pg.3. The Romans, being very able statesmen and capable rulers, usually allowed conquered cities to retain whatever privileges they had under a previous administration, as long as it did not interfere with Roman authority over the city. The Romans usually sought to keep peace and enhance the cities under their rule, to quell possible dissent and rebellion by their subjects.

5 Robert H. Gundry, A Survey Of The New Testament, (Grand Rapids, Zondervan Publishing House, 1994), pgs.81-82. It is clear by the author’s inference that Tarsus was among the top four of the most desirable universities to attend in antiquity by the privileged classes in the Roman empire

6 Howard Clark Kee & Franklin W. Young, Understanding The New Testament, (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, Prentice Hall, Inc. 1958), pg 208.

7 F.F. Bruce, New Testament History, (New York, Doubleday, 1980), pg. 234.

8 Howard Clark Kee & Franklin W. Young. Understanding The New Testament,  (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, Prentice Hall, Inc. 1958), pg 208. This quote was given in part to understand some of the Tarsian intellectual influences that were part and parcel of Paul’s intellectual formation. Although a relatively young man when he left Tarsus for Jerusalem for further study at the Hillel Rabbinical School, the influences of Stoicism and other rational thought espoused in Tarsian learning and society helped to shape his reasoning skills and ability. These skills, coupled with scriptural knowledge and spiritual illumination, undoubtedly increased the efficacy of the ministry of Paul to Gentile hearers.

9 George T. Montague, The Living Thought of St. Paul, (Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Co, 1966), pg.2.

10 G. Ernest Wright, Great People Of The Bible And How They Lived, (Pleasantville, New York: The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., 1974), pg.404.

11 William Barclay, The Acts of the Apostles, (Philadelphia: The Westminister Press, 1976), pg. 158. This excerpt was chosen to show the fact that Paul was able to speak in Classical Greek, which was, in Paul’s day,  the language of the educated class. Professional people, most notably those educated in university schools of philosophy, rhetoric, and law, were taught classical Greek.  Koine Greek, which was the lingua franca of the Roman Empire, was a lower or “debased” form of the “Classic” Greek, peppered with slang words developed by local municipalities throughout the empire. It was the language of the common people, and generally was not used in professional and academic circles, or in universities. The situation could be favorably compared to the use of “Academic English,” or English that has a sophisticated flair, with the use of words that are typical of those in academic circles, in comparison to “Common English,” or English that has the strong use of slang words, developed by different regions of the country.

12 George T. Montague, The Living Thought of St. Paul, (Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Co, 1966), pg. 2.

13 John Drane, Introducing The New Testament, (San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1986), pgs. 255-256. John Drane’s argument for Stoic influence, particularly, some type of training that would have instilled this into Paul early, is very convincing. One would be hard pressed to ignore the very reasonable assumption that Paul, at some point very early in his life, had been a student at a school of philosophy or rhetoric, one in which he was taught Stoic ideals and “Classical” Greek.

14 F. W. Walbank, The Hellenistic World, (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1980), pg. 180. From this quote, one can easily picture the Apostle Paul using Stoicism extensively, as a tool to help his Gentile converts understand the Gospel, and absorb his teachings. Paul used every tool in his arsenal to relate to the unrighteous, and win them to Christ, as well as in the instruction of new converts.

15 William Whiston, Josephus Complete Works, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1985), pg. 476. This excerpt was given to show the piety and ascetic nature of the sect of the Essenes, who forbade any within their sect to marry, or have any relationships with the opposite sex. They generally thought of pleasure as evil, and kept a tightly knit all male community. They did, however, choose male children within the Jewish community to bring them up within the confines of their sect, to perpetuate their work in the community. They were the humanitarians in the Jewish community, often taking care of the sick and destitute citizens. It is to this community we owe the gratitude for the Qumran Cave Documents, copied by Essene scribes, and discovered centuries later in the 1900’s.  

16 Robert E. Picirilli, Paul The Apostle, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), pg.25.

17 William Whiston, Josephus Complete Works, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1985), pg. 478.

18 Ibid., pg.478.

19 C. D. Yonge, The Works of Philo, (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1997), pg. 776.

20 Mishnah, Aboth 5:21

21 William Whiston, Josephus Complete Works, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1985), pg. 632.

22 Elmer Towns, A History of Religious Educators, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1975), pg. 42.

23 Robert E. Picirilli, Paul The Apostle, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), pg. 30.



Barclay, William. The Acts of the Apostles. Philadelphia: The Westminister Press, 1976.

Bruce, F. F. New Testament History. New York: Doubleday, 1980.

Drane, John. Introducing The New Testament. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1986.

Gundry, Robert H. A Survey Of The New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994.

Key, Howard Clark & Franklin W. Young. Understanding The New Testament. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc, 1958.

Montague, George T. The Living Thought Of St. Paul. Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Co. 1966.

Picirilli, Robert E. Paul The Apostle.  Chicago: Moody Press, 1986.

Pollock, John. The Apostle. Wheaton, Ill: Victor Publishing, 1972.

Towns, Elmer. A History of Religious Educators. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1975.

Walbank, F. W. The Hellenistic World. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1980.

Wright, Ernest G. Great People Of The Bible And How They Lived. Pleasantville, New York: The Readers Digest Association, Inc., 1974.

Younge, C. D. The Works of Philo. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1977.



                                                    Lecture Two

Paul of Tarsus

Paul's Missionary Journeys

                     The Antiochene Mission


Christendom is indebted to the church at Antioch for conceiving of world missions as an obligation of the gospel and for devising the grand missionary strategy that gradually

would embrace the world. To be sure, the church is beholden to Peter for first witnessing for Christ to a Roman household low and therefore breaking the barrier between Jew and gentile.

But it was in Antioch, where Christianity got its name, that the initiative was taken by a local congregation to support a missionary enterprise to peoples beyond its own locale. Heretofore the gospel had spread almost accidentally -- that is, as a result of Christians moving to different parts of the country to escape persecution or migrating for business purposes, always carrying their faith with them. But due to the Antiochene resolve, the propagation of the gospel becomes a deliberate policy of the church.

Consequently, the book of Acts exemplifies a different literary purpose after chapter 12. It tells the story of the faith from a new perspective with the beginning of chapter 13. The author's interest is now primarily with the conversion of the gentiles. Luke focuses the light of history on Paul, not on Peter. Though his book is still the Gospel of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit works through the missionary activity of Paul and his associates.

  Paul of Tarsus

The First Missionary Journey (13:1-14:28)

The church in Antioch was charismatic. It sought the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit, and that guidance came as a result of fasting and prayer and from the lips of designated teachers and prophets, five of whom Luke names. Barnabas is the first one listed to indicate his preeminence, and Saul is the last. Simeon and Lucius were both from Cyrene. Simeon bears also the name Niger, which probably indicates that he was black. We know nothing more of Lucius. Manaen had been prominent in the secular world as a companion of Herod the tetrarch; most commentators assume this to have been Herod Antipas. If so, Manaen was a young man in Herod's court during the ministry of Jesus and probably witnessed the beheading of John the Baptist.

As a result of the advice of these five individuals, the Antiochene church chose Barnabas and Saul to be its first missionaries. Just as we still do today, the people of the church laid hands on them and thereby consecrated them as missionaries. This was an act of churchly blessing. Since Barnabas was in charge of the mission, they went first to Cyprus, for he was a Cypriot. Barnabas's nephew, young John Mark, accompanied them.

Their stay in Cyprus seems to have been of short duration. They landed at Salamis, preached to the Jews in the synagogues there, presumably with no noticeable results, and traveled to Paphos, the Roman capital of the island. There their mission began to succeed, for they won the attention and respect of the Roman ruler of the island, Sergius Paulus, whose heart was hungry for the word of God.

Their means of access to him was strange and even frightening. They had been obstructed in their mission by a sorcerer named Bar-Jesus nicknamed Elymas, which means "magician." Saul looked Elymas straight in the eyes and either hypnotized him so that he thought he was blind or else blinded him outright, for he could not see how to walk and had to be led away. The blindness was only temporary and wore away after Barnabas and Saul accomplished their purpose.

At this point in his narrative, Luke ceases to call Barnabas's companion by his Jewish name "Saul" and starts calling him by his Roman name "Paul," thus anticipating his mission to the gentiles (13:9). From that point, Paul appears to have been the chief spokesman for the mission. Presumably he takes over the leadership of the enterprise from Barnabas. If so, it must have been by Barnabas's consent in that he recognized Paul to be better at evangelism than he. The two missionaries won Sergius Paulus to the faith, for Luke tells us he believed the doctrine of the Lord.

Cyprus is 140 miles long and 60 miles wide, about the size of ancient Israel. Evidently the missionaries felt they had finished there, for from Paphos they sailed to the coast of what is today Turkey and what was then Pamphylia. The port at which they landed was Perga. Apparently John Mark, Barnabas's nephew, had not wanted to leave Cyprus so soon, or else had not wanted to make the journey at all; he deserted the mission at Perga and returned to Jerusalem.

Perga in Pamphylia was only the gateway for Paul and Barnabas to the interior. They proceeded immediately to Pisidian Antioch where they attended the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was their custom. After the reading of the law and the prophets, the ruler of the synagogue asked them if they had anything to say. This request was not unusual in that day. The synagogue was not like the Temple, with its sacrifices and ceremonial rites. Worship in the synagogue was far less formal. Anyone who was capable of doing so could be invited by the person in charge of the service to expatiate on the scripture readings for the day.

Paul, who had studied under Gamaliel in Jerusalem, was eminently qualified to do so. We do not know what the lessons for that sabbath were, but we do know what Paul said, for Luke gives us a full account of his message. Paul focuses on the rule of David and David's special place in God's affections. He then makes the claim that Jesus, a direct descendant of David, is the fulfillment of God's promise to Israel to send a Savior.

Immediately Paul and Barnabas collected from the congregation a group of followers. The officials of the synagogue were at first undecided in their reaction to Paul, but they permitted him to speak again on the next sabbath. However, when practically the entire city turned out to hear him and he was able to make converts while they were not, they became intensely jealous of him and began to stir up so much opposition to him and Barnabas that they were expelled from Pisidian Antioch.

They fared little better in Iconium. That city divided almost evenly over them, half supporting them and the other half bitterly opposing them. But when overtures were made to the rulers of the city for permission to stone them, Paul and Barnabas fled to Lystra and Derbe.

At Lystra, Paul not only preached effectively, but he performed a miracle, which had astonishing results. As Paul preached, there was a man listening who had been lame in his feet since birth and was unable to walk. Paul noticed the intensity with which the man listened, so he turned to him and commanded him to walk. The cure of the lame man produced a sensation among the gentiles of the city.

Devotees of Roman deities that the Romans had borrowed from the Greeks, the gentiles thought Paul and Barnabas were gods masquerading as men. Barnabas was the silent partner of the two, but was tall and stately in appearance; Paul did all the talking, but was smaller and less prepossessing than his companion. Thus, they took Barnabas to be Jupiter, the supreme god, and Paul to be Mercury, the messenger and spokesman of the gods. There was a temple to Jupiter in Lystra, and its priest fell in with the populace, bringing with them garlands and oxen to make sacrifice to Barnabas and his companion Paul, believing as they did that they were Jupiter in and Mercury. As we know from mythology, it was the habit of Jupiter to wander the earth in the form of man, animal, or bird and thereby make contact with human beings. Paul and Barnabas disclaimed for themselves any form of divinity, protesting that they were just as human as their would-be worshipers.

The people's disappointment over this admission and their mistake made them vulnerable to the accusations against Paul and Barnabas from Jews who came from Iconium and Antioch, so they stoned Paul and left him for dead. Nonetheless, when Paul recovered, he and Barnabas had the courage not only to proceed to Derbe to preach the gospel there, but to retrace their steps to Lystra, Iconium, and Pisidian Antioch, confirming the converts they had made in those cities in the faith and establishing local congregations therein. They appointed elders -- that is, local pastors to care for each congregation.

When the Jews rejected Paul and Barnabas at Pisidian Antioch, Paul turned away from the recalcitrant Jews to preach the gospel to the more receptive gentiles.

The two returned via Perga, where they preached the gospel, and Attalia to Antioch to report on their first missionary journey.

Paul of Tarsus

The Gentile Problem and Its Solution (15:1-35)

Next to the description of Pentecost in the second chapter of Acts, this passage is the most important in the entire book, for what takes place here opens up for the church its largest field for expansion and makes possible the eventual winning of the Roman Empire to Christianity. Itdelineates an historical watershed: the transformation of Christianity from a small Jewish sect into an independent and autonomous church.

After the return of Paul and Barnabas from their missionary journey together, certain men from Jerusalem arrived in Antioch and insisted that circumcision is essential to Christian salvation, thus making the grace of God through Jesus Christ subsidiary to the Mosaic law and making the Savior himself dependent on Moses. To settle the matter, the church at Antioch sent a delegation, headed by Paul and Barnabas, to the mother church in Jerusalem to ascertain from the apostles and elders the position of the church in the matter.

Though this is a disputed issue in New Testament historiography, it is my opinion that this trip was Paul's third visit to Jerusalem after his conversion and subsequent to the arresting argumentation and debate Paul recounts in Galatians 2:1-10. For one thing, the meeting described in Galatians was a private one between Paul and Peter, John, and the Lord's brother, James (Gal. 2:2, 9), while this one was a public meeting between Paul and the Jerusalem congregation. After the issue was decided by this public Jerusalem Conference, it would have been well nigh impossible for James to take the restrictive Jewish attitude he did toward the Christian gentiles in Antioch (Gal. 2:12) and for his emissaries to frighten Peter to the extent that he withdrew from the table with gentiles and caused even Barnabas to do the same (Gal.2:11-15).

These events described in Galatians had to occur before the adjudication of this dispute by the Jerusalem Conference, and in all probability did occur before Paul and Barnabas made their missionary journey. If this was the case, it would have allowed ample time for James to change his mind and Peter to support publicly what he had already done privately, so that both of them were able to take the progressive stands they did at the Jerusalem Conference.

The real problem lies at the point of the fourteen years that Paul says elapsed between the visit he made to Jerusalem after his conversion and the time he argued privately with Peter, John, and James. His second visit to Jerusalem, with the collection taken in Antioch for the brethren in Jerusalem in anticipation of the famine (Acts 11:27-30), which I believe was the time of his private disputation as described in Galatians 2:1-10, is a rather long span of time to allow

between his first and second visits. In fact, it is too long to correspond with the date of Herod Agrippa's death, by means of which we are able on the basis of Luke's information to date his second visit. Chronologically considered, the events described in Galatians 2:1-10 fit perfectly with this third visit, and traditionally Luke's account of the Jerusalem Conference and Paul's account of his meeting with the two apostles and James, the Lord's brother, in Galatians describe the same event.

Be that as it may, Paul (according to Luke) plays little part in the decision of the Jerusalem Conference. All he and Barnabas do is describe what happened in regard to the gentiles on their missionary journey. Peter is the first to respond and contend, on the basis of his experience in the conversion of Cornelius, that God makes no difference between Jews and gentiles but gives the Holy Spirit equally to both when they accept God's grace through the Lord Jesus Christ.

James lends his masterful support as a conservative Jewish Christian to the same position by fortifying it with reference to the prophet Amos, who says that the Lord will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down, and will gather therein all the gentiles (James in Acts) substitutes "Gentiles" for Amos's "heathen") who are called by God's name (Amos 9:11-12). The fact that James quotes Amos from the Greek Septuagint version of the Hebrew scripture rather than the Hebrew would indicate that Luke in recalling James's speech used the Greek text with which he was familiar. It is not likely that James could have read Greek or ever have seen the Septuagint version, which was translated from Hebrew into Greek in Alexandria, Egypt.

The decision reached was that gentiles are equal in all religious matters to Jews, for both are alike dependent on the grace of God in Jesus Christ for salvation. The Mosaic law alone is no more sufficient for Jewish Christians than it is for gentile Christians. The only caveat to the decision was that gentiles restrain from eating things strangled or meat with blood left in it. This was no doubt to accommodate Jews who adhered strictly to the Mosaic dietary prescriptions so that they might conveniently eat with gentile Christians. Evidently, Paul was willing to accede to this, as he did not want to do anything that would needlessly cause offense (Rom~ 14: l~21; I Cor. 10:23-33). Naturally, the moral law had to be upheld by gentiles just as much as by Jews, so that the prohibitions against idolatry and fornication belong to the teachings of Jesus as well as the law of Moses.

A formal letter was drawn up to announce the decision of the Jerusalem church and was sent back to Antioch by two emissaries, Judas Barsabbas and Silas, both prophets, along with Paul and Barnabas, beloved by the church because they had risked their lives for Jesus Christ. The church had been apprised of Paul's stoning at Lystra and of his and Barnabas's going back over hostile territory on that first missionary journey, thereby endangering their lives. The formal letter contained the restriction of eating any food offered to idols-that is, meat put on the market by pagan priests after they had used it in their sacrifices. This could have been a further concession to the tender feelings of Jewish Christians, but it might well have been just as much a precaution to gentile Christians against making any contacts with pagan worship in any form.

After Judas and Silas had fulfilled their mission in Antioch, the Antiochene church gave them permission to leave, but Silas chose to remain.

Paul of Tarsus

The Separation of Paul and Barnabas (15:3-16:7)

Paul proposed to Barnabas, after they had spent some time in Antioch, that they return to all the cities they had evangelized during their first missionary journey. Barnabas readily consented. But when they began to make arrangements for the trip, they had a disagreement about whether

John Mark should accompany them. Barnabas insisted that they take him. Paul refused. Barnabas, being a generous and kindly disposed person, wanted to give young Mark a second chance. Paul, concerned only for the success of the enterprise, did not want to risk a second defection from Mark. Mark was kin to Barnabas; and though Barnabas was fond of Paul, the two men separated over this issue.

Barnabas and Mark sailed to Cyprus. Paul chose Silas to accompany him, and they departed north through Syria and Cilicia, which Paul had evangelized when he had returned to Tarsus from Damascus before Barnabas went to fetch him for work in Antioch. From Cilicia, they passed through a sharp and treacherous defile in the mountains known as the Cilician Gates into southern Galatia. This route, in contrast to the route from Perga through Pisidian Antioch, brought them first to Derbe and from there to Lystra.

There lived in Lystra with his mother and grandmother, both Jewish Christians, a young convert to Christianity named Timothy, whose father was a gentile. Presumably Paul had converted all three of them on his first missionary journey. Now he wanted Timothy as his traveling companion. In mixed marriages between Jews and gentiles, the Jews expected the offspring to be reared as Jews and to keep all the prescriptions of the Hebrew law. Timothy, probably because of objections from his father, had never been circumcised. Therefore, he was considered illegitimate by the Jews. They disdained him as a bastard, though he was an honorable man and highly respected in Lystra and even Iconium. To satisfy Jewish prejudice, Paul circumcised him, even though at the time he publicized the edict of the church in Jerusalem regarding gentiles.

Paul took Timothy with him and Silas, and after visiting all the churches in the region, they went down into Mysia to the coast and would have gone north into Bithynia, but the Holy Spirit prevented them.

Paul of Tarsus

Questions For Reflection and Study

1. How might the gospel still spread "accidentally" today? In what ways do you spread it "accidentally"?

2. How is the gospel deliberately propagated today? Do you feel that the missionary imperative is as important today as it was to the early church? Which is more comfortable for you, spreading the gospel accidentally or deliberately, or are you equally comfortable with both? In what ways are the missionary efforts of the early church and those of the modern church different? In what ways are they similar?

3. According to Acts, how was the church at Antioch charismatic? Is this what we understand as charismatic today? Name some similarities and some differences between the church at Antioch and your church. Are those similarities/differences important? Why or why not?

4. Row does the contemporary church seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit? How do you? Who are the teachers and prophets in today's church? in your church? Are they as clearly recognizable as they were to the Antioch church? How do we know the teachers and prophets? Are we ever mistaken?

5. The laying on of hands is mentioned a number of times in Acts and through the scriptures as a whole. What meaning did this act symbolize for the early Christians? What meaning does it have for modern Christians? for you personally? Is it as prominent today as it was in the first century? Why do you think this is so?

6. At Cyprus, Paul apparently took over the leadership of the missionary enterprise from Barnabas, presumably with Barnabas's consent. What do you think your reaction would be if you were replaced as the head of an important task? How would your reaction be similar to or different from that of Barnabas?

7 John Mark, Barnabas's nephew, deserted the mission at Perga and returned to Jerusalem. Have you ever reluctantly taken part in church work? What was the result? Have you ever had to give up for some reason? How did you feel about it? How did others react to your decision? What did you learn from your experience?

8. If you were invited to speak to others on the scripture, with which portions would you be qualified or most comfortable? In what areas would you like to be more prepared?

9. Do you ever become jealous of those whose abilities seem to exceed yours? How do you usually relate to such people? What attitude do you think is most Christian?

10. In Iconium, the citizens were divided over the message of Paul and Barnabas. In what areas or over what issues does Christianity divide people today?

11. The controversy over circumcision threatened to impede the spread of Christianity among the gentiles. Name some things that Christians hold tightly to today that might exclude others from Christian fellowship. What attitudes might exclude others in your church? What are some of your personal attitudes that might be exclusive?

12. The early Christians were careful to avoid causing offense to others needlessly. Are modern Christians as sensitive? In what areas might we need improvement?

13. When Barnabas insisted on allowing John Mark to participate in the second missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas parted company. Barnabas wanted to give John Mark a second chance. Paul's main concern was the success of the venture; he considered taking John Mark along to be nsky. Which man do you think was right? Which attitude appears more Christian? What would you have done in this situation? How might you have felt if you were John Mark?

14. Acts relates that the Holy Spirit prevented Paul, Silas, and Timothy from carrying the gospel northward into Bithynia. How is the Holy Spirit's opposition made evident today? Has the Holy Spirit ever prevented you from doing something you had planned to do? How was this apparent to you?



Paul of Tarsus

 Lecture Three

                        The Mission to Greece


The second missionary journey began, as we have seen, with Paul's revisiting the churches he had established on his first missionary journey. He omitted Cyprus and took a different itinerary into lower Galatia, which is now the upper region of southwestern Turkey. His approach to the cities he had visited before was different, but the places themselves were the same.

Now, however, this second missionary journey takes a different turn altogether. Paul abandons the Asiatic continent and moves westward into Europe. There is no indication in Acts that he sought the guidance of the Holy Spirit when he began this second missionary journey. He just seems to have assumed that it was God's will for him to check up on the churches he had established and to assure himself of their moral and spiritual well-being. His sponsoring congregation in Antioch had evidently assumed the same thing, for it had sent him out again with its blessings.

At this juncture, the Holy Spirit takes the initiative and intervenes. If Paul won't consult the Holy Spirit, then the Holy Spirit will advise Paul and tell him exactly what to do. From this point, Paul seems not to be under the direction of the church of Antioch but to be led entirely by the Holy Spirit. From an earthly perspective, he seems to be an independent missionary. 

Paul of Tarsus

Macedonia (16:8-17:15)

At Troas, which was close to the Troy of Homer's Iliad, that fabled city to which Paris had allured Helen and against which the Greeks fought under her wronged husband, Menelaus, in order to bring her home again, Paul had a dream of a Macedonian beseeching him to cross the sea to Macedonia and help him and his people. In antiquity, revelation often came to prophets and seers through dreams. Certainly Paul to took the Macedonian's entreaty as a divine command.

As Paul accepts the invitation and prepares to go, Luke introduces for the first time in the text of Acts what has come to be known as the "we passages" (16:10). The traditional interpretation of these passages is that Luke, the narrator, is present as a member of Paul's company and an actual participant in what he is writing about. I find no evidence to contradict this assumption. At Troas, it would seem that Luke the gentile has been added to Silas and Timothy as one of Paul's traveling companions.

The little group sails via the island of Samothrace and lands at Neapolis, the port for Philippi, which is only 10 miles away. They had covered a distance of only 125 miles though Macedonia is separated from Mysia by the lonian Sea. Philippi, named for Philip, the father of Alexander the

Great, had under the Romans become a colony for retired soldiers who had to pay no imperial taxes and received many benefits in appreciation for their military services to the empire. Consequently, very few Jews were there, and those that were there were despised by the citizenry. It took ten men, according to Jewish law, to organize a synagogue. Presumably there were not enough men for Philippi to have a synagogue, for the Jews met outside town by a riverbank for their prayers. When Paul and his group discovered them on the sabbath day, only women were present.

A godly person among them was Lydia from Thyatira in Asia Minor. She sold exquisite purple cloth that she imported from her native city, which was famous in the Hellenistic world for its purple dye and the cloth it exported in that color. Lydia responded to Paul's message and accepted baptism from him. Indeed, he converted her whole household, and she invited him and his party to be guests in her home.

Lydia has the honor of being the first person converted by Paul to Christianity on European soil. It was in her home, no doubt, that the first Christian congregation in Europe was to meet and the first church in Europe was to be organized. Philippi has the distinction of being the Holy Spirit's beachhead on the continent of Europe, the place where Paul began his European ministry.

Paul's recognition by the general public in Philippi came about under most unusual circumstances. As he and his company went to prayer, they were accosted by a young woman, presumably a slave, for Luke tells us she brought her masters money through her gifts as a fortune teller. She told Paul's fortune gratuitously-that is, without his soliciting her services. As he would pass her on the street, she would cry out so that all could hear: "This man and his companions are servants of the most high God, and they can show us the way to salvation" (16:17, AP). This performance went on over a period of several days, and Paul got tired of it. He realized that her gift was in reality a curse, for she was possessed with a spirit of divination. The spirit threw her into an unnatural state, which enabled her to make these predictions. So one day after she cried out after Paul, the apostle turned to her and exorcised her of the spirit of divination.

With the spirit gone, she lost her gift of fortune telling and thereby became profitless to her masters. They were incensed over their financial loss. What had been a profit for them became a liability. They therefore arraigned Paul and Silas before the city magistrates, complaining that they had fomented a disturbance in the city. In reality the only persons Paul and Silas had disturbed were the few men who owned the girl and had been deprived of their revenue by the exorcism Paul had exerted on her. But they were careful to conceal this under their general complaint that these two had caused trouble to the citizenry in general. They were accused of introducing customs that were unlawful for Romans to observe. The owners of the slave girl incited a mob.

When this happened, the magistrates became agitated. They had Paul and Silas beaten and then thrown into prison with stipulation to the jailer that they be kept safely. The jailer understood this to mean that their crime was such as to require maximum security. He must have thought that they were dangerous revolutionaries because he put them in the stocks within the inner prison. Luke and Timothy were not involved, so the "we passages" of Acts stop temporarily with the Philippian imprisonment.

At midnight, while Paul and Silas were recovering from the horrible beating that had been inflicted on them, the jail rocked under the impact of an earthquake, and all the doors of the prison were thrown ajar. When the warden of the prison realized what had happened and supposed that the prisoners had taken advantage of the earthquake and had escaped, he started to commit suicide. To be sure, Roman law held that a jailer was responsible for the safekeeping of his prisoners. If any escaped due to his negligence, he had to compensate to the state for their escape with his life. But the jailer could hardly be held responsible for an earthquake; and Rome, being famous for her justice, would hardly have punished the jailer for the results of something over which he had no control. Nonetheless, Luke says he was about to commit suicide when Paul called to him and assured him that the prisoners were all there and every one of them could be accounted for.

With this information, the warden no doubt recalled the announcement of the little fortune teller before her gift of divination had been taken from her: "These men are the servants of the most high God" (16:17), for he commanded a light and went to Paul and Silas and asked them what he must do to be saved. Paul gave him the answer: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" (16:31). This, as all Paul's utterances and writings testify, is the only means of salvation. Luke says that Paul and Silas spoke to him and his household the word of the Lord. As a result, he and his household were converted and baptized, and Paul and Silas were made guests for the rest of the night in the jailer's home.

Lydia and her household had been Paul's first European converts. Before conversion, they had been Jewish proselytes. Now a Roman official and his household had been won by Paul to the Christian faith.

The magistrates sent word the next morning to release the prisoners. But they had overstepped their authority in punishing Roman citizens. Therefore, Paul would not be released until they came in person to him. After the public act of apology, he and Silas returned to Lydia's house, met with the infant church, and left the town.

Rome had covered her empire with a network of fine roads, linking major cities and terminating at ports from which vessels sailed directly to Italy. One of these roads was the Via Egnatia, which ran from Byzantium through the port of Neapolis on the east coast of Macedonia to Dyrrhachium on the west coast and served the cities and towns in between. Paul and his companions took this highway through Amphipolis and Apollonia and came directly to Thessalonica, which was the capital and chief city of the province of Macedonia.

Paul stayed there for at least three weeks, for Luke tells us that he spent three successive sabbaths at the Thessalonian synagogue reasoning with the congregation out of the He-brew scripture that their Messiah had to suffer and die and nse from the dead and that Jesus had done all these things and was therefore that Messiah. Paul had to provide for his needs by working; he refused to accept handouts from those to whom he preached (1 Thess. 2:9) except the hospitality that a man named Jason extended to him by keeping him in his home Jason, as his name would imply, was probably a gentile, perhaps even a Roman. His house was likely the place where the first Christian congregation in Thessalonica was organized, and his family its nucleus.

The Jews, who could not get the better of Paul through argument, stirred up a mob of lewd persons who came to Jason's house to take him. Fortunately, Paul, Silas, and Timothy were out at the time and, learning of what was happening, escaped to Berea, which was forty-five miles away. Jason was taken captive in their place and arraigned before the rulers of the city. The accusation was that Jason had entertained those who violated Roman law by claiming there is another king besides Caesar and that king is Jesus. That mob made a prophecy without knowing it by saying, "These that have turned the world upside down have come here also" (17:6, AP). Indeed, the gospel would in time revolutionize the entire Roman world. Jason was forced to put up bond against harboring the likes of Paul and Silas again.

The people in Berea were more open to the gospel than the people of Thessalonica. It was easier to reason with them, and many were converted, including prominent Greek women and men. However, their prominence did not shield Paul from danger; when accusers came from Thessalonica, they realized that Berea would be no different in its reaction against him than Thessalonica had been, so they spirited him away to Athens. Silas and Timothy stayed, however, in Berea until Paul sent for them.

Paul of Tarsus

 Athens (17:16-34)

Paul was alone in Athens. Though he had never been there before, he seems to have been no stranger to the place. He handled himself adeptly with the Athenians, so well in fact that he seemed to be one of them. As was his custom, he started his evangelism with the Jews in their synagogue, but the real object of his mission seems to have been to the population as a whole. He went directly to the people, encountering them in the marketplace. In this regard, he recapitulated the teaching methods of Socrates, who made himself available to any who would listen to him and sought to teach the people through open discussion and disputation with them.

As Paul made his case in the agora, or marketplace, he attracted the attention of the philosophers who were present there. It was the custom of Athenian society to gather in the agora to listen to speeches by any persons who felt they had something to say and then to quiz them and often to debate them on the validity of their ideas. It seems that the Athenians were less interested in the truth than they were in hearing new ideas. In this regard Paul appealed to them, for he presented a strange god about whom they had never heard before and talked about a dead man who had arisen alive from his grave. They asked themselves, "What will this babbler say next?" (17:18, AP). A babbler to the Athenians was a ne'er-do-well who liked to talk and pick up whatever scraps of food and clothing he could find that people had cast off in public places. Babbler denoted the image of a bird pecking away at a scrap of bread.

But after they listened to Paul, he made a better impression on some of the philosophers, for they summoned him to the Areopagus to explain in full his doctrine to those assembled there. The word Areopagus means "Hill of Ares," the Greek god of war. His Latin name is Mars. Hence the Areopagus is called Mars' Hill as well (17:22). On this hill met the chief council of Athens, which served as a forum to appraise various opinions being given the people and also as a judicial body. It was as an elite group to sift and appraise his doctrine that Paul was brought before it.

The two schools of philosophical thought represented on this occasion were Epicureanism and Stoicism: the former, discounting reason and advancing pleasure through experience, or self-satisfaction at the highest and noblest human level, as the true impetus for living; and the latter, exalting human indifference, or submission to the exigencies of existence through rigid self-discipline, treating with sublime disregard good fortune and bad fortune alike. Paul rejected both schools of thought and offered in their place belief in and allegiance to the one true God, whose rewards extend beyond this present life.

Paul began his discourse on Mars' Hill with the observation that the Athenians had an altar erected to the unknown god. It is this unknown God in whose name Paul speaks to them. This God, who made everything that is, does not dwell in the small temples that we build; neither can this God be worshiped in idols made with our hands. Rather, it is in and through God that we live and move and have our very life and existence. We are basically all alike, since God has made of one blood all nations that dwell on the face of the earth. We are God's offspring, and we ought not to think of God in terms of gold and silver objects, which we have designed and made. God has overlooked our folly in times past but now calls on us to repent. God has set a time to judge us and the whole world in righteousness by One whom God has appointed as the judge and has given evidence of this by raising that man from the dead. Some mocked Paul over the resurrection, but others said they would reserve judgment until they had heard him again.

A woman, Damaris, and a man, Dionysius the Areopagite, believed, and so did others with them. They became the nucleus of the Athenian church.

Paul of Tarsus

 Corinth (18:1-17)

Corinth was the last major city Paul visited on his Grecian itineration. If he had had trouble from the populace in Thessalonica and Berea, what might he have expected from the people in Corinth, for Corinth was one of the most disorderly and corrupt cities in the Roman Empire? It was situated on a narrow isthmus connecting Peloponnesus with the mainland of Greece. It was the center of commerce between Rome's Asiatic provinces and the city of Rome itself and all its provinces in the west. It was on the main highway of Greece connecting the north with the south and itself the focal point of the two. There was no city in Greece of as much commercial importance as Corinth, and it was the capital of the Roman province of Achaia. It was a larger and, except for Hellenistic culture and intellectual refinement, a more influential and important city than Athens itself. It was a cosmopolitan city made up of peoples from all over the Roman world, including the Jews, who had a sizable colony there.

Strange as it may seem, however, Paul had little trouble in Corinth, certainly not enough to be driven out as he had been from Thessalonica and Berea. And he was not imprisoned there, as he had been in Philippi. When he left, he left voluntarily, as he had from Athens. But whereas in Athens he had stayed only a short time, just long enough to become known in the agora and to make his classical apology on Mars' Hill, which gave him a few believers who became the nucleus of the Athenian church, he remained in Corinth for a year and a half. There he not only started a church but supervised its early development.

When Paul first arrived in Corinth, he had gone, as his custom was, to the synagogue to declare the gospel first to the Jews. A few of them and their Greek proselytes believed, but the majority were so hostile and blasphemous that Paul dusted the dust from his raiments and left the synagogue with this malediction: "Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean. From now on I will go unto the gentiles" (18:6, AP). Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia and joined him in Corinth.

Paul struck up a friendship with a Jewish couple from Pontus, Aquila and Priscilla, who had resided in Rome until Claudius had driven the Jews out. Their occupation was tentmaking, as was his. They gave him room and board at their home, together with an opening into their business, so that he was able to make a living as a tentmaker during his stay in Corinth.

Jewish rabbis did not receive compensation for their religious services in the first century; they worked at secular employment in addition to performing their sacred duties. Paul did the same, though he did accept voluntary gifts from his converts. Paul received no compensation whatever from the Corinthians for his services to them; but he did receive material gifts from his converts in Macedonia while he was in Corinth (2 Cor. 11:9), especially from the congregation he left at Philippi (Phil. 4:15). Whether this was enough for him to give up his secular employment in Corinth and devote full time to the gospel is dubious.

Perhaps he did receive enough because he moved from the house of Aquila and Priscilla into the house of Titius Justus, which was next door to the synagogue. This enabled him to proclaim the message in the very environs of those Jews who opposed him and to win as many of their proselytes as he could to the Christian faith as they went on the sabbath to the synagogue. Evidently, Titius Justus had been one of those proselytes whom Paul had converted and was now a prominent member of the Christian community, as were Aquila and Priscilla.

To be sure, the Jews tried to give him trouble, but they got nowhere with the Roman deputy Gallio, who considered their complaints against Paul groundless, based entirely on their own religious regulations and having no foundation in Roman law and totally irrelevant to the dispensing of justice. The Emperor Claudius had had the Jews deported from Rome because of their quarrelsomeness and troublemaking. Therefore, Gallio sent them away from his tribunal.

Paul had success in evangelizing some of the Jews. He actually converted Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and all his household with him. When Gallio dismissed Paul's Jewish accusers, the Greeks from the streets took Sosthenes, who had succeeded Crispus as head of the synagogue, and gave him a good beating in Gallio's presence at the tribunal. Gallio did nothing to stop them.

Paul's success in Corinth is testimony to the fact that the right place for the church is in the midst of the wicked and ungodly. Though we do not learn this from Luke in Acts, we know from Paul's Corinthian letters how unruly, contentious, and at times even immoral the congregation at Corinth was and what heartache it caused its founder. The members had come out of such a corrupt and degenerate environment. They were, as Paul admitted, just babes in Christ. Nonetheless, Paul called them saints, and saints by the grace of God they were to become. Corinth became one of the greatest centers of Christianity in the ancient world.

Paul of Tarsus

 The Return to Antioch (18:18-22)

The second missionary journey ended where it began, in Antioch. But Paul did not sail directly to Seleucia, the port of Antioch. Instead he sailed from Cenchreae, near Corinth, to Ephesus in order to drop Aquila and Priscilla off in that city. From there he sailed again, not to Seleucia, but to Caesarea on the Judean coast. That is because he wanted to observe one of the religious feasts in Jerusalem. Apparently in preparation for the feast, he temporarily took the vow of a Nazirite in Cenchreae, where he shaved his head and abstained entirely from wine and strong drink. If the vow of the Nazirite was not for life, as it was not in Paul's case, it could be abandoned only in Jerusalem at the Temple, where the person who had taken the vow could be relieved of its obligations. It was generally taken as an expression either of one's gratitude to God for some extraordinary benefit or of a petition to God to satisfy some need or confer some special blessing. In Paul's case it was probably an expression of gratitude to God for the success of his Grecian mission.

He tarried at Ephesus only long enough to explain the gospel to the Jews in their synagogue. They showed interest, and he promised to come again to them for a longer stay if God so willed. He felt compelled to keep the feast at Jerusalem.

Consequently, he sailed from Ephesus to Caesarea. All Luke says is that after landing, he went up "and saluted the church" (18:22). This statement is ambiguous. If we did not know what had gone on before, it might mean just the congregation in Caesarea. But since Paul left Ephesus in order to reach Jerusalem in time to keep the feast and since he had taken a vow that he could be released from only in Jerusalem, we realize that Luke means Paul went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem to salute the mother church-the church of the apostles.

After he had kept the feast and fulfilled his vow, he returned by land to Antioch. No doubt he inspired the church with an account of his mission, especially that part of it in Greece, and confirmed its members in their belief in and support of his mission to the gentiles.

Paul of Tarsus

Questions For Reflection and Study

I. There is no indication in Acts that Paul sought the guidance of the Holy Spirit when he began his missionary journey into Europe. He seems to have assumed that it was God's will that he do so. Do you think that Paul was on shaky ground in making this assumption? Would you be comfortable in assuming that your action is God's will? Under what circumstances might that be true for you?

2. Acts relates a number of instances in which God spoke to the apostles in a dream. For instance, in a dream a Macedonian asked Paul to come and help him and his people, and following a dream, Peter spread the gospel to the gentiles. Do you think that God still speaks to people through dreams? Have you ever experienced such a revelation?

3. The New Testament often tells of the conversion of a person along with the whole household, for example, Cornelius, Lydia, and the Philippian jailer. What do you suppose is meant by this? Does one person in the household make the decision for everyone, or is it an individual decision? Would this be likely to occur today? Why or why not?

4. Paul exorcised the demon from the young woman who told fortunes because he realized that her gift was actually a curse to her. What gifts do we encounter today that may in reality be a curse? Name some examples of ways in which we might use others for our profit and to their detriment.

5. In the case of the Philippian jailer, near personal disaster led to his conversion. Even today, times of personal crisis often lead to conversion or to a deepening of one's faith. Why do you think this is true? Does it ever have the opposite effect? What factors might contribute to these two different reactions?

6. We are told that in Thessalonica Paul worked in order to provide for his needs, refusing to accept handouts from those to whom he preached. Why do you suppose Paul did this? What are the implications of Paul's actions for today's church, both positive and negative?

7. In Athens, Paul went directly to the people in the marketplace and handled himself so adeptly that he seemed to be one of them. What does this say about the role of an ambassador for Christ? What would be the marketplace for modern Christians?

8. The Athenians' first impression of Paul was that he was a babbler, a ne'er-do-well. After hearing him speak, some of them had a better opinion of him and wanted to learn more about his doctrine. Do you form snap first impressions of people? How accurate are they? Have you ever had to change your mind about someone after you had formed an opinion?

9. What is your reaction to the statement that the right place for the church is in the midst of the wicked and ungodly? How do you interpret this statement? Is this true for your church?

10. We know from Paul's letters that members of the congregation at Corinth were unruly, contentious, and at times even immoral, and yet Paul called them saints. How do you account for this? Do you agree or disagree with Paul?

11. Paul took the vow of a Nazirite in preparation for observing a religious feast in Jerusalem. He shaved his head and abstained from wine and strong drink. This vow was usually undertaken as an expression of either gratitude or petition to God. For what religious festivals do modern Christians prepare in special ways? What form do those preparations take? What forms of preparation for religious observances are meaningful to you personally?

Paul of Tarsus

 Lecture Four

The Third Missionary Journey


The third missionary journey was Paul's last voluntary itineration throughout Asia Minor and Greece; like the other two, it was a journey that he, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, planned and accomplished freely without major external restraints. His last journey would be as a prisoner, and its itinerary would be determined by the government of Rome.

The third missionary journey was the most extensive geographically of any of the three, and its duration was much longer than the other two had been. During this journey, Paul covered the territory he had traversed in Asia Minor and in Europe on the earlier missions and stopped and preached at several new places as well, mostly ports of call at islands in the Ionian Sea. He did not cover Cyprus, however. After his separation from Barnabas, he did not visit Cyprus.

The focal point of Paul's third missionary journey was Ephesus, the capital of the Roman province of Asia. He spent more time in this city than in any other in the course of his three missionary journeys. In fact, he stayed so long, it looked as if his itineration might end there and he would settle down in Ephesus and become its first bishop. But Paul was too much of a missionary for that. He could not be satisfied until he had preached in Rome itself (19:21). Yet from Luke's account in Acts, Ephesus and Corinth are Paul's crowning missionary and evangelistic achievements, and of the two, Ephesus seems to transcend Corinth. It is Paul's jewel in the East, while Corinth is his jewel in the West.

Paul of Tarsus

Apollos (l8:23-28)

While Paul was visiting again the churches he had established in Galatia and Phrygia, a man named Apollos arrived in Ephesus. He was a native of Alexandria in Egypt. He was a Jew, however, for the Jewish colony in Alexandria was a large one. It was so large, in fact, that the Hebrew scripture had been translated by and for that community of Jews into Greek, since it had become so Hellenized that many Alexandrine Jews had forgotten or never learned the Hebrew language. The translation made in Alexandria is the famous Septuagint. Whether Apollos knew Hebrew or not, Luke does not say. Two things he did know, though, and he used both to great advantage. One was the Greek language, and the other was the Hebrew scripture.

Alexandria was famous for its schools of philosophy and oratory. The world-renowned philosopher Philo, himself a Jew, was a native of Alexandria, where he interpreted the scripture by means of the Stoic concept of Logos. John used to advantage this aspect of Philo's philosophy in his explication of the incarnation in the first chapter of his Gospel.

Apollos likely was well versed in philosophy, especially Philonic philosophy, since he, like Philo, was a Hellenized Jew. This would have enabled him to find rapport immediately. with the Hellenistic Jews of Ephesus. Not only could he speak Greek fluently, but he was a spell-binding orator who knew the scripture thoroughly. In all probability he gave it a Philonic interpretation. Whatever interpretation he gave it, his enthusiasm, sincerity, and gift of oratory made him most effective with the people.

Evidently, he had at least a smattering of Christianity, though Luke says that he knew only the baptism of John the Baptist. That means definitely that he had a conviction of the heinousness of sin and the need for repentance and reparation. It probably meant as well that he knew the name of Jesus and recognized him as the promised Messiah who had finally come, for John the Baptist had acknowledged him.

But it is obvious from Luke's account that Apollos had no access to apostolic preaching and had not been blessed with the fullness of the gospel with its gift of the Holy Spirit. In other words, he had not acquired a full understanding of faith and how by faith alone one receives the Lord Jesus Christ as one's Savior. Priscilla and her husband, Aquila, discerned this when they heard him speak in the synagogue. After his message, they took him aside and offered him full instruction in the Christian way. Apollos gladly received such instruction and through them understood more perfectly the gospel. It is clear that Paul had left in Priscilla and Aquila two disciples who could carry on his work.

Apollos readily qualified as a true proclaimer of the gospel of Jesus Christ, so much so that when he decided to go to Greece, the brethren in Ephesus provided him with letters of recommendation. Luke tells us that in Greece he confirmed those who already believed through his preaching and he convinced the Jews through his interpretation of the Hebrew scripture that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ.


Paul's Successful Ministry in Ephesus (19:1-22)

After the departure of Apollos, Paul arrived in Ephesus. He came down to the city from the northeast where he had been working in Galatia and Phrygia.

On his arrival he found a small group of sincere people who adhered to the teaching of John the Baptist. They had been convicted of sin and had repented and had registered their penitence in an act of baptism. Paul asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit either in the course of or as a

result of their baptism. They frankly admitted that they had never even heard of the Holy Spirit.

Paul, then, explained to them the meaning of the Christian life, which begins at baptism, and showed them that John the Baptist had intended his ministry to be only preliminary and preparatory. He came to prepare people to receive the Messiah, who was Jesus Christ. Consequently, his baptism to repentance was insufficient. It needed to be superseded by baptism indicating one's belief in and acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This belief and acceptance is accompanied by the gift of the Holy Spirit.

These disciples of John the Baptist believed Paul's message. They accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and were baptized in his name. As had Peter and John before him, Paul laid his hands on them and immediately they received the Holy Spirit, who came on them with power, enabling them to speak in tongues and even to prophesy.

These two gifts, namely, of tongues and of the inspiration to prophesy, must have been extraordinary gifts, for there is no indication in the New Testament that they always accompanied baptism. However, the gift of the Holy Spirit is in the New Testament the normal result of baptism, which every Christian should expect to receive. The fact that Paul laid hands on the heads of the baptized converts no doubt symbolized the descent of the Spirit into their lives, just as the Spirit had descended on the converted Samaritans whom Philip had baptized when Peter and John laid their hands on them (8:14-17).

That is why today the ordained minister lays hands on persons when they are confirmed and join the church. Baptism symbolizes their forgiveness and cleansing from sin. Confirmation symbolizes their full membership in the corporate body of Christ, a membership they have voluntarily assumed, and the fulfillment of Christ's promise to give the Holy Spirit to all who believe (John 14:16-26; 16:7-15).

Paul's baptism of these disciples of John the Baptist is the only incident in the New Testament where persons who had been baptized once were baptized a second time. As a result of this, some persons advocate rebaptism. Baptists, for example, insist that persons who come into their church from another denomination that practices infant baptism or uses a form of baptism other than immersion be rebaptized. There are others, some among United Methodists, who contend that a person who has sinned away the benefits of his or her baptism and who has come to repentance and received the grace of Christ to live a new life should signify the same in an act of rebaptism. I have seen persons whom I baptized as infants ask their minister to baptize them again when they joined the church.

Does this incident in the book of Acts validate such acts of rebaptism? I think not, because these disciples of John whom Paul baptized had never received Christian baptism before. They had not been baptized in the name of Jesus until Paul baptized them in Ephesus. The only valid baptismal formula for Christians is in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, for that is the only formula Jesus is gave for his followers to use on persons they won through evangelism who desired to become members of Christ's holy church (Matt. 28:19).

Paul began his public ministry in Ephesus in his usual manner by speaking to the Jews in their synagogue on the sabbath day. In fact, judging from his first experience with them when he stopped briefly in Ephesus on his way to Jerusalem at the close of his second missionary journey, he had every reason to anticipate a gracious and fruitful ministry among them (18:19-21). But such was not the case. To be sure, he had some success among them. However, those who opposed him were so bitter in their opposition that within only three months, he had to separate his followers from them and go to another place.

Similar events occurred wherever Paul went. He was called to be an apostle to the gentiles, and he was especially adept in winning them to the Christian faith. But he had little success with the Jews. They were not only indifferent to him and his message but hostile as well; he was constantly in danger when he tried to minister to them.

He set up headquarters in the school of a man named Tyrannus, about whom we know nothing. He was probably a philosopher -- Stoic, Epicurean, Platonist, or the representative of another system of metaphysics -- who had opened a school where he taught in Ephesus and gathered from the populace his own disciples. Since Paul spoke in the school daily, he probably rented from Tyrannus, who welcomed him as a foil to his own instruction. If not a philosopher, Tyrannus had to be a rhetorician. If that were the case, Paul offered no competition to him. Rather, his presence and popularity drew more students to Tyrannus's classes, so Paul became an asset to his school. I am inclined to this latter opinion because Paul stayed there for two years.

Since Ephesus was the capital of Asia, and people from all over that Roman province came there from time to time, the gospel through Paul's preaching was not limited to the citizens of Ephesus but spread throughout the entire region. The Roman province of Asia covered the middle section of the western seaboard of what is now Turkey. It was not synonymous with modern Asia Minor; it was only a small geographical segment of it. The region of Mysia in the province of Asia with the port of Troas was north of it. Lycia and Pamphylia were south of it along the coast, and Pisidia, Phrygia, and Galatia were beyond it in the east.

Paul's success was remarkable; people all around responded positively to his message. He performed miracles in their behalf. Indeed, pieces of his clothing were carried out to the sick and diseased who could not come to him; and when his clothing touched their bodies, they were cured.

This is the only incident in the New Testament where this type of healing is said to have occurred. To be sure, the woman with the menstrual bleeding was cured by just touching the hem of Jesus' garment (Luke 8:43~8), but Jesus was wearing the garment at the time and the woman was actually in his presence. In Paul's case, his clothing was sent to the sick in distant places. This is the origin of the belief that inanimate objects can convey miraculous power when they have been handled or just blessed by a saint or holy person. For example, Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine in the fourth century, claimed to verify her discovery of the cross on which Jesus had died by placing it against the bodies of sick people and watching, when she did so, their immediate recovery.

When the wandering Jewish exorcists try to improve their practice by calling on the name of Jesus preached by Paul to expel an evil spirit from a tormented man, the spirit answers by saying: "Jesus I know and Paul I know, but who are you?" (19:15, AP). With that retort, the man under the impulse of the evil spirit leaps on the exorcists and beats them so that they run naked out of the man's house. Evidently the man has stripped them of all their clothes in his struggle with them. Luke identifies these exorcists as the sons of Sceva, whom he calls a chief priest.

The magicians, sorcerers, and exorcists of the region were so frightened by Paul's powers, and yet convinced of the validity of his message, that they collected their books of magic and burned them publicly as they embraced the Christian faith. Paul wanted to go back to Greece, but his work in Ephesus was going too well to leave it. Therefore, he sent Timothy and a disciple of his named Erastus to Macedonia in his stead.

Paul of Tarsus

The Pagan Demonstration in Ephesus (19:23-41)

Paul might have stayed much longer than he did had not a demonstration against him and his work taken place that involved a sizable number of citizens. This arose in the silversmith guild, which made silver replicas of the statue of Diana in the temple to be sold to visitors to that sacred site from all over the Hellenistic world.

Ephesus was the center of the worship of Diana, or Artemis, as her Greek name was, in the entire Roman world. Diana was the goddess of hunting in Greek mythology. But her cult in Ephesus represented her as being far more than the goddess of the chase. Indeed, she personified to her worshipers the earth in its fertility and fruitfulness, for she had acquired the features of the Asiatic goddess, Cybele, or Mother Earth. Her image was that of a woman of many breasts; the golden statue in the temple represented her as such. That is what the silversmiths duplicated and sold in abundance to the pilgrims and tourists who came in large numbers to Ephesus all the year round.

Ephesus in itself was a splendid city, one of the most beautiful in the Graeco-Roman world. Its wide main thoroughfare, which could accommodate several chariots in a row as well as pedestrians, its inviting shops and invigorating public baths, its stadium and large theater, which would seat twenty thousand people, made it the Rome of the East. Add to all this its temple, which was the religious showplace of antiquity, comparable almost to the Parthenon of Athens. In fact, the Temple of Artemis, or Diana, was one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Whether people believed in Diana as a deity or not, they came to see her temple and to admire its artistry. Most of the Ephesians did believe in her divinity, and they looked on her as the protectress of their city and their very special deity.

The silversmiths had a vested interest in Diana, for most of their trade came from the purchase of her statue and other works of art that they made and sold in connection with her temple. One of them, Demetrius, organized his fellow silversmiths to resist Paul and to stage a demonstration against him. To reach the general public, however, and elicit the aid of the populace, they had to have a more attractive reason than their own financial welfare. They had to convince the citizens that Paul was preaching that gods and goddesses made with hands were only idols and that those he converted despised Diana and her temple. If his movement were allowed to spread, it would greatly diminish the influx of pilgrims and tourists into Ephesus, and the great temple for which Ephesus was noted might lose so much support that it would fall into disrepair.

If Demetrius and his cohorts had focused on the danger of bankruptcy to them from Paul, the townsfolk might have disregarded them. What was it to them whether Demetrius went bankrupt or not? But for the city itself to be put in jeopardy and their own goddess Diana damaged would be a calamity so great that they ought to exert every effort to avert it. Demetrius threw the whole city into an uproar.

Paul was not in sight at the time. However, the demonstrating citizens did see two of his associates, Gaius and Aristarchus, who were from Macedonia. They apprehended and carried them to the theater, where the enraged multitude assembled to decide what form of action should be taken. The Asiarchs, that is, the chief persons of the province, who had come to respect Paul, cautioned him not to venture into the theater. A prominent Jew named Alexander was trying to explain to the assembly that Paul was not in favor with the Jewish leadership and therefore not to associate Paul with the Jews. But the crowd would not hear him simply because he was a Jew and Paul was a Jew also. Many people had joined the multitude, not knowing the reason for all the excitement. The people were becoming hysterical and getting out of control. For two hours they shouted until they were hoarse:"Great is Diana of the Ephesians" (19:34).

Finally the town clerk arrested their attention. He told them they had nothing to fear from anyone. The statue of Diana had dropped out of heaven from Jupiter into their midst. Her religion was too great for anyone to injure. Paul had operated in a quiet and unobtrusive manner. He had violated no laws. If the silversmiths felt he had in any way injured their business, they had the law courts in which to sue him and to make their case. He said that the ugly public demonstration was doing more harm to the reputation of Ephesus than Paul could ever do. Besides, with no better case against Paul than theirs was, they were endangering themselves with the Roman government. The best thing they could do would be to go home. And they did.

Paul's Last Missionary Journey as a Free Person (20:1-21:14)

And Paul went home, too, not to Tarsus, where he was born and reared, but to Jerusalem, where he had been educated as a Pharisee among the rabbis. Jerusalem had always been his spiritual home, now more than ever as the site of his mother church.

He took a roundabout way to get there, however. He had a premonition that once he arrived he might never be able to resume his missionary activity again. Before going to Ephesus on this third missionary journey, he had visited the churches he had founded in what is now Asia Minor. On leaving Ephesus, he wanted to visit one more time the churches he had founded in Greece. So after the town clerk had quelled the uproar against him in Ephesus, he bade his Ephesian congregation good-bye and sailed away to Macedonia, covering all the churches in that province. Then, he went down to the province of Achaia, which includes the cities of Athens and Corinth, where he preached and worked as chief pastor and founding father for three months.

Luke in Acts tells us nothing whatever about Paul's constructive ministry in either Macedonia or Achaia. We have to put together as best we can the details from his Corinthian correspondence and his letters to the Thessalonians and a reference in Romans (15:19). Factions, disagreements, and open immorality had troubled the Corinthian church since Paul had left it, and even the validity of his ministry was in question there. So he had sent Titus ahead of him to Corinth to test the waters and report back to him. This Titus did and met Paul with a favorable report in Macedonia. Paul sent him, accompanied by two others, back again to take a collection among the Corinthians for the mother church in Jerusalem (I Cor. 8: l--24). After that, Paul went to that troubled church. All Luke tells us is that Paul planned to sail from Achaia directly to Syria, but changed his route when he learned that the Jews had fomented a plot against him. Consequently, he left the province of Achaia and returned to Macedonia.

Luke lists seven persons whom Paul took along as traveling companions as he made his way back into Asia. He tells us where six of the seven came from: one from Berea, two from Thessalonica, one from Derbe, and two from the province of Asia, presumably Ephesus. He does not tell us where Timothy is from, because we already know from an earlier passage (16:1-2).

Some commentators have suggested that these seven were sent with Paul by their respective churches to present the collection their church had raised for the mother church in Jerusalem. This suggestion does not seem feasible to me. No one from Philippi or Corinth is mentioned in the list, and two names found there are from Galatia, which probably did not participate in the offering, for it had been several years since Paul had traveled through Galatia. It would have been foolish for the churches in Lystra and Derbe to send money from Asia Minor to Europe and then back again in order for it to reach Jerusalem.

The most reasonable explanation for this list of seven would be that these people were free at the time to travel with Paul and that they wanted to be with him in Jerusalem to testify to the success of his mission in their part of the world. The way Luke injects them into his narrative without any explanation is odd indeed.

Paul sent them ahead of him to Troas in Mysia on the continent of Asia. Paul follows after them to Troas, where he stays for seven days. His last stop in Macedonia had been Philippi. It was at Philippi on the second missionary journey that the "we passage" in Acts had ended, indicating that Paul had left Luke there when he went on to Thessalonica. Now the "we passage" begins again. This means that Luke had accompanied Paul from Troas to Philippi and had stayed there without Paul for more than three years.

Before sailing for Troas, Paul had kept at Philippi the Feast of the Unleavened Bread, which is a seven-day observance following immediately after Passover, a one-day observance. Its purpose is to give thanksgiving to God for the harvest and to consecrate the first-born of man and beast to God as well as to signalize the redemption of the first-born males of the Jewish people. During the eight days of Passover and Unleavened Bread, Jews are expected to abstain from eating any bread made with leaven.

Paul met on the first day of the week with the members of the Christian congregation at Troas and broke bread with them. This meal was a recapitulation of the Last Supper of Jesus and his disciples. In the early church this celebration generally included more than just bread and wine, though in the course of the meal this act of Jesus was repeated as the principal act in table fellowship. Paul also preached to the congregation. This is the first instance in the New Testament where it is noted that the Christian congregation observes the first day of the week, not the Jewish sabbath on the seventh day, as its day of worship. The first day of the week is the day on which Jesus rose from the dead.

The service must have been in the evening, however, since Luke tells us that Paul preached until midnight. The room where he preached was on the third floor of a building, brightly lit with oil lamps. Eutychus, just a lad probably in his middle or late teens, fell sound asleep under Paul's preaching. Since Eutychus was sitting on the ledge of an open window, he fell out and was killed. Paul went down, stretched out over his body, and restored him to life. I wonder if Eutychus apologized to Paul for going to sleep on him.

On the morning of the second day of the week, Luke and Paul's other companions sailed to Assos, but Paul chose to hike overland since the distance was only twenty miles. He joined the others there and sailed with them to Miletus. Their voyage from Assos to Miletus took them down the coast by Mitylene and through the straits between the Asiatic coast and the island of Chios down to the island of Samos, where they stopped at Trogylium for a day, and back to the mainland, where they disembarked at Miletus. They stayed at that city long enough for Paul to send to Ephesus (only forty miles away) and invite the elders of the Ephesian church to come to him in Miletus. There Paul delivered his valedictory address to the elders whom he had appointed to watch over and lead the church he had left in Ephesus.

The principal points Paul made in that address are (1) to recall to their minds the character and quality of his ministry to them; (2) to remind them of the trouble the Jews gave him and the anxiety and suffering he underwent in their behalf; (3) to state that he preached repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as the essence of the gospel; (4) to testify that he went now to Jerusalem not knowing what would happen to him there except that he knew by the Holy Spirit that afflictions awaited him; (5) to assure them that nothing concerned him, not even the loss of life itself, so long as he could testify to the grace of God in Jesus Christ; (6) to say that he had no regrets about his ministry to the people in Ephesus, for he was clean of the blood of all the people there, for he preached the full gospel to all of them; and (7) to admonish them to be diligent in their oversight of the Ephesian church and to feed the church of God there, which Christ purchased with his own blood.

Paul ended his discourse with a moving exhortation. He warned the elders of danger to them in the future and urged them to watch and pray. He told them that he sought nothing for himself. Like him, they, too, must support the weak and remember the words of Jesus: "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (see Luke 14:12). He said they shall not see his face anymore. He closed his message with prayer. The elders wept as they hugged and kissed him and said good-bye.

Paul and company put out to sea again. Their voyage carried them by Cos and Rhodes and into the Lycian port of Patara, where they changed ships, sailed within sight of Cyprus, and landed at Tyre, where the ship unloaded its cargo. That took seven days, during which time the Christians there pleaded with Paul not to proceed to Jerusalem. But when the ship was ready to sail, Paul and his companions were on board again. They stopped for a day at Ptolemais in order to encourage the Christians in that city. Finally they reached Caesarea, which was to be their point of disembarkation for Jerusalem.

In Caesarea Paul and his companions found hospitality in the home of Philip, one of the seven who had been made deacons by the Jerusalem church before the martyrdom of Stephen. It was he who had first won converts among the Samaritans and had baptized the Ethiopian eunuch. Because of his remarkable success in winning people to Christ, he had come to be known as Philip the evangelist. He had four virgin daughters who had the gift of prophecy.

However, Agabus was the one who foretold Paul's fate in Jerusalem. Just as he had done in Antioch, when he foretold the famine that would afflict the Roman world under Claudius Caesar and cause the church there to send relief by Paul and Barnabas to the mother church in Jerusalem (11:27-29), so now he came, this time to Caesarea, from Jerusalem to warn Paul not to go there. This time he made a demonstration of his message. He took Paul's girdle and put it around himself, binding his hands and feet with it, and said, speaking for the Holy Spirit, that the Jews in Jerusalem would bind the man that owned the girdle and would deliver him to the gentiles. His prediction was so graphic that Paul's traveling companions and his hosts in Caesarea besought Paul with tears not to go to Jerusalem. Paul asked them to refrain from crying, for they were breaking his heart. He was adamant. He was ready, not just to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.

Since Paul would not listen to their advice, all his friends could say was: "The will of the Lord be done" (21:14).


Paul of Tarsus

Questions For Reflection and Study

1. Paul stayed so long in Ephesus that it looked as if he would settle down there and become its first bishop. When our work is going well, are modern Christians ever tempted to settle back and enjoy it rather than to move ahead? How do we know when it is time to move in another direction?

2. Apollos was uniquely gifted both by natural ability and by training to preach the gospel effectively. What natural abilities do you have that can enable you to reach people in the name of Christ? What training have you had that prepares you for this task? Which abilities do you think you need to develop in order to increase your effectiveness?

3. Although gifted, Apollos realized his shortcomings and was willing to accept the instruction of Priscilla and Aquila. Under whose instruction are you willing to place yourself in order to understand more perfectly the gospel?

4. What do you understand to be the difference between baptism and confirmation? Are both equally important? Is either of them optional? What does each mean to you personally?

5. Paul experienced much opposition in preaching the gospel. However, he seemed to know when to call it quits and turn to another area in order to win persons to Christ. Do you ever have difficulty knowing when to persevere and when to give up? Upon what criteria do you base your decision? Do circumstances alter your criteria?

6. Luke tells us that Paul performed miracles of healing and that even his clothing could cure persons who touched it. What is your reaction to the concept that inanimate objects that have been handled or blessed by a saint or holy person convey miraculous power?

7. The magicians, sorcerers, and exorcists at Ephesus were frightened of Paul's power, but were so convinced of his message that they accepted the Christian faith. As a symbol of that faith, they gathered and burned their magic books. What symbolic act would be meaningful to you personally as an expression of your faith? Can you name others that might be appropriate for modern Christians?

8. The members of the silversmith guild at Ephesus rejected Paul's message of the gospel because it threatened their financial well-being. Do Christians ever reject certain aspects of the gospel when it interferes with material comfort? Are we ever guilty of picking and choosing those precepts of our faith that are most convenient? Name some examples of how this might be true.

9. When Paul made it known that he intended to travel to Jerusalem and that his journey would ultimately mean his death, his friends and followers implored him to change his mind. Have you ever had a difficult task to perform only to have your family or friends try to dissuade you? How did you handle the situation? Have you ever tried to convince others to change their mind? Do you think it is possible for well-meaning people to interfere with God's work in such a way?










Trinity College of Biblical Studies-Undergraduate Studies

Trinity College of Biblical Studies Library

Paul of Tarsus

An examination of Paul of Tarsus life and teachings as seen in the early Christian literature likely written by him


copyright 2006