Paul’s Missionary Journeys: The Beginner’s Guide

by Ryan Nelson | Jul 6, 2020 | Bible topics

Paul’s missionary journeys helped spread the gospel throughout much of the ancient world. Over the course of his ministry, the Apostle Paul traveled more than 10,000 miles and established at least 14 churches.

The Book of Acts records three separate missionary journeys that took Paul through Greece, Turkey, Syria, and numerous regions you won’t find on modern-day maps. Some scholars argue that Paul also took a fourth missionary journey, since parts of the New Testament appear to reference travels that may have taken place after the events in Acts.

Paul’s travels played a crucial role in the formation and development of the early Christian church. Many of the communities he encountered on these missionary journeys were the same ones he wrote to in his pastoral epistles.

In this guide, we’re going to follow Paul’s footsteps as he travelled across the ancient world, looking at the places he went and the major events that took place along the way. At times it can be challenging to distinguish between ancient cities, provinces, and regions (and there are sometimes multiple names that refer to the same area), so as we go, we’ll make some of those distinctions more clear.

Paul’s first missionary journey (Acts 13–14)

map of Paul's first missionary journey

Paul’s first missionary journey began in Antioch. You may notice that maps of the ancient world often have two cities labelled Antioch. They’re both named after Antiochus, father of Seleucid I. The Antioch in Acts 13 was the third largest city in ancient Rome and capital of the province of Syria. Today, it’s part of southern Turkey. The other Antioch was part of Pisidia, an ancient region which is also now part of Turkey. Your Bible likely refers to it as Pisidian Antioch or Antioch of Pisidia.

In Antioch (the big city in Syria), the Holy Spirit singled out Paul and Barnabas from the believers worshiping there, and sent them on their first missionary journey.

Paul’s first journey took him by boat to the Roman province of Cyprus. Today, Cyprus is a country known as the Republic of Cyprus. It’s a mediterranean island south of Syria. Paul and Barnabas arrived in the port city of Salamis, where John Mark (who was possibly Barnabas’ cousin), helped them share the gospel in Jewish synagogues.

From Salamis, the group moved across the island to Paphos, where they were met by a Jewish sorcerer named Bar-Jesus (also known as Elymas the sorcerer). This sorcerer worked for the governor—Sergius Paulus—who sent for Paul and his companions because he wanted to hear the word of God. Elymas opposed them and tried to turn Sergius from the faith, and so Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, called him a “child of the devil” and struck him blind. Sergius saw what happened, and believed.

Ironically, Elymas meant to steer Sergius away from Christ, but he became the very vehicle God used to draw Sergius toward him.

From Paphos, Paul and company set sail for the Roman province of Pamphylia, located in modern day Turkey. They arrived in the city of Perga, where John Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem (which, interestingly, was in the opposite direction from where they just came). We don’t know why John Mark decided to leave, but this would later create a rift between Paul and Barnabas.

Together, Paul and Barnabas travelled to Pisidian Antioch, where local synagogue leaders invited them to speak. Initially, the Jewish people were receptive to the gospel, but a week later, the entire city gathered to hear Paul and Barnabas, and the Jewish leaders became jealous. They resisted the message of the gospel, and so Paul and Barnabas made an important pivot: they began preaching to the Gentiles.  

Many of the Gentiles believed the gospel, and Luke (the traditional author of Acts) tells us that: 

“The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. But the Jewish leaders incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region.” —Acts 13:49–50

Driven out of Pamphylia, Paul and Barnabas travelled to Iconium, an eastern city in the region of Phrygia. Iconium still exists today as the Turkish city of Konya.

Once again, Paul and Barnabas spoke in the synagogue, where Jews and Greeks alike accepted the gospel. But the Jews who didn’t accept it stirred up trouble, even as Paul and Barnabas began performing signs and wonders (Acts 14:3). As support for Paul and Barnabas grew, so did the opposition they faced, and eventually, they became aware of a plot to abuse and stone them. So they left.

Fleeing the threat in Iconium, Paul and Barnabas left Phrygia altogether and travelled to Lystra, a city in the province of Lycaonia. Here, Paul healed a man who was lame.The locals who witnessed this miracle thought Paul and Barnabas were gods in human form, calling Barnabas Zeus and Paul Hermes. The priest from the temple of Zeus brought bulls and wreaths to offer sacrifices to them.

Paul and Barnabas attempted to redirect their praise to God, but struggled to keep the crowds from offering sacrifices to them.

Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and continued what they’d started. They riled up the crowds and convinced them to stone Paul. Believing he was dead, they dragged him outside the city. When the disciples gathered around him, Paul got up and went back inside the city.

Then Paul and Barnabas went to Derbe, another city in Lycaonia. There, they “won a large number of disciples” (Acts 14:21).

The return to Antioch

After a time in Derbes, Paul and Barnabas went back the way they came, working their way through Lystra, Iconium, Pisidian Antioch, and Perga. In each city, they encouraged the believers there and strengthened their faith, as they would continue doing on their future missionary journeys. They did, however, stop in a new Pamphylian city on the way: Attalia. Acts only mentions it in passing, but presumably, they established a community of believers there as well.

From there, they skipped a return voyage to the island of Cyprus and went straight back to Antioch (the big one), where they told the church what happened on their journey.

Paul’s second missionary journey (Acts 16:23–20:38)

map of Paul's second missionary journey

Paul’s second missionary journey established many of the churches he would later write to in his pastoral epistles. Interestingly, this may have happened in part because of a “sharp disagreement” he had with Barnabas. Paul’s original plan was to essentially have a rerun of their first trip, strengthening the communities they’d formed in each city and telling them what the Council of Jerusalem had ruled in regards to Gentile believers.

But Barnabas wanted to take John Mark—who had left them shortly into their previous journey. Paul was so opposed to the idea that they parted ways, initiating two separate missionary journeys. Barnabas took John Mark and went with the original plan, making their way back to the island of Cyprus. Paul took a man named Silas and travelled through the provinces of Syria and Cilicia.

The first cities that Acts mentions by name on Paul’s second journey are Derbe and Lystra. At this time, Paul and Silas picked up a new companion: Timothy. 

The locals spoke highly of Timothy, and Paul wanted to bring him along even though he was half Greek, which meant local Jews would have a harder time accepting their message. Out of concern for these local Jews, Paul circumcised Timothy—even though, ironically, one of the things they were coming to tell Christians was that Gentiles didn’t have to be circumcised. (See Acts 16:3–4.)

Acts doesn’t specify where in Phrygia Paul and his companions stopped, but since he’d established a church in Iconium on the first trip, that community would’ve been on his mind (even though last time he was there, people had plotted to stone him). Interestingly, Acts notes that Paul and his companions journeyed here after they were “kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia” (Acts 16:6).

Just north of Phrygia was the province of Galatia. Acts makes no mention of what happened here, but this is the province Paul wrote to in his letter to the Galatians . Interestingly, part of the purpose of Paul’s second trip was to share the news from the Council of Jerusalem regarding the Law of Moses and whether or not Gentiles (or Christians in general) should be expected to follow it. The council decided the Torah didn’t apply to Gentile believers (though they did hang on to a few rules). But by the time Paul wrote the Book of Galatians, Christians there were feeling pressure to obey the law (particularly in regards to circumcision) in order to be saved.

From Galatia, Paul’s group traveled west, until they reached the border of Mysia—a western region in the province of Asia, which is now part of Turkey. They intended to head north to the region of Bithynia, “but the spirit of Jesus would not allow them to” (Acts 16:7). So they passed by Mysia and headed to the city of Troas. Here, Paul had a vision of a man in Macedonia, begging him to “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Paul took this vision as a sign that God was calling them to Macedonia, which was across the Aegean Sea.

From Troas, Paul and his companions sailed across the Aegean Sea, making a pitstop on the island of Samothrace before landing in Neapolis and then traveling to Philippi. In Philippi, they spoke with women outside the city gate. One of them was a wealthy cloth dealer named Lydia. After her household was baptised, she persuaded Paul’s group to stay with her for a while.

Later, Paul, Silas, and the others were confronted by a spirit-possessed slave woman who could predict the future. She followed them for many days, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved” (Acts 16:17). Paul became so annoyed that he cast out the spirit. Her owners were furious, because they had been profiting off of her fortune telling. So they turned the local magistrates against them, claiming Paul and Silas were stirring up trouble and trying to get Roman citizens to believe and do illegal things.

The authorities had Paul and Silas severely flogged and thrown in prison. Late at night, while they were worshiping, an earthquake shook the foundations of the prison, opened the doors, and freed the prisoners from their chains. When the jailer awoke and saw the doors open, he prepared to kill himself. But Paul stopped him and assured him everyone was still in the prison.

After listening to Paul and Silas share the gospel, the jailer believed in Jesus and had his whole household baptized.

The next morning, the magistrates ordered Paul and Silas released. Paul revealed that they were Roman citizens, who had just been beaten and imprisoned without trial, and the authorities became afraid. Paul and Silas returned to Lydia’s house, and then left the city of Troas.

After passing through the Macedonian cities of Amphipolis and Apollonia, they arrived in Thessalonica. Since Thessalonica had a synagogue, Paul turned to his usual method—preaching the gospel on the Sabbath. Over the course of three weeks, he achieved the usual result—many Jews and Greeks alike embraced the gospel . . . and those who didn’t were outraged by it. 

At night, the Thessalonian believers sent Paul and his companions away to the nearby city of Berea.

The Bereans listened eagerly to the gospel and carefully examined the Scriptures to see if they supported Paul’s claims. Many Jews and Greeks became believers, but some agitators from Thessalonica heard Paul was in Berea, and they stirred up the crowds. Silas and Timothy stayed in Berea, while Paul was escorted out of Macedonia to Athens.

In the first century, Athens was in the region of Achaia, just south of Macedonia. Today, it’s the capital of Greece, and the largest city in the country.

Paul was essentially waiting around for Silas, Timothy, and the others to rejoin him. But while he waited, he noticed that Athens was full of idols. He debated with philosophers in both the synagogue and marketplace. Some Athenians were open to his ideas, and they were eager to discuss them. One idol in particular caught his eye—it had an inscription that read: “to an unknown god.” He seized on this as an opportunity to tell them about the “unknown God” who died and rose so that all might have eternal life. 

Paul’s message in Athens incorporated observations about what he saw around him as well as quotes from famous Greek philosophers to point back to the gospel. After establishing a group of believers in Athens, Paul headed west to the city of Corinth.

In Corinth, Paul stayed and worked with a couple of Jewish tentmakers named Priscilla and Aquila. Every Sabbath, he preached to Jews and Greeks in the synagogue. Silas and Timothy rejoined Paul here, and Paul began focusing his energy on testifying about Jesus to the Jews. 

When the Jews opposed his message, Paul devoted himself to reaching Gentiles, and he left the synagogue. As more Greeks embraced the gospel, the Corinthian Jews brought Paul before the governor, who basically told them to take a hike and refused to help.

Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, and he left with Priscilla and Aquila.

The return journey

Before setting off for Syria, Paul stopped for a vow-fulfilling haircut in the port city of Cenchreae, which was just a hop, skip, and a jump from Corinth. With his companions, he sailed across the Aegean Sea to Ephesus, where he dropped of Priscilla and Aquila, and promised to come back if he could. After a short stay in Ephesus, Paul set sail for Caesarea, which was across the Mediterranean and far to the southeast. From there, he made the trek south to Jerusalem.

Paul’s second missionary journey ended in Jerusalem.

Paul’s third missionary journey (Acts 18:23–20:38)

map of Paul's third missionary journey

When you read Acts, there’s no transition from Paul’s second missionary journey to his third. His arrival in Jerusalem almost immediately began his next trip. But while his second journey ends in Jerusalem, the beginning of his third journey is actually in Antioch, which is about 300 miles north.

Phrygia and Galatia

From Antioch, Paul once again worked his way west, passing “from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples” (Acts 18:23). This included Derbe, Lystra, and Iconium.

Paul traveled west to Ephesus, the capital of the province of Asia, where he’d left Priscilla and Aquila on his previous journey. Since he’d last visited, a man named Apollos had been preaching part of the gospel, but he didn’t know about the Holy Spirit. So when Paul arrived, he taught the Ephesians about the difference between water baptism and the baptism of the Spirit.

For three months, Paul preached in the synagogues. When people started criticizing Christianity, he left and began holding discussions in a lecture hall.

This went on for two years, and all the while, God used Paul to perform miracles. Even things Paul had touched—handkerchiefs and aprons—healed the sick and drove out evil spirits.

Some Jews thought invoking Paul’s name would let them drive out demons. Seven sons of a chief priest named Sceva said to an evil spirit, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out” (Acts 19:13). The spirit replied that it knew Jesus and Paul, but not them, and then it pulverized all seven of them.

As word spread about what happened, people began to revere the name of Jesus. Local sorcerors came to repent, and they burnt scrolls that would have been worth more than 130 years’ worth of wages (Acts 19:19).

Around this time, a local silversmith named Demetrius realized that the future of his business (making idols) was jeopardized by the gospel. The demand for idols was going down all across the province of Asia, but especially in Ephesus, where he lived. So Demetrius gathered all the craftsmen and workers whose businesses were impacted, and stirred the entire city into an uproar. They seized two of Paul’s companions and brought them into a theater.

Paul wanted to address the crowd, but the disciples didn’t let him. Instead, a city clerk told everyone that unless they were going to bring formal charges against the men in a legal assembly, they were in danger of being charged with rioting.

Macedonia and Greece

After things settled down in Ephesus, Paul headed across the Aegean Sea to Macedonia. He traveled throughout the region, encouraging believers, and eventually arrived in Greece, where he stayed for three months. He intended to sail back to Syria (where his journey started), but some people plotted against him, so he took another lap through Macedonia instead.

Along the way, disciples joined Paul from many of the communities he’d ministered to. He had companions from Berea, Thessalonica, Derbe, and the province of Asia. These followers went ahead of Paul to Troas, in Asia. Paul stayed briefly in Philippi, then joined them.

Paul stayed in Troas for seven days. The night before he left, he stayed up late talking in a room upstairs. A young man sat in a window, drifted off to sleep, and fell to his death. Paul threw his arms around the man and declared that he was alive, and he was. Then Paul went back upstairs and continued talking until daylight.

Paul walked from Troas to Assos, which was just to the south, and then sailed for the nearby city of Mitylene. Eager to reach Jerusalem before Pentecost, Paul sailed past Ephesus and stopped in Miletus. There, he met with the leaders of the Ephesian church and essentially told them that he had taught them everything they needed to know, that he would not see them again, and that they needed to be on guard against false teachers. This is when Paul also famously quoted Jesus, sharing words that aren’t recorded in any of the gospels: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

And then he set sail.

Paul and his companions stopped briefly in Kos, Rhodes, and Patara before heading across the Mediterranean Sea to Phoenicia (the coastal region south of ancient Syria, which is now part of Syria). They arrived in Tyre, where “through the Spirit” (Acts 21:4), the local disciples urged Paul not to go to Jerusalem. He ignored them.

From Tyre, the voyage continued to the port city of Ptolemais, and then Caesarea, where the group stayed with Philip the evangelist (not to be confused with Philip the apostle ). Here, a prophet warned Paul that he would be bound by the Jews in Jerusalem and handed over to the Gentiles.

Still, he pressed on to Jerusalem, and by the end of Acts, the Jewish leaders had handed him over to Roman rulers.

Paul’s fourth missionary journey

Acts explicitly records three distinct missionary journeys. But some scholars and even ancient Christian writers have claimed that there was also a fourth missionary journey which was only hinted at in the Bible.

The argument for a fourth journey is primarily based on clues from Paul’s letters. He occasionally refers to events and visits that may not be accounted for in Acts or the epistles. 

For example, Paul suggested he would travel to Spain (Romans 15:24), but he provides no record of this journey in his letters. However, early church fathers claimed Paul did, in fact, travel to Spain.

In his letter to the Corinthians, first-century church father Clement of Rome said Paul “had gone to the extremity of the west,” which at the time presumably meant Spain. Fourth-century church father John of Chrysostom said, “For after he had been in Rome, he returned to Spain, but whether he came thence again into these parts, we know not.” And Cyril of Jerusalem (also from the fourth century) wrote that Paul “carried the earnestness of his preaching as far as Spain.”

In 2 Timothy 4, Paul makes an ambiguous reference to “my first defense” and claims he was “delivered from the lion’s mouth” (2 Timothy 4:16-17). Some have interpreted this as a reference to his first defense before Emperor Nero, which he was heading for at the end of Acts.

Paul’s letters make other references to events not recorded in Acts, but since there is so much overlap in the locations mentioned, and Paul spent multiple years in some of these places on his three recorded journeys, it’s difficult to say whether or not this fourth journey ever actually happened.

Take a closer look at Paul’s footsteps

Paul’s missionary journeys are a key part of the New Testament. Paul’s epistles were originally written to the communities he formed on these journeys, and they show us exactly how Christianity spread to the Gentiles so rapidly.

Here at OverviewBible, we’ve charted each of Paul’s missionary journeys into beautiful, full-color posters you can display in your classroom or church office. Each comes in multiple sizes on fine art paper with a matte finish.

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Get an overview of the entire Bible

The Bible is huge. Together, its 66 books are three times longer than Moby Dick . It’s so big that even if you’ve been reading it your whole life, you can still miss the point. Jeffrey Kranz, founder of OverviewBible, wrote The Beginner’s Guide to the Bible to help Christians and non-Christians alike get a better grasp of this important text.

This non-preachy, jargon-free guide will walk you through the Bible’s major themes and characters and help you see how each book fits into the larger story of Scripture.

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Paul’s Four Missionary Journeys: The Complete Guide

Paul’s Four Missionary Journeys: The Complete Guide

God did many amazing things through the life and ministry of the apostle Paul. The gospel was spread to many people across the known world thanks to Paul’s efforts, despite the severe opposition and persecution Paul faced.

What were Paul’s missionary journeys? Paul took four missionary journeys. Paul’s first three missionary journeys are recorded in the book of Acts. The fourth is alluded to in Paul’s letters. On the first missionary journey Paul went through Cyrus, Pamphylia, and Galatia. On his second missionary journey he went through Galatia, Macedonia, and Achaia. Paul’s third journey took him through Galatia, Asia, Macedonia, Achaia, and ended in Jerusalem. After his third missionary journey Paul was imprisoned in Caesarea for two years and later transported to Rome where he was then placed under house arrest for another two years. His fourth missionary journey is not clear, but it may have included Spain, Crete, Asia, Achaia, and Macedonia.

By looking at Paul’s missionary journeys we can look and reflect on the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s command to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).

Timeline of Paul’s Missionary Journeys

  • A.D. 37: Converted on the road to Damascus
  • A.D. 37-40: Spends three years in Arabia
  • A.D. 40: Brief visit to Jerusalem to meet with the apostle Peter
  • A.D. 40-44: Preaches and ministers in Tarsus and surrounding regions
  • A.D. 44 or 45: Relocates to Antioch in Syria
  • A.D. 45 or 46: Travels with Barnabas to visit Jerusalem, brings a famine relief offering
  • A.D. 46 or 47: First missionary journey with Barnabas, likely lasts 1-2 years
  • A.D. 50: Attends the Jerusalem Council
  • A.D. 51: Leaves on second missionary journey, trip lasts 2.5 to 3 years, including 18 months in Corinth
  • A.D. 54: Leaves on third missionary journey, trip lasts more than 4 years, including 3 years in Ephesus
  • A.D. 58: Arrested in Jerusalem, put on trial before the Roman governor Felix
  • A.D. 58-60: Held in Caesarea for two years
  • A.D. 60: Put back on trial by Festus the new Roman governor; eventually transported to Rome
  • A.D. 61: Arrives in Rome
  • A.D. 61-63: Placed under house arrest for two years
  • A.D. 63: Released from house arrest, likely launches his fourth missionary journey
  • A.D. 66 or 67: Imprisoned in Rome again
  • A.D. 67 or 68: Martyred under Nero’s persecution

*Dates are approximate.

Paul’s Background

Before he was known as the apostle Paul, he was first known as Saul of Tarsus. He was a brilliant, pious, zealous, and well-educated Pharisee, from a wealthy and well-connected family. Saul was obviously intimately acquainted with the Hebrew Scriptures, but was also thoroughly acquainted with Greco-Roman history, language, and culture.

Saul became famous in Palestine because of his persecution of Christians. But things changed, dramatically. By God’s providence, Saul became a Christian after a supernatural encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9).

After Saul’s conversion, he traveled to a few different places, over several years, including three years in Arabia (Gal. 1:17–18), a brief visit to Jerusalem (Gal. 1:18), and then several years of preaching in the regions of Syria and Cilicia (Gal. 1:21).

Partnership with Barnabas

After some heavy persecution of the Christians in Jerusalem, some believers ended up living in the city of Antioch. They preached the gospel there and a “great number” believed in Jesus (Acts 11:21). When the apostles in Jerusalem heard about this, they sent a man named Barnabas to Antioch to serve in the church there (Acts 11:22).

Barnabas was a prophet (Acts 13:1) and an apostle (Acts 14:14). Through his ministry a “great number of people were brought to the Lord” (Acts 11:24).

After being in Antioch a while, Barnabas traveled to Tarsus to find Saul. Barnabas recruited Saul to come teach and lead and serve in the church in Antioch in Syria (Acts 11:25-26). Saul relocated to Antioch sometime between 44 and 46 A.D. and served as one of the leaders of the church there.

Barnabas and Saul would become ministry traveling partners for the next few years, including at least one earlier trip to Jerusalem (Acts 11:27-30) in order to bring a famine relief offering to the Christians in Jerusalem (likely sometime between 45 and 46 A.D.).

First Missionary Journey

journey of saint paul

Barnabas and Saul sensed the call of the Holy Spirit to go out on their first missionary journey (Acts 13-14). Sometime around 46 A.D. (or 47 A.D.), Barnabas and Saul were set apart by the Holy Spirit and sent out on their first missionary journey by the church at Antioch.

Before Barnabas and Saul officially left on their first missionary journey, they recruited a young man named John Mark to go with them. John Mark was the son of a woman named Mary (mentioned in Acts 12:12). She owned the house where the Christians had been meeting and praying when Peter was miraculously delivered from jail by the angel.

It is likely that, as a young boy, John Mark had witnessed Jesus’ ministry first-hand. Sadly, however, during the missionary journey, John Mark would eventually abandon Barnabas and Saul. This would later lead to a significant dispute between Barnabas and Saul a few years in the future.

Barnabas and Saul sailed from Seleucia to the island of Cyprus, apx. 100 miles off the coast of Syria. They began by preaching to Jewish people in the synagogues of Salamis. The crew did ministry in several parts of the island until they got to Paphos (Acts 13:4-6).

During their ministry they faced significant opposition. One of their earliest opponents was a magician who was a Jewish false prophet. Saul performed a supernatural act that blinded this false prophet. These events led to the conversion of the Roman proconsul Sergius Paulus (Acts 13:6-12).

Saul Becomes Paul

After the events in Cyprus, the author of the book of Acts, Luke, begins to refer to Saul as Paul. Some Christians have asserted that Saul changed his name. However, it’s more likely that Saul and Paul were two different names for the same person all along; he was known by both names for many years.

After launching a Gentile-focused ministry, Paul would have been interacting with many Gentiles, and they would have likely preferred to refer to him by the Gentile name. It appears Luke sought to make this a point of emphasis. Scholar Greg Lanier says :

“When Saul Paul launches his Gentile-focused ministry among primarily Greek-speakers (beginning with Acts 13:9), it’s natural for Luke, the author of Acts, to begin referring exclusively to him by his Greek name. Nor is it surprising that he’s later referred to as ‘Paul’ in Jerusalem, since there were Greek speakers there too. Indeed, Luke could be making a thematic point by shifting from Saul to Paul around chapter 13, given the broader theme of Acts (e.g., 1:8). After all, the church’s nucleus is shifting from predominantly Jewish-centered Jerusalem to the Greek-centered ‘ends of the earth,’ such as Rome.”

Pamphylia and Galatia

Barnabas, Paul, and John Mark then traveled across the Mediterranean Sea to Perga in Pamphylia. This is where John Mark deserts Paul and Barnabas and heads back to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13).

From Perga, Paul and Barnabas then continued northward into the province of Galatia, coming to the city of Antioch in Pisidia (not to be confused with their home base city of Antioch in Syria).

Archaeologists have discovered an inscription containing the name ‘Sergius Paulus’ in the city of Antioch in Pisidia (he was the Roman proconsul that became a Christian back on the island of Cyprus). This is strong evidence that Sergius Paulus had family roots in Antioch in Pisidia. Some scholars have argued that he was the person that probably encouraged Barnabas and Paul to travel up to Antioch in Pisidia.

Once they arrived in Antioch in Pisidia, Paul went to the synagogue and preached about the good news of Jesus. Paul effectively preached in the synagogue for multiple weeks. This resulted in many people coming to faith in Jesus (Acts 13:14-44).

Unfortunately, Barnabas and Paul faced significant opposition there too. Part of the problem they faced was the jealousy of certain Jews. There were many Gentiles showing up to hear the gospel preached. Some Jews became jealous and started to contradict what Paul had to say. Since the Gentiles were more willing to hear what Paul had to say, he turned and preached to the Gentiles.

And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. —Acts 13:48

The Gentiles’ response to the gospel was positive. The gospel continued to spread amongst Gentiles, but yet again the jealousy of the Jews became a significant issue. The Jews eventually drove Barnabas and Paul out of Antioch.

After leaving Antioch in Pisidia, they traveled eastward, further into the Galatian region, arriving at the city of Iconium. There they preached and did miracles in the name of Jesus.

Very similar to what had happened in Antioch, Paul went into the synagogue in Iconium to teach and the result was that many Jews and Greeks believed in Jesus, but the unbelieving Jews there stirred up trouble against Paul, dividing the city (Acts 14:1-4). Barnabas and Paul left the city when they heard about attempts to stone them (Acts 14:5).

journey of saint paul

Lystra and Derbe

They then came to Lystra. There Paul performed a miracle causing a crippled man to walk again. When this occurred the people of the area assumed Barnabas and Paul were gods. The priest of Zeus brought animals to offer as sacrifices to Barnabas and Paul. When Barnabas and Paul realized what was happening, they tore their clothes in lament and told the people of the one true God (Acts 14:8-18).

The Jewish unbelievers from Antioch and Iconium had come to Lystra too, stirring up trouble. They convinced the people of Lystra to stone Paul and left him for dead outside the city. But Paul wasn’t dead. He got up walked back into the city (Acts 14:19-20).

The book of Acts doesn’t give us details about the events of that day when Paul walked back into the city, but I imagine the city’s residents were shocked. It was quite rare for anyone to survive stoning.

Barnabas and Paul then continued onto Derbe the next day. They preached and “won a large number of disciples” (Acts 14:21). Archeologists have discovered several inscriptions that show the Christian faith was a major presence in the city of Derbe after Barnabas and Paul’s visit.

Facing Tribulations for the Sake of Discipleship

Barnabas and Paul began their trek back home, but they decided that they’d first travel back through Galatia. When you look at a map, you see that it would have been much faster (and likely easier) to travel from Derbe directly to Antioch in Syria.

Derbe is less than 260 miles away from Antioch in Syria and less than 140 miles away from Paul’s original hometown of Tarsus. Barnabas and Paul could have traveled eastward through the region of Cilicia. Paul was very familiar with Cilicia and likely had friends throughout the region that could give them safe refuge along the way.

But Barnabas and Paul intentionally traveled more than 280 miles in the opposite direction of Antioch in Syria. Even though they had suffered great persecution in Galatia, they wanted to go back through the Galatian cities, before heading home, because they wanted to strengthen the disciples in those cities.

They returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. —Acts 14:21-22

The journey through these cities for a second time gave them the opportunity to teach doctrine, establish elders in the churches, and pray with the believers.

After this, Barnabas and Paul then continued back down to Perga in Pamphylia. They preached in that region for a time. They eventually made their way over to the nearby port city of Attalia and sailed from there to Antioch in Syria (Acts 14:24-28).

Return to Antioch

Barnabas and Paul returned back home to Antioch in Syria stay there after the trip for “a long time” (Acts 14:28).

They had traveled more than 800 miles. Their first missionary journey had probably lasted between one and two years. When Barnabas and Paul arrived back in Antioch in Syria, they shared with everyone about the many people who had come to faith in Jesus and the churches that were established.

journey of saint paul

Jerusalem Council

After returning, Barnabas and Paul learned about a particular faction from Judea that had been confusing many Christians in the region by preaching a false gospel. This group had been preaching that, in order to become a Christian, the Gentiles must follow the Old Testament law, including circumcision (Acts 15:1).

Barnabas and Paul seem to have spent significant time disputing this false message and debated the Judean faction.

Eventually, this debate, about this false gospel, was appealed to the apostles in Jerusalem (Acts 15:2). This led to the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:3-35), which likely took place sometime in 50 A.D. (some scholars date this event as early as 48 A.D. and some date it as late as 51 A.D.).

While traveling to Jerusalem for the council, Barnabas and Paul made stops along the way throughout Phoenicia and Samaria, encouraging believers wherever they went.

At the council, all the apostles concluded that the Gentiles do not need to follow the Jewish laws in order to become Christians. Barnabas and Paul (as well as several other men who had been at the council) headed back to Antioch to declare the good news. After the council they stayed in Antioch “some days” (Acts 15:36).

Paul and Barnabas Separate

Not long after the Jerusalem Council, Barnabas and Paul began planning their second missionary journey. They believed it was essential that they go to the Gentile world to proclaim the statements that came from the council.

Originally, Barnabas and Paul had intended to go out together again, however, they had a “sharp disagreement” (Acts 15:39). The source of this dispute was John Mark. Barnabas wanted John Mark to come along again, but Paul was against this idea since John Mark had deserted them on their previous missionary trip when they were in Pamphylia. Paul saw John Mark as a liability.

Due to this sharp disagreement, Barnabas and Paul would go on separate missionary journeys. Barnabas took John Mark and sailed to Cyprus. Paul took a young man named Silas and traveled by land (Acts 15:39-41).

Paul’s Second Missionary Journey

journey of saint paul

Paul likely started his second missionary journey (Acts 15-18) sometime late in 50 A.D. or early in 51 A.D. (but some scholars date both the council of Jerusalem and the launch of this missionary journey as early as 48 A.D.).

Paul and Silas started by traveling northwestward by land through the region of Cilicia. The Roman road that they would have used went directly through Paul’s hometown of Tarsus. I imagine this would have given Paul the sweet opportunity to reconnect with many old friends.

Paul and Silas made stops in the churches all throughout the region, along their way, “strengthening” believers (Acts 15:41).

Return through Galatia

Paul and Silas continued their travels westward into Galatia. They spent significant time in several Galatian cities including Derbe, Lystra, and Iconium, connecting with the churches that Paul had planted with Barnabas on this first missionary journey.

Paul and Silas taught the believers throughout Galatia what had been decided at the council in Jerusalem and the “churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily” (Acts 16:5).

Paul Circumcises Timothy

Along the way, Paul and Silas meet a young man named Timothy from that region. He had a good reputation. Paul decided to let Timothy accompany them. However, Paul first circumcised Timothy (Acts 16:3).

It seems that Paul knew that having an uncircumcised man like Timothy with him could somehow impede the advance of the gospel wherever they preached.

Paul intended to continue to preach that circumcision was not necessary for salvation. But Paul knew that Timothy’s presence could potentially cause their opponents to claim that the only real reason that Paul was making these claims is because he had an uncircumcised friend (Timothy).

Paul’s Ministry Restricted

Paul and his crew traveled throughout the “region of Phrygia and Galatia” (Acts 16:6) looking for opportunities to preach the gospel in Asia (modern-day southwest Turkey), but they were restricted from doing so multiple times. They then traveled to the region of Mysia (modern-day northwest Turkey), attempting to eventually make their way northward toward Bithynia, but multiple times they were restricted or diverted by the Spirit (Acts 16:7).

It seemed that God’s providence was leading them somewhere other than what Paul had originally intended. They passed through Mysia again and eventually ended up in the city of Troas near the cost of the Aegean Sea.

Luke Joins the Team

In Troas, Luke joins their missionary crew. The book of Acts does not explicitly state this, but it’s implied. Throughout most of the book of Acts, Luke speaks in the third person. However, starting in Acts 16:10, Luke begins to speak in first person, as if he had joined the team by that point.

Luke would become one of Paul’s ministry protégés. He was a Greek physician, but he also functioned as an investigative journalist. He eventually writes both the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. Some scholars have also suggested that Luke wrote the book of Hebrews.

Macedonian Call and Travel to Philippi

While at Troas, Paul received a vision. This vision was of a Macedonian man asking for Paul to come and help them (Acts 16:9-10). After receiving this vision they sailed across the Aegean Sea to the island of Samothrace, and then onto Neapolis (modern-day northeastern Greece).

The missionary crew then traveled to Philippi where they stayed for “some days” (Acts 16:12). While there, they preached the gospel. One specific woman they met was Lydia. She became a believer along with the rest of her household and invited Paul and his companions to stay (Acts 16:13-15).

journey of saint paul

Paul and Silas Jailed in Philippi

While in Philippi, Paul and Silas met a slave girl who was demon possessed. Her owners made money off of her because the demon gave her the ability to function as a fortune-teller. For several days she followed Paul and Silas around, declaring that Paul and Silas were preachers of the one true God (Acts 16:16-18).

Paul cast the demon out of her. The girl’s owners realized that they wouldn’t make any more money from her, because she could no longer function as a fortune-teller. They were angry so they took Paul and Silas to the magistrates. Paul and Silas were beaten with rods and thrown into jail. Paul had previously been beaten and persecuted, but this marked the first time he was officially imprisoned (Acts 16:18-24).

While in prison, Paul and Silas prayed and sung hymns to the Lord. As they sang and prayed many of the other prisoners listened. Late in the night an earthquake occurred, this earthquake not only opened all the doors but broke their chains.

The jailer believed that all the prisoners had escaped and was about to kill himself (the Romans would’ve blamed the guard and likely would’ve executed him). But Paul and Silas stopped him and told him that no one had escaped. Then the jailer responded asking how to be saved.

And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” —Acts 16:31

God turned the persecution into an opportunity for gospel proclamation. Paul and Silas were not only able to witness to the jailer but all the prisoners listening to their hymns and prayers throughout the night. Paul went to the jailers home to preach and several people came to faith (Acts 16:25-34).

When the town magistrates learned that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, the magistrates apologized for having unlawfully imprisoned them. This was a public vindication (of sorts) for Paul and Silas. Before leaving, Paul and Silas spent more time with Lydia and the other new converts in the region, encouraging them in the faith (Acts 16:35-40).


Next, Paul and his crew passed through Amphipolis and Apponia and came to Thessalonica (Acts 17:1). As was his habit, Paul first went to the synagogue to preach to the Jews. He preached there on three consecutive Sabbath days. Many people believed, including many Gentiles.

Yet again, as Paul had seen before, many Jews became angry and jealous, and they caused an uproar. One of the brothers that had welcomed Paul was a man named Jason. The Jews dragged Jason before the city’s leaders. Jason was eventually released.

Paul and Silas left the city. It does seem that the church in Thessalonica continued to face persecution and trouble from their countrymen, but they flourished anyway. We read these words in Paul’s letter to the church:

For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews. —1 Thess. 2:14

Paul and his crew went to Berea. There, Paul yet again started in the Jewish synagogue, but this time he got a different response. Instead of jealousy and mobs, the Jews there examined the Scriptures to see if what Paul was saying was true. Many believed in Jesus.

Paul praised their willingness to study and pursue truth. Luke says the Jews of Berea were “more noble” than the Jews of Thessalonica (Acts 17:11).

Things seem to be going well. Many people became Christians. But the Jews from Thessalonica heard that Paul was teaching in Berea and they came to stir up the crowds and trouble. Paul was sent away by the brothers there, but Silas and Timothy stayed behind (Acts 17:13-14).

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Traveling in Achaia

The apostle Paul was then escorted by some brothers more than 300 miles south, into the region of Achaia, reaching the city of Athens. When they arrived in Athens, the brothers headed back. Paul stayed in Athens, but told the brothers to tell Silas and Timothy that he wanted them to join him as soon as possible (Acts 17:15).

While Paul waited for Silas and Timothy, Paul’s “spirit was provoked within him” (Acts 17:16) because he saw an abundance of idols in the region.

Paul decided to make the best use of his time and talked with the Jews at the synagogue and preached to many Gentiles in the marketplace (Acts 17:17). Paul also talked with Epicurean and Stoic philosophers (Acts 17:18). They eventually brought Paul to the Areopagus, the court where men discussed philosophy, civics, and religion.

In the court of the Areopagus, Paul preached one of his most famous sermon (Acts 17:22-31). Paul’s sermons included quotes from famous Greek philosophers that they would have been familiar with. This gives us insights into Paul’s knowledge of their culture and insights into Paul’s missiology.

After hearing Paul’s sermon, there were some there who laughed at him, but there were also some who believed the gospel and joined Paul (Acts 17:32-34).

First Visit to Corinth

After leaving Athens, Paul traveled 53 miles southwest to Corinth. By this point in his second missionary journey, Paul had traveled more than 1,500 miles.

The apostle Paul probably arrived in Corinth apx. 8-12 months after the start of the second missionary journey, therefore, it’s likely that he got there sometime late in the year of 51 A.D. (or maybe sometime early in 52 A.D., depending on how we date his departure from Antioch in Syria). Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half (Acts 18:11), so Paul was likely in Corinth until the summer or fall of 53 A.D.

Silas and Timothy also rejoined Paul in Corinth.

While in Corinth, Paul met two Jews from Rome, Aquila and Priscilla. Like the apostle Paul, Aquila and Priscilla were also tentmakers. Paul stayed with them and worked while also going to the synagogues on the Sabbath to preach, seeking to convert both Jews and Greeks (Acts 18:1-4).

Paul faced some opposition from Jews in Corinth (Acts 18:5-9), but many people in the city believed anyway. Paul may have been considering leaving the city, but he stayed in Corinth after having received a vision from God that told him that “no one will attack or harm you” (Acts 18:10).

While in Corinth the apostle Paul wrote his letters to the Thessalonians, encouraging the new believers there to stand firm under the pressure and pain of persecution. He gives them instructions on how to live a godly lifestyle and gives doctrinal teaching about the future second coming of Christ.

Paul continued to preach the word of God faithfully for those 18 months. Many were saved and the church was established. But many Jews were upset.

The Jews of Corinth eventually tried to bring the apostle Paul before the Roman proconsul Gallio, who happened to be the older brother of the renowned dramatist and philosopher Seneca (the tutor of Emperor Nero). Gallio refused to even hear their case against Paul and sent them away (Acts 18:12-17).

Paul stayed in Corinth for “many days longer” (Acts 18:18) after being brought before Gallio. He then started his journey back home to Antioch in Syria, but planned to first make a stop in Ephesus. Priscilla and Aquila came with him.

Leaving from Cenchreae

Paul’s crew traveled to the nearby port city of Cenchreae, just eight miles from Corinth. We don’t know how long they stayed in Cenchreae, but they were there long enough for Paul to have his head shaved as part of a vow (Acts 18:18). It’s possible that this stop was very brief, but it’s also possible that they spent some time preaching and ministering there in the city.

There does seem to be some evidence that Paul spent some significant time in Cenchreae. But we cannot be certain. Also, we’re not sure if he spent time there during this second missionary journey or if that happened at a later time during his third missionary journey.

Brief Visit to Ephesus

When Paul arrived in Ephesus, he went into the synagogue to talk with the Jews about Jesus. His visit to Ephesus was brief. They requested that he stay in the city longer. He declined but said, “I will return to you if God wills” (Acts 18:21). Paul made plans to leave, but Priscilla and Aquila stayed in the city.

Paul traveled from Ephesus to Caesarea. Once he was there he visited with the believers in the region and preached the gospel in various towns and places. He briefly visited Jerusalem and then traveled back home to Antioch in Syria.

Paul’s second missionary journey lasted between two and a half years and three years, and likely ended back in Antioch sometime in the fall of 53 A.D. (or maybe early 54 A.D.).

Paul’s Third Missionary Journey

journey of saint paul

After getting back from his second missionary journey, the apostle Paul stayed Antioch for “some time” (Acts 18:23). Maybe just a few weeks or few months. He then launched his third missionary journey (Acts 18-21).

Paul likely left for his third missionary journey in the spring of 54 A.D. This third missionary journey was probably more than four years long and ended with Paul in Jerusalem in 58 A.D.

Galatia and Phrygia

Paul began his third missionary trip by visiting many of the same locations that he had visited on his first and second missionary journeys. We don’t know his exact route, but it’s likely he began by traveling through the region of Cilicia and through the city of Tarsus, on the way toward Galatia.

He spent several months traveling to the churches throughout the regions of Galatia and Phrygia, “strengthening all the disciples” (18:23). Paul passed through the “inland” route through Asia and traveled west to Ephesus (Acts 19:1).

Three Years in Ephesus

Paul spent three labor-intensive years in Ephesus (Acts 20:31). Paul was likely in Ephesus from the fall of 54 A.D. to the fall of 57 A.D.

Paul’s time in Ephesus was hard. He later says that he experienced many “afflictions” and he wasn’t confident that he would live through this season (2 Cor. 1:6-10). But God did many great things through Paul while he was in Ephesus.

For the first few months of Paul’s ministry in Ephesus, he spent time preaching in the synagogue. That was his focus. However there were many Jews stuck in unbelief, and they said evil things about Paul and the gospel message. So Paul decided to spend the last two and half years of his time in Ephesus preaching in the hall of Tyrannus, instead of the synagogue. He preached in the hall of Tyrannus daily and “all residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord” (Acts 19:10).

During Paul’s ministry, he performed many miracles in the name of Jesus, leading many to believe.

“God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul… even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched [Paul’s] skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.” —Acts 19:11-12

God-Fearers Received the Holy Spirit

One of the most famous events from Paul’s time in Ephesus was when he corresponded with a group of disciples that had known about John’s baptism (referring to John the Baptist), but they did not know about Jesus (Acts 19:1-3). These types of believers were sometimes referred to as God-fearers.

These God-fearers had previously been taught by a great preacher named Apollos. He had taught them to revere the one true God, the God of Israel. But Apollos himself had not known about Jesus until after he had preached to this particular group of disciples. Apollos was later instructed by Paul’s friends, Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:24-28).

Paul taught this particular group about Jesus. They believed and received the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:4-7).

The Sons of Sceva

Another event that the book of Acts highlights, from Paul’s time in Ephesus, is about seven traveling Jewish exorcists, the sons of Sceva. These exorcists came across a demon-possessed man. They attempted to cast-out the demons (Acts 19:11-14). But one of the demons responded to them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” (Acts 19:15).

The demon-possessed man (under the control of the evil spirits) attacked the seven men and badly beat them (Acts 19:16). This caused many people in the region to respect Paul and his ministry. Many of the magicians in the area repented and burned their magic books (Acts 19:17-19) and “the word of the Lord continued to increase in the region” (Acts 19:20).

Demetrius, Riots, and Leaving Ephesus

Paul was planning to leave Ephesus. However, before he left Ephesus, a silversmith named Demetrius caused trouble. Demetrius made and sold idols. Paul preached against idolatry, so many people stopped buying Demetrius’ idols. This cost him money. Demetrius clearly was not happy.

There were other business owners that were also hurt financially because of Paul’s preaching. Many people had stopped buying their idols as they responded to the gospel. When these merchants got together, they started a massive riot in the city.

Paul wanted to go into the crowd to calm them down, but the disciples would not let him because they knew that Paul could get killed. Some of the Christians went into crowd and calmed the riot. Shortly after these riots, Paul set sail for Macedonia (Acts 19:21-20:1).

journey of saint paul

The “Painful” Visit

Paul had made plans to travel through Macedonia and then southward into Achaia (1 Cor. 16), which would likely include a visit to the church in Corinth.

At some point, Paul received some correspondence telling him that there were massive problems in the church of Corinth. How did Paul respond when he received this news? There are two main views from scholars.

View #1: Paul immediately changed plans and left from Ephesus to Corinth.

Some scholars argue that as soon as Paul received word that there were big problems in Corinth, Paul changed his plans and decided to visit the Corinthians immediately, skipping his original plans to travel through Macedonia.

Paul probably thought that once he was there in Corinth, that he’d be able to resolve the conflicts. But it seems that the exact opposite happened. Paul would later describe this visit as “painful” (2 Cor. 2:1). During this “painful” visit Paul was deeply hurt by someone in the church (2 Cor. 2:5).

The scholars that embrace View #1 say that Paul then left Corinth after this “painful visit” and headed back to Ephesus for a brief period of time.

It then appears that Paul was contemplating returning to Corinth, yet again, before heading over to Macedonia, but Paul ultimately decided against this additional visit, in order to “spare” the Corinthians (2 Cor. 1:23). Paul defends this decision in 2 Corinthians (vv. 1:12-2:2).

Paul then left from Ephesus to Macedonia (Acts 20:1). However, Paul would eventually make a third visit back to Corinth a few months later toward the end of this journey.

These scholars typically piece it all together like this:

  • Paul (while in Ephesus) receives news of trouble in the church of Corinth and changes his plans
  • Travels from Ephesus to Corinth for a second visit (known as the “painful” visit)
  • Travels from Corinth back to Ephesus
  • Contemplates another visit to Corinth, but decides against it
  • Experiences the Demetrius-led riots in Ephesus
  • Travels onto to Macedonia
  • Goes from Macedonia down into Greece
  • Eventually makes it back to Corinth (third overall visit)

Scholars that hold to View #1 assert that Paul ultimately made three total visits to Corinth; his first visit (the 18 months he spent there during his second missionary journey), the “painful” visit from Ephesus, and then a third visit toward the end of this third missionary journey.

View #2: Paul did not change his plans, but visited Corinth later.

Scholars that hold to View #2 say that Paul likely received some communication from Corinth (that there were indeed big problems in the church), but these scholars conclude that receiving this communication did not cause Paul to visit Corinth immediately.

The scholars that embrace View #2 argue that Paul did consider changing his plans, which would have consisted of a visit to Corinth before going through Macedonia, but these scholars argue that ultimately Paul decided against going to Corinth immediately, so he stuck to his plans to travel through Macedonia. They interpret Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians (vv. 1:12-2:2) as Paul giving a defense as to why he did not visit them.

These scholars say that eventually Paul did visit Corinth, a few months later, toward the end of his third missionary journey. Scholars that embrace View #2 often say that the word “painful” (2 Cor. 2:1) was not a description of an actual visit that ever happened, but that it was a description of the type of visit that would have ensued if Paul had indeed visited them. He knew that if he did visit, it would have been painful, so he sought to “spare” them (2 Cor. 1:23).

  • Paul (while in Ephesus) receives news of trouble in the church of Corinth
  • Contemplates an immediate visit to Corinth, but ultimately decides against it
  • Goes from Ephesus to Macedonia
  • Eventually travels to Corinth for his second visit

Scholars that hold to View #2 assert that Paul ultimately made two total visits to Corinth; his first visit (the 18 months he spent there during his second missionary journey) and then his visit to Corinth toward the end of this third missionary journey.

Leaving For Macedonia and the Sorrowful Letter

Paul leaves Ephesus and heads toward Macedonia. In the book of Acts, Luke gives us no details. He only says that Paul “departed for Macedonia” (Acts 20:1). However, by examining Paul’s letters, we get more insight into these travels.

It appears that, at some point during this journey, Paul had sent Titus to Corinth with a letter (this is sometimes referred to as the “sorrowful letter”). Paul later describes this “sorrowful” letter as having been written with “much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears” (2 Cor. 2:4).

Some scholars contend that this “sorrowful letter” is the epistle that appears in the New Testament, that we know today as 1 Corinthians. Other scholars argue that the “sorrowful letter” is a separate correspondence that has been lost to history.

journey of saint paul

Ministry in Troas and Macedonia

On the way to Macedonia, Paul stopped in Troas to preach there and to await Titus’ return from Corinth. While waiting in Troas, Paul had great ministry opportunity. He called it an “open door” (2 Cor. 2:12).

However, when Titus’ return from Corinth appeared to be delayed, Paul was concerned for Titus’ safety. Paul decided to leave Troas and traveled to Macedonia to find Titus (2 Cor. 2:13).

Paul traveled throughout Macedonia, visiting the churches and friends in the region, and encouraging the believers in those churches (Acts 20:2).

Finally, while in Macedonia, Paul was reunited with Titus. Titus reported that many people in the church of Corinth had repented after hearing Paul’s letter (2 Cor. 2:5-11; 7:5-16). Paul was filled with joy.

However, Titus also reported that Paul’s opponents still wielded some influence over a small rebellious faction within the church questioning Paul’s authority and credibility. Paul responded to this faction by writing another letter (most likely from Philippi). This letter is in our New Testament, known today as 2 Corinthians.

Three Months in Greece

After these travels through Macedonia, the apostle Paul eventually traveled southward and finally arrived in Greece (i.e., Achaia). He stayed in the region for three months (Acts 20:2-3), including a lengthy stay in Corinth. This stay likely took place in late 57 A.D. or early 58 A.D.

While in Corinth, Paul wrote his theological masterpiece, the letter to the Romans.

As previously discussed in this article, some scholars believe that this was Paul’s second visit while others argue that this was his third visit.

Cenchreae and Phoebe

It’s also possible that during these three months in Achaia, Paul spent time in the nearby city of Cenchreae. In the book of Romans, Paul mentions Phoebe, a deaconess in the church of Cenchreae (Rom. 16:1).

Phoebe was the person that delivered Paul’s letter to the Romans, and Paul asked them to welcome her, praising her for being a “patron of many” (Rom. 16:2). It’s highly unlikely that Paul would have asked her to make this important delivery for him unless he knew her well and trusted her, pointing to the likelihood that Paul had spent time in Cenchreae before writing that letter.

As previously mentioned in this article, it’s also possible that Paul had spent some time in Cenchrea during his second missionary journey as well as this third missionary journey.

One More Lap Through Macedonia

After his time in Achaia, Paul had originally intended to sail directly to Jerusalem. Those plans were changed, however, when it was discovered that some of Paul’s opponents had been plotted against him. Paul decided to take another lap through Macedonia instead (Acts 20:3).

Paul had many companions with him, from various churches, which gave him protection while he traveled through Macedonia (Acts 20:4-5).

Throughout the spring of 58 A.D., Paul traveled through the Macedonian region, visiting towns such as Berea and Thessalonica, and eventually ending up in Philippi (again) during the “days of unleavened bread” (Acts 20:6).

journey of saint paul

Eutychus Raises from the Dead at Troas

Paul and his companions then traveled to Troas (Acts 20:5). He ministered there again for a week. It was in Troas that a young man, Eutychus, was listening to one of Paul’s sermons and fell three stories out a window. When they found him he was dead on the ground, but Paul supernaturally restored life to this man (Acts 20:6-12).

After Troas, Paul’s companions went by ship to Assos, but Paul went by foot. Luke doesn’t tell us precisely why Paul did this. But what we do know is that distance from Troas to Assos was more than 30 miles through dangerous and mountainous terrain.

After meeting with his companions in Assos, they began their trek to Jerusalem. They made briefs stops in Chios and Samos, before arriving in Miletus (Acts 20:15).

Goodbye to the Ephesian Elders

It would make sense that Paul would have wanted to stop in Ephesus before heading to Jerusalem. considering the dear friends he had there, but he intentionally passed Ephesus because he wanted to be in Jerusalem by Pentecost, and he knew that traveling through Ephesus, and staying in Asia, would take much more time than he desired. In addition, he knew visiting Ephesus again could cause an uproar (Acts 20:13-16).

However, Paul did want to see his Ephesian friends and ministry partners, so when he arrived in Miletus, Paul called the elders from Ephesus to meet him there (Acts 20:17). In Miletus he encouraged the elders and commended them, letting them know that he would not be seeing them again since he knew that imprisonment and maybe death waited for him in Jerusalem. This was, no doubt, an emotional moment for Paul and his friends.

Paul had spent several years laboring with these men in ministry, and now he was saying goodbye for, what appeared to be, the last time. They wept and prayed together (Acts 20:17-38).

Sailing for Syria

From there, the apostle Paul and his companions then sailed towards Syria. They made brief stops in Cos, Rhodes, and Patara, before finally coming to Syria, landing at Tyre (Acts 21:1-3). Paul and his companions spent seven days with the disciples in Tyre. Through “the Spirit” they told Paul not to go onto Jerusalem, but Paul sensed that Jerusalem was the right place to go (Acts 21:4).

Then Paul and his companions went to Ptolemais (Acts 21:7), spending one day with the believers there, before heading onto Caesarea. There they were greeted by the believers there and they stayed with Philip the evangelist (Acts 21:8). While they were there, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea and told Paul of the coming affliction he would face in Jerusalem (Acts 21:10-12).

Despite many people again urging Paul not to go to Jerusalem, Paul told them he knew what was instore and that he was ready to die.

Then Paul answered, ‘What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’ —Acts 21:13

Paul and his companions then traveled to Jerusalem and was greeted by his brothers in Christ who lived there. He told the church there all God had been doing among the Gentiles (Acts 21:14-16). Once there, Paul visited with James and all the elders (Acts 21:17-18). He told them about all that God had done throughout the Gentiles.

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Arrested in Caesarea

While in Jerusalem, Paul went to the temple to worship and pray. While he was there, some Jews from Asia Minor stirred up trouble for Paul. They accused him of abandoning the one true God of Israel, of maligning the law of Moses, and of encouraging people to disobey the Jewish laws. Paul (obviously) denied this charge. This confrontation caused a riot in the temple. Paul was dragged out of the temple by a mob. The Romans then intervened and took Paul into custody (Acts 21:27-36).

Paul then addressed the crowd. He made it clear that he loved the law of God and that he had previously been a persecutor of Christians. But that he had become a preacher of the gospel after meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus. This caused another riot to erupt. The Romans then took Paul in their barracks. The Romans were going to flog him but Paul appeals to his own Roman citizenship (Acts 21:37-22:29).

On Trial Before Felix

Paul is taken to the Roman barracks in Caesarea. During this time the Roman governor over the region, Felix, brought Paul to trial. Ananias, the high priest, came from Jerusalem to bring charges against Paul. Felix gave Paul the opportunity to speak before the crowd. Paul shares his story and preaches truth. Felix was afraid of Paul’s message, so he doesn’t seemingly know what to do with Paul (Acts 23:23-35; 24:1-27).

Paul was imprisoned in Caesarea by the Romans for two years, but was given “some freedom” and his friends are allowed to visit him “to take care of his needs” (Acts 24:23).

On Trial Before Festus and Agrippa

When Festus became the governor of the region in 60 A.D. (or maybe earlier in 59 A.D.), he brought Paul back to trial. Some Jews came from Jerusalem again to bring charges against Paul, but they could not prove any of those charges (Acts 25:1-12).

King Herod Agrippa II visited with Festus. Festus asked him to hear Paul’s case. When Paul is called to defend himself, he gives one of his most famous defenses of the gospel and even encourages Agrippa to believe in Jesus (Acts 26:1-29). Agrippa famously responds, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” (Acts 26:28). Paul says that he wants everyone to believe.

Festus calls Paul crazy (Acts 26:24), but both he and Agrippa agree that Paul had not done anything that might “deserve death or imprisonment” (Acts 26:31). Paul could have simply “been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar” (Acts 26:32). Paul had appealed to Caesar under his rights as a Roman citizen. This set into the motion the plans for Paul to be transported from Palestine to Rome to face trial in Caesar’s court.

Journey to Rome

journey of saint paul

After his appeal to Rome, the apostle Paul is transported from Caesarea to Rome by ship under Roman guard (Acts 27:1-28:10). Some Bible scholars allude to this journey as Paul’s fourth missionary journey, but I don’t believe that’s the best or most accurate description for this trip.

Paul’s trip to Rome was tumultuous, filled with difficulties, including a shipwreck that caused him to be deserted on the island of Malta for three months. He also consistently faced belligerent resistance from people that opposed the gospel.

Paul and his companions eventually made it to Rome, sometime around 61 A.D. (or maybe somewhat earlier). When Paul arrived in Rome, he was placed under house arrest for two years.

Paul lived in a rented house where he served his house arrest. There he is able to visit with friends and preach the gospel to those who visit. During this time he also writes several letters that are now in the New Testament, including Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon.

The book of Acts ends there, with Paul under house arrest in Rome (Acts 28:11-31).

Paul’s Fourth Missionary Journey

The fourth missionary journey is not outlined in the narratives of Scripture. And there are some scholars that question whether such a journey ever really happened (we’ll cover that a bit more later in this article).

We don’t have a clear picture of what happened next in Paul’s life, after he was released from house arrest. But by carefully examining Paul’s epistles, I’m confident we can piece-it-together.

The early church father and historian Eusebius (writing in the 4th century) recorded that the most prominent church tradition had been that Paul was released from Roman house arrest and then re-arrested several years. According to this tradition, Paul’s second arrest eventually led to his martyrdom under the direction of Emperor Nero (see H.E. 2.22.6 ).

Also, Paul’s later letters (1 & 2 Timothy and Titus), commonly referred to as the Pastoral Epistles, are clearly written after the events of the book of Acts. In those letters Paul makes comments about his travels and plans. Paul is likely released from house arrest sometime around 63 A.D.

During his house arrest in Rome, Paul was clearly making plans to travel eastward. He asks Philemon to prepare a guest room for him (Philemon 22) and tells the Philippians that he intends to visit them (Phil. 2:24). Paul doesn’t strike me as the type of guy that would make plans in vain. Paul anticipated his release from house arrest.

These plans to go east make perfect sense. Paul’s habit was to go back and encourage the churches that he had previously established. That’s what he’d done on previous journeys.

Then, in 2 Timothy, written much later in life, during Paul’s second imprisonment, Paul mentions and alludes to people and moments that are connected to his post-Roman arrest ministry travels through Asia. He’s sort of looking back on past events and correspondences. Paul mentions:

  • Having a significant dispute with some believers in Asia, including Phygelus and Hermogenes (2 Tim. 1:15)
  • Receiving help from Onesiphorus (2 Tim. 1:18)
  • Having been with Carpus at Troas (2 Tim 4:13-14)
  • Being confronted by Alexander the coppersmith (2 Tim. 4:14)
  • Needing to leave Trophimus in Miletus because he was ill (2 Tim 4:20)

All of these events happened after Paul’s release from Roman house arrest.

Paul says in 2 Timothy 4:20 that “Erastus remained at Corinth.” This is a clear statement that Paul had been in Corinth; he knew Erastus was there because he had first-hand knowledge, having recently visited the city.

In Titus 3:12, Paul invites Titus to join Paul in Nicopolis. Paul tells Titus that he plans on spending the winter in Nicopolis, a city in Achaia. Clearly, when Paul writes the letter to Titus he is already in Achaia or somewhere very close, hoping for Titus to meet him there.

In Paul’s letter to Titus, he alludes to having been in Crete and having left Titus in charge to help those churches flourish.

A few scholars have argued that Paul did ministry in Crete when he was shipwrecked there. Paul had been briefly shipwrecked in Crete while traveling from Caesarea to Rome, before his Roman house arrest (Acts 27).

However, Paul and the men from the shipwreck were in Crete just a short while. As we examine the events of the shipwreck, as they are described in the book of Acts, we see that Paul would not likely have had the opportunity to establish churches in the region during such a short period. Also, they didn’t travel throughout the island at all.

What seems much more likely is that Paul eventually made it back to the island of Crete, spend time preaching, establishing churches throughout the region, and that upon his departure Paul left Titus there to “complete [their] work there and appoint elders in each town” (Titus 1:5).

At the beginning of 1 Timothy Paul says “when I was going to Macedonia” (1 Timothy 1:3). When we examine this letter, we get the sense that he’s referring to events in the not-too-distant past. Seems likely Paul is referring to the moment when he had traveling to Macedonia after being released from Roman house arrest. After his time spent in Macedonia, he may have headed back to the church in Ephesus, which he asserted was his plan (1 Timothy).

Doubts about the Fourth Journey

There are clearly some comments in Paul’s letters that do not easily square with the events of the book of Acts, which means that those comments in his letters point to some missionary work that happened after Paul’s Roman house arrest.

However, a few scholars have argued that there’s significant (enough) overlap in the locations, types of events, and even the people mentioned during Paul’s first three journeys, therefore it’s hard to say for sure—they claim it’s possible that much of those things that do not seem to square with the events of the book of Acts can still potentially be things that happened on one of his first three missionary journeys.

Also, some scholars have sought to remind us that the apostle Paul spent long periods of time in some locations (like 18 months in Corinth and 3 years in Ephesus), and they’ve asserted it’s possible that many unrecorded things may have happened during those long stays, implying that those longer stays in those locations could account for some of the comments in Paul’s epistles.

These scholars claim there’s so much that we do not know about those time periods, that it’s entirely possible all of the events alluded to by Paul, in his own letters, took place during his first three journeys.

I happen to be confident that Paul did indeed take a fourth missionary journey, after his release from his Roman house arrest. I think that’s the best interpretation of the data we have. However, I also realize that there are some good New Testament scholars that don’t find the evidence as compelling as I do.

journey of saint paul

Potential Travel to Spain

Did Paul ever make it to Spain? We know from Scripture that the apostle Paul had a desire to preach in Spain (Rom. 15:22-29). After being released from Roman house arrest, he could have easily sailed westward.

Clement of Rome (writing in 95 A.D.) says that Paul had traveled and preached in “the farthest limits of the West” (1 Clement 5:5-7). This sort of language could have described a location west of Italy, such as Gaul or Britannia, but most scholars seem to think this describes Spain. However, it is also possible that Clement was speaking more broadly (or generically), referring to Paul traveling far westward from his home region, going from Palestine through much of the heart of the Roman Empire and eventually all the way to Rome. This latter interpretation seems odd to me.

The Muratorian fragment (written in apx. 170 A.D.), seems to affirm Paul’s missionary journey to Spain too, but some scholars question this; just because someone in the mid-to-late second century believed it doesn’t necessarily equate to strong evidence. However, this shows that church tradition was handing this down through the generations.

Paul’s missionary trip to Spain is also mentioned by Cyril of Jerusalem (313-386) and John Chrysostom (347-407).

There may not seem to be many significant (quality) pieces of evidence that corroborate the idea that Paul made it all the way to Spain, and there are not any comments in Paul’s later letters that point to him ever making it to Spain either. However, these extrabiblical evidences seem compelling. It’s possible that a trip to Spain may have been the first leg of Paul’s fourth missionary journey.

Paul Beheaded by Nero

In his second letter to Timothy, Paul mentions his “first defense” and says he was “delivered from the lion’s mouth” (2 Tim. 4:16-17). Most biblical scholars believe this is a reference to the first time he was in Caesar’s court, defending himself, eventually leading to his Roman house arrest (Acts 28).

Paul was released from his first Roman arrest, but there wouldn’t be a second release. Paul eventually ended up back in Rome. The second time, it wasn’t house arrest. It was a real Roman jail. This was most likely part of Nero’s persecution of Christians in the mid 60s. This was one of the most brutal times of persecution in Christian history.

When much of the city of Rome burndown in 64 A.D., Emperor Nero blamed the Christians. The emperor later requested that the apostle Paul be arrested and chained. It appears that Paul was arrested somewhat abruptly and unexpectedly, evidenced by the fact that he was not able to secure his cloak and his Old Testament parchments; Paul later requested that these be brought to him (2 Tim. 4).

Paul likely penned 2 Timothy during this second Roman imprisonment. Paul was beheaded shortly after he wrote 2 Timothy. Some scholars have concluded that Paul was killed as early as 64 A.D., but it is more likely that he was executed sometime between 67 A.D. and 68 A.D.

The legacy of the apostle Paul is second to none in Christian history. He is the greatest missionary evangelist the world has ever seen. Paul was a man on mission, focused on spreading the gospel and planting churches.

Paul was a man so impacted by Jesus, so compelled by God’s love, so humbled that the Messiah would choose him to be an ambassador, that he was willing to endure much pain and hardship to see others come to faith in Jesus Christ.

Featured illustration of Paul in prison courtesy of britannica.com. Images of the jails in Philippi and Caesarea courtesy of missionbibleclass.org. Illustration of Eutychus’ death courtesy of gfbtkingdomkids.com.

Recommended Resources:

“Handbook on Acts and Paul’s Letters” (by Thomas R. Schreiner)

“Paul: A Biography” (by N.T. Wright)

“Acts: An Expositional Commentary” (by R.C. Sproul)

“Dictionary of Paul and His Letters” (more than 100 contributors, edited by Gerald Hawthorne, Ralph Martin, and Daniel Reid)

Kenneth Ortiz

Kenneth E. Ortiz (Th.M.) is Lead Pastor of Horizon City Church . He has 15+ years of vocational ministry experience. Kenneth previously served as a professor at Bethlehem College  and adjunct faculty at Spurgeon College . Kenneth lives in Minneola, FL with his wife Malaina, they have two kids.

journey of saint paul


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Paul’s Journeys

Paul traveled over 10,000 miles proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. His journeys on land and sea took him primarily through present day Israel, Syria, Turkey, and Greece. Paul walked the roads built by the Romans to facilitate their control over their Empire. Travelers took to the roads in as large a group as they could find. There was constant danger of bandits. They hurried to get to the next wayside inn for shelter and whatever food might be available.

Traveling by sea was not comfortable. There were no cabins for travelers. They had to find a place on the deck exposed to sun, winds, and rain. Paul’s trade as a tentmaker probably held him in good stead, as he could fashion shelter for himself and his companions on the deck.

In 2 Corinthians 11: 25 – 27 Paul describes some of the dangers of traveling.

25 … three times I was shipwrecked, I passed a night and a day on the deep; 26 on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own race, dangers from Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, … 27 in toil in hardship, through many sleepless nights, through hunger and thirst, through frequent fastings, through cold and exposure.

[Click on any of the images below to view a larger version.]

Paul’s First Journey

journey of saint paul

In response to a call of the Holy Spirit, the church in Antioch chose Barnabas and Paul to proclaim the gospel. They first traveled to Cyprus, then to Antioch in Pisidia, a city in present day west central Turkey. They then went to Iconium, Lystra and Derba. They then returned through Perga to Antioch. When they stopped in each city, they went to the synagogues to preach the coming of Jesus Christ, the messiah as the fulfillment of the promises made in the Old Testament.

Paul’s Second Journey

journey of saint paul

Barnabas and Paul separated over a disagreement (Acts 15: 36 – 40). Barnabas returned to Cyprus. From Jerusalem Paul went overland to revisit the churches in Lystra and Iconium. On this trip Paul had a dream calling him to bring the gospel to Macedonia. He crossed the Aegean Sea to present day Greece. He traveled down the east coast of Greece. Stopping in Athens, Paul attempted to proclaim the gospel in Athens, where he was met with polite indifference (Acts 17: 16 – 32). He then went to Corinth where he established a church that would give him both great joy and pain (see 1 and 2 Corinthians). Traveling back through Ephesus where his successful teaching won many to Christ to the annoyance of the local charm dealers (Acts 19: 21 – 40). Paul returned to Antioch by way of Jerusalem.

Paul’s Third Journey

journey of saint paul

On his third and longest journey Paul went overland through present day Turkey then across the Aegean Sea to Greece. This was a pastoral journey revisiting the churches he had founded to strengthen them and give them further instruction. While in Ephesus Paul heard a prophecy that should he return to Jerusalem he would be imprisoned. The churches he visited pleaded to him not to go. But Paul felt called by Christ to continue to meet whatever God willed for him.

Paul’s Journey to Rome

journey of saint paul

In Jerusalem Paul was arrested and accused of violating the sacred grounds of the Temple. (Acts 21: 27 – 36). He was saved from being beaten to death when the Roman tribune intervened and brought him to the barracks. In defending himself Paul claimed his right as a Roman citizen to appeal his case to the Emperor. He was then sent to Rome to have his case resolved.

Luke ends the Acts of the Apostles with Paul’s arrival in Rome. From Rome the gospel would be proclaimed throughout the world.

Related Links

The spirit of truth, a brief look at st. paul’s life and teachings, may crowning, pope john paul ii and his message of forgiveness, about the ten commandments.

A quick guide to St. Paul’s travels according to today’s map


Ephesus Foundation USA


A comprehensive map of all the journeys taken by St. Paul in his lifetime is yet to be completed . But what we know for sure is that Paul, who used to be called by his Jewish name Saul of Tarsus before converting to Christianity, spent about 30 years sailing around the Mediterranean basin and visiting what were considered to be the major cities of his time.


Sources disagree on an exact list of locations that Paul visited during his lifetime, but what’s sure is that during the three journeys described in Acts 13-14 , Acts 15-17 and Acts 18-20 he visited many historical cities that are considered the backbone of Western civilization. From Athens to Corinth, passing through Antioch and Ephesus, here is a summary of Paul’s travels , including an indication of where those locations are on today’s map. 

What’s considered Paul’s “first journey” started in the year 45 and ended in 49 . Together with Barnabas, a Cypriot Jew converted to Christianity, Paul traveled across the island of Cyprus, Barnabas’s homeland, preaching the Gospel in several synagogues. They then set sail from Paphos, on the southwest coast of Cyprus, and reached the port of Perga, in Anatolia, modern-day Turkey.


From Perga they finally reached Antioch of Pisidia, where Paul began to spread the word to the local Jewish community. Initially, his message was very well received, leading to an invitation to speak during Sabbath (the holy day), but part of the community soon turned envious about the strong popularity enjoyed by a foreign preacher and eventually managed to push Paul out of the city.

Paul and Barnabas then left for Konya, a city just south of Ankara, in present-day Turkey, but were forced to leave again, this time for the nearby town of Lystra. Here Paul healed a sick man and the local pagan community began to believe he was sent by God. But soon enough, the same people who contested him in Konya reached Lystra and instigated a group of locals to stone Paul, forcing him to flee. He then reached the city of Derbe, also in modern-day Turkey, and from there back to Lystra, Konya and finally Antioch of Syria on the Orontes, a city of ancient Syria now in modern-day Turkey, where his journey originated. Here Paul reports that, through his message, many pagans got to know the word of God.


Second trip

Paul’s second journey started in the year 49 and ended in 52 . This time, Paul hit the road to check back on those early Christian communities he helped found during his first trip.

He was accompanied by Silas, a leading member of the early Christian community, and Timothy, the son of a Greek man who was a dear companion to Paul. The group headed to Lystra, then through Phrygia, an ancient kingdom on the Sangarios River in modern day Turkey; then to Galatia, an area in the highlands of central Anatolia, also in present-day Turkey, that was inhabited by Gallic people of the Hellenistic period, and finally to Troad, a city in north-west Anatolia, present-day Turkey.


Here, Paul had a vision of a man asking him to bring the Gospel to Macedonia , and then set off to reach the European mainland for the first time. By way of Samothrace, a Greek island in the northern Aegean Sea, and Neapolis, known today as the Greek city of Kavala, they reached Philippi, a Roman city in the first district of Macedonia, which today stands as one of Greece’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites.


Here, Paul was hosted by Lydia, a woman who worked as a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira. But soon enough, a group of hostile locals pushed authorities to arrest Paul and his companions. However, thanks to a providential earthquake, the group managed to escape Philippi’s jail. Eventually, local magistrates learned that Paul and his travel companions were Roman citizens and officially let them free. The Philippian community soon grew to become an important Christian center, to which Paul later addressed the  Epistle of Paul to the Philippians.

After Philippi, the group reached Thessaloniki, in present-day northern Greece, where they were hosted by Jason, a Jewish man who had converted to Christianity. Here, even if his mission was somehow successful, Paul was quickly forced to leave after a group of local Jews reported his evangelization activities to local pagan authorities.

They then left for Berea, an important port city, now known as Veria, in Macedonia, north of Greece, but the same group that kicked them out of Thessaloniki soon caught up with them and pushed them to leave Berea as well.

The group hit the road once again and reached Athens, which had been severely damaged by Roman attacks in 146 B.C. but was still considered the capital of philosophy and knowledge of what was then the known world. Here Paul engaged in conversation with many public intellectuals in both synagogues and public squares and was eventually invited to give a speech to Athenian citizens from the Aeropago , a marble hill just above the Acropolis. According to Luke (Act 17, 11-33) it is here that Paul proclaimed his famous speech about “the Unknown God” to to the pagan thinkers of Athens.


From Athens, Paul headed to Corinth, capital of the Roman province of Acaia in present-day south-central Greece. Here he stayed with the married Christian couple Priscilla and Aquila , who had been exiled by the Roman emperor Claudius in 49-50. In Corinth Paul engaged in prolific speeches that led to many conversions, but he was subject to hostility from groups of local Jews. However, Roman pro-consul Gallio adopted a neutral stance regarding Paul religious mission and decided to let him free.

Together with Priscilla and Aquila, Paul set sail for Syria and reached Ephesus and from here Caesarea, in modern day north-central Israel, and eventually back to Antioch.

Third journey

Paul’s third journey took place between 52 and 57 . He first headed back to Galatia and Phrygia to check on the communities he helped set up during his previous trips. He then set sail for Ephesus , an ancient Greek city in present-day Turkey, which at the time was the capital of the Roman province of Asia and home to the famous temple of Artemis-Diana, which was considered one of the seven wonders of the world. Here Paul baptized 12 disciples who had previously received a penitential baptism by John the Baptist, and together with companions he helped evangelize nearly all the local inhabitants.


After a winter break in Corinth, Paul headed back to Ephesus , but hostility from local Jews forced him to leave for Antioch, Syria. From here he departed for more Greek cities—including the islands of Lesbos and Samos—and reaches Miletus, in modern-day Turkey.  

Here he pronounced his famous speech dedicated to the “Ephesian elders, ” in which he recommended that the leaders of the communities he helped found take on his mission and preserve the values of vigilance, disinterest and charity. In 58, Paul decided to head toward Jerusalem , so he set off on an arduous sailing trip that made stops at a new harbor almost each day, including the islands of Kos and Rhodes in modern-day Greece. He finally reached Jerusalem where he stayed with Mnason of Cyprus, one of the people he helped convert on one of his early trips.

journey of saint paul

Paul then visited James, who advised him to talk to the most traditionalist Jews at the Temple. Here Paul was recognized by the Jews of Asian provinces, and once again faced hostility. Claudius Lysias, the local Roman tribune, intervened and put Paul in jail before even knowing that he is a Roman citizen. This was the start of what many refer to as the “Passion Pauli,” in which St. Paul’s dedication to his evangelization mission led to his arrest, beating, torture, and eventual death in Rome at the order of Emperor Nero in 62-64.

Make sure to visit the slideshow below to discover some of the greatest works of art representing the Road to Damascus, the decisive moment in the life of Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles. 


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Acts 13:4-14:28 New Living Translation

Paul’s first missionary journey.

4  So Barnabas and Saul were sent out by the Holy Spirit. They went down to the seaport of Seleucia and then sailed for the island of Cyprus. 5  There, in the town of Salamis, they went to the Jewish synagogues and preached the word of God. John Mark went with them as their assistant.

6  Afterward they traveled from town to town across the entire island until finally they reached Paphos, where they met a Jewish sorcerer, a false prophet named Bar-Jesus. 7  He had attached himself to the governor, Sergius Paulus, who was an intelligent man. The governor invited Barnabas and Saul to visit him, for he wanted to hear the word of God. 8  But Elymas, the sorcerer (as his name means in Greek), interfered and urged the governor to pay no attention to what Barnabas and Saul said. He was trying to keep the governor from believing.

9  Saul, also known as Paul, was filled with the Holy Spirit, and he looked the sorcerer in the eye. 10  Then he said, “You son of the devil, full of every sort of deceit and fraud, and enemy of all that is good! Will you never stop perverting the true ways of the Lord? 11  Watch now, for the Lord has laid his hand of punishment upon you, and you will be struck blind. You will not see the sunlight for some time.” Instantly mist and darkness came over the man’s eyes, and he began groping around begging for someone to take his hand and lead him.

12  When the governor saw what had happened, he became a believer, for he was astonished at the teaching about the Lord.

Paul Preaches in Antioch of Pisidia

13  Paul and his companions then left Paphos by ship for Pamphylia, landing at the port town of Perga. There John Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem. 14  But Paul and Barnabas traveled inland to Antioch of Pisidia. [ a ]

On the Sabbath they went to the synagogue for the services. 15  After the usual readings from the books of Moses [ b ] and the prophets, those in charge of the service sent them this message: “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, come and give it.”

16  So Paul stood, lifted his hand to quiet them, and started speaking. “Men of Israel,” he said, “and you God-fearing Gentiles, listen to me.

17  “The God of this nation of Israel chose our ancestors and made them multiply and grow strong during their stay in Egypt. Then with a powerful arm he led them out of their slavery. 18  He put up with them [ c ] through forty years of wandering in the wilderness. 19  Then he destroyed seven nations in Canaan and gave their land to Israel as an inheritance. 20  All this took about 450 years.

“After that, God gave them judges to rule until the time of Samuel the prophet. 21  Then the people begged for a king, and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, who reigned for forty years. 22  But God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.’ [ d ]

23  “And it is one of King David’s descendants, Jesus, who is God’s promised Savior of Israel! 24  Before he came, John the Baptist preached that all the people of Israel needed to repent of their sins and turn to God and be baptized. 25  As John was finishing his ministry he asked, ‘Do you think I am the Messiah? No, I am not! But he is coming soon—and I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the sandals on his feet.’

26  “Brothers—you sons of Abraham, and also you God-fearing Gentiles—this message of salvation has been sent to us! 27  The people in Jerusalem and their leaders did not recognize Jesus as the one the prophets had spoken about. Instead, they condemned him, and in doing this they fulfilled the prophets’ words that are read every Sabbath. 28  They found no legal reason to execute him, but they asked Pilate to have him killed anyway.

29  “When they had done all that the prophecies said about him, they took him down from the cross [ e ] and placed him in a tomb. 30  But God raised him from the dead! 31  And over a period of many days he appeared to those who had gone with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to the people of Israel.

32  “And now we are here to bring you this Good News. The promise was made to our ancestors, 33  and God has now fulfilled it for us, their descendants, by raising Jesus. This is what the second psalm says about Jesus:

‘You are my Son.      Today I have become your Father. [ f ] ’

34  For God had promised to raise him from the dead, not leaving him to rot in the grave. He said, ‘I will give you the sacred blessings I promised to David.’ [ g ] 35  Another psalm explains it more fully: ‘You will not allow your Holy One to rot in the grave.’ [ h ] 36  This is not a reference to David, for after David had done the will of God in his own generation, he died and was buried with his ancestors, and his body decayed. 37  No, it was a reference to someone else—someone whom God raised and whose body did not decay.

38  [ i ] “Brothers, listen! We are here to proclaim that through this man Jesus there is forgiveness for your sins. 39  Everyone who believes in him is made right in God’s sight—something the law of Moses could never do. 40  Be careful! Don’t let the prophets’ words apply to you. For they said,

41  ‘Look, you mockers,      be amazed and die! For I am doing something in your own day,      something you wouldn’t believe      even if someone told you about it.’ [ j ] ”

42  As Paul and Barnabas left the synagogue that day, the people begged them to speak about these things again the next week. 43  Many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, and the two men urged them to continue to rely on the grace of God.

Paul Turns to the Gentiles

44  The following week almost the entire city turned out to hear them preach the word of the Lord. 45  But when some of the Jews saw the crowds, they were jealous; so they slandered Paul and argued against whatever he said.

46  Then Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and declared, “It was necessary that we first preach the word of God to you Jews. But since you have rejected it and judged yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we will offer it to the Gentiles. 47  For the Lord gave us this command when he said,

‘I have made you a light to the Gentiles,      to bring salvation to the farthest corners of the earth.’ [ k ] ”

48  When the Gentiles heard this, they were very glad and thanked the Lord for his message; and all who were chosen for eternal life became believers. 49  So the Lord’s message spread throughout that region.

50  Then the Jews stirred up the influential religious women and the leaders of the city, and they incited a mob against Paul and Barnabas and ran them out of town. 51  So they shook the dust from their feet as a sign of rejection and went to the town of Iconium. 52  And the believers [ l ] were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

Paul and Barnabas in Iconium

14  The same thing happened in Iconium. [ m ] Paul and Barnabas went to the Jewish synagogue and preached with such power that a great number of both Jews and Greeks became believers. 2  Some of the Jews, however, spurned God’s message and poisoned the minds of the Gentiles against Paul and Barnabas. 3  But the apostles stayed there a long time, preaching boldly about the grace of the Lord. And the Lord proved their message was true by giving them power to do miraculous signs and wonders. 4  But the people of the town were divided in their opinion about them. Some sided with the Jews, and some with the apostles.

5  Then a mob of Gentiles and Jews, along with their leaders, decided to attack and stone them. 6  When the apostles learned of it, they fled to the region of Lycaonia—to the towns of Lystra and Derbe and the surrounding area. 7  And there they preached the Good News.

Paul and Barnabas in Lystra and Derbe

8  While they were at Lystra, Paul and Barnabas came upon a man with crippled feet. He had been that way from birth, so he had never walked. He was sitting 9  and listening as Paul preached. Looking straight at him, Paul realized he had faith to be healed. 10  So Paul called to him in a loud voice, “Stand up!” And the man jumped to his feet and started walking.

11  When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in their local dialect, “These men are gods in human form!” 12  They decided that Barnabas was the Greek god Zeus and that Paul was Hermes, since he was the chief speaker. 13  Now the temple of Zeus was located just outside the town. So the priest of the temple and the crowd brought bulls and wreaths of flowers to the town gates, and they prepared to offer sacrifices to the apostles.

14  But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard what was happening, they tore their clothing in dismay and ran out among the people, shouting, 15  “Friends, [ n ] why are you doing this? We are merely human beings—just like you! We have come to bring you the Good News that you should turn from these worthless things and turn to the living God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. 16  In the past he permitted all the nations to go their own ways, 17  but he never left them without evidence of himself and his goodness. For instance, he sends you rain and good crops and gives you food and joyful hearts.” 18  But even with these words, Paul and Barnabas could scarcely restrain the people from sacrificing to them.

19  Then some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowds to their side. They stoned Paul and dragged him out of town, thinking he was dead. 20  But as the believers [ o ] gathered around him, he got up and went back into the town. The next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.

Paul and Barnabas Return to Antioch of Syria

21  After preaching the Good News in Derbe and making many disciples, Paul and Barnabas returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia, 22  where they strengthened the believers. They encouraged them to continue in the faith, reminding them that we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God. 23  Paul and Barnabas also appointed elders in every church. With prayer and fasting, they turned the elders over to the care of the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. 24  Then they traveled back through Pisidia to Pamphylia. 25  They preached the word in Perga, then went down to Attalia.

26  Finally, they returned by ship to Antioch of Syria, where their journey had begun. The believers there had entrusted them to the grace of God to do the work they had now completed. 27  Upon arriving in Antioch, they called the church together and reported everything God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles, too. 28  And they stayed there with the believers for a long time.

  • 13:13-14 Pamphylia and Pisidia were districts in what is now Turkey.
  • 13:15 Greek from the law.
  • 13:18 Some manuscripts read He cared for them; compare Deut 1:31 .
  • 13:22 1 Sam 13:14 .
  • 13:29 Greek from the tree.
  • 13:33 Or Today I reveal you as my Son. Ps 2:7 .
  • 13:34 Isa 55:3 .
  • 13:35 Ps 16:10 .
  • 13:38 English translations divide verses 38 and 39 in various ways.
  • 13:41 Hab 1:5 (Greek version).
  • 13:47 Isa 49:6 .
  • 13:52 Greek the disciples.
  • 14:1 Iconium, as well as Lystra and Derbe ( 14:6 ), were towns in what is now Turkey.
  • 14:15 Greek Men.
  • 14:20 Greek disciples; also in 14:22 , 28 .

Holy Bible , New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. , Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

journey of saint paul

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Book of Acts

Paul’s Journeys —Missionary journeys and journey to Rome

Our study of the places in the book of Acts requires a supplemental summary of the journeys and periods of the apostle Paul.

Traditionally, Paul is said to have made three missionary journeys, plus a fourth journey to Rome. In the Acts Facts series, I have retained this traditional manner of dividing up Paul’s several journeys recorded in the book of Acts. This enables you to more easily relate our studies with other studies, references, and maps, which most likely adhere to the same scheme.

The four journeys of Paul are...

  • 1st missionary journey (Acts 13:4 to 15:35).
  • 2nd missionary journey (Acts 15:36 to 18:22).
  • 3rd missionary journey (Acts 18:23 to 21:17).
  • Journey to Rome (Acts 27:1 to 28:16).

The first two journeys start and end in Syrian Antioch. The third journey starts in Antioch and ends in Jerusalem. Starting from Jerusalem, the fourth journey ends in Rome. See also Paul's trips to Jerusalem .

A After Paul’s Conversion

In Acts 9, Luke records the period between Paul’s conversion and his first missionary journey. In this period Paul was known as Saul. Paul himself speaks of this period in Acts 22 and 26, as well as Galatians 1:13-17. Putting information from all these sources together, we find the following activities between Paul’s conversion and first missionary journey.

  • After his conversion in Damascus, Paul very nearly lost his life (Acts 9:19-25).
  • During three years that followed, Paul spent some time in Arabia. After that, Paul returned to Damascus for the remainder of the three years (Galatians 1:11-18).
  • Paul then came to Jerusalem where he was assisted by Barnabas. Again his life was threatened, so he went home to Tarsus (Galatians 1:18-24, Acts 9:26-30).
  • Paul next went to Antoch in Syria. From there, he was sent down to Judea with aid for the brethren in need because of famine (Acts 11:19-30).
  • Paul and Barnabas then returned to Syrian Antioch (Acts 12:25).
  • At Antioch, Paul and Barnabas are called to embark on what is known as the 1st missionary journey (Acts 13:1-3).

B The 1st Missionary Journey

  • From Antioch’s seaport Selucia, they sail to Cyprus, and work throughout the island (Acts 13:4-12).
  • Next they go to Pamphylia and the other Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13:13-52). .
  • They went down to Lycaonia, working in Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe (Acts 14:1-23).
  • Passing through Pisidia and Pamphylia again, they then worked in Perga (Acts 14:24).
  • They went down to Attalia and caught a ship back to Syrian Antioch (Acts 14:25-27).

C Period in Syrian Antioch

  • Between the 1st and 2nd missionary journeys there was "a long time" in Antioch in Syria (Acts 14:28).
  • During this period, Paul, Barnabas, and other companions had to go up to Jerusalem to attend a council of the apostles regarding the issue of Christians keeping the law of Moses (Acts 15:1-29).
  • Paul returned to Antioch and worked there a while (Acts 15:30-35).

D The 2nd Missionary Journey

  • Paul chose Silas and embarked on a journey that began by revisiting the places tPaul had worked on his 1st journey (Acts 15:36-41).
  • They worked in Derbe, Lystra, Iconium. Timothy joined Paul and Silas.
  • Paul, with Silas and Timothy, went through the regions of Phrygia and Galatia, then on to Troas (Acts 16:1-8)
  • Paul received a vision calling him to Macedonia (Acts 16:9-40, 17:1-14).
  • Paul went down to Achaia and worked in Athens (Acts 17:15-34).
  • After Athens he went to work in Corinth where he met Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:1-17).
  • From Corinth Paul went to Ephesus (Acts 18:18-21).
  • He took a ship to Caesarea, visiting the church there, then went back to Syrian Antioch (Acts 18:21-22).

E The 3rd Missionary Journey

  • After a time in Antioch, Paul set off again and visited with the churches again in Galatia and Phrygia (Acts 18:23)
  • Paul next returned to Ephesus where his work caused an uproar (Acts 19:1-41).
  • Paul then revisited Macedonia and Greece, and came to Troas and after that to Miletus (Acts 20:1-38).
  • From Miletus Paul sailed to Caesarea and then went to Jerusalem (Acts 21:1-17).

F Period in Jerusalem and Caesarea

  • In Jerusalem Paul had a meeting with James and the elders (Acts 21:18-26).
  • Paul was caused trouble by the Jews (Acts 21:27-40).
  • Paul told his story publicly and nearly got flogged (Acts 28).
  • Paul went on trial and is escorted to Caesarea (Acts 23:1-35).
  • He was imprisoned in Caesarea and goes before Felix (Acts 24)
  • When he appeared before Festus he appealed to Caesar (Acts 25).
  • Paul next appeared before Agrippa (Acts 26).

G Journey to Rome

  • Paul sails for Rome under escort. On the way, he is shipwrecked (Acts 27)
  • His journey from Malta to Rome (Acts 28:1-15).
  • His house arrest in Rome (Acts 28:16-31).


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The Missionary Journeys of Paul

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In his passion for sharing the story of Jesus, Paul traveled over 10,000 miles. He crossed land and sea and visited countries we find in modern atlases as Greece, Turkey, and Syria. Each part of the journey was grueling and rough. Paul describes it this way:

“Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked” (2 Corinthians 11:25-27).

If we ignore the details of Paul’s journey, we miss out on the heart of Acts . So let’s take a close look at Paul’s three missionary journeys.

Paul’s first missionary journey (Acts 13-14)

When the church was worshiping and fasting in Antioch, the Holy Spirit marked Paul and Barnabas for a unique missionary journey. This journey was to start at the port city of Antioch and head to the island of Cyprus, Barnabas’ home.

When they reached Cyprus, John Mark assisted them as they proclaimed the gospel to the synagogues (Acts 13:5). They traveled from the port city of Salamis to Paphos on the opposite shore of Cyprus.

At Paphos, a sorcerer named Elymas greeted them. It seems that the governor of that province-a man named Sergius Paulus-had sent for the missionaries because he wanted to hear God’s Word. This was a message he was familiar with because, after the stoning of Stephen, many Christians had fled to Cyprus (Acts 11:19).

Elymas resisted Paul and Barnabas in an attempt to keep Paulus from faith. Paul called the sorcerer out as a child of the devil, and Elymas was struck blind for a time. When Paulus saw this, he became a follower of Jesus (Acts 13:6-12).

From Cyprus, the companions traveled to Perga in Pamphylia (modern-day Turkey). At this point, John Mark decided to abandon the team and return to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). This separation must have been the result of a large falling out because Paul and Barnabas fought about including John Mark in any further journeys.

Paul shared the gospel in the synagogue, and at first, it was well received. The Jews invited Paul and Barnabas to return, but when they saw the crowds gathered to hear them on the following Sabbath, they were jealous and began to argue and insult Paul (Acts 13:45).

In response, Paul instructed the crowd that he was no longer going to focus on ministering to the Jews and intended on sharing the message with the Gentiles. The Gentiles who were present received this news with joy, but the Jews started persecuting Paul and his companions, and they were forced to leave.

In Iconium, Paul and Barnabas attended another synagogue and spoke so effectively that many Jews and Gentiles accepted their words. But the Jews that didn’t went out of their way to stir up trouble. Even though Paul and Barnabas were able to perform miracles that accompanied their teaching, the city was divided against them, and a plan was hatched to have them stoned (Acts 14:1-7). The missionaries fled to Lystra.

While they were in Lystra, Paul healed a man who was lame, and the crowd thought that the Greek gods had come to the land. They assumed that Barnabas was Zeus and Paul was Hermes (because Hermes was Zeus’s messenger). Some priests from the local temple brought out bulls to sacrifice to the two Christians. Paul encouraged them to stop and shared that they were merely humans with testimony from God. Even after this, the crowds still tried to make a sacrifice to them.

At this point, Jews showed up from Antioch and Iconium and turned the crowd against the companions. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, leaving him for dead. But Paul was revived, and they headed to Derbe.

While they were in Derbe, they won many disciples. Afterward, they retraced their steps, returning to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch where they encouraged the new converts, appointed elders in new churches, and committed them to the Lord.

They then returned to Antioch and reported everything that had happened and how they had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles (Acts 14:21-28).

Paul’s second missionary journey (Acts 15:36-18:22)

Paul’s next missionary journey started with an invitation to Barnabas to get the old group back together and hit the road again. When Barnabas suggested that they bring John Mark, Paul disagreed, because he had abandoned them on the previous missionary journey. The argument was so tense that they split up. Barnabas took John Mark and set off for Cyprus and Paul left again for Asia Minor with Silas.

Timothy in Lystra

This time, Paul went the long way around instead of sailing to Asia Minor. He came through the Amanus Mountains to Cilicia and on to Derbe and Lystra. In Lystra, he joined up with Timothy, a disciple whose mother was a Jew and father was a Greek.

Despite the fact that the Jerusalem council had decided it was unnecessary to force Gentile believers to observe Jewish customs (Acts 15:1-29), Paul circumcised Timothy. Since Timothy was going to join Paul in his travels, it was necessary for Timothy’s background not to be a distraction for the Jews.

Phrygia and Galatia

The Holy Spirit propelled Paul’s team northwest toward the regions of Phrygia and Galatia. When they attempted to enter the district of Mysia, the Spirit blocked their way. In response, the travelers headed toward Troas. During the night, Paul received a vision of a man from Macedonia begging the disciples to help them. After the vision, they left for Macedonia (Acts 15:6-10).

From there, the team sailed across the Aegean Sea to Neapolis in Macedonia, currently part of Greece. Once they hit land, they headed toward Philippi-a critical city in Macedonia-where they stayed for several days.

On the Sabbath, the companions headed outside the city to the river where they expected to find Jews praying. They met some women there including Lydia, a dealer in expensive purple cloth. The women believed Paul’s message and received baptism. Lydia then invited the disciples to stay at her home (Acts 16:13-15).

One day on the way to the river, the missionaries met a slave girl who was possessed by a spirit which allowed her to predict the future. Her owners exploited this situation to make money off the girl. When she saw the disciples, she followed them around screaming that these men were prophets of God. Paul was so annoyed that he chastised her and cast the spirit out.

Her owners were furious that their source of income had been neutralized, so they dragged Paul and Silas before the authorities. Complaining that the disciples were throwing the city into an uproar, the slave girl’s owners turned the town against them and the authorities had them stripped and beaten with rods.

Afterward, the two were thrown into prison. God sent a dramatic earthquake which opened all the prison doors and loosed everyone’s chains. The jailer was startled awake and, sure that the prisoners had gotten away, was about to kill himself. When Paul assured him everyone was accounted for, the jailer believed in Jesus, and his whole household was baptized.

The next day the magistrate had Paul and Silas released and encouraged them to leave. Paul told the officers that he and Silas were Roman citizens who had been beaten and imprisoned without due process and they wouldn’t go unless the magistrates escorted them out themselves.

When the authorities heard that Paul and Silas were Romans, they became nervous. They rushed to the prison to tried to appease the two. Paul and Silas left the prison, and the disciples left town. (Acts 16:16-40).


For three weeks, Paul preached in a synagogue at Thessalonica. This captured the imagination of a few Jews and quite a number of Gentiles. The other Jews were jealous of the attention Paul was receiving and started a riot with some local toughs from the marketplace. When they couldn’t find Paul and Silas, they rounded up some of the Christians who were helping them before the city officials.

The rest of the Christians snuck the disciples out of town (Acts 17:1-10).

The Jews in Berea were studious and paid close attention to Paul’s message. Then they went to the Scriptures to examine his teaching for themselves. Many Jews joined the church as well as many Gentiles.

But the Jews from Thessalonica followed the disciples to Berea and started stirring up trouble there, too. Paul went to Athens via the coast and Silas and Timothy stayed behind in Berea (Acts 17:10-15).

While Paul was alone in Athens, he became upset about all the city’s idolatry. When he wasn’t preaching in the synagogue, he was in the marketplace reasoning with the Greeks. After sharing the gospel with the crowds in the market, many jeered but others were interested in hearing more. By the time Paul left Athens, he converted a number of citizens.

In Corinth, Paul met a Jewish couple named Aquila and Priscilla. Paul hit it off with them. Like him, they were tentmakers, and they invited Paul to stay with them while he shared the gospel in the local synagogue.

After he was reunited with Silas and Timothy, he devoted himself to preaching to the Jews. But eventually, they became abusive and, once again, Paul vowed to focus his attention on preaching to the Gentiles. He introduced a number of Corinthian Gentiles to Jesus.

After Paul received a vision from the Lord to be courageous and keep preaching, the Corinthian Jews attacked him, dragged him before the proconsul, and charged him with blasphemy. But Gallio, the proconsul, wasn’t interested in hearing about a Jewish disagreement. The crowd turned on Sosthenes, the local synagogue leader who had allowed Paul to preach, and beat Sosthenes in front of Gallio.

Ephesus and Caesarea

Paul stayed in Corinth for some time. When he was ready to shove off, he left Silas and Timothy and took Priscilla and Aquila to Ephesus. There he reasoned in the synagogue. The Jews asked Paul to stay, but he declined, promising to come back if it was God’s will . He left Priscilla and Aquila in Ephesus and went on to Caesarea before heading back to Jerusalem.

Paul’s third missionary journey (Acts 18:23-21:14)

After a brief stay in Antioch, Paul set off again to Asia Minor. He started by strengthening the believers in Galatia against the Jewish brethren who were stirring up controversy around the law. But then he headed back to Ephesus.

Paul arrived in Ephesus and instructed believers on the difference between water baptism and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Then he spent the next three months preaching in the synagogue. When the Jews became too difficult to get along with, Paul began speaking in a local lecture hall. He stayed in Ephesus for two years.

During this time, Paul was performing a lot of miracles, and many Jews were trying to copy him by invoking the name of Jesus. The sons of a local priest named Sceva had attempted to cast out an evil spirit “in the name of Jesus who Paul preaches.” The evil spirit let them know that he recognized the name of Jesus and Paul, but he was unfamiliar with these guys. Then the spirit caused the possessed man to beat the seven men.

The result was that many Jews and Gentiles had great reverence for Jesus. Those who were practicing sorcery burned their expensive scrolls and teachings. Because of this, the Word of God spread.

About this time, a silversmith named Demetrius who made his living casting idols began stirring up dissension. He told the artisans around Ephesus that this God who Paul preached was going to end up driving them out of business and discrediting the local temple of Artemis. The whole city erupted into pandemonium. Paul wanted to address them, but the disciples and city officials wouldn’t let him.

Eventually, the city clerk instructed Demetrius and the other craftsmen to either bring a legitimate charge against Paul or drop it. If they didn’t, they would be charged with rioting. And the whole issue was dropped (Acts 19).

Macedonia and Greece

From there, Paul set off for Macedonia and traveled around strengthening the churches. He ended up in Greece where he stayed for three months, but a Jewish plot sent him back through Macedonia.

While preaching in an upstairs room in Troas, a young man named Eutychus fell asleep and tumbled out of the third-story window. The fall killed Eutychus, and Paul went down and raised him from the dead-then they went back upstairs and ate.

Back to Asia Minor

The companions boarded a ship and sailed around the bottom of Asia Minor, hitting Kos, Rhodes, and Patara. From there, they sailed on to Tyre and stayed with disciples there for a week while the ship unloaded its cargo.

After being warned by the Spirit not to go to Jerusalem, they moved on to Ptolemais where they stayed a day with some believers. Then on they went to Caesarea to visit with Philip the evangelist.

After a few days in Caesarea, a prophet from Judea came and prophesied to Paul that the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem were going to bind him and to hand him over to the Gentiles. The people who heard this begged Paul not to go back to Jerusalem, but Paul trusted in the Lord’s will and the companions headed back to Jerusalem.

Paul’s commitment to the gospel

As the prophecy suggested, Paul was captured and sent to Rome. The book of Acts ends before Paul’s complete story was told. Paul was beheaded by Nero between 64-65 CE.

All told, Paul’s missionary journeys took him over 10,000 miles and lasted around nine years. His commitment to the gospel helped spread God’s message throughout the near east.

A clear picture of Paul’s journeys can improve your understanding of Paul’s relationship to the churches addressed in his epistles. But the best takeaway from familiarizing ourselves with Paul’s work should be a deeper passion for reaching people with the gospel.

Interested in starting your own missionary journey? Check out Jesus Film Mission Trips ® .

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The Missionary Journeys and Epistles of the Apostle Paul

journey of saint paul

Here is a summary of the years of St. Paul’s journeys and his epistles. The detailed chronology follows.

  • At Damascus 37-40 AD
  • First Journey 45-47 AD
  • Second Journey 51-53 AD
  • Third Journey 54-58 AD
  • Imprisonment in Judea 58-60 AD
  • Voyage to Rome 60-61 AD
  • Imprisonment in Rome 61-63 AD
  • Post-Imprisonment Journeys 63-67 AD
  • First Thessalonians 52 AD
  • Second Thessalonians 52 AD
  • First Corinthians 57 AD
  • Second Corinthians 57 AD
  • Galatians 55-57 AD
  • Romans 57-58 AD
  • Ephesians 62 AD
  • Philippians 62 AD
  • Colossians 62 AD
  • Philemon 63 AD
  • Hebrews 64-65 AD
  • Titus 64-65 AD
  • First Timothy 64-65 AD
  • Second Timothy 66-67 AD

The Chronology

The crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ occurred in the spring of 32 AD. The the day of Pentecost occured (Acts 2), then the stoning of Stephen, which Saul (St. Paul) participated in before his conversion (Acts 7:59). In about 37 AD, Jesus Christ speaks to Saul (St. Paul) on the road to Damascus. St. Paul is led blind to Damascus (Acts 9:8). After the visit by Ananias, St. Paul then goes to Arabia and returns to Damascus where he spends 3 years (Galatians 1:17-18 and Acts 9:22-23). In 37 AD King Aretas took control of Damascus when Emperor Tiberius Caesar died. St. Paul departed from Damascus at night, being let down from the city wall in a basket (Acts 9:25 and 2 Corinthians 11:32). This could not have been after 40 AD, the year that King Aretas died.

St. Paul met with Barnabus, Peter, and James in Jerusalem (Acts 9:26 and Galatians 1:18-19). St. Paul then goes to Caesarea and Tarsus (Acts 9:30) and St. Peter goes to the house of Cornelius (Acts 10). Barnabus gets St. Paul and they stay in Antioch (Syria) for one year (Acts 11:26). This must be between 41 AD (beginning of Claudius Caesar’s reign) and 44 AD (Acts 11:28). The Disciples are called Christians for the first time at Antioch (Acts 11:26). James, brother of John, is killed by Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12:2). Herod Agrippa I dies in 44 AD (Acts 12:23).

The first journey of St. Paul begins when St. Paul, Barnabus, and St. Mark set out from Antioch (Acts 13:4). This journey started after 44 AD and ended a “long time” (Acts 14:28) before 50 AD. They left Antioch for Seleucia and sailed to Cyprus, large island 100 miles off Syrian coast. There they went to Salamis and Paphos where St. Paul met Bar-Jesus the sorcerer (Acts 13:4-6). Then they sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, which is now southern Turkey. From here, St. Mark returns to Jerusalem. At Antioch in Pisidia (not to be confused with the one in Syria), St. Paul and Barnabas turn to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46). Then it was on to Iconium, where they abode a “long time” (Acts 14:3), Lystra, where St. Paul is stoned, but lives (Acts 14:19), and Derbe. Then they retraced their steps back through Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch (in Pisidia) (Acts 14:21). St. Paul and Barnabas went throughout Pisidia, Pamphylia, then to Perga, Attalia, and sailed back to Antioch in Syria (Acts 14:24-26) The first journey ends in Antioch, Syria, where St. Paul and Barnabus stay there a long time (Acts 14:28).

The dates for the events from 50-60 AD are found by counting backwards from the succession of Felix’s reign as Procurator in Judea by Porcius Festus in 60 AD. Should one want to check these dates for accuracy, one should start at 60 AD and work backwards. In about 50 AD, St. Paul and Barnabus go to the council in Jerusalem 14 years after St. Paul’s conversion (Galatians 2:1-9 and Acts 15:2). Judas and Silas return to Antioch (Syria) with Barnabus and St. Paul where they continued some days (Acts 15:35-36), possibly in the winter of 50-51 AD. The second journey begins, possibly in the spring of 51 AD. St. Paul takes Silas through Syria and Cilicia (now southeastern Turkey). They came to Derbe and Lystra, where they find Timothy, who goes with St. Paul and Silas throughout Phrygia and Galatia. But they are forbidden by the Spirit to go into Asia or Bithynia. They passed through Mysia to Troas, the island of Samothracia, and then to Neapolis in Macedonia (now northern Greece). At Philippi, God opens the heart of Lydia and the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:14-34). Passing through Amphipolis and Appolonia, they came to Thessalonica, where St. Paul taught for 3 weeks. After teaching some in Berea, St. Paul departed ahead of Silas and Timothy, southward into Achaia (now southern Greece), to Athens, possibly for the winter of 51-52 AD (Acts 17:14- 15). St. Paul then makes his first visit to Corinth where he stays a year and a half (Acts 18:5). This may have been from the spring of 52 AD to the fall of 53 AD. Here, St. Paul met Aquila and Priscilla, who had just come from Rome, from which Claudius Caesar had banished all Jews. Silas and Timothy rejoin St. Paul. First Thessalonians was written from here in about 52 AD (1 Thessalonians 3:1-2, 6). We know that it was written from Corinth, and not from Athens, because Silas and Timothy had already rejoined St. Paul (1 Thessalonians 1:1 and Acts 18:5). Second Thessalonians was also written from Corinth. We know that it was soon after the first letter, because like the first letter, Silas was with St. Paul when second Thessalonians was written. After St. Paul leaves Corinth, there is no further mention of Silas traveling with St. Paul. St. Paul left by boat with Aquila and Priscilla to Cenchrea and then across the Aegean Sea to Ephesus. Aquila and Priscilla stay there where they would later meet Apollos (Acts 18:19 and 26). St. Paul sails on to Caesarea and then goes up to Antioch in Syria, where the second journey ends. St. Paul stayed a while (Acts 18:23). This may have been the winter of 53-54 AD.

The third journey begins with Galatia (central region of Turkey) possibly in the spring of 54 AD and then Phrygia (Acts 18:23). Then St. Paul arrives at Ephesus where he stayed for 3 years (Acts 20:31) probably from the fall of 54 AD to the fall of 57 AD. St. Paul meets disciples of John the Baptist. He preached in the synagogue for 3 months (Acts 19:8). He disputed daily in the school of Tyrannus for 2 years (Acts 19:9-10), so that all that dwelt in Asia heard the word. St. Paul sent Timothy and Erastus ahead into Macedonia, but St. Paul stayed in Asia for a season (Acts 19:22). St. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians near the end of this stay in Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:8,19), probably in 57 AD. It was not written with Timothy, who St. Paul had sent ahead into Macedonia (Acts 19:22). St. Paul foresaw his route of travel for the next four or so years in Acts 19:21-22. This agrees with his plans in 1 Corinthians 16:1, 3, 5, 8-10. Note how the “great door” opened to St. Paul and “many adversaries” in verse 9 compares with the events in the Ephesian amphitheater in Acts 19:23-41. In 1 Corinthians 3:6 St. Paul says “Apollos watered”. This refers to Apollos teaching in Corinth when St. Paul was at Ephesus, (Acts 19:1).

St. Paul had rejoined Timothy when Second Corinthians was written (2 Corinthians 1:1). St. Paul had come to Troas and continued to Macedonia (2 Corinthians 2:12-13 and 7:5), which seems to correspond to Acts 20:1. St. Paul also talks of a third visit to Corinth in 2 Corinthians 13:1 and 12:14. So Second Corinthians was most likely written in the fall of 57 AD from somewhere in Macedonia (northern Greece), possibly Philippi. In 2 Corinthians 12:1-4, St. Paul says 14 years ago I ascended into heaven. From 57, going back 14 years to 43 AD, this puts us back before St. Paul’s first journey, probably when he was at Antioch in Syria. After going through Macedonia (northern Greece), St. Paul came to Achaia (southern Greece) where he stayed 3 months (Acts 20:2-3), making third visit to Corinth. This is where he spent the winter of 57-58 AD (1 Corinthians 16:5-8). Romans was written at this time (Romans 15:23-26 and 1 Corinthians 16:1-3). Going back to Macedonia (Acts 20:1), they were at Philippi (northeastern Greece) in the spring of 58 AD in the “days of unleavened bread” (Acts 20:6).

Then they sailed to Troas, where a young man fell out of a window, and St. Paul raises him from the dead (Acts 20:7-12). Then St. Paul went to Assos, Mitylene, Chios, Samos, Trogylium, and Miletus (now in southwestern Turkey). From here, St. Paul addresses Ephesian elders whom he had called to meet him (Acts 20:17-38) in the spring of 58 AD (Acts 20:16). Sailing to Coos, Rhodes, Patara, and passing on the south side of Cyprus, they came to Tyre (which is now in Lebanon) where they stayed one week. Then they went south to Ptolemais and to Caesarea where they stayed many days (Acts 21:10). Then St. Paul goes to Jerusalem, where the third journey ends.

Here let us pause to look at the question: When was Galatians written? Galatians was written when St. Paul was not in prison and when neither Silas or Timothy were with him (Galatians 1:1). It was written after the council in Jerusalem (Acts 15:1-32 and Galatians 2:1-10) and after St. Paul’s second visit to the region on his second journey in about 51 AD (Acts 16:1-6). Since they were “so soon removed” from grace (Galatians 1:6), it must have been before the prison years of 58-63 AD. So it could have been written when St. Paul was alone in Athens in the winter of 51-52 AD, which would make it St. Paul’s first letter. But this is unlikely, since St. Paul was only in Athens a short time (Acts 17:15). Or it could have been written from Antioch between St. Paul’s second and third journeys in the winter of 53-54 AD (Acts 18:22-23). But this is also unlikely because St. Paul would have probably mentioned that he would be coming to them soon on his third journey. It could have been written from Corinth in the winter of 57-58 where St. Paul wrote Romans. But most likely, it was written from Ephesus during St. Paul’s 3 years there from 54-57. St. Paul had recently passed through the region of Galatia “… strengthening all the disciples …” (Acts 18:23) and spent far more time in Ephesus where he could have gotten the unfavorable report about the churches in Galatia (Galatians 1:6) which was relatively nearby.

The third journey ends at Jerusalem in 58 AD. St. Paul is beaten by the Jews, preaches to them (Acts 22:1-21), and is brought before the Sanhedrin. Jesus Christ tells St. Paul that he will go to bear him witness in Rome. Many Jews vow to kill St. Paul (Acts 23:12). In 58 AD, St. Paul is taken to Governor Felix (reigned 53-60) at Caesarea, “many years” (Acts 24:10) after 53 AD and 2 years before the end of Felix’s reign. St. Paul then spends 2 years in prison in Caesarea in Judea. In 60 AD, Governor Portius Festus’s reign begins. St. Paul appeals to Caesar (Acts 25:11). Some days pass, then Herod Agrippa II hears St. Paul.

The voyage to Rome begins – St. Paul, still a prisoner, sails to Sidon with Luke and Aristarchus (Acts 27:1-2) on the way to Italy. They sailed to Myra (now southern Turkey) and on to Lasea, a large island of Crete, 50 miles southeast of Greece, where much time was spent (Acts 27:7-13). In the fall of 60 AD, they reached Melita, a small island south of Sicily. St. Paul was bitten by a poisonous snake but lived. St. Paul healed the father of Publius and others. St. Paul (still captive) spends the winter of 60-61 AD (Acts 28:11) on the island with his captors. In the spring, they sailed on to Syracuse (on the island of Sicily), then to Rhegium (on the southern tip of Italy), then to Puteoli (on the western coast of Italy). The voyage to Rome ends – St. Paul spends 2 years in his own hired house (Acts 28:30) as a prisoner in Rome from 61-63 AD. During this time he wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. In about 62 AD, St. Paul wrote Ephesians before Timothy came to him (Ephesians 1:1) while in prison in Rome (Ephesians 3:1, 4:1, and 6:20). Also in about 62 AD, St. Paul wrote Philippians from prison (Philippians 1:7) in Rome (4:23) with Timothy (1:1). St. Paul wrote Colossians from prison (Colossians 4:18) in Rome in about 62 AD with Timothy (1:1) and fellow prisoner, Aristarchus (4:10). St. Paul, with Timothy, wrote Philemon from prison in 63 AD (Philemon 1:1).

St. Paul after the imprisonment in Rome – We know that St. Paul had further journeys after he was released from the prison in Rome in 63 AD. After his release, he wrote the epistles of Hebrews, Titus, First Timothy, and Second Timothy, not necessarily in that order, although Second Timothy was apparently his last. This took place after the events recorded in the book of Acts, so all of our information comes from various statements that St. Paul makes in his letters. In them are clues that St. Paul may have traveled to some or all of the following places: Colosse, Spain, Corinth, Miletus, Troas, Crete, Nicopolis, Philippi, Italy, Judea, Ephesus, and Macedonia. This allows for the possibilities that St. Paul traveled to more about as many diverse places as in all of his previous journeys combined. There are probably several possible ways that one could reconstruct the sequence of these travels which would not disagree with scripture. Since we do not know which one would be correct, we will just list what we know about the journeys. Thus, the references below are not intended to be chronological, although they all occurred after St. Paul’s release from prison in 63 AD.

In Philemon 22, St. Paul foresaw his release and tells those in Colosse to prepare him lodging. We know that Philemon was written to the Colossians because of Archippus (Colossians 4:17 and Philemon 2), Onesimus (Colossians 4:9 and Philemon 9-10), and others (Colossians 4:10-14 and Philemon 23-25). Also, while in prison in Rome St. Paul wrote to those in Philippi that he may be coming to visit them (Philippians 1:26). In Romans 1:10, 15:24 and 28, and 16:1, 3, and 5 St. Paul speaks of aspirations of eventually going to Spain. Did he ever do this in his final years? The Bible does not say whether he did or not. We do however have the account of the century author, St. Clement of Rome, regarding St. Paul: “After preaching both in the east and west, he gained the illustrious reputation due to his faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world, and come to the extreme limit of the west, and suffered martyrdom under the prefects” (The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, Chapter 5). The “extreme limit of the west” may be Spain. We do not know for sure.

At some time after being released from the prison in Rome, St. Paul went to Corinth and Miletus (2 Timothy 4:20). He also went to Troas (2 Timothy 4:13), Crete (Titus 1:5), and Nicopolis for the winter (Titus 3:12). St. Paul leaving Titus in Crete must have been during a period of liberty after St. Paul’s imprisonment in Rome ended in 63 AD. St. Paul did not go there during the first 3 journeys. There is no mention of Titus or of any preaching on Crete in Acts 27:7-13, on the voyage to Rome. St. Paul says he will send Artemas or Tychicus to Titus. He tells Titus to come to Nicopolis where St. Paul has determined to winter (Titus 3:12). The letter to Titus was probably written around 64-65 AD. There are three cities called Nicopolis: (1) in Achaia (southern Greece), most likely the one to which St. Paul was referring, (2) 15 miles west of Jerusalem, and (3) in the area that is now Romania. The book of Hebrews was apparently written from Italy (Hebrews 13:24). Timothy had been released from prison (Hebrews 13:23) and was coming to St. Paul. St. Paul was apparently at liberty as well, since they planned to then go to visit the Hebrews. This could have been in Judea, as St. Paul says, “… for you had compassion of me in my bonds …” (Hebrews 10:34). This must have been in reference to St. Paul’s imprisonment in Caesarea from 58-60 AD. Hebrews was probably written around 64-65 AD.

St. Paul had told Timothy to stay and teach in Ephesus when St. Paul went to Macedonia (1 Timothy 1:3). During the third journey, St. Paul had done the opposite, staying in Ephesus himself, and sending Timothy with Erastus to Macedonia (Acts 19:22). So First Timothy was written around 64-65 AD during a period of liberty after St. Paul’s Roman imprisonment of 61-63 AD. St. Paul said he was hoping to come to Timothy in Ephesus shortly, but may have to tarry long (1 Timothy 3:14-15). Timothy was in Ephesus where he received both First Timothy and Second Timothy (1 Timothy 1:3, 2 Timothy 1:16-18, 4:14, 4:19, Acts 19:33, and 1 Timothy 1:20). Second Timothy may have been written from prison (2 Timothy 1:8) with St. Paul ready to die (2 Timothy 4:6-8), possibly about 66 AD. Yet he asks Timothy to come to him before winter (2 Timothy 4:9 and 21). St. Paul was probably martyred sometime around 67 AD.

May the blessings of this missionary Apostle be with us all.

journey of saint paul

Posted by Fr. Moses Samaan

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On the Road and on the Sea with St. Paul

Travelling conditions in the first century.

journey of saint paul

In the Acts of the Apostles, we are told that Paul made three missionary journeys. In almost every introduction to the New Testament I have seen, the author discusses St. Paul’s journeys in terms of places and dates; his concern is to establish the location of the cities Paul visited and to fix the exact time he visited them. But when Paul himself speaks of his travels he emphasizes, not the “where” or the “when,” but the “how.” For instance, in defending himself against attacks on his authority in the church of Corinth, Paul writes:

“Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, … danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure” ( 2 Corinthians 11:25–27 ).

By this catalogue of hardships, the Apostle underlines his dedication to his ministry. But for us, too much is left unsaid for the evocative potential of Paul’s description to be fully realized. Paul’s contemporaries could easily have filled in the picture from their own experiences. We who travel at great speed and in security and comfort, however, need to transport ourselves consciously to a very different world if we are to appreciate the conditions under which Paul passed a great part of his life, and that contributed to the experiences that became integral to his theology.

Since Paul himself gives us no details, we must extrapolate; what he encountered would have been similar to what others, who lived a century before or after, experienced.

With minor localized exceptions, peace reigned throughout the Roman Empire for 200 years after Augustus Caesar’s (Octavian’s) accession to power in 30 -->B.C. --> During this time, travel conditions remained the same. From scattered references by Greek and Roman writers, we can recreate a rather detailed picture of what it was like to travel in the first century -->A.D. --> This has been done in an excellent study entitled Travel in the Ancient World by Lionel Casson (London: Allen & Unwin, 1974). But Casson’s material needs to be supplemented by information from a source that he inexplicably ignores; that is, from The Golden Ass, 1 a Latin novel written by Apuleius, who was born about 123 -->A.D. --> This novel describes the adventures of Lucius, a man turned into a donkey, who undergoes many misfortunes at the hands of a series of owners before finally recovering his own form as a man. The action takes lace in the area between Corinth and Thessalonica, where Paul also went, and provides invaluable 039 insights into life outside the major cities, as well as conditions of travel.

Paul’s first missionary Journey took him from Syria to Cyprus and then to Pisidia (part of modern Turkey) ( Acts 13–14 ). His second journey, across Asia Minor into Europe, is narrated by Luke in Acts 15–18 . The journey can also be reconstructed from hints scattered throughout the Pauline Epistles. The only difference between the account in Luke and in the Epistles is the date. Luke places Paul’s journey after the Jerusalem conference ( Acts 15 ), which took place in 51 or 52 -->A.D. -->, when the apostles worked out a compromise permitting Jewish and Gentile Christians to eat together. From Paul’s own letters it is clear that this journey must have taken place before the Jerusalem conference, probably between 45 and 51. 2 On his third journey, Paul revisited many of the cities where he had preached during his second journey ( Acts 18:22–21:16 ).

In Paul’s time, as today, how you traveled depended on how much money you could afford to spend. Paul was not a rich man. The impression he gives in his letters is that he had no significant personal financial resources. He seems to have had nothing beyond what he could earn and the sporadic gifts sent to him by various churches ( 2 Corinthians 11:8–9 ; Philippians 4:14 ). As an itinerant artisan, a tent-maker ( Acts 18:3 ), he was far better off than an unskilled worker of the laboring class, but no artisan became rich. It would have been as much as Paul could do to earn his daily bread, even if he had enjoyed a stable situation with a regular clientele. But Paul garnered much of his work from fellow travelers on the road, or he had to begin anew in a strange city where he had no reputation to attract business.

In these circumstances, Paul certainly traveled on foot. A large selection of wheeled vehicles was available to travelers, but to rent or buy one would 040 have been beyond his means. What about a horse? Except by military dispatch riders, horses were not used to travel long distances. Riding came easily only to those born on horseback, for saddles were rudimentary, and stirrups unknown. A donkey could certainly have borne some of Paul’s baggage, but this would only have increased his expenses without increasing his speed. Moreover, a donkey could be requisitioned by any soldier or official who needed it. Several decades earlier, the philosopher Epictetus had advised donkey owners to surrender their beasts immediately on being requested to do so, in order to avoid being beaten up by soldiers (Discourses 4:1.79). Requisitioning by soldiers was so common that it is even illustrated by an episode in Apuleius’s Golden Ass (9:36–10:12).

journey of saint paul

How far could Paul expect to go in a day? In some travel narratives the number of days needed to cover a known distance is recorded; the average daily distance is about 20 miles. 3 An anonymous traveler known as the Bordeaux pilgrim, who visited the Holy land in 333 -->A.D. -->, kept a famous diary that has survived. From Faustinopolis to Tarsus he followed the Roman road laid down when Pompey moved his legions into the East m 63 -->B.C. -->, through the Cilician Gates. Paul took this road in reverse when he traveled from Tarsus to Galatia. According to data given by the Bordeaux pilgrim, the distances were as follows: a

From Tarsus to Faustinopolis, then, was 62 Roman miles. But in between, as the chart shows, were several inns and posts. A traveler would normally spend the night at an inn ( mansio ). A post ( mutatio ) was simply a staging-point where animals could be changed.

Thus, a normal day’s journey for those traveling by carriage was from inn, roughly 25 Roman miles or 22 modern miles. Those who walked, as 041 Paul did, would have had to extend themselves to cover this distance. It is unlikely that Paul could have maintained such an average for long periods, particularly when the road was hilly.

If Paul says that he was “in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure” ( 2 Corinthians 11:27 ), it is obvious that on occasion he found himself far from human habitation at nightfall. He may have failed to reach shelter because of weather conditions; an unusually hot day may have sapped his endurance; mountain passes may have been blocked by unseasonably early or late snowfalls; spring floods may have made sections of the road impassable (he claims to have been “in danger from rivers”)( 2 Corinthians 11:26 ); or fierce hailstorms may have forced him to take refuge. The average height of the Anatolian plateau (present day central Turkey) is 3,000 feet above sea-level, but great sections of it rise to double that and extreme variations of temperature are the rule. The mountainous territory through which Paul Passed in northern Greece would have been only marginally better.

Anyone living in the vicinity of a Roman road, and particular near a post or an inn, was subject to requisition by Roman military, as well as civilian officials. Not only could their animals and vehicles be “borrowed” but they themselves could be pressed into service as porters or drivers. In these circumstances, the ordinary traveler did not get much sympathy. So many demands were made upon those who lived near the road that they would not be apt to offer aid gratuitously. Paul, in consequence, could not count on free hospitality. Despite the traditional generosity of the poor to their own kind, he would have had to pay for both food and lodging—which meant that he had to earn money as he traveled.

Fortunately, Paul had a trade that was much in demand among travelers. As a tent-maker he had the skill to make and repair all kinds of leather goods, not just the animal skins used to make tents, Travelers were shod in leather sandals and often wore hooded leather cloaks. They carried water and wine in leather gourds. Animals were attached to carriages and carts by leather harnesses. Sometimes, the wealthy even carried tents in case they were caught in the open at nightfall. Repairing torn pieces of leather or broken stitches no doubt provide Paul with the means to pay his way. Of course, he had no control over when the demand for his services would come. He could be summoned just as he was starting out from the inn in the morning. He could be involved in a breakdown on the road. He could be kept working late at night by a customer anxious to make an early start next day. Worst of all, he could be commandeered by a soldier or official to repair the soldier’s or official’s equipment. For this, he was unlikely to be paid and all such work meant delay— another reason why Paul sometimes found himself 042 far from where he planned to be at nightfall.

When Paul made it to an inn, he could not look forward to a night of total repose. The average inn was no more than a courtyard surrounded by rooms. Baggage was piled in the open space where animals were also tethered for the night. The drivers sat around noxious little fires fueled by dried dung, or slept on the ground wrapped in their cloaks.

journey of saint paul

Those who could afford better rented beds in the rooms. The snorting and stamping of the animals outside was sometimes drowned out by the snores of others who shared the room, anyone of whom might be a thief. Paul’s anxiety that he might lose the tools of his trade was hardly conducive to a sound night’s sleep. And sound sleep was made infinitely more difficult by that perennial occupant of all inns, the bedbug.

The menace posed by the bedbug is graphically— and amusingly—described in a tale from the Acts of John written in the third century -->A.D. --> about a journey from Laodicea to Ephesus. 4

“On the first evening we arrived at a lonely inn, and while we were trying to find a bed for John we noticed a curious thing. There was one unoccupied and unmade bed, so we spread the cloaks which we were wearing over it, and begged him to lie down on it, while all the rest of us slept on the floor. “But when John lay down he was troubled by the bugs. They became more and more troublesome to him, and it was already midnight when he said to them in the hearing of us all, ‘I order you, you bugs, to behave yourselves, one and all. You must leave your home for tonight and be quiet in one place, and keep your distance from the servants of God.’ And while we laughed and went on talking, John went to sleep, but we talked quietly and, thanks to him, were not disturbed. “Now, as day was breaking, I got up first, and Verus and Andronicus with me, and we saw by the door of the room which we had taken an enormous mass of bugs. We were astounded at their great number. All the brethren woke up because of them, but John went on sleeping. When he woke up, we explained to him what we had seen. He sat up in bed, looked at the bugs, and said, ‘Since you have behaved yourselves and listened to my correction, you may go back to your own place.’ When he had said this, and had got up from the bed, the bugs came running from the door towards the bed, climbed up its legs, and disappeared into the joints” (#60–61).

Paul and his traveling companions must have scratched through many a weary night wishing that they had the power to rid themselves of the pest by means of a simple word!

Danger from robbers is another worry Paul mentions in his catalogue of apostolic sufferings in 2 Corinthians 11:26 , and indeed robbers were almost as pervasive as bedbugs. Casson describes a commonly held, but erroneous, view of travel conditions in the Roman Empire at the time: “The through routes were policed well enough for the traveller to ride them with relatively little fear of bandits… Wherever he went, he was under the umbrella of a well-organized, efficient legal system.” 5 This was true, however, only to the extent that the Emperor was conceived as a universal protector; in many instances, he did not function in that way. Two episodes from Apuleius’s Golden Ass illustrate the real situation. In one, Lucius, still in the form of an ass, has been driven toward a robbers’ hideout in the mountains. In a town on the way, he decides to invoke the name of the emperor, with the following result:

“It suddenly struck me that I could use the way out open to every citizen, and free myself from 044 my miseries by invoking the name of the Emperor. It was already daylight, and we were going through a populous town to which a market had attracted a good crowd. In the middle of these groups, all made up of Greeks, I tried to invoke in Greek the august name of Caesar. I got as far as a distinct and powerful ‘O’ but the remainder, the name of Caesar, I could not pronounce. The robbers, not liking the discordant sound of my voice, took it out of my hide” (3:29).

The point is no less clear for being made with sophistication and wit. The poor had no access to the emperor, and could not effectively claim his intervention.

Powerful and influential personalities were in a different situation. Apuleius’s second story concerns a disgraced procurator who was on his way into exile on the island of Zakynthos. The procurator and his escort were spending the night at a small inn at Actium when it was attacked by robbers. The robbers were beaten off by the procurator’s escort, but the procurator’s wife, who had volunteered to go into exile with him, was so incensed that she returned to Rome and asked Caesar to exterminate the brigands. There was a happy ending.

“Caesar decided that the gang of the brigand Hemus should no longer exist, and it immediately disappeared; such is the power of an imperial wish. The whole gang, chased by detachments of soldiers, ended up by being cut to pieces” (7:7).

As these stories reflect, imperial authority was exercised on the personal demand of those with enough clout to reach the emperor, not by any formal institution.

It was difficult, as well, to invoke the protection of lesser officials, since provincial governors had no permanent forces to perform regular police functions. Although they moved around their territories holding judicial sessions at selected towns, and auxiliary bodyguard units could be used to intervene if necessary, the frequency of a provincial governor’s visits to outlying towns depended on the whim of the official. Many were less than conscientious; even those who took their duties seriously made no effort to cover their territories systematically. 6

Apuleius gives a picture of the small towns in northern Greece through which Paul passed that makes them sound similar to the frontier towns of the Wild West that had no sheriff. Individuals had no one but themselves to defend their rights; they often took the law into their own hands. According to The Golden Ass , towns were often run by influential families in their own interest. Thus, we find a outpoor man dispossessed with impunity “by a rich and powerful young neighbor, who misused the prestige of his ancestry, was powerful in local politics, and could easily do anything he liked in the town” (9:35). Just before being turned into an ass, Lucius is warned.

“Take care to return early from your dinner. A gang of young idiots, all from the best families, disturb public order. You will see cadavers strewn in the street. And the auxilia of the governor, far away as they are, cannot rid the city of such carnage” (2.18).

The poor were defenseless before such casual brutality. How could they appeal to the governor? And if they ever reached him, would he accept their version of events?

Neighbors could sometimes band together against outsiders. Apuleius tells the story of a group of robbers who sidle into a town and, by cautious questions in the market, discover the house of the town’s moneylender. The moneylender becomes aware of what is going on, however; when the robbers come to his house that night, he is ready. As the chief robber slips his hand through the keyhole in order to pull the bolt, the owner nails it to the door, and runs to the roof to summon help (4:9–11). A similar story is narrated in 4:13–21. Such justice, of course, was highly localized. One could avoid a charge of murder simply by moving to another town (1:19). Runaway slaves were in little danger of being caught (8:15–23). On the other hand, if feelings ran high, thieves were simply executed on the spot (7:13).

Little imagination is needed to appreciate how vulnerable Paul was under such conditions. He was the stranger, the outsider. There was no one to whom he could turn for aid. He had no neighbors or friends, and could be easily victimized in innumerable ways. I think it very likely that this sense of vulnerability is what lies behind his repeated stress on his “weakness” ( 1 Corinthians 9:22 ; 2 Corinthians 11:29 ).

If the towns were chaotic, anarchy ruled in the countryside. Even in the relatively populous region between Athens and Corinth, the section of this road called the Sceironian Rocks was notorious for the number of its highwaymen. Highwaymen, however, were by no means the only “danger in the wilderness” ( 2 Corinthians 11:26 ) that Paul experienced.

Another danger sounds rather banal. Not all the Roman roads Paul walked were as well constructed as the famous Via Egnatia, which he took from Neapolis to Philippi and then on to Thessalonica via Amphipolis and Apollonia ( Acts 17:1 ). The Via Egnatia was a via silice strata , paved with hard igneous rock and bordered with raised stones outside of which was an unpaved track for pack animals 045 and pedestrians. Most of the other roads in the East were paved only near towns. In the countryside the road was a via glarea strata , an unsealed br gravel road. On these roads, the danger from flying stones thrown up by passing vehicles was a menace the walking traveler had to live with.

Wild animals were another danger. The story of the Golden Ass is set in an area well known to Paul, the area between Beroea and Thessalonica. As recounted by Apuleius, it was to this region that the rich man from Corinth came to collect wild beasts for his gladiatorial show (10:18). Apuleius refers explicitly to bears (4:13; 7:24), wolves (7:22; 8:15) and wild boar (8:4). Travelers in this story are armed with throwing-spears, heavy hunting-spears, bows and clubs (8:16).

Paul could have encountered some of these wild animals. When he was sent off from Beroea “as far as the sea” ( Acts 17:14 ), presumably he went to Pydna, where the harbor may have remained functional, even though the town itself moved inland in the Roman period. As the crow flies, the distance between Beroea and Pydna is 31 miles (50 krns) over mountainous terrain, a habitat of wild animals.

Several segments of Paul’s second missionary journey were by sea. He sailed from Troas to make his first European landfall at Neapolis, the port of Philippi ( Acts 16:11 ). Certainly the return journey from Corinth via Ephesus to Caesarea was also by sea ( Acts 18:18–22 ).

Combining land and sea travel was common in the eastern Mediterranean. At the beginning of the second century -->A.D. -->, Pliny the Younger wrote to the Emperor Trajan,

“I feel sure, Sir, that you will be interested to hear that I have rounded Cape Malea [the southern tip of Greece] and arrived at Ephesus with my complete staff after being delayed by contrary winds. My intention now is to travel on to my province [Bithynia] panly by coastal boat and partly by carriage. The intense heat prevents my traveling entirely by road, and the prevailing Etesian winds [north winds that blow from July to September] make it impossible to go all the way by sea” (Letters, 10:15, cf. also 10:17).

As an official, Pliny could requisition boats and carriages at will. Paul had to make do with what was available. When he left from Troas, it is likely that he simply took the first boat sailing to Greece, without being too particular about its specific destination. Since it was summer he could be sure of finding a boat. This would not have been true during the rest of the year, however. In winter, the Mediterranean was effectively closed to travel. Luke notes that “The voyage was already dangerous because the Fast [Yom Kippur, celebrated near the autumnal equinox] was already over” ( Acts 27:9 ). And Pliny the Elder advises us that “Spring opens the sea to voyagers.” ( Natural History , 2:47). Storms blew regularly in winter; the violence of these winter storms is well documented. Paul’s trip to Rome started so late in the season that one storm he endured lasted nearly three weeks ( Acts 27:19 , 27 ). Josephus records a case where a ship sent to sea in winter on an urgent military mission hit three continuous months of storms ( Jewish War , 2:200–203). Not unreasonably, the ancients considered sea travel highly risky between March and May and during September and October. Between November and February, however, it was extremely dangerous. We can easily understand why Paul wintered in Malta, rather than continuing his travels, after his shipwreck ( Acts 28:11 ), and why he considered wintering in Corinth ( 1 Corinthians 16:6 ).

Storms were not the only reason the seas were usually closed in winter. Sailors plotted a course by the sun and stars, as well as by landmarks. In winter, fog or heavy cloud cover would cut off their navigational guides, easily leading to shipwreck. Therefore, ships usually did not stray far from land. Particularly in a crowded archipelago, sailors preferred to move from one land sighting to another in daylight. Thus, on the run from Troas to Neapolis, Paul’s ship spent the night at Samothrace ( Acts 16:11 ), and on the trip from Troas to Miletus ( Acts 20:6–16 ), the ship made frequent stops—at Assos, at Mitylene, at a place opposite Chios, and finally at Samos. Cicero describes a similar journey in 51 -->B.C. -->:

“Even in July sea travel is a complicated business. I got from Athens to Delos in six days. On the 6th we left; Piraeus for Cape Zoster. A contrary wind kept us there on the 7th. On the 8th we reached Kea under pleasant conditions. We had a favorable wind for Gyaros. Thence to Syros, and on to Delos, the end of the voyage, each time more quickly than we would have wished. You know the Rhodian aphracts; nothing rides the sea as badly. So I have no intention of rushing, and do not plan to move from Delos until I can see all of Cape Gyrae [the southern tip of Tinos]” ( Ad Atticum , 5:12.1).

The prevailing wind in the sailing season was called the Etesian wind. It blew from the northern quadrant (northwest to northeast), and most 046 consistently from the northwest. Thus, any sea journey to the southeast was likely to be a delight. When Agrippa I (10 -->B.C. --> to 44 -->A.D. -->) was returning to Palestine to take over the tetrarchy of his uncle Philip, the Emperor Caligula advised him not to take the overland route to Syria, but, as quoted by Philo,

“to wait for the Etesian winds and take the short route through Alexandria. He told him that the ships are crack sailing craft and their skippers the most experienced there are; they drive their vessels like race horses on an unswerving course that goes straight as a die” (Philo, In Flaccum , 26—[trans. Casson]).

The ships referred to are the great clippers that brought Egyptian grain to Rome. These were the biggest and best ships of their day. A contemporary description gives their length as 180 feet, their beam as 50 feet, and their depth, from the deck to the bottom of the hold, 44 feet. 7 From Rome to Egypt, they ran in ballast at their best point of sailing and could carry several hundred passengers. The journey from Rome to Alexandria lasted 10 to 20 days.

Things were very different on the return trip from Egypt to Rome. The rig of that time did not allow ships to sail close to the wind; their keels were not deep enough and they lacked jibs. 8 Thus, they could not retrace their outward route, but were forced north and east toward the southern coast of Asia Minor. They had to remain at anchor when the winds were adverse and make short dashes when conditions turned favorable.

It is obvious why Paul, of his own free will, never took a ship going west. When he traveled from the Middle East to Europe, he always went overland through Asia Minor, thereby avoiding the frustration of being delayed in port by adverse winds. On the return trip, however, he always took a boat. Once the island of Rhodes had been left astern, it was a straight run to the Phoenician coast ( Acts 21:1–3 ). It certainly saved him several weeks of foot slogging.

Pliny the elder argued that “the sea-sickness caused by rolling and pitching are good for many ailments of the head, eyes, and chest” ( Natural History , 31:33)! We will never know whether Paul agreed with this assessment.

Paul sailed west only once—to be tried by the emperor ( Acts 25:12 ). The centurion who escorted Paul obviously knew the wind patterns. In the ports of the southern coast of Asia Minor, he looked for a ship going to Rome; in Myra in Lycia, the centurion found a grain carrier ( Acts 27:5 , 38 ). Even if we were not told it was an Egyptian grain carrier, we could have deduced as much from the number of passengers, 276 in all ( Acts 27:37 ). Luke graphically describes the difficulties caused by adverse winds ( Acts 27:7–8 ), and the short-lived euphoria produced by a favorable breeze ( Acts 27:14 ).

There were no passenger vessels sailing regular schedules in Paul’s day. Cargo ships took passengers on a space available basis. The procedure is described by Philostratus in his Life of Apollonius of Tyana :

“Turning to Danis, Apollonius said, ‘Do you know of a ship that is sailing for Italy?’ ‘I do,’ he replied, ‘for we are staying at the edge of the sea, and the crew is at our doors, and a ship is being got ready to start, as I gather from the shouts of the crew and the exertions they are making over weighing the anchor!’’ (8:14).

This vignette omits the haggling over the fare with a hard-eyed owner or his representative who was determined to get the maximum the market would bear. Presumably, maximum utilization of equipment was as much a concern then as it is today, but the ship’s departure had to await the coincidence of a favorable wind with favorable omens. Passengers, too, had to wait; they could not afford to go too far away because the vessel might sail at any moment.

Since passengers were nothing more than an incidental benefit to the owner, the ship provided water, but neither food nor services. Passengers were expected to furnish their own provisions, other than water, for the duration of the voyage. They had to cook for themselves, which meant taking turns, after the crew had been fed, at the hearth in the galley. The fire might be doused by a stray wave, or rough conditions might mean the fire had to be extinguished before passengers had finished cooking, since loose live coals could do irreparable damage to a wooden boat in a very short time.

Passengers had to live on deck; there were no cabins on the average coastal vessel. Apart from a little shade thrown by the mainsail, no shelter was provided. The more experienced travelers brought small tents to protect themselves and their provisions. Tents would also be useful when the boat anchored for the night, often at a port where there was no inn. Frequently, the boat anchored in a small cove whose only amenity was a spring of clear water.

If Paul needed companions on the road for the slight degree of security they provided, a friend was equally necessary on board. It would be difficult for one person to carry on board the provisions 047 necessary for an extended voyage, and it was imperative to have someone to keep an eye on them. The fact that tents were in use both ashore and on board gave Paul an opportunity to earn at least some of his passage money.

The discomfort of a sea voyage was intensified by fear. Travelers went by ship only when there was no real alternative. In the world in which Paul lived, the sea was considered dangerously alien. Farewells tended to assume that the friend taking the ship might never be seen again. Poems were written to memorialize the solemn departure. For instance, in order to wish Virgil a safe voyage to Athens, Horace composed a poem in which he evoked the invention of a boat with the words, “A heart enclosed in oak and triple-bonded bronze first committed a frail bark to the dangerous deep,” and so the human race “was launched on the forbidden route of sacrilege”( Odes , 1:3.9 and 16). In other words, in this satirical poem, Horace is saying that the ship was first conceived by a sadistic degenerate whose mission was to destroy humanity. Without this fatal discovery Virgil would not be putting his life at risk by sailing to Athens.

Such sentiments were well warranted, for shipwrecks were common. “Three times I have been shipwrecked, a night and a day I have been adrift at sea,” Paul tells us ( 2 Corinthians 11:25 ). The graphic description of a shipwreck Luke gives in Acts 27:39–44 is confirmed by other travelers. For example, listen to Dio Chrysostom (40–120 -->A.D. -->):

“It chanced that at the close of the summer season I was crossing from Chios with some fishermen in a very small boat, when such a storm arose that we had great difficulty in reaching the Hollows of Euboea in safety. The crew ran their boat up a rough beach under the cliffs, where it was wrecked. [Dio is befriended by a hunter who tells him] ‘These are called the Hollows of Euboea, where a ship is doomed if it is driven ashore, and rarely are any of those aboard saved, unless like you they sail in very light craft’” ( Discourses , 7:2–7).

Only the most urgent business justified Dio’s risking 96 miles of open sea between the island of Chios and the wild, indented east coast of Euboea. He survived only because the light fishing boat would be maneuvered through the surf. A larger boat would have been pounded to pieces further out to sea so that few if any survivors would have made it to shore. Conditions may not have been as violent off the Malta coast where the ship carrying Paul to Rome went down, because all managed to make ashore either by swimming or by holding on to loose planks ( Acts 27:41–44 ).

On at least one occasion Paul found himself “adrift on the open sea” ( 2 Corinthians 11:26 ), apparently as a result of some other kind of mishap. On the open sea, a smaller boat might be run down by a bigger one or break a plank on a heavy piece of flotsam. The survivors of an accident like this had no means of sending an SOS. Even if they were spotted by another vessel, the limited maneuverability of ancient ships made it difficult to change course to pick them up. Human life was cheap; if it was too difficult or simply too inconvenient to pick up survivors, they would be left where they were. We don’t know whether Paul was rescued by a passing ship or whether a lucky current washed him ashore. In either event, he was lucky to have spent only 24 hours in the water. And he would have been less than human had he not faced his next voyage with increased trepidation.

I have tried to give something of the reality behind Paul’s impassioned words in 2 Corinthians 11:25–27 . When we understand this reality, we better understand Paul’s dedication. I suspect our admiration for his perseverance would be even greater if we knew more about how he tried to ensure his security and earn his way.

Some of the areas through which Paul passed are spectacularly beautiful; yet this seems not to have influenced him in any way. On the other hand, his experiences as a lonely traveler almost certainly affected his theology. His pessimistic view of human nature may have been born of the ethos of his age, but it was surely reinforced by what he encountered at the inns and seaports of Greece and Asia Minor. His own poverty forced him to rub shoulders with the most downtrodden and brutalized elements in society. He no doubt felt the impact of the forces that made these elements of society what they were. He himself felt the force of a value system that the poorer elements of society could not escape. His own struggle against the insidious miasma of egocentricity would have sharpened his consciousness of sin and at the same time strengthened his dedication to the salvation of its victims. “Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I do not burn with anger?” ( 2 Corinthians 11:29 ).

In the Acts of the Apostles, we are told that Paul made three missionary journeys. In almost every introduction to the New Testament I have seen, the author discusses St. Paul’s journeys in terms of places and dates; his concern is to establish the location of the cities Paul visited and to fix the exact time he visited them. But when Paul himself speaks of his travels he emphasizes, not the “where” or the “when,” but the “how.” For instance, in defending himself against attacks on his authority in the church of Corinth, Paul writes: “Three times I have […]

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Except for Tarsus, these towns are not mentioned in the Bible. But at the time the Bordeaux pilgrim lived, they existed along the route Paul took.

See in particular Fergus Millar. “The World of the Golden Ass,” Journal of Roman Studies 71 (1981) pp. 63–75.

J. Murphy-O’Connor, “Pauline Journeys Before the Jerusalem Conference,” Revue Biblique 89 (1982) pp. 71–91. This table is based on the calculations presented in Robert Jewett, A Chronology of Paul’s Life (philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1979). pp. 59–61.

Cf. R. Jewett, op. cit, p. 138, note 54.

Except for minor modifications, the translation is that of G. C. Stead in E. Hennecke-W. Schneemelcher, New Testament Apocrypha , 2 (London Lutterworth Press, 1965), pp. 243–244.

Op. cit., p. 122.

Cf. G. P. Burton, “Proconsuls, Assizes and Administration of Justice Under the Empire,” Journal of Roman Studies 65 (1975) pp. 92–106.

The description of Lucian in Navigium , 5 is cited by Casson, op cit, pp.158–159.

On this whole question see Lionel Casson, Ships and Seamanship in the Ancient World (Princeton University Press, 1971).

Apostle Paul's Life and Missionary Journeys

Published in the middle of the 19th century, the book "The Life and Epistles of Apostle Paul" by Conybeare and Howson is the basis for the below series. The text of this classic work, however, has been edited, expanded, and it many cases rewritten, by Biblestudy.org to reflect modern research into Paul's life and the chronology of events that took place.

Apostle Paul's Life and Missionary Journeys Edited and © Biblestudy.org all rights reserved

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journey of saint paul

Saint Paul: "The Greatest Missionary of All Times"

by Fr. Jean-Baptiste Edart


The following dossier by Fr. Jean Baptiste Edart provides an excellent look at the life, conversion, and mission of St. Paul the Apostle and how we can imitate his missionary spirit.

Larger Work

Fides Dossier

Publisher & Date

FIDES News Service, Rome, June 38, 2008

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Who was Paul?


  • A Missionary to the Nations
  • Mission and the Church

Paul's Mission

  • Guided by the Holy Spirit
  • Synagogues, Public Squares

Private Homes

  • Paul's Audiences

Length of City Missions

  • How Did Paul Communicate?
  • Everything for the Gospel and Through the Gospel
  • His Preaching
  • His Charisma and Miracles
  • Pope Benedict XVI's Teaching on Saint Paul the Apostle

Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) — Saint Paul "shines like a star of the brightest magnitude in the Church's history, and not only in that of its origins." (Pope Benedict XVI, Audience 25 October 2006). The Apostle of the nations, a rich and complex figure, was not only the author of Letters which we enjoy today, he was first and foremost a missionary. His encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus was the source of all his preaching and theology. As he travelled the Mediterranean basin, experiencing persecution, the dangers of the journey, he worked without tiring. His pride was to proclaim the Gospel in places where it had never been heard.

Contemplation on this emblematic and founding figure during this Jubilee year dedicated to the Apostle of the nations will be a source of new impulse for missionary activity. It will mean looking at the person of Paul, knowledge of his geographical and religious roots, in order to better grasp the nature of the overwhelming encounter with Christ and to understand how his being was transformed and harnessed in the service of the mission. Secondly we will see how Paul understood and set out on his missionary task. What is an Apostle? How can an apostle be identified? It will be interesting to see concretely to whom and where Paul spoke, how he announced the Gospel, where preaching, miracles and charisma came into his ministry. All these aspects should give us a better understanding of the fundamental workings of all missionary activity.

His geographical and chronological origin

Saint Luke says Saul was probably born in Tarsus (Acts 22:3). His parents had emigrated to Tarsus or were perhaps deported there by the Romans. When they had settled, they were granted Roman citizenship which they handed on to Saul (Acts 25:11-12). We know he had a sister and a nephew (Acts 23:16). Paul grew up in Tarsus (Acts 9:11 & 30; 11:25; 21:39; 22:3), capital of the region of Cilicia, present day Turkey.

Tarsus, a large, rich city set on one of the most frequented roads in the world at that time, the door to Asia Minor, was famous for the quality of its linens. This might explain why as a trade Paul learned to be a tent-maker. Tarsus had its own administration, elected magistrates and currency. The presence of a Jewish community during the 1st century AD is well demonstrated. In 66 BC the city had opposed Cassius, the assassin of Julius Caesar, and as a reward Mark Antonio had made it a free city no longer subject to taxes.

Tarsus was known as a centre for education and philosophy. Strabone, in his Geografia (14.5.14), affirms Tarsus outshone Athens, Alexandria and anywhere else for its education. He speaks of the excellence of its schools of rhetoric. Stoic philosophers had made it their favourite dwelling, and it was not a rare thing to see one of these exposing his teaching on the roadside. Saint Paul received this culture in his education. In many of his Letters he mentions local terms, arguments drawn from the philosophical and dramatic culture of his time.

The most certain elements of Paul's biography are his encounter with Jesus Christ around the year 32 and his imprisonment in Rome in the years 60-62. He was martyred in Rome sometime between 63 and 67. Other points are difficult to ascertain; for example the exact number of his journeys. Opinions vary from 2 to 4, but 3 would appear to be the correct number. Major stages and events in his life were his formation in Jerusalem at the school of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), his persecution of Christians in the years which followed, the encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus in the early 30s, meeting with the apostles in Jerusalem, mission to convert the gentiles, martyrdom in Rome.

Saul the Jew

Paul spoke about himself on various occasions and this helps us understand who he was. He supplies us with important information in Phil 3:5-6: "Circumcised on the eighth day of my life, I was born of the race of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrew parents. In the matter of the Law, I was a Pharisee. ". . . as for religious fervour" — He was circumcised on the eighth day after his birth. This shows the excellence of his origin: Paul was circumcised as prescribed by the Law of Moses, Lev. 12:3. "Israelite" is a technical expression denoting a religious identity. ". . . of the tribe of Benjamin" — To be a member of this tribe was a great honour in Judaism for various reasons. Benjamin was the son of Rachel, the favourite wife of Jacob, he was the only one to be born in the Promised Land (Gen. 35:16-18). This tribe gave Israel its first King (1 Sam 9:1-2) and it remained loyal to the lineage of David (1 Kings 12:21). With the Tribe of Judah, it was the first group to rebuild the Temple after the exile (Ex 4:1). It was an honour to be a member of this tribe. "A Jew of Jews" — or in other words of a 'practising family', which kept the law of Moses and spoke Aramaic. These verses present us with the perfect Jew.

Paul also presents himself as one of the Pharisees, who were known to love the law of Moses and oral law. This oral law, put into writing from the second century BC onwards, became known as the Talmud. Flavius Joseph, a Jewish historian at the service of the Romans, wrote: "The Pharisees have imposed on the people many laws of the tradition of the Fathers which are not written in the Law of Moses" (Antiquités Juives, 13.297). We find this idea again in the Apostle's Letter where he says he fanatically "defends the tradition of the Fathers" (Gal 1:14). Laws with regard to food, cashroute, were considered important. They symbolically define the Chosen People as separate from the rest of humanity. The new faith, within Judaism, overturned this distinction. This was inadmissible for a convinced Pharisee like Paul. To deny this law and say that salvation was for all peoples, meant that Israel was in mortal danger.

Nevertheless this description should not lead us to imagine a man closed in his religious culture. We have seen the context in which Paul grew up in Tarsus. His Letter confirms that he received his formation in the synagogue and also in a Greek environment. His familiarity with Greek rhetoric and his citations or references to classical Greek authors reveal that he had studied these matters at least until the age of 14 or 15. Then he was sent to Jerusalem to study the traditions of his Fathers at the school of Gamaliel. Even Rabbis in that epoch did not hesitate to give their students Greek authors to read. Hence the vastness of Paul's cultural and intellectual universe.

Paul's Conversion and Mission

Calling to mission and "conversion" are closely connected in St Paul. This is why it is interesting to study the nature of this spiritual transformation in order to better understand his calling to be a missionary.

Paul says little about this event in his Letters. The principal epistles are 1 Cor 15:1-11, Gal 1:13-17 and Phil 3:2-14, but they contain few historical details. The Apostle focuses more on the significance. He speaks of an experience which changed his life completely, but rather than an isolated event he sees it as a call since his mother's womb (Gal 1:15). Therefore we cannot interpret that encounter with Christ without considering as a whole his existence.

So what is the meaning of that event? Speaking of conversion, it would be mistaken to interpret this as changing from one religion to another. In fact, in no way does Paul think he has changed his religion. It must be noted that the break between Judaism and Christianity had not yet happened. His was a conversion in the deepest sense of the word, an opening of the heart to God, the eruption of grace and the transformation of a person.

Paul describes his encounter with Christ in these words: "when God, who had set me apart from the time when I was in my mother's womb, called (Jer. 1:5) me through his grace and chose to reveal his Son in me, so that I should preach him to the gentiles" (Gal 1:15-16). The Apostle perceives this interior shock as the fruit of a long maturation which began from the first moment of his existence: since birth he had been guided by God, slowly, patiently, until the decisive moment when Christ took hold of him and made him His own for ever (Phil 3:12). Paul insists in his Letters on divine initiative. One moment, and everything is different.

That conversion was being born again. That event brought radical newness. Paul is blinded by the revelation of Christ. Baptism restores his sight (Acts 9:18), a most powerful symbol. The old man cannot see well before he his born to new life. A new world is revealed to the Apostle. The whole thought of Paul is based on that experience. It was not simply a vision of Christ. Instead it was a revelation of the profound transformation of the world achieved by the Risen Christ. Paul insists, in his writings, on the distinction between the old world and the new world. He experienced this distinction in his flesh.

He uses two expressions to described what happened: the Apostle "saw" Christ (1 Cor 9:1; 15:8) and received a "revelation" (Gal 1:16; 2:2; Eph 3:3), a term he uses frequently (Rom 16:25; 1 Cor 1:7; 2 Cor 12:1 & 7 — although this list is incomplete). Both terms describe a divine act. Christ is not seen, instead it is He who allows Himself to be seen. When speaking of this vision Paul uses verbs in the passive form. God reveals Himself to man; this is communication of the divine mystery. Not without reason in Ephesians chapter 1, verse 17 Paul speaks of "spirit of wisdom and revelation", for Christians, the source of knowledge about the mystery of God.

The Missionary

This revelation does not find in itself its reason for being. Paul explains that this revelation was given to him "that it (the mystery of Christ) might be announced to the pagans". This revelation destines him to be missionary, but his mission is understood along the lines of the calling of a prophet. Galations chapter 1, verses 15-16 is founded on two references to the vocation of the prophets Isaiah (Is 49:1) and Jeremiah (Jer 1:5). Paul sees his calling to go on mission to the nations as a continuation of the mission of the prophets and, especially as the Lord's servant as described in Isaiah. The missionary is the messenger who shoulders the mission of the Lord's servant as explained at Is 40:55. However in a vision while in Corinth Paul is told: "One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision, 'Be fearless; speak out and do not keep silence: I am with you. I have so many people that belong to me in this city that no one will attempt to hurt you". (Acts 18:9-10). We read at Is 41:10: "Don't you be afraid, for I am with you; don't be dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you; yes, I will help you; yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness". Paul's task in Corinth is to carry on the task of God's servant.

Most of these texts concern Isaiah and especially the figure of the servant of Yahweh. Early Christian catechesis recognized in this mysterious personage a prophecy about Christ. It will suffice to call to mind the conversation between the Ethiopian enunch and Philip on the Gaza road (Acts 8:30-35). It follows, then, that Paul, applying the prophecy of the servant to himself, understands his mission as a prolongation of the mission of Christ. This identification of the preacher with his Lord should be understood in a dynamic rather than a static sense. At this point we encounter a fundamental point in Paul's theology: identification with Christ begins with Baptism and is a lifelong process. Being "won over" by Christ (Phil 3:12), being led to this profound personal transformation. This happens particularly in the case of the Apostle Paul.

Paul's self-justification when criticized is rich in teaching (2 Cor 4:7-15). Paul is forced to justify his quality of Apostle to Jewish-Christian missionaries little inclined to respect this quality: "We carry this treasure in vases of clay, that it may be clear that this extraordinary power comes not from us but from God". This verse announces the theory which he then demonstrates in the verses that follow: the Apostle's fragility in his apostolate, lived with persecution, is not a sign of weakness, instead it is the necessary condition for the treasure he bears, knowledge of Christ, to be revealed and for the Christian community to receive the life of the Risen Christ. Verses 10 and 11 illustrate how he identifies his sufferings with those of Christ. Paul states: we are "exposed to death". Now, the expression "to be exposed" is usually used by Paul and by the evangelists to designate the Passion of Christ. He continues this identification in verse 14, when he says he will rise from the dead with Jesus. Therefore his mission is to give his life as Christ did. ". . . always we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus, too, may be visible in our body. Indeed, while we are still alive, we are continually being handed over to death, for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus, too, may be visible in our mortal flesh" (2 Cor 4:10). This verse suggests that death operating in the preacher is the source of life for the community, just as the death of Christ is the source of our life. Through his ministry as an Apostles he makes present the redeeming sacrifice of Christ. ". . . in my own body I make up all the hardships that still have to be undergone by Christ" (Col 1:24). Here we have the Eucharistic essence of every missionary life.

To the Nations

Universality is an essential mark of Paul's mission. It is the direct consequence of the nature of the new faith. His task is to announce the Good News to the pagans. This statement found in Gal, chapter 1, verse 16 is amply confirmed by the promise of assistance we find in Acts 26:17: "I shall rescue you from the people and from the nations to whom I send you". Paul will be for Jews, and non-Jews, a witness of the Risen One, sent by the Lord of Exaltation whom, just like the Twelve, he had seen in person. Another report of that vision is the foundation of his mission to the pagans, the nations. Acts 22:17-21 refers to a vision which happened in the temple. Paul must go to all "nations". This can be applied to the non-Jews as well as other peoples living outside Jerusalem. Here we have one of the central points of the newness of the Christian faith and the theology of St Paul: the universality of Salvation. Christ gave his life for all mankind and he wishes every man and woman to be saved. Love of Christ, which burns in the heart of the Apostle, will lead him as far away as Spain (Rom 15:24), in those days, the very end of the known world.

Mission and Church

Paul says he is an "Apostle", even though not one of the Twelve. This noun comes from the Greek verb meaning "to send out and far away". Paul's right to bear this title, often claimed, rests on the fact that it was the Risen Christ who sent him to preach (1 Cor 1:17), to the gentiles the mystery of Christ (Gal 1:16, Eph 3:8), and he is deeply aware of the great honour this implies: "For I am the least of the apostles and am not really fit to be called an apostle, because I had been persecuting the Church of God" (1 Cor 15:9). To be an apostle he had to be sent; the fact that he had seen Christ was not enough. In 1 Cor 15:5-7, Paul opposes the "five hundred brothers" to "all the apostles" (the latter in turn, distinct from the Twelve). The difference between these two groups lies in the fact that the former were not charged with a mission.

This semantic precision introduces the subject of Church. Paul being sent directly by Christ, as he affirms, can there be mission outside the Church? We notice in the different reports about his calling, in the Epistles and in the Acts, that the Church is never absent. So Paul often says that his mission is not an ecclesiastic charge, it is instead a divine charisma. We also see that it is the mediation of the Church which certifies to the authenticity of his vocation. Paul goes to meet Peter to avoid falling into the illusion of having run in vain (Gal 2:2). In Acts 9:10-18, we see he receives his missionary sending not directly from Christ but from Ananias. The purpose of Ananias' mediation was not to present the new doctrine to Paul but rather to help him understand his apostolic investiture in the light of ecclesial tradition. This is confirmed by the many references in Paul's Epistles to ecclesial tradition (1 Cor 11:2; 11:23; 15:1). However, Paul's continual concern is to be sent by a community. This is true from the outset of his missionary activity, when he departs from Antioch (Acts 13:1-3), to the very end. Paul will write to the community in Rome, asking among other things for support and recognition for his mission (Rom 15:24). There is no contradiction between his mission and ecclesial tradition.

We have seen the origin of mission and its meaning for Paul. Now we will develop concrete aspects of this mission. Did he have a strategy? How did he go about it? How did he start? These are questions which are of interest for anyone involved in spreading the Gospel.

Guided by the Spirit

Paul addresses himself to Jews first of all and only later to pagans, but he knows he must address non-Jews. Paul was a missionary for both peoples (Rom 1:16). His strategic plan was simple: he decided, in order to fulfill his assigned task, that he would announce the Gospel to non-Jews in places where it had never been heard (Gal 2:7; Rom 15:14-21). Traveling along Roman roads, Paul went from town to town in Arabia, Syria and Cilicia, then on to Cyprus, Asia Minor, Macedonia, Achaia and, as he had foreseen, in Spain. Paul places his missionary path in God's hands. Even though his journeys are planned, he is aware of the working of the Holy Spirit by Whom he lets himself be led (Acts 16:9), even when this includes persecution. And the latter was the cause of Paul's numerous moves — they forced him to flee: Antioch (Acts 13:50-51); Iconium (14:5-6); Lystra (14:19-20); Philippi (16:19-40); Thessalonica (17:5-9), Berea (17:13-14) and Ephesus (20:1).

Synagogues, Public Places

Paul's strategy focused on urban centres, centres of Roman administration, Greek culture and Jewish presence, so that the Gospel might spread from the communities he founded there, outwards to the rest of the country.

On arriving in a city the first thing the Apostle would do was to go to the local synagogue on the shabbat, to take part in the service. As a stranger he would then be invited by the local religious authorities to give his interpretation of the Torah. This was his opportunity to take the floor and announce the Risen Christ. From a strategic point of view, pagans who adopted the God of Israel, "the God fearing people", were the best targets for an announcement to pagans. By announcing the Gospel in synagogues it was these people whom Paul won over. Reference to the synagogue is a constant in the life of Paul. Even at the end of his life, when he arrives in Rome, Paul invites the Jews in that city to listen to what he has to say (Acts 28).

With regard to the pagan environment, Paul's preaching in Athens as reported by the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 17:16-34) enables us to imagine that Paul usually chose public places in which to preach. He did not hesitate to take every possible opportunity to announce the Gospel of Christ, even in prison (Acts 16:25-34), which was to become a moving story — the conversion to Christ of a whole family.

Private homes were another essential place for mission. The life of the first Christian communities was closely connected to the home, which included the whole 'family' including servants and slaves. The home, a point of reference, where the community meets for its assembly on the Lord's Day, is used by the mission as a base. This was nothing new for believers brought up as Jews, and being accustomed to meeting privately. The private home had other advantages. The celebration of the Eucharist could be followed with a shared meal. It guaranteed a degree of discretion, which would soon become necessary in order to escape persecution on the part of the Romans or hatred from the synagogue.

It is interesting to note that Paul urges the wife of a pagan not to leave her husband (1 Cor 7:13-14). This is most interesting since we know that the home was the family place of worship. The pagan gods had their own altars. The pater familias, the head of the family, was free to go to temples to pray or exercise some priestly function. He was also free to go regularly to houses of prostitution, which was the widespread custom. Very often we learn of the conversion of whole families: the family of Lydia and the family of the prison guard at Philippi (Acts 16:14-15, 32-34), the families of Crispus and Stephana in Corinth (Acts 18:8; 1 Cor 1:16; 16:15). Architectural studies show that houses, according to sizes at the time, could accommodate at least 20, and as many as 100 worshippers.

Paul's Listeners

Paul addressed every sector of society. Although the Corinthians were of very humble social condition, and names mentioned in Rom 16 also revealed a simple style of life, Luke reports more than once that Paul was in contact with members of the higher social classes: Lydia, a woman in the purple-dye trade, various women of high society in Thessalonica and in Berea (Acts 17:4, 12), and many Asiarchs (Acts 19:31). The latter are described as friends of Paul, quite probably fruits of his preaching. Acts 13:7 records for us the example of Sergius Paulus, Proconsul at Paphos.

Paul's meeting with proconsul Festus and King Agrippa is interesting because it shows Paul as he addresses personages at the top of the social ladder. To Festus, who calls him a madman, Paul replies by making an appeal to King Agrippa, who believes in the prophets (Acts 26:27), and concludes expressing the wish that sooner or later all his listeners many become like him, that is believers (Acts 26:29). This passage of the harangue of missionary discourse demonstrates not only Paul's courage but also that mission is becoming increasingly possible even among the Jews.

According to 2 Tm 4:16-17, Paul proclaimed the Gospel even during his trial by the Romans: "The first time I had to present my defence, no one came into court to support me. Every one of them deserted me — may they not be held accountable for it. But the Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed for all the gentiles to hear; and so I was saved from the lion's mouth".

These contacts and conversations in similar environments help him obtain political support as well as access to sufficiently vast meeting places, and prove the fact that the Gospel touches every sector of society. Nevertheless there is nothing in these texts to indicate that for these environments Paul had a specific strategy.

A rapid reading of the Acts of the Apostles and the Letters of St Paul might give the impression that Paul did not stop long in any city, he passed from one to another. On the contrary, his missions lasted several months of years. For the mission in Syria (Antioch) Acts 11:26 speaks of one year. The mission in Macedonia and Achaia lasted three years from 49 AD to 51 AD. Paul founded in that time at least four communities: Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea and Corinth. Paul spent 18 months (Acts 18:11) in Corinth (from February-March in the year 50 to September of the year 52). His mission to Asia, 52-55, focused on Ephesus, where Paul worked for three years (Acts 20:31): he teaches in the Synagogue for three months (Acts 19:8), at the school in Tyrannus, for two years and a little longer not exactly reported (Acts 19:22). A missionary knows that to hand on the faith to people he must spend time with them.

How did Paul communicate?

The Apostle's fecundity could make us envious! A careful reading of his epistles and the Acts of the Apostles reveals the reason for this extraordinary destiny. We have seen that the Apostle is like a clay vase, fragile and breakable. But this vase is inhabited by the Holy Spirit, the power of God. And Paul seeks in every way to facilitate this power, this working of the Holy Spirit. This will be our first point of presentation. Paul was wholly for the Gospel and with the Gospel. The Gospel is announced essentially with two means: preaching and the exercise of a charisma.

Everything for the Gospel and through the Gospel

The principal condition for missionary activity, according to the Apostle, is a consistent lifestyle. His own life must be a proclamation of the Gospel. In no way must it hinder this proclamation. Paul expresses this concept in one particular way. He does not intend to be a burden to the community he is visiting and to which he announces the Gospel, although he does acknowledge that a preacher has a right to live off his preaching. 1 Cor 9 presents us with the Apostle's evocative reflection on this point. Although he has the right to enjoy the fruits of his labour, he refuses to take advantage of his responsibility. The fundamental reason is this: This decision of Paul is, in fact, presented as a necessity. He is aware that the proclamation of the Gospel is a task with which he is entrusted: "Woe to me if I did not preach the Gospel!" (1 Cor 9:16). It is not up to him to take the initiative. His reward lies in the very fact of freely announcing the Gospel! And to do this he strives to be all to all!

The only community from which he will accept financial support is that of Philippi. While Paul was in prison, the Philippi community had given him a most necessary gift in that time of discomfort when he was unable to work. Very often prisoners had no food except what was brought to them by family or friends. Prisoner Paul could no longer make tents.

His preaching

Paul was a master of preaching. A hasty reading of his Letters might lead us to think that he spoke off the cuff, without any special preparation, "inspired" by the Spirit, quite different from the pompous and often empty speeches of sophist rhetoricians in those times. On the contrary. 1 Cor 2:1-5 shows the fundamental workings of his preaching. Certainly, Paul is against the empty, visibility-seeking rhetoric in fashion at the time. However coming from a good school, he is also well aware that for any address, the fundamental rules of Greek rhetoric well-applied can be most effective. He puts this knowledge at the service of the Gospel. 1 Cor 2 offers us a valuable lesson on the matter which we would do well to examine with attention.

Under the guise of apparent criticism of the art of discourse, Paul develops a theology of preaching. First of all he recalls that his mission is to preach about Jesus as the Messiah, but a crucified Messiah. Proclamation of the Lord's death is central. Those who share the Lord's table proclaim his death (1 Cor 11:26), the word of God is proclaimed in the Synagogues (Acts 13:5). He tells the members of the Church, which is in Rome, that their faith is becoming famous all over the world (Rom 1:8). The emphasis is on presentation in public. Not necessarily understood as proclamation in public places or buildings. This would have obliged Paul to assume the stature of a public orator, which would have harmed his position in Corinth. Nevertheless proclamation is always public: not communication of an esoteric teaching to a group of initiated persons, but instead narration of events for anyone willing to listen.

Paul, unlike the rhetoricians of his time, refuses to use what might please the audience but hinder comprehension of the Gospel. The aim of his preaching is not to obtain an effect, a sort of parade to seduce the audience. His proclamation is the announcement of the mystery of the Cross. He desires to know one thing — Christ crucified. This is the entire content of his message; the rest is commentary. He actually incarnates this reality. The crucified Christ lives in him (Gal 2:20).

He tells how he preaches — trembling with fear — which comes as a surprise since great strength of character shines through his letters. Actually these two words form a special expression found in the Old Testament and usually used to describe someone facing a hostile enemy or a mortal assault. (Ex 15:16, Dt 2:25, Gdt 2:28, Ps 54:6, Is 19:16). Preaching is a struggle. His weakness among the Corinthians was no ordinary condition. It is the context in which the power of God reveals itself. We see this in 1 Cor 1:27-29 and in 2 Cor 12:9 ("my grace is enough for you"). This attitude is quite the opposite to that of the highly confident of sophists. Paul is not exactly what you would call a speaker come to amuse the crowds.

Awareness of the special nature of his preaching is explicit in verses 4 and 5 with a very subtle play on words. Many words used by Paul have a double meaning, which our translations fail to render. He uses words, which have meaning in the religious vocabulary and a technical meaning in rhetoric. The Holy Spirit is presented as the One who persuades hearts. This phrase attributes to the Holy Spirit the power of persuasion. He is the rector! The result of this "demonstration" (technical term in rhetoric) is not simply a proof, a conviction, it is faith and all these concepts are expressed with the same Greek word, which our Bibles translate as 'faith'! What great irony. The power of the Spirit counters the weakness of Paul and the demonstrative power of the Spirit counters the persuasive power of words which belong to human wisdom.

Apart from the historical context which determines to some extent the Apostle's discourse, we can identify some important elements for the announcement of the Gospel. The message centres on the mystery of the Cross; in other words, on salvation. This means it must be subordinate to its contents, or better, must favour its visibility. The fruit of proclamation is faith, not a form of persuasion. Faith in Paul is marked by obedience (cf. Rom 1:18). It is loyalty to the person and to the word of Christ. This is the fruit of the working of the Holy Spirit who reveals Himself to be the real locutor, behind the missionary person whose duty is to act in "fear and trembling". At the same time this means that the situation is precarious — it is a battle, but also that it is necessary to realize that this is the work of God. It takes place in the presence of God. Hence missionary work is an eminently theological occupation. The subtle composition of the passage, which ably uses all rhetoric devices, shows that this does not mean poverty of language or ingenuity, on the contrary. Every means which language offers for the transmission of the message is used.

Charisma and Miracles

The question of charisma and miracles should be neither undervalued nor overvalued. The Acts of the Apostles show that miracles are not the principal cause of evangelization, even if they do sometimes contribute actively towards it. When crowds are converted this is due primarily not to miracles but to the word preached. It also happens that some miracles are misunderstood and become a source of confusion. It is enough to mention the healing of the paralytic at Lystra in Acts 14. At first the people of Lystra thought Paul and Barnabus were the gods Zeus and Hermes! Immediately following this episode we are told that Paul is stoned, after the crowd had been instigated by a group of Jews from Iconius and Antioch (Acts 14:19). Acts 16:18, reports how the liberation of a slave possessed by a spirit of divination arouses the anger of the man's master who lived off his slave's "gift". Lastly in Acts 28, Paul is bitten by a viper, but does not die. Those present are not converted but look at one another as if to say Paul was a god (they too!).

However miracles and charisma are not to be undervalued or considered non-existent or useless. The history of the proclamation of the Gospel is studded with these gifts of the Holy Spirit, which along ordinary and extraordinary ways, bring non-believers to the faith. To be convinced of this, it is enough to read the discourse on charisma in 1 Cor 12-14. The prophetic word, the inspired word pronounced at an assembly gathered in prayer, is the direct cause of the conversion of the non-believer.

Paul in his Letters says little about miracles except in his discourse on charisma, in 1 Cor 12-14 and probably in 1 Cor 2:4, where he mentions a demonstration of the power of the Spirit, a possible allusion to miracles. Only the Acts of the Apostles attest to their reality. We have to acknowledge that the latter, although at times misunderstood by those present, are often the source of conversions. The healing of the paralytic at Lydda and the resurrection of Tabitha at Jaffa (Acts 9:32-43), the miraculous release of Paul and Sila (Acts 16:25-34). Acts 14:3 is particularly interesting. Paul and Barnabus evangelize Iconium. It is reported that "Paul and Barnabas stayed on for some time, preaching fearlessly in the Lord; and he attested all they said about his gift of grace, allowing signs and wonders to be performed by them."

Paul has been considered, mistakenly, the founder of Christianity because of the strong impact of his missionary work on the spread of the faith in the beginning. Not without reason, then, he can be held up as a splendid example for all missionaries. The principal trait we should imitate is certainly his closeness to Christ: "what counts is to place Jesus Christ at the centre of our lives, so that our identity is marked essentially by the encounter, by communion with Christ and with his Word." (Benedict XVI, Audience 25 October 2006).

The second characteristic is his vision of mission as the work of the Holy Spirit combined with awareness of personal poverty. An apostle must be one with Christ, but with Christ on the Cross. The Apostle's strength is his weakness, since it allows the Holy Spirit to unfurl all His power. This openness to the Holy Spirit is the condition for a fruitful apostolate.

A third important mark is Paul's perception of the universal character of salvation. He is the man of universality. In a world marked by divisions and barriers between peoples and cultures, he realizes that Christ's message is for every man and woman of whatever culture or religion, nationality or social condition. He realizes that "God is the God of everyone" (Benedict XVI, General Audience 25 October 2006 ).

Lastly the centrality of the Church, the Body of Christ, is without a doubt the final lesson to draw from this example. Paul always thought that his mission was to be undertaken in the Church and through the Church. Mission is a matter of building up the body of Christ. This means he simply envisions preaching without being sent by the Church. Whether it is his meeting with Peter, to be reassured that he was not running in vain, or his request for support from the community in Rome, Paul knows that missionary work must always be the fruit of a living bond with the Church.

Saint Paul: "The Greatest Missionary of All Times" St Paul the Apostle, in the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI

Since his election as Pope, Benedict XVI has frequently mentioned the figure of St Paul, the Apostle of the nations. And in the very beginning on 25 April 2005, the Holy Father made a visit the tomb of St Paul where he said in his homily "I am here to revive in the faith this 'apostolic grace', since God, as the Apostle to the Gentiles has likewise said, has entrusted me with 'anxiety for all the Churches'".

The Apostle is known primarily as the one who worked to announce the Gospel to all nations. If the Church's duty is mission, the successor of Peter comes "on a pilgrimage, so to speak, to the roots of mission". ( Visit to St Paul's Basilica , 25 April 2005)

The Pope has spoken of Paul on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul and on the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul at the close of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. He spoke at length on the figure and theology of Paul at Wednesday general audiences (October, 8, 15 and 22 November 2006, and when announcing the Year of Saint Paul, he presented him as an example to imitate.

The Pope has contemplated on the person of Paul underlining the radical nature of his encounter with Christ and the revelation received on the way to Damascus as the source of Paul's theology. "He understood in an instant what he would later express in his writings: that the Church forms a single body of which Christ is the Head. And so, from a persecutor of Christians he became the Apostle to the Gentiles." ( Vespers in St Paul's in Rome , 25 January 2006).

Pope Benedict XVI emphasizes Paul's awareness that he is chosen and sent by God. This divine calling, the manifestation of God's mercy, is for Paul, the reason for his personal involvement in mission. His self-giving is the principal cause of the fruitfulness of his apostolate ( Vespers , 28 June 2007). The life of Paul, described by the Pope at a general audience on 25 October 2006, is marked by centrality of the person of Christ and the universal aspect of Paul's apostolate. What made him undertake difficult journeys was Christ's love for him and his love for Christ (2 Cor 5:14-15). Martyrdom appears then as a logical consequence, the extreme expression of total love which leads to identification with the Divine Master even in death.

For the Pope, Paul's message is markedly Christ-centred, ( General Audience 8 November ), the work of the Holy Spirit (15 November), the Church so present in his heart ( General audience 22 November 2006 ).

Christ justifies man "with God's mercy" entering into deep communion with him, forgiving his sins. This was the fundamental experience of the Apostle's conversion. Man is justified by faith. The second element which shows this Christ-centred aspect is the Christian identity: "This Christian identity is composed of precisely two elements: this restraint from seeking oneself by oneself but instead receiving oneself from Christ and giving oneself with Christ, thereby participating personally in the life of Christ himself to the point of identifying with him and sharing both his death and his life". ( General Audience 8 November )

The life of the Apostle becomes a manifestation of the life of Christ. This comes about in us through the life of the Holy Spirit whom Paul calls the Spirit of Christ. St Paul analyzes the working of the Spirit in the life of the Christian: in his being and acting ( Audience 15 November 2006 ). Divine sonship, fruit of the presence of the Spirit in the baptized Christian, for the Pope is the first and main gift of the Spirit which leads Christians to call God 'Abba, Father'. This presence of God's love in us is a promise of future glory.

The Church, the last chapter of the Pope's meditation on St Paul who, "is converted to Christ and to his Church" ( General Audience, 22 November 2006 ). The Church rightly finds herself in the life of the Apostle. The various Churches are for him a source of joy and sorrow. He is for them father and mother. The Body of Christ received in the Eucharist (1 Cor 10:17). St Paul's call for unity and charity are the immediate result of his theological vision. The Church is the place of communion with God and among ourselves, the assembly of those who invoke the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Pope Benedict's reflection on the figure of the Apostle is indeed a summary of the apostle's teaching. He puts us face to face with an author judged, even by Saint Peter, difficult to understand. This could be an excellent method for an analysis of the Letters of St Paul.

© Agenzia Fides

This item 8330 digitally provided courtesy of CatholicCulture.org

journey of saint paul

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The quest for the historical paul.

James Tabor considers Biblical and external accounts of the apostle

This article was originally published in November 2012 on Dr. James Tabor’s popular Taborblog , a site that discusses and reports on “‘All things biblical’ from the Hebrew Bible to Early Christianity in the Roman World and Beyond.” Bible History Daily republished the article in 2012, with consent of the author. Visit Taborblog or scroll down to read a brief bio of James Tabor.

What can we reliably know about Paul and how can we know it? As is the case with Jesus, this is not an easy question. Historians have been involved in what has been called the “Quest for the Historical Jesus” for the past one hundred and seventy-five years, evaluating and sifting through our sources, trying to determine what we can reliably say about him. [i] As it happens, the quest for the historical Paul began almost simultaneously, inaugurated by the German scholar Ferdinand Christian Baur. [ii] Baur put his finger squarely on the problem: There are four different “Pauls” in the New Testament, not one, and each is quite distinct from the others. New Testament scholars today are generally agreed on this point. [iii]

Ferdinand Christian Baur, Scholar of the historical Paul

Ferdinand Christian Baur (1792-1860)

Thirteen of the New Testament’s twenty-seven documents are letters with Paul’s name as the author, and a fourteenth, the book of Acts, is mainly devoted to the story of Paul’s life and career —making up over half the total text. [iv] The problem is, these fourteen texts fall into four distinct chronological tiers, giving us our four “Pauls”:

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1) Authentic or Early Paul : 1 Thessalonians, Galatians , 1 and 2 Corinthians, Romans, Philippians, and Philemon (50s-60s A.D.)

2) Disputed Paul or Deutero-Pauline : 2 Thessalonians, Ephesians, Colossians (80-100 A.D.)

3) Pseudo – Paul or the Pastorals : 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus (80-100 A.D.)

4) Tendentious or Legendary Paul : Acts of the Apostles (90-130 A.D.)

Though scholars differ as to what historical use one might properly make of tiers 2, 3, or 4, there is almost universal agreement that a proper historical study of Paul should begin with the seven genuine letters, restricting one’s analysis to what is most certainly coming from Paul’s own hand. This approach might sound restrictive but it is really the only proper way to begin. The Deutero-Pauline letters, and the Pastorals reflect a vocabulary, a development of ideas, and a social setting that belong to a later time. [v] We are not getting Paul as he was, but Paul’s name used to lend authority to the ideas of later authors who intend for readers to believe they come from Paul. In modern parlance we call such writings forgeries, but a more polite academic term is pseudonymous, meaning “falsely named.”

In the free eBook Paul: Jewish Law and Early Christianity , learn about the cultural contexts for the theology of Paul and how Jewish traditions and law extended into early Christianity through Paul’s dual roles as a Christian missionary and a Pharisee.

Those more inclined to view this activity in a positive light point to a group of followers of Paul, some decades after his death, who wanted to honor him by continuing his legacy and using his name to defend views with which they assumed he would have surely agreed. A less charitable judgment is that these letters represent an attempt to deceive gullible readers by authors intent on passing on their own views as having the authority of Paul. Either way, this enterprise of writing letters in Paul’s name has been enormously influential, since Paul became such a towering figure of authority in the church.

The Pastorals (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus) are not included in our earliest extant collection of Paul’s letters, the so-called Chester Beatty papyrus, that dates to the third century A.D. [vi] Paul’s apocalyptic urgency, so dominant in the earlier letters, is almost wholly absent in these later writings. Among the Deutero-Pauline tier, 2 Thessalonians was specifically written to calm those who were claiming that the day of judgment was imminent—the very thing Paul constantly proclaimed (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3).

In tiers 2 and 3 the domestic roles of husbands, wives, children, widows, masters, and slaves are specified with a level of detail uncharacteristic of Paul’s ad hoc instructions in his earlier letters (Ephesians 5:21-6:9; Colossians 3:18-4:1; 1 Timothy 5:1-16). Specific rules are set down for the qualifications and appointment of bishops and deacons in each congregation (1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9). There is a strong emphasis on following tradition, respecting the governmental authorities, handling wealth, and maintaining a respectable social order (2 Thessalonians 2:15; 3:6-15; 1 Timothy 2: 1-4; 5:17-19; 6:6-10; Titus 3:1). The Pastorals, in particular, are essentially manuals for church officers, intended to enforce order and uniformity.

Some have argued that the passing of time and the changing of circumstances might account for the differences, but detailed studies of the commonly used vocabulary in Paul’s undisputed letters, in contrast to the Deutero-Pauline and Pastoral letters, has settled the question for most scholars. I will make little use of these later documents in trying to reconstruct the “historical Paul.”

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The book of Acts, tier 4, presents a special problem in that it offers fascinating biographical background on Paul not found in his genuine letters as well as complete itineraries of his travels. The problem, as I mentioned in the Introduction, is with its harmonizing theological agenda that stresses the cozy relationship Paul had with the Jerusalem leaders of the church and its over-idealized heroic portrait of Paul. Many historians are agreed that it merits the label “Use Sparingly with Extreme Caution.” As a general working method I have adopted the following three principles:

  • Never accept anything in Acts over Paul’s own account in his seven genuine letters.
  • Cautiously consider Acts if it agrees with Paul and one can detect no obvious biases.
  • Consider the independent data Acts provides of interest but not of interpretive historical use.

This latter principle would include biographical information, the three accounts of Paul’s conversion that the author provides, the various speeches of Paul, his itinerary, and other such details. [vii]

Before applying these principles here is a skeletal outline of Paul’s basic biographical data drawn only from his genuine letters that gives us a solid place to begin. Here is what we most surely know:

• Paul calls himself a Hebrew or Israelite, stating that he was born a Jew and circumcised on the eighth day, of the Jewish tribe of Benjamin (Philippians 3:5-6; 2 Corinthians 11:22).

• He was once a member of the sect of the Pharisees. He advanced in Judaism beyond many of his contemporaries, being extremely zealous for the traditions of his Jewish faith (Philippians 3:5; Galatians 1:14).

• He zealously persecuted the Jesus movement (Galatians 1:13; Philippians 3:6; 1 Corinthians 15:9).

• Sometime around A.D. 37 Paul had a visionary experience he describes as “seeing” Jesus and received from him his Gospel message as well as his call to be an apostle to the non-Jewish world (1 Corinthians 9:2; Galatians 1:11-2:2).

• He made only three trips to Jerusalem in the period covered by his genuine letters; one three years after his apostolic call when he met Peter and James but none of the other apostles (around A.D. 40); the second fourteen years after his call (A.D. 50) when he appeared formally before the entire Jerusalem leadership to account for his mission and Gospel message to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:1-10), and a third where he was apparently arrested and sent under guard to Rome around A.D. 56 (Romans 15:25-29).

• Paul claimed to experience many revelations from Jesus, including direct voice communications, as well as an extraordinary “ascent” into the highest level of heaven, entering Paradise, where he saw and heard “things unutterable” (2 Corinthians 12:1-4).

• He had some type of physical disability that he was convinced had been sent by Satan to afflict him, but allowed by Christ, so he would not be overly proud of his extraordinary revelations (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

• He claimed to have worked miraculous signs, wonders, and mighty works that verified his status as an apostle (2 Corinthians 12:12).

• He was unmarried, at least during his career as an apostle (1 Corinthians 7:8, 15; 9:5; Philippians 3:8). [viii]

• He experienced numerous occasions of physical persecution and deprivation including beatings, being stoned and left for dead, and shipwrecked (1 Corinthians 3:11-12; 2 Corinthians 11:23-27).

• He worked as a manual laborer to support himself on his travels (1 Corinthians 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 1 Corinthians 9:6, 12, 15).

• He was imprisoned, probably in Rome, in the early 60s A.D. and refers to the possibility that he would be executed (Philippians 1:1-26).

This is certainly not all we would want but it is all we have, and considering that we have not a single line written by Jesus or any of his Twelve apostles, having seven of Paul’s genuine letters is a poverty of riches. [ix]

The book of Acts provides the following independent biographical information not found in the seven genuine letters:

• Paul’s Hebrew name was Saul and he was born in Tarsus, a city in the Roman province of Cilicia, in southern Asia Minor or present-day Turkey (Acts 9:11, 30; 11:25; 21:39; 22:3)

• He came from a family of Pharisees and was educated in Jerusalem under the most famous Rabbi of the time, Gamaliel. He also had a sister and a nephew that lived in Jerusalem in the 60s A.D. (Acts 22:3; 23:16)

• He was born a Roman citizen, which means his father also was a Roman citizen. (Acts 16:37; 22:27-28; 23:27)

• He had some official status as a witness consenting to the death of Stephen, the first member of the Jesus movement executed after Jesus (Acts 7:54-8:1). He received an official commission from the high priest in Jerusalem to travel to Damascus in Syria to arrest, imprison, and even have executed any members of the Jesus movement who had fled the city under persecution. It was on the road to Damascus that he had his dramatic heavenly vision of Jesus, who commissioned him as the apostle to the Gentiles. (Acts 9:1-19; 22:3-11; 26:12-18).

• He worked by trade as a “tentmaker,” though the Greek word used probably refers a “leather worker” (Acts 18:3).

So what should we make of this material from the book of Acts?

That Paul’s Hebrew name was Saul we have no reason to doubt, or that he was from Tarsus in Cilicia, though he never mentions this in his letters. Paul says he is of the tribe of Benjamin, and Saul, the first king of Israel, was also a Benjaminite, so one could see why a Jewish family would choose this particular name for a favored son (1 Samuel 9:21). Since Paul reports that he regularly did manual labor to support himself, and Jewish sons were normally taught some trade to supplement their studies, it is possible he was trained as a leather-worker. There is an early rabbinic saying that “He who does not teach his son a trade teaches him banditry.” [x]

Whether Paul was born in Tarsus one has to doubt since Jerome, the fourth century Christian writer, knew a different tradition. He says that Paul’s parents were from Gischala, in Galilee, a Jewish town about twenty-five miles north of Nazareth, and that Paul was born there. [xi] According to Jerome, when revolts broke out throughout Galilee following the death of Herod the Great in 4 B.C., Paul and his parents were rounded up and sent to Tarsus in Cilicia as part of a massive exile of the Jewish population by the Romans to rid the area of further potential trouble. Since Jerome certainly knew Paul’s claim, according to the book of Acts, to have been born in Tarsus, it is very unlikely he would have contradicted that source without good evidence. Jerome’s account also provides us with the only indication we have as to Paul’s approximate age. Like Jesus, he would have had to have been born before 4 B.C., though how many years earlier we cannot say. This fits rather nicely with Paul’s statement in one of his last letters to a Christian named Philemon, written around A.D. 60, where he refers to himself as a “old man” (Greek presbytes ), a word that implies someone who is in his 60s. [xii]

Jerome’s account casts serious doubt on the claim in Acts that Paul was born a Roman citizen. We have to question whether a native Galilean family, exiled from Gischala as a result of anti-Roman uprisings in the area, would have had Roman citizenship. We know that Gischala was a hotbed of revolutionary activity and John of Gischala was one of the most prominent leaders in the first Judean Revolt against Rome (A.D. 66-70). [xiii] Paul also says that he was “beaten three times with rods” (2 Corinthians 11:25). This is a punishment administered by the Romans and was forbidden to one who had citizenship. [xiv] The earliest document we have from Paul is his letter 1 Thessalonians. It is intensely apocalyptic, with its entire orientation on preparing his group for the imminent arrival of Jesus in the clouds of heaven (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:13-18; 5:1-5, 23). One might imagine Paul the former Pharisee with no apocalyptic orientation whatsoever, but it is entirely possible, if Jerome is correct about his parents being exiled from Galilee in an effort to pacify the area, that Paul’s apocalyptic orientation was one he derived from his family and upbringing. Luke-Acts tends to mute any emphasis on an imminent arrival of the end and he characteristically tones down the apocalyptic themes of Mark, his main narrative source for his Gospel. [xv]

Acts is quite keen on emphasizing Paul’s friendly relations with Roman officials as well as the protection they regularly offered Paul from his Jewish enemies, so claiming that Paul was a Roman citizen, and putting his birth in a Roman Senatorial province like Cilicia, serves the author’s purposes.

Acts’s claim that Paul grew up in Jerusalem and was a personal student of the famous rabbi Gamaliel is also highly suspect. The book of Acts has an earlier scene, when the apostles Peter and John are arrested by the Jewish authorities who are threatening to have them killed, in which Gamaliel stands up in the Sanhedrin court and speaks in their behalf, recommending their release (Acts 5:33-39). The story is surely fictitious and is part of the author’s attempt to indicate to his Roman audience that reasonable minded Jews, like noble Roman officials, did not condemn the Christians. It is likely that the author of Acts, in making Paul an honored student of Gamaliel, the most revered Pharisee of the day, is wanting to further advance this perspective. Throughout his account he constantly characterizes the Jewish enemies of Paul as irrational and rabid, in contrast to those “good” Jews who are calm, reasonable, and respond favorably to Paul (Acts 13:45; 18:12; 23:12).

Whether Paul even lived in Jerusalem before his visionary encounter with Christ could be questioned. In Acts it is a given, but Paul never indicates in any of his letters that Jerusalem was his home as a young man. He does mention twice a connection with Damascus, the capital of the Roman province of Syria (2 Corinthians 11:32; Galatians 1:17). Whether he was in Damacus, which is 150 miles northwest of Jerusalem, in pursuit of Jesus’ followers, or for other reasons, we have no sure way of knowing. The account in Acts of Paul’s conversion, repeated three times, that has Paul sent as an authorized delegate of the High Priest in Jerusalem to arrest Christians in Damascus, has so colored our assumptions about Paul that it is hard to focus on what we find in his letters.

Paul connection to Jerusalem, or the lack thereof, has much to do with the oft-discussed question of whether Paul would have ever seen or heard Jesus, or could he have been a witness to Jesus’ crucifixion in A.D. 30. Since he never mentions seeing Jesus in any of his letters, and one would expect that had he been an eyewitness to the events of that Passover week he surely would have drawn upon such a vivid experience, this argues against the idea that he was a Jerusalem resident at that time.

Likewise, Paul’s high placed connections to the Jewish priestly class in Jerusalem we can neither confirm nor deny. All he tells us is that he zealously persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it (Galatians 1:12). Some translations have used the English word “violently,” but this is misleading and serves to reinforce the account in Acts that Paul was delivering people over to execution. The Greek word Paul uses ( huperbole ) means “excessively” or zealously. We take Paul’s word that he identified himself as a Pharisee, but there is nothing in his letters to indicate the kind of prominent connections that the author of Acts gives him.

Outside the New Testament

Our earliest physical description of Paul comes from a late second-century Christian writing The Acts of Paul and Thecla . It is a wildly embellished and legendary account of Paul’s travels, his wondrously miraculous feats, and his formidable influence in persuading others to believe in Christ. The story centers on the beautiful and wealthy virgin Thecla , a girl so thoroughly mesmerized by Paul’s preaching that she broke off her engagement to follow Paul and experienced many adventures. As Paul is first introduced one of his disciples sees him coming down the road:

And he saw Paul coming, a man small of stature, with a bald head and crooked legs, in a good state of body, with eyebrows meeting and nose somewhat hooked, full of friendliness; for now he appeared like a man, and now he had the face of an angel. [xvi]

We have no reason to believe this account is based on any historical recollection since the Acts of Paul as a whole shows no trace of earlier sources or historical reference points. The somewhat unflattering portrait most likely stemmed from allusions in Paul’s letters to his “bodily presence” being unimpressive and the subject of scorn, whereas his followers received him as an angel (2 Corinthians 10:10; Galatians 4:13-14).

It might come as a surprise, but outside our New Testament records we have very little additional historical information about Paul other than the valuable tradition that Jerome preserves for us that he was born in the Galilee. The early Christian writers of the second century (usually referred to as the “Apostolic Fathers”) mention his name less than a dozen times, holding him up as an example of heroic faith, but nothing of historical interest is related by any of them. For example, Ignatius, the early second century bishop of Antioch writes:

For neither I nor anyone like me can keep pace with the wisdom of the blessed and glorious Paul, who, when he was among you in the presence of the men of that time, accurately and reliably taught the word concerning the truth. [xvii]

Some of the second and third century Christian writers know the tradition that both Peter and Paul ended up in Rome and were martyred during the reign of the emperor Nero—Paul was beheaded and Peter was crucified. [xviii] The apocryphal Acts of Peter , an extravagantly legendary account dating to the third or fourth century A.D., explains that Peter insisted on being crucified upside-down so as to show his unworthiness to die in the same manner as Jesus. [xix]

Ironically it seems that we moderns, using our tools of critical historical research, are in a better position than the Christians of the second and third centuries to recover a more authentic Paul.

Dr. James Tabor

[i] The Quest was given both its history and its name by Albert Schweitzer, whose groundbreaking book, published in 1906 with the nondescript German title, Von Reimarus zu Wrede (from Reimarus to Wrede), was given the more provocative title in English, The Quest of the Historical Jesus , translated by William Montgomery (London: Adam & Charles Black, 1910).

[ii] The beginning of the modern Jesus Quest is usually dated to around 1835 with the publication of David Strauss’s Life of Jesus. The full German title of Strauss’s work, Das Leben Jesu kritisch bearbeitet (Tübingen: 1835-1836) was published in English as The Life of Jesus, Critically Examined (3 vols., London, 1846), translated by George Eliot, the penname of British novelist Mary Ann Evans. Baur’s major work, Paulus, der Apostel Jesu Christi, sein Leben und Wirken, seine Briefe und seine Lehre ( Paul the Apostle of Jesus Christ: His Life and Works, His Letters and His Teaching ) was published in1845. Strauss was a student of Baur at the University of Tübingen.

[iii] Most recently, Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan, The First Paul: Reclaiming the Radical Visionary Behind the Church’s Conservative Icon (New York: HarperOne, 2009). A more conservative, but nonetheless critical treatment relying more on the letters of Paul than the book of Acts is that of Jerome Murphy-O’Conner, Paul: A Critical Life (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996).

[iv] An English copy of the New Testament, Revised Standard Version, with text only and no notes or references, runs 284 pages total. The thirteen letters attributed to Paul, plus the book of Acts, add up to 109 pages of the total—just over one-third.

[v] See Bart Ehrman’s summary analysis “In the Wake of the Apostle: The Deutero-Pauline and Pastoral Epistles,” in The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings , 4 th ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), pp. 272-394.

[vi] “Chester Beatty Papyri” in Anchor Bible Dictionary , Vol. 1 (New York: Doubleday, 1992), pp. 901-903.

[vii] Not only was the composition of such speeches common in Greek literary histories, it was expected. Thucydides, in his History of the Peloponnesian war, says that he composed speeches according to “what was called for in each situation” ( 1. 22. 2). Josephus, a contemporary of the author of Acts, is a prime example; see Henry Cadbury, The Making of Luke-Acts (New York: Macmillan Company, 1927), and Arthur J. Droge and James D. Tabor, A Noble Death: Suicide and Martyrdom Among Christians and Jews in Antiquity (New York: HarperCollins, 1992), pp. 53-112.

[viii] It is possible that Paul was once married since he says he advanced within Judaism beyond his peers. Jewish men his age would normally marry; not to marry would be considered abnormal. In his letters he speaks of the “loss of all things” and also refers to a situation where an “unbelieving wife” might leave one who has joined his movement, so it is possible he is alluding to his own personal situation since he says the brother or sister, so abandoned, should not feel obligated to heed Jesus’ teaching that there can be no divorce for any cause (Philippians 3:7; 1 Corinthians 7:12-16).

[ix] The letter of James and Jude might be exceptions though many scholars question if these two brothers of Jesus were part of the Twelve and others questions the authenticity of the letters themselves. Few scholars consider the letters of 1 and 2 Peter as written by Peter. 1 Peter, in particular, is surprisingly “Pauline” in tone and content and fits nothing we know of Peter based on more reliable sources—including Paul’s genuine letters. The letters of John are not from John the fisherman, one of the Twelve, but from a later John, sometimes referred to as “John the Elder,” who lived in Asia Minor (see Eusebius, Church History 3.39.4-7).

[x] Pirke Avot 2. 3.

[xi] Jerome, De Virus Illustribus (PL 23, 646).

[xii] See Jerome Murphy-O’Conner, Paul: A Critical Life , pp. 1-5. The translation “ambassador,” found in the Revised Standard Version, is conjectural, with no manuscript support. It assumes the misspelling of the Greek word “ambassador” ( presbeutes ), as “elder” ( presbytes ), but “elder” is the reading in all our manuscripts. The New Revised Standard Version and New Jerusalem Bible correctly have “elder.”

[xiii] Josephus, Jewish War 7. 263-265. Josephus mentions John of Gischala often in his history of the revolt.

[xiv] See Digest 48. 6-7, a compendium of Roman law in The Digest of Justinian , ed. T. Mommsen, translated by A. Watson (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1985).

[xv] A comparison of Mark 13, sometimes called the “Synoptic Apocalypse,” or the “Little Apocalypse,” with Luke 21, which is the author’s rewriting of Mark, one sees how the “end of the age” is indefinitely extended and no longer tied to the Jewish-Roman war of A.D. 66-74.

[xvi] Translation by Wilhelm Schneemelcher in Edgar Hennecke’s New Testament Apocrypha , edited by William Schneemelcher, translated by R. McL. Wilson, volume 2 (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1965), pp. 353.

[xvii] Ignatius , Philippians 3:2.

[xviii] See Eusebius , Church History 2. 14. 5-6 and 3.1.2, who says he is relying on Origen, an early third century Christian theologian.

[xix] An expanded legendary account is found in the apocryphal Acts of Peter 37-38.

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71 Responses

Whoever composed the “Pauline Epistles” and the “Acts of the Apostles”, and a personal theory of mine is that they were the SAME person, obviously enjoyed IRONY and CONTRADICTION, as well as AMBIGUITY. Tabor doesn’t grasp this, as evidenced in his #12 footnote where he states that Paul would have been an “old man” at the time of his allegedly writing them because “in one of his last letters”, the epistle to Philemon, “he refers to himself as an ‘old man’ [Greek “presbutes”] and that “the translation ‘ambassador’ [or “emissary”]…. is conjectural with NO manuscript support….” ASSUMING “the misspelling of the Greek word for ‘ambassador’ (“presbeutes”) but ‘elder’ is the reading in all our manuscripts.” NOT exactly. In the epistle to the Ephesians 6:20 Paul writes of himself as being “….an AMBASSADOR/EMISSARY [PRESBEUTES”] in chains….” for the sake of the Gospel (just as he was a prisoner when he wrote the epistle to Philemon). Thus, he was BOTH!! The addressee of the epistle is interesting because his name of “PHILEMON” is the SAME as that of the legendary character in the Greco-Roman myth of the metamorphosis of the married couple Philemon and Baucis, which was set in a region CLOSE TO Cilicia!! Would a “devout Jew” such as Saul have been familiar with it?? It appears so, and apparently concerned that his Christian readers would too; because while in the myth, Philemon and Baucis were an ELDERLY married couple with no children mentioned, Paul addresses the epistle with greetings to Philemon, his possible wife Apphia, and an Aristarchus, who is likely their son. And at the end of it he states “…prepare a GUEST room [xenion] for me for I hope to be granted to you through your prayers.” The story of the myth is about the punishment of the gods Jupiter/Zeus and Mercury/Hermes (the SAME ones as in mentioned in the “Acts” account of the superstitious people of Lystra designating Barnabas and Paul as such0 for the INhospitable reception given them as seemingly human GUESTS by the people of a certain village they visited. After the people and their village are destroyed, EXCEPT for Philemon and Baucis who received the gods into their home, for which it was afterwards turned by the deities into a temple, they were GRANTED their REQUEST of remaining TOGETHER forever by being turned into a pair of intertwining trees. These trivial but subtle parallels have always been missed by Christians and scholars of the text. And let’s NOT forget the admonition in the epistle to the “Hebrews” 13:2 to be HOSPITABLE because thereby “some have entertained ANGELS [gods] UNawares”!!

Of course in the beginning of the twenty or so year period in which he appears on the scene as the focus in the “Acts” account of the Church he WAS a YOUNG man. He is first mentioned in the episode of the stoning of Stephan, the first Christian martyr, in “Acts” at the end of Chapter 7, when “The witnesses [“MARTYROI”!] laid down their cloaks at the feet of a YOUNG man named Saul.” Given that Saul is here described as a “young man”, presumably as Stephan also was, he MUST have been LESS than middle age; meaning younger than 40. Interestingly, Stephan mentions in his pre-execution speech to the crowd that Moses was FORTY years old when he went out from Pharaoh’s palace as royal ward to visit the Hebrew slaves, and after fleeing from killing an Egyptian overseer came back FORTY years later as Liberator!

Saul’s “conversion” to Christianity is described in Chapter 9, three chapters before that mentioning the inauguration of King Herod Agrippa I’s persecution of the Christians. Herod Agrippa I reigned from 37-44 AC. Saul/Paul’s missionary activity however, does not become the mainstream focus of the story UNTIL AFTER the death of the king at the end of Chapter 12; SWITCHING FROM the emphasis on that of Simon Peter after Peter’s “miraculous” escape from Herod’s prison and his subsequent departure to “another place”. According to what is (allegedly) his own account in the Galatians epistle, Saul spent THREE YEARS in Damascus after his “miraculous conversion” experience BEFORE his FIRST visit to Jerusalem, when he met with Peter (whom he calls “CEPHAS”, as “KEPHAloS” or “Head” of the Church??) and James “the brother of the Lord”. He subsequently states that, after FOURTEEN YEARS, he went up AGAIN to Jerusalem in what is presumably his SECOND and FINAL visit, but which according to “Acts” would have been his THIRD; and that he took the Hellenist Jew TITUS with him, NOT Timothy as the “Acts” account claims. Tabor is BLATANTLY WRONG when he states that the third visit when “he was apparently arrested and sent under guard to Rome” occurred around 56 AC AND that Paul is referring to THIS incident in Chapter 15:25-29 of his epistle to the Romans. The text of that verse mentions NO such thing!

Thus, working backwards from the chronology of his final visit being actually several years LATER in 60 AC, during which he was arrested and subsequently imprisoned for TWO YEARS FIRST in the sub-provincial capital of Caesarea Maritima BEFORE being sent to Rome (NOT the provincial capital of Antioch) on his appeal to Caesar in 62 AC, so that as according to “Acts” he spent TWO more years in custody at Rome before probably being executed during Nero’s persecution of the Christians after the “Great Fire” in 64 AC for which they were allegedly blamed (all such years being according to the ACADEMICALLY ACCEPTED STANDARD chronology), his first visit FOURTEEN YEARS BEFORE that of the second (as according to the time period after his first as stated in the Galatians epistle) would then have been in 46 AC; and he would have spent THREE YEARS in Arabia at Damascus beginning in 43 AC, which means his “conversion” occurred just the YEAR BEFORE King Herod Agrippa’s death. This FIRST visit to Jerusalem as a Christian missionary would thus not only have fit the timeline of a TWELVE YEAR period after the Crucifixion at the beginning of 31 AC (as according to the “Johannine Gospel”, which gives a TWO YEAR period to Christ’s ministry ending with the execution at the THIRD Passover Festival from beginning in the year 29 AC according to the “Lukan Gospel” timeline of the start of it in the “FIFTEENTH year of Tiberius Caesar”) according with the mandate of Jesus given to his apostles as stated in the “Gospel of Philip” that they “wait TWELVE YEARS before going out from Jerusalem to spread the Word…”; but it would also fit the time period of the circumstances as described in “Acts” Chapter 9 verse 31 that “The Church throughout all Judea, Galilea, and Samaria was AT PEACE. It was being BUILT UP and walked in the FEAR OF THE LORD and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit it GREW in numbers”, because there was NO FURTHER FEAR of the persecuting Jewish king, who was by then DEAD!

Coincidentally, IF Saul/Paul was born around the same year as Jesus at the beginning of 6 AC as according to the “Lukan Gospel” chronology of being the “Year of the Census” incorporating Judea into the Roman Empire, then he WOULD have been 37 years old in 43 AC and only around 35 several years before during the stoning of Stephan—– indeed a YOUNG man!!

Though of a trivial nature and probably just a “typo”, the error in footnote #12 of the name of the author of the history of the quest for the historical Jesus as “Albert Schweiter” instead of Albert SCHWEITZER is a harbinger of the poor scholarship of critical analysis and INaccuracies in the text of the article itself.

The ONE thing I DEFINITELY agree with is Pro. Tabor’s statement that “…this enterprise of writing letters in Paul’s name has been enormously influential, since Paul became such a towering figure of authority in the Church”.

Using Tabor’s own three principles of criteria as enunciated in the article for judging anything true about the historicity of “Paul”, he CONTRADICTS #1 about “NEVER accept ANYTHING in ‘Acts’ over PAUL’s own account in his seven ‘genuine letters'”, by subsequently proceeding to state “That Paul’s Hebrew name was ‘Saul’ we have NO reason to doubt, or that he was from Tarsus in Cilicia, though he NEVER mentions this in his letters”!! He apparently “reasons” this discrepancy by claiming that since “Paul says he is of the Tribe of Benjamin, and Saul, the first king of Israel, was also a Benjaminite…. one could see WHY a Jewish family would choose this particular name for a favored son.” BUT, we DON’T KNOW, even from his own epistles, that “Saul” was anything like a “favored son” (or even an ONLY son) so that THAT would have been the reason for his name. THIS is one of Tabor’s scholastic “leaps”, though not the first, in the article and which IRONICALLY is drawn/deduced ONLY from the “Acts” text as source; since he ALWAYS identifies himself in his epistolary greetings and endings as “PAUL”. It is JUST AS reasonable, if not MORE so, to suppose that his Hebrew name was “PaLL” deriving from “PaLaL”, meaning “to fall”, as related to the nature of his handicap; which in the GREEK version of the Hebrew word-name “Saul” as “SAULOS” refers to a “waddling or straddling gait/walk” (like a penguin!) according to the “Liddell and Scott Greek-English Lexicon”. This trait, in combination with the description given of him in the “Acts of Paul and Thecla” as a man “with BENT/CROOKED legs” would indicate he suffered from a degree of LAMENESS as a result of Rickett’s Syndrome caused by a Vitamin C deficiency. Of course, even THAT being the case, doesn’t necessarily mean that his Hebrew name of “PaLL”/PAUL and his Greek name of “Saulos”/SAUL weren’t just PUNS about the character of his physical disability, and which, along with the Latin meaning of “PAULUS” as “paltry” or “little” and referring to his “SMALL stature”, would be almost INevitable consequences of his Rickett’s disease! And this condition would also of course have made him a fitting “subject of scorn” as Tabor mentions Saul-Paul states in two of his epistles; at least to Jews, who would have regarded it in their (then) customary religiously-conditioned view as being a “divine punishment” or consequence of “sin”, of probably parental cause. Furthermore, the similar-sounding word “PHAULOS” in Greek means “FAULTY”!!

That all being said, let’s analyze what else in his citations Pro. Tabor claims “we MOST SURELY know” from “Paul’s” biographical data in “his genuine letters”: since he called himself a “Hebrew of Hebrews” of the “Tribe of Benjamin”, it would stand to reason that he was NOT born in Tarsus of Cilicia but in an obscure village of former Benjaminite territory next to Judea. Thus, by THAT time, he would have been considered NOT a “Galilean” as Jerome claimed but a “JUDEAN”. The geographical identification has similar punning meaning as does the personal. “Tarsus” as “THARSOUS” means “ZEALOUSLY” or “EARNESTLY” (as Paul describes himself about the Levitical Law) and “KILIKIA” in Greek means “HAIRY”, thus referring to the animal skins he used as material for his tentmaking!! His expression of being a “Hebrew of Hebrews” could indicate several aspects: 1. He was born of “pure” Hebrew/Judish parentage and was not a “Hellenistic” nor a “gentile-amalgamated Jew”. 2. He DID originally have the SAME Hebrew name given him when a baby as that of the FIRST king of Israel, who was ALSO of the Tribe of Benjamin. Of course, all babies are SMALL so it wouldn’t have made particular sense (unless he was born PREmaturely, though his self-description in his epistle to the Corinthians about being “born out of time” like a LATELY converted “BORN-again Christian” would refer to being born OVERdue) to have given him the ROMAN word-name of “Paulus”; and NO babies can WALK so it wouldn’t have made sense to give him a name descriptive of FALLING!! 3. Though he never mentions it in his epistles because he claims he doesn’t like to boast, he was a Levite born of Levitical priestly parentage. THIS might explain WHY he advanced so far in his rabbinical Torah studies under Gamaliel and displayed a prodigious knowledge of it like Jesus and Josephus with the Jewish elders in the Temple. It would also explain his “zealousness” for the Law. Josephus himself was of “Levitical’ stock and yet chose the FOREIGN-based “Pharisaic” form of Judaism. However, this choice WOULD contradict his claim of “zealotry”, a descriptive also given in the “Gospels” to SIMON Peter’s parallel SIMON the KaNaNiM, because the Pharisees adopted ORAL traditions they ADDED to the WRITTEN Law whereas the Sadducees did not according to Josephus. This religious zeal however MIGHT be the reason that in describing his “conversion” experience in the epistle to the Galatians he stated NOT that God was “pleased to reveal His Son TO me” but “IN me”!! A VERY curious statement about the nature of his “divine revelation” compared to the PHYSICALLY dramatic and OVERT “religious visionary” phenomenon as described of the incident in “Acts”; which was not only of the typical “luminary” type but might even have had a PHYSICAL cause such as sunstroke! Being a “LEVITE” would then be the only rational way of explaining HOW he came to be a delegate for or officer of the Sanhedrin, the supreme Judish “Levitical” PRIESTLY Council (as opposed to the CIVIC Hellenistic-style municipal Boule of Jerusalem that Josephus mentions in his Histories also existing in parallel); though NOT why would have been sent to Damascus of all places to arrest Judeo-Christian heretics, since the Sanhedrin’s authority only extended to the JUDISH territories of Judea, Idumaea, and Galilea; NOT to Syria NOR Arabia. BUT…. IF he actually CAME FROM the ORIGINAL Hebrew territorial homeland, he would have been familiar with the area and possibly sent not as an “arresting officer” but as a SPY; though this theory is the least plausible since he had companions with him who were also apparently assistants for arresting numerous persons. And of course while he ADMITS to spending considerable time in NORTHERN Arabia, which is the area of the HaBuRa River from which the “HEBREWS” originated and derived their designation as “ABiRa” by the Egyptians, he came from the “BeNYaMiM” people of the SOUTHERN Arabian region of YEMEN; also a DIFFERENT ethnicity than that of the “YuDiM” of YuDiMiM/Idumaea/Edom in the Sinai region of SOUTHERN Palestine!!! Since Saul NEVER claims in his epistles, even THAT to the ROMANS no less, to have been at ANY time a Roman citizen, he probably was NOT one; especially as indicated by his statement of having been BEATEN with RODS such as used by the Roman lictors and called the “fasces”! IF Paul HAD been BORN a Roman citizen, one would think he would NOT have waited UNTIL AFTER he met the proconsul Lucius Sergius PAULUS of the provincial island of Cyprus to either change his name FROM a HEBREW one TO a ROMAN or to ADD a ROMAN one to it!! Pro. Tabor makes another “scholarly leap” when he assumes that “Paul’s extraordinary visionary ascent” was to “the HIGHEST Heaven” (being merely enumerated by the apostle himself as “the Third”) and thereby assuming there were only the traditional THREE levels of Heaven: the sky, astral space, and the “Spiritual Dimension” in the presence of the Deity. BUT, as ALL ancient Greco-Roman History scholars such as Tabor would KNOW, the Persian Mithraists and the multi-ethnic “Gnostics” believed there were SEVEN Heavens, while the Egyptians believed in EIGHT; hence the Greek term of “Ogdoad” (meaning “the Eighth”) for their spiritual dogma System. One would think that IF Paul had THOUGHT he ascended to the HIGHEST Heaven he would have CLAIMED THAT while “boasting” of his experience (and pretending not to!) Interestingly, the THIRD rank or “grade” in the Mithraic Mysteries, corresponding to the level of the “THIRD Heaven”, was that of “Miles” or SOLDIER; a comparison Paul gives to CHRISTIANS in his description of them as being spiritual “warriors” or “SOLDIERS of Christ”, dressed in “Heavenly armor”!!

Probably the MOST egregious INaccuracy, if not outright error, Pro. Tabor makes is the claim that there was a THIRD visit Paul made to Jerusalem to meet with the “leaders” of the Church (ONLY attested ironically in “Acts” and NOT in any of Paul’s epistles!) during which ” “he was apparently ARRESTED and SENT under guard to Rome around 56 AC”!! I SEE his reason for doing this however: it is to give an EARLY dating to the beginning of Paul’s missionary activity not unusually long after that of Jesus and still in the decade of the 30’s AC! OTHERWISE, there is a peculiar LAPSE of time between the execution of Jesus around 30 AC and the beginning of Saul’s awareness of the “Christian movement” while SUPPOSEDLY residing IN Jerusalem. So he dates “Paul’s call” to “sometime around 37 AC” and his second visit of “fourteen years after his call” slightly off by a year to 50 instead of 51 AC. Yet, IRONICALLY, the timing of his visionary “call” to 50 AC would work BETTER for fitting in with a FOURTEEN YEAR later time period of his SECOND and LAST visit to Jerusalem (with TITUS and NOT Timothy as he states in his epistle to the Galatians) for ending up in Rome and his story ENDING in what would be 64 AC, the Year of the Great Fire and BEGINNING of Nero’s alleged persecution of the Christians for it!! This chronology would thus put the FOURTEEN YEAR EARLIER time of his “visionary call” in the Year 36 AC; only half a decade after Christ’s Crucifixion and the LAST Year of BOTH Pontius Pilate’s administration of Judea AND Joseph Caiaphas’ chief priesthood!!

BUT, it works JUST AS WELL with a LATER DATING for the “call”….. as such: Saul’s conversion to Christianity is described in “Acts” Chapter 9, three chapters before that mentioning the inauguration of King Herod Agrippa I’s persecution of the Christians. Herod Agrippa reigned from 37 (the Year Tiberius died and Caligula became emperor) to 44 AC. His missionary activity however, does not become the focus of the story UNTIL AFTER the death of THE KING, NOT the Emperor, recorded at the end of Chapter 12; at that point SWITCHING FROM the emphasis on Simon Peter after Peter’s “miraculous” escape from Herod’s prison and his subsequent departure to “another place”. According to what is (allegedly) his own account in the Galatians epistle, Paul spent THREE YEARS in Damascus after his “miraculous conversion” experience BEFORE his FIRST visit to Jerusalem when he met with Peter (whom he calls “KEPHAS”, as “KEPHAloS” or “Head” of the Church??) and James “the brother of the Lord”. He subsequently states that, AFTER FOURTEEN YEARS, he went up AGAIN to Jerusalem in what is presumably his SECOND and FINAL visit but which according to the “Acts” account Tabor seems to be referring to is his THIRD. Tabor is BLATANTLY WRONG however when he claims that the third visit when “he was apparently arrested and sent under guard to Rome” occurred around 56 AC, and that Paul is referring to THIS in Chapter 15:25-29 of his epistle to the Romans. The text mentions NO such thing! Thus, working backwards from the chronology of his final visit being several years LATER in 60 AC, during which he was arrested and subsequently imprisoned for TWO YEARS in the sub-provincial capital of Caesarea Maritima BEFORE being sent to Rome in 62 AC on his earlier appeal to Caesar, and then adding the TWO MORE YEARS in custody at Rome as according to the “Acts” account before either seemingly perishing IN the inferno or being executed DURING Nero’s subsequent persecution blaming the Christians for it beginning in the SAME Year of 64 AC (all such Years being according to ACADEMICALLY ACCEPTED STANDARD Chronology), then his FIRST visit to Jerusalem FOURTEEN YEARS BEFORE that of the SECOND (according to the time period after his FIRST as stated in the Galatians epistle) would have been in 46 AC, and he would have spent his THREE YEARS in Arabia at Damascus beginning in 43 AC; which means his “conversion” occurred just the YEAR BEFORE King Herod Agrippa’s death. This FIRST visit as a Christian missionary would thus have not only fit the timeline of a TWELVE YEAR period after the Crucifixion at the beginning of 31 AC (as according to the “Johannine Gospel” which gives a TWO YEAR period to Christ’s ministry ending with the THIRD Passover Festival, from beginning in the Year 29 AC according to the “Lukan Gospel” timeline of the start of it in the “FIFTEENTH year of Tiberius Caesar”) according with the mandate of a DELAY PERIOD given by Jesus to his apostles in the “Gospel of Philip” that they “wait TWELVE YEARS BEFORE going out from Jerusalem to spread the Word…”; but it would also accord well with the circumstances of the time period as described in “Acts” Chapter 9 verse 31 that “The Church throughout all Judea, Galilea, and Samaria was AT PEACE. It was being BUILT UP and walked in the fear OF THE LORD and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit it GREW in numbers”, because there was NO FURTHER FEAR of the persecuting Jewish king who was by then DEAD!

Coincidentally, IF Saul/Paul was born around the same time of Jesus’ birth at the beginning of what is currently dated as the Year 6 AC as according with the “Lukan Gospel” chronology account of being the “Year of the Census” when Judea was incorporated into the Roman Empire, then he would have been 37 years old in 43 AC and only around 35 several years before during the stoning of Stephan—– thus a “YOUNG man”, as the account indeed describes him!

Imagine your pastor tells you that last night a talking bright light stopped him in the middle of the road and told him it (the light) was Jesus Christ. Would you believe him? Of course not. So why do you believe Paul?

Good writing but very poor scholarly analyst and conclusion. There was only one view presented and obviously biased beyond belief. To defame Paul, Luke, and the New Testament because you “don’t know” is poor academic work. How and why do universities produce people who write like the New York Times and reason like fickle children. I’ve seen many articles like this from BAS and have to note they are bias against the faith, which is deceiving since most people view them as authoritative.

According to Paul, his second visit to Jerusalem was not 14 years after his conversion, because he states that his first visit was three years after conversion, after which he spent 14 years in Syria-Ciliciawhich makes his second visit at the very least 15 years after his conversion. (counting partial years as full years). However, this also means that for Acts to be correct with the timetable for his missionary journeys, Paul had to be converted by 32 CE at the latest, as the famine which was occurring when he is suppose to have begun his journeys, ended in 47 CE. For this reason, among others, Acts may be discounted as an accurate source with regards to Paul. Then, given that Ephesians 6 only makes sense during a brief period during mid to late 58 CE, Paul’s arrest in Jerusalem also does not fit. For Paul to have been facing death during this period and not be killed, actually supports his Roman citizenship, but it ruins his being in Jerusalem to be arrested there. Rather he was arrested in Asia Minor in the mid 50’s and likely sent to Rome under guard in 58, and from there to exile, possibly the mines, in Spain until 68. After being pardoned in 68, he then might have penned the “pastoral epistles”.

I’ve never heard of any scholar taking something Jerome said 300 years later to override something in the earlier writings. Acts was written before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD, and Jerome wrote 350AD. From reading Jerome’s writings myself, it is clear that Jerome is a constant liar and makes up whatever nonsense he wants to on the spur of the moment, both doctrinally and “historically.” I’m actually shocked that anyone could consider this guy a “saint.” He’s either mentally deranged, demon-possessed, or simply causing unnecessary contention for the sake of causing it — or a combination of both. He certainly isn’t anyone I could consider to be a trustworthy source for any period of events. For Jerome’s so-called tradition about Paul, he doesn’t site any source and no such source has been found (and I don’t believe anyone else quotes this either). So where did it come from? I think we can consign this to Jerome’s imagination. No scholar, no matter how librel, would have grounds to supercede Jerome’s comment over Acts.

Random comments such as.. The situation with Peter and John before the council being false… The author provides no plausible evidence or even a suggestion as to why this should be discredited as factual.

Dear James Tabor,

thank you for this very elaborate paper on Paul the Apostle, it really gave me a more in-depth picture of this famous character. A biblical picture I should add, as my main concern is that obviouly you see the Holy Bible as a fait accompli. If you believe the Bible to be a historical document then it is the obvious choice to recommend studying the seven letters Paul sent between 50-60 A.D. i.e. within his presumed lifetime and not to take the later documents at face value as obviously they cannot have been drafted by Paul himself. So far I concur. After all Paul, born shortly after Jesus, could in theory have met or at least have heard of Jesus personally thus being an important primary source. IF there was a Historical Paul…the thing is the Holy Bible definitely is no historical document or scientific essay but a volume of stories embedded in a historically more or less correct context. Unless of course you believe that the New Testament is the single source of truth. Neither am I a believer nor am I an atheist but in search of the objective truth i.e. in quest of the Historical Paul. Unfortunately I did not find any historical evidence here. As you concede yourself in the chapter ‘Outside the New Testament’ there is ‘very little additional historical information on Paul’ and consequently the question of a Historical Paul remains to be solved. I would have hoped that at least some non-Christian sources were available like Tacitus or the Testimonium Flavianum on Jesus. Hopefully one day biblical science and archaeology will be able to shed more light on the issue…

Through the account of Paul I’m more interested on Saul change to Paul accepting Jesus sometime in his life with a complete U turn of faith even though he might or more probable not see the messiah ever. The same way like us we did not saw the messiah walking on earth but indeed we believed it might not as strong as Paul. But this is a good reason to believed Paul preaching a great example of Paul’s faith perfect fit for us as a Christian.

Perhaps I am misunderstanding what Nicholas is saying, but II Peter 1:19-21, it states, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well that ye heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts. KNOWING THIS FIRST, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time BY THE WILL OF MAN: BUT HOLY MEN OF GOD SPAKE AS THEY WERE MOVED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT.” II Timothy 3:16-17, “ALL SCRIPTURE is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” I don’t understand what you are saying about the Apostle Paul or what proof you require on his behalf.

I’m a simple man who spends his time on my hands and knees and my heart and soul belong to God and I am an affirmed Beliver in Jesus Christ. As a simple man logic tells me that my belief in Jesus Christ must first come from those who give testimonial evidence that they were there and they saw with your own eyes and heard with their own ears and witnessed the things professed about Jesus miracles signs wonders the dead brought back to life and Jesus himself crucified and resurrected. Based on their testimony as eyewitnesses I except along with confirmation through the old testament prophecy. That being said I know very clearly what Matthew and John gave testimony and I understand this is not hearsay another words they did not just hear it from someone else. I have often wondered why men coupled together here say with eyewitness testimony and give it equal status as being a source for truth. I recognize Jesus clearly stated all things where established by the testimony of two or more and he referenced himself his works the profits and God as being testimonies to him. I have been very surprised by how much conflict I find when I get to Paul’s writings or those associated with Paul. The most distinct thing that I have noticed is Paul claims his own apostleship. I have tried to find justification for this but in my view everything seems to point away from it. I have very good reason for saying this as first and foremost there are no testimonies to support his claim. This goes right back to the Jewish lawn and establishing the fax and it is the law that God gave so it made sense that Jesus would have referenced it stating what gave him authenticity as the son of God. To me everything has to work systematically and in harmony from Old Testemant to New for it to be true. If something breaks with that Harmony has conflict with what is already been given then I reject it. Jesus stated we should test out every expression keep what is True and throw away what is not. Until someone can explain to me where the 13th kingdom which Paul is to rule over or where the 13th thrown Paul is to sit on comes from? I am prone to reject his writings as belonging to Jesus. Not to mention if you step back from analyzing his writings the simple overview demonstrates nothing but conflict existing within his churches he demonstrated qualities such as covetousness for his disciples and pride bordering arrogance against those that didn’t agree with him. He states plainly he would be all things to all people and do anything to make a convert. Can anyone demonstrate to me where Jesus exemplified this approach ? Jesus states you will know my disciples by their love which is simply because they have his spirit living in them and God is love so that’s what it produces. Again I’m only an ignorant man quite simple minded compared to the formal education of the scholars and authors of all the various writings that exist. But I firmly believe that all truth comes from the hand of God not the mouths of men. Again call me generically claim signs and wonders but we are told cleaning in Matthew in John’s Gospel‘s of the miracles that Jesus performed. Jesus stated that those who would receive his spirit would do those things and more. Again I ask where is the evidence that Paul performed any miracles signs or wonders? Instead all I see in here or doctrinal teachings from him or arguments against whoever disagrees with him which according to the writings were even Barnabas and Peter himself the rock in which God was going to build his church. Again just self elevation by Paul not a lick of evidence for any of it. I may just be an ignorant man but I’m gonna stay focused on God and Christ in bank my eternity on them and not be swayed as this world has to follow Paul.

It’s amazing in favor of me to have a web site, which is helpful in support of my experience. thanks admin

The apostle Paul preached Jesus Christ and Him crucified in other words Paul preached The Cross. Paul preached belief in The death burial and resurrection of The Lord Jesus Christ with no law attached to your belief. Paul preached belief in the death burial and resurrection of The Lord Jesus Christ for salvation plus nothing else. The religious church hates this just as Satan hates this. Religion says we have to work for our salvation while true Christianity being born again beliefs in The grace of God while trusting in Jesus FINISHED work on the cross. What could we do to possibly add to The finished work of Christ on the cross to gain salvation. Be obedient the word of God and belief.

Oh, yes, as to the family of Jesus, there were two Josephs, but the one from Nathan was the true father because of the curse of Jeremiah, like in the case in Isaiah where Isaiah’s son is adopted by Ahaz because of the curse of leprosy running in his family.

How about Peter making a deal with Gamaliel about getting rid of the Hellenists like Stephen through Gamaliel’s attack dog, Saul, while Peter takes care of Ananias and Sapphira. It’s all there in the book of Acts. The Cult of Peter and later James was a communist soviet making Peter a role model for Stalin in future days.

Woodrow Nichols

Tabor himself has to be taken with a grain of salt at times, believing in Eisenman/Da Vinci Code ideas of an earthly Davidic dynasty under Jesus and heirs.

Why is a 4th century writer jerome more credible than luke? Jerome seems like a big part of you skepticism.

Thanks for an enjoyable read and for laying out the scholarly model of Paul. I asked myself as I read, What is truth? Is it to be found in the model proposed by the 18th century German and English scholars? Or is Jerome’s story more credible than the Acts of the Apostles? Did you think to establish Jerome’s credibility simply by citing a story he supposedly told? Maybe he was a liar? How do you and I know? Or passing along what he had heard without checking or verifying his sources? How do you and I know for sure? He is, after all, some 300 years removed from the actual events and I don’t know his scholarly discipline and integrity. Have you seen the original sources for yourself? No? Or perhaps he was actually saying something different than what you cited so you could support your thesis? Did the transmission and translation of his works and your interpretation accurately reproduce his thinking and intent? I have no idea concerning the verity of your sources. At this point your brief recounting of Jerome’s recounting counts actually for very little. Certainly not nearly enough to convince me to trash Acts. Further, this physical scientist is leery of what you claim because your 18th century model is a most egregious example of circular (or “begging the question”) reasoning. The premises are actually the conclusions, and the data are censored and pruned to ensure the conclusion and assure your pre-existing beliefs. Not good enough for me. On the basis of fallacious logic and unverifiable evidence, I reject your argument. Where is the truth of Paul and how shall I know it?

I just happened upon this fascinating blog and read all of it, finishing just now. It was fascinating to me because it mentions so many of the points I have pondered for most of my life. I have a question: Have any of you read a book by Flavio Barbiero titled, if memory serves me, The Moses Conspiracy? It has a great deal to say about Flavius Josephus and the establishment of Christianity at Rome with a large number of the members of the priestly families of the Sanhedrin heavily involved. If there is any truth to it, this book exposes the ultimate conspiracy at the founding of Christian Europe. Connections with the Paul problem are evident.

If we believe any of the cannon of scripture is a lie, then it is all a lie. If the scripture is a lie, then either God is a liar or does not exist, and my faith is in vain. I REFUSE TO BELIEVE THAT THE SCRIPTURE IN IT’S ENTIRETY IS THE INSPIRED WORD OF THE ONE AND ONLY TRUE “GOD”.

Wow! So where are all you people going to go when you ‘die’? Is the Bible the truth or a lie? Is Jesus the Son of God or not? Or is he a liar? Or are all of you going to argue what is true based on your ‘research’ and apparent point of view you want to emphasize? May the ‘God’ that you discuss, ‘if’ He is ‘God’ open your hearts and minds to what is true rather than disputing between one another what the ‘truth’ is because if none of you can agree on whether Jesus, Paul etc., said what they said then you might as well just keep walking in your own ‘truth’ and die in your sins because do deny the scriptures through intellectualism is to do so. So much time spend on trying to prove ‘historically’ what is true and what is not true well ignoring the actual history of the Bible. Problem is, everyone of you, including me are going to die and your intellectual discussions here won’t ‘save’ you, only Christ will, so talk all you want, but in the end all this talk will end and you will either be in heaven or hell depending on what you ‘believed in scripture’ not discussed here on this web page…but then again, you probably have questions about heaven and hell, judgment and sin…wouldn’t surprise me…meanwhile I’ll just simply believe that the Bible is God’s Word…all of it and leave the intellectual discussions to those who feel they know better.

In which work of ancient literature do we first find this expression: “…kick against the goads”? If you said the Bible, in which Jesus appears to Paul on the Damascus Road, you would be wrong.

This expression was first used in a book of Greek mythology, “The Bacchae”, written by Euripides in circa 450 BC. The expression occurred in a fictional conversation between the god/man, Dionysus, and the king of Thebes, his persecutor.

Isn’t it odd that Jesus would borrow an expression from Greek mythology in his appearance to the self-proclaimed “Thirteenth Apostle”?

It would be less odd, though, if Luke – a well-educated 2nd-century Greek man – put Euripedes’s words into his story about Paul (Pavlos, also a well-educated Greek man).

It would be EVEN LESS odd if it was TERTULLIANUS who did it!

I don’t see any reason that it would be odd to use words current in the language that both in the conversation could understand. Remember that Paul himself used a quote from a pre-Christianity Greek poet when he spoke to a Greek audience. Check out Acts 17:28. I don’t find it odd at all.

In which work of ancient literature do we find this expression:… “love of filthy lucre”? It is in BOTH the “biography” of Apollonius of Tyana by Philostratos AND the UNcanonical epistle of “Paul” to the Laodiceans; which for some reason was NOT accepted into the “New Testament” corpus of “Pauline” letters, DESPITE “Paul’s” request in the CANONICAL epistle to the Colossians to READ his epistle to the Laodiceans in their own church congregation and to SHARE his epistle to them with that of the Laodiceans!! So much for “apostolic authority”.


11 In the first century, many, including some who claimed to be Christians, showed a lack of humility and were stumbled by what the apostle Paul revealed to them about God’s purpose. Paul became “an apostle to the nations,” but it was not because of his nationality, education, age, or long record of fine works. (Romans 11:13) Often, fleshly-minded individuals view these as the factors that determine whom Jehovah should use as his instrument. (1 Corinthians 1:26-29; 3:1; Colossians 2:18) However, Paul was Jehovah’s choice, in harmony with His loving-kindness and righteous purpose. (1 Corinthians 15:8-10) Those whom Paul described as “superfine apostles,” as well as other opposers, refused to accept Paul and his reasoning from the Scriptures. Their lack of humility hindered them from gaining knowledge and understanding of the glorious way Jehovah works out his purpose. May we never underestimate or prejudge those whom Jehovah chooses to use to accomplish his will.—2 Corinthians 11:4-6.

“Bearing Thorough Witness” About God’s Kingdom” Like Paul and Barnabas, may we always remember that our responsibility is to preach the good news. The decision to accept or reject the message rests squarely with our listeners. If those to whom we preach seem unresponsive, we can take a lesson from the first-century disciples. By appreciating the truth and allowing ourselves to be led by holy spirit, we too can be joyful, even in the face of opposition.—Gal. 5:18, 22. “Go . . . and Make Disciples” “To the Most Distant Part of the Earth” http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1102009079

Reading through this, it is clear that Saul (his Hebrew name) would appear as an hypocrite on many factors, UNLESS, there are TWO distinctive people (entirely separate) writing of two very separate accounts. Paulos was a Roman citizen, which was authorized by Rome to kill Yahshua’s disciples, and STOP the oncoming rebellion, which this Paulos WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ALLOWED TO LEARN UNDER THE JEWS OF THE SANHEDRIN, as Jews regarded Gentiles (Romans) as dogs. This Paulos had a ‘conversion,’ for which he turned against Rome, and interacted many tiimes with the apostles (see Acts), who also was a witness of Stephens death.

Then we have Saul who was an Israelite (Benjamite) who studied under Gamliel, who only met the apostles James and Peter thrice, and was shipwrecked on an island where his story ends.

The former was belligerent with Peter, while the latter defended Peter (Kepha). The former taught Gentiles to forsake the ‘traditional teachings of the Jews (Law),’ where the Latter advocated the ‘Law, the prophets, and Yahshua as the Cornerstone.’ Saul wrote the letter to the Hebrews, explaining the importance of the ‘symbolism found within the law, and the ceremonial practices, and the striving of perfection,’ where Paulos outright rejects perfection, claiming that the law is not of necessity among the Gentiles.’

IMHO, this clearly is two separate persons writing two very different accounts, as Saul preached and warned AGAINST hypocrisy (preaching one thing while doing another), where Paulos did no such thing, but appears to contradict the teachings of Yahshua.

And his disciples took him by night and let him down over the wall, lowering him in a basket. And when he had come to Jerusalem he attempted to join the disciples but they are all afraid of him for they did not believe he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists; but they were seeking to kill him. And when the brethren knew it, they brought him down to Caesarea and set him off to Tarsus. (Acts 9:25-30)

And (Ananias) . . .said, The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Just One and to hear a voice from his mouth; and you will be a witness for him to all men of what you have seen and heard. And now, why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name. When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple I fell into a trance and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get quickly out of Jerusalem, because they will not accept your testimony about me. And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in very synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believed in thee. And when the blood of Stephen thy witness was shed, I also was standing by and approving, and keeping the garments of those who killed him.’ And he said to me, ‘Depart; for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’ (Acts 22:14-21)

But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia; and again I returned to Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas, and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. (In what I am writing to you, before God I do not lie!) Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; and I still was not known by sight to the churches of Christ in Judea; they only heard it said, “He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy. (Galatians 1:15-23)

My conclusion: Paul either had a very poor memory, was mentally ill, or lied about what he did in the weeks, months, and first few years after his conversion experience on the Damascus Road. Yet, Christians base their belief in the Resurrection, the pinnacle event of their faith, on this man’s testimony, which in his own words, was a “heavenly vision” of a talking, bright light…along with the writings of four anonymous first century authors, writing decades after the alleged event, in a foreign language, in far away foreign lands, for purposes we do not and will never know.

That isn’t evidence, folks. That is speculation, superstition, and fantasy.

Paul COULDN’T possibly by all geographical rationality have gone to Damascus on the way to his he was converted and THEN “have gone into” or “went away into Arabia” and THEN “have RETURNED to Damascus” because Damascus IS IN Arabia, and always HAS BEEN geographically; though politically at different times it has been considered “officially” part of Syria. But IT WASN’T at the alleged time of Paul’s visit. It was part of the SEPARATE Nabataean kingdom under Aretas IV who had a district governor stationed there, as the “Acts of the Apostles” mentions. This contradictiveness is one of his idiosyncrasies.

Paul COULDN’T possibly by all geographical rationality have gone to Damascus on the way to which he was converted and THEN “have gone into” or “went away into Arabia” and THEN “have RETURNED to Damascus” because Damascus IS IN Arabia, and always HAS BEEN geographically; though politically at different times it has been considered “officially” part of Syria. But IT WASN’T at the alleged time of Paul’s visit. It was part of the SEPARATE Nabataean kingdom under Aretas IV who had a district governor stationed there, as the “Acts of the Apostles” mentions. This contradictiveness is one of his idiosyncrasies.

Here’s my reason for investigating the historicity of Paul. Paul, according to the Bible, was taught by Gamaliel who was a leader of the Sanhedrin located in Jerusalem. He lived during the three years of Jesus’s mission. He was devout in the traditions of his religion and would surely have at least been in Jerusalem for the feasts. Is it possible for him to have not seen or heard anything about Jesus, who was causing an uproar due to his miracles, confrontation with the money changers in the temple, debating the Jewish elders, etc.? This just doesn’t seem very likely. Yet, ‘Paul’ sites nothing. So what does this mean? I don’t know yet, but it is important due to the differences in the message of ‘Paul’ in contrast to the rest of the New Testament.

For THAT matter, “Paul” cites NOTHING in his epistles about his EQUALLY prominent CONTEMPORARY Apollonius of Tyana the Greco-Roman “Magic Man”, considered the EQUAL of Jesus Christ by pagans and possibly the inspiration for the “New Testament” character of Elymas barJESUS the SORCERER of Cyprus that Paul allegedy confronted, who STAYED IN TARSUS around the same time and used it as his “base of operations”.

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Bunch of garbage. There is no tangible reason given in the article whatsoever for why this bizarre division into four groups is used, it’s just the same tired attempt used in the Documentary Hypothesis. And as pointed out excellently by ABR’s Duane Garrett:

“According to the theory, the redactors simply conflated the texts at hand by the ‘scissors-and-paste’ method of cutting up each document and then joining the whole into a continuous narrative. No true analogy to this somewhat bizarre editorial procedure is available.”


How inane. When one writes “it is very unlikely he (Jerome) would have contradicted that source without good evidence” I’m not sure how any serious scholar can read suggest that ANYTHING in this article can be taken seriously. The subjective “very unlikely” isn’t even the worst.

Dr. Tabor concludes Paul clearly fictionalized an account of studying under Gamaliel saying “The story is surely fictitious and is part of the author’s attempt to indicate to his Roman audience that reasonable minded Jews, like noble Roman officials, did not condemn the Christians”

Really? It is “surely” fictitious? But then this author cites Ignatious saying: Paul, who, when he was among you in the presence of the men of that time, accurately and reliably taught the word concerning the truth.[xvii]

So Ignatious testifies that Paul “ACCURATELY AND RELIABLY taught the word concerning TRUTH” – but Paul (or his deceiving followers) are lying?

Which is it?

Here’s an idea. Actually LIKE the subject matter you are opining on and follow the instruction of the scripture on how to perceive it’s meaning. As in 1 Corinthians 2:9-11.

A friend has a computer that turns itself off after a certain period of time of inactivity. And all you have to do is move the mouse a little, and the computer comes back on. Maybe the computer is not completely off, maybe this is called hibernate or standby or something. Is this a good thing to do or should I just let my computer run? How do you get the computer to do this auto shut off thing as I described at the start of this paragraph?. seo analyzer http://dev.goloro.com/topic/most-critical-website-feature

Oh my goodness! Awesome article dude! Thanks, However I am encountering difficulties with your RSS. I don’t understand why I can’t join it. Is there anybody else having the same RSS problems? Anybody who knows the answer can you kindly respond? Thanx!!

You have remarkable information in this article.

[…] quite distinct from the others. New Testament scholars today are generally agreed on this point. SOURCE It appears that Christianity was developed by a group project that came to be called Paul. […]

you say””Gamaliel stands up in the Sanhedrin court and speaks in their behalf, recommending their release (Acts 5:33-39). The story is SURELY fictitious and is part of the author’s attempt to indicate to his Roman audience that reasonable minded Jews””

SURELY? Imagine that…a physic..a prophet, or better.

This is pride dressed up as Scholarship. There is only one purpose of statements like these. I am all knowing—look at me. Its an incredibly powerful thing to pronounce a 2000 year old writing surely made up from your little desk. But then if you didnt..none of your unbeliever elite would pay any attention to you. When you receive your accolades and pay check..you have been paid in full.

yours surely, an ignorant fool who thinks pretending to know what happened 2000 years ago while eating pizza is a fools errand. After all, we dont even know for sure the events surrounding The Kennedy and Lincoln assassinations even tough they are a stones throw away in history. But you somehow know thousand of years before with perfect clarity. Its laughable.

[…] From The Quest for the Historical Paul – Biblical Archaeology Society. […]

Saul the Pervert, the first False Messiah. He was was never a Pharisee or taught by Gamaliel, nor was he an Apostle. He never knew Yeshua bar Yosef, and never tried to even learn the least bit about him. He cared not about the person Yeshua or his life. He cared only about his resurrected and glorious Jesus Christ, and his own glory as well. He was a man out to make a name for himself .

• Paul calls himself a Hebrew or Israelite, stating that he was born a Jew and circumcised on the eighth day, of the Jewish tribe of Benjamin (Philippians 3:5-6; 2 Corinthians 11:22) …….. It is easy to claim to be a Hebrew or an Israelite before and audience of Gentiles, but he never makes this claim before James and the Apostles in Jerusalem does he ??

• He claims he was once a member of the sect of the Pharisees, and advanced in Judaism beyond many of his contemporaries …….. If he was so advanced in Judaism beyond many of his contemporaries, then his name would have been well known, yet no where in the Synoptic Gospels do we hear of him. We hear nothing of him in any of the Jewish writings either. He was an associate of the High Priest and worked for and with him persecuting the followers of Yeshua, yet the Pharisee’s (as Saul claims to be) and the Sadducee’s (the Priestly class) were enemies, agreeing on nothing.

Saul (Paul) makes many claims:

• Sometime around A.D. 37 Paul [claims to have] had a visionary experience he describes as “seeing” Jesus and received from him his Gospel message as well as his call to be an apostle to the non-Jewish world (1 Corinthians 9:2; Galatians 1:11-2:2) ……. IF he had a visionary experience, who he “saw” was Lucifer, not Yeshua. Lucifer is a Fallen Angel yes, but an Angel none the less. He can appear to anyone, and in any form he so chooses. He is the Great Deceiver and the Lord of Lies. It is also made perfectly clear that the only Apostle to the Gentiles was Kepha (Peter).

• Paul claimed to experience many revelations from Jesus, including direct voice communications, as well as an extraordinary “ascent” into the highest level of heaven, entering Paradise, where he saw and heard “things unutterable” (2 Corinthians 12:1-4) ……. Yes, he “claimed to”, and who but him could verify it ? Of course he heard “things unutterable” when he ascended into the highest level of heaven, entering Paradise. How wonderfully convenient for him, he couldn’t tell anyone what he saw and heard because they were “unutterable.” If he had told anyone, those things would have been as false as his entire story was !!

• He claimed to have worked miraculous signs, wonders, and mighty works that verified his status as an apostle (2 Corinthians 12:12) ……. Once again ” he claims” but where is the verification for these ? And he might as well “verify his status as an Apostle” because no one else did !! The only claim to be an Apostle came from him. James and the Apostle’s in Jerusalem never said he was, and they were the Leaders of the movement !!

I did this, I did that, I saw this, I saw that, I heard this, I heard that, I am this, I am that. Two hundred times or more you hear in his writings the word “I”, well when you are egotistical and wanting to make a name for yourself, “I” comes in handy !!

Romans 16:25 ..Now to him that is of power to establish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began ……. “MY Gospel”, yes it most certainly was, as it was no one else’s let alone Yeshua’s !! … “revelation of the mystery”, only pagan religions had “revelations of the mysteries’, and those things “kept secret since the world began.” Yeshua never taught mysteries, he taught the Word of G-D, he taught the Torah !!!

Dr, Tabor wishes to throw doubt on the Epistle’s of James and Jude because “many scholars question if these two brothers of Jesus were part of the Twelve and others questions the authenticity of the letters themselves” ……. Yet neither James or Jude ever claimed to be among the Twelve. The Twelve were the Disciples of Yeshua that we all know. James and Jude are two of Yeshua’s brothers. Upon the death of Yeshua, who had been proclaimed and anointed King of the Jews, the Royal mantle fell upon his next oldest brother Ya’akov (James). This is why he became the acknowledged head of the Jerusalem “Church”, ie: “The Way”, as the followers of Yeshua became known. And every one of them followed the Hebraic religion, which was what Yeshua taught the return to, from Judaism.

Judaism and the Hebraic religion are two different things. Judaism follows the writing in the Babylonian Talmuds, the Torah takes second place after them. The Hebraic religion is based entirely on the Torah, and the Torah alone. The Pharisee’s were followers of Judaism (Jewish religion), and their teachings were based on the Babylonian Talmuds. This is why you find Yeshua vehemently opposed to the Pharisee’s and their teachings.

If you do not believe me on this, then check it out. The leading Rabbi’s have stated it plain and simple, “The Jewish religion is not the same religion as that of the Israelites “

The appendix says Herod the Great dies in 4 BCE. This dating relies 100% on dating derived from the works of Josephus. Yet Josephus put the death of John the Baptist about 35 CE while the book says Jesus died 5 years before in 30 CE. The book seems to be cherry picking facts from Josephus that fit the theory and ignoring other facts.

We know from the Deeds of the Divine Augustus (written by Augustus himself) that the only lustrum or census decreed by Augustus were in 28 BCE, 8 BCE and 14 CE. We even know the exact populations. http://classics.mit.edu/Augustus/deeds.html

According to Luke’s gospel Jesus was born in a year of a census decreed by Augustus. If Herod the Great were still alive as in Matthews gospel, then the only possible year would be 8 BCE making Jesus about 38 or 39 in 30 CE. However according to Josephus there was also a tax revolt when Cyrenius was the governor of Syria about 6 CE, yet there was no census decreed by Augustus that year.

Luke 2 1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. 2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

The books appendix says Paul was on trial about 50 CE, yet Cureanus was the procurator of Judea in 50 CE (Antiq, XX, 5, 3). Festus succeeded Felix about 57 or 58 CE.

Acts 24:27 But after two years Porcius Festus came into Felix’ room: and Felix, willing to shew the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound.

(this was 57/58 CE according to Antiq, XX, 8, 9) ” Now when Porcius Festus was sent as successor to Felix by Nero,”

Nero wasn’t emperor in 50 CE.

Still like the book, but wonder why Josephus is critical for some timeline reconciliation and completely ignored for other?

Augustus DIED in 14 AC.

The book arrived and I read the 20 page introduction. I mostly agree with the idea that Paul started Christianity and everything else followed.

I question the dating of Jesus crucifixion in the first paragraph of the intro. For one thing John the Baptist was killed by Herod Antipas about 35 CE according to Josephus (Vitellius, Aretas and the death of Tiberus). Antiquities XVIII, 5, 2&3.

Luke gives the 15th year of Tiberius (about 28 or 29 CE) as the appearance of John the Baptist. Yet it was much later when John is in prison that Jesus was baptized according to Luke’s account. Apparently this is a 5 or 6 year span historically.

Luke 3 20 Added yet this above all, that he shut up John in prison.

21 Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened,

22 And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.

23 And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli,

Note Joseph the “son of Heli” in Luke 3:23 Heli is the identical Greek word used for God, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

Shalom Everybody, I’m hoping, “Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity” arrives today. One area I’m interested in is the transition of Saul to Paul in the book of Acts mirrors historical events, except the mirror is distorted. Who was Barjesus (son of Jesus)? Who was Sergius Paulus and why did Saul seemingly take his name (Paul)?

Acts 13 6 And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus: 7 Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith. 9 Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him.

Marcus Antonius Pallas a freedman (1-63 CE) was the older brother of Felix who was the procurator of Judea and his name is mentioned by Josephus in the same paragraph as the Greek epistle that inflamed the Jews and started the war. Pallas was also on trial and killed by Nero about 63 CE. Here again the book of Acts is a distorted mirror of the works of Josephus. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pallas_(freedman)

“Nero dismissed Pallas from service, tired of having to deal with any allies of Agrippina. He further accused Pallas of conspiring to overthrow him and place Faustus Sulla, the husband of Claudius’ daughter Claudia Antonia, on the throne.”

KIn some instances the people and places match, but the names differ. In other instances the names match but the people differ as here;

Acts 26:32 Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar.

After reading, “You are a Priest Forever”, by Eric F. Mason, the book of Hebrews would sure fulfill the criteria for being the Greek epistle that inflamed the Jews (although Mason may not agree). The letters considered authentic from Paul would have been from a different source, which would explain all the different authorships for the other letters.

Peace, Rose

The question is NOT “Who was “Bar JESUS?” but “WHICH JESUS was he the SON OF?” JESUS of Nazareth OR JESUS Justus of Corinthos??

I agree with Hyam Macoby that Paul was no Pharisee, but a Hellenized Herodian with family ties to Herod the Great. He also did more to hurt the Jesus Movement after his conversion than he ever did beforehand. What he wrought bears little resemblance to the Galilean rabbi or his message.

[…] Recommended Article FROM http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/people-in-the-bible/the-quest- … […]

It seems odd that so much stress is given to Paul’s supposedly being a Pharisee, as when he was persecuting the Jesus movement, he was acting on behalf of the High Priest. The high priestly caste was mostly Sadducee in orientation. They also co-operated with the Romans, which makes sense of Paul’s persecution of the Jesus followers, who were anti-Roman.

Only the canonical NT’s desperate stress on trying to put the Romans in a very good light and demonize Jews obscures this.

Scholars have noted that the “tier 2” letters of Paul, along with Hebrews which does NOT claim Pauline authorship, differ from the tier 1 letters in style of writing, theology (cf. 2 Thess. view of the Return with the tier 1 letters), and in referring to later forms of organization that would have just been forming when the tier 1 letters were written. As for the objection that someone would remember in enough detail what was said two generations ago to dispute a newly “discovered” letter, that might not be the case if there was over a century of time involved, as scholars have indicated was probably true in some cases.

If there had not been a systematic process of documented record keeping from the time of Lincoln, for example, as was the case in New Testament times (outside of the Roman government, that is), one could write an “authentic” letter by Lincoln, or by Jefferson Davis, saying almost anything and not be challenged. In fact, even WITH the documented history we have, there are SOME people who would have Washington and Jefferson intending to set up a Puritan style theocracy, and they ARE saying so among some circles. So a similar amount of distortion at a time when record keeping by the general population was extremely haphazard is not so unreasonable.

I admire your brass, Rose, but we really don’t know everything about anything, and there’s a big difference between what most folks think they know, scholars included, and what they claim to know.

I ordered, “Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity” because I like James Tabor’s writing style.

The Book Description on Amazon says, “Historians know almost nothing about the two decades following the crucifixion of Jesus”.

What don’t we know about Jerusalem and Galilee from Herod the Great through the Emperor Titus? It seems we know about everything historically that was happening in that period from Josephus. The problem is that we can’t find exact references to the gospel stories.

Of all the responses listed here, most of which are worth reading, 10 is far and away the best. Thanks Clif, and congratulations to James Tabor for doing justice to Paul. So far, the only criticism I have is with the title. How could the creator of Christianity be the one who “transformed” it? A better word would be “sabotaged.”

Clif >> It is also interesting that many modern scholars have often disputed the history of Josephus only later to find that his accounts were documented by archaeology

The same is true for Irenaeus, many scholars discredited his descriptions of the Gnostic texts, until the Nag Hammadi was found and proved Irenaeus very accurate. I think we have to consider eye-witness accounts of Josephus as the most reliable historical data we have. Not only because places like the Herodium were discovered based on his descriptions, but also the people, places, and dates he lays down align with all the other historians.

The big question is why Paul never mentions the resurrection of Jesus, or the Virgin birth or Mary the mother of Jesus? Not even at his trial. Why would anybody in Jerusalem doubt Paul if the events in Matthew 27:51-53 had occurred and were witnessed by many?

If we consider Josephus as the primary historical source, then the gospel stories of Jesus, his birth, crucifixion and resurrection were all developed after Josephus published his histories (90 CE or so). This is in harmony with historical data as the earliest known fragment from the New Testament is dated to about 125 CE.

The crucifixion of three men is described in Life, 75. Here two die, but the third was brought back by a Physician. In this scene Joseph of Arimathaea is Josephus. Evan Powell points out in his book, “The Myth of the Lost Gospel”, that the two so called ‘robbers’ crucified with Jesus were most likely a pair of his disciples based on the actual gospel text.

“75. . . . . . . And when I was sent by Titus Caesar with Cerealins, and a thousand horsemen, to a certain village called Thecoa, in order to know whether it were a place fit for a camp, as I came back, I saw many captives crucified, and remembered three of them as my former acquaintance. I was very sorry at this in my mind, and went with tears in my eyes to Titus, and told him of them; so he immediately commanded them to be taken down, and to have the greatest care taken of them, in order to their recovery; yet two of them died under the physician’s hands, while the third recovered.”

Someone sat down and wrote the Gospel of John (chapters 1-20) using the works of Josephus as their framework long after Paul’s missions. Mark’s gospel then copied the crucifixion and resurrection story, and convolutes the story of John the Baptist, Herod and Herodias.

This seems to be the most likely historical scenario as it harmonizes the Bible and history very well, although it goes against tradition. Peace, Rose

The question is NOT “Why didn’t Paul quote any of Jesus’ sayings IF he knew him?” but “Since he ALLEGEDLY KNEW him, WHY DIDN’T Paul quote any of his teacher Gamaliel’s sayings?”

I find it interesting that almost no scholar mentions the historic references in Eusebius. According to which Paul was married but did not take his wife on his journeys with him. It is also interesting that many modern scholars have often disputed the history of Josephus only later to find that his accounts were documented by archaeology. Everyone has a bias and that includes scholars. No one is totally objective apart from their inner belief systems and as such we should all be taken with the admonition of Paul “that we all know in part.” Even though we may often irritate one another we should none the less be respectful of our differing opinions and endeavor to understand the information we have in our search for truth.

I think the works of Josephus are very close to actual historical events. Here’s how see the best harmony between recorded history and the New Testament. I think Paul’s letters were the origin of Christianity, the gospels stories, Acts and many of the general epistles were much later. Consider the following when building the timeline.

1) Paul was given the Eucharist directly from the Lord (1 Corinthians 11:23-29). 2) Paul never mentions the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, he only mentions the resurrection separately and as an expected ancestral event like the regeneration of the 12 tribes. 3) Paul never mentions the birth of Jesus or the Virgin Mary. 4) Paul never mentions the resurrection of the dead that occurred when Jesus gave up the ghost (Matthew 27:52,53) He certainly could have used these arguments while on trial, yet he didn’t know. 😉 5) Paul is a freeman in the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:22)

Historical letters of Paul

Here we have the freeman Pallas who was the brother of Festus (Acts 24, 25, 26) gets permissiojn from Nero to have a scribe write epistles in Greek to Jews that inflamed them and started the Jewish war (according to Josephus). However you look at this it’s also the start of Christianity. It looks like Nero actually and unwittingly started Christianity about 57 or 58 CE, then some 5 years {or so) later turned on Christians.

Antiquities XX, 8, 9 Now when Porcius Festus was sent as successor to Felix by Nero, the principal of the Jewish inhabitants of Cesarea went up to Rome to accuse Felix; and he had certainly been brought to punishment, unless Nero had yielded to the importunate solicitations of his brother Pallas, who was at that time had in the greatest honor by him. Two of the principal Syrians in Cesarea persuaded Burrhus, who was Nero’s tutor, and secretary for his Greek epistles, by giving him a great sum of money, to disannul that equality of the Jewish privileges of citizens which they hitherto enjoyed. So Burrhus, by his solicitations, obtained leave of the emperor that an epistle should be written to that purpose. This epistle became the occasion of the following miseries that befell our nation; for when the Jews of Cesarea were informed of the contents of this epistle to the Syrians, they were more disorderly than before, till a war was kindled.

Historical book of Acts

Bart Ehrman says the book of Acts purports to tell historical facts, but presents made up stories instead. He gives many examples of the differences between the letters of Paul and the book of Acts.

Josephus writes in his autobiography, “Life”, that while governor of Galilee (about 61-63 CE) there were two men, one named Jesus the other named Justus who controlled Tiberius and according to Josephus they were bad leaders. Josephus claims Justus wrote a false history of the events and waited 20 years until after Titus and Vespasian were dead to publish it. This is also the time most say the book of Acts was published (85 CE)

Life, 65 ….But perhaps thou wilt say, thou hast written of what was done against the people of Jerusalem exactly. But how should that be? for neither wast thou concerned in that war, nor hast thou read the commentaries of Caesar; of which we have evident proof, because thou hast contradicted those commentaries of Caesar in thy history. But if thou art so hardy as to affirm, that thou hast written that history better than all the rest, why didst thou not publish thy history while the emperors Vespasian and Titus, the generals in that war, as well as king Agrippa and his family, who were men very well skilled in the learning of the Greeks, were all alive? for thou hast had it written these twenty years, and then mightest thou have had the testimony of thy accuracy. But now when these men are no longer with us, and thou thinkest thou canst not be contradicted, thou venturest to publish it.

if thou art so hardy as to affirm, that thou hast written that history better than all the rest, why didst thou not publish Shalom, Rose

Josephus wasn’t appointed “governor of Galilee” (actually military commander of the district in charge of the Jewish rebels) until the outbreak of the rebellion in 66 AC. The question is, did the person who composed BOTH the “Acts of the Apostles” as part of the “Lukan Gospel” and the “Pauline Epistles” KNOW OF and USE the references of Josephus to the two characters of JESUS and JUSTUS of TIBERIAS, NOT “Tiberius”, though named after the emperor, to CONFLATE them into the character of JESUS JUSTUS mentioned in the epistle to the Colossians as being a circumcised Jewish companion of Saul Paul during his detainment in Rome??

I haven’t read Dr. Tabor’s newly released book, so it wouldn’t be appropriate for me assume this blog piece contains his entire argument. However, I see a number of assumptions that give me pause.

Dr. Tabor states that “as a general working method [he has] adopted the following three principles [with regard to the book of Acts]:

1. Never accept anything in Acts over Paul’s own account in his seven genuine letters. 2. Cautiously consider Acts if it agrees with Paul and one can detect no obvious biases. 3.. Consider the independent data Acts provides of interest but not of interpretive historical use.

This seems a reasonable and responsible approach for an historian. So my question is this: Does Dr. Tabor apply these same three criteria with equal rigour to the Gospel of Luke? The Gospel of Luke was, after all, written by the same author as the book of Acts. It demonstrates many alterations of historical and theological content in comparison with the earlier Gospel of Mark.

As well, to assert that Jerome knew a different tradition of Paul is not much of a claim. As Dr. Tabor knows, there was a large body of literature to help “fill in the gaps” of early Christian figures. If Jerome had endorsed the Infancy Narrative of Thomas, would Dr. Tabor consider this colourful tale a valid historical source, too?

Is it possible at this point for any researcher to state (albeit with a modifying footnote) that “we have not a single line written by Jesus or any of his Twelve apostles”? This is a statement of belief, not a statement of fact.

Paul does a fine job in his widely-accepted Tier 1 letters of revealing the the theology of his Christ Movement. The points of contrast between Paul’s theology and Mark’s theology are easily studied.

If I had gone door to door in the recent election and claimed to be canvassing for Barack Obama, but I endorsed only Tea Party platforms, would it be fair for others to call me a genuine follower of Barack Obama despite my repeated use of his name? (Or the other way around, if you prefer, with me canvassing for Mitt Romney but touting only Obama’s policies.)

Whichever way you slice it, Paul was a very successful figure (in this I agree with Dr. Tabor), but he was no follower of the man named Jesus.

For Paul to be a follower of Jesus, there would have to be some major points of agreement in theological doctrine. There are not — not, at least, in comparison with the Gospel of Mark, which was written after Paul’s letters and arguably in response to Paul’s early letters.

Paul’s theology shows several points of similarity with sectarian books written by members of the yahad (some of whose members left behind the scrolls found at Qumran, eg. Charter of a Jewish Sectarian Association). This in itself isn’t a new or original point, but it’s important to note that the theology in Mark does not show similar resemblance to sectarian Jewish texts. Why not? Why does the Gospel of Mark make radically different claims about God and Jesus? Even if one dismisses this Gospel as “the odd man out” in an otherwise “coherent” belief system (perhaps Mark is the crazy one?), it cannot be ignored.

An exhaustive analysis of these points would fill a whole book, I suspect, but it would be helpful to begin with the known texts as they actually exist instead of the way we’d like them to be. Paul and Jesus weren’t on the same theological page. If they had been, there would have no reason for the author of Luke/Acts to write his long and reverent two-part ode to Paul.

James, how can you make a historical assessment on Paul when you exclude a priori half the letters claimed to be written by Paul (and accepted as such by the congregations/persons who first received them)? How can you claim Luke’s “Acts of the apostles” to be of equal historical value as “The Acts of Paul” or “The Acts of Peter”? “Legendary” Paul? It seems to me that most of the “differences” between “authentic” and “unauthentic” (Disputed/Pseudo) Paul are the result of either incomplete accounts of events (both in Acts and in the letters) or of Paul correcting a misunderstanding of one of his earlier letters in a later letter (e.g. 1 & 2 Corinthians on how to treat a sinner in the congregation – both actually accepted as authentic! – and 1 & 2 Thessalonians on escatology). What “methods any historian uses” convinced you that group 1 was actually the authentic Paul and not group 2? Maybe group 1 should be the disputed Paul and group 2 is the authentic Paul? How do you know? On what evidence do you base your claims? E.g. “Pastoral” Paul (from the internal evidence of the letters themselves) are written to individuals, well-known to Paul, tasked with the job to establish congregations. Is there any reason that they would use the same vocabulary and have the same atmosphere as letters written to be written read in public in a congregation – even if written by the same person? Moreover, the situation of a specific congregation (and Paul’s own age and situation) should surely play a role in the tenor of any letter written by him? There is little doubt that there were pseudonymous “letters by apostle so-and-so” and we know a number of them. But in most, the difference between what is found in them and what is found in the New Testament books is large enough that even a non-historian can spot the difference. The matter of authenticity was important enough to the early church that they took care not accept these fakes into their group of sacred writings. And there was enough of a living tradition that any congregation would know that a letter claimed to have been written to them after Paul was already dead was a fake. I.e.: “I grew up in the congregation of the Thessalonians and our grandfathers never received a second letter from Paul!”

I just love how contemporary scholars decide which historically attested facts are fiction, or those “we have no reason to believe”. It’s great to be able to finally clear up these misunderstandings.

Ouch Robert…seems a bit nasty, and also presumptive. I use the same methods any historian uses. Do you think ALL historical work on our sources is done by liberal godless atheists who want to just tear down a religion? After all, if I am right, then we would not be tearing down Paul so much as freeing him from later traditions done in his name, so that would be a service right?

Caleb, not at all, though your sarcasm here is witty! I think you miss the point. It is not a matter of taking Jerome over Acts but that Jerome, who surely knows Acts and believes it is inspired would not have reported the Galilee tradition unless it was very weighty. Also, historians do not deal operate with any view of texts that are “inspired.” It would make no sense. Each religion and traditions has its scriptures, even within Christianity, which has Western, Easter, Ethiopian, Armenian, canons–all different. What we have are historical sources and they are all given a level playing field, none put above another by a religious assumption. This is history, not theology. Notice, the Quest for the HISTORICAL Paul. Since Paul’s letters and Acts do not agree, as my article clearly shows, there is no reason to bring in which is “inspired” and which is not. As for Luke “widely considered to be inspired,” I have to ask–by whom? Most critically trained scholars, in and out of the church, would not take the N.T. in a fundamentalist way.

What a lousy attempt to tear down a religon….how many people got stoned to death for not keeping the law? Thousands? Mililons? The Torah is full of crimes punishable by death by stoning…

As far as I’m concerned Tabor does not like Christianity or religon…typical for a college professor since most are liberal godless atheists to start with…no disrepect meant..

So he takes Jerome’s account over Luke’s. Sure, that makes sense, since Luke is widely considered to be inspired and Jerome is not.

I have been wondering for years why Paul paints the Pharisaic tradition as teaching that God demands ABSOLUTE perfection in following Torah, the alternative being ABSOLUTE damnation. Historical evidence shows that Judaism has never had such a narrow, extreme viewpoint; only those with a totally WICKED attitude are condemned, while God smiles on those who earnestly ATTEMPT to honor God’s teaching. Of course, in classical Pharisaic, or Rabbinical, Judaism, those who achieve greater righteousness are HONORED more than the ordinarily observant Jew, but there is no record of anyone OTHER than Paul teaching that Judaism, before Jesus, condemned anyone for less than perfect observance of either moral or ceremonial teachings. Indeed, the greatest figures in the Hebrew Bible had not only lapses in faith (e.g. Moses tapping the rock rather than commanding it to produce water), but moral lapses (e.g. David and Bathsheba, Solomon and his many foreign wives), that deprived them of the HIGHEST glory they could have achieved.

Bishop Spong speculated that the reason Paul taught that no amount of conscious moral observance would relieve divine condemnation is that he PERSONALLY felt that way, due to his latent homosexual feelings; making him feel condemned in his very nature. Thus, in Bishop Spong’s thought, Paul was relieved to believe in Jesus as the solution to his personal moral dilemma. Whether this is the case or not, it seems that Paul believed he had SOME kind of extreme moral failing that could not be atoned by any amount of “works of the Law” (Torah observance).

Given that some reasonable Gospel interpretations, as well as Jewish traditions, assume that humanity is already in God’s grace, except when deliberately rebelling against God, but that relationship can be IMPROVED by following enlightened spiritual teachings such as those of Jesus (the apocryphal teachings of Jesus would then refer to the condemnation of SOCIETY because of the PREVALENCE of rebellion against God, among those who had AUTHORITY over society, to be avenged by God). It would be ironic if the classical view of Jesus resulted from the personal lack of self-esteem in its greatest first century missionary.

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Late-15th-century painting of The Last Supper by the Spanish artist known as the Master of Perea.

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Kuttamuwa Stele (eighth century BCE), a funerary stela with Aramaic inscription from Samʾal (modern Zincirli) in southern Turkey. CC by-SA 4.0 International, via Wikimedia Commons.

What Is Aramaic?

Roman Catacomb Painting at the Catacombs of Santa Priscilla

The Last Days of Jesus: A Final “Messianic” Meal

Merneptah Stele

The Exodus: Fact or Fiction?

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journey of saint paul

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Who Was Jesus? Exploring the History of Jesus’ Life

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journey of saint paul

A journey into the master’s world

H YDERABAD: Imagine standing in a room enveloped by vibrant hues of blue and yellow, meticulously stroked to compose the renowned “Starry Night,” a masterpiece that transcends its tangible form to evoke profound emotional resonance within viewers. Painted in 1889 during Vincent Van Gogh’s residency at the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France, this iconic piece serves as a testament to Van Gogh’s unique vision and inner turmoil.

The captivating depiction of the nocturnal sky over the village of Saint-Rémy, characterised by Van Gogh’s distinctive style of bold brushstrokes and vibrant colours, imbues the scene with a sense of movement and intensity. The swirling patterns in the sky, dominated by deep blues and swirling yellows, convey a dynamic energy that holds the viewer’s gaze, transporting them into the world of the Real Van Gogh Immersive Experience.

While Dutch Post-Impressionist master Vincent Van Gogh’s 2,100 artworks are dispersed across the globe in museums and private collections, immersive experiences that transform exhibition spaces into Van Gogh dreamscapes have emerged worldwide, from New York to New Delhi, and now journey to Hyderabad for the first time.

Hyderabad is currently hosting its inaugural Van Gogh-themed immersive exhibition, the Real Van Gogh Immersive Experience, at the HITEX Exhibition Centre until April 10, with the possibility of an extension. The Real Van Gogh Immersive Experience amplifies the colours and emotions of the Dutch master’s paintings through an unparalleled visual spectacle, featuring India’s first 22K lumen projection and the largest screens in the country, accompanied by a specially crafted musical score by Mitch de Klein that breathes new life into Van Gogh’s timeless masterpieces. Curated and animated by Hemali Vadalia and Naveen Boktapa of Motionvan Studios, the exhibit offers art enthusiasts a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the beauty of Van Gogh’s masterpieces in a way never before experienced.

“The Real Van Gogh Immersive Experience, which is currently taking place in Hyderabad for the first time following its successful stint in Chennai, offers an unparalleled journey into the life and art of Vincent Van Gogh. Upon entering the experience centre, visitors are greeted by an education room that provides comprehensive insights into Van Gogh’s life, art, and influences. From his familial relationships to his friendships, this room sets the stage for the immersive experience to follow.

Following the educational segment, visitors w step into a breathtaking infinity room before immersing themselves in the main exhibition area. Here, Van Gogh’s masterpieces are brought to life through a meticulously crafted reel comprising approximately 236 paintings, spanning a duration of 36 minutes. The selection primarily focuses on his works from 1885 to 1890, showcasing his most prominent creations alongside lesser-known gems. After experiencing the immersive journey, visitors have the opportunity to explore a merchandise store curated with Van Gogh’s art adorning various products, allowing them to take home a piece of the experience,” explains Jay Punjabi, co-partner & co-producer, The Real Van Gogh Immersive Experience.

Presented by The Silly Fellows, Jay Punjabi and Nikhil Chinapa — who also serves as the official curator and brand ambassador for the exhibit — the first edition of the Real Van Gogh Immersive Experience 2024 kicked off in Chennai on February 2 with a specially-curated line-up of 70 visually captivating pieces from Van Gogh’s extraordinary collection of artworks including Starry Night, Sunflowers, Wheatfield with Crows, Irises, illuminating every brushstroke and colour with never-before-seen clarity.

“Watching art enthusiasts — young and old — and Van Gogh newbies, lose themselves in Van Gogh’s artistic brilliance and vivid colours, has been immensely satisfying to watch. The city of Nizams is in for a treat,” says Nikhil Chinapa, executive producer, The Real Van Gogh Experience.

The extensive planning and execution of such an endeavour were no small feat, requiring approximately a year of dedicated effort. “Nine months were spent on animation alone, with an additional month dedicated to audio production. The remaining time was devoted to perfecting the user experience, including meticulous scheduling to ensure a seamless flow of visitors every 30 minutes. The decision to create an immersive experience stemmed from a desire to bring such enriching cultural encounters to local audiences who may not have had the opportunity to experience them otherwise. With a belief that India is ready for such experiences, we aspire to expand our reach to as many cities as possible, with plans to explore exhibitions featuring other renowned artists, potentially including Indian masters,” concludes Jay.

A journey into the master’s world

Saturday Afternoon Movie

  • Saturday, April 6, 2024, 2 - 4 PM
  • Saturday, April 13, 2024, 2 - 4 PM
  • Saturday, April 20, 2024, 2 - 4 PM

April 6, 2PM Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (2022) Mrs. Harris, an English domestic servant who falls in love with a couture Dior dress, decides she must buy one of her own. After she raises the funds to buy the dress, Mrs. Harris sets off on a journey to Paris that will change the course of her life. Paul Gallico's classic 1958 novel inspires the narrative. Rated PG, 115 mins.

April 13, 2PM The Color Purple (2023) Musical adaptation of Alice Walker's novel about the life-long struggles of an African American woman living in the south during the early 1900s. Rated PG-13, 140 mins.

April 20, 2PM The Holdovers (2023) A cranky history teacher at a prep school is forced to remain on campus over the holidays with a grieving cook and a troubled student who has no place to go. Rated R, 133 mins.

The Community Room on the third floor will open at 1:50pm. Maximum audience size is 35 people. First come, First serve.


  1. Saint Paul

    journey of saint paul

  2. MAP

    journey of saint paul

  3. Chronology of Paul's Ministry

    journey of saint paul

  4. Paul's Missionary Journeys Map

    journey of saint paul

  5. Paul's Final Journey: Bible Land Maps From all-creatures.org Sermons

    journey of saint paul

  6. Paul's Third Missionary Journey

    journey of saint paul


  1. Paul de Saint Sernin x Eric Dupond-Moretti

  2. 3 миссионерское путешествие апостола Павла

  3. Paul de Saint Sernin x Amanda Lear





  1. Paul's Missionary Journeys: The Beginner's Guide

    Paul's missionary journeys helped spread the gospel throughout much of the ancient world. Over the course of his ministry, the Apostle Paul traveled more than 10,000 miles and established at least 14 churches.. The Book of Acts records three separate missionary journeys that took Paul through Greece, Turkey, Syria, and numerous regions you won't find on modern-day maps.

  2. Paul's Four Missionary Journeys: The Complete Guide

    Paul's Third Missionary Journey. After getting back from his second missionary journey, the apostle Paul stayed Antioch for "some time" (Acts 18:23). Maybe just a few weeks or few months. He then launched his third missionary journey (Acts 18-21). Paul likely left for his third missionary journey in the spring of 54 A.D.

  3. Paul's Journeys

    Paul's Journeys. Paul traveled over 10,000 miles proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. His journeys on land and sea took him primarily through present day Israel, Syria, Turkey, and Greece. Paul walked the roads built by the Romans to facilitate their control over their Empire. Travelers took to the roads in as large a group as they could find.

  4. Paul's Journeys

    A quick guide to St. Paul's travels according to today's map. From Athens to Corinth, passing through Antioch and Ephesus, St. Paul spent time in most of the cities that made up the known ...

  5. What were the different missionary journeys of Paul?

    The New Testament records Paul taking three missionary journeys that spread the message of Christ to Asia Minor and Europe. The apostle Paul was a well-educated, leading Jew named Saul. Living in Jerusalem just after Christ's death and resurrection, he did his best to destroy the Christian church. He even participated in the execution of the ...

  6. Paul the Apostle

    Paul (also named Saul of Tarsus; c. 5 - c. 64/65 AD), commonly known as Paul the Apostle and Saint Paul, was a Christian apostle who spread the teachings of Jesus in the first-century world. For his contributions towards the New Testament, he is generally regarded as one of the most important figures of the Apostolic Age, and he also founded several Christian communities in Asia Minor and ...

  7. Acts 13:4-14:28 NLT

    Your Content. Acts 13:4-14:28. New Living Translation. Paul's First Missionary Journey. 4 So Barnabas and Saul were sent out by the Holy Spirit. They went down to the seaport of Seleucia and then sailed for the island of Cyprus. 5 There, in the town of Salamis, they went to the Jewish synagogues and preached the word of God.

  8. Paul's Missionary Journeys and Journey to Rome

    D The 2nd Missionary Journey. Paul chose Silas and embarked on a journey that began by revisiting the places tPaul had worked on his 1st journey (Acts 15:36-41). They worked in Derbe, Lystra, Iconium. Timothy joined Paul and Silas. Paul, with Silas and Timothy, went through the regions of Phrygia and Galatia, then on to Troas (Acts 16:1-8)

  9. The Missionary Journeys of Paul

    The Missionary Journeys of Paul. 2/25/2019. •. Bible Figures, Following Jesus. Jesus Film Project. In his passion for sharing the story of Jesus, Paul traveled over 10,000 miles. He crossed land and sea and visited countries we find in modern atlases as Greece, Turkey, and Syria. Each part of the journey was grueling and rough.

  10. The Missionary Journeys and Epistles of the Apostle Paul

    The first journey of St. Paul begins when St. Paul, Barnabus, and St. Mark set out from Antioch (Acts 13:4). This journey started after 44 AD and ended a "long time" (Acts 14:28) before 50 AD. They left Antioch for Seleucia and sailed to Cyprus, large island 100 miles off Syrian coast. There they went to Salamis and Paphos where St. Paul ...

  11. Saint Paul the Apostle

    St. Paul is often considered to be the most important person after Jesus in the history of Christianity.His epistles (letters) have had enormous influence on Christian theology, especially on the relationship between God the Father and Jesus, and on the mystical human relationship with the divine. In addition to his extensive theological contributions, St. Paul played a crucial role in the ...

  12. St. Paul the Apostle

    St. Paul the Apostle - Missionary, Letters, Christianity: Paul believed that his vision proved that Jesus lived in heaven, that Jesus was the Messiah and God's Son, and that he would soon return. Moreover, Paul thought that the purpose of this revelation was his own appointment to preach among the Gentiles (Galatians 1:16). By the time of his last extant letter, Romans, he could clearly ...

  13. BBC

    Saint Paul is undoubtedly one of the most important figures in the history of the Western world. Just a quick look at the headlines of his life are enough to understand his impact; his works are ...

  14. PDF The Life and Journeys of the Apostle Paul

    journey in Acts 13:1. Paul wrote Romans around the end of the third missionary journey and in that letter he calls himself an apostle.) c.35-38AD Saul escaped into Arabia where he spent one to three years, teaching and studying and getting to know the Lord. Then he returned to Damascus. Galatians 1:16b-17 (From Paul's testimony in Galatians.)

  15. The Apostle Paul: His Life and Missionary Journeys

    Journey to Thessalonica. First Visit to Corinth. Spiritual Gifts in the Church. Paul Confronts and Rebukes Peter. Paul at Ephesus. Paul Resurrects the Dead. Shipwrecked near Malta. Paul's Death in Rome. Learn about the Apostle Paul's fascinating life and his five missionary journeys that changed the course of history!

  16. On the Road and on the Sea with St. Paul

    Several segments of Paul's second missionary journey were by sea. He sailed from Troas to make his first European landfall at Neapolis, the port of Philippi (Acts 16:11). Certainly the return journey from Corinth via Ephesus to Caesarea was also by sea (Acts 18:18-22). Combining land and sea travel was common in the eastern Mediterranean.

  17. Paul, Missionary Journeys

    PAUL, MISSIONARY JOURNEYS Of all the great wayfarers of antiquity, the journeys of Paul of Tarsus (see paul, apostle, st.) are among the best documented. His travels by land and sea in the Roman dominated eastern regions of the Mediterranean during the relatively peaceful era of the Pax Romana are most reliably reconstructed by placing primary reliance upon those epistles judged authentically ...

  18. Apostle Paul's Life and Missionary Journeys

    The Apostle Paul, next to Jesus, is arguably the most important and influential Christian in history! From his birth around 2 A.D. to his death by the Romans in 68, he led an amazing life full of meaning and purpose. The goal of this series is to give a real and true portrait of Paul's life and missionary journeys against the backdrop of the ...


    The first missionary journey undertaken by St. Paul (cfr. map on page 17), to which one does not normally refer when listing his apostolic objectives, is that taken to Arabia immediately following his conversion.2 In confirmation of this journey we possess two references: one in his letter to the Galatians, the other in the Acts of the Apostles.

  20. St. Paul's Missionary Journeys

    The second missionary journey followed just after the Council of Jerusalem. It took place from 49-52. Paul went to Asia Minor where he dreamt about a man from Macedonia who begged him to come to his land to preach the Gospel. Paul heeded the dream and the Good News was shared in Europe. The third missionary journey in 53-58 included the nearly ...

  21. Saint Paul: "The Greatest Missionary of All Times"

    Pope Benedict XVI emphasizes Paul's awareness that he is chosen and sent by God. This divine calling, the manifestation of God's mercy, is for Paul, the reason for his personal involvement in ...


    Each tour is rarely the same as the one before! Your journey to the places he traveled will give you new insight into the accounts he penned in the Bible. For more information about these Footsteps of Paul tours and cruises, call us today at 1-888-771-8717 or email us at [email protected].

  23. The Quest for the Historical Paul

    However, this also means that for Acts to be correct with the timetable for his missionary journeys, Paul had to be converted by 32 CE at the latest, as the famine which was occurring when he is suppose to have begun his journeys, ended in 47 CE. ... I'm actually shocked that anyone could consider this guy a "saint." He's either ...

  24. A journey into the master's world

    Painted in 1889 during Vincent Van Gogh's residency at the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France, this iconic piece serves as a testament to Van Gogh's unique vision ...

  25. Saturday Afternoon Movie

    April 6, 2PM Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (2022) Mrs. Harris, an English domestic servant who falls in love with a couture Dior dress, decides she must buy one of her own. After she raises the funds to buy the dress, Mrs. Harris sets off on a journey to Paris that will change the course of her life. Paul Gallico's classic 1958 novel inspires the narrative. Rated PG, 115 mins. April 13, 2PM The ...

  26. The Mystery and Grace of Paul Simon

    In a new documentary on MGM+, the 82-year-old songwriter speaks the language of conversion. The economic boost from the "Eras' tour, her ability to bring joy to fan's lives, and her fairytale ...