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Paul of Tarsus
|Christ died so we could write articles on|
Paul of Tarsus was the author of many letters addressed to various groups of first-century Christians. They comprise most of the New Testament, and as such are very influential in modern Christianity.
Paul, also known as "Saul," was a first-century Pharisee Jew who was fiercely opposed to the new sect of Judaism founded by Jesus Christ called the "Way" until his conversion following a vision on the road to Damascus, Syria. Paul modified the Way by stripping it of most of its original Jewish character, including temple worship and observance of Mosaic law, e.g., the prohibition against consuming pork. He took a major role in spreading this sect's theology throughout the northeastern Mediterranean world from Antioch (where it was first called Christianity) through Asia Minor, Greece, and Italy.
Meanwhile most of the original twelve Apostles, led by James the Just, stayed in Palestine while Peter wavered between the two sides and tried to figure out what to do. Titus, the son of the Roman Emperor Vespasian, solved Peter's problem for him by sacking Jerusalem in 70 C.E. and scattering or enslaving most of the Jews, including Jewish Christians, leaving Paul's network of gentile churches intact. It was these churches which eventually merged into the Catholic Church. Thus, Paul could be considered the founder of Christianity.
There is no evidence for Paul outside the Bible. No records of him ever visiting the kings and other powerful authority figures he supposedly held audiences with, no Jewish records of a Christian-hunter gone rogue, etc. Even the usual suspects brought up in defense of a historical Jesus: Josephus, Tacitus, etc, have nothing to say on Paul. That said, seven of the documents attributed to Paul do appear from textual analysis to be written by the same person. This is considered reasonable evidence that some single individual performed the role, and we may as well call him Paul, as does the author of Acts, thought by scholars to have also written the Gospel According to Luke. Even proof of the common authorship of some of these books, though, does not prove that Paul ever met Jesus, nor that Jesus ever existed.
 Conversion/relationship with the Christ
Paul was raised a Pharisee and later converted, becoming a Sadducee. According to the author of Acts of the Apostles, his early adulthood was focused on persecuting the new Christian Jews. The Acts author wrote that Paul had a vision while traveling to Damascus, where he saw the resurrected Jesus. Although he never met Jesus, he took from his vision the authority to speak as an apostle of the risen Christ, equal in stature to the apostles who accompanied Jesus during his earthly ministry. The details of the traditional version of Paul's conversion are from the Book of Acts, believed by many scholars to be primarily a work of fiction. In Paul's own words Jesus teachings have been "revealed" to him. Compare Acts 9:1-9 with Galatians 1:11-16.
Paul expounded on many issues that Jesus didn't bring up. Jesus had nothing to say about women being subservient to men. Jesus was circumspect on the question of whether his Jewish followers continued to be under the authority of Mosaic law. These doctrinal points seem to originate with Paul or with the way misogynists interpret Paul. Supporters of the patriarchy may also generalise to far from directions given to specific local churches adressing specific local conditions.  Some misogynist texts may be later interpolations.
Significant in Paul's writings is what he does not say. He seems to be completely unaware of a recent, historical Jesus. He makes no mention of Jesus' Galilean ministry, or that he was accompanied by twelve disciples. Although he refers to Jesus as having been crucified, he offers no information about the time, place and circumstances of the trial and crucifixion described in the gospels. He makes no references to Jesus' teachings as recorded in the gospels, even when it would clearly advance his argument to do so.
Paul's missionary efforts were focused primarily on Gentiles - some of whom were "God-fearers" (Gentile converts to Judaism) and Hypsistarians (pagan monotheists) - in Asia Minor and Greece. His missionary travels, his establishment of churches, and his writings would begin about 14 years after his conversion. Some 13 years later, between 60-67 CE, Paul was arrested and, according to tradition, was beheaded by Roman authorities.
 His writings
“”Dear Corinthians, this is my third time writing to you, still no reply. I don't know how you do things in Corinth, but where I come from, that's considered rude.
|—Paul's third epistle to the Corinthians.|
The New Testament attributes fourteen Epistles to Paul. However, scholars, looking at style, theological content and bibliographical content have put the 14 letters into 3 categories. Those considered indisputably Paul's, those that are considered unquestionably not Paul's, and those that remain in question.
 Undisputed letters of Paul
- Epistle to the Romans
- First Thessalonians
- First Corinthians
- Second Corinthians
 Letters about which no consensus has been reached
 Pseudepigraphal letters
 His travels
Paul states that immediately after his conversion (c. 33 CE) he traveled to "Arabia" and later to Damascus rather than see the other apostles in Jerusalem (Galatians 1:17-18) as one would expect. This does not contradict Acts, which claims that Paul went immediately to Damascus and soon thereafter to Jerusalem (Acts 9:8, Acts 9:26) as Paul says that he went to Jerusalem after three years to the Galatians(Galatians 1:17-18).
Paul records that after three years (c. 36 CE) he went to Jerusalem for 15 days, seeing no apostles except Peter (AKA Cephas) and James (Galatians 1:18, 19). Per Galatians 2:1, he returned to Jerusalem after 14 years (c. 50 CE), though offering no explanation of what he did those 14 years- although he does say this purpose was to tell them about the gospel that he had been preaching, which one can posit that this is what he had been doing Galatians 2:2 Given the scarcity of verifiable details, one cannot help but entertain the notion that Paul fabricated the fact of his revelation and ministry to this point, but that would be mere opinion without historical evidence to back up the claim; and an argument from silence is often flawed for its evidential silence. Paul is careful, however, to assure us that he is not lying (Galatians 1:20). This was because false teachers amongst the Galatians were spreading rumours about Paul (Galatians 5:7-12:1). However, Paul's apostleship was never denied by Peter (2 Peter 3:15-16:1). On the second trip to Jerusalem, he met with James, Peter, and John, who confirmed Paul's role as minister to the Gentiles and asked that he continue to deliver the collection (Galatians 2:9, 10).
Paul relates that thereafter Peter came to Antioch, at which time there was a strong disagreement between the two regarding the necessity for Gentiles to observe "the law" (Galatians 2:11-21). Acts 15 offers a different rendition of the same event that downplays the argument with Peter and ends with a proclamation from James. However, this does not follow the original ancient greek texts, which is why it is "annotated" and not scholarly.
Paul admits his intention to return to Jerusalem (c. 57 CE), apparently to deliver a collection (Romans 15:25, 1 Corinthians 16:1-3), where he was arrested (Acts 21:33) and, tradition has it, ultimately executed.
Acts details many travels that Paul does not mention. For example, Acts 11:27-30 refers to a trip to Antioch for the purposes of delivering a collection for famine relief.
 The collection
If one is looking for a motive for participation in the early Christian church, one need look no further than the collection. It was Paul's promise to "remember the poor" that apparently allowed an agreement between him and the "pillars" in Jerusalem (Galatians 2:9-10).
In his letters, Paul gives instructions to several churches to prepare a collection for Jerusalem in anticipation of his arrival (1 Corinthians 16:1-3, 2 Corinthians 8:1-15, 2 Corinthians 9). Paul thanks Philippi for their aid (Philippians 4:10-19) and mentions a contribution for Jerusalem made by Macedonia and Achaia in Romans 15:25-28.
It was apparently while delivering this collection that Paul was arrested in Jerusalem, and it is claimed he mentioned it at his trial in Acts 24:17.
 In Acts
We know about the historical Paul not only through statements he makes in his canonical letters but also from the book of Acts. However, at times, these works differ in their portrayal of the person Paul.
Paul proclaims himself to be an apostle of Jesus in Galatians 2:8, 1 Corinthians 9:1-2, and in several other instances. However, according to Acts 1:21, to be considered for inclusion by the other apostles, one must have "been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us," making Paul ineligible. One has to wonder why, if Paul was not considered to be an apostle, did he play such a prominent role in a book titled Acts of the Apostles.
Paul in fact regarded his claim to apostleship to be just as valid as that of anyone. He notes, concerning "important" men in the church, "...those men added nothing to my message" (Galatians 2:6). However, Acts has Paul acknowledging "those who had traveled with [Jesus] from Galilee to Jerusalem" (Acts 13:31) to be of greater importance. Also note that Paul believed no one could dispute that his vision of the living Jesus after the crucifixion was as significant as other sightings of the resurrected Jesus, which casts doubt on the claim that anyone actually saw a resurrected Jesus.
Acts has Paul on many occasions assert that he considers himself a Jew, at one point noting, "I have done nothing wrong against the law of the Jews or against the temple..." (Acts 25:8). In his own letters, however, Paul frequently denies the significance of Jewish law. In one instance he admits he does not have "a righteousness of [his] own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ" (Philippians 3:9).
By the varied speeches attributed to Paul in Acts, he is portrayed as a great orator. However, Paul himself notes the accusation by some that "in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing" (2 Corinthians 10:10).
 See also
- Paul and the Origins of Christianity
- Paul Invented Christian Doctrine
- How Saint Paul Created Christianity