Paul was originally known as Saul. He was born to a Jewish family in Tarsus, in modern Turkey, around 5 AD. His family members were successful merchants. Paul studied the Old Testament, and was a leading member of the Jewish community in Tarsus. His early reaction to Christianity was violent. He regarded the Christians as dangerous heretics, and persecuted them mercilessly.
Then one day, as he was travelling on the Road to Damascus, he suddenly had a vision. He had a vision of the risen Christ, who asked him why he persecuting Him. Paul was blinded for three days after this experience, and after regaining his sight he became a committed Christian.
Immediately, Paul began to preach the message of Our Lord in the synagogues of Damascus. This caused a great scandal among the Jewish community, and there were threats made against Paul’s life. Paul left Damascus and travelled widely.
Paul changed the course of Christianity. The first Christians were all Jews. Paul decided to bring the Word of God to the ‘Gentiles’, or non-Jews. He took the Gospel to all the peoples of the Roman Empire. This made him unpopular among some in the Christian community, which was all Jewish at this time.
Paul became a tireless missionary. He travelled all over the ancient near east preaching the Word of God. He helped to organize many Christian communities all over the Easter Mediterranean. Paul wrote letters to various communities, explaining to them the Word of God and Christian values.
The Epistles, or Letters of Paul, are full of wisdom and theological reflections. They are among the most important theological works in Christianity, and inspire many to this day.
On a visit to Jerusalem, Paul was confronted by an angry Jewish crowd. He was taken into protective custody by the Romans. There were unspecified charges brought against him, and because he was a Roman citizen, he was taken back to Rome for trial.
After a period of house arrest, Paul was beheaded in Rome because of his Christian beliefs around 67 AD.
There are several miracles attributed to Paul. He brought back to life a young man who had died following a fall from a building. Paul also cured a beggar of his lameness and made him walk again.
Paul placed a special emphasis on faith: ‘’by faith alone shall you be saved.” However, this is not to be understood as 'works are useless'; works are very important. Faith without works is dead.
Paul recognised that love was all-important for a Christian. Love gives meaning to life. 1 Corinthians 13 states, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”
There are many Churches dedicated to St. Paul, and his influence upon Christianity continues to this day.