PAUL, the Apostle
Tarsus was also the seat of a famous university, higher in reputation even than the universities of Athens and Alexandria, the only others that then existed. Here Saul was born, and here he spent his youth, doubtless enjoying the best education his native city could afford. His father was of the straitest sect of the Jews, a Pharisee, of the tribe of Benjamin, of pure and unmixed Jewish blood (Acts 23:6; Phil 3:5). We learn nothing regarding his mother; but there is reason to conclude that she was a pious woman, and that, like-minded with her husband, she exercised all a mother influence in moulding the character of her son, so that he could afterwards speak of himself as being, from his youth up, "touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless" (Phil 3:6).
We read of his sister and his sister's son (Acts 23:16), and of other relatives (Romans 16:7,11,12). Though a Jew, his father was a Roman citizen. How he obtained this privilege we are not informed. "It might be bought, or won by distinguished service to the state, or acquired in several other ways; at all events, his son was freeborn. It was a valuable privilege, and one that was to prove of great use to Paul, although not in the way in which his father might have been expected to desire him to make use of it." Perhaps the most natural career for the youth to follow was that of a merchant. "But it was decided that...he should go to college and become a rabbi, that is, a minister, a teacher, and a lawyer all in one."
According to Jewish custom, however, he learned a trade before entering on the more direct preparation for the sacred profession. The trade he acquired was the making of tents from goats' hair cloth, a trade which was one of the commonest in Tarsus.
His preliminary education having been completed, Saul was sent, when about thirteen years of age probably, to the great Jewish school of sacred learning at Jerusalem as a student of the law. Here he became a pupil of the celebrated rabbi Gamaliel, and here he spent many years in an elaborate study of the Scriptures and of the many questions concerning them with which the rabbis exercised themselves. During these years of diligent study he lived "in all good conscience," unstained by the vices of that great city.
After the period of his student-life expired, he probably left Jerusalem for Tarsus, where he may have been engaged in connection with some synagogue for some years. But we find him back again at Jerusalem very soon after the death of our Lord. Here he now learned the particulars regarding the crucifixion, and the rise of the new sect of the "Nazarenes."
For some two years after Pentecost, Christianity was quietly spreading its influence in Jerusalem. At length Stephen, one of the seven deacons, gave forth more public and aggressive testimony that Jesus was the Messiah, and this led to much excitement among the Jews and much disputation in their synagogues. Persecution arose against Stephen and the followers of Christ generally, in which Saul of Tarsus took a prominent part. He was at this time probably a member of the great Sanhedrin, and became the active leader in the furious persecution by which the rulers then sought to exterminate Christianity.
But the object of this persecution also failed. "They that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word." The anger of the persecutor was thereby kindled into a fiercer flame. Hearing that fugitives had taken refuge in Damascus, he obtained from the chief priest letters authorizing him to proceed thither on his persecuting career. This was a long journey of about 130 miles, which would occupy perhaps six days, during which, with his few attendants, he steadily went onward, "breathing out threatenings and slaughter." But the crisis of his life was at hand. He had reached the last stage of his journey, and was within sight of Damascus. As he and his companions rode on, suddenly at mid-day a brilliant light shone round them, and Saul was laid prostrate in terror on the ground, a voice sounding in his ears, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" The risen Saviour was there, clothed in the vesture of his glorified humanity. In answer to the anxious inquiry of the stricken persecutor, "Who art thou, Lord?" he said, "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest" (Acts 9:5; 22:8; 26:15).
This was the moment of his conversion, the most solemn in all his life. Blinded by the dazzling light (Acts 9:8), his companions led him into the city, where, absorbed in deep thought for three days, he neither ate nor drank (9:11). Ananias, a disciple living in Damascus, was informed by a vision of the change that had happened to Saul, and was sent to him to open his eyes and admit him by baptism into the Christian church (9:11-16). The whole purpose of his life was now permanently changed.
Immediately after his conversion he retired into the solitudes of Arabia (Galatians 1:17), perhaps of "Sinai in Arabia," for the purpose, probably, of devout study and meditation on the marvellous revelation that had been made to him. "A veil of thick darkness hangs over this visit to Arabia. Of the scenes among which he moved, of the thoughts and occupations which engaged him while there, of all the circumstances of a crisis which must have shaped the whole tenor of his after-life, absolutely nothing is known. 'Immediately,' says St. Paul, 'I went away into Arabia.' The historian passes over the incident [Compare Acts 9:23 and 1 Kings 11:38,39]. It is a mysterious pause, a moment of suspense, in the apostle's history, a breathless calm, which ushers in the tumultuous storm of his active missionary life." Coming back, after three years, to Damascus, he began to preach the gospel "boldly in the name of Jesus" (Acts 9:27), but was soon obliged to flee (9:25; 2co. 11:33) from the Jews and betake himself to Jerusalem. Here he tarried for three weeks, but was again forced to flee (Acts 9:28,29) from persecution. He now returned to his native Tarsus (Galatians 1:21), where, for probably about three years, we lose sight of him. The time had not yet come for his entering on his great life-work of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles.
At length the city of Antioch, the capital of Syria, became the scene of great Christian activity. There the gospel gained a firm footing, and the cause of Christ prospered. Barnabas (q.v.), who had been sent from Jerusalem to superintend the work at Antioch, found it too much for him, and remembering Saul, he set out to Tarsus to seek for him. He readily responded to the call thus addressed to him, and came down to Antioch, which for "a whole year" became the scene of his labours, which were crowned with great success. The disciples now, for the first time, were called "Christians" (Acts 11:26).
The church at Antioch now proposed to send out missionaries to the Gentiles, and Saul and Barnabas, with John Mark as their attendant, were chosen for this work. This was a great epoch in the history of the church. Now the disciples began to give effect to the Master's command: "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature."
The three missionaries went forth on the first missionary tour. They sailed from Seleucia, the seaport of Antioch, across to Cyprus, some 80 miles to the south-west. Here at Paphos, Sergius Paulus, the Roman proconsul, was converted, and now Saul took the lead, and was ever afterwards called Paul. The missionaries now crossed to the mainland, and then proceeded 6 or 7 miles up the river Cestrus to Perga (Acts 13:13), where John Mark deserted the work and returned to Jerusalem. The two then proceeded about 100 miles inland, passing through Pamphylia, Pisidia, and Lycaonia. The towns mentioned in this tour are the Pisidian Antioch, where Paul delivered his first address of which we have any record (13:16-51; comp 10:30-43), Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. They returned by the same route to see and encourage the converts they had made, and ordain elders in every city to watch over the churches which had been gathered. From Perga they sailed direct for Antioch, from which they had set out.
After remaining "a long time", probably till A.D. 50 or 51, in Antioch, a great controversy broke out in the church there regarding the relation of the Gentiles to the Mosaic law. For the purpose of obtaining a settlement of this question, Paul and Barnabas were sent as deputies to consult the church at Jerusalem. The council or synod which was there held (Acts 15) decided against the Judaizing party; and the deputies, accompanied by Judas and Silas, returned to Antioch, bringing with them the decree of the council.
After a short rest at Antioch, Paul said to Barnabas: "Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do." Mark proposed again to accompany them; but Paul refused to allow him to go. Barnabas was resolved to take Mark, and thus he and Paul had a sharp contention. They separated, and never again met. Paul, however, afterwards speaks with honour of Barnabas, and sends for Mark to come to him at Rome (Colossians 4:10; 2Tim 4:11).
Paul took with him Silas, instead of Barnabas, and began his second missionary journey about A.D. 51. This time he went by land, revisiting the churches he had already founded in Asia. But he longed to enter into "regions beyond," and still went forward through Phrygia and Galatia (16:6). Contrary to his intention, he was constrained to linger in Galatia (q.v.), on account of some bodily affliction (Galatians 4:13,14). Bithynia, a populous province on the shore of the Black Sea, lay now before him, and he wished to enter it; but the way was shut, the Spirit in some manner guiding him in another direction, till he came down to the shores of the AEgean and arrived at Troas, on the north-western coast of Asia Minor (Acts 16:8). Of this long journey from Antioch to Troas we have no account except some references to it in his Epistle to the (Galatians 4:13).
As he waited at Troas for indications of the will of God as to his future movements, he saw, in the vision of the night, a man from the opposite shores of Macedonia standing before him, and heard him cry, "Come over, and help us" (Acts 16:9). Paul recognized in this vision a message from the Lord, and the very next day set sail across the Hellespont, which separated him from Europe, and carried the tidings of the gospel into the Western world. In Macedonia, churches were planted in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea. Leaving this province, Paul passed into Achaia, "the paradise of genius and renown." He reached Athens, but quitted it after, probably, a brief sojourn (17:17-31). The Athenians had received him with cold disdain, and he never visited that city again. He passed over to Corinth, the seat of the Roman government of Achaia, and remained there a year and a half, labouring with much success. While at Corinth, he wrote his two epistles to the church of Thessalonica, his earliest apostolic letters, and then sailed for Syria, that he might be in time to keep the feast of Pentecost at Jerusalem. He was accompanied by Aquila and Priscilla, whom he left at Ephesus, at which he touched, after a voyage of thirteen or fifteen days. He landed at Caesarea, and went up to Jerusalem, and having "saluted the church" there, and kept the feast, he left for Antioch, where he abode "some time" (Acts 18:20-23).
He then began his third missionary tour. He journeyed by land in the "upper coasts" (the more eastern parts) of Asia Minor, and at length made his way to Ephesus, where he tarried for no less than three years, engaged in ceaseless Christian labour. "This city was at the time the Liverpool of the Mediterranean. It possessed a splendid harbour, in which was concentrated the traffic of the sea which was then the highway of the nations; and as Liverpool has behind her the great towns of Lancashire, so had Ephesus behind and around her such cities as those mentioned along with her in the epistles to the churches in the book of Revelation, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. It was a city of vast wealth, and it was given over to every kind of pleasure, the fame of its theatres and race-course being world-wide" (Stalker's Life of St. Paul). Here a "great door and effectual" was opened to the apostle. His fellow-labourers aided him in his work, carrying the gospel to Colosse and Laodicea and other places which they could reach.
Very shortly before his departure from Ephesus, the apostle wrote his First Epistle to the Corinthians (q.v.). The silversmiths, whose traffic in the little images which they made was in danger (see DEMETRIUS), organized a riot against Paul, and he left the city, and proceeded to Troas (2 Corinthians 2:12), whence after some time he went to meet Titus in Macedonia. Here, in consequence of the report Titus brought from Corinth, he wrote his second epistle to that church. Having spent probably most of the summer and autumn in Macedonia, visiting the churches there, specially the churches of Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea, probably penetrating into the interior, to the shores of the Adriatic (Romans 15:19), he then came into Greece, where he abode three month, spending probably the greater part of this time in Corinth (Acts 20:2). During his stay in this city he wrote his Epistle to the Galatians, and also the great Epistle to the Romans. At the end of the three months he left Achaia for Macedonia, thence crossed into Asia Minor, and touching at Miletus, there addressed the Ephesian presbyters, whom he had sent for to meet him (Acts 20:17), and then sailed for Tyre, finally reaching Jerusalem, probably in the spring of A.D. 58.
While at Jerusalem, at the feast of Pentecost, he was almost murdered by a Jewish mob in the temple. (See TEMPLE, HEROD'S.) Rescued from their violence by the Roman commandant, he was conveyed as a prisoner to Caesarea, where, from various causes, he was detained a prisoner for two years in Herod's praetorium (Acts 23:35). "Paul was not kept in close confinement; he had at least the range of the barracks in which he was detained. There we can imagine him pacing the ramparts on the edge of the Mediterranean, and gazing wistfully across the blue waters in the direction of Macedonia, Achaia, and Ephesus, where his spiritual children were pining for him, or perhaps encountering dangers in which they sorely needed his presence. It was a mysterious providence which thus arrested his energies and condemned the ardent worker to inactivity; yet we can now see the reason for it. Paul was needing rest. After twenty years of incessant evangelization, he required leisure to garner the harvest of experience...During these two years he wrote nothing; it was a time of internal mental activity and silent progress" (Stalker's Life of St. Paul).
At the end of these two years Felix (q.v.) was succeeded in the governorship of Palestine by Porcius Festus, before whom the apostle was again heard. But judging it right at this crisis to claim the privilege of a Roman citizen, he appealed to the emperor (Acts 25:11). Such an appeal could not be disregarded, and Paul was at once sent on to Rome under the charge of one Julius, a centurion of the "Augustan cohort." After a long and perilous voyage, he at length reached the imperial city in the early spring, probably, of A.D. 61. Here he was permitted to occupy his own hired house, under constant military custody. This privilege was accorded to him, no doubt, because he was a Roman citizen, and as such could not be put into prison without a trial. The soldiers who kept guard over Paul were of course changed at frequent intervals, and thus he had the opportunity of preaching the gospel to many of them during these "two whole years," and with the blessed result of spreading among the imperial guards, and even in Caesar's household, an interest in the truth (Phil 1:13). His rooms were resorted to by many anxious inquirers, both Jews and Gentiles (Acts 28:23,30,31), and thus his imprisonment "turned rather to the furtherance of the gospel," and his "hired house" became the centre of a gracious influence which spread over the whole city. According to a Jewish tradition, it was situated on the borders of the modern Ghetto, which has been the Jewish quarters in Rome from the time of Pompey to the present day. During this period the apostle wrote his epistles to the Colossians, Ephesians, Philippians, and to Philemon, and probably also to the Hebrews.
This first imprisonment came at length to a close, Paul having been acquitted, probably because no witnesses appeared against him. Once more he set out on his missionary labours, probably visiting western and eastern Europe and Asia Minor. During this period of freedom he wrote his First Epistle to Timothy and his Epistle to Titus. The year of his release was signalized by the burning of Rome, which Nero saw fit to attribute to the Christians. A fierce persecution now broke out against the Christians. Paul was siezed, and once more conveyed to Rome a prisoner. During this imprisonment he probably wrote the Second Epistle to Timothy, the last he ever wrote. "There can be little doubt that he appered again at Nero's bar, and this time the charge did not break down. In all history there is not a more startling illustration of the irony of human life than this scene of Paul at the bar of Nero. On the judgment-seat, clad in the imperial purple, sat a man who, in a bad world, had attained the eminence of being the very worst and meanest being in it, a man stained with every crime, a man whose whole being was so steeped in every nameable and unnameable vice, that body and soul of him were, as some one said at the time, nothing but a compound of mud and blood; and in the prisoner's dock stood the best man the world possessed, his hair whitened with labours for the good of men and the glory of God. The trial ended: Paul was condemned, and delivered over to the executioner. He was led out of the city, with a crowd of the lowest rabble at his heels. The fatal spot was reached; he knelt beside the block; the headsman's axe gleamed in the sun and fell; and the head of the apostle of the world rolled down in the dust" (probably A.D. 66), four years before the fall of Jerusalem.
(small, little ).
Nearly all the original materials for the life St. Paul are contained in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Pauline epistles. Paul was born in Tarsus, a city of Cilicia. (It is not improbable that he was born between A.D. 0 and A.D. 5.) Up to the time of his going forth as an avowed preacher of Christ to the Gentiles, the apostle was known by the name of Saul. This was the Jewish name which he received from his Jewish parents. But though a Hebrew of the Hebrews, he was born in a Gentile city. Of his parents we know nothing, except that his father was of the tribe of Benjamin, (Philemon 3:5) and a Pharisee, (Acts 23:6) that Paul had acquired by some means the Roman franchise ("I was free born,") (Acts 22:23) and that he was settled in Tarsus. At Tarsus he must have learned to use the Greek language with freedom and mastery in both speaking and writing. At Tarsus also he learned that trade of "tent-maker," (Acts 18:3) at which he afterward occasionally wrought with his own hands. There was a goatís-hair cloth called cilicium manufactured in Cilicia, and largely used for tents, Saulís trade was probably that of making tents of this hair cloth. When St. Paul makes his defence before his countrymen at Jerusalem, (Acts 22:1) ... he tells them that, though born in Tarsus he had been "brought up" in Jerusalem. He must therefore, have been yet a boy when was removed, in all probability for the sake of his education, to the holy city of his fathers. He learned, he says, at the feet of Gamaliel." He who was to resist so stoutly the usurpations of the law had for his teacher one of the most eminent of all the doctors of the law. Saul was yet "a young man," (Acts 7:58) when the Church experienced that sudden expansion which was connected with the ordaining of the seven appointed to serve tables, and with the special power and inspiration of Stephen. Among those who disputed with Stephen were some "of them of Cilicia." We naturally think of Saul as having been one of these, when we find him afterward keeping the clothes of those suborned witnesses who, according to the law, ( 17:7) were the first to cast stones at Stephen. "Saul," says the sacred writer significantly "was consenting unto his death."
Saulís conversion . A.D. 37.
--The persecutor was to be converted. Having undertaken to follow up the believers "unto strange cities." Saul naturally turned his thoughts to Damascus. What befell him as he journeyed thither is related in detail three times in the Acts, first by the historian in his own person, then in the two addresses made by St. Paul at Jerusalem and before Agrippa. St. Lukeís statement is to be read in (Acts 9:3-19) where, however, the words "it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks," included in the English version, ought to be omitted (as is done in the Revised Version). The sudden light from heaven; the voice of Jesus speaking with authority to his persecutor; Saul struck to the ground, blinded, overcome; the three-days suspense; the coming of Ananias as a messenger of the Lord and Saulís baptism, -- these were the leading features at the great event, and in these we must look for the chief significance of the conversion. It was in Damascus that he was received into the church by Ananias, and here to the astonishment of all his hearers, he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, declaring him to be the Son of God. The narrative in the Acts tells us simply that he was occupied in this work, with increasing vigor, for "many days," up to the time when imminent danger drove him from Damascus. From the Epistle to the Galatians, (Galatians 1:17,18) we learn that the many days were at least a good part of "three years," A.D. 37-40, and that Saul, not thinking it necessary to procure authority to teach from the apostles that were before him, went after his conversion to Arabia, and returned from thence to us. We know nothing whatever of this visit to Arabia; but upon his departure from Damascus we are again on a historical ground, and have the double evidence of St. Luke in the Acts of the apostle in his Second Epistle the Corinthians. According to the former, the Jews lay in wait for Saul, intending to kill him, and watched the gates of the city that he might not escape from them. Knowing this, the disciples took him by night and let him down in a basket from the wall. Having escaped from Damascus, Saul betook himself to Jerusalem (A.D. 40), and there "assayed to join himself to the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and believed not he was a disciple." Barnabasí introduction removed the fears of the apostles, and Saul "was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem." But it is not strange that the former persecutor was soon singled out from the other believers as the object of a murderous hostility. He was,therefore, again urged to flee; and by way of Caesarea betook himself to his native city, Tarsus. Barnabas was sent on a special mission to Antioch. As the work grew under his hands, he felt the need of help, went himself to Tarsus to seek Saul, and succeeded in bringing him to Antioch. There they labored together unremittingly for a whole year." All this time Saul was subordinate to Barnabas. Antioch was in constant communication with Cilicia, with Cyprus, with all the neighboring countries. The Church was pregnant with a great movement, and time of her delivery was at hand. Something of direct expectation seems to be implied in what is said of the leaders of the Church at Antioch, that they were "ministering to the Lord and fasting," when the Holy Ghost spoke to them: "Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them." Everything was done with orderly gravity in the sending forth of the two missionaries. Their brethren after fasting and prayer, laid their hands on them, and so they departed.
The first missionary journey. A.D. 45-49.
--As soon as Barnabas and Saul reached Cyprus they began to "announce the word of God," but at first they delivered their message in the synagogues of the Jews only. When they had gone through the island, from Salamis to Paphos, they were called upon to explain their doctrine to an eminent Gentile, Sergius Paulus, the proconsul, who was converted. Saulís name was now changed to Paul, and he began to take precedence of Barnabas. From Paphos "Paul and his company" set sail for the mainland, and arrived at Perga in Pamphylia. Here the heart of their companion John failed him, and he returned to Jerusalem. From Perga they travelled on to a place obscure in secular history, but most memorable in the history of the Kingdom of Christ --Antioch in Pisidia. Rejected by the Jews, they became bold and outspoken, and turned from them to the Gentiles. At Antioch now, as in every city afterward, the unbelieving Jews used their influence with their own adherents among the Gentiles to persuade the authorities or the populace to persecute the apostles and to drive them from the place. Paul and Barnabas now travelled on to Iconium where the occurrences at Antioch were repeated, and from thence to the Lycaonian country which contained the cities Lystra and Derbe. Here they had to deal with uncivilized heathen. At Lystra the healing of a cripple took place. Thereupon these pagans took the apostles for gods, calling Barnabas, who was of the more imposing presence, Jupiter, and Paul, who was the chief speaker, Mercurius. Although the people of Lystra had been so ready to worship Paul and Barnabas, the repulse of their idolatrous instincts appears to have provoked them, and they allowed themselves to be persuaded into hostility be Jews who came from Antioch and Iconium, so that they attacked Paul with stones, and thought they had killed him. He recovered, however as the disciples were standing around him, and went again into the city. The next day he left it with Barnabas, and went to Derbe, and thence they returned once more to Lystra, and so to Iconium and Antioch. In order to establish the churches after their departure they solemnly appointed "elders" in every city. Then they came down to the coast, and from Attalia, they sailed; home to Antioch in Syria, where they related the successes which had been granted to them, and especially the opening of the door of faith to the Gentiles." And so the first missionary journey ended. The council at Jerusalem. --Upon that missionary journey follows most naturally the next important scene which the historian sets before us --the council held at Jerusalem to determine the relations of Gentile believers to the law of Moses. (Acts 15:1-29; Galatians 2)
--The most resolute courage, indeed, was required for the work to which St. Paul was now publicly pledged. He would not associate with himself in that work one who had already shown a want of constancy. This was the occasion of what must have been a most painful difference between him and his comrade in the faith and in past perils, Barnabas. (Acts 15:35-40) Silas, or Silvanus, becomes now a chief companion of the apostle. The two went together through Syria and Cilicia, visiting the churches, and so came to Derbe and Lystra. Here they find Timotheus, who had become a disciple on the former visit of the apostle. Him St. Paul took and Circumcised. St. Luke now steps rapidly over a considerable space of the apostleís life and labors. "They went throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia." (Luke 16:6) At this time St. Paul was founding "the churches of Galatia." (Galatians 1:2) He himself gives some hints of the circumstances of his preaching in that region, of the reception he met with, and of the ardent though unstable character of the people. (Galatians 4:13-15) Having gone through Phrygia and Galatia, he intended to visit, the western coast; but "they were forbidden by the Holy Ghost to preach the "word" there. Then, being on the borders of Mysia, they thought of going back to the northeast into Bithynia; but again the Spirit of Jesus "suffered them not," so they passed by Mysia and came down to Troas. St. Paul saw in a vision a man,of Macedonia, who besought him, saying, "Come over into Macedonia and help us." The vision was at once accepted as a heavenly intimation; the help wanted, by the Macedonians was believed to be the preaching of the gospel. It is at this point that the historian, speaking of St. Paulís company, substitutes "we" for "they." He says nothing of himself we can only infer that St. Luke, to whatever country he belonged, became a companion of St. Paul at Troas. The party thus reinforced, immediately set sail from Troas, touched at Samothrace, then landed on the continent at Neapolis, and thence journeyed to Philippi. The first convert in Macedonia was Lydia, an Asiatic woman, at Philippi. (Acts 18:13,14) At Philippi Paul and Silas were arrested, beaten and put in prison, having cast out the spirit of divination from a female slave who had brought her masters much gain by her power. This cruel wrong was to be the occasion of a signal appearance of the God of righteousness and deliverance. The narrative tells of the earthquake, the jailerís terror, his conversion and baptism. (Acts 16:26-34) In the morning the magistrates sent word to the prison that the men might be let go; but Paul denounced plainly their unlawful acts, informing them moreover that those whom they had beaten and imprisoned without trial; were Roman citizens. The magistrates, in great alarm, saw the necessity of humbling themselves. They came and begged them to leave the city. Paul and Silas consented to do so, and, after paying a visit to "the brethren" in the house of Lydia, they departed. Leaving St. Luke, and perhaps Timothy for a short time at Philippi, Paul and Silas travelled through Amphipolis and Apollonia and stopped again at Thessalonica. Here again, as in Pisidian Antioch, the envy of the Jews was excited, and the mob assaulted the house of Jason with whom Paul and Silas were staying as guests, and, not finding them, dragged Jason himself and some other brethren before the magistrates. After these signs of danger the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night. They next came to Berea. Here they found the Jews more noble than those at Thessalonica had been. Accordingly they gained many converts, both Jews and Greeks; but the Jews of Thessalonica, hearing of it, sent emissaries to stir up the people, and it was thought best that Paul should himself leave the city whilst Silas and Timothy remained-behind. Some of the brethren went with St. Paul as far as Athens, where they left him carrying back a request to Silas and Timothy that they would speedily join him. Here the apostle delivered that wonderful discourse reported in (Acts 17:22-31) He gained but few converts at Athens, and soon took his departure and went to Corinth. He was testifying with unusual effort and anxiety when Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia and joined him. Their arrival was the occasion of the writing of the First Epistle to the Thessalonians. The two epistles to the Thessalonians -- and these alone -- belong to the present missionary journey. They were written from Corinth A.D. 52, 53. When Silas and Timotheus came to Corinth, St. Paul was testifying to the Jews with great earnestness, but with little success. Corinth was the chief city of the province of Achaia, and the residence of the proconsul. During St. Paul stay the proconsular office was held by Gallio, a brother of the philosopher Seneca. Before him the apostle was summoned by his Jewish enemies, who hoped to bring the Roman authority to bear upon him as an innovator in religion. But Gallio perceived at once, before Paul could "open his mouth" to defend himself, that the movement was due to Jewish prejudice, and refused to go into the question. Then a singular scene occurred. The Corinthian spectators, either favoring Paul or actuated only by anger against the Jews, seized on the principal person of those who had brought the charge, and beat him before the judgment-seat. Gallio left these religious quarrels to settle themselves. The apostle therefore, was not allowed to be "hurt," and remained some time longer at Corinth unmolested. Having been the instrument of accomplishing this work, Paul departed for Jerusalem, wishing to attend a festival there. Before leaving Greece, he cut off his hair at Cenchreae, in fulfillment of a vow. (Acts 18:18) Paul paid a visit to the synagogue at Ephesus, but would not stay. Leaving Ephesus, he sailed to Caesarea, and from thence went up to Jerusalem, spring, A.D. 54, and "saluted the church." It is argued, from considerations founded on the suspension of navigation during the winter months, that the festival was probably the Pentecost. From Jerusalem the apostle went almost immediately down to Antioch, thus returning to the same place from which he had started with Silas.
Third missionary journey, including the stay at Ephesus. A.D. 54-58. (Acts 18:23; Acts 21:17)
-- The great epistles which belong to this period, those to the Galatians, Corinthians and Romans, show how the "Judaizing" question exercised at this time the apostleís mind. St. Paul "spent some time" at Antioch, and during this stay as we are inclined to believe, his collision with St. Peter (Galatians 2:11-14) took place. When he left Antioch, he "went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples," and giving orders concerning the collection for the saints. (1 Corinthians 18:1) It is probable that the Epistle to the Galatians was written soon after this visit -- A.D. 56-57. This letter was in all probability sent from Ephesus. This was the goal of the apostleís journeyings through Asia Minor. He came down to Ephesus from the upper districts of Phrygia. Here he entered upon his usual work. He went into the synagogue, and for three months he spoke openly, disputing and persuading concerning "the kingdom of God." At the end of this time the obstinacy and opposition of some of the Jews led him to give up frequenting the synagogue, and he established the believers as a separate society meeting "in the school of Tyrannus." This continued for two years. During this time many things occurred of which the historian of the Acts chooses two examples, the triumph over magical arts and the great disturbance raised by the silversmiths who made shrines Diana -- among which we are to note further the writing of the First Epistle to the Corinth A.D. 57. Before leaving Ephesus Paul went into Macedonia, where he met Titus, who brought him news of the state of the Corinthian church. Thereupon he wrote the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, A.D. 57, and sent it by the hands of Titus and two other brethren to Corinth. After writing this epistle, St. Paul travelled throughout Macedonia, perhaps to the borders of Illyricum, (Romans 15:19) and then went to Corinth. The narrative in the Acts tells us that "when he had gone over those parts (Macedonia), and had given them much exhortation he came into Greece, and there abode three months." (Acts 20:2,3) There is only one incident which we can connect with this visit to Greece, but that is a very important one -- the writing of his Epistle to the Romans, A.D. 58. That this was written at this time from Corinth appears from passages in the epistle itself and has never been doubted. The letter is a substitute for the personal visit which he had longed "for many years" to pay. Before his departure from Corinth, St. Paul was joined again by St. Luke, as we infer from the change in the narrative from the third to the first person. He was bent on making a journey to Jerusalem, for a special purpose and within a limited time. With this view he was intending to go by sea to Syria. But he was made aware of some plot of the Jews for his destruction, to be carried out through this voyage; and he determined to evade their malice by changing his route. Several brethren were associated with him in this expedition, the bearers no doubt, of the collections made in all the churches for the poor at Jerusalem. These were sent on by sea, and probably the money with them, to Troas, where they were to await Paul. He, accompanied by Luke, went northward through Macedonia. Whilst the vessel which conveyed the rest of the party sailed from Troas to Assos, Paul gained some time by making the journey by land. At Assos he went on board again. Coasting along by Mitylene, Chios, Samos and Trogyllium, they arrived at Miletus. At Miletus, however there was time to send to Ephesus, and the elders of the church were invited to come down to him there. This meeting is made the occasion for recording another characteristic and representative address of St. Paul. (Acts 20:18-35) The course of the voyage from Miletas was by Coos and Rhodes to Patara, and from Patara in another vessel past Cyprus to Tyre. Here Paul and his company spent seven days. From Tyre they sailed to Ptolemais, where they spent one day, and from Ptolemais proceeded, apparently by land, to Caesarea. They now "tarried many days" at Caesarea. During this interval the prophet Agabus, (Acts 11:28) came down from Jerusalem, and crowned the previous intimations of danger with a prediction expressively delivered. At this stage a final effort was made to dissuade Paul from going up to Jerusalem, by the Christians of Caesarea and by his travelling companions. After a while they went up to Jerusalem and were gladly received by the brethren. This is St. Paulís fifth an last visit to Jerusalem.
St. Paulís imprisonment: Jerusalem. Spring, A.D. 58.
--He who was thus conducted into Jerusalem by a company of anxious friends had become by this time a man of considerable fame among his countrymen. He was widely known as one who had taught with pre-eminent boldness that a way into Godís favor was opened to the Gentiles, and that this way did not lie through the door of the Jewish law. He had thus roused against himself the bitter enmity of that unfathomable Jewish pride which was almost us strong in some of those who had professed the faith of Jesus as in their unconverted brethren. He was now approaching a crisis in the long struggle, and the shadow of it has been made to rest upon his mind throughout his journey to Jerusalem. He came "ready to die for the name of the Lord Jesus," but he came expressly to prove himself a faithful Jew and this purpose is shown at every point of the history. Certain Jews from "Asia," who had come up for the pentecostal feast, and who had a personal knowledge of Paul, saw him in the temple. They set upon him at once, and stirred up the people against him. There was instantly a great commotion; Paul was dragged out of the temple, the doors of which were immediately shut, and the people having him in their hands, were going to kill him. Paul was rescued from the violence of the multitude by the Roman officer, who made him his own prisoner, causing him to be chained to two soldiers, and then proceeded to inquire who he was and what he had done. The inquiry only elicited confused outcries, and the "chief captain" seems to have imagined that the apostle might perhaps be a certain Egyptian pretender who recently stirred up a considerable rising of the people. The account In the (Acts 21:34-40) tells us with graphic touches how St. Paul obtained leave and opportunity to address the people in a discourse which is related at length. Until the hated word of a mission to the Gentiles had been spoken, the Jews had listened to the speaker. "Away with such a fellow from the earth," the multitude now shouted; "it is not fit that he should live." The Roman commander seeing the tumult that arose might well conclude that St. Paul had committed some heinous offence; and carrying him off, he gave orders that he should be forced by scourging to confess his crime. Again the apostle took advantage of his Roman citizenship to protect himself from such an outrage. The chief captain set him free from bonds, but on the next day called together the chief priests and the Sanhedrin, and brought Paul as a prisoner before them. On the next day a conspiracy was formed which the historian relates with a singular fullness of detail. More than forty of the Jews bound themselves under a curse neither to eat nor drink until they had killed Paul. The plot was discovered, and St. Paul was hurried away from Jerusalem. The chief captain, Claudius Lysias determined to send him to Caesarea to Felix, the governor or procurator of Judea. He therefor put him in charge of a strong guard of soldiers, who took him by night as far as Antipatris. From thence a smaller detachment conveyed him to Caesarea, where they delivered up their prisoner into the hands of the governor.
Imprisonment at Caesarea. A.D. 58-60.
--St. Paul was henceforth to the end of the period embraced in the Acts, if not to the end of his life, in Roman custody. This custody was in fact a protection to him, without which he would have fallen a victim to the animosity of the Jews. He seems to have been treated throughout with humanity and consideration. The governor before whom he was now to be tried, according to Tacitus and Josephus, was a mean and dissolute tyrant. After hearing St, Paulís accusers and the apostleís defence, Felix made an excuse for putting off the matter, and gave orders that the prisoner should be treated with indulgence and that his friends should be allowed free access to him. After a while he heard him again. St. Paul remained in custody until Felix left the province. The unprincipled governor had good reason to seek to ingratiate himself with the Jews; and to please them, be handed over Paul, as an untried prisoner, to his successor, Festus. Upon his arrival in the province, Festus went up without delay from Caesarea to Jerusalem, and the leading Jews seized the opportunity of asking that Paul might be brought up there for trial intending to assassinate him by the way. But Festus would not comply with their request, He invited them to follow him on his speedy return to Caesarea, and a trial took place there, closely resembling that before Felix. "They had certain questions against him," Festus says to Agrippa, "of their own superstition (or religion), and of one Jesus, who was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive. And being puzzled for my part as to such inquiries, I asked him whether he would go to Jerusalem to be tried there." This proposal, not a very likely one to be accepted, was the occasion of St. Paulís appeal to Caesar. The appeal having been allowed, Festus reflected that he must send with the prisoner a report of "the crimes laid against him." He therefore took advantage of an opportunity which offered itself in a few days to seek some help in the matter. The Jewish prince Agrippa arrived with his sister Bernice on a visit to the new governor. To him Festus communicated his perplexity. Agrippa expressed a desire to hear Paul himself. Accordingly Paul conducted his defence before the king; and when it was concluded Festus and Agrippa, and their companions, consulted together, and came to the conclusion that the accused was guilty of nothing that deserved death or imprisonment. "Agrippa"s final answer to the inquiry of Festus was, "This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar."
The voyage to Rome and shipwreck. Autumn, A.D. 60.
--No formal trial of St. Paul had yet taken place. After a while arrangements were made to carry "Paul and certain other prisoners," in the custody of a centurion named Julius, into Italy; and amongst the company, whether by favor or from any other reason, we find the historian of the Acts, who in chapters 27 and 28 gives a graphic description of the voyage to Rome and the shipwreck on the Island of Melita or Malta. After a three-months stay in Malta the soldiers and their prisoners left in an Alexandria ship for Italy. They touched at Syracuse, where they stayed three days, and at Rhegium, from which place they were carried with a fair wind to Puteoli, where they left their ship and the sea. At Puteoli they found "brethren," for it was an important place and especially a chief port for the traffic between Alexandria and Rome; and by these brethren they were exhorted to stay a while with them. Permission seems to have been granted by the centurion; and whilst they were spending seven days at Puteoli news of the apostleís arrival was sent to Rome. (Spring, A.D. 61.)
First imprisonment of St. Paul at Rome. A.D. 61-63.
--On their arrival at Rome the centurion delivered up his prisoners into the proper custody that of the praetorian prefect. Paul was at once treated with special consideration and was allowed to dwell by himself with the soldier who guarded him. He was now therefore free "to preach the gospel to them that were at Rome also;" and proceeded without delay to act upon his rule -- "to the Jews first," But as of old, the reception of his message by the Jews was not favorable. He turned, therefore, again to the Gentiles, and for two years he dwelt in his own hired house. These are the last words of the Acts. But St. Paulís career is not abruptly closed. Before he himself fades out of our sight in the twilight of ecclesiastical tradition, we have letters written by himself which contribute some particulars to his biography.
Period of the later epistles.
-- To that imprisonment to which St. Luke has introduced us --the imprisonment which lasted for such a tedious time, though tempered by much indulgence -- belongs the noble group of letters to Philemon, to the Colossians, to the Ephesians and to the Philippians. The three former of these were written at one time, and sent by the same messengers. Whether that to the Philippians was written before or after these we cannot determine; but the tone of it seems to imply that a crisis was approaching, and therefore it is commonly regarded us the latest of the four. In this epistle St. Paul twice expresses a confident hope that before long he may be able to visit the Philippians in person. (Philemon 1:25; 2:24) Whether this hope was fulfilled or not has been the occasion of much controversy. According to the general opinion the apostle was liberated from imprisonment at the end of two years, having been acquitted by Nero A.D. 63, and left Rome soon after writing the letter to the Philippians. He spent some time in visits to Greece, Asia Minor and Spain, and during the latter part of this time wrote the letters (first epistles) to Timothy and Titus from Macedonia, A.D. 65. After these were written he was apprehended again and sent to Rome.
Second imprisonment at Rome. A.D. 65-67.
-- The apostle appears now to have been treated not as an honorable state prisoner but as a felon, (2 Timothy 2:9) but he was allowed to write the second letter to Timothy, A.D. 67. For what remains we have the concurrent testimony of ecclesiastical antiquity that he was beheaded at Rome, by Nero in the great persecutions of the Christians by that emperor, A.D. 67 or 68.