Reader's Encyclopedia

Paul, St. (d ad 64?)

The great apostle and missionary of Christianity, author of the principal Epistles of the New Testament. As Saul of Tarsus, he was a devoted Jew and a bitter persecutor of the early Christians. On his way to Damaseus to subdue Christians there, he was stopped by a vision of Jesus; he was temporarily blinded and his conversion was immediate. On his three missionary journeys, which are described in Acts of the Apostles, he encountered much hardship, pain, and persecution. He was imprisoned in Rome (ad 60), and tradition has it that he was beheaded five or six years later, after having converted one of Nero's favorite concubines, although some scholars set his death at ad 62.

He was accompanied on his first missionary journey by Barnabas and, for a time, by John Mark. It is said that he changed his name to Paul on that journey after his conversion of the Roman proconsul Sergius Paulus, in Cyprus (Acts 13:6 - 12).

The Pauline Epistles are among the most important documents of early Christian theology. His symbols are a sword and an open book, the former the instrument of his martyrdom, and the latter to represent the new law propagated by him as the apostle of the Gentiles. He is commemorated, along with St. Peter, on June 30.

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