The Apostle Paul by Rembrandt

Paul never met Jesus, he claimed his authority from a revelation by Jesus. He briefly met St. Peter and James, but otherwise appeared to have had little contact with the Apostles. Many of his views conflicted with those of the Apostles. Paul had no problem with this because he believed his views were revealed directly to him by Christ through his visions.

Paul has been credited with defining and expressing the significance of the Christian position on redemption, Jesus’s death and resurrection. He also: 1) described salvation as something that comes “by grace...rough faith” not from following the laws of Moses; 2) worked out the logic of Christ dying for the sins of mankind; and 3) portrayed redemption as emancipation from sin rather in the Old Testament concept of freedom from slavery and oppression.

Two other important contributions made by St; Paul were finding a place for the Old Testament law in Christianity and exploring the relationship between the Jews and Christians. On the former he asserted that the yes the Old Testament laws were holy but were not complete and new laws could be added and serve as a “tutor to bring us into Christ.” As to the latter he basically said the Jews had been given chance but blew it and now it was the turn of the “righteous remnant” — the Christians — to forge a new path. Christians were the ones whom “the end of the ages has come” and delivered “out of the darkness and translated...into the kingdom of the Son.”

Paul was a fervid believer in end of the world scenarios and thought that the second coming of Jesus was imminent. The hard tone of some of his teachings was intended to get sinners off their butts and repent before the second coming occurred. The teachings were not meant to be church dogma for the next 2,000 years.

Websites and Resources: Early Christianity: PBS Frontline, From Jesus to Christ, The First Christians ; Elaine Pagels website ; Sacred Texts website ; Gnostic Society Library ; Guide to Early Church Documents; Early Christian Writing ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Christian Origins ; BBC on Christianity ; Candida Moss at the Daily Beast Daily Beast Christian Classics Ethereal Library; Bible: Bible Gateway and the New International Version (NIV) of The Bible ; King James Version of the Bible; Bible History Online ; Biblical Archaeology Society ; Saints and Their Lives Today's Saints on the Calendar ; Saints' Books Library ; Saints and Their Legends: A Selection of Saints libmma.contentdm ; Saints engravings. Old Masters from the De Verda collection ; Lives of the Saints - Orthodox Church in America ; Lives of the Saints:

Paul Presents a New View of the Messiah

Professor L. Michael White told PBS: “In the Jesus movement it's clear that a new understanding has come to the fore. In fact it's slightly odd from certain perspectives. One doesn't normally expect that a Messiah should die and yet we have this ironic message in Paul that in fact the Messiah is the one who has been crucified. Now it's true that one could within a standard Jewish tradition think of the Messiah dying. The difference is that even when a Messiah should go through some sort of death or suffering that the event precipitated by that death should be the coming of the new kingdom....

Christ appears to Paul

"What we find in Paul, and indeed among most of the early Christians, is a slightly ironic twist of fate that the death of the Messiah doesn't immediately inaugurate the new kingdom, and yet that doesn't seem to diminish their sense of apocalyptic expectation. Paul still thinks it's coming soon. He will go through his entire life thinking the kingdom will come soon but the Messiah had already died. [Source: L. Michael White, Professor of Classics and Director of the Religious Studies Program University of Texas at Austin, Frontline, PBS, April 1998]

“So when we hear Paul talking about the message of Jesus Christ and him crucified, we're beginning to get for the first time in the New Testament the language that will become the hallmark of all the later Christian tradition. Indeed it's where we get much of the vocabulary that makes Christianity distinctive. The term "Christ" is a title. It's the Greek translation of the Hebrew word Messioc and they mean exactly the same thing. They both refer to someone who is anointed. ... It's identifying him as a religious figure in a new way.

“... [However] for Paul to use the term "Christ" does not automatically signal that we're dealing within a Christian frame of reference that everyone would have recognized. The term Christ, Messiah, could have been used by any number of different Jewish people and still meant different things. So just to hear that term even in the Greek city like Antioch probably wasn't all that unique, and yet it had to have sparked some interest. It's significant therefore that the Book of Acts tells us that the term "Christian" is a follower of the Messiah or a proponant of some Messiah.

Paul’s View of the Resurrection

Michael Symmons Roberts wrote for the BBC: “Biblical theologians believe that the earliest written account of the resurrection, and of the resurrection appearances in particular, is in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, written around twenty years after the events described, even before Mark's Gospel. Paul includes his own encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Damascus among Jesus' resurrection appearances. That encounter changed Paul's life, and changed the course of Christian history. [Source: Michael Symmons Roberts, BBC, September 18, 2009 |::|]

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. — 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 |::|

“According to Paul, Jesus is said to have appeared to more than five hundred people in total. And that is the historical evidence on which the resurrection is based - an empty tomb and several dramatic appearances by the risen Jesus to his disciples. The idea that a man could be raised from the dead has been a stumbling block to many believers, and a source of scepticism to many unbelievers. Is it possible that the whole thing was based on a mistake? Did the women go to the wrong tomb? Did the disciples imagine the whole thing? |::|

St. Paul's Letters

The Epistles (Letters) of Paul, including Thessalonians and Corinthians, are the earliest known Christian documents. The earliest were written around A.D. 50. They were written before the Gospels and make up a considerable part of the New Testament. These letters were written over the years to his friends and to churches. The Book of Acts describes the early history of the Christian Church and Paul’s life and works. “Carrying the 'good news' of Jesus Christ to non-Jews, Paul's letters to his fledgling congregations reveal their internal tension and conflict.”


The following are texts in the New Testament related to Paul and the Pauline Churches
Missionary Activity: Acts of the Apostles [
Failure in Athens, Acts 17:16-34:
Success in Corinth, Acts 18:1-11
Foolishness of Faith, I Corinthians 1:17-2:8
Resurrection of Christ and the Saints, I Corinthians 15:1-55
Faith and Law, Romans 1:13-17, Galatians 3:15-29
Predestination, Romans 8:18-31, 9:14-22
Body and Spirit, Romans 7:22-8:17
Radical Equality, Galatians 3:27-29
Love, I Corinthians 13:1-13
Men and Women
Undisputed Letters:

I Corinthians
II Corinthians
Disputed Letters:
II Thessalonians
Post-Pauline Epistles:
I Timothy
II Timothy
2ND Darrell J. Doughty: Pauline Paradigms and Pauline Authenticity JHC 1 (Fall 1994), 95-128. [At Drew] [Source:]

Kingdom Is Still Coming

Kingdom of God

Professor L. Michael White told PBS: “It's clear that one of the concerns that keep showing up throughout this period of Paul's ministry is when is this kingdom going to arrive. What's going to happen? How soon? From a fairly early stage we know that almost from the moment that Paul began preaching in the Greek world that people assumed that the kingdom would have to arrive soon. Paul's very first letter, the earliest, single writing that we have in the New Testament is First Thessalonians and already in First Thessalonians Paul is having to console them when people are starting to die within the congregation and the kingdom hasn't arrived yet. [Source: L. Michael White, Professor of Classics and Director of the Religious Studies Program University of Texas at Austin, Frontline, PBS, April 1998]

“Still, by the end of Paul's career when he writes the massive Roman letter, probably the last thing that he wrote, and when he writes it he still is saying the time has grown short. The kingdom is still near. It appears that Paul never expected to die before the kingdom would arrive and so this apocalyptic message that was the hallmark of the earliest stages of the Jesus movement is still one of its central features prophetic preaching of Paul.

“Paul's an interesting case because he is so able to blend a thoroughly Jewish self consciousness and a thoroughly Jewish interpretation of scripture with a great deal of knowledge of Greek rhetoric and philosophy of standard letter writing and other aspects of Greek culture. Paul really is a blend of all of those things and it's precisely that blending that seems to provide a lot of the dynamic quality of his understanding of early Christianity. Now when Paul gets to the end of his Aegean phase of ministry he seems also to be facing some problems. We know that later on... by the middle fifties... around 55 to 58, other Christians are starting to move in to Paul's territories and starting to argue with his congregations over proper forms of Christian practice and belief.

Paul's Threatening Message

Holland Lee Hendrix told PBS:“Paul alludes in a number of his letters to the message that he would have communicated verbally probably in the settings of the forum... and the homes of private individuals in these cities. And in talking about what he preached to them, he emphasizes two things; on the one hand, very clearly, the importance of the death and resurrection of Jesus, on the other hand he also emphasizes the importance of understanding the end time, and the immediacy of the end time, and that one must be prepared for it, and the way one prepares for it is to be good. We find a lot of ethics in Paul. And it's around this issue of how one lives in anticipation of the end time that's just around the corner for Paul. This is tied very importantly to Paul's message about the saving significance the dead, now risen, Jesus. [Source: Holland Lee Hendrix, President of the Faculty Union Theological Seminary, Frontline, PBS, April 1998]

engraving of Paul by Hogarth

“Clearly the message about the coming end time was the part that would have been threatening to a Roman official and would have been threatening to any native population that had vested some authority in Roman officialdom. And it's very important to keep that in mind. Paul would not just have upset potentially Roman officials, Paul would have upset local populations dependent on Roman rule for their livelihood and continued peace and security.

Paul's Letter to The Galatians is a “bitterly polemical letter” that “ reflects tensions between Paul and the Christian community he founded in Galatia, a Roman province in Asia Minor. In his absence, Paul is finding that his teachings are being challenged by others claiming to be Christian teachers who are encouraging the formerly pagan Galatians to be circumcised and observe other elements of Jewish law. Paul responds by vehemently excoriating these false teachers, warning against circumcision, and asserting that Christians need not follow Jewish dietary laws.”

Paul’s Angry Galatians

Galatians 1.6 -1.9: 6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel-- 7 not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, If any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed. [Source: Revised Standard Version, except Ch. 3, which is the New Revised Standard Version]

Chapter 3, Galatians 3.1 - 5.26: “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly exhibited as crucified! 2 The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? 4 Did you experience so much for nothing?--if it really was for nothing. 5 Well then, does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?

Paul on the Promise to Abraham

Abraham in a Filippino church

Chapter 3, Galatians: 6 Just as Abraham "believed God, and I it was reckoned to him as righteousness," 7 so, you see, those who believe are the descendants of Abraham. 8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you." 9 For this reason, those who believe are blessed with Abraham who believed. [Source: Revised Standard Version, except Ch. 3, which is the New Revised Standard Version]

10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law." 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law; for "The one who is righteous will live by faith." 12 But the law does not rest on faith; on the contrary, "Whoever does the works of the law will live by them." 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us — for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree" — 14 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

15 Brothers and sisters, I give an example from daily life: once a person's :will has been ratified, no one adds to it or annuls it. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring; it does not say, "And to offsprings," as of many; but it says, "And to your offspring that is, to one person, who is Christ. 17 My point is this: the law, which came four hundred thirty years later, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. 18 For if the inheritance comes from the law, it no longer comes from the promise; but God granted it to Abraham through the promise.

Paul on the Purpose of the Law

Galatians: 19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring would come to whom the promise had been made; and it was ordained by angels through a mediator. 20 Now a mediator involves more than one party, but God is one. [Source: Revised Standard Version] 21 Is the law then opposed to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been gioven that could make alive, then righteousness would indeed come through the law. 22 But the scripture has imprisoned all things under the power of sin, so that what was promised through faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

23 Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to disciplinarian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27 As many of you as were baptised into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ. 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise.

Paul: Children of God, an Appeal to Friendship

Galatians: Chapter 4: 1 I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no better than a slave, though he is the owner of all the estate; 2 but he is under guardians and trustees until the date set by the father. 3 So with us; when we were children, we were slaves to the elemental spirits of the universe. 4 But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" 7 So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir. [Source: Revised Standard Version]

8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were in bondage to beings that by nature are no gods; 9 but now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits, whose slaves you want to be once more? 10 You observe days, and months, and seasons, and years! 11 I am afraid I have labored over you in vain.

12 Brethren, I beseech you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong; 13 you know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first; 14 and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. 15 What has become of the satisfaction you felt? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? 17 They make much of you, but for no good purpose; they want to shut you out, that you may make much of them. 18 For a good purpose it is always good to be made much of, and not only when I am present with you. 19 My little children, with whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you! 20 I could wish to be present with you now and to change my tone, for I am perplexed about you....

St. Paul, Women and Sex

Paul and Thecla in a Christian catacomb

Many of Christianity’s strong positions against women’s rights and sexuality can be traced back to Paul, not Jesus. Although Paul encouraged Christians to be celibate, many scholars believe that he had a wife that he divorced before his conversion at the age of 30.

Paul was less tolerant for sexual deviancy and sinning in general than Jesus. Reacting to the “unbridled passion” and “sexual addiction” he observed in the Roman Empire, he wrote: “Make no mistake: no fornicator or idolater, none who are guilty either of adultery, or homosexual perversion, no thieves or grabbers or drunkards or slanders or swindlers, will possess the kingdom of God.”

On homosexuals, Paul added: “God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural...Men committed shameless acts with men and received their own persons the due penalties for their error.”

Some of Paul’s more unpopular views must be seen in the context that he was spreading the word in a pagan Roman world that “deified violence and exploitation” and where keeping slaves, exploiting women and even raping young boys were common practices.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Christian Origins “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File); “ Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); King James Version of the Bible,; New International Version (NIV) of The Bible,; Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL) , Frontline, PBS, Wikipedia, BBC, National Geographic, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Live Science,, Archaeology magazine, Reuters, Associated Press, Business Insider, AFP, Library of Congress, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated March 2024

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of country or topic discussed in the article. This constitutes 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. If you are the copyright owner and would like this content removed from, please contact me.