We have enough information, however, to write a plausible biography of Paul. By doing so, we may organize what information we do know about Paul into a story that makes his life easier to remember and celebrate.
Within any biography of Paul, we must include some interpretation of early Church history. We do well to remember that early Christian leaders violently disagreed with Paul’s interpretation of Jesus and the movement started by Jesus. This violence witnessed poorly to the peace of Jesus. It also almost silenced the truth spoken by Paul. Ironically, it was the truth spoken by Paul, and not the falsehood spoken by his more important opponents, that eventually became part of the New Testament witness to Jesus. We certainly wouldn’t want to repeat the mistakes of violent opposition and the silencing of truth today.
Paul was born in the port city of
Saul went to
That was also the time when Pontius Pilate ruled as procurator, or local Roman leader, in
In 30, within two months of the death and resurrection of Jesus, the 120 or so people participating in his movement started to organize themselves. Peter, one of the twelve men who had been closest to Jesus, was the first leader of the movement after Jesus.
At this early stage, only Jews participated in the movement. Jesus had been a Jew, the twelve men closest to him were Jews, all the people they preached to were Jews. The movement of Jesus was one of transformation within Judaism. We may distinguish between Jews inspired by Gamaliel and those inspired by Jesus by calling the first group Pharisaic Jews and the second group Christian Jews (and not, inaccurately, Jewish Christians). Both groups, Pharisaic Jews and Christian Jews, were committed to living as witnesses to God.
At this time, however, Pharisaic Jews had much more power than Christian Jews. It is Olympianity, of course, which is the religion of power. Power means control over meanings, means, and members. Having greater power, leaders of the Pharisaic Jews had compromised with Jupiter god of politics more than leaders of the Christian Jews had at that time. Rightly understanding Christian Jews to be a challenge to their power, they wrongly chose to kill a Christian Jewish leader named Stephen. They had him stoned to death in the first year (31) of the new movement. Saul was happy to see this happen.
Being the enthusiastic if confused person that he was, Saul was even happier purging
Jesus, however, was not happy with Saul confusing him with Jupiter. In AD 32, while Saul was on the road to
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