The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Paul, Saint

Edition of 1879. See also Paul the Apostle on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

PAUL, Saint, the first Christian missionary who extended his labors beyond the limits of the Jewish people, and the first Christian teacher who maintained the equality of Jews and gentiles under the new dispensation, and admitted the latter to the full participation of Christian privileges without the exaction of the ceremonial law. Paul is ranked by the Christian church with the twelve apostles, and claims that rank for himself in his epistles. Our knowledge of his history is derived from the Acts of the Apostles and incidental notices in his letters to the churches. Many attempts have been made to arrange these materials in a systematic biography, of which the most comprehensive is the “Life and Epistles of St. Paul,” by Conybeare and Howson (London, 1850-'52). For the critical student the works of Wieseler and Baur are the most important. Paul was a Grecian or Hellenistic Jew (that is, a Jew born beyond the limits of Palestine), but, until his conversion, a rigid Hebrew of the sect of the Pharisees, by parentage and training as well as by personal conviction. His original and Jewish name Saul appears to have been dropped and that of Paul adopted soon after his accession to the Christian ministry; for what cause it is not possible to say, nor whether the name Paul had ever been used as one of his appellations before his conversion. He was born in Tarsus, the metropolis of Cilicia. The precise date of his birth is unknown, but is proximately determined by the circumstance that Paul is spoken of as a young man at the time of the martyrdom of Stephen. The best chronologists place that event about A. D. 38. Accordingly, Paul may be conjectured to have been born about A. D. 10. His family enjoyed the right of Roman citizenship, either as libertini (slaves honorably manumitted), or in consequence of important services rendered to the state. The traces of philosophic thought in his epistles, and his evident familiarity with the Greek poets, show that he possessed gentile as well as Jewish learning. According to rabbinical law and custom, which required every male Jew to be taught some manual art, he learned the trade of a tent maker, to the practice of which he was afterward indebted in part for his support. (Acts xviii. 3, xx. 34; 1 Cor. iv. 12.) His knowledge of the law and the prophets and other essentials of a Jewish education was obtained at Jerusalem under Gamaliel, the most learned rabbi of his time. Paul's first appearance in history connects itself with the martyrdom of Stephen, to which he was a party, being at that time a student at Jerusalem, and heartily devoted to the Pharisaic interest in that city. From this time he became a zealous persecu- tor of the Christian church, volunteering his services to the sanhedrim for that purpose, and holding a commission from that body to ferret out, both at Jerusalem and in “strange cities,” and bring to trial the confessors of the new faith. While bound to Damascus on one of these errands, he was converted by a vision, which changed the whole course of his life, impelling him to become the apostle of the faith he had persecuted. The three accounts of the matter in the Acts (ix. 7, xxii. 9, and xxvi. 14) differ in the manner of stating what was then observed by himself and his companions, but all agree in their representation of the impression made on Paul himself of a voice addressing him in the name of Christ and bidding him forbear the persecution of his church. Struck with temporary blindness by the vision, he was brought to Damascus, where after three days' sojourn he recovered his sight at the hands of a disciple named Ananias and received Christian baptism. The next three years were spent in Arabia and Damascus, after which the apostle made a brief visit to Peter at Jerusalem, and then returned to his native city. Meanwhile a new centre of Christian influence had established itself at Antioch, and thither Paul went at the solicitation of Barnabas, who had come to Tarsus to secure his coöperation. Here he remained for a year or more, expounding and propagating the new faith. A famine which visited Judea in 45 induced the church at Antioch to send pecuniary aid to the Christians at Jerusalem, and Paul and Barnabas were deputed to convey the money. (Acts xi. 29, 30.) Having accomplished this mission, he returned to Antioch, and made that city his headquarters and the starting point of his missionary tours in Asia Minor and Europe. Three distinct journeys from this point are recorded. The first, in which Paul was accompanied by Barnabas, and for a portion of the way by John Mark, embraced the island of Cyprus from east to west, and three of the southerly provinces of Asia Minor, viz., Pamphylia, Pisidia, and Lycaonia. In the principal cities of these countries the missionaries established Christian churches after the model of that at Jerusalem. Some time after his return to Antioch, where Paul now resumed his home ministry, the attempt was made by Judaizing Christians, sent from Jerusalem for that purpose, to impose the Mosaic ritual on the gentile converts. The movement was strenuously resisted by the leaders of the Antioch church, and Paul and Barnabas were sent to Jerusalem to debate and arrange this difficulty with the apostles and elders in that city. This first Christian council is assigned by different authorities to dates ranging from the year 47 to the year 55. We incline with Wieseler to place it at 50. The two delegates, after a satisfactory adjustment, returned to Antioch accompanied by two messengers from Jerusalem. With one of the latter, Sylvanus or Silas, Paul soon after undertook his second missionary tour, having previously separated from Barnabas in consequence of a dispute between them relative to John Mark, whom Barnabas desired to take with them, but whom Paul rejected on account of his desertion of them at Perga in the first expedition. The missionaries visited Cilicia and the regions already traversed by Paul, and the churches founded by him in Pamphylia and Lycaonia. At Lystra they were joined at Paul's solicitation by Timothy. They extended their travels through the central provinces of Asia Minor, Phrygia and Galatia, then to Mysia, and so to the western coast. At Troas Paul resolved, in consequence of a dream which he interpreted as a call from God, to cross over to Europe. Accordingly the company, of which Luke, it is supposed from the use of the first person plural which occurs here for the first time in the narrative, was one, took ship at Troas, and after a short run landed at Neapolis on the Macedonian coast. They proceeded thence to Philippi, where the Christians came into collision with a gentile party who trafficked in divination, and who inflamed the minds of the people against Paul and Silas. The apostle and his friend were publicly scourged and thrust into prison, but honorably released the next day, when the jailer, whom Paul had baptized, represented to the magistrates that they were Roman citizens. In Thessalonica, where they made many converts among the Hellenists, they met with a strong opposition on the part of the stricter Jews, who followed them to Berea, where also success had attended their efforts. The “brethren,” thinking that Paul's life was endangered, sent him away in the charge of friends, who brought him to Athens. Here he held public disputations with philosophers of the leading schools, and at their invitation gave a public exposition of his doctrine in the areopagus, pronouncing on this occasion the remarkable speech on the nature of Deity, the most striking and important of all the speeches recorded of him. From Athens he went to Corinth, then capital of the Roman province of Achaia, where he enjoyed the hospitality of a Jewish family recently banished from Rome under the edict of Claudius forbidding the residence of Jews in that city. He practised here his craft of tent maker, which was also that of his host (Aquila), and so relieved him of the burden of his support. He was soon joined by Silas and Timothy, and with their assistance, urged by a vision foretelling success, he ministered for nearly two years to the people of Corinth; and having established a flourishing church, to which two of the epistles in our collection are addressed, he returned to Antioch, touching at Ephesus and visiting Jerusalem by the way. After an interval of rest at Antioch, in the autumn, it is supposed, of the year 54, Paul entered on the third and last of his missionary journeys. Passing through various provinces of Asia Minor, he arrived at Ephesus, where he remained for three years, laboring with marked success, inducing, among other fruits of his ministry, the magicians to abandon their practice and to burn their books (a pecuniary sacrifice of 50,000 drachmas, equivalent to $8,000 or $9,000). A hostile encounter with the silversmiths of that city, who traded in models of the temple of Diana, and whose business was endangered by Paul's preaching, hastened his departure from Ephesus. He proceeded to Macedonia, and thence to Greece; then returning to Macedonia, he crossed over to Troas, and from there, by way of Assos and the islands of Chios and Samos, he went to Miletus, accompanied by Timothy, Luke, and other disciples. At Miletus he received a deputation of the elders of the church at Ephesus, whom he had invited to meet him, and to whom he communicated his parting instructions, bidding them a final and affectionate farewell. He then embarked with his company for Rhodes and Tyre on his way to Palestine, whither he went, as he says, “bound in the spirit;” his friends in every city where he stopped on the route endeavoring to dissuade him; “the Holy Spirit,” in every city, “witnessing that bonds and afflictions ” awaited him; his own instinct in spite of prophecies and entreaties urging him on. The party arrived at Jerusalem at the feast of Pentecost in the year 58; they presented themselves before James and the other elders of the church, and Paul reported the many-sided success of a mission embracing a considerable portion of the Roman empire in its wide endeavor. The Christian party at Jerusalem, under the influence of the Jewish capital, and anxious to conciliate their countrymen, so far from renouncing the law of Moses, were especially scrupulous in their observance of it. Aware that Paul had rendered himself obnoxious to Judaizing Christians by his liberal views in relation to this matter, the elders persuaded him by an act of public conformity to humor their prejudices and disarm their hostility. At their suggestion he united with a party of four who were then discharging a Nazaritic vow, and was seen with them in the temple fulfilling the ritual purification prescribed by Levitical law. But the measure which was to have secured him against the zeal of his opponents only served to betray him into their hands. Seen in the temple, he was seized on a charge of plotting against the Mosaic religion, and accused of bringing gentiles into the sacred courts. The Roman guard rescued him, and on the discovery of a conspiracy against his life, he was sent to Cæsarea to Felix, proconsul of the province of Judea. Felix, though seemingly satisfied of his innocence, for the sake of conciliating the Jews detained him a prisoner at Cæsarea. After the expiration of two years Felix was succeeded by Festus, and Paul was then offered the opportunity of a trial before the national council at Jerusalem, which he declined, aware of the impossibility of obtaining a fair hearing from that tribunal. He appealed by right of his Roman citizenship to the government at Rome, and to Rome accordingly he was sent. He arrived there in the spring of 61, after the long and perilous voyage and shipwreck described in the Acts (xxvii.). While there he was permitted as a special favor to reside in a hired lodging. Here he remained two years, and, though under constant military guard, was allowed free intercourse with his countrymen and others who chose to visit him, and was thus enabled to prosecute his missionary labors with success. Members of the imperial household were among his converts. (Philipp. iv. 22.) Here the history leaves him. The supposition of Baur, Wieseler, and many others is that he never recovered his liberty, but remained a prisoner at Rome until he was put to death, a martyr to his faith; but there is a widely accepted tradition that he was tried and acquitted, that he left Rome, made other missionary tours, was once more arrested, brought to Rome, tried, condemned, and executed. It is even asserted that he passed two years in Spain, returning to Rome about 64, and suffering death by decapitation in 65, or according to some authorities Feb. 22, 68. The attentive reader of the New Testament will notice indications of the opposition, jealousy, and even persecution which Paul encountered at the hands of his fellow Christians of the Judaistic type. This circumstance should be taken into the account in estimating the worth and force of a character which in moral heroism has no superior, perhaps no equal, in the world's annals. Of the 21 epistles embraced in the canon of the New Testament, 14 are popularly ascribed to Paul and assigned to him in the current versions. Of these, the Epistle to the Hebrews is pronounced by many critics to be the work of some other hand. The genuineness of the pastoral epistles (the two to Timothy and the one to Titus), and of Colossians and Ephesians, has also been called in question; and Baur even doubts the authorship of Philippians, Philemon, and the two Thessalonians, allowing as indisputably genuine only Galatians, Romans, and the two Corinthians. In this extravagant judgment few critics will agree with him. Renan (Saint Paul, Paris, 1869) doubts the authenticity of the Epistle to the Ephesians, and rejects the two to Timothy and the one to Titus. It is impossible to determine the chronological order of the epistles. The two to the Thessalonians are placed first by most of the critics who admit their genuineness, and after them the Epistle to the Galatians. Then follow, in Wieseler's arrangement, 1 Timothy, 1 Corinthians, Titus, 2 Corinthians, Romans, Philemon, Colossians, Ephesians, Philippians, and 2 Timothy. — See, besides the works cited above, “The Life and Epistles of St. Paul,” by Thomas Lewin (2 vols. 4to, London, 1874).