St. Paul’s journey began with a divine encounter on the road to Damascus. Much of St. Paul’s mission came through his own unique revelatory experience. He became the first missionary to take the good news outside Palestine and travelled extensively across Asia Minor and Europe to establish congregations.
In time, he would be given the epithet, “The Apostle to the Gentiles.”
While Paul did learn some of what he knew about Jesus from earlier interactions with apostles such as Peter, he felt that his own revelatory experiences were equal to, if not more important, than what he learned from others. It is known that he himself persecuted early Christians before his own transformation.
St. Paul was on a particular path due to his environment and his upbringing. While he did not ‘change’ as an individual or even as a ‘person’; his path and mission did change. St. Paul did not gave to let go of or surrender who he was before he became an Apostle. Rather, everything that had come before had prepared him for his true purpose and true calling.
St. Paul had received a formal Jewish and Hellenistic education. This is reflected in the way that he weaved rabbinic methods of interpretation alongside Hellenistic philosophy and rhetorical strategies in his letters. While not much is known of Paul’s early years; we do know that he was a trained Pharisee who possessed a zeal for keeping the Torah. His zeal was so great that he even persecuted anyone he believed was opposed to it.
Paul began his journey as an Apostle during the early part of 30 CE. During his life a Christian, Paul wrote a number of letters, including those in the Bible. Tradition holds that he was beheaded approximately three decades later.
Paul was not a follower of the historical Jesus. His journey is a story of transformation. It was grounded in an experience of God. Paul’s passionate commitment to his cause had not changed; rather, it was the cause itself that had changed. Paul’s passion remained constant.
It was a passion for God which in the early years of his life were directed towards the Torah. After his own encounter with the risen Christ, Paul directed himself towards Jesus.
St. Paul’s journey is from the enforcer of the old ways of doing towards the encourager of new ways of being.