Paul the Christian Saint
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painting of thin white man with pointy brown beard
Oldest known portrait of Paul
(catacomb of Thecla, Rome, 300s AD)

September 2016 - One Jewish man who converted to Christianity was Saul, who was later called Paul. In the 30s and 40s AD, Paul travelled all over, to Greece and to what's now Turkey and to Damascus in Syria, preaching Christianity. A new thing that Paul did was to preach to people who were not Jews. Paul told people that Jesus wanted them to behave in very pure ways like never telling lies, or stealing, or cheating anyone in a trade. But he said that love was more important than any of these things (I Corinthians). Paul also told people that Jesus didn't want anybody who got divorced to remarry. A man could only have one wife, and a woman could only have one husband.

In 49 or 50 AD, from the reign of the Roman Emperor Claudius, we find the first reference to Christians outside the Bible. The Roman historian Suetonius (writing about 100 AD) notes that "Claudius threw out of Rome the Jews who were always making a fuss in the name of Chrestus." This refers to a time about 15 years after Jesus was crucified (but it was written about 85 years later).

Around the same time, tradition tells us that Paul and the apostle Peter were both killed in Rome for being Christians. Nobody is sure if this is true, or exactly what the charge was, because being a Christian was not in itself illegal until around the reign of the Roman Emperor Trajan, about 100 AD.

Learn by doing: write and preach a sermon yourself
Nero and the Great Fire in Rome

Bibliography and further reading about Paul:

Nero and the Great Fire in Rome
More about Christianity home

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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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  • Carr, K.E. . Study Guides, . Web. 28 April, 2017