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Saint Paul

By Levi Clancy for Student Reader on

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One of the twelve apostles, Saint Paul stands out for his pivotal role in the spread of early Christianity.Lived c 3 - c 66
Feast day: June 29
Patron saint: Tent-makers, saddlers, missionaries
Attributes: Sword, book

Born Jewish as Saul of Tarsus, he viewed Christianity as hateful to the Yahweh he worshiped and ardently persecuted Christians. While traveling to Damascus to attack the Christians there, he was violently hurled from his horse and had a vision of Jesus. In the vision, Jesus implored why he was persecuting him and that he stop. Saul had an epiphany that he had been blind and closed-hearted, and is often depicted as literally being blinded upon falling from his horse.

He did not sulk at his injured dignity, but took his overthrow with gratitude to become the greatest apostle. He wrote letters to churches all over the Mediterranean, including Caesarea, Antioch, Syria, Turkey and Greece. These are preserved in the Book of Paul.

Paul asserted that Jesus' one-time sacrifice was so powerful that it could remedy humanity for all time.

This tenet became incredibly important when the Temple was destroyed, thus terminating the Jewish sacrificial system where an animal (ie, a lamb) had to be placed daily on the altar. Redemption from sin through Jesus was analogous to the exodus in the Torah: it cannot be given, it was from God. Paul evangelized these notions by writing letters to churches throughout the Mediterranean. Responses were positive, but also curious: what of Jewish practice?

To be close to Jesus, did one need to emulate his Jewishness? Circumcision? Kosher diet? Thus the book of Paul emphasizes that Judaism and Christianity were still hard to distinguish. Paul's response to such questions paved the way for Christianity's non-Jewish future: he stated that Christians need not follow the Torah. This also made Christianity more accessible to the future gentile hordes who would convert after Constantine's acceptance of Christians.