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Saint Paul, the Apostle, original name Saul of Tarsus   (born 4 bc?, Tarsus in Cilicia [now in Turkey]—died c. ad 62–64, Rome [Italy]), one of the leaders of the first generation of Christians, often considered to be the second most important person in the history of Christianity. In his own day, although he was a major figure within the very small Christian movement, he also had many enemies and detractors, and his contemporaries probably did not accord him as much respect as they gave Peter and James. Paul was compelled to struggle, therefore, to establish his own worth and authority. His surviving letters, however, have had enormous influence on subsequent Christianity and secure his place as one of the greatest religious leaders of all time.

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Of the 27 books in the New Testament, 13 are attributed to Paul, and approximately half of another, Acts of the Apostles, deals with Paul’s life and works. Thus, about half of the New Testament stems from Paul and the people whom he influenced. Only 7 of the 13 letters, however, can be accepted as being entirely authentic (dictated by Paul himself). The others come from followers writing in his name, who often used material from his surviving letters and who may have had access to letters written by Paul that no longer survive. Although frequently useful, the information in Acts is secondhand, and it is sometimes in direct conflict with the letters. The seven undoubted letters constitute the best source of information on Paul’s life and especially his thought; in the order in which they appear in the New Testament, they are Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon. The probable chronological order (leaving aside Philemon, which cannot be dated) is 1 Thessalonians, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, and Romans. Letters considered “Deutero-Pauline” (probably written by Paul’s followers after his death) are Ephesians, Colossians, and 2 Thessalonians; 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus are “Trito-Pauline” (probably written by members of the Pauline school a generation after his death).

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