Following is an outline of the life of the apostle Paul.  The information is comprised from what I’ve learned through personal study and information from the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. 


Missionary, theologian, writer, church planter

Jewish Born in Tarsus of Cilicia (Acts 22:3), from the tribe of Benjamin (Romans)

            Believed to be named for the most prominent member of the tribe – King Saul.

            Probably came from a family of tentmakers or leatherworkers.

            Family must have been wealthy because it is believed the “property qualification” in  Tarsus was a year and a half’s wages.

Roman Citizenship:  In addition to being Jewish born, Paul stated that he was a Roman citizen by right, not by purchase. 

            Roman citizenship provided certain rights and was desirable enough that people were willing to pay for Roman citizenship.

            Having Roman citizenship and the rights it provided was beneficial for Paul as a missionary.

            The penalty for impersonating a Roman citizen was death.

Jewish Teaching: Known as Saul at this time, Paul was raised in Jerusalem and taught about Jewish traditions and the ways of his Jewish ancestors.

            Trained by Rabbi Gamaliel

                        Gamaliel was regarded as one of the best Jewish teachers

                        Member of the Sanhedrin Council

In Galatians 1:14 Paul describes himself as a student: “I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.”   

Pharisee:  Paul became a strict Pharisee who despised followers of Jesus because of the threat they posed to the Jewish religion. 

            Paul received authorization from the chief priests to imprison and persecute believers.

            He describes this time of persecution in Acts, Chapter 26.

Paul’s Damascus Road Experience and Conversion (Acts, Chapter 9): While on his way to Damascus to arrest and imprison believers, Christ appeared to Paul in a blinding white light.  Paul surrendered to Christ immediately, spent three days blind, and was healed by Ananias. 

To Ananias God revealed that Paul was His chosen instrument to “bear His name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15).

Saul becomes known as Paul:  Acts 13:9

Paul’s Work and Missionary Journeys: Paul spent time in Damascus with disciples, then immediately began teaching and evangelizing for Christ.  Led by the Holy Spirit, Paul pursued three missionary journeys teaching in synagogues and public settings, and planting churches among Jews and Gentiles.  He endured persecution for his Christian faith and won many to Christ.  He was as zealous for Christ as missionary as he had been against Christ as a mercenary.  According to Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (HIBD), some scholars believe Paul wrote 1 and 2 Thessalonians during his second mission trip.  HIBD also states that it was during his third missionary journey that Paul wrote 1 and 2 Corinthians and Romans. 

Eventually Paul was arrested (AD 57) and sent to Rome where he spent two years in house arrest awaiting his trial. Paul was allowed a Roman trial because of his Roman citizenship. 

The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary states Paul wrote Philemon, Colossians, Ephesians, and Philippians during this time. It goes on to say that early church tradition suggests Paul was acquitted or exiled, but was later arrested again, treated harshly, and eventually beheaded by sword by Emperor Nero, probably in AD 67.  It is believed Paul is buried at a site covered by the basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. 

Additional Notes from the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary:

“Paul is a very important figure in the NT and in the history of Christianity.  He wrote 13 epistles that comprise almost one-fourth of the NT.  Approximately 16 chapters of the book of Acts (13-28) focus on his missionary labors.  Thus Paul is the author or subject of nearly one-third of the NT and the most important interpreter of the teachings of Christ and of the significance of His life, death, and resurrection.”