in the footsteps of paul
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 Home | History | Series
 Tarsus (Birth - 30CE)
 Jerusalem (30-34)
 Antioch (34-43)
 Spreading the Word (43-48)
 The Wider World (49-50)
 Corinth (50-52)
 Ephesus (52-56)
 Into the Fire (56-70)
Antioch: Community at the Crossroads

Around mid-day, a bright light from heaven suddenly flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice say, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" I replied, "Who are you, Lord?" And he said to me: "I am Jesus of Nazareth."
–Acts 22.6

Monastery of St. Simon
Monastery of St. Simon
(photo courtesy Ministry of Tourism, Ankara)

I want you to understand, brothers, that the message I deliver to you is not of human origin: I did not receive it from anyone else, I received it in a revelation of Jesus Christ. You have heard how I excessively persecuted the church and tried to destroy it But God set me apart, and called me, that through his grace he might reveal to me his son, so that I might spread his message among the gentiles.
–Galatians 1.12-21

Barnabas went into Tarsus to look for Saul, and, when he had found him, brought him back to Antioch. They spent a whole year there, gathering in worship with the church, and teaching the crowds that assembled. The students in Antioch were the first to be called Christians.
–Acts 11.25-26

hen Saul set out from Jerusalem around 34 CE, he was set on persecuting the new Jesus movement. But somewhere along the way he had an epiphany: a vision of Jesus. It was a life-changing moment and would be a pivot point in the history of the Jesus movement. Yet events following the epiphany are obscure. It is impossible to resolve contradictions between Acts and Paul's letters, but one thing is clear; no longer intent on persecuting the new sect, Paul now nurtured the conviction that he had a special mission, that he had been chosen by Jesus, not for his own salvation, but in order to spread the word of Jesus' resurrection as fast and as far as possible. Paul says he went into the deserts of modern Jordan, to Damascus and again to Jerusalem. He met with the disciples in Jerusalem who had known the living Jesus, but steadfastly believed that his vision of salvation took precedence over any human memory of Jesus' teachings.

Soon, Paul met another believer named Barnabas, and together they began to proselytize in Antioch, the provincial capital of Syria and military base for the Roman legions in the Mediterranean East. They preached mainly in synagogues, proclaiming to both Jews and Gentiles that the Messiah was coming, and when he arrived, the kingdom of Caesar was doomed. Only the faithful would be saved, and the Gentiles had to give up the gods of Greece and Rome, had to convert to Judaism, if they wished to be counted among the number of the faithful.

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