Saul of Tarsus, born in Asia Minor, was both a Jew and a Roman citizen, who was brought up as a Pharisee. He responded to the emergence of the Jesus movement by becoming an enforcer of pharisaic orthodoxy, travelling from synagogue to synagogue, preaching the persecution of Jews who believed Jesus to be a Messiah. Travelling to Damascus on such a journey in c. 36 CE, Saul was struck blind and heard the voice of Jesus ask why he was persecuting him. This transformative experience made him a Christian, a transition he marked by changing his name to Paul. A decade later, he began travelling to preach the Christian message. Paul’s first missions were in Syria, Cyprus and Cilicia in the vicinity of his home town of Tarsus, and he went on to travel in Greece and the Levant. He had trained as a tent-maker, and used his trade to work his passage. Hugely resilient, he attributed his survival of beatings, shipwrecks and imprisonment to the power and grace of God. Paul exploited to the full the vastly improved freedom of travel and communication provided by the Pax Romana to seed a network of Christian outposts, which he knit together with his copious and impassioned correspondence.
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