Paul – Saul from Tarsus


Saul and Barnabas played an instrumental role in the explosive growth of the Antioch church, and it was here that the believers were first called Christians, i.e., followers of Christos, the Messiah (Acts 11:9–26).

Image source: © Carta, Jerusalem

Saul’s first visit to Jerusalem in fourteen years (in a.d. 46?) was for the purpose of bringing relief aid to the community of believers in the city which had been hard struck by famine (Acts 11:27–30; cf. Acts 2:44–45; 4:36–5:1–2; 6:1; 24:17; Rom 15:26–27; 1 Cor 16:1–4). He took advantage of his time in the city to argue forcefully with James, Peter and John for full acceptance of the Gentiles— even those who remained uncircumcised—into the community of the church. In the end it was agreed that Saul would continue to concentrate his efforts on bringing the good news of Jesus to the Gentiles, while the Jerusalem leadership would remain focused on spreading the Gospel to the Jews (Gal 2:1–10; cf. Acts 22:21; Rom 1:14; 16:18). It was a formative, though informal, council. With it, the stage was set for Saul to become the Apostle Paul (Acts 13:9). The curtain rose on a new act in the Gospel story. The scenery had changed: the contained arc of the Fertile Crescent had given way to the vast amphitheatre of the Mediterranean.

The kingdom of God was not a political organization; it meant the acceptance of the rule of God in the hearts of men and women, according to the principles laid down by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount and on other occasions.

Capernaum was one of several flourishing fishing towns on the lake-shore. Others were Bethsaida, just east of the point where the Jordan flows into the lake, and Magdala, famed for its export of salt fish (for which reason it was also known as Taricheae). Other places mentioned in the narrative of his work in Galilee (in addition to his home town of Nazareth, where he met with a very cool reception) are Chorazin, a little way inland from Capernaum, Cana, where the water became wine (probably Khirbet Qana, about 9 miles north of Nazareth), and Nain, to the south of Mount Tabor.

On the east side of the lake, at the place now called Kursi, the man possessed by a legion of demons was cured and the herd of pigs, feeding nearby, stampeded down the cliff into the lake.