Saint Paul the Apostle

St. Paul, Who Wrote Bible New Testament Books, is Patron Saint of Writers, etc.

Apostle Paul Saul miracle
“The Conversion of Saul” fresco painting, circa 1540s, by Michelangelo Buonarroti. SuperStock/Getty Images

Saint Paul (who is also known as Saint Paul the Apostle) lived during the 1st century in ancient Cilicia (which is now part of Turkey), Syria, Israel, Greece, and Italy. He wrote many of the New Testament books of the Bible and became famous for his missionary journeys to spread the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. So St. Paul is a patron saint of writers, publishers, religious theologians, missionaries, musicians, and others.

Here's a profile of the Apostle Paul and a summary of his life and miracles:

A Lawyer with a Brilliant Mind

Paul was born with the name Saul and grew up in a family of tentmakers in the ancient city of Tarsus, where he developed a reputation as a person with a brilliant mind. Saul was devoted to his Jewish faith, and joined a group within Judaism called the Pharisees, who prided themselves on trying to keep God’s rules perfectly.

He regularly debated people about religious laws. After Jesus Christ’s miracles happened and some people Saul knew said that Jesus was the Messiah (the world’s savior) that the Jews had been waiting for, Saul became intrigued yet disturbed by the concept of grace that Jesus preached in his Gospel message. As a Pharisee, Saul focused on proving himself to be righteous. He became angry when he met more and more Jews who followed Jesus’ teachings that the power for positive change in people's lives is not the law itself, but the spirit of love behind the law.

So Saul put his legal training to use persecuting people who followed “the Way” (the original name for Christianity). He had many early Christians arrested, tried in court, and killed for their beliefs.

A Miraculous Encounter with Jesus Christ

Then one day, while traveling to the city of Damascus (now in Syria) in order to arrest Christians there, Paul (who was then called Saul) had a miraculous experience.

The Bible describes it in Acts chapter 9: As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’” (verses 3-4).

After Saul asked who was speaking to him, the voice replied: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” (verse 5).

The voice then told Saul to get up and go into Damascus, where he will find out what else he must do. Saul was blind for three days after that experience, the Bible reports, so his traveling companions had to lead him around until his sight was restored through prayer by a man named Ananias. The Bible says that God spoke to Ananias in a vision, telling him in verse 15: “This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.”

When Ananias prayed for Saul to be “filled with the Holy Spirit” (verse 17), the Bible reports that, “Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again” (verse 18).

Spiritual Symbolism

The experience was full of symbolism, with physical eyesight representing spiritual insight, to show that Saul wasn’t able to see what was true until he was transformed completely.

When he was healed spiritually, he was also healed physically. What happened to Saul also communicated the symbolism of enlightenment (God’s light of wisdom overpowering the darkness of confusion) as he went from encountering Jesus through an overwhelming bright light, to being stuck in the darkness of blindness while reflecting on the experience, to opening his eyes to see light after the Holy Spirit entered his soul.

It’s also significant that Saul was blind for three days, since that was the same amount of time that Jesus spent between his crucifixion and his resurrection -- events that represent the light of good overcoming the darkness of evil in the Christian faith. Saul, who called himself Paul after that experience, later wrote about enlightenment in one of his biblical letters: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God's glory displayed in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6) and described a vision of heaven that may have been a near-death experience (NDE) after he was injured in an attack on one of his journeys.

Soon after regaining his eyesight in Damascus, verse 20 says, “…Saul began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.” Rather than directing his energy toward persecuting Christians, Saul directed it toward spreading the Christian message. He changed his name from Saul to Paul after his life changed dramatically.

Biblical Author and Missionary

Paul went on to write many of the Bible's New Testament books, such as Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Philemon, Galatians, Philippians and 1 Thessalonians. He traveled on several long missionary journeys to many of the ancient world's major cities. Along the way, Paul was imprisoned and tortured several times, and he also encountered other challenges (such as being shipwrecked in a storm and bitten by a snake -- hence he serves as the patron saint of people seeking protection from snake bites or storms). But through it all, Paul continued his work spreading the Gospel message, until his death by beheading in ancient Rome.