|St. Paul of Tarsus (c.1-67 AD)
called Saul in Hebrew and leader of the early Christian movement,
was instrumental in the spreading of Christianity throughout the
Greco-Roman world. He was born a Jew in Tarsus of Cilicia in Anatolia
probably between 1-10 AD.
Thirteen New Testament letters have been
attributed to him, many of which show him adjusting Jewish ideas
and traditions to new circumstances and measuring Old Testament
laws by their relevance to Jesus Christ.
The New Testament records how he actively
tried to suppress the early Christian movement through persecution
until he was converted to Christianity by a visionary encounter
with the risen Jesus while on the road to Damascus in about 36 AD.
Because of this vision, Paul held that he, too, had met Jesus and
was therefore qualified to be called an apostle. After being instructed
and receiving Christian baptism in Damascus, Paul went to "Arabia"
for a short time. He then returned to Damascus for 3 years until
he was driven out and back to Tarsus, probably in 40 AD. Several
years later Barnabas brought Paul to Antioch in Syria, where they
ministered together for a year.
Paul spent the following 10 years on 3
lengthy missionary journeys to Anatolia and Greece. The second journey
included an 18-month stay in Corinth and the third, 2-3 years in
Ephesus. During this time Paul wrote letters to churches he had
previously founded and could not visit in person. Some of these
letters have been preserved in the New Testament. Paul was especially
concerned that he protect his understanding of the life and teachings
of Jesus from alteration toward Jewish practices or toward Hellenistic
religious and philosophical ideas. He instructed the Christian communities
he founded in ethical behavior by correcting their failings and
offering advice. The Book of Acts describes the typical pattern
of Paul's ministry: he began by preaching in a synagogue but was
soon expelled as a rabble-rouser; then, with a small number of Jewish
adherents, Paul turned to the Gentiles, converting large numbers
but occasionally encountering trouble with the civil authorities.
The different accounts of Paul's visit
to Jerusalem to settle the controversy over how much of the Jewish
Law Gentile Christians were required to keep, have never been fully
reconciled. Years later (c.58 AD), Paul brought a collection to
Jerusalem for the city's poor Christians, but he was arrested. After
2 years in prison he used his right as a Roman citizen to appeal
to the emperor and was sent to Rome for trial.
The Book of Acts ends with Paul under house
arrest (c. 63 AD), still preaching about Jesus. Clement of Rome
and Eusebius of Caesarea report that Paul was eventually acquitted
before traveling to Spain where he was arrested again and subsequently
martyred in Rome under Nero, c.67 AD. Feast day: June 29 (with Saint
The Seven Churches of Asia are all located
in Anatolia; Ephesus (Efes), Smyrna (Izmir), Laodicea ad Lycum (Goncali),
Sardis (Sart), Pergamum (Bergama), Philadelphia (Alasehir) and Thyatira
These churches are associated both with
Saint Paul and with Revelations (the Apocalypse); letters written
in c.95 AD to the Seven Churches by John. For some people John is
a visionary who lived on the island of Patmos. But some people say
he is the Apostle John.
There should have been more than seven
cities with major Christian congregations in Anatolia at the time
that John wrote and it is unknown why he addressed only these seven.
These were possibly the most important ones at that time or letters
to other churches were lost.
These churches were not church buildings
as such but congregations. These early congregations had their meetings
in private homes as there had been no original church buildings
until the 3C AD. St. Paul possibly founded some of the Seven Churches
on his missionary journeys between 47-57 AD, as he was thought to
have visited all seven cities.
Constantine the Great (280-337 AD)
He was the first Roman emperor to adopt
Christianity. Before 312 AD Constantine seems to have been a tolerant
pagan, willing to accumulate heavenly patrons but not committed
to any one deity. However, between 312-324 AD he gradually adopted
the Christian God as his protector and on several occasions granted
special privileges to individual churches and bishops.
Soon after his victory over Licinius at
Chrysopolis in 324 AD, Constantine openly embraced Christianity
and became more directly involved in the affairs of the church.
Christianity spread fastest among the urban populations while people
who lived in villages continued to worship different deities. The
early Christians called non-Christians pagans because pagani
in Latin means "country-dwellers".