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He, who is called "the Apostle to the Gentiles," that is, to the Nations, never actually met Jesus during his life in Jerusalem or along the roads of Galilee, like the Twelve Apostles. He is the first apostle to have the experience of only the Risen Christ, as all Christians will continue to have through the centuries. This man, who was both a Jew and a Roman citizen, was born in Tarsus (currently Eastern Turkey). After having received a rigorous teaching in the Law from Rabbi Gamaliel the Elder, he was given a specific mission to go and preach the Word of God to all human beings: first to Antioch and Asia Minor, later to Greece and Rome. With Paul, the words of the Prophet Micah, "…from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem" (Micah 4:2), were fulfilled in just a few years and in an ardent manner. The words "go forth" have a double meaning here. Paul will go forth to witness to the teaching received from his Fathers and his personal experience: Christ is Risen! Paul is the most well-known figure of the first Christian generation, both for his Letters (seven were undoubtedly recognized to be authentic in the strict sense of the term) and for the story of his life described by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles. His Letters represent an extraordinary source of information for us. Nonetheless the figure of Paul remains mysterious. On the one hand, the Letters cover only fifteen years of his life, while on the other hand, the Acts, which chronicle his journeys, were written twenty years after his death in the apologetic tone of the day. Therefore, we will give preference to the data contained in Paul's Letters and their chronology, which greatly coincide with the duration of his travels (for example, the date of the "Council of Jerusalem").
After his conversion on the way to Damascus, Paul traveled throughout parts of Asia Minor (currently Turkey), Syria and Arabia (now Jordan), all the way to Jerusalem, before reaching Europe, Greece and ultimately Rome. One can reasonably date his journeys back to around the A.D. 50s.
From Antioch to Cyprus and to the south of Anatoly (Perge, Antioch of Psidia, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe), Paul and Barnabas preached with ardor in the synagogues the Good News of the Resurrection and salvation in Jesus, establishing some communities there. When the Jews distanced themselves from him, Paul then turned his preaching towards the Gentiles.
Paul's first objective was to go with Silas to meet the communities he created in Southern Anatoly (in Lystra he met Timothy, who accompanied them during their journey). They continued their travels towards the northwest, up to the Dardanelles, to Troas, from where they departed for Greece; Paul established the Churches in Philippi, Thessalonica, Beroea, Athens, and Corinth. Afterwards he went back to Antioch, his main base, passing through Ephesus and Caesarea. In Antioch, for the very first time the believers were called "Christians."
This journey can be considered one of strengthening. Paul revisited the Churches he created in Anatoly and Greece, together with Timothy and Titus. He sailed again to Tyre, Caesarea, and Jerusalem, where he was arrested.
The Journey in Captivity
His voyage to Rome as a prisoner was not a missionary journey; nevertheless his activity as an evangelizer did not cease to continue.
Martyrdom in Rome
Paul's first gesture in the capital city of the Empire and also his last words, documented in the Acts of the Apostles, were aimed at launching – once more – an appeal to the Jews. He did so in the same manner as in his earlier Letter to the Romans: "For I am not ashamed of the Gospel. It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: for Jew first, and then Greek" (Rom. 1:16). In this way, at the conclusion of his mission, the man whom the Lord had chosen as Apostle to the Nations did not want to forget even the "least brothers of mine" (Mt. 25:40), "for it is on account of the hope of Israel that I wear these chains" (Acts 28:20). He launched his final and vibrant appeal to the conversion of his people, to the radical change of life he had come to know. In Christ, God's Covenant is now open to all people. His final words did not mean the end of Paul, for on the contrary, Christianity and the Good News spread to all the ends of the earth due to his great witness to the Risen One, in whose image Paul became a "Light of the Nations" (Is. 49:6; Acts 13:47).