Second Glance at the Apostle Paul

My previous posts described an approach to meditating on Scripture that entails reflecting on each word of a phrase or verse. Doing so enables us to draw fresh insights. I plan to move through Philippians 1:1 using this technique.

The first word we encounter in that passage is “Paul.” This name brings to mind Acts 13:9 where Saul changed his designation to Paul. He was never referred to as Paul before and never called anything else afterwards. This transition from a Hebrew name to a Latin one, occurring at the outset of his ministry to the Gentiles, seems reflects his principle of being all things to all men, a Latin name probably being more acceptable to occupants of the Roman Empire.

Because this Latin word means “little,” many have conjectured that Paul adopted it because he was short in stature. As a result, people in reading about him in Scripture tend to envision a little man.

Let me suggest an alternative perspective. Paul was of the tribe of Benjamin and assigned the name Saul after the king from that tribe. Scripture informs us that King Saul was extremely tall, standing head and shoulders above the rest of the people. I find it doubtful that had Paul been a 4 lb. 10 oz. baby his parents would have named him for this gargantuan king. Imagine the ridicule they would have received from their friends. It is more likely that Paul was large, reflecting the stature of his namesake.

He may have adopted the name Paul to reflect his self-evaluation as the “least of the apostles” and “chief of sinners.” As we read the epistle, perhaps it is more valid to picture its author as a large man physically with spiritual humility.

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