How Long Did Paul Persecute Believers?

01 Feb
Life of Paul

from Google Images

The Hellenist Messianic Jews were scattered abroad going into regions of Samaria and Judea (Acts 8:1) and then to more distant lands such as Phoenicia, Cyprus, Cyrene and Antioch (Acts 11:19-20). Paul pursued them to wherever it became known they were (Acts 26:11). In order for Paul to pursue the Hellenistic Messianic Jews to foreign cities, two things are implied. First, letters had to have been sent out from Jerusalem to those synagogues outside Judea to beware of this Messianic sect that had so little regard for the Temple, meaning the name of God (cf. Acts 28:21). Secondly, it would have to be known by those in Jerusalem that wanted Messianic Jews had traveled to such cities. Otherwise it would be like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. Therefore, news had to have been brought back to Jerusalem such cities alerting the high priest that these Messianic Jews had come there and were spreading the Gospel in their synagogues (Acts 26:11), before someone such as Saul would journey there.[1]

Some time must be presumed to have elapsed to allow for such communication. Acts 9:1 shows Paul seeking letters of extradition from the high priest. If Stephen was stoned in 34 Ad about the time of the fall Holy Days, then a reasonable period for word to be brought back from Damascus to the Jerusalem authorities concerning the Messianic believers there would be the next celebration of a major Jewish Holy Day season. This would be in the spring during the Passover of 35 AD. At the time of this particular Passover Caiaphas, the high priest, was removed from his office by Vitellius, the new Roman governor of Syria, and Jonathan, the son of Annas, was placed in that position. Later, Paul would refer to Jonathan who reigned as high priest a second time during the time of Felix’s tenure (see Acts 22:5). The reason for Paul’s mentioning the high priest at that time was that he could verify that he had been sent by him to incarcerate believers at Damascus and bring them to Jerusalem for punishment.

Therefore, Acts 9:1 denotes the passage of time of about six months from the time of Stephen’s stoning. If this is logically sound, then we can also point to 35 AD as the year of Paul conversion backward from the Jerusalem Council which most scholars believe occurred in 49 AD. This was the visit Paul himself referred to in Galatians 2:1 his second visit after his meeting Jesus. Fourteen years after 35 AD would bring us to the time of the Jerusalem Council.

Additionally, we can reasonably point to the 35 AD date by calculating a pattern Paul seems to use in his ministry. He seems to spend about 3 years working in a given area founding churches in a given locale in Jesus name. We know he spent three years in Damascus with excursions into Arabia (Galatians 1:15-18). If Paul returned to Jerusalem in 38 AD, but had to leave for Cilicia not long afterward, we can reasonably assume he spent another three years evangelizing Tarsus and surrounding communities, because Barnabas sought him out for the work at Antioch about the time Claudius Caesar became Emperor in 41 AD (Acts 11:25-28). Luke tells us that he an Barnabas taught the new gentile believers for a full year (Acts 11:26), but this doesn’t mean they wouldn’t spend another two years preaching Christ in the surrounding communities of Phoenicia, Samaria and Galilee (Acts 26:20), thus, reasonably keeping within his three year plan. Then in the spring of 44 AD Paul and Barnabas went on the evangelistic labor for another three years in Galatia before returning to Antioch about the spring of 47 AD where Luke says they spent a good while (Acts 14:26-28).

If they spent another three years here before leaving to check on the churches in Galatia (Acts 15:35-36), this would bring them to the spring of 50 AD. This is a full year after the Jerusalem Council of 49 AD. If this is logically sound according to the pattern Paul seems to use throughout his ministry, then this also points to 35 AD as the year of Paul’s vision of Jesus and becoming a believer. Therefore, it is my opinion that Paul persecuted the Church for about six months—from the autumn of 34 AD to the spring of 35 AD.


[1] This post is a revision both in the time I presume Paul persecuted believers and in the manner in which I calculated that time. I came to realize my previous post had too many errors in it to permit it to remain published, so I revised it as best as I understand the truth.


Posted by on February 1, 2011 in Paul's Conversion, Persecution


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24 responses to “How Long Did Paul Persecute Believers?

  1. Anne

    July 16, 2018 at 22:11

    I believe Stephen was stoned on Pentecost of 34AD for many reasons that would take too long to explain in a comment like this. So, I will give you one: Luke 13, a chapter pregnant with prophesy, but special notice should be given to ‘one more year’ before the implied Day of the Lord was to begin. Thus, Paul was converted during the fall feast of 34AD. He spent days in Damascus alone and meditating w/out food or water. This was in conjunction with Yom Kippur. Paul received permission from the H/S to begin his ministry in 48AD after Passover, the very Passover that James was martyred by Herod of Chalcis (NOT by his brother Herod Agrippa who died in 44AD). I agree that the Council of Jerusalem occurred in 49AD. As you have stated, 3s are important. So are 14s.

    • Eddie

      July 16, 2018 at 23:23

      Greetings Ann, and thank you for reading my blog studies, and thank you, as well, for you comment.

      I have the stoning of Stephen taking place on the Day of Atonement, the 10th day of the seventh month, 34 AD, and Paul’s meeting Jesus just outside of Damascus in the spring of 35 AD. I honestly don’t understand your reference to Luke 13. I realize you are making a reference to the three years the owner of the fig tree sought fruit, but was advised to wait another year. How you get to 34 AD with Luke 13 is a bit of a mystery for me, unless you have Jesus’ crucifixion in 33 AD, but under those circumstances too many things must occur in a single year with Paul’s conversion in a year and a half. Frankly, I don’t see how Luke 13 gets you there.

      Why would Paul be converted in 34 AD but never begin serving the Lord during his first fourteen years as a believer? I don’t see the sense in that. Moreover, I don’t understand how you can begin the Jerusalem Council in 49 AD, one year after you say Paul began to preach the Gospel, when for all intents and purposes Paul never went on a missionary journey until after the Jerusalem Council (according to your calculations). Where’s the controversy that was responsible for convening the council? After all, once Barnabas found Paul in Tarsus, he brought him to Antioch and together they spent at least a year there preaching out of the churches. Yet, when the council was over, Paul brought the letters from the Jerusalem church not only to Antioch, but also to Syria and Cilicia (Acts 15:23). Moreover, about a year later, they brought those same letters to Galatia (Acts 16:4). Why would they do that, if Galatia hadn’t been evangelized earlier and invaded by the men from James (so called) just prior to the Jerusalem Council? Yet, Acts 13 shows Galatia was evangelized well before the Jerusalem Council, but you say Paul didn’t have permission to preach until 48 AD!

      Perhaps there is a better explanation, and I’ve taken your comment too far in a different direction. So, I’ll wait to see what you may say in another comment, if you choose to continue this discussion.

      Lord bless you, Ann, as you study his word.

      • Anne

        July 17, 2018 at 00:07

        I knew my brevity would get me into trouble, but I couldn’t resist responding to your blog question as I liked your rationale a lot. I love prophesy and sharing my thoughts with those who do, too.

        It will take me quite some time to answer all your great comments and questions. Prophesy can get overwhelming until a framework develops and that takes time. That said, I should begin by saying that I believe there will be 14 years from the opening of the D/L to the abomination of desolation. The Bible has patterns and the 14 year pattern begins in Genesis: There’s a war of 4 against 5. And, Chedorlaomer came in the 14th year. Then there’s Abraham, Isaac and Ishmael. Ishmael was 14 years old when he ‘mocked’
        Isaac. Ishmael shows up after the 4×5 war, making Ismael the 10th missing horn, if you will. He is THE type for the Antichrist. Next, Isaiah writes about Hezekiah and Sennacherib in 3 books. You’ll see a 14 year threat until the end of Jerusalem. But, Hezekiah is given 15 more years to live — 14 + 1– sound familiar? That extra year in Luke 13 where Jesus calls out to the woman (Type: The woman Israel who has been bent over for 18 years!) 15 +3 =18. The 1st of 15 years was from the 1st Pentecost to the 2nd. The stoning of Stephen was the unpardonable sin. Jerusalem had rejected the H/S. The D/L was on — except instead, Jesus ‘stood’ to raise up Paul for the mystery. Another example — Paul is caught up in the Euroclydon for 14 days before he shipwrecks (here Paul is a type of remnant, stays on Malta 3 months, and goes to Rome (actually, in context, a shadow of the Kingdom of God). Ok, there’s so much more. And, I’ll stay in touch with more responses to your message, which was greatly appreciated. Prophesy is slow and arduous until you get a framework, and then it speeds up like a runaway freight train, leaving a person feeling like they have to hold on tight because the H/S wants to get at it as fast as a person can perceive it. He’s amazing.

        I’m on a phone tonight so it’s been slow going for me.

        • Anne

          July 17, 2018 at 00:24

          Mistake: Isaac was born when Ismael was 14. When Isaac was weaned (approx 3 years later as children then were breast fed for about 3 years), Abraham held a great feast (Shadow: Tabernacles after the Lord’s return.) Isaac here is a type for the hidden, protected remnant. Ishmael mocked Isaac and was sent to the East.

          Sorry for the confusion. It’ s late here.

        • Eddie

          July 17, 2018 at 06:03

          Greetings Ann and thank you for your comment.

          I’ll let you develop your argument before I respond, but I must warn you that you are (thus far) drawing many unsupported conclusions. Perhaps you will tie them together later (don’t know). Moreover, as I understand it thus far, no matter what you do with the 14 years, it still gets you in trouble in the first century AD with the beginning of Paul’s ministry (at least a 48 AD beginning). That said, I’ll let you develop your argument.

          May the Lord bless you in your studies.

        • Anne

          July 17, 2018 at 08:20

          Well, your reply and warning doesn’t motivate me to continue. Enough said.

  2. Cecelia Ward

    August 16, 2017 at 19:22

    Saul/ Paul is one of a mentor in my life I NOW understand the reason he persecuted Christians…they were not being whole heartedly true to God . He only did this for a season then the Lord spoke to him on the road of Damascus. Amazing Man of God went through lot for Gods name sake.

  3. Bill

    June 13, 2017 at 18:12

    //Where did you find out that “Futurism” was a political response by the RCC? I don’t remember hearing that. Do you know its context?//

    Believe it or not, Clarence Larkin talks about it in his notes of pg 5 of Dispensational Truth, if you have a copy in your library. In case you don’t, though, here are the notes from a webpage…
    Scroll down to the paragraph that begins “The Preterist School.”

    I’d be interested to know your thoughts.


    • Eddie

      June 13, 2017 at 22:00

      Thanks Bill. I believe I have that book, but I can’t find it at this time, but I did check out the link.

      I hesitate to label the Pope the Antichrist or the False Prophet or anything like this. I know its history, and it isn’t good, especially when one comes to the Inquisition. Nevertheless, the Church of Rome had it beginning in Christianity. I believe Clement wrote his first epistle from there, just after Peter and Paul were martyred. I see corruption and a lot of evil men running that church later. Nevertheless, Western Christianity (Protestantism) came out of her, and this should testify that Christianity was never dead, no matter how it may look from the outside. I believe that is true even today.

      I have deep differences with that church, but I see many of its people loving Christ. They receive him as their Savior. The believe he died for their sins; they believe he rose from the dead to give them life, and they have faith in that. I cannot reject them as brethren no matter what else they believe. That is the fundamentals of Gospel according to Paul (Romans 10:9-10). The light may be dim, but I don’t see the gates of hell prevailing over her (cf. Matthew 16:18).

      We may be in different camps on this issue, Bill, but I hope that won’t change our friendship.

      Lord bless you in your studies.

      • Bill

        June 14, 2017 at 16:06

        Hi friend. I’m having trouble with the wordpress login. You may get this 5 times, please delete what is duplicated.

        Your care about those who love God doesn’t affect my feelings towards you. They are to be loved and cared for. I didn’t intend any reference to my opinion of the RCC or those who worship there. I simply wanted to show that the rationale behind the moving of Daniel’s 70th week to the future was a political response to the Reformers accusing the pope of being a/c. Once I learned the motivation, I felt relieved to remove that as an eschatological option. It is part of what brought me to this site, that you were reading the bible and interpreting things from a perspective of the 70th week being fulfilled.

        As to the RCC, the Council of Trent is still the underlying and fundamental premise upon which the religion is built. It makes clear that faith, alone, is not enough to gain salvation. That is in direct opposition to Paul, and would make Paul anathema according to Trent. One of the two is wrong. I would guess most have never read Trent, and further, most have never read the majority text and compared the two. I wish they would!

        Let me know your thoughts after reading and digesting the Larkin notes about each school of thought and how they originated. I appreciate your insights.

        My best to you,


        • Eddie

          June 14, 2017 at 20:12

          Greetings Bill, and thank you for your kind reply. …and I received only one reply, so maybe things at your end are working for you and wordpress now. :-)

          Let me offer you the briefest account of my history in Christ. I once was Roman Catholic, but I’m not now, haven’t been for about 47 years. Unfortunately, I was a Biblical illiterate at the time and fell into a cult headed by Herbert W. Armstrong, headquartered in Pasadena, California. After a brief stay there (about three years), I was fed up with religion and didn’t go to any church for about 11 years. Since the week after Easter in 1986, I’ve been attending a fine Bible believing Church. God did a lot of healing work there on my attitudes, my hatred for pastors and other things connected with religion. However, when I felt being drawn by God to attend church once again, I told him I would never submit myself to a man ever again, that is to say, I wouldn’t let another man believe **for** me ever again—I didn’t mean that I would never submit to organizational authority.

          That said, I do no aspire to any system of understanding Scripture. Perhaps my understanding of Revelation is closest to the Preterist viewpoint, but I do not embrace it wholly. I do believe in the return of Christ, but not in the same way Pre / Post-Millennialists do. Jesus is not in the business of taking over the world in the same way these systems of thought seem to believe. They forget that Jesus said his Kingdom is not of this world. He is interested in hearts, not land area. I believe most of Revelation was fulfilled by 70 AD, but the Millennium, as I see it, isn’t literal. I did a study on this once, and my conclusion is the millennium is nothing more than the time Jesus is ‘away’. As far as the literal time is concerned, it could have been one hundred years, but it has actually been almost 2000 years since Jesus ascended to heaven, and we still don’t have a clue when he might return. I don’t set dates, and I cannot stomach those who do—God hasn’t healed me of that attitude yet, but I trust he will.

          So, in essence I agree with the Post-millennialists who claim Christ will return after the millennium, because, if the millennium is the time Jesus is away, then (duh!) when he returns the millennium is over. :-)

          I hold in suspicion every study that doesn’t prove itself. For example, Larkin says that Pre-millennialism dates to the Old Testament prophets. That’s easy to say, but he doesn’t prove it. The ancient Jews believed that the reign of the Messiah would be rife with conflict, some rabbis even have him being killed, but in the next age all things are set right and we have eternal peace.

          To a degree, I support this point-of-view. I believe Jesus is reigning now in the kingdoms of men. He raises up leaders and terminates them at will. He is in control today, just as much as he was in control of the time he would lay down his life 2000 years ago. Jesus reigns now, and will continue to reign forever. We don’t get to reign **with** him today, but we reign **in** him—something like adding our “Amen!” to all he does on our behalf and for the sake of the Gospel. We will reign with him, but that’s when he returns, and I don’t see us reigning then like kings, presidents and dictators do today.

          I just finished my study on the Gospel of Luke, but I have over a year’s worth of blogposts to submit (at three per week). This gives me the opportunity to think about and pray about what to study next. I’ve been toying with the idea of going into the Book of Revelation (or Job or Ecclesiastes or James). I already have some studies published but they represent studies I did decades ago, when I had to write it all out by hand. I wanted to know then when I could expect Jesus to return, and could I expect to be alive when he does. That was the impetus that propelled me into those studies years ago, but now I don’t have any such impetus. I don’t believe we can know even the decade of Christ return, despite all the ‘blood moons’ and galactic conjunctions of stars etc. I’m not impressed by any of these things.

          As for Daniel’s 70th Week Prophecy being used as a political maneuver by the Catholic Church, I don’t know, maybe that’s so, but quite frankly it doesn’t matter, in as much as I can tell. Truth is truth, no matter who champions it or for what reasons it is championed. According to my studies Daniel’s 70th Week is fulfilled. Unless someone can prove otherwise, that is where I hang my hat. I’ve never really investigated the source of the viewpoint of separating the 70th week from the other 69, but it could be just like Larkin said.

          I’ve never read the Council of Trent papers. I remember reading about the council in religion class in high school, but I don’t remember much. I know Catholicism aspires to faith plus works. I don’t agree. However, there is the technicality that James points out. Faith without works is dead. So, I give the Catholic church a little ‘wiggle room’ on this one. There seems to be room for an erroneous position without judging the heart that took them there. I do believe they make too much of works, but it is also true that without works my faith is dead. I see a fine line here, but technically speaking, we are saved by faith alone, all our works are a result of that faith.

          I’m not certain if I missed anything, Bill, but don’t hesitate to mention it to me in a future reply, if you would like greater clarity on anything. Lord bless you.

  4. Bill

    June 12, 2017 at 16:48

    Greetings Eddie. I hope this finds all well with you!

    In a post in the Acts study, you spoke of the scattering of the Hellenist Jews after the stoning of Stephen. Jesus speaks of the abomination in Matt 24, and describes what will happen when they see it. You also referred to this scripture in Rev 12…

    Rev 12:13  And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child. 
    Rev 12:14  And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. 
    Rev 12:15  And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. 
    Rev 12:16  And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. 
    Rev 12:17  And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. 

    Could this speak of the length of time that Saul persecuted the church before his meeting with Jesus on the Damascus road?

    • Bill

      June 12, 2017 at 20:51

      Mat 24:15  When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) 

      Also, wouldn’t the abomination that stands in the holy place be Saul?

      Mat 24:22  And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. 

      They were shortened by the conversion of Saul by Jesus, yes? Else he would have continued until he destroyed them all.

      • Eddie

        June 12, 2017 at 22:15

        I have several studies that concern the “abomination of desolation”, but Paul simply doesn’t fit that term. The “abomination” concerns idolatry and the “desolation” means the “abomination” brought “desolation” to Jerusalem and the Temple. Some of those studies are: The Abomination of Desolation; Abomination that Makes Desolate; Jesus’ Coming and Paul; and Jerusalem Surrounded by Armies.There are more, and you can find some by putting “abomination of desolation” in my search tab on the right of my studies, just under my picture.

        I am uncertain how the days were shortened. However, I believe it has to do with the Jewish War with Rome (66 AD to 70 AD). If the days weren’t shortened, it may be that the Jews of the Diaspora would have entered the war and created trouble for Rome all over the Empire. The Jews in the Holy Land had hoped the Jews of the Diaspora would do just that. It would have created havoc for Rome and draw attention elsewhere. Because the Diaspora Jews didn’t enter the war, Rome didn’t seek to punish them, and this saved Jewish Christians as well.

        I think it was in this context that Jewish “flesh” was saved. The Romans could have perused Jews all over the Empire and killed them like the Nazi’s tried to do, but that didn’t happen, because in some manner the days were shortened.

        Hope this helps, and Lord bless you, Bill.

        • Bill

          June 13, 2017 at 12:55

          Thanks friend. Yes, I see strong’s number for “stand” is g2476, which has several meanings to include abide, continue, establish, set up. What is your best source for Greek reference? Sometimes I wonder how the KJV translators all seemed to come to the same conclusions for words. Like Matt 5:32 has “logos”, g3056, which means a saying or report of prostitution, yet the translation says “cause.” It’s found again in the betrothal chapter of Deut 22, which would totally establish Jesus’ point that divorce is only available as an option during betrothal. Sometimes, the translators throw us off track.

          Nonetheless, I appreciate your insights. I read all the scriptures you referenced in “The Great Persecution” blog you wrote in the Acts – A second look…Chapter 8. If Saul accomplished all that death and binding and persecution throughout all the synagogues, and was dealing with Damascus at the same time, in a 6 month time frame, he was certainly a busy hit man. The Rev 12 reference you used was in the next blog in Acts 8, called “Who were scattered abroad.” I will keep reading through the blogs regarding ch 8 and 9, because I just noticed there is more, including “the Wrath of Saul.”

          Thanks for your ministry. When I learned that “Futurism” was a political response by the RCC to the Reformers, I had to wipe the board of those ideas I grew up hearing. Your insights have been a helpful transition away from those traditions of men. Your help with the history lessons of the Roman empire and the Jewish nation have also brought alive much of what I considered boring in my school days. My heartfelt “Thanks.”

          Blessings to you!

        • Eddie

          June 13, 2017 at 17:43

          Hi Bill. I appreciate your kind words of encouragement. Thank you.

          I don’t have a goto reference for Greek. I utilize several books, including Strongs, Thayer’s, Word Study Dictionary by Zodhiates; Greek-English Lexicon of the NT by Walter Bauer, and Analytical Greek Lexicon by Wigram. Sometimes I use only one or two, but other times I use all of them when the sense simply doesn’t seem to fit the context.

          All in all, I believe the translators do an excellent job, certainly better than a guy like me. Nevertheless, we’re all human and we make mistakes. I find most mistakes are made when one’s studies are guided by the studies or traditions of other men. We all have that problem to one degree or another; certainly we shouldn’t disagree for the purpose of disagreeing. The key, of course, is finding where the Spirit is leading, anyway that’s the plan. :-)

          Where did you find out that “Futurism” was a political response by the RCC? I don’t remember hearing that. Do you know its context?

          Lord bless you, Bill.

    • Eddie

      June 12, 2017 at 21:57

      Greetings, Bill — it has been awhile since we spoke. Welcome back, and, yes, I am well, a little older, slower, but well. :-)

      I am uncertain which study you refer to when you mention above that I pointed to Matthew 24 when I wrote of Revelation 12. One of those studies is Delivered Up to Be Persecuted and Killed. I have a number of studies on this subject, but I don’t use the same Scriptures in all of them.

      In the above study I showed that I believe the length of time Paul persecuted believers was about 6 months. Most of the time he would have been involved in persecuting believers in Judea and Galilee. They would have been the winter months following the annual fall Holy Days (cir. October of 34 AD) to the Passover in the next spring (cir. March/April of 35 AD). It would have taken some time (as I mentioned above) for word to get to the synagogues in foreign provinces and then back to Jerusalem concerning the whereabouts of Messianic believers. This is my best guess, and the timeline fits with the whereabouts of Paul elsewhere years later.

  5. Arnedria

    August 4, 2014 at 21:28

    I still would like to know with a specific answer How Long?

    • Eddie

      August 5, 2014 at 07:16

      Greetings Arnedria, and thank you for reading my blog, and especially for your question.

      Given my chronology is correct that the persecution began with Stephen during the fall or 34 CE, Paul persecuted believers for about six months. If Jonathan was the high priest from whom Paul sought letters of extradition (cp. Acts 9:1-2) then it was probably around the Passover of 35 CE that Paul met the Lord just outside Damascus. Folks would have come from there during one of the annual festivals to worship at Jerusalem, telling the authorities of the Messianic believers there. Josephus claims Jonathan replaced Caiaphas during the Passover season that calculates to about 35 CE.

      I don’t see the need to prolong Paul’s persecution beyond 6 months.

  6. stephen

    February 11, 2014 at 14:37

    may GOD richly bless you.

    • Eddie

      February 12, 2014 at 00:23

      Thank you, Stephen, for reading my blog, and special thanks for your encouraging response. May our Lord and Savior richly bless you, as well.

  7. joel josephs

    February 14, 2012 at 10:45


  8. Return of Benjamin

    February 1, 2011 at 14:50

    Good analysis. I like the way you synched up the events of Acts with the historical backdrop. While we disagree on some of the prophetic import of events, your historical work is very scholarly.


    • Eddie

      February 1, 2011 at 16:04

      Thank you for your encouraging remarks.

      Lord bless.


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