Was Paul married before his conversion?

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By BibleAsk Team


The question of whether the Apostle Paul was married before his conversion is one that has intrigued scholars and theologians for centuries. While the New Testament does not explicitly mention the apostle’s marital status prior to his encounter with Jesus Christ, there are several passages and historical traditions that have led to speculation and debate on this topic. In this essay, we will explore the evidence from both biblical references and tradition to shed light on the possibility of the apostle’s marital status before his conversion.

Biblical References:

The New Testament provides limited information regarding Paul’s personal life before his conversion on the road to Damascus. Paul, formerly known as Saul of Tarsus, is introduced in Acts as a persecutor of the early Christian church (Acts 8:3; Acts 9:1-2). However, there is no explicit mention of his marital status in these passages or elsewhere in the book of Acts.

But Acts 26:10, says that he gave his “voice against” the saints. This indicates that he held a position in the Jewish leadership and was a member of the Sanhedrin. And members of the Sanhedrin were required to marry according the Jewish law (Talmud Sanhedrin 36b, Soncino ed., vol. 1, p. 229).

Furthermore, from his writings, it is clear that the apostle was a strict Pharisee. And a strict Pharisee would not have neglected what the Jews regarded as a sacred obligation to be united in marriage (Mishnah Yebamoth 6. 6, Soncino ed. of the Talmud, vol. 1, p. 411). And the scriptures say that he was well esteemed among the Jews for keeping his religious obligations (Acts 7:58; 8:1; 9:1, 2; 22:4, 5).

In the apostle’s own writings, particularly in his letters to the Corinthians, he discusses the topic of marriage and celibacy extensively. In 1 Corinthians 7:7-8, he writes, “For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that. But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am” (NKJV). Some scholars interpret these verses as suggesting that he was unmarried at the time of his writing and that he may have remained celibate throughout his life.

Furthermore, in 1 Corinthians 9:5, Paul references the rights of apostles to take along a believing wife in their ministry: “Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?” (NKJV). While he acknowledges the practice of other apostles being accompanied by their wives, he does not explicitly mention his own marital status. Some argue that this silence suggests that he may not have been married at the time of his writing.

However, the absence of direct references to Paul’s marital status in the New Testament leaves room for speculation and interpretation. Some scholars propose that he may have been married prior to his conversion but that his wife either passed away or separated from him as a result of his newfound faith in Jesus Christ. Others suggest that he may have been widowed or unmarried throughout his ministry, choosing to devote himself entirely to the service of God.

Tradition:

In addition to the biblical evidence, various historical and traditional accounts offer insights into Paul’s possible marital status before his conversion. Early Christian tradition, as recorded by church fathers and early church historians, provides differing perspectives on this matter.

One tradition suggests that the apostle was married before his conversion and that his wife may have been named or referred to as “Concordia.” This tradition is found in the writings of several early church fathers, including Clement of Alexandria and Eusebius of Caesarea. However, the reliability of these accounts is subject to debate, as they are based on later sources and may contain legendary or apocryphal elements.

Another tradition, preserved in the apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thecla, portrays the apostle as a celibate apostle who rejects marriage in order to devote himself fully to his ministry and the spread of the gospel. While the Acts of Paul and Thecla is not considered canonical scripture and dates to the late second or early third century, it reflects the early Christian belief in the apostle’s celibate lifestyle.

It is important to approach these traditional accounts with caution, recognizing that they may contain elements of myth or legend. Nevertheless, they provide valuable insights into the ways in which early Christians interpreted and understood the life of the Apostle.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, the question of whether Paul was married before his conversion remains a topic of speculation and debate among scholars and theologians. While the New Testament provides limited information on the apostle’s marital status, passages in his letters and early Christian tradition offer differing perspectives on this matter.

Some scholars argue that Paul’s celibacy and dedication to ministry suggest that he may not have been married before his conversion. Others propose that he may have been married but that his marital status is not explicitly mentioned in the biblical texts. The historical and traditional accounts surrounding the apostle’s life further complicate the issue, offering conflicting narratives regarding his marital status.

Ultimately, the question of whether Paul was married before his conversion may remain unresolved. However, the ambiguity surrounding this topic does not detract from the significance of the apostle’s contributions to Christian theology and his enduring legacy as an apostle and missionary of Jesus Christ.

References:

  1. New King James Version (NKJV) Bible.
  2. The Acts of Paul and Thecla.
  3. Clement of Alexandria, Stromata.
  4. Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesiastical History.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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