Did St Paul Change His Name?

The Pixie

Well-known member
It's more than merely possible. You're right that the text doesn't say that, but you're wrong to say that we have no reason to think he did. He only ever calls himself Paul in the letters we have from him (interestingly, his imitators also only ever use the name). This doesn't prove that he changed his name, but it's certainly a reason to suppose he did.
The text indicates he had two names, a Roman name, Paul, and a Hebrew name, Saul. His letters and Acts were written in Greek, so naturally Paul is the name used. There is nothing in the text to suggest he abandoned his Hebrew name.

As far as I am aware, Paul considered himself a Jew even after becoming a follower of Jesus. Why would he give up his Hebrew name?
 

Lucian

Member
The text indicates he had two names, a Roman name, Paul, and a Hebrew name, Saul. His letters and Acts were written in Greek, so naturally Paul is the name used. There is nothing in the text to suggest he abandoned his Hebrew name.

As far as I am aware, Paul considered himself a Jew even after becoming a follower of Jesus. Why would he give up his Hebrew name?
Greek is no impediment to using the name 'Saul': it occurs in Acts regularly.

You'd have to ask Paul why he would change his name. My best guess is that it was part of his outreach to gentiles, a core part of his ministry.
 

The Pixie

Well-known member
Greek is no impediment to using the name 'Saul': it occurs in Acts regularly.
Right, and many of those instances it is talking about Paul. Why is he called Saul after he changed his name to Paul? He is not, He was called both Paul and Saul.

You'd have to ask Paul why he would change his name. My best guess is that it was part of his outreach to gentiles, a core part of his ministry.
But he did not have to change his name to do that, because he had a Roman name. As he says:

1 Cor 9:20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might gain Jews; to those who are under the Law, I became as one under the Law, though not being under the Law myself, so that I might gain those who are under the Law; 21 to those who are without the Law, I became as one without the Law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might gain those who are without the Law.

The obvious thing to do was use Saul when talking to Jews and Paul when talking to gentiles. And that seems to be what he did.
 

Lucian

Member
Right, and many of those instances it is talking about Paul. Why is he called Saul after he changed his name to Paul? He is not, He was called both Paul and Saul.
In Acts, sure. But there’s evidence to suggest he did indeed change his name, as I’ve touched on already.
But he did not have to change his name to do that, because he had a Roman name. As he says:

1 Cor 9:20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might gain Jews; to those who are under the Law, I became as one under the Law, though not being under the Law myself, so that I might gain those who are under the Law; 21 to those who are without the Law, I became as one without the Law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might gain those who are without the Law.

The obvious thing to do was use Saul when talking to Jews and Paul when talking to gentiles. And that seems to be what he did.
It’s not my position that he had to. You say that that is what he seems to have done, but I don’t know on what basis.

In any case, I’m not arguing that Paul didn’t change his name. I’m saying there’s evidence he did, and it’s hardly unreasonable, or indeed embarrassing, to think so.
 

The Pixie

Well-known member
In Acts, sure. But there’s evidence to suggest he did indeed change his name, as I’ve touched on already.
As far as I recall your evidence is "He only ever calls himself Paul in the letters we have from him". That is readily explained because he wrote the letters in Greek, so of course used his Roman name for them.

It’s not my position that he had to. You say that that is what he seems to have done, but I don’t know on what basis.
Because that is what the Bible says - he was called Paul and Saul, not that he changed his name.

In any case, I’m not arguing that Paul didn’t change his name. I’m saying there’s evidence he did, and it’s hardly unreasonable, or indeed embarrassing, to think so.
The claim that Paul changed his name is unreasonable because we have no reason to think he did. If you are saying it is possible he did, then that would be fair enough, but to say firmly that he did is to read into the text something that is not there.

My original point was that the Bible does not say Paul changed his name, and SteveB was wrong to say that it does. I am not really claiming anything beyond that.
 

Lucian

Member
As far as I recall your evidence is "He only ever calls himself Paul in the letters we have from him". That is readily explained because he wrote the letters in Greek, so of course used his Roman name for them.
More fully: He only ever calls himself Paul in the letters we have from him (interestingly, his imitators also only ever use the name).

I've replied to this objection already: Greek is no impediment to using a Hebrew name (much as it's no impediment to using a Latin name, like 'Paul', of course).

Because that is what the Bible says - he was called Paul and Saul, not that he changed his name.
The notion of the Bible saying anything is incoherent. But leaving that aside, to my knowledge nowhere in the Bible is it claimed that he "use[d] Saul when talking to Jews and Paul when talking to gentiles". The verse you're presumably alluding to shows that at some point he went by both names, but that's no evidence that he didn't later leave one behind.
The claim that Paul changed his name is unreasonable because we have no reason to think he did. If you are saying it is possible he did, then that would be fair enough, but to say firmly that he did is to read into the text something that is not there.
I'm not firmly saying that he he did. But it's incorrect to say we've no reason.
My original point was that the Bible does not say Paul changed his name, and SteveB was wrong to say that it does. I am not really claiming anything beyond that.
Alas, you've just claimed rather more.

I should also add to my previous answer to this question: Why would he give up his Hebrew name?

that it may have suited Paul to carry a name that in Greek and Latin implies that he was of little account, despite his position in the Church.
 

The Pixie

Well-known member
More fully: He only ever calls himself Paul in the letters we have from him (interestingly, his imitators also only ever use the name).
Do you feel that that makes it any more like Paul changed his name than how I phrased it?

I've replied to this objection already: Greek is no impediment to using a Hebrew name (much as it's no impediment to using a Latin name, like 'Paul', of course).
It makes more sense for him to use his gentile name when writing to gentiles in a gentile language. That is what we would expect.

It is possible he changed his name, but the fact that he used Paul in his letters is very poor evidence for that.

The notion of the Bible saying anything is incoherent.
Seriously? You want to go hyperliteralist?

But leaving that aside, to my knowledge nowhere in the Bible is it claimed that he "use[d] Saul when talking to Jews and Paul when talking to gentiles". The verse you're presumably alluding to shows that at some point he went by both names, but that's no evidence that he didn't later leave one behind.
I agree it is not evidence that he didn't later leave one behind, but neither is it evidence he did.

The Bible does not say either way.

I'm not firmly saying that he he did. But it's incorrect to say we've no reason.
Okay, if you prefer the evidence is extremely weak, and it is more likely he simply had two names.

I should also add to my previous answer to this question: Why would he give up his Hebrew name?

that it may have suited Paul to carry a name that in Greek and Latin implies that he was of little account, despite his position in the Church.
Okay, so how does that fit the question?

Just to be clear on your position here, do you think Paul only ever had one name at a time - originally he was called Saul, and not Paul; later he was Paul and not Saul?
 

Lucian

Member
Do you feel that that makes it any more like Paul changed his name than how I phrased it?
Yes.
It makes more sense for him to use his gentile name when writing to gentiles in a gentile language. That is what we would expect.
What's a 'gentile language'? Why would we expect the use of a Latin name in Greek but not a Hebrew name, bearing in mind we find the Hebrew name in Greek in Acts on many occasions?
It is possible he changed his name, but the fact that he used Paul in his letters is very poor evidence for that.
That's not the argument. Rather, it's that at no time in the extensive Pauline corpus does the name Saul occur, whereas 'Paul' is used regularly.
Seriously? You want to go hyperliteralist?
I don't follow. The idea that 'the Bible says x' is incoherent, though popular among Christian fundamentalists.
I agree it is not evidence that he didn't later leave one behind, but neither is it evidence he did.

The Bible does not say either way.
Again, the notion of the Bible saying anything is incoherent.

Of course the fact that he went by two names isn't evidence that he later left one of them behind. But I didn't say any such thing.
Okay, if you prefer the evidence is extremely weak, and it is more likely he simply had two names.
I don't find this preferable.


Okay, so how does that fit the question?
I don’t know what you’re asking me here.

Just to be clear on your position here, do you think Paul only ever had one name at a time - originally he was called Saul, and not Paul; later he was Paul and not Saul?
No.
 
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