I have a question. Why did a Jewish man get rid of his Jewish name when he began to follow the Jewish Messiah? Sounds suspect, doesn’t it? Because it is!
If I had a shekel for every time I heard a New Testament teacher say that Paul got rid of his Jewish name after becoming a believer, I would be a milyard—that’s Hebrew for millionaire.
The central author of the New Covenant—at least of the letters to the congregations—was a fellow by the name of Saul of Tarsus—or Shaul in Hebrew. He was both a Jewish and a Roman citizen, not to mention an orthodox rabbi.
He studied under Gamaliel, one of the most respected Jewish scholars and rabbis of his day. He was so zealous for God and convinced that Jewish people who believed in Yeshua were deceived that he sought to arrest Jewish believers and even approved the stoning to death of Stephen, a leader among the first Jewish believers (Acts 7:58, 8:1).
However, on his way to Damascus to arrest believers, he was knocked to the ground and blinded by a great light (by the way, there was no horse involved—where do people get that?). Anyway… Yeshua spoke to him and convinced him that he was on the wrong side of this issue. After this dramatic encounter, he became a believer and began to share the good news of Yeshua with the Jewish people and then the nations.
In Acts 13:9 it says. “Saul, who was also called Paul.”
As I said, many have taught that Saul changed his name to Paul after he became a believer. In other words, he had to get rid of his yukky Jewish name and take on a Christian one. This is ludicrous for one obvious reason.
There were no ‘Christian’ names in the First Century! Roman heritage was a pagan polytheistic heritage—The reason the name Paul became a popular Christian name was because of Paul. That is like saying Michael Jordan’s family name comes from the expensive shoes that bear his name. No…without the greatness of Michael Jordan, the basketball player, there are no Air Jordans.
In addition, anyone who grew up in a Jewish home outside of Israel would know that it is common for Jewish people to have two names, one that is connected to their native land and a Hebrew name. My English name is Ron, but my parents also gave me the name Chaim, which is Hebrew for life. I want to hear you at home say CHHHaim, and if there isn’t at least a little saliva on your TV screen, you’re not saying it right!
Now when Saul was traveling in non-Jewish areas, he used his Roman name—Paul. Notice the passage doesn’t say, “Saul, who changed his name to Paul,” but rather, “Saul, who was also called Paul…” as ‘in addition to.’
There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Paul ever changed his name.
“Ron, What’s the big deal?”
Good question… for which there is an answer. You see, the enemy has worked hard to blind the Jewish people to the fact that Yeshua is Israel’s Messiah. However, the ancient Church helped by de-Judaizing many of the central figures of the New Testament. Paul is not presented as Saul, a learned rabbi who followed the Jewish Messiah, but as a former Jew who started a new religion foreign and opposed to Judaism.
Certainly, this was not the case, for he states in Acts, where he is addressing Jewish leaders, “For this reason, therefore, I have called for you…, because for the hope of Israel, I am bound with this chain” (Acts 28:20). Saul was not suffering for a new religion, but the hope of Israel.
Let’s expose this Identity Theft and present Yeshua to the Jewish people in His original Jewish/Hebraic context.