top of page

Why Did Paul Change His Name?

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!

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.  He was both Jewish and a Roman citizen not to mention an orthodox rabbi.  He studied under Gamaliel, one of the most respected Jewish scholars 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.  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.

‘Also’ not ‘Instead Of’

Many years later, as he traveled throughout the known world seeking to help both Jews and Gentiles discover a dynamic, personal relationship with the King of the Universe, the Bible refers to the fact that he had two names.

Then Saul, who was also called Paul… (Acts 13:9, emphasis mine)

Sadly, for centuries Christians have taught that Saul changed his name to Paul after he became a believer.  In other words, he had to get rid of his Jewish name and take on a Christian one.  This is unreasonable on two levels.

There were no ‘Christian’ names in the First Century!

First, why would a Roman name be synonymous with a Christian name?  Roman heritage was a pagan polytheistic (belief in many gods) heritage and Rome became the primary persecutor of the body of believers for the first three hundred years.  Furthermore, there was no such thing as a  Christian Name! The name Paul only became a Christian name because of Paul. 

Secondly, if Saul truly changed his name from a Jewish one to a Roman one, then why did he wait so many years after coming to faith to do so?

Jews Get Two Names

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 the area in which they live and then also a Hebrew name.  My English name is Ron, but my parents also gave me the name Chaim, which means "life" in Hebrew. (Nevertheless, I go by Ron here in Israel because it is also an accepted Hebrew name and way cooler!)

When Saul was traveling in non-Jewish areas, he used his Roman name.  Notice the passage doesn’t say, “Saul, who changed his name to Paul,” but rather, “Saul, who was also called Paul…” (Acts 13:9) as, in addition to, not instead of.

Just today, I was listening to one of my favorite teachers on my iPod while jogging.  This man is an excellent Bible teacher and he loves Israel.  He and his church have given sacrificially to the body of believers here. In his message, he referred to when Yeshua appeared to “Saul”… then adding that he used Saul and not Paul because that is what “his name was then.”  If someone so bright and anointed can miss this simple point, how easy has it been for the enemy to rob Saul, the second greatest figure in the New Covenant, of his Jewish identity and thus confuse the nature of the New Covenant?

What’s the big deal?

Good question… for which there is an answer. The enemy has worked hard to blind the Jewish people to Yeshua. However, the ancient Church has helped by de-Judaizing many of the central characters of the New Testament. Paul is not presented as Sha’ul, a learned rabbi who followed the Jewish Messiah, but as a former Jew who started a religion foreign to Judaism.

Certainly, this was not the case in his mind as he states, “For this reason, therefore, I have called for you…, because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain” (Acts 28:20). In the mind of Sha’ul, he is 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.

Footnote: The name Paulos in Greek means small or humble. If Paul did take on this name later in life, it would not have been to separate himself from his Jewishness (See Acts 21:20ff, Acts 23:6), but more a nickname that may have been given to him to reflect his humility, as he calls himself the least of the apostles and even the worst of sinners. Of course, his embracing such a nickname would not have been so humble, so I  am inclined to believe that he did indeed have a Jewish name and a Greek name.

Can you think of some other ways in which the gospel has been cleansed of its Jewishness? Use the comments section below.

*Originally published on January 7, 2013

1,102 views3 comments

Recent Posts

See All


Dennis Hansel
Dennis Hansel
Dec 01, 2022

My great grandfather went by James, but his given name was Vaclav which I believe is Czech for James. While Saul had Roman citizenship the common gentile language in Asia Minor, Thrace, Phillipi, Greece and the Levant was Greek not Latin. I was taught that Paul was Saul's Greek name.

This gentile believer is just thankful that the Hebrew scriptures, gospels and the teaching of the apostles are translated into my language.


Dec 01, 2022

😀Maybe Saul was a bad name because of King Saul. Just kidding.


Thank you for this , Ron. I agree , it’s important to pay attention to the smallest detail. When one idea can change the way a group of people hear and understand it’s imperative that we know and continue to seek the truth. I so appreciate that you share with us . I have a new group of spiritually hungry pre- saved friends and this article will help me . I ordered Peter Scezzeros new book- thanks for sharing that also. Blessings to you and Elana and family.

Ebook 2.jpg

Get Ron's Book, "The Coming End-Time Awakening" FREE

When you Subscribe to Ron's emails from Israel.




Short Bio

PROFILE v3.png

Shalom from Israel! I am Ron Cantor and this is my blog. I serve as the President of Shelanu TV.

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • YouTube

Shelanu TV

Image by Josh Appel
eMailer-MAY20-ShelanuTV 2.png

"We reached 260,000 Israelis in just two weeks. With your help we can do this every week!"

bottom of page