The Name Of Paul -- By: Colin J. Hemer

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 36:1 (NA 1985)
Article: The Name Of Paul
Author: Colin J. Hemer


The Name Of Paul

Colin J. Hemer

It is generally recognised that Paul, as a Roman citizen, must have possessed a full Roman name, in fact the tria nomina (three names). ‘Paulus’ was his cognomen, but his praenomen and nomen are quite unknown to us. When a provincial was enfranchised, as when a slave was freed, he automatically assumed the praenomen and nomen of his patron and transmitted it to his descendants. This is a valuable principle of epigraphic dating, for the mention of persons named ‘Ti. Claudius’ or ‘T. Flavius’ immediately set a terminus a quo in the time of Claudius or of Vespasian

According to Acts 22:28 Paul was born a Roman citizen. If his family bore the names of a Roman benefactor, the origin must be sought in a previous generation, presumably in the person of a famous Roman who had favoured Tarsus, and bestowed citizenship on some of its leading citizens. If we cannot explain Paul’s citizenship in this way, we can only confess our total ignorance of the circumstances.1

The three eminent Romans associated with the East and with Tarsus in particular in the preceding period were Pompey, Caesar and Antony, the two latter especially being linked favourably with Tarsus. There is then the possibility - we can say no more - that Paul might have been Cn. Pompeiu Paulus, C. Julius Paulus or M. Antonius Paulus.

The purpose of this note is to draw attention to an inscription from Naples which illustrates the question of Paul’s name and identity at three separate points:

Dis manib./L. Antonius Leo, q./et Neon, Zoili f.,/ natio. Cilix, mil. cl./ pr. Mis. 7 III Asclepio,/ vixit annos XADT/,/ militavit an. VIIII,/ C. Iulius Paulus he/ res cur. egit. (CIL 10.3377 = Dessau ILS 2839).

It may be helpful first to expand the abbreviations and then to translate the text.

Dis manib(us). L(ucius) Antonius Leo, q(ui) et Neon Zoili f(iiius), natio(ne) Cilix, mil(es) cl(assis) pr(aetoriae) Mis(enensis) (centuria) (triere) Asclepio, vixit annos XXVII, militavit an (nos) VIIII, (Gaius) -ulius Paulus heres cur(am) egit.

‘To the spirits of the dead. L. Antonius Leo, also called Neon, son of Zoilus, by nation a Cilician, a soldier of the praetorian fleet at Misenum, from the century the trireme “Asclepius”, lived 27 years, served 9 years. C. Julius Paulus his heir undertook the work [of his burial]’.

The young sailor Leo was a very different kind of person from Paul, and the initial invocation is enough to...

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