🔼The name Paul: Summary
- A Small Whisper That Propagates Into A Roaring Multitude
- From the adjective paulus, little or small.
- From (1) the verb פעה (pa'a), to propagate a call for support, and (2) the letter ל (lamed), onto.
🔼The name Paul in the Bible
The name Paul that shows up in English Bibles is really the Latin name Paulos. For some reason, the translators of old have chosen to truncate most of the Latin and Greek names of the Bible into the form we know them as. But in other languages (Dutch for instance), the apostle Paul is known as Paulus.
Saul, a Benjaminite and Hellenistic Jew was a Pharisee (Philippians 3:5) trained by Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). He fiercely opposed Christianity at first. He assisted during the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:58) and severely persecuted Christians (Acts 8:3). But he had an encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus and was blind for three days because of it (Acts 9:3, 9:9). While his eyesight was coming back, he embraced the gospel. He traveled all over the known world, often alone but also accompanied by John-Mark (Acts 13:13), Luke (Colossians 4:14), Silas (Acts 15:40), Timothy and others (Acts 20:4).
The Lord appeared to Paul a second time and told him that he had to go to Rome and witness of him there (Acts 23:11). Paul achieved this by appealing to Caesar while being heard by Porcius Festus (Acts 25:12). According to Ignatius of Antioch, Paul was martyred. That happened probably in the second half of the sixties, on orders of emperor Nero.
The name Paul occurs 163 times in the New Testament; see full concordance.
🔼Etymology of the name Paul
The name Paul (or rather Paulos) is part of a group very common Latin and Greek words, which show up all over the classics, and which all have to do with limitedness or minuteness. The Greek word παυρος (pauros) means feeble or little, and παυω (pauo — remotely related, says Spiros Zodhiates) means to stop, retrain, desist (Luke 5:4, Ephesians 1:16). Latin words from this pool are paulatim, meaning gradually or little by little; paulisper, meaning for a little while and paululus, meaning very little. The adjective paulus means little or small. The noun paulum means a little.
🔼The name Paul to a Hebrew audience
Anybody with knowledge of Hebrew would have noticed the obvious association of the name Paul with the Hebrew verb פעה (pa'a), to propagate a call for support from mind to mind. Paul's most effective method of spreading the gospel was not to boom it into stadiums, or sugar-coat it, or market it subliminally, but by allowing it to propagate through populations on the merit of its own attractiveness:
The verb פעה (pa'a) describes a verbal expression that propagates through a population by merit of its positive or negative appeal rather than its substance or usefulness (although it might have substance or be useful). It's used to describe the bleating of sheep, the rallying cry of a warrior and the calls of a woman who enters labor and needs the help of her kin.
Noun אפע ('epa') describes the fate of a rumor that doesn't pan out under scrutiny. Noun אפעה ('epa'a) describes a mental serpent, namely the contagious nature of an alarm cry (with or without good cause).
To an audience playful enough, the name Paul would have reminded of a combination of the verb פעה (pa'a) and the letter ל (lamed), which means goad (Acts 26:14):
The particle ל (le) means to or onto and may describe a physical or mental motion toward or a behavioral effort, an evolutionary one or express determination or purpose. The name of this letter, lamed, describes a cattle prod or goad.
Altogether the name Paul describes how a very small initial whisper may build up to a massive roaring multitude, if the initial whisper contains the Creator (1 Kings 19:12, James 3:5, 1 Kings 18:44).