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Acts 13:9 appears to record the moment Saul's name changes to Paul:

Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said...

(Prior to this time, he was always called Saul; after this, he is always called Paul.)

Why did he change his name? I guess it was somehow to break with his past and may have been related to Simon being renamed Peter but I don't know more than that.

Is there something significant in the two names?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

Interestingly, unlike other biblical characters, we are never told of a "name change" with reference to Paul. Rather, Acts 13:9 tells us that Saul "also is called Paul."

Given that Paul was, according to Acts, born a Roman citizen, it is highly likely that he had a Roman name (Paulus) from birth. At the same time, his parents were devout Jews, and therefore gave him a traditional Hebrew name (Saul).

Why then the switch in usage in Acts? Recall that at his conversion, Paul saw of vision of Jesus and was informed that he would be sent to the Gentiles. The Antioch church was a mixture of Jews and Gentiles, and Paul was probably known predominantly as Saul there, at least at first. The switch in usage comes early on his first missionary journey, in connection with Paul's missionary efforts to convert a Gentile proconsul.

In view of all this, therefore, the probability is that Saul, as "the apostle to the Gentiles," chose to use his Roman name as a matter of connection to his Gentile audience.

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Did you think it had something to do with the proconsul, Lucius Sergius Paulus, also having the name Paulus? – Matthew Miller May 30 '13 at 7:17
That's an interesting thought, Matthew. I don't really lean that way, though. I seems to me that since he was primarily working among Gentiles, he would have gone this route regardless. On the other hand, the fact that Luke is talking about Sergius Paulus may have prompted him to mention Paul's other name specifically at this point. – Tim Gallant May 30 '13 at 13:05

1Sa 9:2 And he had a son, whose name [was] Saul, a choice young man, and a goodly: and [there was] not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he: from his shoulders and upward [he was] higher than any of the people.

Php 3:5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, [of] the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Php 3:6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.


Both Sauls were of the tribe of Benjamin.

Goodly person - Hebrew of Hebrews

Both Sauls were from respectable families.

higher than the people - a Pharisee

The Pharisees sought praise for their outward obedience to the law.

At war

Saul the king offered his own sacrifice not waiting for the prophet in order to zealously go to war. Saul the Pharisee in his own religious zeal did not wait for a word from God to wage war on the church.

Power removed

King Saul lost his kingdom because of his rouge sacrifice. Pharisee Saul lost his power in Israel because of his murderous rampage in the name of God.


King Saul could no longer discern God, even attempting to gain an audience through a medium. Pharisee Saul was struck blind.

Are these parallels accidental? When Pharisee Saul is renamed to Paul, the parallel with King Saul is broken.

2Co 5:17 Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Saul means 'desired'. In keeping with his new nature Paul means 'small or little'.

Eph 3:8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;

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+1 Fascinating parallels. – Kazark Jun 8 '12 at 19:43
Take a look at Obediah as a shadow of Paul's writings sometime: 1 ¶ The vision of Obadiah. Thus saith the Lord GOD concerning Edom; We have heard a rumour from the LORD, and an ambassador is sent among the heathen, ... – Bob Jones Jun 8 '12 at 20:19
The parallels are all excellent observations, and I think they are significant. In fact, I think that even more could be said, such as the fact that Saul was waging war against God's anointed king, David; "Saul II" was waging war against God's anointed (messiah) king, the Son of David. I don't believe, however, that there was a change of name; and given the early parts of Romans 11, I'm not convinced that Paul himself is concerned to "break" the connection. – Tim Gallant May 30 '13 at 13:10

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