Up to this point I've considered that Saul's name changed to Paul when he became a Christian but that's not really true.

In Acts 13:9, the first time the name Paul is used, we read

9 But Saul, who was also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze on him,

meaning that the names were interchangeable.

Considering that Paul inherited the rights of Roman citizenship from his father (Acts 22:28) and that, as William Ramsay notes in St. Paul the traveler page 81,

It was the fashion for every Syrian, or Cilician, or Cappadocian, who prided himself on his Greek education and his knowledge of the Greek language, to bear a Greek name; but at the same time he had his other name in the native language, by which he was known among his countrymen in general.

does this mean Paul had also a Jewish, Saul, and a Roman name, Paul?

  • 1
    Psaul. . . . . .
    – R. Emery
    Commented Aug 19, 2020 at 20:04

1 Answer 1


It was extremely common in NT times for people to have more than one name precisely for the same reason that it often occurs today - people speak more than one language and they have a different name in each language. In NT times Jews often had a Hebrew/Aramaic name plus a Greek name. A few had three names - one for Hebrew, Greek and Latin. Here is a sample:

  • Levi/Matthew, Matt 9:9, Mark 2:14
  • Simon/Peter/Cephas, Mark 3:16
  • Joseph/Barsabbas/JustusActs 1:23
  • John/Mark, Acts 12:12
  • Dorcas/Tabitha, Acts 9:36
  • Joseph/Barnabas, Acts 4:36
  • Simon/Niger, Acts 13:1
  • Saul/Paul, Acts 13:9
  • Thomas/Didymus, John 11:16

Thus, I agree that Saul did not change his name but was known by both his Hebrew name, Saul, and his Greek/Latin name, Paul.

  • Levi and Matthew are both Hebrew names; same for Joseph and Barnabas.
    – Lucian
    Commented Aug 20, 2020 at 0:30
  • Matthew is composed of Mattan (2 Kings 11:18; 2 Chronicles 23:17; Jeremiah 38:1) and Yahweh, the former two being equivalent to Nathan(ael). Bar is the Hebrew for son of, a frequent biblical expression (hence bar mitzvah).
    – Lucian
    Commented Aug 20, 2020 at 0:48
  • Its non-Hellenized Hebrew equivalent, Mattithiah, appears six times in 1 Chronicles, and twice in Ezra-Nehemiah. Another version of the name, Mattaniah, appears fifteen times within the same books, and once in 2 Kings.
    – Lucian
    Commented Aug 20, 2020 at 8:07
  • Thanks @Lucian - very helpful.
    – Dottard
    Commented Aug 20, 2020 at 8:50
  • @ Lucian or was Μαθθαῖος already an existing Greek name by the first century, such that Levi was his Hebrew name and Μαθθαῖος his Greek name? Since there was no requirement that a person's Hebrew & Greek names carry the same meaning. It wouldn't be surprising if his name was Hebrew and it was Matityahu, but the text doesn't actually say that. Commented Mar 27, 2021 at 18:17

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