Paul, Apostle of Christ: a scene guide (with clips and scriptural references)

Two years ago, I wrote up scene guides for Risen and The Young Messiah. Now that Paul, Apostle of Christ has been in theatres for a whole weekend, I’m going to do a scene guide for that film too, noting all the many, many passages from the New Testament that are woven into the script — or at least as many as I could detect!

Because some scenes from the film have been made available online, I have also included those in the scene guide where appropriate.

Timecodes are approximate, based on an online screener that I watched a few times.

0:40-6:45 — Luke arrives in Rome

The opening titles set the film in Rome in AD 67, during the persecution that took place under Nero after a great fire destroyed much of the city. The fire itself took place in AD 64, and the persecution that followed is mentioned by the ancient Roman historians Tacitus (who wrote the Annals c. AD 116) and Suetonius (who wrote The Lives of the Caesars c. AD 121). References to Paul’s death appear in Christian writings as early as I Clement in the AD 90s, but the earliest reference that explicitly links Paul’s martyrdom to the reign of Nero is in The Acts of Paul, an apocryphal text that was written c. AD 160.

The opening titles mention that Saul of Tarsus is known to the Romans as Paul. The fact that Saul (or Paul) comes from Tarsus, the capital city of Cilicia — a region on the Mediterranean coast of what is now Turkey — is mentioned in a few verses in Acts (9:11,30; 11:25; 21:39; 22:3) but not in any of Paul’s epistles.

The name Saul is used frequently in the book of Acts, between chapters 7 and 13, but is then never used again except when Paul tells the story of his conversion and quotes what other people said to him, in chapters 22 and 26. Interestingly, the book of Acts switches from one name to the other in Acts 13:9, when Paul is talking to a Roman official whose name is also Paul; the official’s name is typically translated “Sergius Paulus” in English Bibles, but both Paul and Paulus are called “Paulos” in the original Greek.

The opening titles mention — and the first scene shows — that Christians are being burned to death in the streets. This appears to be based on the passage in Tacitus which states that some Christians “were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.” The immediate context of that passage seems to indicate that this took place in Nero’s gardens, though, rather than in the street.

Luke’s arrival in the city, and his prominent role throughout the film, are based on Paul’s statement that “only Luke” was with him as he awaited his death (II Timothy 4:11).

Luke meets Priscilla and Aquila, in that order. Aquila and Priscilla were Roman Jews who moved to Corinth after the emperor Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome (Acts 18:2; the expulsion of the Jews from Rome is also mentioned by Suetonius). There, in Corinth, Aquila and Priscilla began working with Paul, who was a tentmaker just like Aquila. Eventually Aquila and Priscilla traveled with Paul to Ephesus and stayed there while Paul continued on his travels (Acts 18:19). Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, believed to have been written in Ephesus, sends greetings from Aquila and Priscilla (I Corinthians 16:19). It appears that they moved back to Rome eventually, because when Paul wrote his letter to the Romans a few years later, he sends greetings to them there (Romans 16:3). But they might not have been there when this movie takes place; Paul’s second letter to Timothy — believed to have been written as he was awaiting his martyrdom — also sends greetings to Aquila and Priscilla (II Timothy 4:19), which suggests they had left Rome by then.

The fact that Luke meets Priscilla first — and that the actress who plays her is mentioned in the credits before the actor who plays her husband — may be a subtle nod to the fact that nearly every reference to this couple in the New Testament puts Priscilla’s name first.

Aquila tells Tarquin to speak with Rufus (and another person whose name I couldn’t make out) about the supplies they need. Paul sent greetings to Rufus in Romans 16:13 and even mentioned that Rufus’s mother “has been a mother to me, too.” Even more intriguingly, Mark 15:21, the canonical gospel that has traditionally been associated with the Roman church, tells us that Simon of Cyrene had a son named Rufus. If that’s the same Rufus, then it means that one of the Christians hiding from Nero’s soldiers in this film is the son of the man who helped Jesus carry his cross — though the film never gets into that.

6:45-8:00 — Luke has dinner with Priscilla and Aquila

Luke says things have gotten worse in Rome since his previous visit with Paul. This may be a reference to their arrival in Rome in Acts 28:11-16, when Paul appealed to Nero so he wouldn’t have to face his Jewish opponents in Judea. The book of Acts is traditionally said to have been written by Luke, and Paul’s arrival in Rome is one of several passages in that book that are written in the first person plural (“we got to Rome,” etc.). On that occasion, Paul stayed in Rome for two years (Acts 28:30), generally dated to AD 60-62.

Aquila says men, women and children are being torn apart by beasts in the circus, to the laughter of the crowd. This, too, comes from Tacitus, though Tacitus — who detested the Christians and believed they deserved to be killed by Nero! — says the Romans began to feel “compassion” for the Christians because it seemed to them that the Christians were not being killed “for the public good but to glut one man’s cruelty.”

Priscilla tells Luke there are many people in the community who need a physician. Paul calls Luke “the doctor” in Colossians 4:14, when Luke sends greetings to Paul’s readers.

8:00-9:50 — Paul meets the new prison prefect

Paul is in the Mamertime prison. The name “Mamertime” comes from the Middle Ages; in Paul’s day it was known as the Tullianum, and it was already several centuries old.

A few point-of-view shots indicate that Paul is having trouble with his eyesight, and Paul confirms this when he speaks to Luke a little bit later. There are several passages in the New Testament that indicate Paul had trouble with his eyes. He was blind for a brief period after his first vision of Jesus (Acts 9:8-18, 22:11-13), he appears not to have recognized the Jewish high priest at one point (Acts 23:1-5), and in his epistle to the Galatians, he mentions an illness he endured while he was with them, and he says he knows the Galatians would have torn out their eyes and given them to him if it had been possible to do so (Galatians 4:13-15). He also comments on how large his handwriting is when he signs the epistle (Galatians 6:11).

Paul is also bald in this film, which is how he is traditionally depicted in Christian iconography. (It is also how he was depicted in the David C. Cook comic-book adaptation of the Bible that I grew up with.) And Mauritius, the new prison prefect, comments that Paul is not standing up straight. Details like these may or may not be nods to the tradition that Paul was “a man little of stature, thin-haired upon the head [and] crooked in the legs,” which go back at least as far as the apocryphal Acts of Paul, which was written c. AD 160 — though Paul himself does admit in one of his epistles that he was not always as impressive in person as he seemed to be in his letters (II Corinthians 10:10), which may refer to his physical appearance as well as to the “timidity” with which he spoke to people.

Paul is told that he will be executed by beheading. While Paul’s martyrdom is alluded to in earlier texts, the detail that he was beheaded is first attested in The Acts of Paul — which goes on to describe some miracles that allegedly accompanied his death. Paul was supposedly beheaded instead of suffering one of the grislier forms of martyrdom because he was a Roman citizen (as per Acts 16:37-38, 22:23-29 and 23:27).

9:50-14:55 — Luke visits Paul in prison

Luke says “even the Corinthians gave generously, if you can believe it.” Paul’s epistles to the Corinthians indicate that theirs was one of the more troubled churches he had to deal with — and these problems persisted after his death, as I Clement, probably the earliest Christian document outside of the New Testament, was also addressed to them.

Interestingly, the biblical Paul appears to have rejected the money that the Corinthians sent him, at least earlier in his ministry. In I Corinthians 9:1-18, he defends his right to work for a living instead of accepting money from the Corinthian church. This may have been because the Corinthian church was divided between people who claimed to follow different leaders (I Corinthians 1:1-16), and Paul wanted to stay neutral and did not want any would-be sponsors to claim bragging rights over their support of his ministry. We do know that Paul accepted gifts from other churches (e.g. Philippians 4:10-19).

Paul mentions his weak eyesight. See above for more details on that.

Luke mentions that Paul “stood alone” at his trial. Paul writes in II Timothy 4:16 that “no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me” at his first defense, adding: “May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength…”

Luke says there is good news in Crete and Ephesus, where Titus and Timothy have “silenced the false teachers and straightened out the good doctrine.” Titus was indeed in Crete at one point (Titus 1:5), and Paul did tell him to “silence” the false teachers there (Titus 1:10-14) and to teach “sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1), but Paul’s second letter to Timothy — the writing of which is part of the narrative of this film — indicates that Titus had gone to Dalmatia by the time this movie occurs (II Timothy 4:10). As for Timothy’s presence in Ephesus, Paul told Timothy, in his first letter, to stay in Ephesus and tell people to stop teaching “false doctrines” there (I Timothy 1:3).

Paul says he can’t tell the Roman Christians whether to stay in the city or leave because, in his own experience, Christ has forced him to change his own plans. This may refer to episodes like the one in Acts 16:6-7, where Paul and his companions were “kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia,” and then, when they tried to enter Bithynia, “the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.”

14:55-17:25 — Luke speaks to Priscilla and Aquila

Luke says Paul is grateful that Priscilla and Aquila have risked their lives for the community in Rome. In Romans 16:4, Paul says that they had “risked their lives” for him.

17:25-19:55 — Luke visits Paul in prison again

Paul says “Christ has promised these difficult times.” This may refer to passages like Mark 13:9-13, Matthew 24:9-14 and Luke 21:12-19, where Jesus links the preaching of the gospel to the fact that his followers will be persecuted, even by members of their own families.

Paul says “I know the one in whom I believe.” This is a paraphrase of II Timothy 1:12.

Luke says “The Way is growing.” The early Christian movement is called “The Way” in several passages throughout the book of Acts (e.g. 9:2, 10:47, 19:9, 22:4 and 24:14).

Luke says he wrote an account of Jesus’ life for Theophilus, and that there must be a record of Paul’s “acts” as well. The two books attributed to Luke are both addressed to someone named Theophilus (Luke 1:3, Acts 1:1), but because the name literally means “God-lover”, it has been theorized that Theophilus was not an actual person but a general stand-in for all readers who love God and want to know more about him.

Notably, the book of Acts spends several chapters talking about the growth of the church under Peter and the other apostles before even mentioning Paul, but there is no indication in this film that the book Luke is going to write will cover those stories.

Incidentally, most scholars believe that the books attributed to Luke — including his gospel — were written a decade or two after the events depicted in this film.

Paul is reluctant to be the subject of a biography, fearing that people will look to him before they look to Christ. The biblical Paul, on the other hand, urged people to imitate him (I Corinthians 4:16), offered himself as a model to imitate (II Thessalonians 3:9), and said, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (I Corinthians 11:1).

Luke says he never met Christ in the flesh. An ancient tradition, however, says Luke was the unnamed disciple who saw the resurrected Jesus on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35), and in Orthodox churches, at least, he is said to have been one of the Seventy (or Seventy-Two) Apostles who were sent by Jesus to preach to the Jewish communities throughout Galilee during his lifetime (as per Luke 10:1-20).

Luke says he became a Christian in Troas. This presumably stems from the fact that the first of the “we” passages in Acts — the first passage in which the author of Acts is involved in the action himself — takes place after Paul visits Troas (Acts 16:8-10).

19:55-21:15 — Luke speaks to Mauritius

21:15-22:30 — Luke witnesses persecution in the streets

A Christian is burned “like a candle” in the street. See above for more details about that.

22:30-29:25 — The Christians discuss whether to stay in Rome

Priscilla says Jesus said he was sending his followers out amongst the wolves, Aquila replies that he also said they should be wise as serpents, and Priscilla replies that Jesus said they should be innocent as doves. They are quoting Luke 10:3 and Matthew 10:16.

Aquila asks Eubulus to tell the community how they can leave Rome undetected. Eubulus is one of the people who sends greetings to Timothy in II Timothy 4:21.

Aquila says Nero is the one responsible for burning half the city to the ground, but this is only one of several theories as to what caused the fire, and there are reasons to doubt it. The Christians might be scapegoating Nero here just as Nero was scapegoating them.

29:25-32:55 — Paul talks about Stephen’s martyrdom

Paul says he was in the Jerusalem Temple, while Stephen was bringing charity to widows and orphans. Paul says in Acts 22:3 that he was born in Tarsus but brought up in Jerusalem, where he studied under the famous teacher Gamaliel. Stephen, for his part, was one of seven Hellenistic Jews who were put in charge of food distribution within the early church because the widows among them had been overlooked (Acts 6:1-6).

Paul says he was “blameless in the ancient Law of Israel” (Philippians 3:6).

Paul says he and others “spread lies” about Stephen that resulted in his martyrdom. Acts 6:11-14 does say that “false witnesses” testified against Stephen before the Sanhedrin, but Paul is not explicitly identified as one of these witnesses; the first time the book of Acts mentions him at all is when he guards the coats at Stephen’s stoning (Acts 7:58).

Paul says Stephen taught that the Temple was no longer the only place where God could be worshipped. This point is clearest in Acts 7:48-50, where Stephen quotes Isaiah 66:1-2.

Paul quotes Stephen’s final words from Acts 7:59-60, and says he vowed in that moment to destroy everyone who spoke of Jesus as the Messiah (Acts 8:1-3).

The violence-filled flashback segues into a dream about the people Paul killed, and he wakes up and repeats the phrase, “Your grace is sufficient.” This echoes II Corinthians 12:9, where Paul says God told him his grace would be sufficient for him in his weaknesses.

32:55-34:25 — Mauritius and his assistant talk about Paul

Mauritius’s assistant says he has heard rumours to the effect that Paul is a magician, a god, and a madman. Paul was called a god on at least two occasions (Acts 14:11-13 and 28:6), and a Roman procurator once said Paul’s learning was driving him “insane” (Acts 26:24).

34:25-36:20 — Paul tells Luke about his thorn in the flesh

Paul is woken from a nightmare and mistakes Luke’s words for the words Jesus spoke when he called out Saul’s name on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:4, 22:7 and 26:14).

Paul says a devil keeps reminding him of his “thorn in the flesh”. The phrase comes from II Corinthians 12, where Paul says he asked God to remove this “thorn” three times. No one knows exactly what this “thorn” was. Some think it was a physical ailment, like his poor eyesight, and others think it was a temptation that he struggled with. This film posits that it was the guilt he felt because of all the people he persecuted when he was younger.

36:20-38:05 — Mauritius and his wife argue over who’s to blame

38:05-40:35 — Mauritius talks to his friend about Paul

Mauritius’s friend says “assassination is in the air.” Nero had already survived a conspiracy organized by a man named Piso in AD 65. Nero would eventually commit suicide in AD 68, after some of his governors openly rebelled against him.

40:35-43:50 — The church responds to Tarquin’s death

A man asks Luke if it is true that Paul has seen the Messiah. Paul himself said that he saw the risen Jesus, in I Corinthians 9:1 and 15:8. Passages like these may be referring to Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus, but Paul saw only a “bright light” when he heard Jesus’ voice there. However, in Acts 22:17-21, Paul tells a crowd that Jesus once appeared to him when he fell into a trance while praying at the Jerusalem Temple.

Cassius says Aquila never walked with Christ. As with Luke, so here: there is an Orthodox tradition that Aquila was one of the Seventy (or Seventy-Two) Apostles who were sent out by Jesus in Luke 10:1-20.

Luke says “none of us here have walked with Christ.” If the Rufus alluded to earlier is the son of Simon of Cyrene, then it would be interesting to know if Simon himself — who literally walked with Christ to Golgotha — was known to this community! And that’s before we take into account the traditions about Luke and Aquila being part of The Seventy.

Luke says he has seen Paul be beaten, stoned and flogged. The book of Acts describes Paul being stoned (14:16) and flogged (16:23), and Paul claimed that he had been flogged five times, beaten with rods three times and pelted with stones once (II Corinthians 11:24-25). Incidentally, the stoning that Acts refers to took place before Paul went to Troas, and thus before the Luke of this film first met Paul, but I guess Paul could have been stoned a second time between the writing of II Corinthians and the events of this movie.

Luke says, “For we live in the world but we do not wage war as the world does.” This is a quote from II Corinthians 10:3.

43:50-47:00 — Paul talks to Luke about vengeance and love

Paul says, “We cannot repay evil for evil. Evil can only be overcome with good.” This is a paraphrase of Romans 12:7 and 12:21.

Paul offers a description of love (“Love that suffers long,” etc.) that paraphrases I Corinthians 13:4-7. Interestingly, the chapter he quotes is very popular and is now used frequently at weddings and other occasions, but in its original context it had nothing to do with romance or responding to persecution; instead, Paul was trying to address divisions within the Corinthian church over how and when to speak in tongues (note the subject of I Corinthians 12 and I Corinthians 14, on either side of this chapter).

After giving his speech about love, Paul tells Luke to “write it down”. This is interesting, as Luke is supposed to be writing the book of Acts, and these words about love do not appear anywhere in there, nor is there any evidence that Luke helped write I Corinthians (which would have been written years before this movie takes place, in any case).

47:00-52:55 — Paul talks about his conversion to Christianity

The story of Paul’s vision on the road to Damascus, and his baptism at the hands of Ananias, is covered in Acts 9:1-19, 22:3-16 and 26:9-18.

One of Paul’s traveling companions says Paul fell to the ground. All three accounts agree that Paul fell to the ground, but they seem to disagree on whether his companions fell too. Acts 9:7 simply says that Paul’s traveling companions “stood there speechless”, while Paul says in Acts 26:14 that “we all fell to the ground” (emphasis added).

Paul says he deserves death, and Ananias replies, “We all do, yet Christ has set us free.” This dialogue might have been inspired by passages like Romans 3:23 (“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”), Romans 6:23 (“For the wages of sin is death”) and Galatians 5:1 (“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free”).

Luke says Paul spent three years in Arabia after his conversion. This detail is not found in the book of Acts, but comes from one of Paul’s epistles (Galatians 1:17-18) — and what he actually says is that he went to Arabia, returned to Damascus, and then went to Jerusalem “after three years”. So it’s not clear whether he spent most or only some of those three years in Arabia; a portion of those years could have been spent in Damascus.

Paul says he spent three years in Arabia so that he could spend as much time with Christ as Peter and the others had during Jesus’ ministry. The New Testament never specifies that Jesus’ ministry lasted three years; rather, this is inferred from the fact that John’s gospel says Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Passover three times during his ministry (in 2:13-25, 6:4 and chapters 12-19). The other gospels don’t give any timeframe at all.

Incidentally, this is one of only two times that Peter is even mentioned in this film, which is interesting, given that Peter is traditionally believed to have been martyred in Rome around the same time Paul was. Yet there is no reference to that in this film.

52:55-55:00 — Mauritius speaks to Paul and Luke

Paul says he knows that losing a prisoner would mean death for Mauritius and his men. This may be an allusion to the incident in Philippi when a jailer almost committed suicide because he thought Paul and Silas had escaped during an earthquake (Acts 16:25-28). Similarly, some of Herod Agrippa I’s soldiers were executed after Peter escaped from prison (Acts 12:19).

Paul says, “It is for the Lord’s sake that we face death all day, that we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” This is a paraphrase of Psalm 44:22, which Paul quotes in Romans 8:36.

55:00-55:50 — Mauritius prays to a god for his daughter

55:50-58:40 — The church responds to Luke’s imprisonment

58:40-1:00:40 — Luke and Paul look back on their ministry

Luke says he preferred the villa that Paul rented on his previous visit to Rome. Acts 28:30 mentions the house that Paul rented for two years while he was under house arrest.

Paul mentions the hunger he and Luke experienced on their non-stop journeys. This echoes the comments Paul makes about his travels in II Corinthians 11:26-27.

Paul mentions Timothy’s mother. She is mentioned in Acts 16:1 and II Timothy 1:5, the latter of which tells us her name was Eunice.

Paul mentions Peter’s snoring. This is somewhat ironic, as Peter was once forced to sleep between two guards in prison, and he escaped while they were asleep (Acts 12:1-19). Incidentally, this is the second and last reference to Peter in the film.

1:00:40-1:02:05 — Mauritius shows Luke’s manuscript to his friend

Mauritius’s friend says he has heard that Paul is a “charmer of snakes” and someone who can heal the crippled with just a touch of his cloak. Paul survived being bitten by a snake in Acts 28:3-6, and Acts 19:12 says “even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched [Paul] were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.”

1:02:05-1:06:05 — Mauritius goes for a stroll with Paul

Paul says he boasts only of his weaknesses, so that God’s power may rest on him, and he boasts of it gladly. This is a paraphrase of what Paul wrote in II Corinthians 12:9.

Paul says he has never taken a single coin for his missionary work. See above re: Paul’s refusal to take money from the Corinthians while accepting it from the Philippians.

Paul says of God, “His ways are not my ways.” This is a paraphrase of Isaiah 55:8.

1:06:05-1:07:20 — Paul asks Luke to help Mauritius’s daughter

Paul asks Luke why the gospel he wrote talks about the poor, the outcasts and the foreigners so much. Luke does indeed show a more pronounced interest in women, the poor and others than the other gospels do. You can see this, for example, in the Magnificat, where Mary responds to the news that she will be the mother of the Messiah by declaring that the hungry will be filled while the rich are sent away empty, etc.

Also worth noting: Paul’s first epistle to Timothy actually calls a passage from Luke’s gospel (or one of Luke’s sources) “scripture” (I Timothy 5:8, quoting Luke 10:7). Many scholars argue that someone else wrote I Timothy long after Paul’s lifetime, but if it was written by Paul, then he evidently had read Luke’s gospel (or Luke’s source).

Paul says, “Where sin abounds, grace abounds more.” This is a paraphrase of Romans 5:20.

1:07:20-1:11:15 — Mauritius argues with his wife again

1:11:15-1:13:45 — Cassius and friends storm the prison

Paul asks Cassius, “By whose authority do you think Rome has power?” Paul wrote that people should submit to earthly authorities because they were established by God, and that whoever rebels against them “is rebelling against what God has instituted” (Romans 13:1-7).

Paul says, “Christ has already triumphed over every enemy by the cross.” This is a paraphrase of Colossians 2:15, where Paul writes that Christ has triumphed over powers and authorities and has made a public spectacle of them.

1:13:45-1:17:40 — Mauritius interrogates Paul and Luke

Luke says, “Christ, who is Truth, rose from the dead.” Jesus said he was “the Truth” in John 14:6.

Paul says, “If Christ had not risen from the dead, then our preaching is useless, and so is our faith.” This is a paraphrase of what Paul wrote in I Corinthians 15:14.

Paul prays, “Help us finish the race, Father.” Paul compares serving Jesus to running a race in Acts 20:24, I Corinthians 9:24, Galatians 2:2 and 5:7, and II Timothy 4:7.

1:17:40-1:19:15 — Aquila talks to Priscilla

1:19:15-1:21:30 — Luke leads the prisoners in a prayer

Luke quotes Jesus saying on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” As it happens, the only gospel that includes this saying is Luke’s (in 23:34).

Luke and his fellow prisoners recite the Lord’s Prayer, while Priscilla and Aquila recite it with the church community and Paul recites it on his own. Interestingly, everyone — even Luke — is reciting Matthew’s version of the prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) rather than the version found in Luke’s own gospel (Luke 11:2-4), which the Luke of this film has already written.

1:21:30-1:24:20 — Mauritius summons Luke to save his daughter

Luke says the daughter is suffering from a sickness that he once saw on the isle of Rhodes. Acts 21:1 — one of the “we” passages — mentions Paul’s journey through Rhodes.

1:24:20-1:25:35 — Mauritius speaks to Priscilla and Aquila

1:25:35-1:28:40 — Daughter cured, Christians martyred

1:28:40-1:34:40 — Paul speaks to Mauritius and Luke in the garden

Paul tells Luke, “They will know us by our love.” This is very close to a line from a famous song written by a Catholic priest in the 1960s (“They will know we are Christians by our love”). The song was reportedly inspired by John 13:35 (“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another”), but the verse refers specifically to the love that Christians show each other rather than the love they show to non-Christians.

Paul says, “If we live, we live for the Lord. If we die, we die for the Lord. Whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” Luke says the line is brilliant and he now has an ending for his book. Paul’s words actually come from Romans 14:8. Luke goes on to recite the words that he will use to finish the book of Acts, and they are a quotation from Acts 28:30-31.

Luke explains that he’s only going to mention Paul’s first arrest in Rome, and not his current arrest and martyrdom, because he began the book of Acts with Jesus’ proclamation that his followers should spread his word from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth, and the story basically ends when the gospel arrives in Rome. The proclamation Luke refers to is in Acts 1:8. Of course, strictly speaking, Christianity had already spread to Rome before Paul arrived there, otherwise he wouldn’t have written his epistle to the Romans! And Paul may have gone even further from Jerusalem, as he expressed an interest in going to Spain in Romans 15:23-29. (In fact, he said he would visit Rome while “passing through” on his way to Spain; he did not know at the time that he would be arrested and end up spending two years under house arrest in Rome.)

Paul says, “To live is Christ, to die is gain,” and tells Luke to write it down. Again, this is from an epistle that Paul had already written (Philippians 1:21), and not from Luke’s writings.

1:34:40-1:38:50 — Paul dies, the Christians escape

Luke gives Aquila a letter to give to Timothy, and the following voice-over is taken from that letter (the verses used are II Timothy 1:2, 2:8, 1:8-9, 2:8-9, 4:6-7 and 4:22, in that order). The biblical letter asks Timothy to “greet” Priscilla and Aquila, which would seem to suggest that they were not the ones who brought the letter to Timothy, but who knows.

Paul is beheaded. As noted above, the first text that specified how Paul died appears to be The Acts of Paul, an apocryphal 2nd-century text that goes on to describe some miracles that allegedly accompanied Paul’s death (milk spurting from his body, etc.).

1:38:50-1:40:15 — Paul enters the afterlife

1:40:15-1:41:05 — The closing titles

A title card says Paul spent over 30 years traveling and “establishing Christian communities throughout the ancient world.” If Paul died in AD 67, this would mean he began his ministry by AD 36 at the latest. That may be a bit early, though. It’s not clear exactly when Paul became a Christian, but, after the apostles sent him home to Tarsus (Acts 9:30), he seems to have bided his time there until Barnabas fetched him and brought him back to Antioch (Acts 11:25), and it seems that Barnabas fetched Paul during the three-year window between the rise of Claudius in AD 41 (Acts 11:27-30) and the death of Herod Agrippa I in AD 44 (Acts 12:23-25). Paul’s first missionary journey began some time after that (Acts 13:1-3), so it would probably be more accurate to say that he spent about 20 years traveling and establishing new churches.

The end.

June 17 update: The Blu-Ray and iTunes editions of Paul, Apostle of Christ have two deleted scenes, both of which show the young Saul when he was persecuting Christians. (When I interviewed James Faulkner, who plays the older Paul, he said there used to be more scenes in which the younger actor had audible dialogue. These are two of them.)

‘Crucifying the Servants of God’

Saul asks Gamaliel if it is true that the followers of Jesus have been let go with a simple flogging; the flogging itself is mentioned in Acts 5:40. Gamaliel replies that “forty lashes minus one is no simple thing.” Deuteronomy 25:3 specifies that no one must be flogged more than forty times; Paul writes in II Corinthians 11:24 that he himself “received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one” on five occasions.

Saul says “that fisherman” stood in the Temple and “accused the high priest of killing the messiah that God raised from the dead.” The fisherman is Peter (Mark 1:16-18, Matthew 4:18-20, Luke 5:1-11, John 21:1-14), and he made the accusation in Acts 5:30. Gamaliel replies, throughout the scene, by paraphrasing his words in Acts 5:38-39.

Saul says Jesus was “a glutton, a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” Jesus remarked that people were saying these things about him in Matthew 11:19 and Luke 7:34. The phrase “a glutton and a drunkard” also appears in Deuteronomy 21:18-21, which orders the death by stoning of rebellious sons.

Saul says people who die on crosses are cursed by God, according to the Jewish law. The law in question appears in Deuteronomy 21:22-3, and the biblical Paul cites it in Galatians 3:13 in order to say that Jesus has redeemed us from curses like this.

Gamaliel reminds Saul that he taught Saul everything he knows. Paul says in Acts 22:3 that he “studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors.”

‘Followers of the Way’

Saul mentions his circumcision on the eighth day, his membership in the tribe of Benjamin and his affiliation with the Pharisees to establish his credentials to the Jewish leaders. The biblical Paul makes the same points in Philippians 3:4-6, and he also mentions his membership in the tribe of Benjamin in Romans 11:1.

Saul asks the high priest for papers giving him authority to arrest the Christians in Damascus. The biblical Saul was given these letters in Acts 9:1-2.

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