IT is said that the custom of the Jews of the
Dispersion was to give their children both a Hebrew and a Gentile name.
It is not intended to question whether this is accurate, but rather to
point out the aptness of the two names which the Scriptures use to
designate Saul of Tarsus, who was called Paul.
In the use of the two names in the Scriptures we note that they lie
either side of his severance as given in Acts thirteen, and none of the
epistles coming through this person use the name Saul. Further, a close
attention brings out the fact that the name Paul is associated with
three ministries--Justification, Conciliation and the Secret
Economy--which are the great doctrines characterizing the present
Those who use the CONCORDANT VERSION will be
acquainted with the meanings of the name Paul. It comes most probably
from the element PAU, meaning CEASE, which
is responsible for our English word pause. God ceased direct
dealings with His people Israel. At present Israel is thrust aside, but
in the future God will take them back and He will consummate to them His
promises. There is a pause in the ways of God with Israel; the ensuing
interval between God's past and future dealings with them is filled by
the ministries of a person whom the Scriptures begin to name CEASED
(Paul). The cessation of God's operations with and for Israel is an
essential feature required by such teaching as equality of blessing
amongst believers, whether out of Israel or out of the Nations; God's
promises of old, the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Twelve,
necessitate the continuance of Israel's ascendancy amongst the nations
of the earth. But there is a hiatus, and this idea is enshrined in the
However, the first name in the Scriptures which brings this person
before us is Saul, and the meaning of this is likewise notable and
distinctive, both at the moment of its first occurrence and in other
The name Saul is Hebrew, and it occurs in a Greek declined form, and
also a form following the undeclinable Hebrew, the latter used only by
the Lord when meeting Saul on the Damascus way, and Ananias when
Students will be familiar with the Hebrew word pronounced sheol,
but may not realize that Saul in Hebrew only differs from that word by
the pointings of the Massoretes, being Shaul. If we omit the pointings,
then we have exactly the same letters for both, i.e. Shaul.
Each of these words belong to the Hebrew word-family represented by
the root SH A L, the meaning of which is ASK.
The u (or vav of the usual grammarians) is a frequent
feature of Hebrew words, and often changes the verb to a noun, thus shal
is the verb, and shaul is the noun; other members of this word-family
are formed by adding e to shal, thus shale, which
gives the feminine; another form of this group prefixes m, which
is largely equivalent to our nouns ending in "ing," hence ASKING.
Though Saul is used as a proper name, yet its meaning remains.
We ask regarding that which we do not possess, or that which
is unknown, or is not immediately within the range of the senses; it is
unseen. The Hebrew "sheol" is the same as the Greek "hades,"
the imperceptible, the unseen. A king was unseen in Israel; they did not
have a king as other nations, so they asked for a king, and Saul
was given. The name marked the details of the situation. So also Saul of
the Acts. He was not seen at the beginning of the record, nor was he
seen with the Twelve, and even when introduced into the account, he is
largely unseen so far as association with the Twelve is concerned; in
fact it was years before he met them, and the name had been dropped long
before the occasion when he goes to Jerusalem for the conference.
Saul's doings at the point in the record when he becomes seen (Acts
7:58-8:3) are such that he would be unseen in the kingdom, for Saul's
attitude against that Prophet like unto Moses was such as to lead to his
utter extermination from among the people.
In Acts thirteen Saul is severed (FROM-SEEIZED) for
special work. The literal Greek of this word "severed" is very
suggestive when considered together with the meaning of the name used at
that point, Saul, unseen. Saul has been brought on the horizon,
(SEEIZED when transliterated) in Acts nine, but now (Acts
thirteen) he is taken from the horizon (FROM-SEEIZED
when transliterated), and definitely defined to become Paul, the interval.
Thus the prior name, together with the second, suggest an unseen
interval, making possible a ministry such as has arisen through the
Apostle to the Nations.
The foregoing is offered as an alternative to the customary
explanation which sees little beyond domestic reasons for the duplicate