St. Paul (2000– )
- Summaries (2)
Biblical epic from the book of Acts and Paul's epistles covering the conversion of Saul of Tarsus and his ministry to the Gentiles now known as Paul. Pursued by fellow Jew Reuben, who wishes him dead, Paul takes the Gospel of Jesus throughout the known world to Rome.
Saul is in Jerusalem, taking care of the business affairs of his father, a wealthy tentmaker from Tarsus. Like his father, Saul is a Roman citizen and trades with the Roman occupying forces. Despite this, he considers himself to be above all a devout Jew who, as a follower of the pious rabbi Gamaliel, is a strict observer of the religious laws of the Pharisees. Because of these beliefs he often gets into fierce conflicts with his slightly older friend Ruben who is an influential priest and a convinced Sadducee. These disputes centre about the idea of resurrection which for Ruben is a heresy that is dangerously close to the beliefs of the followers of Jesus of Nazareth, who claimed to be the Messiah and was crucified. Now, everywhere in Jerusalem, one hears rumours that he has risen from the dead. The Apostles, however, know that it isn't just a rumour. With their own eyes, they've seen Jesus in their midst. But has left them again and arisen into heaven. What is to become of them now? They have reason to fear persecution and when they meet with Mary, the mother of Jesus, or with other followers of Jesus they have to do so in secret. Today, forty days after his crucifixion, they have come together again to remember Jesus by celebrating the Eucharist with wine and bread. They clearly feel the presence of the Holy Spirit and immediately all their feelings of discouragement vanish. They want to proclaim the good news of the Redemption and tell the whole world about Jesus, about his sufferings and his resurrection. Peter and John go fearlessly into the Temple to preach. The Apostles meet with much hostility, but they also find many who are willing to listen to them. And even more people are convinced when the crippled beggar Amos is suddenly able to walk again. Saul and Ruben are among those who witness this miracle. Ruben immediately declares it to be a trick---in the same way that everything else associated with this "false Messiah" is nothing but lies and deception. The high priests are also of his opinion. In the meantime they have realised that the teachings of Jesus are more alive than ever and want to suppress them at any cost. Peter and John are arrested and flogged, but they don't lose their courage and continue preaching after their release. More and more people begin to gather about Peter, John and the other Apostles. Thousands come from far away to be baptised in Jerusalem. There is an enormous range of people among them, from a delicate young man like Stephan to a strapping farmer such as Barnabas. Barnabas had sold his farm in order to follow Jesus. When Barnabas and his wife arrive in Jerusalem they fall victim to robbers. While they're being robbed, Saul and Ruben happen to be coming along the same road and Saul (who is courageous and athletic, generous and always ready to help) saves the lives of Barnabas and his wife. It is only afterwards that he realises that he's come to the aid of two followers of the outcast Jesus of Nazareth. As far as the teachings of Jesus is concerned, Saul is of two minds. One the one hand there are the demands of his friend Ruben that such blasphemy be suppressed with force. But at the same time there is the tolerant attitude of his rabbi Gamaliel, who is convinced that the truth will always triumph no matter what its source. Ruben's mother Sarah is on her death bed and has only one last wish---she wants to see Peter. For Ruben this is an unbearable humiliation. But out of love for his mother he overcomes his hatred of Peter and brings her to the Temple. Saul and the young woman Dina accompany them and they witness the way the gentle words of Peter help the sick old woman have a peaceful death. Meanwhile, Herod Antipas (who has Rome to thank for his throne) is being urged by the Roman officer Gaius to restore law and order in the country. There are still fears of an uprising in the name of Jesus. Gaius tells Herod that if the Jewish authorities can't manage it, then the Romans will. Like so many Jews, Ruben fears that the Romans are just looking for an excuse to reduce even more the limited autonomy they still have. He claims that the new religion must be rigorously suppressed and demands that Saul show solidarity with his own people by joining a pact directed against them. Ruben wants to make an example of the young man Stephan who is to be stoned for blasphemy after having publicly declared himself to be a follower of Jesus. Ruben presses the first stone into Saul's hand, but Saul can't bring himself to participate in the killing of a defenceless youth. But he stands by and watches as Ruben and the others cruelly kill Stephan. Dina is also present. She breaks into tears and bitterly reproaches Ruben for what he has done. His only reply is the cold remark that she will have to decide between him and this heresy which tramples upon the laws of Moses. Dina loves Ruben and has no one else except him. She gives in to him in the hope that someday he will make her his lawful wife. Like Ruben, Saul is convinced that their ancient laws are what holds the Jewish people together and that they must put an end to these dangerous new teachings. Until then, Saul had been looking for a just purpose to his life and now he believe that's found it. He tries to repress his kindly, sympathetic feelings and turns into a ruthless persecutor of anyone who believes Jesus to be the Messiah. Saul and his men pursue the followers of Jesus into even their most secret hiding places. They either bring them before the courts or (as in the case of Amos, the beggar who had once been crippled and is telling everyone about the miracle) even kill them with their own hands. But despite this persecution, the teachings of love and redemption spread throughout the entire land. Peter and John have been doing missionary work in Damascus and even managed to convert the head of the local synagogue, Ananias. When Saul hears of this he asks King Herod for permission to ride to Damascus with his troops. Ruben and Dina accompany him on his journey through the desert. But shortly before reaching Damascus something unusual happens. Saul falls from his horse as though he had been struck by lightning and Jesus speaks to him: "Saul, why do you persecute me?" Saul has gone blind and no longer eats or drinks. He just weeps and speaks of Jesus. Finally, almost as though he had no will of his own anymore, he allows Ruben and Dina to bring him to Damascus. In the meantime Barnabas has ridden to Damascus as fast as he can to warn Ananias. But in a dream Ananias receives the divine command to cure Saul of his blindness because now Saul is no longer an enemy---he has been chosen to convert the gentiles. Dina brings Ananias to Saul's sickbed, who is already expecting him. Saul too has had a dream foretelling that his blindness will be cured and he believes firmly that this will come to pass. Ananias puts his hands over Saul's eyes and he is able to see. After this happens Saul demands that he be baptised and this is how he comes to see Barnabas again---the man whose life he had once saved. Barnabas senses that this man who has so much single-minded determination will now be fighting for the victory of the new religion instead of trying to suppress it. When Ruben hears of Saul's conversion, he pursues him with the full fury of his anger. Now he sees his former friend as someone who has betrayed the Jewish cause and is prepared to kill him with his own hands. Dina, however, is able to put Ruben and his men on a false track and even though they search the streets and houses of Damascus until far into the night, they are unable to find Saul. But although Saul will be safe with Ananias for a while, he knows that he has to get out of Damascus as soon as possible. Since the city gates are being watched, there is only one way for Saul to escape: One night Saul is put into a basket and then Barnabas, Ananias and Dina attach a rope to the basket and let Saul down from high atop the city walls. Ruben very nearly catches him, but at the last moment, Saul is able to flee into the desert. In order to show that now he has become a new man, Saul now calls himself Paul. His flight from Damascus to Jerusalem has taken a month and now he feels the need to pray in the Temple. Ruben, however, is still pursuing him. Despite the resistance of Gamaliel, Ruben and his henchmen break into the sacred precincts of the Temple in order to capture Paul. But Paul is able to escape and encounters Barnabas in the home of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Barnabas takes Paul to the Apostles, but they still don't quite trust him. And when he claims to have been chosen by God, they become jealous: Why, of all men, should God have chosen Paul, the one who had been their most bitter persecutor? Peter, however, accepts him. Peter has come to be recognised by the others as their leader and he sends Paul as a missionary back to his home town Tarsus. Paul obeys, even though he remains convinced that his real mission is to convert the gentiles. For the Apostles, the idea of Jesus being anything but the exclusive redeemer of the Jews is completely new. They view him as a specifically Jewish messiah. As Peter realizes that the Holy Spirit has also come upon the Gentiles, he baptizes them, sleeps and eats with them. This is source of vehement discussion among the Apostles, specially with Jacob. Even though Ruben knows that Dina secretly is a follower of Jesus, he marries her anyway. Dina is overjoyed when Ruben asks her to tell him more about this new religion and she has no idea that he has a diabolic plan. King Herod wants to destroy this troublesome sect once and for all and in order to do so he has to eliminate the preachers who every day are making more and more converts. Since Dina has now become less cautious, it isn't difficult for Ruben to follow her to one of the secret meetings of the new religion. As a result, Jacob is captured and given over to King Herod who publicly kills him with his own hands. The hysterical crowd cheer the King on and this makes him want to do more of the same. And so Herod promises to make Ruben the new high priest if he can deliver Peter into his hands. When Dina witnesses how Peter is handed over to the royal courts, she bitterly reproaches herself. She has loved a man and he has shamelessly betrayed her. But Mary consoles her and gives her the strength to leave Ruben and start a new life. Peter is in a dungeon and closely guarded, but then an angel comes and liberates him. Herod is beside himself with fury: He has the guard executed and makes Ruben responsible for what has happened. If Ruben doesn't recapture Peter within ten days, it will be the end of him. But King Herod dies and the Roman general Gaius, however, has other plans. Peter doesn't interest him, the man he wants is Paul, the Roman citizen. After also threatening Ruben with death if he doesn't succeed, he too sends him out on a search---but for Paul, not Peter. In the Cyprian town of Salamis finally Ruben manages to track Paul down. Paul and his companion Barnabas are stoned to the point where they loose consciousness and are thrown over a cliff and into the sea. Convinced that Paul is now dead, Ruben returns to Jerusalem. But he's wrong. A beggar on whom Paul had performed a miracle finds both him and Barnabas and saves their lives. Undaunted, the two men soon continue on their missionary journey through the eastern Mediterranean. When he gets back to Jerusalem, Paul creates considerable resistance among the Apostles when he demands that they abandon the traditional laws of the Old Testament. Such Jewish traditions as circumcision are abhorrent to the gentiles, yet they too have the right to hear the words of Jesus and be baptised. Paul tells them that on his journeys he has met many gentiles who are no less worthy of Jesus' teachings than the Jews. He baptised them and they now call themselves "Christians". Some of the Apostles are convinced, but others see it as an intolerable breach of faith. The new religion is now threatened with a split. Paul decides to make his next missionary journey to Greece and as far as Rome. But Barnabas rejects the idea of leaving his wife Hagar alone again. On the other side he knows the perils of such a journey and therefore Paul sets off for Greece alone. In Corinth he becomes friends with a Jewish tentmaker named Aquila and his wife Priscilla, both of whom have already become Christians. Paul is happy to learn that the new religion has already spread so far. But then they tell him that they used to live in Rome and had been driven away. The emperor Claudius has forbidden Jews to enter Rome. And so for the time being Paul has to give up his goal of preaching in the capital. He returns to Jerusalem bitterly disappointed. Here following Jacob's advice he takes part in a purification ceremony in the Temple. When Ruben discovers Paul among the crowd, tumultuous scenes take place, which catch the attention of the Roman magistrate who can just prevent Paul's certain death by promising the crowd that there will be a fair trial before a high priest. Paul eloquently defends his Christian beliefs. His former teacher Gamaliel defends him but Ruben attacks him as a blasphemer and rabble-rouser. There are again tumultuous scenes which the Roman judge puts an end to by sending Paul to a Roman prison. In his relentless hatred, Ruben resolves to secretly murder Paul. But Dina hears of the plan and tells the Roman magistrate who sends Paul to another prison in Caesarea where Paul will be safe from Ruben. When Paul hears of a visit by the new Jewish king Agrippa Paul demands of him that he be brought before the Emperor in Rome. And this is how Paul finally comes closer to attaining his greatest goal---preaching the Gospel in Rome. Together with other prisoners, he is put on a ship sailing from Caesarea to Rome. When Paul is brought to the ship in chains, he bids farewell to Barnabas and Dina. Paul knows that it is a farewell forever, because he will never return to his homeland. Meanwhile, the Roman general Gaius murders Ruben with his own hands for having failed to kill Paul. During the voyage there is a heavy storm. The ship seems about to sink but Paul is thrown overboard and by a miracle manages with the sailors to reach the coast. All are saved and Paul is led in chains to Rome. His mission is still unfulfilled...
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