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The Early Life of St. Paul

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The Early Life of St. Paul

 

The Early Life of St. Paul

 

St. Paul himself tells us (Acts 22) that he was born in Tarsus in the south-east part of modern Turkey called Cilicia to a Jewish family of the tribe of Benjamin (Romans 11) and, important for Paul later in his life, born a Roman citizen (Acts 22). Knowing that he was present as a young man when St. Stephen was killed (Acts 7 and 22), and assuming this was c.34AD, then we may give a tentative date for his birth c.10AD. His Jewish name was Saul although, as was the normal practice for Jews in the Graeco-Roman world, he was also known as Paul. He is known as Saul in Acts until the confrontation with the magician Elymas in Cyprus (Acts13), after which he is addressed as Paul. Paul’s family seem to have come to Jerusalem when he was a young boy, as he himself describes how he was brought up in the city (Acts 22 and 26) and it is also noted in Acts 23 that he had a sister who lived there. He was educated as a scribe of the Mosaic Law under the tutelage of the famous Rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 22) and became a strict Pharisee (Acts 23 and Philippians 3). Paul was a tentmaker by trade (Acts 18) and he must have learned this profession in parallel with his training in the Law, as was the custom. Although the account of St. Stephen’s stoning gives the impression that Paul (Saul) only had an indirect role ‘the witnesses put their clothes at the feet of a young man, called Saul’ it is clear that he was, in fact, a driving force behind the subsequent persecution. This is made clear both in Acts (ch.8 & 9) and in the words of St. Paul himself (Galatians 1 & 1 Cor.15). It was in pursuit of this persecution, on his way to Damascus, when he received his famous revelation from Jesus that led to his conversion c.36AD (Acts 9, 22 and 26).

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