|The Apostle Paul|
The Apostle Paul’s impact on early Christianity is hard to overstate. His missionary endeavors served to give Christianity a solid foothold in the world. His writings to individuals and communities of believers have provided direction to the universal (catholic) church for centuries. More than one quarter of our New Testament writings are attributed to him. The aim of this study is to glean not simply from the writings of Paul, but from his life. Those who study his life are certain to meet with instruction and inspiration.
To observe the background of the Apostle Paul is both relevant and worthy of study as shall be soon seen. The items covered in this section shall include items such as circumstances of birth, education, citizenship, and personal appearance. For this study, the significance of these items rest in their ability to impact Christianity from its infancy to the present day.
His Early Days
His Hebrew name, spoken in the Aramaic tongue was Saul, whereas Paul is the Roman form of his name. The date of his birth is uncertain but is usually estimated at about a.d. 10. Paul was born and raised as a Jew in Tarsus of Cilicia, no ordinary city (Acts 21:9; 22:3; Phil. 3:5). Though a Jew, He was privileged to hold Roman citizenship (Acts 21:39). Acts 22:28 tells us that he was a citizen from birth, therefore it seems he inherited his citizenship, most likely from his father.
Paul not only affirmed his Roman citizenship but explained how he became one: “I was free born” (Acts 22:28). This implies that his father had been a Roman citizen. Roman citizenship could be obtained in various ways. The tribune in the narrative states that he “bought” his citizenship “for a large sum” (Acts 22:28, RSV). More often, however, citizenship was a reward for some service of unusual distinction to the Roman Empire, or was granted when an individual was freed from slavery. Roman citizenship was precious, for it carried special rights and privileges, such as exemption from certain forms of punishment. A Roman citizen could not be scourged or crucified.
He had at least one sister, who is mentioned along with other relatives (Acts 23:16; Rom. 16:7,11).
Paul J. Achtemeier, Publishers Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature, Harper's Bible Dictionary, Includes Index., 1st ed. (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985), 757.
J.I. Packer, Merrill Chapin Tenney and William White, Nelson's Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1995), 555.