|HISTORY AND EARLY LIFE OF PAUL|
Background, Meeting Paul
Who is this person Saul (Hebrew name) or as we know him much more familiarly Paul (Greek name). We will refer to him as Paul in this review. He dominates our New Testament (NT). Most of the book of the Acts of the Apostles is on his life and travels but does not even include his death. There are 13 other books or epistles (letters) in the NT which are attributed to him.
We first meet Paul as you just heard; the man holding the cloaks of the "witnesses" of the "corrupt and blasphemous" Stephen. He was glad to see Stephen's death. He thought it was the correct ending to a very sick person.
Paul was one of the Dispersion (or Diaspora) Jews. The consensus at the time of Paul estimates approximately 2/3 of the Jews did NOT live in Jerusalem. They lived throughout the Roman Empire. Sometimes the cultural backgrounds were stronger where the Jews lived than the Jewish culture in Palestine. There is no biography of Paul in the Bible; however, through the many references in Luke's Acts of the Apostles and Paul's 13 Epistles, scholars have been able to put together a fair presentation of his life activities and ideas.
References:Acts 21:37 -> 22:3; Acts 22:25-29
Tarsus - Paul's Birthplace
Paul took pride in saying he was a Jew of Tarsus, no insignificant city. Tarsus was not an ordinary city.
[As studying, look at the maps of Paul's time (Asia Minor) and today (Turkey). This will give a feel of the critical location of the city.]
Tarsus was a large city; probably one of the largest in the Mediterranean area. There were probably about 500,000 people there in Paul's time. All the people were packed into 8 to 10 square miles.
Tarsus was a heavy trade city. It was one of the busiest, most commercial in the Mediterranean area. It was in the Roman Province of Cilicia and was the capital of Cilicia. Some of these names will be referenced throughout our study; so we should be familiar with the names and locations. About 25 miles to the north were the rich in natural resources Taurus Mountains. The Tarsians were proudly responsible for the Cilician Gates; a very important road cut through one of the Taurus passes. Sometimes the Cilicia area and the adjacent Syria area were called Syria et Cilicia with Tarsus and Antioch co-capitals. This was probably about 25 B.C. to 72 A.D., throughout Paul's life.
The people of Tarsus traded in leather goods and cilicium. The cilicium was cloth woven from the hair of the black goats that were in the Taurus range. Tarsus became known for their black tents. Caravans, nomads, and armies used them.
Tarsus was also a political power center. It had been so for approximately the last 1000 years. During most of the occupations, Tarsus was a leading city in Asia Minor. After the territory division following Alexander's Greek Empire, Tarsus was part of the Seleucids territory.
This review of Paul cannot cover Alexander's conquests. A brief mention of Alexander is in
1 Maccabees 1:1-7. He is the king mentioned in Dan 11:2-4. Alexander the Great was one of the greatest military leaders of all time. He died of a fever, very unexpectedly, at 33 years old. After his death, five of his major commanders fought 40 years of wars to determine who was going to get territories. Tarsus was part of Seleucus's portion of the territories. One of the greatest contributions of his conquests was his spread of the Greek culture. Even though Alexander lived 356-323 B.C., his effects have been felt throughout history, especially in Paul's time.
The Romans gave Tarsus the distinctive standing as the Latin libera civitas, which means "free city". The city had a right to govern itself with minimal interference from Rome. This also meant Tarsus was free of most of the Roman taxes and the trade duties.
Tarsus was also a city of higher education; even more so that Athens and Alexandria. However, Paul would not have been educated in the pagan (non-Jewish) schools.
Paul's Young Life Background
All Jewish men must have a trade; Paul's was tentmaker. As he was growing up, he also would have become familiar with the sea, Romans, languages, cultures, and mixture of peoples. The father was a citizen of Tarsus (Acts 22:25-29). This meant the father helped in the governing of Tarsus. They were also citizens of Rome. This was an honor afforded very few Jews. Citizenship could only be obtained from natural birth or large fees or other special contributions to influential Romans. Paul's family must have been fairly wealthy and have lived there a long time. Once the father was a citizen, this was passed on to the sons. Scholars have questions whether Paul was taken to Jerusalem at a very early age (infant) or whether he went there later. Most, at this time, believe he stayed a good portion of his young boyhood life in Tarsus. It is suggested the family was one of the original families of Tarsus under Antiochus Epiphanes in the years 171 B.C. (approximately the last 4 generations). This would have given time to acquire power and wealth.
His father was a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin, other not so small honors.
Paul was a "young man" (Greek neanias) at the time of the Stephen incident. Unfortunately, this means 20 to 40 years old. Paul and Stephen were very learned with similar oral abilities. Both spoke Greek and Aramaic. Stephen's martyrdom was about 33 A.D. When Philemon was written approximately 60 A.D., Paul called himself "aged" (Greek presbytes) which was used after 60 years old. He had to be old enough to give leadership at the time of Stephen because he is thought to have had many heated discussions with Stephen in the Synagogue. Some feel Paul was a member of the Sanhedrin at the time of the stoning. He would have to be 35 years old. He and Stephen were about the same age (32 to 35); therefore, he was born a few years after Jesus. He was probably born 2 B.C. to 2 A.D.
Political and military atmospheres in Paul's time
Roman emperors (Paul lived under five)
Defeated Mark Antony at the battle of Actium (producing the suicides of Antony and Cleopatra). He reorganized the Roman government from a dictatorship to one run by a Senate (with him as princeps - first citizen - of course). Augustus controlled all the locations of large armies such as Egypt, Gaul (France), and Syria. The Senate ran the others.
Tiberius was Augustus's stepson. He was faced with a lot of unrest such as Cappadocia and Cilicia. There were serious problems in Armenia. He tried to solve most problems by diplomacy. However, when that did not work, he had no problem with war. He left approximately 3 billion sesterce in the treasury (150 million dollars).
Caligula was the son of Germanicus, an adopted son and nephew of Tiberius. He was weak and unstable. He wasted all the financial resources and raised taxes. Caligula was cruel and believed strongly in the deity of the emperor. Because he wished to be worshipped, he killed many believers who refused to worship him.
Claudius was the brother of Germanicus (i.e. another nephew of Tiberius and the uncle of Caligula). Claudius tried to undo the harm caused by Caligula and restore some of Augustus's government. He had a "management shakeup" to improve the conditions. He tried to include lower ranked people in the government. He was poisoned by his fourth wife (his niece), the mother of Nero.
Nero was the son of Claudius. He began ruling at 17. He was interested in pleasure rather than politics. Lucky for him he had good military leaders. They succeeded in crushing the rebellion in Britain and regained Armenia from the Parthians. His second wife, Poppaea, may have been a Jewish proselyte.He separated himself from the people. He hated the believers. It is also believed he loved building and rebuilding structures. Thus, it is believed, the great fire of Rome in 64 A.D. to have started by Nero and blamed on the Christians. He wanted to rebuild. This fire may have been part of the cause of the executions of Peter and Paul. He committed suicide in 68 A.D. There was great rejoicing when that occurred.
Paul lived under the ultimate of Roman rule. There was no land bordering the Mediterranean that was not ruled by Rome. There was also no major threat to their keeping their domination. See the map of Roman rule. The term pax Romana is used which refers to the peace established by Rome (under the military rule of Rome). Here is the breakdown of the military rule. It shows the chain of authority, which should be understood so the persons in biblical history can be better understood.
The basic unit of the army was the contubernium, which means "sharing one tent". This was eight men. (8 men)
Ten contubernia formed a century under a centurian. Originally (don't know when it changed), a contubernia included one hundred men, thus the term century. (80 men)
Six centuries made a cohort. (480 men)
Ten cohorts were in a legion. The first cohort was double size. In addition, there was a cavalry of 120 men. So, a full strength legion was:4800 + 480 + 120 = 5400 men
To give an idea of total Roman army size, when Augustus died, there were 25 legions. (approx. 132,500 men)
Four legions were stationed in a broad area of Syria that would include Palestine.
The "legionars" were Roman citizens. They were not allowed, officially, to marry. They stayed in the service for 20 years. Generally, they became wealthy. In addition to the official legionars, there were non-citizens that made up an auxiliary army of approximately the same size as the "citizens" army.
(Look at diagram for another picture of the above relationships.)
Often in his writing, Paul used the Roman soldier as a metaphor or illustration
(Eph 6:13-17; 2 Tim 2:3-4).
The empire was subdivided into two kinds of provinces: Senatorial and Imperial.
A proconsul appointed by the Roman senate governed the senatorial province. They had small armies; not a legion.
The imperial province was lead by governors appointed by the emperor. The most important type of imperial province was a legate. They had legions of armies at their disposal. Syria (with Cilicia) was a legate. Lesser governors called prefects or procurators ran other less important imperial provinces. As you recall, a prefect ran Judea.
In addition to provinces, client kingdoms were allowed, by Roman permission, to exist. These were semi-independent under their own "kings". Rome controlled how much "freedom" was allowed. Sometimes, Judea operated under this type of government.
One very important asset the Romans gave to the world was their system of roads. These were long and durable. There were even mileage markers to show the distance from/to Rome. The Mediterranean was very busy in the ports. The roads and sea ships promoted great trade and travel. People were free to travel within the Empire. It was also amazingly safe because the Romans decreed there would be safety. There were areas, however, single persons were not supposed to travel (i.e. travel at your own risk).
The above terms and organizations you have probably heard all your Christian life. This description should put them into their place and more clearly understood. Although military force had to be employed to subside certain disturbances, there was in general a pax Romana, a peace of Roman direction.
Now Paul was not just born into this era, he was a Roman citizen, BY BIRTH. This was no small advantage. We will study later where this was a VERY decided advantage. In addition, BY BIRTH was an advantage. We know Paul was a citizen by birth because his father was a citizen. We do not know how his father or other ancestors became citizens. We do know the family was relatively wealthy. The family was also a very influential Jewish family. There are several other non-birth ways. A large payment could be used; an influential Roman citizen may be befriended; sometimes groups of people were made citizens because of a being a part of a new Roman settlement. Philippi of Macedonia
(Acts 16:12,21), Corinth, Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Troas are other examples. There were other conditions of making citizens; all on the decision of Rome. There are many ways Paul could have inherited citizenship.
One thing to understand about citizenship is this was not a voting right or a right to assist in governing by Rome. That was still up to the emperor and the senate.
Each child of a Roman citizen had to be registered in the local Roman registers within 30 days. Sometimes written proof was required (seven witnesses were required). It should be noted it was a major offense to lie about citizenship. Claudius put to death liars. The citizenship carried with it certain legal rights. For example, one could not be condemned or punished without a fair hearing. We will later see with Paul the direct effects of this right.
Now we understand Paul more. We all know how social, environmental, governmental, and professional effects can affect our mode of living.
Judean Governments while Under Roman Rule
When the Roman general Pompey came to power in 63 B.C., Judea's independence came to an end. Rome controlled from then on.
Greek (Hellenistic) and Roman Influences On Paul
The Greek influence was very great in Paul's world. Alexander the Great tried to design a world of unity of government, language, customs, and culture. Paul spoke fluent Greek and Aramaic. During his travels, it was a advantage and surprised some Romans. Jews in Palestine were less likely to speak other languages. The Dispersion Jews were most likely to have to know other languages. Most Jews in Tarsus knew Greek. The term for history in the Greek language was the Koine period (koy nos'; common, shared by all or several). Even today we use the Greek word Koininia for church rooms of fellowship. Paul was a Hellenistic Jew. Because of the mixture of people, some were more or less Hellenistic dependent on their town, heritage, and personal preferences. Paul and Stephen were very learned with similar oral abilities. Both spoke Greek and Aramaic.
To a great extent, Paul's appreciation of Greek was due to his Rabbinic training by Gamaliel. This education and influence will be expanded upon later in our study. Paul knew and quoted Greek poets (Acts 17:28; Titus 1:12). He enjoyed Greek games (1 Cor 9:24-27; Phil 3:13-14; 2 Tim 2:5; 4:7-8 are a few). He was more tolerant than some Jews regarding these games.
Time affects the amount of culture rub-off people will have. Religion has a great influence on the culture. The amount of adaptation a Jew wishes to have with the Hellenists has a major effect. Robert E. Picirilli, Paul the Apostle, said Paul's family was Hellenistic, but not Hellenizers. This means Paul's family was affected by the Hellenistic culture; but, they maintained the purity of their orthodox Jewish faith.
Paul lived in a world of cults and mythology. There were gods and godesses who were considered supermen and superwomen. The Gentiles or heathens were under the influence at all times. The more common of the cults and myths were from the Greeks, Romans, near East, Phoenician, Syrians, and Persians.
Some of the Greek gods (and approximate Roman equivalents) which were in day to day lives were:
Some cities were more-or less dedicated to a particular god. A couple of these cities influenced were the temple of Zeus in Lystra (Acts 14:13); Artemis, the goddess of fertility in Ephesus.
Paul was also in "competition" with Greek, Roman, and eastern cults. Belief of some of the older gods was beginning to decrease. However, cults had major followings. In the Greek three cults (of many) were: the cult of Eleusis (west of Athens) which celebrated certain Eleusinian rites; the cult of Dionysius (god of dance) which had drunk women do ecstatic dances; the cult of Orpheus which practiced cleansing and abstention from meats to escape reincarnation cycles.
In the Near East three cults (of many) were:
Augustus encouraged dual worship of Rome and Augustus.
Tiberius and Claudius did not promote the worship of the emperors.
Caligula DEMANDED worship. He punished insanely those who did not worship him.
Nero was insane and vain. He erected a colossal statue of himself that was to be worshipped.
From Augustus, the Jews were exempt from emperor worship; BUT, two daily sacrifices for Caesar and Rome were offered in the Temple in Jerusalem.
Domitian and Trojan required worship or else there would be intense persecution of the church.
Words like Lord, King, Savior, God, and Son of God were used for the emperor. Of course, one can see how the Jews and Christians had problems with the leadership of the countries. These words were reserved for our one and only God and Christ. There were many believers maimed or killed who refused to call the emperor a deity name (in Philippi Acts 16:21; in Thessalonica Acts 17:7).
Paul's Religious Background
Paul's religious heritage was pure Jewish. He was the son of an orthodox Jew. He spoke Hebrew (actually Aramaic, a Chaldean tongue) as his primary language but spoke Greek fluently. Most likely he had both names Saul and Paul at birth.
A Roman citizen would have been given a three part Latin name at birth: a forename, family name, and additional personal name. In Paul's case we only know of the last possibly chosen because of it rhyming with Saul.
Saul was his Jewish name most likely going back to Israel's king. The Greek name Paul (Paulos) came from the Greek (Hellenistic) background. There was a history of a mixture of the Israelites' relationships with God. Some of them, as Paul, were staunch orthodox Jews believing they must follow the letter of the Mosaic Law. Some were rather insincere but went through the motions. Still others worshipped idols and other heathen practices. God brought His judgment on those imposing their culture on the Jews (such as the Assyrians and the Babylonians). The Jews returned from captivity around the years 537 B.C. and 458 B.C. After that, idolatry decreased greatly. They began to truly realize their racial identity.
The Mosaic Law was also uniquely theirs. From that time of the return and on, the Law (called the Torah) controlled their life so much that Judaism became nothing but a law based (man-made and interpreted) religion.
" Rabbis started about this time. They were law teaching lay persons that began displacing priests. By Jesus's time, the Rabbis were predominant<. " Scribes arose to be copiers and professional scholars (sometimes called "lawyers" as in Luke 10:25)." Synagogues (Greek word for "assembly") developed as places devoted to studying the law, taught by Rabbis.
It should be noted that the pulpits of a Synagogue were not sacred to the Rabbis or priests. Anyone could use it BUT they better know about what they are talking. The well taught were highly preferred. As time went on, the preaching function went more and more to the rabbi. Any ten families could start a synagogue. In each there were ruling a Elders lead by a Chief Elder. These Elders also had a lot to say about the community as well as the synagogue itself. There were other offices such as assistant to the Chief, receivers of alms, and reciter of prayers. (There were cases where up to ten unemployed men were employed as "professional" synagogue goers to guarantee a congregation of at least ten person.)
The synagogues (big, small, elaborate, plane) always faced Jerusalem on as high as possible "clean" spot of earth. The main piece of furniture was the ark, which held their sacred scrolls. Men and women sat apart. One of the reasons for this was to prevent the men from thinking about ANYTHING except worship. The sight of women was thought to affect the total worship process. As time went on services became more detailed. However, most of the simple services would be a prayer, scripture reading, and an explanation. Readings from other sacred books and scrolls were added later.
The minister of the synagogue would bring the scroll to the reader who may then become the preacher for that time. That is why Paul always had a place to preach. He would volunteer and be allowed his time in the synagogue (as long the synagogue was not already in a furor over the preaching of Jesus.)
The synagogue also administered discipline. They could authorize flogging and temporary or permanent excommunication. The minister probably administered the floggings. Paul experienced floggings (will be discussed when studying his preparation for his first journey.)
The priesthood was not redirected toward political activity but toward assuring the sacrificial ritual of the law was carried out especially in relationship to the Temple.
A great deal of emphasis was placed on the law, its interpretation, AND the following of the law. In Jesus's time there were many devout Jews who truly knew God: Zechariah, Mary, Anna, Simeon, etc. However, the formal expression was dominated by the Rabbi-Synagogue teachings. The moral and ceremonial relationships with God overcame the personal relationships with God. Following the law was what was required for justification before God. However, that was never God's intention.
Paul, like his father, was a Pharisee (Acts 7:58-9:2; 23:5-6; Phil 3:3-6; Gal 1:13-14). They followed the law implicitly. They were the strictest of Judaism sects.
The Pharisees seemed to have started "between the testaments" (Maccabees in the Apocrypha). They opposed the liberalizing of the Hellenistic trends, which were being brought about by the Seleucids. The word seems to mean, "separated ones". Whatever the origins, the life system was to cover the laws, which covered every conceivable circumstance of human living. The Sadducees were essentially the priests; one step "higher" than the Pharisees? However, with the rising power of the Pharisees, the Sadducees' influences were felt less and less. Some call the Pharisees similar to the modern time Fundamentalists. However, it would appear the Sadducees were the Fundamentalists. The Sadducees considered the Pharisees more liberal or modern in ideas.
The laws to follow were not necessary written down; they were handed down orally. Because the Biblical law became so complex, it required constant study and updating. The Rabbi tradition dealt with duty and ceremonial purity in incredible detail, all in the name of applying the Mosaic Law. For example, how you wash your hands before eating, food restrictions, tithing, cleansing from a sin, how far allowed to walk on the Sabbath, trivial things allowed to do on Sabbath, the place of women in day to day life, marriage, divorce, etc. Some of the laws went far beyond what the Mosaic Law said. But it was felt the details were necessary to keep and protect the law. It is safe to say, no matter how detailed humans made the law, it was all done in the name of serving the one God. The Pharisees upheld these traditions.
The Pharisees were known for their belief in the spiritual realm. Some of these were the belief in angels, resurrection from the dead, and an afterlife. Josephus writes, this contrasts with the Essenes who believed in strict predestination and the Sadducees who believed all things happened by man's free will. The Pharisees took a mid road approach for both divine predestination and the human choice. The Pharisees believed in the simple life with no luxuries. They did not want a political intervention with their lifestyle. They were close to each other and kind of withdrew from others. They DEFINITELY had spiritual PRIDE. This was a part of the dissension existing between Jesus and the Pharisees. To the Pharisees, the "common people" simply could not be as pious. According to Josephus, around the time of the birth of Jesus, there were approximately 6000 Pharisees in Jerusalem. All of them were very influential.
The major opposition sect to the Pharisees was the Sadducees. It was a smaller group but had a lot to say in history. The origins of this group are unknown. Perhaps the name is derived from the name Zadok (pronounced Saddouk), a patriarch of the priest line since Solomon's time. They rejected references to angels, resurrection, or afterlife. They regarded the Torah as inspired and binding. The Sadducees concerned themselves with the here and now than with the future. The Temple and sacrifices were the major concerns rather than the Synagogue and the law. The priests tended to be Sadducees but preceding the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. there were priests who were Pharisees. The Sadducees were more influenced and concerned with social standing and politics.
The Essenes were more separated from others than the Pharisees. They lived in secluded communities similar to that discussed related to the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The Herodians (our lobbyists) wanted to keep alive the Herodian dynasty by influencing Rome.
The Zealots were a small group of , what we would call, activists. They were devoted to overthrowing Rome by revolution.
One thing to keep in mind about the Pharisees, they were not necessarily the narrow, mean, hypocritical, wicked people as they are sometimes made out to be historically. Sure, some were. Though misguided, most were very definitely sincere and devout Jews who felt they would be held blameless in the presence of God if they followed the law.
In the time of Paul, education, religion, and Jewishness were deeply engraved in the Jewish man's life. Paul's education was one of the best. He learned the normal but also he was to be a rabbi. That greatly influenced how, when, where, with whom, etc. of his education. The two historians, Josephus and Philo, describe in summary some of the traditional education of Jewish young men. The teaching of the Bible started at home. After circumcision and redemption, the first of three duties of the father of the household was teaching the Law to the sons started at a very, very young age (Deut 6:6-7).
We do not know a lot of the formal general education in Paul's day. Later information seems to indicate the boys as early as 5 years old started attending in the Synagogue weekday classes on the Pentateuch. At 10 years old, the student started the Mishnah, a part of the Talmudic tradition dealing with the detailed laws of ritual observance. At 13 years old he reached the age of majority as a "son of the law". This was the celebration that is known as the bar mitzvah. At 15 years old he was ready for the main part of the Talmud. At 18 years old he married. At 20 years old he was expected to have a trade. It is believed Paul followed this general plan, although there is no solid evidence.
There was much emphasis placed on the education at home. So formal education was usually later (secondary education). At a very young age, the boys were memorizing and reciting from Genesis. This was all in Hebrew. It is interesting to note, after the revolt and destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. they started their memorizing in Leviticus. They also had to memorize the Targums, standard translations of the ancient Hebrew into either the spoken Aramaic or Greek. It is not known about the emphasis placed on writing.
In the secondary schooling, they were more interested in the oral Torah, the rabbinic traditions. This included Midrash (traditions arranged under topical headings). More advanced education required going from the Mishnah to Talmud, involving detailed advanced learning and discussion.
Paul's Marital Status and General Attitude toward Women
It is not known to be documented that Paul was married. Although, to be a rabbi and/or in the Sanhedrin, one was supposed to be married. The Talmud decreed an unmarried man couldn't teach children. Some say 1 Cor 7:8 says Paul never married. Since the Greek does not have a word for widower, the word unmarried is used for a male and widow for female. Since Paul was supposed to be approximately 55 years old when he wrote 1 Cor, he may have been widowed. We can be sure of his attitude toward marriage. From the Old Testament, both marriage and children were blessed (1 Cor 7:8; Prov 18:22; Ps 127:4-5). The second duty of the father was to find the son a wife. Since the Sanhedrin required marriage (It is thought this was a requirement in Paul's day; it was definitely later on.), and we think he was a member of the Sanhedrin, he was probably married. If he did not marry, it would be an extremely unusual situation. Normally, a man would not achieve the prominence he did without being married. It is not thought to be of any significance she is not mentioned. We really do not know a lot of details about any part of his life before his conversion (or even his late life).
There are four primary passages in the Bible, which describe Paul's beliefs of the place of women. BE CAREFUL! Do not assume anything about what Paul thought. We will study these passages in more detail when we get to them in the letter.
Paul, the Rabbi
The education discussed is for any average, well brought up, self respecting Jewish boy. But Paul was more than the average. He trained to be a rabbi (Acts 22:3). Most likely after his bar mitzvah he transferred to the rabbinic school in Jerusalem. This education took the basic studies already experienced as a young boy and greatly intensified them. At that time, there were two great schools for rabbinic studies: Rabban Hillel's and Tabban Shammai. When Paul said in Acts 22 he studied under Tabban Gamaliel, he is referring to the Rabban Hillel School because Gamaliel was the grandson of Hillel. The two schools taught different philosophies. Shammai was very strict, dogmatic, and orthodox. One followed the letter of the Law. The Hillel school thought God's judgment would take into account the good and evil of man. They followed a minimal "letter of the Law". Hillel is reported to have said, "What is hateful to yourself, do not to another." One could imagine because of these differences, there was tension between them. Gamaliel is famous even today in Jewish circles. He was one of the greatest teachers of the time and very highly respected. It was a great honor for anybody to have studied under him. Paul was one of the lucky ones. It is important to know, even with the great differences between the basic philosophies, they both were schools that trained men to be strong Pharisees. Gamaliel was a member of the Sanhedrin (Acts 5:34-39). He was honest, sincere, and frank; he was known for his love of nature; he appreciated Greek; he was an acknowledged expert on Mosaic Law. The openness to Hellenic culture by Paul's family is considered part of the Gamaliel influences.
The Rabbinic tradition is to pass on to the generations all the written and, especially, oral law. They were to be memorized and preserved. Additional studies in the school for rabbi would have been:
Halacha - legal customs and practices added by the rabbis to the OT practicesHaggadah - non-legal narratives expounding on the Scriptures
Nothing was more "final" than to back up an explanation of a Scripture by refering to a famous rabbi of the past. Allegories and symbols are used. Paul uses this training in his writings of the epistles.
Also very important, all rabbis were to have a trade. As we know, Paul was a tentmaker. He pursued this trade throughout his life; even during his traveling life, as time permitted. This trade was not learned in the school. Since the son normally learns his father's trade, we can assume this was his father's trade. Therefore, Paul learned this trade in Tarsus by his father. This part of a boy's life was the third responsibility of the father: teach the son a trade. A Rabbi Judah once said, "He that teacheth not his son a trade, doth the same as if he taught him to be a thief." So one can see, this was very important.
Paul was a devoted Pharisee. Religion was the center of his life; and it would always be so. Certainly his dynamics of life would tend to destine him for a noted life, a real leader. His zeal for learning his history gave him the impetus to excel past his fellow students (Gal 1:14). He appears to have had an active role rather than passive during the stoning of Stephen even though we just met Paul at that time (Acts 7:58; 22:19-20). Since the slaying of Stephen was a matter of the Sanhedrin, Paul could have been an appointed, official observer for the Sanhedrin.
Note this does not mean he HAD to be a member of the Sanhedrin. Most scholars feel he was a member; but we may never know for sure. Paul refers to himself as having a full vote on the stoning of Stephen (Acts 26:10). The Greek refers to the casting a stone for the vote. The Sanhedrin used white and black stones for their votes. However, even then we cannot be sure because sometimes the Sanhedrin would, for some reason, have others attendants cast voting stones. He certainly was a trusted servant of or to the Sanhedrin.
Whatever the Sanhedrin membership case, most scholars feel without the Sanhedrin's support and help, Paul could not have been able to persecute the believers of Christ as he did after the stoning. As we shall see, he easily obtained papers from the Sanhedrin to continue his persecution into Syria.
Although the Jews had certain limits, the Romans let the Jews solve their own Jewish legal affairs by means of the Sanhedrin. Although the small communities had their own Sanhedrin, the Great Sanhedrin of Jerusalem was something like the Supreme Court. There were normally 71 members. It was made up of rabbinic-Pharisaic tradition, the priestly-Sadducean tradition, and elders - usually heads of influential families. The high priest was the presiding officer.
Therefore, Paul was a rabbi, greatly influential in the operation of the Sanhedrin, even if not an official member. He was a learned man with great zeal. There is a time lapse for which we cannot easily account. He was in the ages between 13 and 18 years old during his rabbinic training. At the stoning, Paul was 33-35 years old. What happened during the missing years (~18 yrs to ~33 yrs)? In all probability, he was a rabbi teaching in a Synagogue in his hometown of Tarsus. He continued to distinguish himself. He continued to study and learn in the Jewish traditions. He apparently moved to Jerusalem. Some say this probably occurred shortly before the stoning of Stephen. He would have to be in Jerusalem during the Passover Pentecost season. Had he seen or met Jesus? No one knows for sure. Surely he heard the controversy over this Jesus in his official meetings and gatherings. It would seem improbable their paths did not meet at some time. We will never know for sure.
From the Greeks, Paul owed cultural influences that contributed to his attitude, sense of identity with the Gentile world, and the language he could use freely almost any place in the empire.
From the Romans, Paul owed a sense of unity of the world he knew and the privileges of citizenship he enjoyed.
However, from the Jewish, he owed most: his religion, rearing, education and life's pursuit. Of course, this included his concept of God and all the theological doctrines with that life. His values, morals, regard for labor, the importance of family, his zeal for religion in which Judaism was first and only, and obedience to the Mosaic law and the rabbinic traditions were all parts of his Jewish background. This gave his life meaning.
The Influence of STEPHEN, the First Christian Martyr (ACTS 6:1-7)
|"[A Christian] sees the Greek and Roman elements brought into remarkable union with the older and more sacred elements of Judaism. He sees in the Hebrew people a divinely laid foundation for the superstructure of the church and the dispersion of the Jews a soil made ready in fitting places for the seed of the Gospel. He sees in the spread of the language and commerce of the Greeks, and in the high perfection of their poetry and philosophy, appropriate means for the rapid communication of Christian ideas and for bringing them into close connection with the best thoughts of unassisted humanity. And he sees in the union of so many incoherent provinces under the law and government of Rome a strong framework that might keep together for a sufficient period those masses of social life which the Gospel was intended to pervade. The City of God is built at the confluence of three civilizations. We recognize with gratitude the hand of God in the history of His world"|
|We also recognize with gratitude the hand of God in this special preparation of Paul to preach Christ in that very world.|