The man whom Bible readers know by both the Semitic name “Saul” and the Greco-Roman name “Paul” was born into a setting that dovetailed two dramatically different cultures: the Judaism of Jerusalem and the Greco-Roman world of Damascus.
His Pharisee family zealously maintained their strict religious traditions, even though they lived and worked in the predominantly gentile city of Tarsus. In this provincial capital, “no mean city,” as he once described it, Paul learned the languages of his Jewish heritage, Hebrew and Aramaic, but his writings show that he had mastered the Greek language as well.
In many ways, the gifts Paul developed as a boy were providential in preparing him for his future calling. The trade he learned—tent making—enabled him to use his hands to provide for his needs but still keep his mind and tongue free to spread the good news.
Given his keen mind and the exceptional religious fervor he demonstrated as a young man, it is no surprise that Paul’s family sent him overseas to study under the renowned biblical scholar, Gamaliel,…
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