Sunday | September, 6
Saul of Tarsus
Saul was born in Tarsus, an important town on the trade route between Syria and western Asia (Acts 22:3). Tarsus was a multicultural center of industry and learning and home for a shire time to Tome’s most famous orator and senator, Cicero.
Saul’s parents were Diaspora Jews (Jews shoe were not living in the land of Israel) from the tribe of Benjamin, His birth name was Saul (Hebrew sha’ul, “asked for [of God]”)-though, after he began his mission to the Gentiles (Acts 13:9), he took the name Paul (Latin Paulus, name of a prominent Roman family). Also, since he was a Pharisee, Paul probably had a wire, though we know nothing about her, In fact, we don’t know much about his family at all, though a sister and a nephew are mentioned (Acts 23:16). Paul was also a roman citizen (Acts 22:25-28).
Saul was probably educated in synagogue school in Tarsus until 12 years of age, followed by rabbinic study in Jerusalem with the famous Rabban (this honorary title mean “our rabbi”) Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). Like most Jewish males, he learned a trade-in his case, tent making (Acts 18:3).
As already stated, Paul was a Pharisee (Phil. 3:5). The Pharisees (meaning “separated ones”) were known for insisting that all the laws of God, both those written in the books of Moses, as well as those handed down verbally by generation of scribes, were binding on all Jews. Their strict patriotism and detailed obedience to Jewish laws could make them appear to their fellow Jews as hypocritical and judgmental. Paul, however, did not hide the fact that he and his father were Pharisees (Acts 23:6).
Paul’s pharisaic background was an important element in his successful missionary work for both Jews and Gentiles. It equipped hi with detailed knowledge of the Old Testament, the only Scriptures available to early Christians. It also acquainted him with the scribal additions to, and expansions of, the Old Testament laws, he was this the apostle best qualified to discern between timeless, Scripture-based divine absolutes on the one hand and later Jewish cultural additions, which were not binding, and which therefore could be ignored by Gentile followers of Jesus. As we have seen, this issue would become a very important one in the life of the early church. Today, too, the role of culture in the church remains important.
Which of our Christian beliefs seem to conflict most sharply with the surrounding culture? How do you deal with the conflict without compromising what must never be compromised?