Life of St. Paul – Upbringing and Conversion

May 16, 2009

In His Providence, God equipped Paul with many of the skills that he would need to be the Apostle to the Gentiles, long before he fell off his horse on the road to Damascus. Just a few of these skills included a great Jewish memory, proficiency in Greek, and training in philosophy.

Physically, this man of medium height and medium build had a thorn in the flesh that he thrice asked to be removed.

It is likely that Paul is in his late 20s or early 30s when he first appears in the Book of Acts. If Stephen died in A.D. 34, Paul would have to have been born sometime between A.D. 1-8.

His primary instructor, Gamaliel was a master of the Hillel school of Pharisaic Judaism. This tolerant and learned teacher of the Law would later remark that if the Christians continued to flourish, it is proof that they have Divine commission.

Paul was not nearly as tolerant as his old teacher, but a firebrand who was extremely zealous–to the point of violence. Phillippians 3:4-7 shows his extreme Pharisaic piety, yet he considers it rubbish when compared with the Gospel.

The Tarsus-born lad grew up in Jerusalem amidst a culture of religious extremism and fastidiousness. He learned from the Pharisees that Jesus was certainly a fraud that taught false doctrines. He considered those who followed ”the Way” to be Jewish heretics whose errors needed to be vehemently opposed. He spent roughly a year rounding up Christians for the high-ranking Pharisees.

While on his way to round up Christians in Damascus he was struck down by a light brighter than the Palestinian mid-day sun. The three accounts of his conversion each provide key details. Taken together, they depict arguably the most dramatic conversion in the history of the Church. He fasts for three days in repentance, and is soon Baptized to wash away his sins. Immediately Paul begins proclaiming the Gospel, though he is too controversial to be employed by the Apostles in Jerusalem.

Music: Boismortier’s Sonata 6 in G Minor – Andante, from the album ‘Six Sonatas for Flute and Violin – Opus 51 – Boismortier’ performed by Duo de Bois. www.magnatune.com

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