SAUL STUDIED IN
Paul was born before the year 10 A.D. to a Jewish
family from Tarsus, in Cilicia (now Eastern Turkey).
He received the biblical name Saul and the Roman
name Paul (his father, most likely having been
granted Roman citizenship, wished to show his
gratitude to the Pauli family). He was educated in
recounted that, “At the feet of Gamaliel I was
educated strictly in our ancestral law and was
zealous for God” (Acts 22:3) and again, “I am a
Pharisee, the son of Pharisees” (Acts 23:6),
“circumcised on the eighth day” (Phil. 3:5-6).
During the martyrdom of Stephen, “The witnesses laid
down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named
Saul” (Acts 7:58) “… Saul was consenting to his
execution. On that day, there broke out a severe
persecution of the Church” (Acts 8:1).
Saul, who defended
with zeal his “ancestral traditions” (Gal. 1:14),
could have even been a Zealot (cf. Acts 22:3). His
defense of the tradition of his ancestors would
explain his expedition to Damascus to persecute
Hellenist missionaries like Stephen who challenged
the Temple, in order to subdue them at all costs,
even torture. This would also clarify two strange
episodes: Paul was not at peace with the Church of
Jerusalem and he had to escape under the threat of
death (Acts 9:26-30); later, forty Jews would form
a conspiracy to kill Paul, who was at that time a
prisoner of the Romans (cf. Acts 23:12-22) and it
is very well known that the Zealot party punished
all those who betrayed their solemn oath.
The Acts of the Apostles quote the famous phrase
heard on the way to Damascus: “Saul, Saul, why are
you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4).
The story that
Paul himself recounts about the apparition of the
Risen Lord betrays a great interior turmoil,
according to the prophetic vocations/conversions of
the Old Testament, which always announced a mission:
“But when (God), who from my mother's womb had set
me apart and called me through his grace, was
pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might
proclaim him to the Gentiles…” (Gal 1:15-17).
“conversion” of Saul did not represent for him a
change of religion: he felt more than ever before to
be a Jew, because the “God of our Fathers” was
sending him to spread the Gospel. The evangelizer of
the pagans continued to preach to the Jews as much
as he could, up to his final appeal to Rome. Paul’s
conversion and baptism meant that he had discovered
his true and proper place in the life of Israel.
The date of this
most important event is ignored; the Letter to the
Galatians may seem to indicate the years 33-35, a
short time after the establishment of the first
Church in Jerusalem, created around “Peter with the
Eleven” (Acts 2:14).