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The life of the Apostle Paul is a very long and complex story. Through much research and thought of an approach, I have found the best way to give an account is to actually recount the life that he led. In this paper I will attempt to give a testimony of how I perceived the life of Paul. In my view, his life consists of four parts: his life before the conversion, the actual conversion, his life through the three renowned missionary journeys, and the testimony he gives throughout. The letters he wrote through this time and the miscellaneous autobiographical information supplied in the scriptures also takes on a large amount of the concentration.
The first area I would like to observe in the life of Paul is his actual life before the conversion. This Jewish Pharisee is first seen or heard of with his Hebrew name Saul (Acts 7:58; 13:9). According to The Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, Paul was born in Tarsus in Cilicia. This place of origin is located in Asia Minor or modern southern Turkey. As far as we know, he was born around ten years after Christ. This assumption is gathered since he is referred to as a 'young man' at the time of Stephen's stoning (Act 7:58). We know that Paul's father was definitely Jewish, but he obviously had been bought or given Roman citizenship. This is shown by Paul making use of the fact that he was born a Roman citizen to give him the right to be tried in Rome by Caesar (Acts 22:25). He was brought up in a devout Jewish family from the tribe of Benjamin. He then received careful instruction in the Jewish law and joined the Pharisees. To add to Paul's broad upbringing, he called himself a 'Hebrew of the Hebrew'. He was brought up in accordance with the Law, he was circumcised on the eighth day, and had become zealous to follow every aspect of the Mosaic commands (Phil. 3:5-6). Paul traveled at some stage of his life, probably sometime while he was a teenager, to Jerusalem where he studied under the famous teacher named Gamaliel. We find evidence of this while he spoke to the Jewish leaders of that time: 'Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today' (Acts 22:3). Even renowned Jewish teachers were expected to have a certain trade, and so it comes as no surprise that this extensively educated religious leader had also been taught a craft by his father. This trade was being a tent-maker (Acts 18:3). At time to time he mentioned of how he worked to support himself (I Corinthians 4:12; 2 Thess. 3:8 etc.). This gives us evidence in these and other passages that Paul purposely worked so he wouldn't impose a burden on any that he wished to proclaim the absolutely 'free' gospel (1 Cor. 9:16-19). To avoid being classified as another travelling teacher or philosopher who often expected people to support them with food and finances, I believe Paul deliberately worked (1 Thess. 2:3-6).
Being educated as he was and with such a universally acceptable trade, it is likely that Paul had traveled widely even before he became a Christian. He would, of course, have been fluent in Greek and Hebrew or Aramaic (possibly both). He is first encountered in Acts, watching people's clothing as the crowds stoned Stephen to death for his faith, commitment to Christ, and his desire to promote the gospel. 'Saul was there giving his approval to his death' (Acts 7:58-8:1).
Not all of Paul's life was spent as a great missionary of God. The prior years to his missionary days were spent educating himself, practicing his trade, or persecuting Christians. The latter times before Paul's conversion were mostly spent persecuting the Christians. From the day of Stephen's death a great persecution broke out against the followers of Jesus. Saul, as he was known then, had such zealous activity as a Jew that it led him to join the persecutions. He volunteered his services to the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. So violent was his persecution that we read: 'Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison' (Acts 8:3; 1 Cor. 15:9; Phil. 3:6). In Acts 9:1 it tells of how Saul, 'breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples', went to the high priest for letters he could take with him to the synagogues in Damascus in order to pursue the persecution there as well.
This is where we come to the turning point in Paul's life. It was while he was on his way to Damascus that Acts 9 tells us a bright light from heaven flashed around him, throwing him to the ground and blinding him. While he was still laying on the ground, a voice spoke to him saying, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?' Paul then asked in returned confusion, 'Who are you, Lord?' only to receive the frightening words: 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting' (Acts 9:4-5). Saul was therefore instructed to go to Damascus and wait for further instructions. He
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himself, Barnabas, Saul, Paul carry, Paul "Hermes, Phil., Stephen,
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Jerusalem, Asia, Antioch, Tarsus, Rome, Caesarea, Nashville,
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