The Early Life and Background 
of Paul the Apostle.

 contact.gif© 2002, Quency E. Wallace. All rights reserved

Introduction.  The Apostle Paul, to the many Christians who have had the opportunity to do a cursory study of this remarkable 1st century icon of the primitive church, still remains a highly enigmatic figure, even though he did much of the writing of the New Testament. Paul, through no fault of his own, has not been given enough extant historical material that can be mined to give us a thorough analysis of this fascinating figure who has come to dominate much of the New Testament Theology embraced by Western culture.

It is possible, however, to combine scriptural analysis and anthropological research, with extra-biblical source information to produce a reasoned analysis of the possible cultural milleu, education, and other environmental influences in the early life of Paul that helped to shape him into the man that was divinely called to shepherd the new church into it's mission to all humanity. To the extent this is possible, the ultimate purpose of this paper is to shed additional light upon the early years of Paul, ending with a brief analysis of the effect of his upbringing on his theology.

There is always the danger present in giving a reasoned historical analysis of the bible and biblical figures of allowing too much "higher criticism" of the scriptural text to "creep" into the analytical process. To avert this, this paper will take a "high view" of scripture, and a more "pedestrian" approach in terms of presenting historical reasoning and extra-biblical information. It is with this in mind that most of the writing contained in this paper will be in a "conversational" form, rather than in an intensely analytical format. This is to help the reader digest the information readily, and to give the reader the distinct impression that the information given in this paper was meant to affirm the inspired writ, and not to challenge, disprove, or belittle God's word.

I. Paul's Background:

His Birthplace

The exact year of the birth of Paul is unknown to us, however many biblical historical scholars have given a time frame of as early as 4 B.C.E. to as late as 5 C.E. Biblical historical scholar F.F. Bruce has given the following statement concerning this: "Saul, who is also called Paul, was born in Tarsus, the principal city of Cilicia, probably in one of the first few years of the Christian era."1 Scholar George T. Montague gives us this statement: "In A.D. 5 Paul was born in Tarsus, in Cilica (Acts 21:39, 22:3),2 no insignificant city" (Acts 21:39). The city of Tarsus, where Paul was born, was a very important city in Paul's day, as it was one of the largest trade centers on the Mediterranean coast. It was a seaport city, about twelve miles up the river Cydnus, with a harbor that was well protected by natural rock fortifications.

The general population of Tarsus in Paul's day was over a quarter of a million people. People came to Tarsus from all over the Roman empire to live and work in this prosperous city. Tarsus had become a rich city mainly because of trade. Merchants from Tarsus were well known throughout the Roman empire. Tarsian merchants were noted for their love of their craft, and their almost fanatic zeal in their monetary investments in their city's infrastructure. The merchants of Tarsus invested in good roads, education, public health and city beautification projects. One of the largest sources of income for merchants was the Tarsus mountains, about twenty five miles north of the city. The Tarsus Mountains were rich in minerals and lumber. The mountain slopes were populated by huge herds of black goats. From the hair of the goats a strong cloth was woven, called cilicium. Cilicium was used for many purposes, such as cloaks, floor coverings, house partitions, bags to transport corpses, and tents. Throughout the Roman world, Tarsians were known for the quality of their tents. Historian John Pollock had the following to say about the popularity of tents from Tarsian craftsmen: "The black tents of Tarsus were used by caravans, nomads, and armies all over Asia Minor and Syria"3 (italics mine). 

Tarsus had been in existence as a city centuries before Paul was born. Several hundred years prior to his birth, during the period of Alexander the Great, the city was the most influential in Asia Minor. Alexander the Great brought Hellenization (Grecian thought, influence, and customs) with him when he took over the city and all of Asia Minor. After Alexander's death, one of his generals Seleucis took over the region that included Tarsus, proclaimed himself king and established the Selucidic dynasty that lasted several hundred years. One of the kings in that dynasty, Antiochus Epiphanes, fell in love with the city, and recognizing how important the city was to his kingdom, gave the citizens virtually anything they wanted. In 170 B.C.E. the citizens of the city asked Antiochus if they could govern themselves without outside influence other than Antiochus' own, and he granted them their request. Antiochus gave Tarsus the status of a Greek city-state in 170 B.C.E. In 64 B.C.E., Rome defeated the Selucidic dynasty and Tarsus became part of the Roman empire. The Romans, who understood that for a hundred years Tarsian citizens had enjoyed privileged status because of their importance in trade, followed the example left by their predecessors. The Romans made Tarsus the capital city of the Roman province of Cilica, and gave the city special status. Historian Robert Picirilli had the following to say concerning the special status given to Tarsus by the Roman senate: "It was also awarded, by the Roman senate, the privileged standing of Libera Civitas."4 The term Libera Civitas simply means "free city." The Romans, following the example of the previous Seleucidic rulers, allowed Tarsus to govern herself separately from the provincial government. This meant that Tarsus was exempt from paying any taxes to Rome, and all Tarsian merchants were exempt from all duty taxes. Under Roman rule, the status of the city enhanced five-fold, and the city's population increased dramatically. 

Tarsus was widely known in antiquity as a "university city," as well as a city of commerce in Paul's day. Educators from all over the Roman empire came to teach at the schools of learning at Tarsus. Grecian, Egyptian, Roman, African, and many other scholars came, bringing their learning and culture with them. Tarsian merchants and others invested heavily in the education of Tarsian citizens, and no expense was spared in the recruitment of top educators from all over the empire. Historian Robert H. Gundry had the following to say concerning Greco-Roman education and the university at Tarsus: 

"Greco-Roman education was liberal in its scope. Slaves supervised boys in their earlier years by giving them their first lessons and then leading them to and from private schools until they graduated into adulthood with a great deal of ceremony. As young men, they could then attend universities at Athens, Rhodes, Tarsus, Alexandria, and other places to study philosophy, rhetoric, law, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, geography, and botany" (italics mine).5

It becomes immediately obvious that Tarsus was an ancient "ivy league" university, one in which students could receive a top flight education. This university was known to have intellectual leanings toward "Stoicism," and one of it's most famous graduates was the personal teacher and tutor of the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus. Moreover, the Roman Historian Strabo once ranked Tarsus above Athens and Alexandria as an intellectual community. Historian Howard Clark Kee had the following to say concerning this: "Strabo, the historical geographer of the period, ranked Tarsus even above Athens and Alexandria as a center of intellectual life. Athenodorus, the Stoic teacher of Caesar Augustus, had come from Tarsus."6 Historian F.F. Bruce also mentions that the Stoic teacher Athenodorus returned to Tarsus in 15 B.C.E. to teach, and become involved in local politics: "Athenodorus, who could number the Emperor Augustus among his pupils, returned to his native Tarsus in 15 B.C. and reformed the civic administration."7 It is within the context of this intellectually stimulating university community that Paul is born, unquestionably being exposed to the university's dominant Stoic philosophy while growing up in Tarsus. Historian Howard Clark Kee makes this speculation about the influence of Stoic philosophy on Paul: 

"It is not surprising, therefore, that traces of Stoic ethics and religious vocabulary may be found in the letters of Paul. Perhaps the sympathy of Paul with the Gentiles is traceable in part to the impression made upon him by the earnestness of the Stoic preachers who stood in the streets and market places of the city, seeking to inculcate virtue in their listeners."8 

Stoicism was the dominant philosophy in the university town of Tarsus, and it had an effect upon the populace, both Jews and Gentiles. No citizen was totally immune to it's influence, as it was pervasive in all aspects of the culture of Tarsus. 

Paul The Roman Citizen

Paul was born a Roman citizen, in a prominent, wealthy family in Tarsus. Roman citizens commonly had two names, one which indicated their background or heritage apart from Rome, and the other, which would be their Roman heritage. Paul's Roman name Saul Paulus was such a name. "He bore two names, the Hebrew Saul meaning "desired" or "asked for," and the Roman Paulus, meaning "small."9 Roman citizenship in Tarsus, even for the wealthy, was not automatic. Rome had made Tarsus a self-governing city, but did not grant Roman citizenship for every citizen of Tarsus. If a citizen of Tarsus was from a family of social standing of four generations or more, they were generally granted citizenship status. Paul's father more than likely inherited citizenship from his father, and Paul inherited citizenship from his father. In the book titled Great People of the Bible And How They Lived, edited by Harvard Old Testament historian G. Earnest Wright, the following excerpt is given:

"Paul was born into a devout Jewish family in the city of Tarsus, capital of the small Roman district of Cilicia in Asia Minor. His father, a member of the ancient tribe of Benjamin, named him Saul, after Israel's first king. (Later in life, Saul became better known by his Roman name Paul.) A man of standing in the community, he held the privileged status of Roman citizen, an honor rarely conferred upon Jews. His son inherited this legal advantage."10 

Roman citizenship had many advantages. If a Roman citizen was arrested by local authorities, they were automatically entitled to a fair trial. If they felt the outcome was not fair, they could appeal directly to the emperor for judgment. Local Tarsian citizens who did not have Roman citizenship did not have the same privileges. Roman citizens could also serve in government posts, vote in Roman affairs, join the Roman legion, and become members of the senate. Anyone who was a citizen of Rome had a tremendous advantage as a resident of Tarsus. 

Paul And His Grecian Cultural Environment

Paul had been raised in a Hellenistic (Greek thought, influence and customs) society in Tarsus. In the book of Acts, chapter 21, we find that Paul spoke fluent Greek to the Roman military captain, Lysias, to stop a crowd from lynching him. Historian and exegete William Barclay stated the following: "The captain was amazed to hear the accents of cultured Greek coming from this man (Paul) whom the crowd were out to lynch."11 Paul was fluent in Koine Greek, a Greek tongue commonly spoken in his native city of Tarsus, as well as being fluent in Classical Greek, which indicated that he had been exposed to Greek learning at the university level. George T. Montague had the following to say concerning Paul's use of "Classical" Greek and his possible exposure to the university or philosophical schools in his training:

"His mastery of the Greek literary technique of the diatribe and his occasional citation of Greek authors (Aratus in Acts 17:18; Meander in 1 Cor. 15:23; Epimenides in Tit 1:1) are considered by some as evidence that he frequented the Hellenistic schools of rhetoric."12 

Church History scholar John Drane takes the argument to another level, discussing the following speculative reasonings concerning Paul's exposure to Greek philosophy:

"Of the many philosophical schools of the time, Stoicism was probably the most congenial to Paul. One or two of the great Stoics came from Tarsus, and Paul may have remembered something about their teachings from his youth. Some scholars have suggested that Paul's acquaintance with Stoic philosophy was closer than this. In 1910 Rudolf Bultmann pointed out that Paul's reasoning sometimes resembles the Stoics' arguments. Both use rhetorical questions, short disconnected statements, an imaginary opponent to raise questions, and frequent illustrations drawn from athletics, building, and life in general. It is even possible to find phrases in Paul's teaching which could be taken to support Stoic doctrine; for example the statement that "all things were created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together " (Colossians 1:16-17)....Paul's letters also often reflect Stoic terminology - as when he describes morality in terms of what is "fitting" or "not fitting" (Colossians 3:18; Ephesians 5:3-4). No doubt Paul would know and sympathize with many Stoic ideals."13 

This highly reasoned argument by Drane is based upon the many parallels of Stoic doctrine and the Bible. Both are monotheistic, both believe in living according to the will of God, (or nature in the case of Stoicism). British Scholar F. W. Walbank, who was the Rathbone Professor of Ancient History and Classical Archaeology at the University of Liverpool, had the following to say concerning Stoicism:

"This school, set up in the Painted Hall (Stoa Poikile) by Zeno of Citium in Cyprus (335-263), taught a complete philosophical system which with certain modifications was to flourish throughout the Hellenistic period and to become the most popular philosophy during the first two centuries of the Roman Empire. It had several main tenets. The only good is in virtue, which means living in accordance with the will of god or nature - the two being more or less identified. One's knowledge of what that is depends on an understanding of reality, which (contrary to the views of the skeptics) can be acquired through the senses by a 'perception conveying direct apprehension' (kataleptike phantasia), as the Stoic jargon described accepting the evidence of the senses. Such virtue is the only good: all else (if not positively evil) is indifferent."14 

Stoic philosophy, it would appear, was embraced as the "popular philosophy" of the Roman Empire in Paul's day. It is easy to see how Paul, being taught Stoic fundamentals, used Stoicism in metaphorical language to get his audiences to understand his point. This approach would have been the one that would have made the most sense in the impartation of God's word. It is very easy to picture Paul intertwining Stoic philosophical techniques and ideas with the truths contained in the gospel, to assist Gentile audiences in their understanding of the word of God. Paul utilized his Grecian cultural and educational background as leverage in his efforts to convert and train Gentile hearers in the way of the Lord.

II. Paul As A Jew 

Paul's Religion: Judaism

Judaism, in Paul's day was considered to be influential, with many followers in Palestine and throughout the Roman empire. It was considered to be the "official" religion of the Jews, and as such, was deemed legal by Rome. Although first and foremost considered to be a Jewish religion, there were many non-Jews (Gentiles) who had converted to Judaism's monotheistic and ethical beliefs, which had wide appeal to those who had already embraced much of it's tenets found in philosophy, but were dissatisfied with the limitations found in Greek philosophy. Judaism can best be described as a religion based upon the law given to Moses by God. The keeping of the law was the most notable characteristic emphasis of Judaism. It was the most important duty a Jew or believing Gentile could do to fulfill their obligation as a member of the "covenant community" of believers. In Paul's day rabbis were the teachers and exegetes of the sacred writings found in the Torah. Scribes were the professional copiers of the law, and also assisted rabbis in the interpretation of the law. Synagogues, scattered throughout much of the Roman Empire, were places that were devoted to the study, training, preaching and teaching of the law. The Synagogue was the place where most Jews went to be educated by the rabbis, attend synagogue social functions, and hear the message from a rabbi or qualified layman on the Sabbath.

There were three different main sects within Judaism in Paul's day, Pharisees, Saducees, and the Essenes. Of these three, the Essenes were the most strict as a religious order. They generally shunned marriage, and were a male only order. They lived very austere lives, much like the monks of Christian religious orders in the Catholic Church many centuries later. They generally lived in remote places in the country and desert. There they studied and copied their scriptures, and worshipped God together. The 1st century Jewish Historian Josephus was very impressed with their piety toward God and their industriousness. He said the following concerning this:

"And as for their piety toward God, it is very extraordinary; for before the sunrising they speak not a word about profane matters, but put up certain prayers which they have received from their forefathers, as if they made a supplication for its rising. After this every one of them are sent away by their curators, (supervisors) to exercise some of the arts wherein they are skilled, in which they labor with great diligence to the fifth hour."15 

The Essenes were pious and very industrious. They benefited themselves and society as a whole by their labors. They fed the hungry, taught the illiterate, and preserved the law of Moses and other OT writings by their diligence in the copying of it. The recent discovery in the 20th century of the Dead Sea Scrolls of scripture were made possible by the work of the Essenes

The Sadducees were a small sect of Judaism, populated mostly by the rich and powerful in Jewish society. The Sadducees did not believe in angels or in life after death. According to Robert Picirilli "Their real interests were concerned more with this life and the present than with the life to come and the future."16 Most of the high offices in the Jewish religious courts, most notably the Sanhedrin, were tightly controlled by the Sadducees. The priesthood of the great temple of Jerusalem was also controlled exclusively by the Sadducees. The Sadducees were always trying to gain an economic or political advantage whenever possible. Religion to the majority of them was just a convenient way to gain power, money, and influence. They were treacherous, even to each other. Josephus had this to say about them: "The behavior of the Sadducees one towards another is in some degrees wild; and their conversation with those that are of their own party is as barbarous as if they were strangers unto them."17 The Sadducees were only in Judaism for political or economic gain. Their religion had deteriorated to a sham. There were only a few pious followers among the Sadducees.

The Pharisees were the largest sect of Judaism. The majority of Orthodox Jews were Pharisees, as was Paul and his family. Their religion centered around the law of Moses and was legalistic in nature. Josephus had this to say concerning the Pharisees, of whom he was a member: "The Pharisees are those who are esteemed most skillful in the exact explication of their laws."18 

The Pharisees believed that following God meant obeying the laws of Moses with exact detail. Laws of ceremonial purity were also zealously kept by the Pharisees, as well as rules for keeping of the Sabbath day. The Pharisees, in their zeal for keeping the law of Moses, built a set of rabbinic rules to build a hedge and "protect" the sacred laws of Moses. In Paul's day it was known as the "Oral Torah" or traditional sayings applicable to daily living. Eventually, in later centuries it evolved into the Talmud, which consisted of the Mishnah (oral law) and the Gemara (rabbinical comments). The rabbinic rules were incredibly detailed in Paul's day. If the Mosaic law forbade one to work on the Sabbath, the rabbinic rule to build a hedge and "protect" that part of the law took it a step further. The rabbinic rule would not only inform the people that they could not work on the Sabbath, it would tell them that they could not carry or touch any of their tools on the Sabbath. Because of this tradition of rules, rabbis became very prominent in Jewish society. The people were constantly going to the synagogues to consult with rabbis to make sure that they were following their religion to the letter, and not offending God.

Paul's Education

For Paul, as an Orthodox Pharisee, his education would have started in the synagogue very young at around the age of five. This is because of traditional Jewish belief that the instilling of the law must start early in life. The Jewish philosopher Philo said the following concerning this:

"For all men are eager to preserve their own customs and laws, and the Jewish nation above all others; for looking upon their laws as oracles directly given to them by God Himself, and having been instructed in this doctrine from their very earliest infancy they bear in their souls the images of the commandments contained in these laws as sacred."19 

In addition to this, the following statement is a direct quote from the Jewish Mishnah:

"At five years old one is fit for the Scripture, at ten years for the Mishnah, at thirteen for the fulfilling of the commandments, at fifteen for the Talmud, at eighteen for the bride-chamber, at twenty for pursuing a calling, at thirty for authority, at forty for discernment, at fifty for counsel, at sixty for special strength, at ninety for bowed back, and at a hundred a man is as one that has already died and passed away and ceased from the world."20 

From the writings of the Jewish Historian Josephus we learn the following concerning the tradition of teaching young children the precepts of the law:

"Nay, indeed, the law does not permit us to make festivals at the births of our children, and thereby afford occasion of drinking to excess; but it ordains that the very beginning of our education should be immediately directed to sobriety. It also commands us to bring those children up in learning, and to exercise them in the laws, and make them acquainted with the acts of their predecessors, in order to their imitation of them, and that they may be nourished up in the laws from their infancy, and might neither transgress them nor yet have any pretense for their ignorance of them."21 

Gleaning from these sources, we can assume that Paul started his education at or around the age of five, studying the Pentateuch. At the age of ten, he would have advanced to the Mishnah, which dealt with detailed tradition. At the age of thirteen he would have completed his study of the Mishnah, and would have been ready for formal rabbinical school training. It was more than likely at this age that Paul left Tarsus to live in Jerusalem, probably with his married sister (Acts 23:16) to begin his formal training at the Hillel rabbinical school in Jerusalem. Paul studied under the renown rabbi Gamaliel I, who was one of the greatest rabbinical teachers of the first century (Acts 22:3). Noted Christian education scholar Elmer Towns had the following to say concerning Paul's rabbinical school education:

"Rabbinic education focused on the Hebrew Bible and its traditional interpretations. But it also exposed neophyte rabbis to the "wisdom of the Greeks." The Talmud reports that Rabbi Simeon ben Gamaliel II, a second century teacher, implemented a dual curriculum by having five hundred students study the traditions of the Hebrews and another five hundred the writings of the Greeks, midpoint in their program reversing the relationship. Despite its antagonism to all Hellenistic systems of thought, Judaism was not averse to borrowing ideas and forms from the Greek world if it could press them into service for the God of Israel."22 

It would be reasonable to assume that Paul, studying under one of the greatest rabbinical scholars of all time in the liberal Hillel school, would have received a wide range of exposure to Greek philosophy along with his traditional Hebrew training, to keep him abreast with the most recent philosophical knowledge of his day. Concerning Paul's Hebrew education, Robert Picirilli said that Paul had studied "the Midrashim, expositions of the Hebrew Scriptures; the Halacha, legal customs and practices added by the rabbis to the Old Testament practices; the Haggadah, non legal narratives exegeting the scriptures."23 In addition to his studies, Paul had to memorize the ancient Hebrew language Targums, and be able to translate it into Aramaic. Paul, when he had finished rabbinical school, had received the best education that his religion had to offer. The Hillel school could only be attended by the best Jewish minds of Paul's day.


When analyzing the cultural and educational influences upon the remarkable life and theological reasonings of the Apostle Paul, one can only step back and marvel at the tremendous accomplishments made in his life, utilizing all of the broad exposure to the world and learning that life afforded him. Paul was not adverse to using any tool in his broad arsenal for the cause of Christ, utilizing them to the fullest. Paul's early life in his hometown of Tarsus exposed him to Hellenistic Judaism, which allowed for Grecian learning and influence, even though his parents were devout Jews. Without doubt in those early formative years in Tarsus, Paul became exposed to different cultures and teaching as well as Orthodox Pharisaic Judaism, which allowed him to learn "Classic Greek," Greek philosophy, Koine Greek (This form of Greek was spoken by everyone in Tarsus, even Orthodox Pharisaic Jews) and other disciplines. By his family being wealthy tentmakers and Roman citizens, he was no doubt exposed to ranking Roman officials, and Roman practices, law, and customs.

Paul's rabbinic education was first class, as he learned his craft from one of the most noted rabbis in history. Along with his rabbinic education, the Hillel school was noted for giving their students a balanced education, giving Paul broad exposure to classical literature, philosophy, and ethics. Paul, in his letters, borrowed heavily from his knowledge of Stoic philosophy, using Stoic terms and metaphors to assist his new Gentile converts in their understanding of the revealed word of God. Paul also relied heavily upon his training received concerning the law and the prophets, utilizing this knowledge to convince his Jewish countrymen of the unity of past OT prophecy and covenants with the fulfilling of these in Jesus Christ. Paul, as the evangelist, is without peer. God, in his divine wisdom and grace, exposed Paul to a wide spectrum of experiences and education, giving the Apostle to the Gentiles the tools to effectively spread the Gospel and establish the church solidly in all parts of the Roman Empire.

End Notes

1 F.F. Bruce, New Testament History, (New York: Doubleday, 1980), pg. 234. This would most likely give us a date of between C.E. 1 to C.E. 4, however, this statement by Bruce was only meant to give his best guess concerning the timeframe of Paul’s birth. The precise placement within history of Paul’s birth is problematic, and fraught with problems.

2 George T. Montague, The Living Thought of St. Paul, (Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Co, 1966), pg.1.

3 John Pollock, The Apostle, (Wheaton, Ill: Victor Publishing, 1972), pg 5. This reference was given to show the importance of the probability that Paul’s family and ancestors, who were tentmakers by trade, most likely had broad contact and favorable relationships through the years with the Roman military, who undoubtedly used their products and services extensively. It is highly probable that through these close business relationships with the Roman military generals, that the grandfather or father of Paul was awarded Roman citizenship. This argument could be made on the fact that two Roman generals immediately prior to the Christian era, notably Pompey and Antony, were provincial generals in the area. Roman generals, by virtue of the powers invested in them by the senate and Ceasars, had supreme authority (imperium) in their respective provinces, and had the power to give Roman citizenship to loyal subjects within their provinces who were deemed worthy to receive it. In a personal letter written by Sir William Calder in February 18, 1953, he makes the following convincing statement: “Had not his father (or possibly grandfather) been made a citizen by Antony or Pompey? Were they not a firm of skenepoioi {tentmakers}, able to be very useful to a fighting proconsul?” (This excerpt is from F.F Bruce, New Testament History, pg. 235).

4 Robert Picirilli, Paul The Apostle, (Chicago, Moody Press, 1986), pg.3. The Romans, being very able statesmen and capable rulers, usually allowed conquered cities to retain whatever privileges they had under a previous administration, as long as it did not interfere with Roman authority over the city. The Romans usually sought to keep peace and enhance the cities under their rule, to quell possible dissent and rebellion by their subjects.

5 Robert H. Gundry, A Survey Of The New Testament, (Grand Rapids, Zondervan Publishing House, 1994), pgs.81-82. It is clear by the author’s inference that Tarsus was among the top four of the most desirable universities to attend in antiquity by the privileged classes in the Roman empire

6 Howard Clark Kee & Franklin W. Young, Understanding The New Testament, (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, Prentice Hall, Inc. 1958), pg 208.

7 F.F. Bruce, New Testament History, (New York, Doubleday, 1980), pg. 234.

8 Howard Clark Kee & Franklin W. Young. Understanding The New Testament,  (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, Prentice Hall, Inc. 1958), pg 208. This quote was given in part to understand some of the Tarsian intellectual influences that were part and parcel of Paul’s intellectual formation. Although a relatively young man when he left Tarsus for Jerusalem for further study at the Hillel Rabbinical School, the influences of Stoicism and other rational thought espoused in Tarsian learning and society helped to shape his reasoning skills and ability. These skills, coupled with scriptural knowledge and spiritual illumination, undoubtedly increased the efficacy of the ministry of Paul to Gentile hearers.

9 George T. Montague, The Living Thought of St. Paul, (Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Co, 1966), pg.2.

10 G. Ernest Wright, Great People Of The Bible And How They Lived, (Pleasantville, New York: The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., 1974), pg.404.

11 William Barclay, The Acts of the Apostles, (Philadelphia: The Westminister Press, 1976), pg. 158. This excerpt was chosen to show the fact that Paul was able to speak in Classical Greek, which was, in Paul’s day,  the language of the educated class. Professional people, most notably those educated in university schools of philosophy, rhetoric, and law, were taught classical Greek.  Koine Greek, which was the lingua franca of the Roman Empire, was a lower or “debased” form of the “Classic” Greek, peppered with slang words developed by local municipalities throughout the empire. It was the language of the common people, and generally was not used in professional and academic circles, or in universities. The situation could be favorably compared to the use of “Academic English,” or English that has a sophisticated flair, with the use of words that are typical of those in academic circles, in comparison to “Common English,” or English that has the strong use of slang words, developed by different regions of the country.

12 George T. Montague, The Living Thought of St. Paul, (Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Co, 1966), pg. 2.

13 John Drane, Introducing The New Testament, (San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1986), pgs. 255-256. John Drane’s argument for Stoic influence, particularly, some type of training that would have instilled this into Paul early, is very convincing. One would be hard pressed to ignore the very reasonable assumption that Paul, at some point very early in his life, had been a student at a school of philosophy or rhetoric, one in which he was taught Stoic ideals and “Classical” Greek.

14 F. W. Walbank, The Hellenistic World, (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1980), pg. 180. From this quote, one can easily picture the Apostle Paul using Stoicism extensively, as a tool to help his Gentile converts understand the Gospel, and absorb his teachings. Paul used every tool in his arsenal to relate to the unrighteous, and win them to Christ, as well as in the instruction of new converts.

15 William Whiston, Josephus Complete Works, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1985), pg. 476. This excerpt was given to show the piety and ascetic nature of the sect of the Essenes, who forbade any within their sect to marry, or have any relationships with the opposite sex. They generally thought of pleasure as evil, and kept a tightly knit all male community. They did, however, choose male children within the Jewish community to bring them up within the confines of their sect, to perpetuate their work in the community. They were the humanitarians in the Jewish community, often taking care of the sick and destitute citizens. It is to this community we owe the gratitude for the Qumran Cave Documents, copied by Essene scribes, and discovered centuries later in the 1900’s.  

16 Robert E. Picirilli, Paul The Apostle, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), pg.25.

17 William Whiston, Josephus Complete Works, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1985), pg. 478.

18 Ibid., pg.478.

19 C. D. Yonge, The Works of Philo, (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1997), pg. 776.

20 Mishnah, Aboth 5:21

21 William Whiston, Josephus Complete Works, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1985), pg. 632.

22 Elmer Towns, A History of Religious Educators, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1975), pg. 42.

23 Robert E. Picirilli, Paul The Apostle, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), pg. 30.



Barclay, William. The Acts of the Apostles. Philadelphia: The Westminister Press, 1976.

Bruce, F. F. New Testament History. New York: Doubleday, 1980.

Drane, John. Introducing The New Testament. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1986.

Gundry, Robert H. A Survey Of The New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994.

Key, Howard Clark & Franklin W. Young. Understanding The New Testament. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc, 1958.

Montague, George T. The Living Thought Of St. Paul. Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Co. 1966.

Picirilli, Robert E. Paul The Apostle.  Chicago: Moody Press, 1986.

Pollock, John. The Apostle. Wheaton, Ill: Victor Publishing, 1972.

Towns, Elmer. A History of Religious Educators. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1975.

Walbank, F. W. The Hellenistic World. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1980.

Wright, Ernest G. Great People Of The Bible And How They Lived. Pleasantville, New York: The Readers Digest Association, Inc., 1974.

Younge, C. D. The Works of Philo. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1977.

Rev. Quency E. Wallace holds a Master of Theology and Master of Biblical Studies from Regent University School of Divinity.  He is presently pursuing a Doctorate in Theology from the same institution.