The Apostle Paul penned much of the New Testament. For this reason, it’s important to understand a little about the man. To that end, I compiled this brief survey of Paul.
Paul was born in Tarsus in the region of Cilicia, which is near the southern coast of what is now Turkey. He most likely came from a well-to-do family, because he was born a Roman citizen (Acts 16:37, 38, 22:25-29), and his family would have had to owned land or otherwise possessed some wealth and standing. From his rather self-conscious reference to “working with our own hands” in 1 Corinthians 4:12 and his somewhat awkwardly expressed word of thanks for a gift of money in Philippians 4:14-19, it may be surmised that he speaks as one whose natural place in society was quite reverse of any “blue collar” proletarian status. This gives us great insight as to the depth of his love for the Lord, for he gave up all to follow Him.
Jewish law prescribed that a boy begin studying the Scriptures at age five. But Jewish culture also asserted that intellectual education go hand in hand with manual labor. Jewish education sought to produce a man who could both think and act; one who was neither a geek, nor too machismo. For this reason, Paul was also skilled as a tentmaker.
Paul was a man of the city. He was raised in the thriving commercial and intellectual center of Tarsus and trained in the Israelite capital of Jerusalem. He concentrated his missionary activities on the great centers of Roman influence, and he looked forward to preaching in Rome, the capital of the empire.
To accurately understand Paul, one must also understand his life in Judaism. In the first place, the claim that Christianity is the fulfillment of Israel’s spiritual aspirations, as the apostle asserts, would be truly significant only if Paul were in a position to understand the deepest longings of the OT and orthodox Judaism at its best. Likewise, his attacks against the Judaism of his day would be meaningful only if he had been in a position to have known Judaism at its best. It can be safely asserted that Paul was the greatest influence in bringing the gospel of Christ to the world outside Judaism.