In his childhood and youth, Saul learned how to “work with [his] own hands” (1 Corinthians 4:12). His trade, tent making, which he continued to practice after his conversion to Christianity, helps to explain important aspects of his apostleship. He could travel with a few leather-working tools and set up shop anywhere. It is doubtful that his family was wealthy or aristocratic, but, since he found it noteworthy that he sometimes worked with his own hands, it may be assumed that he was not a common labourer.
Until about the midpoint of his life, Saul was a member of the Pharisees, a religious party that emerged during the later Second Temple period. What little is known about Paul the Pharisee reflects the character of the Pharisaic movement. Pharisees believed in life after death, which was one of Saul’s deepest convictions. They accepted nonbiblical “traditions” as being about as important as the written Bible; Saul refers to his expertise in “traditions” (Galatians 1:14). Pharisees were very careful students of the Hebrew Bible, and Saul was able to quote extensively from the Greek translation.
By his own account, Saul was the best Jew and the best Pharisee of his generation (Philippians 3:4–6; Galatians 1:13–14), as later he claimed to be the best apostle of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:22–3; 1 Corinthians 15:9–10)—though he attributed his excellence to the grace of God.Read More »