There was a man commonly known as Paul the apostle, who lived in the 1st Century CE (Common Era). The title apostle means someone who is sent – a messenger.
His eventual encounter with the Jewish Messiah Yeshua Ha Mashiach is absolutely amazing, but before we look further into that fact let's look briefly into the background of this man to ascertain who he was.
The Latin name Paulus would have been given to him as a Roman citizen.The book of Acts in the Brit Chadasha (New Testament) in chapter 13 verse 9 tells us Sha'ul was also known as Paulus. His Hebrew name was Sha'ul.
Sha'ul was born in the city of Tarsus located in Cilicia which is located in south – central Turkey. Tarsus was the capital of the province of Cilicia. This was during the time of the Roman Empire.
We see in the book of Acts chapter 21 that Sha'ul was born into a Jewish family. In Acts 22 verse 25 Sha'ul stated he was a Roman citizen, and was born into it rather than having to buy his Roman citizenship as was common in those days.
So, he was a Hebrew and also a Roman citizen. The church havetraditionally referred to him as Paul based on the Greek name Paulus.
It is believed Sha'ul would have spoken Greek, Hebrew, and possibly Aramaic. He may also have known some Latin.
Sha'ul was the author of Romans including other books in the Brit Chadasha, (New Testament) and has much to say about God's love for the Jewish people. It is thought he may have written the book of Romans in Corinth between CE 56 – 57. In the book of Philippians in the Brit Chadasha, chapter 3 verses 3 – 6,Sha'ul states the following:
The Messianic community Sha'ul persecuted consisted of a growing number of Jewish people who believed in the Messiah Yeshua. These people would have remained within the Judaism of the time including being a part of their respective Synagogues.
There were two main religious schools around the time of Sha'ul. The House of Hillel and the House of Shammai. He was considered one of the most studious and bright students of the school of Hillel. It is believed his abilities to read and write may well have commenced around the age of 5 years. He would have commenced his Pharisee training as a young man, and it is thought he may have spent 15 years in training.
It is fascinating to consider the life of Sha'ulprior to his meeting the Messiah, and the subsequent change in his life.His training within the Jewish culture of the time and his in-depth knowledge of the Torah were to be essential for the call God had placed on his life.
While we may not personally experience the dramatic encounter Sha'ul had, the Messiah would want each one of us to respond to Him. There are many passages in the Scriptures that clearly show He desires all who will, to follow Him.
In the book of Galatians, chapter 1, verse 15, Sha'ul wrote that God had picked him out before he was even born, and decided to reveal the Messiah to him. God's plan was to send this well-trained Jewish man, this scholar of the day, to the Goyim (those of the nations) so that they could hear of God's plan to bring about a restoration of mankind to Himself through the Messiah. The Jewish people were always meant to be a light to the nations and to be an example of what it is to live in God's ways.After his encounter Sha'ul had a heart for his own Jewish people as well as for people of the nations. He now had some understanding of the love God has for people. His motivation would now be based on love and concern rather than a legalistic following of Torah. God's Torah is perfect, not legalistic, but mans distortions of it can create a burden.
Just as Sha'ul was able to write that he knew he had been chosen before he was born, there is an encouraging passage in the Bible for all of us. It is found in Psalms chapter 139, verses 13 – 16, written by King David. God also knew each of us before we were born. He fashioned us in our mother's womb; we were not hidden from Him while we were being formed; all of our days were already known by Him before they even existed. All of us have experienced times of joy and also hard times. Sha'ul experienced good times and hard times in his lifetime. Because of his trust in the Messiah, Sha'ul will experience life eternal, which is also available to each one of us.
Sha'ul was a scholar in his day. He would have known the Torah well and probably studied other Jewish writings as well. There were obviously man-made additions attached to his interpretations of the Torah. We need to remember that God gave the Torah and of course all of Scripture to the Jewish people and for all peoples. We can consider the Scriptures as His instruction manual for living. Sha'ul had not understood the message of God's love in his studies. If he had, he would have understood the writings he studied included the message of the Messiah. Instead, he persecuted those who did understand the message of the Messiah. The Messiah who gave His life for all who will believe in Him that they may have eternal life.
The book of Isaiah (in the Tenach) chapter 53 foretells prophetically the coming of the Messiah and how He was to die. Thankfully He rose again.
Just prior to his meeting with the Messiah, Sha'ul was travelling on the road to Dammesek (Damascus) in order to further persecute followers of Yeshua the Messiah. The account of his meeting with the Messiah is recorded in the book of Acts in the Brit Chadasha, chapter 9 verses 3 – 9. As Sha'ul travelled along near to Dammesek, suddenly a bright light shone around him from heaven. As he fell to the ground a voice asked “why are you persecuting me”? Sha'ul cried out and asked who it was. Yeshua told him who He is. The men travelling with Sha'ul heard a voice but saw no one. It is interesting that Sha'ulhad something like scales over his eyes and could not see. Eventually the scales did fall and he could see again. This was a dramatic encounter. It was life changing for Sha'ul.
Sha'ul had been blind to the truth of what God's Word (The Scriptures) were all about. He experienced a temporary physical blindness, but he had also been in a state of spiritual blindness in his life until that point.
In a sense we all need a light of understanding to illuminate our understanding of the messages contained within the Scriptures. This is something we can simply ask God for.
The following are some facts about Sha'ul: