The story of the early church wouldn’t be complete without a close examination of the life of the man known as Saul. From Luke’s account, we learn that Saul was born in Tarsus, a city of immense importance during the first century. It was known as one of the great learning centers of the ancient world, alongside Alexandria in Egypt and Athens in Greece.
Although Tarsus was quite Hellenistic — that is, culturally Greek — and even pagan in many ways, there was a large community of Jews there. Scripture tells us that Saul’s family had somehow acquired its Roman citizenship, so Saul was born a Roman citizen himself. He was a Jew, but unlike most of the Jews in Judea, he had all the benefits of Roman citizenship.
As a child, Saul was sent to Jerusalem for his formal education. According to scripture, he actually trained under the renowned man named Gamaliel. According to Acts, Chapter 5, it was Gamaliel who saved the apostles from certain death at the hands of a furious religious council.
After his education in Jerusalem, Saul returned to Tarsus, where he would have been trained in Greek philosophy and literature. He would have also learned Hellenistic and Roman subjects. At some point, Saul also began learning his trade — tent making. This was big business in Tarsus, since the region was well known for a type of felt cloth made from the wool of shaggy black goats.
In short, Saul was wise in the ways of the world and his Israelite heritage. He was well connected in the Roman machinery of Tarsus and the religious establishment of Jerusalem.