This Friday, the Church celebrates the conversion of St. Paul.
Here are eight things you need to know about him–and his conversion.
1. Where was St. Paul from?
In Acts 21:39, St. Paul states:
“I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city.”
Tarsus was the capital city of the Roman province of Cilicia. This is on the southeast coast of modern Turkey, so St. Paul was not from the holy land. He was actually a Jew born in what is now Turkey.
It was a port city and a noted commercial center. For these reasons, and because it was the capital, he can describe it as “no mean city” (that is, no common, ordinary city). It was famous.
One of the things it was famous for was being the place where Mark Anthony first met Cleopatra, after which they embarked on their doomed alliance.
Tarsus survives today as the city of Mersin, Turkey.
2. Where was Paul raised and educated?
In Jerusalem. In Acts 22:3, Paul gives a bit more information about his background:
“I am a Jew, born at Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city [Jerusalem] at the feet of Gamaliel, educated according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as you all are this day.”
Gamaliel was a famous Jewish teacher. So famous, in fact, that we know about him today from Jewish sources.
Gamaliel is also mentioned in Acts, where he takes an open-minded view of Christianity, urging that it not be persecuted (Acts 5:34-42). Paul did not agree with him at this time, because this was before Paul’s great persecution of the Church, as well as before his conversion.