Paul was known for many years as Saul of Tarsus. He was born of Jewish parentage in the city of Tarsus of Cilicia. He was not only a Jew, but by his own testimony, he was a Pharisee and a son of a Pharisee (Acts 23:6), was a Hebrew of Hebrews (spoke Hebrew or Aramaic), was of the tribe of Benjamin (Phil. 3:4-5), and had evidently been taught the trade of tent-making as a youth (Acts 18:3).
Evidently at a young age, he went to Jerusalem, and according to his testimony, studied under the well know Gamaliel I, a noted teacher in the School of Hillel (Acts 22:3). In his studies, he had advanced in the religion of the Jews beyond many of his fellows as one extremely zealous for his ancestral traditions (Gal. 1:14).
His zeal as a religious Jew was carried over into the way he zealously sought to persecute the church. As a young Pharisee, he was present when Stephen was stoned and murdered (Acts 7:58-83). In his campaign against Christians, both men and women, he traveled with letters of arrest from the high priest and went to other cities to waste the church of Jesus Christ (Acts 26:10-11; Gal. 1:13). It was on one of these missions that Saul was converted while on the road to Damascus.
Paul was also a Greek by culture having evidently received a Greek education (cf. Acts 17:28; Titus 1:12). He shows acquaintance with Greek culture and their thinking. As such a student, he was familiar with many of the sayings of classical and contemporary writers. In addition, Paul was a Roman citizen, being Roman born (Acts 22:28). Because of this, he could appeal to Caesar as a citizen of Rome while imprisoned in Philippi (Acts 16:37-39).
Consequently, Paul was uniquely qualified to be the one chosen to carry the message of the gospel to the Gentiles. Paul could easily say, “I am become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some” (1 Cor. 9:22).