"For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, . . .



Paul now begins his first line of defense that his gospel did not have human origin.  He is going to use his past as proof that no man could have persuaded him with the gospel.

Paul’s life before Christ was consumed by Judaism.  It was not like the pagan religions that could be used as needed.  Judaism demand obedience in every area at all times.


" . . . How intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it."



The word “intensely” (huperbole) is a compound word “huper” which means “over and above” and “bole” means to throw.   The word “huperbole” then means “a throwing above and beyond.”  In the context it means “beyond measure or in excess.”


“Persecuted” is in the imperfect and means “to pursue, to hunt, to persecute.”  The imperfect mood means this was a continual activity that Paul never ceased from pursuing in his previous life.

“Destroy” is a word used to describe soldiers trying to ravage a city.  This word is used in Acts 9:21 when the people heard of Paul’s conversion and asked in amazement, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name?”




" I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age . . .”



Paul was moving ahead of the other young men training for the more prominent positions in Judaism.  The word “advancing”, “proekopton”, is a word commonly used to describe student who made great progress in their learning.  It is used of Jesus and his growth in Luke 2:52.  The word  means “to cut forward as in a forest.”  It means “to blaze away, to go ahead, to advance, to make progress.” 


There is a sense in this statement  that indicates a competition in studies and preparation for positions within Judaism between several of the best young men that had gone through the levels of Jewish education.


The New England Bible translates it this way:

            “. . .and how in the practice of our national religion I was outstripping many of my Jewish contemporaries in my boundless devotion to the tradition of my ancestors.”




“. . .and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.”



The “traditions of my fathers” are more than just Jewish culture but refer to oral law handed down through the schools of the Pharisees.  These traditions were not written down in the Word of God but where verbally communicated.  They were the Torah and the traditions of the rabbis that had to be memorized. There where 613 portions of which 248 where positive commands and 365 where prohibitions.





Hillel lived around 60 BC to 20 AD.  He was a Jew from Babylon who desired to study the Torah with the great teachers in Jerusalem.  Due to his poverty he could not pay for training so he sat outside the windows to listen.  Once they found him covered with snow and brought him in.  Hillel’s nature was kind and gentle.  This is reflected in his interpretation and teaching of the law.  Hillel developed a more progressive school.  He developed seven rules for interpreting Scripture.  Once when challenged to explain Judaism while he stood on one foot, Hillel replied, “Do not unto thy fellows what is hateful unto you; this is the whole law; the rest is commentary.”





Is a well known Jewish teacher that lived during the first century of the church.  He was the grandson of Hillel.  He advices the Sanhedrin in Acts 5:34.  He tells them to handle the apostles carefully because they could be doing the will of God.  Gamaliel is quoted in the Mishnah which is the written record of the rabbia’s oral traditions concerning the Torah. He received the highest title for a Jewish teacher.  Gamaliel was a member and leader of the Sanhedrin along with Nicodemus and Joseph of Aramathea.  Gamaliel taught the practical side of the law and allowed his students to read and study the writings of the Greeks.


Paul’s Ancestry

“I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no ordinary city.”              Acts 21:39


“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city (Jerusalem).”  Acts 22:3


“Are they Hebrews? So am I.  Are they Israelites?  So am I.  Are they Abraham’s descendants?  So am I.”  2 Cor. 11:22


“I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin.”  Romans 11:1


“If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more:  circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews.”  Phil. 3:4,5


Paul The Persecutor

    Acts 7:57-8:2

Acts 22:20

 Acts 8:3,4

 Acts 22:4,5,19

Acts 26:9-11




Paul’s Education

“Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as  zealous for God as any of you are today.”        

Acts 22:3

“My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee.”

Acts 23:6

The Jews all know the way I have lived ever since I was a child, from the beginning of my life in my own country, and also in Jerusalem.  They have known me for a long time and can testify , if they are willing, that according to the strictest sect of our religion, I lived as a Pharisee.” 

Acts 26:4-5

“. . .in regard to the law, a Pharisee.”  Philippians 3:5


Paul’s Character

“As for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.”        

Philippians 3:6

“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength,

that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. 

Even thought I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor

and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted

in ignorance and unbelief.”      

1 Timothy 1:12,13

I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did,

with a clear conscience.” 

2 Timothy 1:3