The Influence of a Pharisaic Home

Saul was the son of a Pharisee (Acts 23:6). A Pharisee was a man of position and influence in Jewish communities. Hence, his religious training would have been strict. His father was Hellenized, living in one of the great Greek cities of the world. However, he remained loyal to the traditions of Palestine and was at heart a real Jew. Instinctively, Saul acquired his father’s traits.

As a small child in Tarsus, Saul learned the traditions of the Jewish people through regular instruction at the local synagogue. His first Bible was probably the Greek edition of the Old Testament, the Septuagint (LXX). This 200-year old translation from the original Hebrew was made by Jewish scholars living in Alexandria, Egypt. Most Jews living outside of Palestine used this Greek version rather than the Hebrew Bible. Often Paul quoted the Septuagint in his letters.

In a Pharisaic home, Saul would have begun the study of Law at an early age and become proficient in Hebrew. In the synagogue, he would hear the entire Law read through in the course of three years, as well as the prophets.

The largest and most influential sect in NT times was that of the Pharisees. Their name is derived from the verb “to separate.” They were the separatists, or Puritans, who withdrew from all evil associations and who sought to give complete obedience to every precept of the oral and written law. Their theology was founded on the entire OT. In interpretation, they used the allegorical method in order to allow for elasticity in applying the principles of the law to new questions that might be raised. They attached great value to the oral law or tradition, which they observed scrupulously.

Pharisees were extremists. They kept the Sabbath very strictly, not even allowing healing the sick or the casual plucking of grain for eating by the wayside. They practiced ritual prayer and fasting, and tithed their property meticulously. Their moral and spiritual requirements often led to self-righteousness. However, there were righteous and pious men among this sect.

Undoubtedly, young Saul’s mind was exposed also to Greek philosophy and the Mystery religions.

Saul’s parents possibly sent their young son to Jerusalem to shield him from the pagan influences of Tarsus, but it’s more likely they recognized his amazing intellect and wanted to provide the best of education. They did not send Saul to the secular university of Tarsus, even though it was the best in the world because they wanted his education to be Jewish. He would master Hebrew, the Scriptures and the teachings of the Talmud, which would be written down several centuries later. He would become a Rabbi.

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