NEW TESTAMENT TIMES
other nations; and conceivably also the men of the other nations, when they finally should receive the gospel, might be required to unite themselves with the people of Israel and keep the Mosaic Law. The guidance of the Holy Spirit was required, therefore, before the gospel should be offered freely to Gentiles without requiring them to become Jews.
But that guidance, in God's good time, was plainly and gloriously given.
One of the most important steps in the preparation for the Gentile mission was the calling of a leader. And the leader whom God called was one upon whom human choice never would have rested; for the chosen leader was none other than Saul, the bitterest enemy of the Church.
Saul, whose Roman name was Paul, was born at Tarsus, a center of Greek culture, and the chief city of Cilicia, the coast country in the southeastern part of Asia Minor, near the northeastern corner of the Mediterranean Sea. In Tarsus the family of Paul belonged by no means to the humblest of the population, for Paul's father and then Paul himself possessed Roman citizenship, which in the provinces of the empire was a highly prized privilege possessed only by a few. Thus by birth in a Greek university city and by possession of Roman citizenship Paul was connected with the life of the Gentile world. Such connection was not without importance for his future service as apostle to the Gentiles.
Far more important, however, was the Jewish element in his preparation. Although Paul no doubt spoke Greek in childhood, he also in childhood spoke Aramaic, the language of Palestine, and his family regarded themselves as being in spirit Jews of Palestine rather than of the Dispersion, Aramaic-speaking Jews rather than Greek-speaking Jews, "Hebrews" rather than "Hellenists." Both in Tarsus and in Jerusalem, moreover, Paul was brought up in the strictest sect of the Pharisees. Thus despite his birth in a Gentile city, Paul was not a "liberal Jew"; he was not inclined to break down the separation between Jews and Gentiles, or relax the strict requirements of the Mosaic Law. On the contrary, his zeal for the Law went beyond that of many of his contemporaries. The fact is of enormous importance for the understanding of Paul's gospel; for Paul's gospel of justification by faith is based not upon a lax interpretation of the law of God, but upon a strict interpretation. Only, according to that gospel,