«And they cast him out of the city and stoned him.
And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul»
THERE ARE FEW biographical details of the young Saul—just a passing mention of his mother and his Jewish ancestors, the fact that he was not an only child, and that on the eighth day he was circumcised. It is possible that his family considered him a rebel when he converted to Christianity and broke off all relations with him, although some of his relatives became Christians.
Jerome states that Saul’s parents originally lived in Gischala of Galilee and that in the year 4 BC they were taken as slaves to Tarsus, where they finally obtained their freedom, prospered, and became Roman citizens. A son was born to them there and they named him Saul. Since he was from the tribe of Benjamin, this choice of name may well have been in honor of Saul, the first king of Israel.
It is highly likely that Saul’s family came from a noble lineage and had higher-than average wealth. Thus, Saul valued his ethnic and religious heritage. He was «a Hebrew of the Hebrews» (Philippians 3:5), and to that he added a special pride in being a true Pharisee. That is why he lived according to the most rigorous sect of the Jewish religion—the pharisaism inherited from his father and amplified because of his education under Gamaliel’s tutelage in Jerusalem, where he was sent when he was twelve years old (see Acts 22B).
Saul is introduced in the account of the book of Acts as a zealous member of the strictest sect of Judaism; he displays his support and gives approval of Stephen’s death through his presence. He was always ready to persecute Christians.
After eighteen references to Saul in the book of Acts, a change appears. Now «Saul» becomes «Paul.» Luke, the author of the book, knew that the apostle had two names: Saul, for a Jewish environment, and Paul, for a Gentile environment (13:9). When he was circumcised, he received a Jewish name, Saul, but because he lived in a Gentile community, he was also given a relatively common Latin name: «Paulus.»
«By the stoning of Stephen the Jews finally sealed their rejection of the gospel; the disciples who were scattered abroad by persecution ‘went everywhere preaching the word’ (Acts 8:4); and shortly after, Saul the persecutor was converted, and became Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles» (Ihe Desire of Ages, p. 233).
These two names, more than two languages, illustrate two attitudes, two models or schools of life:
With the first, he traveled the earth seeking power and sowing hatred and death; with the other he looked to heaven offering his life and seeking to bring restoration in the name of Jesus.
With the first he opposed; with the other he supported.
With the first he destroyed; with the other he built up.