But, in order to present anything like a living picture of the Apostle Paul and his ministry, much more is necessary than a mere transcript of the scriptural narrative, even where it is fullest. Every step of his course brings us into contact with some new phase of ancient life, unfamiliar to our modern experience, and upon which we must throw light from other sources, if we wish it to form a distinct image in the mind.
For example, to comprehend the influences under which Paul grew to manhood, we must realize the position of a Jewish family in Tarsus. We must understand the kind of education which the son of such a family would receive as a boy in his Hebrew home, or in the schools of his native city, and in his riper youth "at the feet of Gamaliel" in Jerusalem. We must be acquainted with the profession for which he was to be prepared by this training. And, we should have a clear view of the state of the Roman Empire at the time, and especially of its system in the provinces.
And in like manner, as we follow Paul the Apostle in the different stages of his varied and adventurous career, we must strive continually to bring out in their true brightness the half-effaced forms and coloring of the scene in which he acts; and while he "becomes all things, so that I might by all means save some" (1Corinthians 9:22), we must form to ourselves a living likeness of the things and of the men among which he moved, if we would rightly estimate his work.
The Life and Epistles
Background and Preparation
Paul's birth and early life
The Early Church
Paul's early Christian history