The social status of the apostle Paul

I found out some interesting things about the apostle Paul over the last couple of days' reading in a book by Ben Witherington on 1 & 2 Corinthians. I never appreciated that in order to receive the education he did, Paul had to have been raised in a well-to-do family. Paul was trained in Greco-Roman rhetoric, and he was also educated under Gamaliel, one of the most famous rabbis of his day. Witherington states that Paul's education was in the top 1-2% of his day.

Paul came from a wealthy family, and he was well educated. He was also a Roman citizen. Not many Jews enjoyed that status. So, all in all, Paul had a lot of social muscle he could flex. He usually didn't. In fact, in Corinth he chose to take the socially low road of being a tentmaker. This move disappointed some of the more aristocratic Corinthians, who came to see Paul as a disappointment and, ultimately, not really apostolic material.

So... when Paul wrote in Philippians 2 about Jesus denying himself all the rights of divinity, he wrote as one who knew from experience what it was like to empty oneself.

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