Acts 22:28 states that Paul was a natural born Roman citizen while
Philippians 3:4-5 states that he’s a Hebrew. There are other passages in
Scripture that cite his apparent dual citizenship. My view here is that
he was a Roman citizen by virtue of his being born within Roman territory,
while his heritage made him a Jew (something like being a person who was
born in one country, but traces his roots in another). Am I correct? If
so, please tell me where exactly he was born (and if you could cite your
source, I’d be really grateful). The only thing I know is that he was
referred to as Saul of Tarsus, but I don’t know if Tarsus is a Roman

You are very close to being completely correct. Paul (Saul)
was known as Saul of Tarsus. It is reasonable to assume, therefore that
he was from Tarsus, and most likely that he was born there, although that
is less certain. Tarsus was a city in the extreme southeast of what would
be the country Turkey today. As to sources, the strongest evidence we
have that Paul was from Tarsus is that he was know for this to the writers
of the Bible, specifically to Luke, his friend. The fact is that Paul was
a Roman citizen, but he was not a “Hebrew” citizen, because there was no
such thing. Being Hebrew was a state of being from a certain nationality
or religious heritage, but there was no independent Hebrew political
entity in existence at that time to be a citizen of. In fact, in the
Mediterranean world at the time of the second half of the first century,
Rome was the only country to be a citizen of! To make the illustration, I
am a citizen of the United States, but I am a Christian. I am not a
citizen of “Christian” as there is no entity called “Christian” for which
I could be a citizen.

The question, then, is how did Paul become a Roman citizen.
You seem to imply that being from Roman territory would make you a Roman
citizen. That definitely was not the case. The vast majority of subjects
of the Roman Empire were not citizens. Those who were originally from the
Roman heartland were citizens of Rome. Later, citizenship was granted to
most of those from the Italian peninsula (not counting the millions of
slaves, of course). In addition, some from the provinces were made
citizens by decree because of some sort of special service to Rome. I
believe we can assume that Paul acquired his citizenship through his
father, as he was quite young when he first came onto the scene in the
beginning of Acts. As to how Paul’s father, presumably also a Jew,
acquired his citizenship, we can only speculate. He would not be the only
Jew to be a citizen of Rome, but from the response of Festus in Acts 26
when he learned that Paul was a citizen, we can be assured that it was a
rare thing for a Jew to be a citizen.

John Oakes

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