Paul begins with his heritage. This may be because his opponents placed this at the top of their list of credentials. All indications point to the fact that the intruders extolled their Jewishness. They were trueborn Jews from Palestine—Hebrews . . . Israelites . . . Abraham's descendants—and not outlanders like this upstart from Tarsus (Fahy 1964:215). Paul's response is simply, So am I (v. 22). At the time Paul writes, Hebrew designated mother tongue and place of upbringing. So what he is affirming is that, like his rivals, he looks on Palestine as his home and Aramaic as his native language. This accords with Acts 22:3, where Paul states that although he was born in Tarsus of Cilicia, he grew up in Jerusalem. It also fits Philippians 3:5, where he claims that he is "a Hebrew of Hebrews." Second, he is an Israelite—that is, a member of God's chosen people (Gutbrod 1965:386). Third, he is one of Abraham's descendants. The Greek is literally translated "the seed of Abraham," which for a Jew amounted to circumcision on the eighth day in accordance with Mosaic law (again, compare Phil 3:5).
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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