Saul was a Jew, originally from the Turkish town of Tarsus, and several years younger than Jesus (251). He was raised as a devout Pharisee — a scholarly & rule-bound Jewish denomination. He had even been sent to study in Jerusalem under Gamaliel, the most famous Pharisee teacher of that day.
Saul viewed followers of Jesus as pagans or heretics, because they didn’t understand God exactly as he did. So great was Saul’s hatred of Christians, that he had consented to the murder of Stephen, while he stood by & watched, holding the coats of those who had killed him!
Devout Christians had buried Stephen & mourned his death. But that awful event was only the beginning of an extended persecution of the church in Jerusalem. As a result of this persecution, believers were forced to scatter to various other regions of Judea & Samaria. However, the original 12 witnesses continued public ministry in Jerusalem.
God used the persecution to spread the good news about Jesus, as the believers shared the gospel in every place to which they were scattered.
Saul fully endorsed & took part in the persecution. By the age of 30, he was known for dragging Christian men & women from their homes and having them imprisoned. He also seems to have encouraged the murder of some of the believers in Jerusalem.
In his abiding hatred for Christians, Saul obtained permission from the Jewish elders to round up believers in the Syrian city of Damascus, over 100 miles away, so they could be brought to Jerusalem for punishment.
(251) Acts 8:1-4 & 9:1-2