• Jenny Dunaway

Was Saul a Gifted Child?



I worked with Talented and Gifted children all of my 35 years as an educator. I was so passionate about meeting the needs of these exceptional children that I went back to William and Mary to get my Masters in Gifted Education. Part of my responsibility as the Gifted Resource Teacher was to test students who were referred to the Gifted Program. Even without the official tests, it was very evident when a child was highly gifted, I mean in the top 3% of the student population, by just having a conversation. Sure, the tests were crucial in finding students with high potential who were right over the line of being identified as officially "gifted" but I always knew in my gut when a boy or girl had that spark.

In our new Bible Study, Entrusted-A Study of 2nd Timothy by Beth Moore, we will be investigating the dynamics of Paul and Timothy. I can't say that I've ever studied 2nd Timothy, before, but I am intruigued after the first homework lesson. Beth Moore challenged us to look at Saul of Tarsus, before he met the Lord on the road to Damascus. In this first lesson, I've discovered a multitude of things I didn't realize about being a Jew in that city somewhere between A.D. 4 to 33. "Jews in Tarsus were Jewish by blood and belief, Greek by common language, Roman by rule and, select ones, by citizenship." Beth related. Paul was a Pharisee and they believed in a resurrection of the body and in the existence of both angels and demons. According to what historians know of Jewish practices in an orthodox home during this time, Saul would have been able to recite selected parts of the Deuteronomy and Psalms before he was five. He was studying under a rabbi by age six and by age fifteen, young Saul was a student of Gamaliel, the most renown rabbi of the day. That is quite a feat for a young man from Tarsas.

I started wondering if young Saul could possibly have been gifted? You may ask, what difference does it make? If we are really going to get to know Saul/Paul, we have to understand how asynchronous development is instrumental in the lives of exceptional children. Basically, his cognitive and emotional development far exceeded those of his peers. Let's look at a few of the most common characteristics of highly gifted children:

*Quick learner

*Excellent memory

*Intense

*Profound sense of justice at an early age

* Unusual concern with social, political, and spiritual issues

*Advanced communication skills

*More comfortable with adults than peers

Sounds plausible, right? In the scriptures Beth had us research (Galations 1:14, Acts 21:39, Acts 22:2-3, Acts 22:27, Acts 23:6, and Acts 26:5), Paul (as an adult) described himself as prosperous and zealous. He demonstrated that he confidently shared his beliefs, he was devout, and well educated. He also was a citizen of Rome, I believe. If Saul were truly gifted, then many of the personality traits he may exhibit as an adult are below:

*Strong moral code

*Excellent problem solving skills

*Highly motivated

*Seeks organization

*Prefers independence

*High expectations of others

Even though I can't give young Saul a Woodcock-Johnson, I believe he was talented and gifted. His unique look at the world in the first century and the manner in which he faced the challenges in his life as the Apostle Paul make a little more sense, now. I'm looking forward to this new Bible Study!