Paul was born free

Acts 22:24-29


Barnes commentary on Acts page 318:  I was born a Roman citizen, or I am such in virtue of my birth.  Various opinions have been formed on the question in what way or for what reasons Paul was entitled to the privileges of a Roman citizen.  Some have supposed that Tarsus was a Roman colony, and that he thus became a Roman citizen.  But of this there does not appear to be sufficient proof.  Pliny says (verse 27) that it was a free city.  Appian says that it was endowed with the privileges of a free city by Augustus Ceasar after it had been greatly afflicted and oppressed by wars.  Dio Chrysost.  Says to the people of Tarsus, "He (Augustus) has conferred on you everything which anyone could bestow on his friends and companions, a country (that is, free country), laws, honour, authority over the river (Cydranus) and the neighbouring sea."  Free cities were permitted in the Roman empire to use their own laws, customs, and magistrates, and they were free from being subject to Roman guards.  They were required only to acknowledge the supremacy and authority of the Roman people, and to aid them in their wars.  Such a city was Tarsus; and, having been born there, Paul was entitled to these privileges of a free man.  Many critics have supposed that this privilege of Roman citizenship had been conferred on some of the ancestors of Paul in consequence of some distinguished military service.  Such a conferring of the rights of citizenship was not unusual, and possibly might have occurred in this case.  But there is no direct historical proof of it; and the former fact, that he was born in a free city, will amply account for his affirmation that he was free born.


John Gill on Acts 22:28, page 359:  Being born at Tarsus; which, as Pliny says, was a free city, and which had its freedom given it by Mark Antony, and which was before the birth of Paul; and therefore his parents being of this city, and free, he was born so.


Matthew Henry on Acts 22:28, page 293:  Some think he became entitled to this freedom by the place of his birth, as a native of Tarsus, a city privileged by the emperor with the same privileges that Rome itself enjoyed; others rather think it was by his father or grandfather having served in the war between Caesar and Antony, or some other o the civil wars of Rome, and being for some signal piece of service rewarded with a freedom of city, and so Paul came to be free born; and here he pleads it for his own preservation, for which end not only we may but we ought to use all lawful means.