The holy sisters Zenaida (or Zenais) and Philonella were born in the district of Tarsus early in the first century. They were cousins of the Apostle Paul and were born into a highly educated Jewish family. Both sisters had a natural intelligence and a love for learning. When they entered the famous school at Tarsus to study philosophy, the sister were instantly attracted to lectures of the medical theorists. Their cousin Jason, Bishop of Tarsus, was an early convert to Christianity and a follower of their kinsman, the Apostle Paul.
The two sisters learned the Christian faith from Jason and were attracted by the love and compassion of Christ.