Galatians 1:17
Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.
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(17) Went I up.—The usual phrase is to go up to “Jerusalem,” from the fact that Jerusalem stood upon high ground, and was approached from all sides by an ascent. Here, however, the reading is doubtful between “went up” and “went away,” each of which is supported by nearly equally good authority. In so close a balance of the authorities the less common phrase is, perhaps, more likely to have been the original reading, though there is an almost equal probability that it may have slipped in from the second “went” (really the same word, “went away”), a little further on in the verse.

Unto Arabia.—The question, what part of Arabia St. Paul retired into can only be one of speculation. There is nothing in the context to show at all decisively. The boundary of Arabia at this period was not exactly defined. By some writers it was made to include Damascus itself. It is therefore possible that by “Arabia” may have been meant the desert in the neighbourhood of the city. This would be the most obvious supposition. But, on the other hand, there would be a certain appropriateness if we could imagine, as we are certainly permitted to do, that the scene of his sojourn may have been the region of Mount Sinai itself. The place where the Law was first given may have seen its renewal in his mind—not destroyed, but fulfilled in the new law of love. Like Moses, and like Elijah, the great minister of the new dispensation may have here received strength for his work. And if this was the case, we can the more readily understand the typical allusion to Mount Sinai later in the Epistle. Such arguments may have some slight weight, but the real locality must remain uncertain.

As to the time of the Apostle’s withdrawal, and its duration, little can be said beyond the fact that it must have come within the three years that intervened between his conversion and the first visit to Jerusalem. When we compare this account with the narrative of the Acts, it is not clear how they are to be reconciled. St. Paul says, that after his conversion, “immediately (eutheōs) he conferred not with flesh and blood . . . but went unto Arabia.” St. Luke says, after recording the same event, “Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. And straightway (eutheos) he preached Christ (or, according to a more correct reading, Jesus) in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God” (Acts 9:19-20). There does not seem room here to insert the retreat into Arabia. It would indeed come in more naturally among the “many days,” mentioned in a later verse, which were terminated by the plot of the Jews against the life of the Apostle and his final escape from Damascus. There would still, however, be some apparent collision between “conferring not with flesh and blood” and “spending certain days with the disciples” at Damascus. The discrepancy is only such as we might expect to find between two perfectly independent narratives, one of which was compiled from secondary sources, and is, besides, very brief and summary in its form. We are obliged, by the Apostle’s own words, to believe that his withdrawal into Arabia took place “immediately” after his conversion; and as it would not take a very long time to attract the attention or excite the animosity of the Jews at Damascus, it seems natural to suppose that this period of silent seclusion occupied the larger half of the whole period of three years.

The patristic commentators seem to have held, for the most part, to the belief that the object of his visit to Arabia was to preach to the heathen there; but the whole context of the Epistle shows that it was rather for solitary meditation and communion with God.

Damascus.—We gather from 2Corinthians 11:32 that Damascus was at this time in the possession, or in some manner, at least, under the rule, of Aretas, the Arabian king. How this can have been is an obscure and difficult question. (See Note on that passage.) It may have been seized by him, and held for a time, during his war with Herod Antipas and the Romans at the end of the reign of Tiberius, in A.D. 36-37; or it may possibly have been placed in his hands by Caligula on the disgrace of his rival, Antipas; or “the ethnarch under Aretas the king” may have been an officer subordinate to the Romans, and charged with a sort of consulship over the Arabians in Damascus. The first theory does not seem quite probable in the face of a power so strong as that of Rome; the second is a pure hypothesis, with no support from any contemporary writer; and the third hardly seems to satisfy the conditions of the problem. In any case, the most probable date of these events would be soon after the death of Tiberius in A.D. 37.

1:15-24 St. Paul was wonderfully brought to the knowledge and faith of Christ. All who are savingly converted, are called by the grace of God; their conversion is wrought by his power and grace working in them. It will but little avail us to have Christ revealed to us, if he is not also revealed in us. He instantly prepared to obey, without hesitating as to his worldly interest, credit, ease, or life itself. And what matter of thanksgiving and joy is it to the churches of Christ, when they hear of such instances to the praise of the glory of his grace, whether they have ever seen them or not! They glorify God for his power and mercy in saving such persons, and for all the service to his people and cause that is done, and may be further expected from them.Neither went I up to Jerusalem - That is, I did not go there at once. I did not go to consult with the apostles there, or to be instructed by them in regard to the nature of the Christian religion. The design of this statement is to show that, in no sense, did he derive his commission from man.

To them which were apostles before me - This implies that Paul then regarded himself to be an apostle. They were, he admits, apostles before he was; but he felt also that he had original authority with them, and he did not go to them to receive instruction, or to derive his commission from them. Several of the apostles remained in Jerusalem for a considerable time after the ascension of the Lord Jesus, and it was regarded as the principal place of authority; see Acts 15.

But I went into Arabia - Arabia was south of Damascus, and at no great distance. The line indeed between Arabia Deserta and Syria is not very definitely marked, but it is generally agreed that Arabia extends to a considerable distance into the Great Syrian Desert. To what part of Arabia and for what purpose that Paul went is wholly unknown. Nothing is known of the circumstances of this journey; nor is the time which he spent there known. It is known indeed Galatians 1:18 that he did not go to Jerusalem until three years after his conversion, but how large a part of this time was spent in Damascus, we have no means of ascertaining. It is probable that Paul was engaged during these three years in preaching the gospel in Damascus and the adjacent regions, and in Arabia; compare Acts 9:20, Acts 9:22, Acts 9:27. The account of this journey into Arabia is wholly omitted by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles, and this fact, as has been remarked by Paley (Horae Paulinae, chapter v. No. 2), demonstrates that the Acts and this Epistle were not written by the same author, or that the one is independent of the other; because, "if the Acts of the Apostles had been a forged history made up from the Epistle, it is impossible that this journey should have been passed over in silence; if the Epistle had been composed out of what the author had read of Paul's history in the Acts , it is unaccountable that it should have been inserted."

As to the reason why Luke omitted to mention the journey into Arabia nothing is known. Various conjectures have been entertained, but they are mere conjectures. It is sufficient to say, that Luke has by no means recorded all that Paul or the other apostles did, nor has he pretended to do it. He has given the leading events in the public labors of Paul; and it is not at all improbable that he has omitted not a few short excursions made by him for the purpose of preaching the gospel. The journey into Arabia, probably, did not furnish any incidents in regard to the success of the gospel there which required particular record by the sacred historian, nor has Paul himself referred to it for any such reason, or intimated that it furnished any incidents, or any facts, that required particularly the notice of the historian. He has mentioned it for a different purpose altogether, to show that he did not receive his commission from the apostles, and that he did not go at once to consult them. He went directly the other way. Since Luke, in the Book of Acts , had no occasion to illustrate this; since he had no occasion to refer to this argument, it did not fall in with the design to mention the fact. Nor is it known why Paul went into Arabia. Bloomfield supposes that it was in order to recover his health after the calamity which he suffered on the way to Damascus. But everything in regard to this is mere conjecture. I should rather think it was more in accordance with the general character of Paul that he made this short excursion for the purpose of preaching the gospel.

And returned again unto Damascus - He did not go to Jerusalem to consult with the apostles after his visit to Arabia, but returned again to the place where he was converted and preached there, showing that he had not derived his commission from the other apostles.

17. went I up—Some of the oldest manuscripts read, "went away."

to Jerusalem—the seat of the apostles.

into Arabia—This journey (not recorded in Acts) was during the whole period of his stay at Damascus, called by Luke (Ac 9:23), "many [Greek, a considerable number of] days." It is curiously confirmatory of the legitimacy of taking "many days" to stand for "three years," that the same phrase exactly occurs in the same sense in 1Ki 2:38, 39. This was a country of the Gentiles; here doubtless he preached as he did before and after (Ac 9:20, 22) at Damascus: thus he shows the independence of his apostolic commission. He also here had that comparative retirement needed, after the first fervor of his conversion, to prepare him for the great work before him. Compare Moses (Ac 7:29, 30). His familiarity with the scene of the giving of the law, and the meditations and revelations which he had there, appear in Ga 4:24, 25; Heb 12:18. See on [2337]Ga 1:12. The Lord from heaven communed with him, as He on earth in the days of His flesh communed with the other apostles.

returned—Greek "returned back again."

As Jerusalem was the place for the oracle of the law, under the Old Testament; so it also was for the gospel upon the first publication of it. There the disciples were; they returned thither after they had seen Christ ascend to heaven, Luke 24:52; from thence they were not to depart, but to wait there for the promise of the Father, Acts 1:4. There the Holy Ghost came down upon them, Acts 2:1-47 there they continued till the persecution scattered them; there was the college of the apostles. Paul saith, that, upon his conversion, he did not go up thither, nor till three years after (as he tells us in the next verse); but he went into Arabia, amongst the heathens, and the most wild and barbarous heathens, for such were the Arabians. Luke, in the Acts, tells us nothing of this. From hence it was easy to conclude, that Paul had not his commission from the other apostles that were before him, for he saw none of them till he had been a preacher of the gospel to the wild Arabians three years. And then he

returned to Damascus: the word is upestreqa, which is by some observed to signify his being compelled to return, (as they judge), by some persecution raised amongst the heathens; but of this the Scripture saith nothing.

Neither went I up to Jerusalem,.... That is, immediately, as soon as he was converted, not till three years after, as follows; though by the account which Luke gives of him, Acts 9:23 and by that which the apostle gives of himself, Acts 22:17 it looks as if he went to Jerusalem some little time after his conversion, and before the date here given: and therefore some have thought that he did go up to Jerusalem pretty quickly, when, praying in the temple, he fell into a trance, and was ordered to make haste from thence, and go far hence unto the Gentiles and accordingly he made no stay, did not go to any of the apostles, and neither saw nor conversed with any of them, which is what he here says,

to them which were apostles before me. The twelve, who were called, ordained, and sent forth as apostles before he was; for last of all Christ appeared to him, and was seen by him as one born out of due time: his meaning is, not that he was a successor of the apostle's, but that they were instated in the office of apostleship before him; and this he mentions to show that he did not receive the Gospel from men, no not from the apostles themselves; since, upon his conversion, he did not go up to Jerusalem to see any of them, and talk with them; nor did he stand in need of any instructions from them, being immediately furnished sufficiently by Christ himself; nor did his work lie at Jerusalem, nor so much among the Jews as among the Gentiles, and therefore to them he went:

but I went into Arabia. This journey of the apostle is wholly omitted by Luke, nor should we have known anything of it, had it not been for this account: how long he stayed there, what he did, and what success he met with among the Arabs are no where related; no doubt but he preached the Gospel to them, and as his ministry everywhere was owned and blessed by God, it may be very reasonably thought it was here at his first setting out in it. The Arabic version reads it, "I went to Balcam", which was a city in Syria; but without any foundation for it; for it was not Syria, but Arabia to which he went. There are three countries which bear the name of Arabia, and which are called to distinguish them from one another, Arabia Petraea, Arabia Deserta, and Arabia Felix; of which See Gill on Acts 2:11. It is very likely it was the former of these which the apostle went to, as being nearest to Syria, since from Damascus, the metropolis of Syria, he went thither; and Damascus itself was at this time under the government of an Arabian king, see 2 Corinthians 11:32. So Pliny frequently speaks of Arabia as near to Syria, Palestine, and Judea: in one place he says (l), Arabia divides Judea from Egypt; and elsewhere (m) observes, that Syria is distinguished by many names; for it is called Palestina, where it touches the Arabians, and Judea, and Coele, and Phenice; and Peraea, or the country beyond Jordan, he says, is next to Arabia and Egypt; and on the east of the lake of Asphaltites he places Arabia, that belongs to the Nomades; so likewise Josephus (n) places Arabia at the east of Peraea, or the country beyond Jordan; and says (o) in another place, that Arabia borders on Judea, the metropolis of which was Petra, where Aretas the king had his royal palace: Jerom (p) likewise observes, that the river Jordan divides Judea and Arabia; so that this country into which the apostle went was not a great way off of Syria and Judea, whither he returned again after some time; which seems to be about the space of three years, by what follows in the next verse, and when he had done the work and will of God in those parts; where doubtless he was the instrument of converting souls, and planting churches, and here it is certain were churches in ages following: in the "third" century were churches in Arabia, mentioned along with the churches in Syria, by Eusebius (q); in which age lived two famous Arabian bishops, Beryllus and Maximus; and the same historian (r) reports, that in the times of Dioclesian there were some wonderful martyrs in Arabia, who suffered the most cruel tortures and death, for the sake of Christ: and in the "fourth" century there were Arabian bishops in the Nicene council, and in other synods, as at Jerusalem and Sardica; and in the same century there were bishops of Arabia Petraea, at the synod in Antioch, whose names were Nicomachus and Cyrion: and also in the "fifth" century there were churches and bishops in the same country (s), not to trace them any further:

and returned again unto Damascus; and then it was, that being increased in spiritual strength and knowledge, he proved that Jesus of Nazareth was the true Messiah, to the confusion of the Jews there; which drew upon him their resentment and indignation, so that they took counsel and lay in wait to kill him; but the disciples let him down through a window, by the wall of the city in a basket, and so he escaped them.

(l) Nat. Hist. l. 12. c. 21. (m) lb. l. 5. c. 12, 14, 16. (n) De Bello Jud. l. 3. c. 3. sect. 3.((o) Antiqu. l. 14. c. 1. sect. 4. & l. 4. c. 4. sect. 7. (p) De locis Hebraicis, fol. 92. G. (q) Eccl. Hist. l. 7. c. 5. (r) lb. l. 8. c. 12. (s) Hist. Eccl. Magdeburgh. cent. 4. c. 9. p. 350, 390, 405, 425. cent. 5. c. 2. p. 2. c. 10. p. 552.

Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.
Galatians 1:17. Neither went I away (from Damascus) to Jerusalem, unto those who were apostles before me; but I went away into Arabia. So according to Lachmann’s reading; see the critical notes. Τοὺς πρὸ ἐμοῦ ἀποστ. is written by Paul in the consciousness of his full equality of apostolic rank (beginning from Damascus), in which nothing but greater seniority pertained to the older apostles. On the twice-employed emphatic ἀπῆλθον, comp. Romans 8:15; Hebrews 12:18 ff.; Fritzsche, ad Rom. II. p. 137.

εἰς Ἀραβίαν] It is possible that some special personal reason, unknown to us, induced him to choose this particular country. The region was heathen, containing, however, many Jews of the Diaspora (Acts 2:11). This journey, which is to be looked upon not as having for its object a quiet preparation (Schrader, Köhler, Rückert, Schott), but (comp. Rom. Introd. § 1) as a first, certainly fervent experiment of extraneous ministry,[34] and which was of short duration,[35] is not mentioned in Acts. Perhaps not known to Luke at all, it is most probably to be placed in the period of the ἱκαναὶ ἡμέραι, Acts 9:23,—an inexact statement of the interval between the conversion and the journey to Jerusalem, which betrays, on the part of Luke, only a vague and inadequate knowledge of the chronology of this period. See on Acts 9:19 ff. Paul mentions the journey here, because he had to show—following the continuous thread of the history—that, in the first period after his conversion, he had not been anywhere where he could have received instruction from the apostles.

ΠΆΛΙΝ ὙΠΈΣΤΡΕΨΑ] ΠΆΛΙΝ, used on the hypothesis that the locality of the calling and revelation mentioned was well known to his readers, refers to the notion of coming conveyed in ὑπέστρ. Comp. Acts 18:21; Hom. Od. viii. 301, αὖτις ὑποστρέψας, et al.; Eur. Alc. 1022; Bornemann, ad Cyrop. iii. 3. 60; Kühner, ad Xen. Mem. ii. 2. 4.

[34] Our passage bears testimony in favour of this view by εὐθέωςἀπῆλθον following immediately on ἵνα εὐαγγ. αὐτὸν ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν. Hence Holsten’s view (die Bedeutung des Wortes σάρξ im N.T. p. 25; ueber Inh. u. Gedankeng. d. Gal. Br. p. 17 f.; also zum Evang. d. Paul. u. Petr. p. 269 f.), that Paul, “purposely tearing himself away for three years from the atmosphere of the national spirit at Jerusalem,” had gone to Arabia, “in order to reconcile the new revelation with the old by meditating on the religious records of his people,” is quite opposed to the context. Certainly the system of the apostle’s gospel, as it is exhibited in the Epistles to the Galatians and Romans, must have taken its shape gradually, and by means of a long process of thought amidst the widening of experience; but even in the absence of such a developed system he might make a commencement of his ministry, and might preach the Son of God as the latter had been directly revealed in him by divine agency. Thiersch arbitrarily considers (Kirche in apostol. Zeitalt. p. 116) that he desired to find protection with Aretas. It is the view also of Acts, that Paul immediately after his conversion followed the divine guidance, and did not postpone his beginning to preach till the expiration of three years. According to Acts, he preached immediately, even in Damascus, Acts 9:20; comp. Acts 26:19 f. See, besides, on Rom. Introd. § 1.

[35] L. Cappellus, Benson, Witsius, Eichhorn, Hemsen, and others, also Anger, Rat. temp. p. 122, and Laurent, hold the opinion that Paul spent almost the whole three years (ver. 18) in Arabia, because the Jews at Damascus would not have tolerated his remaining there so long. But in our ignorance of the precise state of things in Damascus, this argument is of too uncertain a character, especially as Acts 9:22, comp. with ver. 23, ὡς δὲ ἐπληρ. ἡμέραι ἱκαναί, points to a relatively longer working in Damascus. And if Paul had laboured almost three years, or, according to Ewald, about two years, in Arabia, and that at the very beginning of his apostleship, we could hardly imagine that Luke should not have known of this ministry in Arabia, or, if he knew of it, that he should not have mentioned it, for Paul never stayed so long anywhere else, except perhaps at Ephesus. It may indeed be alleged that Luke purposely kept silence as to the journey to Arabia, because it would have proved the independent action of the apostle to the Gentiles (Hilgenfeld, Zeller); but this view sets out from the premiss that the book of Acts is a partisan treatise, wanting in historical honesty; and it moreover assumes—what without that premiss is not to be assumed—that the author was acquainted with our epistle. If he was acquainted with it, the intentional distortion of portions of his history, which it is alleged he allowed himself to make, would be the more shameless, and indeed foolish.

Galatians 1:17. ἀνῆλθον. The religious position of Jerusalem as seat of the Temple and mother-city of the Church, its political importance, and its geographical position on the central heights of Palestine, combined to suggest the application of the terms up and down to journeys to and from Jerusalem.—ἀποστόλους. In the third Gospel and early chapters of the Acts this title is habitually applied to the Twelve. It was extended to Paul and Barnabas on the occasion of their mission. In 1 Corinthians 9:2 Paul and Barnabas are distinctly enumerated amidst the recognised Apostles. Romans 16:7 suggests a further extension of the title, probably to all founders of churches. But with the possible exception of James, no addition is recorded to the number of the Twelve at Jerusalem after Matthias.—Ἀραβίαν. No mention is made elsewhere of this journey; its object is clearly indicated by the context; for it is placed in strong contrast with human intercourse, and was, therefore, undertaken for the sake of solitary communion with God. The Arabian deserts were within easy reach of Damascus. Lightfoot suggests, indeed, that Paul perhaps repaired to Mount Sinai; but if the Apostle had been granted communion with God on Mount Sinai, the name would have constituted too effective an argument in favour of his Divine commission to be suppressed here. The Sinaitic peninsula was, in fact, remote from Damascus; the journey was at all times dangerous for travellers without escort, and in the year 37 (the most probable date of Saul’s conversion) was hardly possible on account of war between King Aretas and the Romans.

17. neither went I up to Jerusalem] The situation of Jerusalem was on a hill, and it was also the Jewish metropolis, the political centre formerly, and still the religious centre of the nation. “Thither the tribes went up, the tribes of Jehovah,” Psalm 122:4. We speak of ‘going up’ to London.

to them which were apostles before me] He admits the fact of their priority in point of time, while repudiating the inference that they had any claim to greater authority than himself. In like manner the antiquity of the Roman Church is no argument for Papal supremacy, much less for Papal infallibility. For the thought, we may compare Romans 16:7, “My fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the Apostles, who also have been in Christ before me.”

into Arabia … Damascus] “A thick veil”, says Bp Lightfoot, “hangs over St Paul’s visit to Arabia.” It is not mentioned in the narrative in the Acts. The locality, the object, and the time of this visit are alike uncertain. A full discussion of them must be reserved for an Appendix (I. p. 83). In the interval between his conversion a.d. 37 and his visit to Jerusalem a.d. 40, St Paul would seem to have sought retirement in the desert of Sinai, and there by prayer and meditation and undistracted communion with God, to have equipped himself for the warfare which only terminated with his life. How much of the three years was thus spent, we are not told. At its expiration St Paul returned to Damascus, and when at length the Jews conspired to take away his life, he made his escape and fled to Jerusalem (Acts 9:23-26). He refers to this incident, 2 Corinthians 11:32.

Damascus] One of the oldest cities in the world, first mentioned in the history of Abraham (Genesis 14:15; Genesis 15:2). It was conquered by David (2 Samuel 8:5-6), but subsequently recovered by the Syrians. After various vicissitudes it succumbed to the Assyrian arms. The city was destroyed, and the people carried away captives to Assyria (2 Kings 16:9). It subsequently fell under the Macedonian and the Roman power, and in the time of St Paul it was included in the territory of Aretas, an Arabian prince (2 Corinthians 11:32) who was father-in-law of Herod Antipas, and who held his kingdom under the Romans. It is pleasantly situated at the foot of the Anti-Libanus range of mountains, distant 133 miles north of Jerusalem and 60 miles from the Mediterranean Sea, in a fertile district watered by the historic streams, Abana and Pharpar.

St Paul’s Visit to Arabia

It may be well to consider this incident under the three heads indicated in the note to ch. Galatians 1:17. The notices are slight, and though insufficient to enable us to construct a narrative of the events with definiteness or with certainty, supply material for a probable and consistent account of them.

(1) The locality. The term Arabia has been taken by some commentators in its widest signification, as extending from the Sinaitic peninsula on the south to the neighbourhood of Damascus on the north; and expressions in Justin Martyr (Dial. c. Tryph. p. 305, A.) and Tertullian (Adv. Jud. c. 9; Adv. Marc. iii. 13) are adduced in support of this view. It is argued from the silence of St Luke (Acts 9:19-25) that St Paul did not withdraw to any great distance from the city, so that though he actually went into Arabia for a time—how long, is not stated—he is regarded by the narrator as still at Damascus. The objections to this view are concisely stated by Bp Lightfoot. “It gives to ‘Arabia’ an extension, which at all events seems not to have been common, and which even the passage of Justin shews to have required some sort of justification. It separates the Arabia of the first chapters from the Arabia of the fourth. And lastly, it deprives this visit of a significance which, on a more probable hypothesis, it possesses in relation to this crisis of St Paul’s life.” By ‘Arabia’ then we understand (as in ch. Galatians 4:25) the Sinaitic peninsula.

(2) The object. Of this two accounts are given. Patristic commentators suppose that St Paul went into Arabia, as the Apostle of the Gentiles, to commence his great missionary work. No doubt ‘Arabians’ were among those who were present at the great Pentecostal miracle (Acts 2:11), and it may have been for the purpose of expounding unto them the way of God more perfectly that this journey was undertaken. But it is not likely that so marked a commencement of his labours as a missionary to the Gentiles would have been unrecorded by St Luke, especially as he is careful to tell us that St Paul “preached Christ in the synagogues”, and “how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus” (Acts 9:20; Acts 9:27).

If however we adopt the other explanation, and regard the object of St Paul’s visit as of a private and personal nature—that he might in solitude commune with his own heart and listen to the “still small voice” of God—then we can understand why, like Elijah of old, he should have journeyed ‘unto Horeb, the mount of God’. There, on the very spot where the Law was given, he was taught the use of the Law—that “by the deeds of the Law no flesh shall be justified”; that while “the Law made nothing perfect”, there was brought in “a better hope”; that “though the Law worketh wrath”, “Christ hath redeemed us from the Curse of the Law, being made a Curse for us.”

(3) The time. We do not know at what period of the ‘three years’ the journey was made, nor how long St Paul’s sojourn in Arabia continued. St Luke’s language is somewhat vague, but not at all inconsistent with the view here adopted. It is possible that after essaying to preach to the Jews in Damascus ‘the faith which once he destroyed’, St Paul found it needful to seek fresh supplies of grace and strength for a work so difficult and so discouraging. He may have heard his Master’s call, bidding him ‘come apart into a desert place, and rest awhile’. His stay in Horeb may have lasted, like that of Moses, for forty days and forty nights—the period of time spent by Elijah in his journey from Beer-sheba to Horeb, and by the great Antitype in the wilderness. These are, it is true, only conjectures. But while they are not inconsistent with the narrative of the Acts, they are in full accord with what we know of the nature and the needs of man, and with the dealings of God with the objects of His love and the instruments of His purposes. We may long for certainty. But where Scripture is silent, we are sure that more accurate knowledge is not needed, because it is not vouchsafed.

Galatians 1:17. Οὐδὲ ἀνῆλθον) Neither went I up; so ἀνῆλθε, John 6:3.—Ἱεροσόλυμα, to Jerusalem) the seat of the apostles.—Ἀραβίαν, Arabia) a country of the Gentiles.—πάλιν ὑπέστρεψα, again I returned) Paul here takes for granted that his journey to Damascus, on which he had been converted, was previously known.—Δαμασκὸν, Damascus) of Syria. There is no other Damascus than that of Syria, but I have added the mention of Syria, because he had been formerly speaking of Arabia, etc.

Verse 17. - Neither went I up to Jerusalem (οὐδὲ ἀνῆκλθον εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα) neither went I up (or, away). This "neither" negatives one particular instance of the general notion of "consulting flesh and blood," in reference to which an exception might else have not unnaturally been supposed likely. It forms a sort of climax to the negative. So Romans 9:16, "Not of him that willeth, neither of him that ranneth." It is uncertain whether "went up" or "went away" is the true reading of the Greek text. If the latter, the verb is repeated after the following "but" (ἀλλὰ), as Romans 8:15, "Ye have received;" Hebrews 12:18, 22, "Ye are come." To them which were apostles before me (πρὸς τοὺς πρὸ ἐμοῦ ἀποστόλους). For this "before me," comp. Romans 16:7. Every reader must feel the consciousness of official parity with the twelve which transpires in this expression of St. Paul's. The like consciousness is apparent in 1 Corinthians 15:5-11, strongly as the writer there expresses his sense of comparative personal unworthiness. Why, it may be asked, does the apostle thus particularly refer to the "apostles before him"? The probable answer seems to be, for the purpose of more forcibly illustrating the assured conviction, which from the very first he entertained, of the sufficiency and Divine authority of the gospel which he had already received. But I went into Arabia (ἀλλ ἀπῆλθον εἰς Ἀραβίαν); but I went away into Arabia. It is impossible to determine what was the precise locality to which St. Paul then went. "Arabia" was in those days a geographical term of very wide significance. Damascus itself appertained to Arabia; so Justin Martyr writes ('Dial. c. Tryph.,' 305, A) "that Damascus was of the Arabian country (τῆς-Ἀραβικῆς γῆς), and is, even though now [probably, Bishop Lightfoot suggests, by Hadrian's arrangement of those provinces] it has been assigned to what is called the Syrophoenician country, none even of you are able to deny." So Tertullian, 'Adv. Mare,' 3:13; 'Adv. Judaeos,' 9. At the time of St. Paul's abode at Damascus the city was subject to an "ethnarch of Aretas" (2 Corinthians 11:32); and "Aretas," the King of Petra, is in the case of several successive princes, styled "the King of the Arabians" (2 Macc. 5:8; Josephus, 'Ant.,' 14:01, 4; 'Bell. Jud.,' 1:06, 2; 'Ant.,' 16:10, 8, 9). The apostle's words may, therefore, describe a withdrawal into some district, whether inhabited or uninhabited, not far distant from Damascus. On the other hand, in Galatians 4:25, the apostle refers to "Arabia" in connection with Mount Sinai; so that Arabia Petraea may possibly have been the country visited. And here the imagination is tempted by recollections of Moses and the giving of the Law, and of Elijah, to indulge in speculations with reference to the especial appropriateness of that vicinity for being Saul's place of sojourn at this crisis of spiritual illumination and call to apostleship. But all this is conjectural: there is no solid ground whatever for our believing that it was thither flint his steps were at this season directed, And we cannot but recollect, with reference to the Lord Jesus, that when, after his baptism, "the Spirit drove him forth into the wilderness," with a view, as we may in all reverence believe, to his preparing himself for his high ministry as the Christ, no one imagines that it was into the wilderness of Sinai that he was led. And this suggests the remark that, at this particular juncture in especial, Saul's movements were directed by heavenly guidance. This we seem warranted to infer from our Lord's words to him, "Rise, and enter into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do" (Acts 9:6). At such a season, indeed, the unceasing cry of his whole soul - a cry at, rely not unresponded to - must have been, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" For further description of the geographical question,see Conybeare and Howson, ch. 3; 'Dictionary of the Bible' articles "Arabia" and "Aretus;" Lightfoot's 'Galatians: Excursus,' pp. 87-92, 6th edit. And returned again unto Damascus (καὶ πάλιν ὑπέστρεψα εἰς Δαμασκόν). That is, "without going elsewhere or to any place where I could meet with men who could be my instructors in the gospel." This must be supposed to be implied; otherwise the narrative would be illusive. As above stated, the "immediately" appears intended to qualify this clause as well as the preceding. The evidential value of this reference to Damascus, by implication indicated as the scene of his previously mentioned conversion, is strikingly illustrated by Paley in his 'Heros Paulinae (Galatians), cited by Dean Howson, in loc. "A casual expression at the end, and an expression brought in for a different purpose, alone fixes it to have been at Damascus. Nothing can be more like simplicity and undesignedness than this." At the risk of repeating some remarks already made, I venture to propose the following as a just paraphase of the whole passage, beginning with ver. 12. "My gospel which ye are swerving from I did not in any degree receive from men, but solely through the revelation of Jesus Christ which God himself made to me. It is evident that before I knew Christ, during the time that I was persecuting God's own Church with fanatical fury, my whole heart and soul devoted to the strictest Judaism of the Pharisees, I was removed poles asunder from all possible sympathetic contact with this doctrine. That God's love was ready to embrace every believer in Christ, whether obeying Moses' Law or not obeying it, - this was a truth that in those days could not possibly have gained access to my mind. And after this, when God graciously illuminated my soul with the sight of his Son, in order that I might become the joyful herald of his grace to the Gentiles, to no mortal man, whether at Damascus or elsewhere, did I apply for further light; neither did I even repair to Jerusalem to seek instruction from Christ's own former apostles: I at once departed in a direction which took me where I was still far away [or, perhaps, "which took me farther and farther away"] from Jerusalem, into Arabia: and who should teach me this doctrine in Arabia? And then, forthwith, I came hack straight to Damascus, Damascus being my first appointed sphere of labour." Galatians 1:17Went I up (ἀνῆλθον)

Comp. Galatians 1:18. Only in this chapter, and John 6:3. More commonly ἀναβαίνειν, often of the journey to Jerusalem, probably in the conventional sense in which Englishmen speak of going up to London, no matter from what point. See Matthew 20:17; Mark 10:32; John 2:13; Acts 11:2. In Acts 18:22 the verb is used absolutely of going to Jerusalem. The reading ἀπῆλθον I went away had strong support, and is adopted by Weiss. In that case the meaning would be went away to Jerusalem from where I then was.

Apostles before me

In point of seniority. Comp. Romans 16:7.


It is entirely impossible to decide what Paul means by this term, since the word was so loosely used and so variously applied. Many think the Sinaitic peninsula is meant (Stanley, Farrar, Matheson, Lightfoot). Others, the district of Auranitis near Damascus (Lipsius, Conybeare and Howson, Lewin, McGiffert). Others again the district of Arabia Petraea.

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