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THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE GALATIANS - Chapter 1 - Verse 17
Verse 17. 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 Ac 15.
But I went into Arabia. Arabia was south of Damascus, and at no great distance. The line indeed between Arabia Deserts 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 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, Ga 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. Comp. Ac 9:20,22,27.
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, chap. 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 St. 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 labours 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. As Luke, in the Acts, had no occasion to illustrate this, as he had no occasion to refer to this argument, it did not fall in with his 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.
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