The Beginnings of Paul’s Mission
As he writes Galatians, it is important for Paul to stress his distance
from Jerusalem and his freedom from dependence upon the Jerusalem
apostles. In the process we learn of his visit to Arabia and his return to
Galatians 1:17 [I did not] go up to Jerusalem to those who
were already apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabia, and
afterwards I returned to Damascus.
We do not know how long he was in Arabia, or how he occupied himself.
Probably he was already hard at work, preaching his gospel to the gentiles
whom he would have encountered in Arabia. He did return to Damascus, where
it seems likely he also was occupied with his mission to gentiles. We may
note that the “return” to Damascus entitles us to conclude that the
resurrection appearance took place there. Then after three years in
departed for Jerusalem, though not quite in the manner he might have
2 Corinthians 11:32-33 32In Damascus, the
governor under King
Aretas guarded the city of Damascus in order to seize
me, 33but I was let down in a basket through a window in
the wall, and escaped from his hands.
The First Jerusalem Visit
This is the first of Paul’s three visits to Jerusalem, visits which
provide the narrative framework for his career (refer to Sequence Chart 1). The purpose of
the visit is to get acquainted with Cephas (better known as Peter); Paul
also meets James, the brother of the Lord, already mentioned in 1 Corinthians
1:18-20 18Then after three years I did
go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days; 19but
I did not see any other apostle except James the Lord’s brother. 20In
what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!
What did they talk about? Not about the weather, as one interpreter has
quipped. We may assume that they shared their common experience of Jesus,
however different that experience might have been: Cephas speaking out of
pre- as well as post-resurrection acquaintance, Paul talking about his own
revelation, belated as that might have been. But talking about Jesus also
meant talking about the early Christian message or proclamation, of which
Jesus was the center. While Paul might earlier have received that piece of
tradition summarizing the common preaching about the death and
resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians. 15:3-8), he certainly received
it no later than his meeting with Cephas. Talking about the gospel may
well have included some reference to mission strategy, if not in the
detail in which it would be discussed fourteen years later at the
• Resurrection appearance
• Jerusalem Visit (1)
=(for acquaintance with Peter)
• Syria and Cilicia
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
• Jerusalem Visit (2)
=(for the Conference)
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
• Jerusalem Visit (3)
=(to deliver collection)
Travel to Syria and Cilicia
21Then I went into the regions
of Syria and Cilicia, 22and I was still unknown by sight
to the churches of Judea that are in Christ; 23they only heard
it said, “The one who formerly was persecuting us is now proclaiming the
faith he once tried to destroy.” 24And they glorified
God because of me.
We take note of the fact that, wherever Paul might have been
persecuting the church (probably in the Damascus area), he was unknown in
Judea, and therefore probably did not participate in the persecution of
believers in Jerusalem.
|Following the first Jerusalem visit, Paul probably stopped for visits
in Antioch and Tarsus, the principal cities respectively of Syria and
Cilicia. Where next? Most likely he was traveling through Syria and
Cilicia on his way to begin his great founding missions in Galatia,
Macedonia, and Achaia (Greece), and eventually Ephesus in the province of
The alternative view, i.e. that Paul spent the better part of the next fourteen years working
in Syria and Cilicia, prior to the second Jerusalem visit, is
not adopted in the present work, for the reasons set forth in A
Letters Based Chronology (2).
Click Next button below to continue to Founding Missions (1)
January 21, 2003