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that Paul, whilst in Arabia, received by revelation, a full knowledge of the gospel. And says, that when he returned from Arabia to Damascus, he preached there. But I do not perceive him to say, that Paul preached in Arabia, or at Damascus, presently after his conversion.
To me it seems, that Paul did not preach at Damascus presently after he had been baptized, but first went into Arabia, and then returned to Damascus. And being now qualified by divine revelation, and by diligent reading the scriptures of the Old Testament, during his recess in Arabia, and being fully determined, after a competent time of humiliation for past conduct, and serious meditation, in which he had well weighed the difficulties of the work he was entering upon, he began to preach Christ in the synagogues of Damascus. I am confirmed in this opinion by the interpretation of an author, whose words I place below. Nor does St. Paul, that I remember, any where say, that he preached in Arabia. He makes a large, and, seemingly, very particular enumeration of places and people, to whom he had preached, in his discourse before Agrippa, without taking any notice of Arabia. Acts xxvi. 20, “I showed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, and turn to God."
Jerom observing, that St. Luke had said nothing of Paul's being in Arabia, is inclined to think that he did not discharge any part of his apostolical office in that country.
Saulus ex Arabia redit Damascum, satis in officio per revelationem instructus. Annal. Paulin. A. D. 36, 37, p. 2.
• St. Paul, being restored to his sight by Ananias, stayed not long at Damascus, but retired forthwith into Arabia, as he himself tells us, Gal. i. 16, 17. 'Whereas it is said, Acts ix. 19, 20, "And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples at Damascus, and straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues." Here the word, ""straightway," does not relate to Saul's first coming to Damascus, but to his ' return thither, after he had been in Arabia. For Acts ix. 19, 20, are to be ' rendered and paraphrased thus: "And, when he had received meat, he was 'strengthened." Presently after which, according to Gal. i. 16, he went into Arabia, and, having been there instructed in the gospel by the revelation of 'Jesus Christ, according to Gal. i. 12, he returned again to Damascus. “Then," or now, was Paul certain days with the disciples at Damascus, and straightway," namely, after his return out of Arabia," he preached Christ in the synagogues." Dr. Edw. Wells's Historical Geography of the N. T. Part II. p. 20, 21. t Lucam vero idcirco de Arabiâ præterîsse, quia forsitan nihil dignum apostolatu in Arabiâ perpetrârat: et ea potius compendiosa narratione dixisse, quæ digna Christi evangelio videbantur. Nec hoc segnitiæ apostoli deputandum, si frustra in Arabiâ fuerit; sed quod aliqua dispensatio et Dei præceptum fuerit, ut taceret. Hieron. in Gal. i. 17. T. IV. P. I. p. 235.
But then, if Paul was silent there, he thinks it was not owing to the apostle's backwardness to speak: but the divine wisdom appointed that it should be so.
Theophylact observes, that " the design of the Jews at Damascus to destroy Paul, was not formed presently after his conversion to the faith: but after his return thither from Arabia, at the end of three years, just before his going to Jerusalem.
Indeed, it is very likely, that if Paul had preached at Damascus, soon after his first arrival there, he would have met with a most violent onset. And as nothing of that kind is particularly taken notice of, it may be concluded, that he did not then publicly preach in any synagogues: nor was it fit, or becoming, that he should. It was highly proper, that some time should be allotted for retirement, after such a course, as he had been in, before he began to preach and teach publicly in the name of Jesus.
Though St. Luke has not mentioned the journey into Arabia, nor the time of Paul's absence from Damascus, he knew it very well, and has hinted it, saying, " And after many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to slay him," Acts ix. 23.
Mr. Beausobre says, that Paul's journey into Arabia should be placed between ver. 22 and 23, of the ninth chapter of the Acts. I should rather place it between ver. 19 and 20, of that chapter.
This period of three years, or three years and somewhat more, from Paul's conversion to his coming to Jerusalem, reaches, according to our computation, from near the end of the year 36, to near the end of 39, or the beginning of the year 40, or from the beginning of the year 37, to the former part of the year 40.
I cannot allow myself to speak positively, where there is not the evidence of certainty. I do not know in what month Paul was converted, or came to Jerusalem. Of such things as these it is sufficient to say, that they happened in such a year, or thereabout.
VII. Paul having been full three years at Damascus, and in its neighbourhood, and in Arabia, he came to Jerusalem. Gal. i. 18," And when he was come thither, he essayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple," Acts ix. 26.
ότι ἡ επιβάλη εν Δαμασκῳ εκ ευθεως μετα το πιτεύσαι γεγονεν αλλα μετα το ανελθειν αυτόν από Αραβίας μετά έτη τρια. Και ούτως γεγονεν ἡ προς τα Ιεροσόλυμα ανοδος Theoph. in Act. Ap. p. 94. ▾ Comment. sur Gal. i. 17.
This may seem strange to some. But now we discern the reason of it from the account that has been lately given of the continuance of the persecution in Judea, after the death of Stephen, and also of Paul's retired way of life, for some while, in Arabia. Paul had but lately begun to preach openly in the name of Jesus, in the synagogues of Damascus. And the believers in Judea being much harassed by the persecution which they met with at home, had not received any intelligence about what had passed at Damascus, and in the way thither. Nor were the Jewish rulers forward to publish the loss of so active a servant as Paul had been.
Acts ix. 27-30," But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them, how he had seen the Lord in the way, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus."
There have been different conjectures concerning the reasons, why Barnabas, in particular, brought Paul to the apostles. Some have imagined that he and Barnabas had studied together under Gamaliel or at least, that they had been acquainted formerly. But I see no ground for such a supposition in the history. If that had been the case, there would have been some intimation of it; which there is not. I therefore rather think, that it was entirely owing to the circumstances of things. When Paul came to Jerusalem, it was a time of persecution, as before observed, and the apostles lived privately. Paul endeavoured to join himself to the disciples, and be acquainted with them: but they were all shy of him. And possibly they were desirous that he should be approved by some of the apostles, before they took notice of him. However, he met with Barnabas,
Says Lightfoot, in his Commentary upon Acts ix. 26. Vol. I. p. 814, Some cannot conceive how it should be possible, that he should have been a convert three years, and yet his conversion and present qualities should be 'unknown to the church at Jerusalem. But these two or three considerations may help the scruple. 1. The distance between Damascus and Jerusalem. 2. The persecution that continued still upon the church of Judea, which 'would keep the disciples of Damascus from going thither. And, 3. The just 'fear that might possess the disciples at Jerusalem, in the very time of persecu'tion. For though it was said before, that the church of Jerusalem, and of Judea, enjoyed a great deal of rest and tranquillity after the conversion of 'Paul, their great persecutor, in comparison of what they had done before, yet was not the persecution of the church utterly extinct to the very time of 'Paul's coming up to Jerusalem, but continued still. And therefore it is the 'less wonder, if the disciples there be the more fearful and cautelous.'
* On prétend, qu'il avoit étudié avec Saül sous Gamaliel. L'Enfant, sur Actes, ix. 27. See also Pool's English Annotations upon the place.
y Forte Barnabas Saülum ante conversionem noverat, credebatque ei ut minime mendaci. Grot. ad loc.
and gave him an account of his conversion, and of every thing that had happened to him since he went from Jerusalem. And Barnabas gave credit to his account. Nor is it impossible, but that some believers might come from Damascus, and confirm the truth of it. Whereupon Barnabas was willing to introduce him to the apostles. Unquestionably, they placed full confidence in Barnabas, and he might know where they were. However, it is evident he had access to James. To him he brought Paul: and James brought him to Peter: so Paul had communion with all the apostles. After which he was readily received by the disciples, or believers in general. "And he was with them, coming in and going out at Jerusalem. And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed with the Grecians," or Greeks: meaning proselytes to the Jewish religion, in whom we see the true spirit of the Jewish proselytes about this time, as declared by our Saviour himself, Matt. xxiii, 15," But they went about to slay him. Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Cæsarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus."
By Cæsarea I should be apt to understand" Cæsarea by the sea side," mentioned before, ch. viii. 40. But some learned men, particularly Witsius, and Dr. Doddridge, hereby suppose to be intended Cæsarea Philippi. If we could be assured of that interpretation, perhaps it might lead us to the meaning of that expression of Paul in his speech to Agrippa, cited not long ago: " throughout all the coasts of Judea.' And indeed it may be reckoned probable, that therein Paul refers to what was now done by him. For we cannot think of any more likely season for it, considering how short a stay he generally made in Judea, whenever he came thither after his conversion. It is very probable, that as he travelled with the disciples, who accompanied him, he was not silent. Though he made no long stay in any one place, he would embrace every opportunity that offered, to speak of the doctrine, which now lay with so much weight on his mind.
"The brethren," as St. Luke says, " brought him down to Cæsarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus." And St. Paul -Hierosolymam reliquit, et a fratribus Cæsaream deductus est, non maritimam illam, quæ et Turris Stratonis dicta, de quâ supra cap. viii. 40, sed Cæsaream Philippi, quæ sita erat circa montem Libanum, ad confluentem Jor et Dan, unde Jordanes originem ducit, quæ olim Lachis, deinde Dan appellata fuit, de quâ Jud. xviii. Cujus pomoeria quum rex Agrippa protulisset, mutato nomine in honorem Neronis vocavit Neroniada. Joseph. Antiq. 20. viii. Wits. de Vitâ Pauli, sect. 3. n. ii. See the Family Expositor,
Vol. III. p. 146. upon Acts ix. 30.
himself says, Gal. i. 21, "Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia." Tarsus was now the chief city of Cilicia, and Paul's native place: where he had not been since he first came up to Jerusalem, to study the law under Gamaliel. Possibly, Paul now found some of his relations, and likewise some others, who were disciples of Jesus before him. See Rom. xvi. 7, 11. Possibly also, while he travelled now in these countries of Cilicia and Syria, he met with some of those dangers and difficulties, which are entirely omitted by St. Luke, but are mentioned or hinted by the apostle in his epistles, especially the eleventh chapter of the second epistle to the Corinthians.
In those countries Paul was the remainder of the year 40, and all 41, and likewise all 42, or the greatest part of it, till about the beginning of the year 43, preaching, undoubtedly, in the name of Jesus to native Jews, and to proselytes of the Jewish religion.
Afterwards he went to Antioch, and began to preach to Gentiles, as we shall see presently.
The churches having peace, and being no longer disturbed by a violent persecution, Peter visited the disciples in the several parts of Judea, Acts ix. 32-43. Before he returned to Jerusalem, whilst he was in the city of Joppa, "where he tarried many days," he received an order from heaven to go to Cæsarea. And in ch. x. and xi. 1-18, St. Luke gives a distinct account of St. Peter's going to the house of Cornelius at Cæsarea, and there preaching to Gentiles, and of the defence which he made of his conduct to the apostles and brethren at Jerusalem, and their acquiescence therein, upon which I do not now enlarge.
Afterwards, at ver. 19, 20, St. Luke says, "Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen, travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to Jews only. And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene: who when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus."
These men had preached the gospel to Jews, and the proselytes to judaism, in Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch. But some time after their arrival at Antioch, hearing of Peter's having opened the door of the kingdom of heaven to Gentiles at the house of Cornelius, they began to preach also to the Greeks at Antioch, that is, the b people of the that is, the people of the country,' Acts xix. 10.- - so that all they which dwelt in Asia, heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.' And ver. 17. And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also