Monday, July 06, 2009

Galatians 1:18-24

V18-24 – 18Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter [or Cephas] and stayed with him fifteen days. 19I saw none of the other apostles – only James, the Lord’s brother. 20I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie. 21Later I went to Syria and Cilicia. 22I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23They only heard the report: ‘The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.’ 24And they praised God because of me.

According to Acts 9:19-23, Paul preached in Damascus and then, “after many days had gone by,” (perhaps the three years mentioned in v18), had his life threatened by the Jews (not necessarily the Judaizers; rather, the actual Jews who denied that Jesus was the Christ. At least the Judaizers professed Jesus as the Christ, though they clung to Judaism as well). It was then that he, with an established ministry apart from Jerusalem authority, went to Jerusalem, here we read to get acquainted with Peter, though obviously from Acts 9 to escape death threats in Damascus. Paul says he saw none of the other apostles, only James, the brother of Jesus, now three years later a believer and, though not one of the twelve (unless he’s speaking of James the son of Alpheus, a cousin of Jesus; Alpheus, a.k.a. Cleopas, is thought to have been the husband of Mary’s sister), perhaps one of the leaders of the Jerusalem church. Paul says he stayed with Peter 15 days. I wonder what they discussed…

In v20, Paul assures that he is telling the truth; undoubtedly, the Judaizers questioned and denied this portion of Paul’s experience. They wanted to link him to Jerusalem authority and reveal that he was breaking from their authority in his preaching. But we’ve already seen that he was equal in authority to the Jerusalem Christian leaders, preaching the same gospel that they preached, under the same authority they were under – Christ Himself. Furthermore, this would, of course, all be hashed out when the Jerusalem council met around 49-50 AD to settle the Jew / Gentile / Christian matter once and for all.

In Acts 9, we read that Paul escaped new death threats from Grecian Jews in Jerusalem and made his way to Caesarea and on to Tarsus. In v21 here, we read that “later,” Paul went to Syria and Cilicia. Tarsus was the most important city in the region of Cilicia, which was under the Roman authority of a Syrian province. So it is thought that Paul is effectively saying that he made his way to Tarsus after his two weeks (15 days) in Jerusalem, due to the death threats. In v22-24, we read that Paul was “personally unknown” to the Judean Christian churches; they had only heard about him. Nevertheless, they praised God for Paul, for his conversion no doubt, and for his boldness in proclaiming the gospel and willingness to suffer for the advancement of the Kingdom of God. If they could praise God for Paul without having seen him, why would the Galatians doubt his authority, having spent time with him? Fourteen years (Galatians 2:1) would pass before Paul’s next trip to Jerusalem (the amount of time either from his conversion or from his first trip to Jerusalem). And we’ll pick up Paul’s testimony there when we look at Galatians 2.

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