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Thread: Why did Paul go to Arabia?

  1. #1

    Why did Paul go to Arabia?

    Thought this was an interesting study from N.T. Wright. He has a more detailed paper on the subject, but I thought I would summarize his idea that gives light on Paul's trip.



    Something the book of Acts leaves out of Paul's story was his trip to Arabia after his vision of the risen Jesus. According to Paul, he 'went away into Arabia', after which he went back to Damascus, where he first had his vision (hence him saying he 'returned again' to Damascus...).

    So what's the deal? Why did Paul to go 'away into Arabia'? What was there? What was the purpose of this trip? How long was he there? Why doesn't Luke report it? To understand Paul's motivation for this trip, we have to understand a bit about Paul's character, and first-century Jewish heroes in general.

    A few centuries before Paul, some Jewish literature reveals that two Biblical figures had become heroes to the 'defenders of the faith': Phinehas and Elijah. Both of these men were known for their passion for their faith in God, as particularly characterized by their violent action in defense of that faith. When Israel was being threatened by sexual corruption during the exodus, Phinehas speared and killed two people to prevent the spread of that corruption. When Israel was being threatened by Baal idolatry, Elijah led the people to kill the prophets of Baal. This violent passion in defense of God's Covenant was called a holy 'zeal'. Phinehas and Elijah were 'zealous'.

    Admiration for the violent 'zeal' of those two men emerged following the return from Babylon. During the second century BC, when the Syrian king Antiochus IV Epiphanes threatened Israel with both apostasy and persecution, the Maccabees and their followers took after the examples of Phinehas and Elijah: violent 'zeal' to defend the Covenant.

    By the time of the first century AD, with the advent of the Roman Empire and increasingly oppressive Roman governors in Judea, Israelites styling themselves after Phinehas, Elijah, and even the Maccabees, began to spring up. Internally, such men were more than willing to take the Law into their own hands if they felt the religious leaders were being too lax with it.

    We know from Acts and Paul's letters that Paul violent persecuted the Church. He was obviously trying to stop its influence from spreading, but why? Perceiving certain individuals as 'the messiah' was not forbidden, but he clearly saw something wrong with the movement. Whatever that was, as Paul says, he was 'extremely zealous'. He, too, was taking after the examples of Phinehas and Elijah, seeking to violently destroy the Church in his 'zeal' for the Covenant, hoping to protect it from some kind of corruption.

    So what does this have to do with his trip to Arabia?

    As it turns out, Galatians is the only book in the New Testament that mentions 'Arabia', and does so twice. The first time is when Paul speaks of his trip to Arabia after his vision of Jesus. The second time is in chapter 4.25, where he states that Mount Sinai is in Arabia.

    After Elijah had the prophets of Baal killed, he became the subject of persecution. He ran off to Mount Sinai to give up his office as a prophet. Sinai was where the Covenant had come from, and since Elijah apparently thought he could no longer defend the Covenant, he returned to its source in order to abdicate his calling. But it was there that he had his calling clarified.

    Because Paul had stylized himself after Elijah, he mimicked Elijah's violent zeal to protect the Covenant. When Elijah saw himself as having failed, he ran off to Sinai in Arabia to give up, but was actually re-encouraged. So, mimicking Elijah, Paul ran off to Sinai, perhaps to give up his calling as a leader in the Jewish community, but wound up being re-encouraged to become a leader in the Church.

    As for Acts, perhaps Luke leaves this story of Paul's trip out of his narrative, because the book of Acts is about the growth of the Church, and not the life of Paul. For Luke, Paul's calling is a part of the Church's growth, and Paul's missionary travels are part of the Church's growth. But Paul's trip out to Sinai in Arabia for a personal experience was not about the Church's growth, so Luke left it out.

  2. #2
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    Re: Why did Paul go to Arabia?

    Can you provide a bible verse that states that Paul went to Arabia?


    All Praise The Ancient Of Days

  3. #3
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    Re: Why did Paul go to Arabia?

    Hi Mark. My personal opinion is he was doing what most men of God end up doing... Spending time in a desert. A desert is a place where our needs are not met and God has to come through for us. IMO, it can be read figuratively for the believer today. But we see this kind of experience in many great men of God.

    For instance, Joseph had a word from God and the next thing he knows, he's spending 17 years as a slave or in jail. A desert experience.

    David was anointed king, then spent time living in caves running from Saul. A desert experience.

    John the Baptist, spent 30 years in the desert preparing for a 6 month ministry.

    Moses spent 40 years in the desert before he was ready to help Israel.

    Jesus spent 40 days in the desert before his ministry started.

    The pattern is that God takes a man through severe trials in a desert like experience in order to mold and strengthen a man so that his eventual ministry can be done in power, authority, strength and grace.

    1 Peter 1:6-7
    6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by varioustrials, 7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
    NASU

    During these trials, we gain a revelation of who God is and often who we are. And when these things occur, we become more and more dependent upon the Lord for His grace and mercy. Thus, completely dependent upon Him, we are better instruments for His ministry.

    1 Peter 2:21-24

    21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.
    NASU

    IMO, it was only after walking with God in the desert, getting revelation of Jesus, that Paul was able to then go and minister in power, and to endure the great persecution he endured. Look at Jesus ministry...

    Luke 4:1-2

    4 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness 2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And He ate nothing during those days, and when they had ended, He became hungry.
    NASU

    He went into the desert full of the Holy Spirit.

    Luke 4:13-15

    13 When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time. 14 And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district. 15 And He began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all.
    NASU

    But he came out in the power of the Holy Spirit.

    Too often I think we can try to short circuit God's training grounds... the deserts of life.

    Grace and peace,

    Mark
    Matt 9:13
    13 "But go and learn what this means: ' I DESIRE COMPASSION,AND NOT SACRIFICE,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
    NASU

  4. #4

    Re: Why did Paul go to Arabia?

    Quote Originally Posted by Adstars View Post
    Can you provide a bible verse that states that Paul went to Arabia?
    He says it in Galatians 1.

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    Re: Why did Paul go to Arabia?

    Thanks Mark and Brother Mark.

    The time away did him the world of good. I think he had to get away as the people would take a long time trusting him, and news travelled slower in those days that he had in fact been converted.

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    Re: Why did Paul go to Arabia?

    Quote Originally Posted by markedward View Post
    Thought this was an interesting study from N.T. Wright. He has a more detailed paper on the subject, but I thought I would summarize his idea that gives light on Paul's trip.



    Something the book of Acts leaves out of Paul's story was his trip to Arabia after his vision of the risen Jesus. According to Paul, he 'went away into Arabia', after which he went back to Damascus, where he first had his vision (hence him saying he 'returned again' to Damascus...).

    So what's the deal? Why did Paul to go 'away into Arabia'? What was there? What was the purpose of this trip? How long was he there? Why doesn't Luke report it? To understand Paul's motivation for this trip, we have to understand a bit about Paul's character, and first-century Jewish heroes in general.
    Galatians 1
    15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, 16 to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.

    Thanks for the scripture reference. This scripture does not state that Paul went to Arabia before he went to Damascus. Paul went to Damascus to get baptized but he did not do any preaching until after he spent time alone in Arabia with the Holy Spirit being taught the Gospel. It states that after this that He "returned again to Damascus" This scripture is actually confirming that he had been to Damascus before He went to Arabia.


    All Praise The Ancient of Days

  7. #7

    Re: Why did Paul go to Arabia?

    Quote Originally Posted by Adstars
    Thanks for the scripture reference. This scripture does not state that Paul went to Arabia before he went to Damascus. Paul went to Damascus to get baptized but he did not do any preaching until after he spent time alone in Arabia with the Holy Spirit being taught the Gospel. It states that after this that He "returned again to Damascus" This scripture is actually confirming that he had been to Damascus before He went to Arabia.
    Yeah...........?

    From the OP, in the quote block you have:

    According to Paul, he 'went away into Arabia', after which he went back to Damascus, where he first had his vision (hence him saying he 'returned again' to Damascus...).

  8. #8

    Re: Why did Paul go to Arabia?

    Just a thought could Paul be saying that he didn't return to Jerusalem where the other apostles were before him, but went into the wilderness of Damascus.

    Where wilderness or desert place is related to Damascus. Much the same spoken of in 1 Kings 19:15"Then the LORD told him, “Go back the same way you came, and travel to the wilderness of Damascus. When you arrive there, anoint Hazael to be king of Aram. "

    If not then your proposal is highly possible.

  9. #9

    Re: Why did Paul go to Arabia?

    'Arabia' is too far away to be 'the wilderness of Damascus'.

  10. #10

    Re: Why did Paul go to Arabia?

    I thought that was interesting how you mentioned that he needed to go into his own desert wrote being able to minister Gods word. If you look in acts chapter 9 when The Lord is speaking to Ananias God tells him But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.” (Acts 9:15, 16 NLT) this is best evidence that this is most likely why he went into Arabia. The Holy Spirit is well known for directing us like the wind (though we can not see Him, he directs where he wills). God brought him into the desert to prepare him for the kind of trials he would undergo with his ministry of Faith. Great post!

  11. #11
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    Re: Why did Paul go to Arabia?

    According to Gal 1:17, shortly after his conversion Paul went away to Arabia. Scholars have puzzled over this, as it seems an odd choice. Rather than immediately travel to Jerusalem to be instructed by the apostles, Paul instead went to Nabatean Arabia, a wilderness desert that stretched east of Damascus down to the Sinai Peninsula. After being prepared for ministry by the Lord, he returned to minister in nearby Damascus. The approximate time from Paul’s conversion to his first journey to Jerusalem was 3 years according to the translators. During those years he made a visit to Damascus and resided in Arabia, under the instruction of the Lord.

    I caught this on another forum and it makes sense:

    "According to the account of Paul's conversion in Acts 9 the Lord stated twice that He would show Paul what to do and what would happen him for the Gospel's sake. However, Paul immediately began to show from scripture that Jesus was the Christ apparently displaying his capability to communicate to the Jew but his ministry was to the Gentiles as well something that would not go down well for some one trained in the sect of the Pharisees. So if Paul was to go Arabia where would this work into the account in Acts 9. Verse 23 states that "After that many days were fulfilled" the after that would refer to Paul's showing the Jews that Jesus was the Christ many days past. This would work in very well with Paul's traveling to Arabia.

    As far as the location of Arabia it is irrelevant something we really do not need to know. It is relevant and clear form Paul's epistles that he was very intent to be led by the Holy Spirit. With this being said it would be obvious that Paul went to Arabia, where ever it is, because the Spirit led him there. From the epistle of Galatians there are two key pieces of evidence to help understand what he went there for. First, is the word revealed and that three main areas are accounted for here Gal. 1:15-16 1. God had called him from the womb 2. Jesus was in him 3. He was to preach to the gentiles. Second, is the word confer Paul did not confer with other believers.

    This would indicate that was sent to Arabia by the Spirit to receive revelations relating the purpose of the law, his relation to the law, and the gentiles relation to the law. This was shared in all of his epistles but more so in Galatians 2:16-20. Paul's statement in verse 20 could be called the main doctrine of Paul's personal life and ministry."
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    Re: Why did Paul go to Arabia?

    I'm kind of confused about the concept of Arabia.

    I do know that Arabia and Saudi Arabia aren't the same thing.

    From what I've been able to piece together, Saudi Arabia is a relatively young country.

    From what I understand, there was/is a family named Saud, and the term "Saudi" is derived from the family name "Saud".

    If I recall correctly, there have been three Saudi States, and Saudi Arabia is the Third Saudi State.

    It's kind of hard for me to comment on why Paul went to Arabia if I'm not even sure what Arabia IS.

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    Re: Why did Paul go to Arabia?

    Attachment 11944

    Arabia was not that far away.
    Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.
    George Orwell




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    Re: Why did Paul go to Arabia?

    Since it is becoming more accepted that the real Mt. Sinai is in Arabia, I do wonder if he did not go to the mountain of God to get alone with the Spirit and relearn some things.

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    Re: Why did Paul go to Arabia?

    Quote Originally Posted by LandShark View Post
    Since it is becoming more accepted that the real Mt. Sinai is in Arabia, I do wonder if he did not go to the mountain of God to get alone with the Spirit and relearn some things.
    There is not much doubt that he had to shuck some old traditions.
    Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.
    George Orwell




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