At Tarsus, Cilicia, and Syria

Saul returns to the Greek world. He has come full circle; he is home; a forgotten man back in Jerusalem. He spent the next ten years (A.D. 37-46) in Cilicia and Syria, tent-making, studying, preaching, though personally unknown to the churches of Judea (Galatians 1:21-24). If Paul started churches in this period, they were insignificant and made up of Gentiles (Acts 15:23).

HARDSHIPS. It is very probable that during these years Saul endured some of the hardships which he later lists in 2 Corinthians 11:22-27 as credentials of his apostolic commission. For example, he speaks of having on five occasions received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. These beatings are never mentioned by Luke or Paul elsewhere. He could have claimed exemption from this discipline on the ground of his Roman citizenship, but that would have meant a denial of his Jewishness and the renunciation of his regular policy of using the synagogue as his preliminary base of operation.

Around A.D. 43, several events took place that paved the way for Saul to begin his ministry as the apostle to the Gentiles. Peter had a vision of a sheet and unclean creatures, Cornelius and his household were converted and baptized, and the church of Jerusalem accepted Peter’s explanation for baptizing them. It had taken ten long years for the church to open its doors to the Gentiles (Acts 10:1-11:18). Agrippa killed the apostle James and began to persecute the Jewish church.

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