Seeking the Everlasting Gospel

Featuring the Bible Teachings of Ted Roberts

St. Paul in Arabia

An upcoming book

This is my first rough draft, so content is subject to change in the final published piece. Comments and questions are welcome. Email us at: truthdigging@yahoo.com 

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Chapter 1: What's in Arabia?

There's some mystery surrounding Paul's, approximate, three year lapse between him getting converted on the road to Damascus, and of his travels into Jerusalem, meeting up with Peter and James the Lord's brother. At first and second glance, it may not seem to be that big of a deal, especially since Luke's account of the event was really no account at all! That is, he makes no mention of it, save for his few comments concerning Paul's activities in Damascus once he was converted. He further says that he began to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and that the local Jews didn't like it, and sought to take his life. That he escaped under the cover of night, and then went on into Jerusalem.

 

Acts 9:19-26

And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul [Paul] certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ. And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him: But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him. Then the disciples [of Christ] took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket. And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.

 

So, what further need is there to speak of this event any more? Well, there is that pesky little detail by Paul himself, in one of his own letters, mentioning that between his stay in Damascus, and of his traveling over to Jerusalem to meet up with the Apostles, that he took a detour into Arabia first.

 

Galatians 1:13-20

For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother. Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not.

 

But, for what reason did Paul even go into Arabia at all? Of course, like a lot of other Biblical incidents, this one is a disputed point amongst scholars. We see, by his own words, that before even reaching Jerusalem to meet up with Peter and James, that not only did he take this detour into Arabia first (and then returned to Damascus again), but that there was somewhat of a three year period in between. Luke tells us that Paul spent "many days" in Damascus before leaving, but surely it wasn't the whole three year period! However, this three year time-lapse may not have been an exact period of time, but may have been an approximation. Further, we don't know if that three year count began with Paul's arrival in Damascus, or if it was in between his arrival in Arabia and his going into Jerusalem. It may seem more logical, though, to say that it was this latter reasoning, for when Paul mentions that after he "went into Arabia," he "returned again unto Damascus. Then after three years" of this new destination of travelling (away from Damascus), he "went up to Jerusalem," making it appear that his experience in Arabia took up the greater part of this three year span. As to that, I will whole-heartedly agree − as I will point out why during the course of this book.

 

But, again, what was he even doing there in the first place? And where in Arabia did he visit? Did he travel around, preaching (as some say) the Gospel as he traveled? Were there folks in Arabia that needed this Gospel message preached to them? Or, did he pinpoint a single location in Arabia, and settle there most of that three year period, learning things that no man had ever learned before? And could it be that, at this single spot in Arabia, he received an experience and education with the Lord that few men before him had experienced?

 

As will be seen from my thesis (that I am fixing to expound upon), some of my observations will appear to be speculative and unscientific in their approach. However, as I explain on, one will begin to see deductive reasoning being employed in my analytical approach to the place of where Paul landed in Arabiaof where he reached up to the very heights of third heaven itself! The Apostle may have given us the very clue that we need in determining where exactly he went:

 

Galatians 4:25

For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.

 

Ironically, Galatians is the only book in the New Testament that even mentions Arabia. There are only two verses in that book that mention the word. And one of those two verses says that Mount Sinai is in Arabia, and the other says that Paul fled to Arabia after his flight out of Damascus. Could we use logical, deductive reasoning to say that Paul fled to Mount Sinai in Arabia when he ran from the city of his conversion? Of course, the comparing of these two verses alone may not convince us. But, during the course of this book, and with the bringing in of other considerations, we may well be on our way to believing that Paul did, indeed, travel to this very mountain, seeking the unique voice and instruction of the living God!

 

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Chapter 2: What's Special about Sinai?

Can there be a significant importance to Mount Sinai? Well, if we consider the giving of the Mosaic Law to the Hebrew peoples important, then we must agree that the mount in question is very important! After all, there isn't any other section in Arabia that could hold such a special place in the heart for the followers of the Hebrew God.

 

Exodus 19:1-3a

In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai. For they were departed from Rephidim, and were come to the desert of Sinai, and had pitched in the wilderness; and there Israel camped before the mount. And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain...

 

Here, God gave Moses His Ten Commandments:

 

Exodus 31:18

And he [God] gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.

 

And, if this event wasn't important enough at the mount in question, another occurrence of significance happened some years later there, also:

 

1 Kings 19:8

And he [Elijah] arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb* the mount of God.

 

Even though the name Horeb is different than the word Sinai, I (along with the majority of scholars) believe these to be the very same mountain, but which holds different names. See my END NOTES for Horeb, at the end of this chapter, for further clarity...

 

There, at the mount of Horeb (or, Sinai) Elijah had heard from God  − but not in the wind, not in the earthquake, nor in the fire − but in a still small voice. Of which, I shall address later in this book, because that still small voice will be relevant to the direction of where we are heading for this study. But, for now, let's consider that Elijah, when very stressed over the tumultuous events in his life, ran back to the beginning − ran back to the basics of his faith − trying desperately to hear from his Lord. He had found that voice at Sinai, where Moses himself had heard from the Almighty many years before him. That is, at the mountain of God!

 

But, is that even an important comparison? That is, in connecting both Moses and Elijah to this mountain? Two men of the Old Testament, who had received important instructions from the Lord? Please consider that it very well may be just as important as their appearance was in the Gospel of Matthew, over at Jerusalem, at what is now known as the Mount of Transfiguration*. Even though this mount is not the same mountain where Moses and Elijah had heard from God, over in Arabia, the importance truly lies in the fact of why it was those two men who appeared beside Jesus. If Moses is the perfect candidate to represent the Law, then Elijah, surely, is the perfect candidate to represent the Prophets for this example in the Gospel of Matthew; and Jesus, we know, was standing in the midst of the two. A voice suddenly comes out of nowhere, shouting: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him!" This had shown to the inner three, who were privileged to witness this event (that is, the disciples Peter, James, and John), that Jesus was more important than either the Law or the Prophets!* For not only was He the very Christ that was expected to come (that is, the Messiah), but He was also the Old Testament God who had spoken to the two men when they physically climbed Mount Sinai!*

 

On another thought (which will curve back around to where we are going), in our consideration for the building blocks that lead up to a New Testament church, we can give some credit to the Mosaic law as to being a small stepping stone:

 

Galatians 3:24-25

Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

 

However, Paul, in another place, gives the full credit to − not the law − but the Prophets for the ultimate foundation of the Christian church:

 

Ephesians 2:19-21

Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord.

 

Even though in this last verse no credit is given to the law for a foundation for the Christian church, by Paul's words in Galatians 3:24-25 we see that some credit can be given to it. So, we can safely say that the foundation of the church is truly built upon the Law and the Prophets. And even though the law is almost as an afterthought in this scenario, this doesn't lessen Moses' presence in this at all. Why? Well, not only is he the ultimate lawgiver, but he, too, was a prophet:

 

Deuteronomy 34:10

And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face.

 

But, not only can we see the church built upon the foundation of the law and prophets (and Moses and Elijah are our flesh examples of these two wonderful things), but Paul does mention a third element to complete the picture. No, I'm not speaking about Jesus − for He is the chief cornerstone of the building − but I am speaking of another foundation, a third foundation, on which the entire church is built, and which rests upon Christ; and it was also mentioned by Paul in Ephesians 2:19-21. If we will re-read it, we'll see, right in the midst, that Paul says that they "are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets."

 

Is that last part important in our investigation? That is, the inclusion of the Apostles? And if so, which Apostles are we speaking of? The twelve in Jerusalem? Now, this is where this is going to get a bit sticky, for I am going to declare boldly that the twelve in Jerusalem were not the ultimate example of a New Testament Apostle; though we need not leave them out entirely! Just as there were other prophets besides Moses and Elijah, there are more than twelve Apostles . . . Well, at least one more! I am speaking of Paul himself − the ultimate New Testament example of an Apostle. In not thinking that I am belittling the other Apostles, I will need time to make my case about what I am trying to say when I declare without apology that Paul was the ultimate example of a New Testament Apostle . . . So, let's begin...

 

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END NOTES for Chapter 2

 

The following are End Notes for Chapter 2...

 

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*Horeb, the Mount of God

Despite the evidence that Horeb and Sinai are the same mountain, there are a handful of scholars who say that these are two totally different mountains − and are perhaps miles and miles away from each other! But, let's consider the following:

 

From JewishEncyclopedia.com (The unedited full-text of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia), entry for Sinai, Mount, and Mount Horeb: "Mount Sinai is often referred to as "the mountain" (that is, the mountain par excellence), "the mountain of Elohim" (Hebr.), and "the mountain of Yhwh" (Hebr.; Ex. iii. 1, iv. 27, xviii. 5, xix. 2, et passim; Num. x. 33), and in many other passages it is called "Horeb" (Ex. iii. 1; Deut. i. 2 et passim). The Biblical text, indeed, seems to indicate that this last [i.e. Horeb] was its proper name, while "Sinai" was applied to the desert. According to one theory, Sinai and Horeb are the names of two eminences belonging to the same range; if this be so, the range became prominent in the history of the Hebrews some time before the promulgation of the Law. When Moses led the flocks of his father-in-law to the desert and came "to the mountain of God, even to Horeb," [Exodus 3:1] an angel appeared to him from a flaming bush, and then God Himself spoke to Moses, telling him that where he stood was holy ground, thus foreshadowing the great event that was to occur there [i.e. the receiving of the law in stone tablets]. From that mountain, God persuaded Moses to go to Pharaoh and deliver the Israelites from his yoke. After the Exodus, when the Israelites who had encamped at Rephidim were suffering with thirst, Moses, by command of God, smote water from a rock in Horeb (Ex. xvii. 6) . . . In Rabbinical Literature, The Rabbis consider "Sinai" and "Horeb" to be two names of the same mountain..."

 

Also:

 

John Wesley's Explanatory Notes, for Exodus 3:1 "Horeb and Sinai were two tops of the same mountain."

 

Also:

 

Robert Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary, for Exodus 3:1 "Horeb is the same as Sinai. Wherever Jesus manifests himself to his people, this is the mountain of God."

 

Let's also consider the vast evidence within the Bible itself. When we think of Mt Sinai, we think of several events associated with it; for one, Moses, at his calling, visited the mountain, not knowing that he was going to be speaking with God − and especially in a burning bush:

 

Exodus 3:1

Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb.

 

This same event is recorded by the Jewish Historian, Josephus. But, in his account, he calls the mountain Sinai:

 

Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, A.D. 93, Book II, chapter 12:

NOW Moses, when he had obtained the favor of Jethro, for that was one of the names of Raguel, staid there and fed his flock; but some time afterward, taking his station at the mountain called Sinai, he drove his flocks thither to feed them.

 

After Moses got the children of Israel away from Egypt, and when they came back to this mountain of God much later on, Moses spoke with God, alone, on top of the mount, whilst the children of Israel stayed down at the campsite, just below:

 

Exodus 24:16

And the glory of the LORD abode upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days: and the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud.

 

Here, upon this mount, God gave Moses the Ten Commandments:

 

Exodus 31:18

And he [God] gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.

 

Then Stephen, in his address to the Sanhedrin (in Acts chapter 7), confirms that the mount was indeed Sinai:

 

Acts 7:38

This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina [i.e. Sinai], and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us.

 

But, what is strange, is that the Bible also calls this location Horeb:

 

Deuteronomy 5:2

The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb.

 

This Covenant, as we saw also in Exodus 31:18, was said to have been given on Mt. Sinai, showing us clearly that this is the very same mountain, but with a different name.

 

Psalms 106:19

They made a calf in Horeb, and worshipped the molten image.

 

Here, we see where the children of Israel, whom had thought Moses to be dead (for he was spending a lot of time with God upon the mount) decided to make for themselves the famous golden calf. Yet, we see that the verse calls the place Horeb instead of Sinai. But, we know that this event happened at Sinai − which, again, shows us that this is the same mountain . . . Therefore, when we think of Elijah travelling to the mount called Horeb, it's not hard for us to think of this as the very same mountain of where Moses received the Ten Commandments! But, if that's not enough evidence, here's another scripture for us to ponder:

 

1 Kings 8:9

There was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone, which Moses put there at Horeb, when the LORD made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt.

 

There can be no doubt that Horeb and Sinai are the same mountain!

 

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*At What is known as Mt of Transfiguration

 

Matthew 17:1-9

And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias [Elijah] talking with him. Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only. And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.

 

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*Jesus More Important than Law/Prophets

Matthew 5:17

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

 

So saying that Jesus had to fulfill them in order to proceed with the New Testament.

 

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*Jesus, God of the Old Testament

 

Being fully aware that I probably have opened a can of worms with this statement, I nevertheless stick with my guns in so saying; for, surely, such scriptures as this cannot be ignored:

 

John 8:57-58

Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I AM.

 

Matching the words spoken by God in the burning bush to Moses on Mt. Sinai:

 

Exodus 3:14

And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

 

Now, before a person (who has never thought on this point before) gets somewhat put out by what I am implying here, thinking possibly that it would be ridiculous to even think that Jesus was the great I AM of the OT, please consider the following:

 

John 18:4-6

Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye? They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them. As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground.

 

At first and second glance it may appear that this scripture puts forth nothing of interest for my case, except for the fact that every-time Jesus says I am he, the word he is italicized. As I point out at the bottom of the Table of Contents page "Words in italics, however, within quoted scriptures, are not for emphasis, but were placed within by the King James editors, who 'added' these words for sentence flow, which were not in the original autographs." This fact is not disputed amongst any Bible scholar. But, I will say that even though helpful most of the time, being placed at the wrong place at the wrong time can damage some perfectly good Bible studying. However, as is the case with all things in life, it is up to the student to learn their craft about things before getting too plunged into their project. A little Bible History can educate us on these finer points, and can help us become better students for God . . . But, in consideration to this, John 18:4-6 clearly paints a picture of the great I AM for us, especially in the fact that when Jesus said this, all men in the company fell backward to the ground! This, friends, was no mere coincidence − this was the same voice that thundered on Mt. Sinai, and it was just as powerful with Jesus during the early church period as it was all those years ago with Moses and Elijah!

 

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