At mass today, the scripture in Galations, St Paul tells us that after he was struck blind by God he spent three years 'in Arabia before speaking with any of the apostles. Is there any source that speaks about those years?
Just looked up “Arabia” in the New Testament; today’s reading is the only passage that is relevant.
Damascus was a part of Arabia, and ruled by Aretas IV. A few passages in Acts about it.
After re-reading verses 17-18 several times, I’ll re-phrase the question slightly. Are there any extra sources that tell us what St Paul was doing in Arabia and Demascus? Was he being 'instructed or preaching or something else?
Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA)
16 To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the Gentiles, immediately I condescended not to flesh and blood.
17 Neither went I to Jerusalem, to the apostles who were before me: but I went into Arabia, and again I returned to Damascus.
18 Then, after three years, I went to Jerusalem, to see Peter, and I tarried with him fifteen days.
19 But other of the apostles I saw none, saving James the brother of the Lord.
- On Paul’s conversion, formation and ascent to the office of Apostle (Bishop). Many have oversimplified notions of Paul’s conversion, and subsequent missionary activity. Many who have not carefully studied the texts of Acts, Galatians, and other references assume that Paul went right to work after his conversion as a missionary. But this was not the case.
At the time near his conversion Paul was described as “a young man” (neanias). Sometime after the death of Stephen he had his conversion, encountering the risen Christ on the road to Damascus. Immediately following his encounter with Christ he was blinded for three days and eventually healed by a Christian named Ananias who also baptized him (Acts 9:9-19). Hereafter, according to Galatians, Paul went into the Desert of Arabia (Gal 1:17). Why he went, and for how long is not known. It is probably not wrong to presume that he went there to reflect and possibly be further formed in the Christian faith to which he had come so suddenly and unexpectedly. Was he there for several years as some scholars propose or just a brief time as others do? It is not possible to say with certainty but it would seem that some amount of time would be necessary to pray, reflect and experience formation in the Christian way, possibly with other Christians. A period of at least a year seems tenable and perhaps as many as three years. We can only speculate.
Paul then returned to Damascus and joined the Christian community there for a period of almost three years (Gal 1:18). While there he took to debating in the synagogues and was so effective in demonstrating that Jesus was the hoped for messiah that some of the Jews there conspired to kill him. He fled the city and went to Jerusalem (Acts 9:20-25). Paul states that he went there to confer with Cephas (Peter) (Gal 1:18). Paul seems to imply that he thought it was time to confer with Peter since he had begun to teach and even now was gaining disciples. Later he would describe the purpose of another visit to Peter and the other leaders: to present the Gospel that I preach to the Gentiles…so that I might not be running, or have run in vain (Gal 2:2). While there on this first visit he stayed for 15 days and also met James.