To the Galatians 1:1-24

1  Paul, an apostle, neither from men nor through a man, but through Jesus Christ+ and God the Father,+ who raised him up from the dead,  and all the brothers with me, to the congregations of Ga·laʹti·a:+  May you have undeserved kindness and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  He gave himself for our sins+ so that he might rescue us from the present wicked system of things+ according to the will of our God and Father,+  to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.  I am amazed that you are so quickly turning away from the One who called you with Christ’s undeserved kindness to another sort of good news.+  Not that there is another good news; but there are certain ones who are causing you trouble+ and wanting to distort the good news about the Christ.  However, even if we or an angel out of heaven were to declare to you as good news something beyond the good news we declared to you, let him be accursed.+  As we have said before, I now say again, Whoever is declaring to you as good news something beyond what you accepted, let him be accursed. 10  Is it, in fact, men I am now trying to persuade or God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still pleasing men, I would not be Christ’s slave. 11  For I want you to know, brothers, that the good news I declared to you is not of human origin;+ 12  for neither did I receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it was through a revelation by Jesus Christ. 13  Of course, you heard about my conduct formerly in Juʹda·ism,+ that I kept intensely persecuting the congregation of God and devastating it;+ 14  and I was making greater progress in Juʹda·ism than many of my own age in my nation, as I was far more zealous for the traditions of my fathers.+ 15  But when God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through his undeserved kindness,+ thought good 16  to reveal his Son through me so that I might declare the good news about him to the nations,+ I did not immediately consult with any human; 17  nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before I was, but I went to Arabia, and then I returned to Damascus.+ 18  Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem+ to visit Ceʹphas,+ and I stayed with him for 15 days. 19  But I did not see any of the other apostles, only James+ the brother of the Lord. 20  Now regarding the things I am writing you, I assure you before God that I am not lying. 21  After that I went into the regions of Syria and Ci·liʹcia.+ 22  But I was personally unknown to the congregations of Ju·deʹa that were in union with Christ. 23  They only used to hear: “The man who formerly persecuted us+ is now declaring the good news about the faith that he formerly devastated.”+ 24  So they began glorifying God because of me.

Footnotes

Study Notes

To the Galatians: Titles like this were apparently not part of the original text. Ancient manuscripts, such as the papyrus codex known as P46, show that they were added later, doubtless to make it easier to identify the letters. (See Media Gallery, “Paul’s Letter to the Galatians.”) Other early manuscripts, such as Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus of the fourth century C.E., contain the same title as the P46 codex.

Galatians: Apparently Paul here refers to the Christians in the congregations located in those southern parts of Galatia where he had preached.​—See study note on Ga 1:2.

to the congregations of Galatia: When traveling through Galatia (see study note on Galatia in this verse) during Paul’s first missionary tour about 47-48 C.E., Paul and Barnabas visited such cities as Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe​—all located in the southern part of the region. (Ac 13:14, 51; 14:1, 5, 6) The men found many who were eager to learn the good news, so they established Christian congregations in those cities. (Ac 14:19-23) It seems that the seeds of Christianity sown among the Galatians bore good fruit. Timothy, for instance, came from Galatia. (Ac 16:1) “The congregations of Galatia” to whom Paul wrote were composed of a mixture of Jews and non-Jews, the latter including both circumcised proselytes and uncircumcised Gentiles. (Ac 13:14, 43; 16:1; Ga 5:2) No doubt some were of Celtic descent. The congregations in this region were also mentioned in other letters in the Christian Greek Scriptures. For example, about 55 C.E. when writing to the Corinthians, Paul mentioned the instructions he had given “to the congregations of Galatia” regarding the laying aside of contributions for the poor. (1Co 16:1, 2; Ga 2:10) Some years later (c. 62-64 C.E.), Peter addressed his first letter to, among others, “the temporary residents scattered about in . . . Galatia.”​—1Pe 1:1; see study note on Ga 3:1.

Galatia: In the first century C.E., Galatia was the region as well as the Roman province that occupied the central portion of what is now known as Asia Minor.​—See Glossary.

May you have undeserved kindness and peace: Paul uses this greeting in 11 of his letters. (1Co 1:3; 2Co 1:2; Ga 1:3; Eph 1:2; Php 1:2; Col 1:2; 1Th 1:1; 2Th 1:2; Tit 1:4; Phm 3) He uses a very similar greeting in his letters to Timothy but adds the quality “mercy.” (1Ti 1:2; 2Ti 1:2) Scholars have noted that instead of using the common word for “Greetings!” (khaiʹrein), Paul often uses the similar sounding Greek term (khaʹris), expressing his desire for the congregations to enjoy a full measure of “undeserved kindness.” (See study note on Ac 15:23.) The mention of “peace” reflects the common Hebrew greeting, sha·lohmʹ. (See study note on Mr 5:34.) By using the terms “undeserved kindness and peace,” Paul is apparently highlighting the restored relationship that Christians enjoy with Jehovah God by means of the ransom. When Paul describes where the generous kindness and peace come from, he mentions God our Father separately from the Lord Jesus Christ.

May you have undeserved kindness and peace: See study note on Ro 1:7.

this system of things: The basic meaning of the Greek word ai·onʹ is “age.” It can refer to a state of affairs or to features that distinguish a certain period of time, epoch, or age. (See Glossary, “System(s) of things.”) Since “this system of things” is Satan’s dominion, he has molded it and given it certain features and a distinctive spirit.​—Eph 2:1, 2.

system of things: The Greek word ai·onʹ, having the basic meaning “age,” can refer to a state of affairs or to features that distinguish a certain period of time, epoch, or age. (2Ti 4:10; see Glossary, “System(s) of things.”) What Paul here calls “the present wicked system of things” apparently began sometime after the Flood. Humans started to develop an unrighteous way of life, one characterized by sin and rebellion against God and his will. While Christians in the first century C.E. lived at the same time as the prevailing “wicked system of things,” they were no part of it. They had been rescued from it by the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ.​—See study note on 2Co 4:4.

Amen: Or “So be it.” The Greek word a·menʹ is a transliteration of a Hebrew term derived from the root word ’a·manʹ, meaning “to be faithful, to be trustworthy.” (See Glossary.) “Amen” was said in agreement to an oath, a prayer, or a statement. Writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures often used it to express agreement with some form of praise to God, as Paul does here. (Ro 16:27; Eph 3:21; 1Pe 4:11) In other cases, it is used to emphasize the writer’s wish that God extend favor toward the recipients of the letter. (Ro 15:33; Heb 13:20, 21) It is also used to indicate that the writer earnestly agrees with what is expressed.​—Re 1:7; 22:20.

false brothers: The Greek word for “false brother” (pseu·daʹdel·phos) is found only here and at 2Co 11:26. One lexicon defines the word as “a Christian in name only.” The Judaizers in the Galatian congregations posed as spiritual men, while in reality, they sought to direct the congregation back to strict adherence to the Mosaic Law. (See study note on Ga 1:6.) Paul said that such men were “brought in quietly” and that they “slipped in to spy” on Christian freedom, showing that these men used subtle tactics to spread their dangerous teachings.​—Compare 2Co 11:13-15.

O senseless Galatians!: The Greek word for “senseless” (a·noʹe·tos) does not necessarily mean that the Galatian Christians lacked intelligence. In this context, it refers to “unwillingness to use one’s mental faculties in order to understand,” as one lexicon puts it. Paul had just reminded the Galatian Christians that they had been declared righteous, not because they had kept the Mosaic Law, but because they had faith in Jesus Christ. (Ga 2:15-21) Jesus had freed them from the condemnation of the Mosaic Law. (See study note on Ga 2:21.) Foolishly, some Galatians were forsaking that precious freedom and were returning to an obsolete Law that could only condemn them. (Ga 1:6) By exclaiming “O senseless Galatians!” Paul rebuked them for taking this step backward.

Judaism: The religious system that was prevalent among the Jewish people in Paul’s day. In the Christian Greek Scriptures, this word occurs only at Ga 1:13, 14. While adherents claimed to follow the Hebrew Scriptures closely, first-century Judaism focused great attention on “the traditions of [the] fathers.” (See study note on Ga 1:14.) Jesus denounced the traditions and the men who made God’s Word invalid.​—Mr 7:8, 13.

You were called to freedom: Here Paul warns that by giving in to fleshly, or sinful, desires, Christians would be abusing the freedom that they enjoy with Christ. (Ga 2:4; 4:24-31) Those who appreciate this freedom use it to slave for one another out of love, serving others in a humble manner.​—See study notes on Ga 5:1, 14.

let him be accursed: Paul warns the Galatian Christians of “certain ones” who were “wanting to distort the good news about the Christ.” (Ga 1:7) These were apparently men who endorsed Jewish traditions rather than the message of the good news. Paul says that Christians should consider to be “accursed” anyone, even angels, who declared to them as good news something beyond that which they had received. He repeats this warning in verse 9. The Greek word for “accursed” (a·naʹthe·ma) literally means that which is “laid up.” The word originally applied to votive offerings laid up, or set apart, as sacred in a temple. In this context it applies to that which is set apart to be declared bad or evil. (1Co 12:3; 16:22; see study note on Ro 9:3.) In the Septuagint, the translators generally used the same Greek word to render the Hebrew word cheʹrem, which means a thing or a person “devoted to destruction” or “set apart for destruction.”​—De 7:26; 13:17.

you are so quickly turning away: Paul here pinpoints an important reason for writing this letter. Though it had not been long since Paul visited the region, some in the Galatian congregations were already turning away from Christian truths. The “evil influence” that Paul talks about in this letter (Ga 3:1) includes those whom he calls “false brothers,” who had “slipped in” to the congregations. (See study notes on Ga 2:4; 3:1.) Some of these false brothers were Judaizers, who insisted that Christians abide by the Mosaic Law. (See study note on Ga 1:13.) The Judaizers persisted even though the apostles and elders in Jerusalem had already directed that Gentiles were not obligated to obey the Mosaic Law. (Ac 15:1, 2, 23-29; Ga 5:2-4) Paul indicates that the Judaizers feared persecution and wanted to appease Jewish opposers. (Ga 6:12, 13) These false brothers may also have claimed that Paul was no real apostle, and they sought to alienate the congregations from him. (Ga 1:11, 12; 4:17) Some of the Galatians may have been inclined toward immorality, strife, and egotism. These fleshly tendencies that Paul addresses in the latter part of his letter would cause them to turn away from God.​—Ga 5:13–6:10.

another sort of good news: “False brothers” were preaching (Ga 2:4) a different teaching that was “something beyond” what the Galatian Christians had learned. The good news that Paul had declared to them included “the good news about the Christ.” (Ga 1:7, 8) It had to do with the freedom that Christ brings​—freedom from bondage to inherited sin and freedom from bondage to the Mosaic Law. (Ga 3:13; 5:1, 13 and study note) That good news was “not of human origin.”​—Ga 1:8, 9, 11, 12; 2Co 11:4; see study note on Ga 1:8.

are causing you trouble: According to one lexicon, the Greek verb that Paul here uses conveys the sense of “stir up; disturb; unsettle; throw into confusion.” In this and other contexts, the expression refers to mental or spiritual disturbance. (Ac 15:24; Ga 5:10) The same verb is also used at Ac 17:13 about the Jews who came to “agitate the crowds” in Beroea.

separated . . . as the cursed one: That is, the one being under a curse from God. Paul is here using a form of hyperbole, or exaggeration. He expresses his willingness to take on himself the curse from God that awaited his brothers, unbelieving Jews, for rejecting the promised Messiah. (Compare Ga 3:13.) Paul’s point is that he was willing to do everything within his power to help them to avail themselves of God’s means of salvation.

let him be accursed: Paul warns the Galatian Christians of “certain ones” who were “wanting to distort the good news about the Christ.” (Ga 1:7) These were apparently men who endorsed Jewish traditions rather than the message of the good news. Paul says that Christians should consider to be “accursed” anyone, even angels, who declared to them as good news something beyond that which they had received. He repeats this warning in verse 9. The Greek word for “accursed” (a·naʹthe·ma) literally means that which is “laid up.” The word originally applied to votive offerings laid up, or set apart, as sacred in a temple. In this context it applies to that which is set apart to be declared bad or evil. (1Co 12:3; 16:22; see study note on Ro 9:3.) In the Septuagint, the translators generally used the same Greek word to render the Hebrew word cheʹrem, which means a thing or a person “devoted to destruction” or “set apart for destruction.”​—De 7:26; 13:17.

To the weak I became weak: Though his speech was forceful, Paul considered the sensitive consciences of certain Jews and Gentiles in the congregation and thus “became weak” to the weak.​—Ro 14:1, 13, 19; 15:1.

Is it, in fact, men I am now trying to persuade or God?: Paul defends himself because “false brothers” in Galatia apparently claimed that he had adapted his message so as to persuade the Galatian Christians to side with him. (Ga 2:4) For example, those opponents seem to have claimed that Paul would preach circumcision when it suited him. (Ga 5:11) The Greek word peiʹtho, here rendered “persuade,” also conveys the meaning “appeal to; win over; gain the approval of.” Paul is, in effect, asking: “Am I trying to win the approval of people or of God?” Paul is, of course, concerned about gaining the approval of God, not of humans. While Paul was adaptable in how he presented the good news (see study note on 1Co 9:22), he never changed the basic message just to win over different groups of people. (See study note on Or am I trying to please men in this verse.) In the preceding verses, he made it very clear that there was just one message of truth, “the good news about the Christ.”​—Ga 1:6-9.

Or am I trying to please men?: Some claimed that Paul was flattering men in an attempt to win their approval. The implied answer to Paul’s question is: “Of course not!” If he were trying to please humans, he would be disclaiming that he was a slave of Christ.​—1Th 2:4.

as a result of a revelation: Paul here adds a detail not found in Luke’s account in the book of Acts. (Ac 15:1, 2) Christ, as head of the Christian congregation, apparently used a revelation to direct Paul to bring the important issue of circumcision to the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. (Eph 5:23) That historic meeting took place about 49 C.E. By mentioning this revelation, Paul further countered the Judaizers, who insisted that he was no true apostle. Jesus himself not only commissioned Paul but also gave him directions by means of revelations, proving that Paul was indeed a true apostle.​—Ga 1:1, 15, 16.

a revelation: Paul uses the Greek word a·po·kaʹly·psis, which literally means “an uncovering” or “a disclosure.” As used in the Christian Greek Scriptures, the word often refers to the revealing of spiritual matters to humans by God and Jesus. In this verse, Paul shows that the good news he preached was revealed to him, not by a human, but by Jesus Christ himself. This fact further established that Paul was a true apostle. Like the other apostles, Paul learned the good news and received his commission directly from Jesus. (1Co 9:1; Eph 3:3) Later in this letter, Paul refers to a specific revelation from Christ directing him to take the circumcision issue to the apostles and elders in Jerusalem.​—See study note on Ga 2:2.

the traditions of my fathers: The Greek word for “tradition” (pa·raʹdo·sis) refers to information, instructions, or practices that have been handed down to others to follow. Paul here refers to the system of religious traditions practiced by the Jewish religious leaders, especially those of the Pharisees and scribes. Their religion was based on the Hebrew Scriptures, but those religious teachers had added many unscriptural traditions. (Mt 15:2, 3; Mr 7:3, 5, 13; see study note on Ga 1:13.) As “a son of Pharisees,” Paul was educated by Jewish religious teachers, such as Gamaliel, who was a highly esteemed teacher in the Pharisaic tradition. (Ac 22:3; 23:6; Php 3:5; see study note on Ac 5:34.) Paul explains, however, that his zeal for the traditional beliefs of his ancestors led to his “persecuting the congregation of God and devastating it.”​—Ga 1:13; Joh 16:2, 3.

the power beyond what is normal: Paul here uses the Greek word hy·per·bo·leʹ to describe power that is “beyond what is normal,” the extraordinary power that only God can give.​—See study note on 2Co 12:7.

extraordinary: Paul uses the Greek word hy·per·bo·leʹ to describe the “extraordinary,” or surpassing, character of the revelations he received. (See study note on 2Co 12:2.) This Greek word occurs eight times in the Christian Greek Scriptures, all of them in the writings of Paul. It is translated in various ways, according to context. For example, at 2Co 4:7, the word describes “power beyond what is normal,” and at 2Co 1:8, the “extreme pressure” that weighed on Paul and his companions.​—See Glossary, “Hyperbole.”

Judaism: The religious system that was prevalent among the Jewish people in Paul’s day. In the Christian Greek Scriptures, this word occurs only at Ga 1:13, 14. While adherents claimed to follow the Hebrew Scriptures closely, first-century Judaism focused great attention on “the traditions of [the] fathers.” (See study note on Ga 1:14.) Jesus denounced the traditions and the men who made God’s Word invalid.​—Mr 7:8, 13.

intensely: Paul here uses the Greek word hy·per·bo·leʹ to describe how “intensely” (lit., “to the point of excess,” that is, to an extraordinary or extreme degree) he used to persecute the Christian congregation. (Ac 8:1, 3; 9:1, 2; 26:10, 11; Php 3:6) This Greek word occurs eight times in the Christian Greek Scriptures.​—See study notes on 2Co 4:7; 12:7 and Glossary, “Hyperbole.”

Judaism: The religious system that was prevalent among the Jewish people in Paul’s day. In the Christian Greek Scriptures, this word occurs only at Ga 1:13, 14. While adherents claimed to follow the Hebrew Scriptures closely, first-century Judaism focused great attention on “the traditions of [the] fathers.” (See study note on Ga 1:14.) Jesus denounced the traditions and the men who made God’s Word invalid.​—Mr 7:8, 13.

Gamaliel: A Law teacher mentioned twice in Acts, here and at Ac 22:3. He is thought to be Gamaliel the Elder, as he is known in non-Biblical sources. Gamaliel was the grandson, or possibly the son, of Hillel the Elder, who is credited with developing a more liberal school of thought among the Pharisees. Gamaliel was so highly esteemed among the people that he is said to be the first to be called by the honorific title “Rabban.” Therefore, he greatly influenced the Jewish society of his time by training many sons of Pharisees, such as Saul of Tarsus. (Ac 22:3; 23:6; 26:4, 5; Ga 1:13, 14) He often interpreted the Law and traditions in a way that appears to have been comparatively broad-minded. For example, he is said to have enacted laws protecting wives against unprincipled husbands and defending widows against unprincipled children. He is also said to have argued that poor non-Jews should have the same gleaning rights as poor Jews. This tolerant attitude is evident in the way Gamaliel treated Peter and the other apostles. (Ac 5:35-39) Rabbinic records show, however, that Gamaliel placed greater emphasis on rabbinic tradition than on the Holy Scriptures. Therefore, on the whole, his teachings were similar to those of most of his rabbinic forefathers and the religious leaders of his day.​—Mt 15:3-9; 2Ti 3:16, 17; see Glossary, “Pharisees”; “Sanhedrin.”

the traditions of my fathers: The Greek word for “tradition” (pa·raʹdo·sis) refers to information, instructions, or practices that have been handed down to others to follow. Paul here refers to the system of religious traditions practiced by the Jewish religious leaders, especially those of the Pharisees and scribes. Their religion was based on the Hebrew Scriptures, but those religious teachers had added many unscriptural traditions. (Mt 15:2, 3; Mr 7:3, 5, 13; see study note on Ga 1:13.) As “a son of Pharisees,” Paul was educated by Jewish religious teachers, such as Gamaliel, who was a highly esteemed teacher in the Pharisaic tradition. (Ac 22:3; 23:6; Php 3:5; see study note on Ac 5:34.) Paul explains, however, that his zeal for the traditional beliefs of his ancestors led to his “persecuting the congregation of God and devastating it.”​—Ga 1:13; Joh 16:2, 3.

flesh and blood: Or “a human,” a common Jewish expression. In this context, it evidently refers to fleshly or human thinking.​—Ga 1:16, ftn.

any human: Lit., “flesh and blood,” a common Jewish idiom. In this context, it is used to refer to a human being.​—1Co 15:50; Eph 6:12; see study note on Mt 16:17.

I went to Arabia, and then I returned to Damascus: Paul’s journey to Arabia is not mentioned in Luke’s brief account of the events that followed Paul’s conversion in Damascus. (Ac 9:18-20, 23-25) So Paul’s statement here complements Luke’s record. Paul may have preached about his newfound faith in Damascus before he departed for Arabia, possibly to the Syrian deserts. (See Glossary, “Arabia.”) After that, he may have returned to Damascus, continuing to preach there until “many days had passed,” and the Jews there plotted to kill him. (Ac 9:23) The purpose of going to Arabia is not revealed, but the newly converted Saul may have sought time for quiet meditation on the Scriptures.​—Compare Mr 1:12.

Cephas: One of the names of the apostle Simon Peter. Upon meeting Simon for the first time, Jesus gave him the Semitic name Cephas (in Greek, Ke·phasʹ). The name may be related to the Hebrew noun ke·phimʹ (rocks) used at Job 30:6 and Jer 4:29. At Joh 1:42, John explains that the name “is translated ‘Peter’” (Peʹtros, a Greek name that similarly means “A Piece of Rock”). The name Cephas is used only at Joh 1:42 and in two of Paul’s letters, namely, 1 Corinthians and Galatians.​—1Co 1:12; 3:22; 9:5; 15:5; Ga 1:18; 2:9, 11, 14; see study notes on Mt 10:2; Joh 1:42.

Then three years later: Paul may mean that after his conversion, parts of three years elapsed; he may have arrived in Jerusalem in 36 C.E. That visit was likely the first time that Paul was in Jerusalem as a Christian.

to visit: Some scholars suggest that the Greek verb rendered “to visit” may include the idea of visiting with the purpose of obtaining information. When Saul visited Peter and James, he would have many things to ask them, and they would have many questions for him regarding his vision and his commission.

Cephas: One of the names of the apostle Peter.​—See study note on 1Co 1:12.

James: This half brother of Jesus is evidently the James who is mentioned at Ac 12:17 (see study note) and Ga 1:19 and who wrote the Bible book by that name.​—Jas 1:1.

his brothers: That is, Jesus’ half brothers. The four Gospels, Acts of Apostles, and two of Paul’s letters mention “the Lord’s brothers,” “the brother of the Lord,” “his brothers,” and “his sisters,” naming four of the “brothers”​—James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. (1Co 9:5; Ga 1:19; Mt 12:46; 13:55, 56; Mr 3:31; Lu 8:19; Joh 2:12) These siblings were all born after the miraculous birth of Jesus. Most Bible scholars accept the evidence that Jesus had at least four brothers and two sisters and that all were offspring of Joseph and Mary by natural means.​—See study note on Mt 13:55.

James: Most likely referring to Jesus’ half brother. He may have been next to Jesus in age, being the first named of Mary’s four natural-born sons: James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. (Mt 13:55; Mr 6:3; Joh 7:5) James was an eyewitness at Pentecost 33 C.E. when thousands of visiting Jews from the Diaspora responded to the good news and got baptized. (Ac 1:14; 2:1, 41) Peter instructed the disciples to “report . . . to James,” indicating that James was taking the lead in the Jerusalem congregation. He is apparently also the James mentioned at Ac 15:13; 21:18; 1Co 15:7; Ga 1:19 (where he is called “the brother of the Lord”); 2:9, 12 and the one who wrote the Bible book bearing his name.​—Jas 1:1; Jude 1.

one who is sent: Or “a messenger (an envoy); an apostle.” The Greek word a·poʹsto·los (derived from the verb a·po·stelʹlo, meaning “to send out”) is rendered “apostle(s)” in 78 of the 80 occurrences in the Christian Greek Scriptures. (At Php 2:25, this Greek word is rendered “envoy.”) The only occurrence of the Greek term in John’s Gospel is in this verse.​—Mt 10:5; Lu 11:49; 14:32; see study notes on Mt 10:2; Mr 3:14 and Glossary, “Apostle.”

apostles: Likely referring to Peter (“Cephas,” Ga 1:18; 2:9) and James the brother of the Lord, that is, Jesus’ half brother. (See study notes on Mt 13:55; Ac 1:14; 12:17.) The term “apostle” basically means “someone sent out,” and it is most frequently used of the 12 apostles of Jesus. (Lu 8:1; see study note on Joh 13:16 and Glossary, “Apostle.”) However, it also has a broader usage, as in this case regarding James. He was apparently viewed as an apostle, that is, one selected and sent forth as a representative of the Jerusalem congregation. Such a use of this word would explain why the account at Ac 9:26, 27 uses the title in the plural, saying that Paul was led “to the apostles.”

three times I was beaten with rods: This was a form of punishment often meted out by Roman authorities. The book of Acts mentions only one of the three times Paul received such a beating. It was before he wrote his second letter to the Corinthians. That beating took place at Philippi. (Ac 16:22, 23) He was also beaten by Jews in Jerusalem, but there is no mention of rods being used. (Ac 21:30-32) At any rate, Paul’s audience in Corinth, a Roman colony, surely knew that such beatings were brutal. The humiliating process started with stripping off the victim’s garments. (Compare 1Th 2:2.) A Roman citizen, such as Paul, was supposed to be shielded by law from beatings. That is why Paul informed the Philippian magistrates that they had infringed on his rights.​—See study notes on Ac 16:35, 37.

a man: Paul does not name the man who received this supernatural vision, but the context strongly suggests that Paul is referring to himself. In defending his qualifications as an apostle against the attacks of such opposers as the “superfine apostles” (2Co 11:5, 23), Paul cites as evidence the “supernatural visions and revelations of the Lord” that he has received (2Co 12:1). Since the Bible does not speak of any other person who had such an experience, Paul is logically the man here described.

the third heaven: In the Scriptures, “heaven” may refer to the physical heavens or to the spiritual heavens, the place where Jehovah and his angels live. (Ge 11:4; Isa 63:15) However, the word may also refer to a government, whether ruled by man or by God. (Isa 14:12; Da 4:25, 26) Here Paul is apparently describing a revelation of something in the future, a revelation that he received through a vision. (2Co 12:1) At times, the Scriptures repeat things three times to add intensity or strength. (Isa 6:3; Eze 21:27; Re 4:8) It seems, then, that “the third heaven” that Paul saw was the ultimate government, God’s Messianic Kingdom, the heavenly government made up of Jesus Christ and his 144,000 corulers.​—Isa 65:17; 66:22; 2Pe 3:13; Re 14:1-5.

paradise: The Greek word pa·raʹdei·sos occurs three times in the Christian Greek Scriptures. (Lu 23:43, see study note; 2Co 12:4; Re 2:7) Similar words can be found in both Hebrew (par·desʹ at Ne 2:8; Ec 2:5; Ca 4:13) and Persian (pairidaeza). All three words convey the basic idea of a beautiful park or parklike garden. The word “paradise” can mean various things in this context. (See study note on 2Co 12:2.) Paul may have been referring to (1) the literal earthly Paradise that is ahead, (2) the spiritual condition that God’s people will enjoy in the new world, or (3) the conditions in heaven. It was not lawful to speak of such things in Paul’s day because God’s time had not yet come to reveal the details regarding the outworking of God’s purpose.

Syria and Cilicia: Paul seems to use the word regions in a general sense. “Syria” may simply refer to the area around Antioch, and “Cilicia,” to the area around Tarsus, where Paul grew up. (See App. B13.) After his visit to Jerusalem about 36 C.E., Paul was sent back to Tarsus, and then Barnabas brought him to Antioch about 45 C.E., where the two men preached for a whole year. (Ac 9:28-30; 11:22-26) While little is known of how Paul spent the eight or so years prior to that, he was apparently so busy in his preaching work that news of his activity reached all the way to Judea. (Ga 1:21-24) Paul’s summary of his trials and challenges, recorded at 2Co 11:23-27, mentions a number of events that are not recorded in the book of Acts. Some of those events might have taken place during this time. (See study note on 2Co 11:25.) Sometime during that period, it seems that he was granted a supernatural vision that had a profound impact on his teaching.​—2Co 12:1-4; see study notes on 2Co 12:2, 4.

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Paul’s Letter to the Galatians
Paul’s Letter to the Galatians

Shown here is a page from a papyrus codex known as P46, believed to date from about the year 200 C.E. This codex contains nine of Paul’s inspired letters in the following order: Romans, Hebrews, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, and 1 Thessalonians. This leaf shows the end of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians and the beginning of his letter to the Galatians. The highlighted title reads “Toward [or, “To”] Galatians.”​—See Media Gallery, “Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians” and “Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians.”

Video Introduction to the Book of Galatians
Video Introduction to the Book of Galatians
Saul and Damascus
Saul and Damascus

In the first century C.E., the city of Damascus likely had a layout similar to what is shown here. It was an important center for trade, and water drawn from the nearby Barada River (the Abanah of 2Ki 5:12) made the area around the city like an oasis. Damascus had a number of synagogues. Saul came to that city intending to arrest “any whom he found who belonged to The Way,” an expression used to describe the followers of Jesus. (Ac 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:22) On the road to Damascus, however, the glorified Jesus appeared to Saul. After that, Saul stayed for a time in Damascus at the house of a man named Judas, who lived on the street called Straight. (Ac 9:11) In a vision, Jesus directed the disciple Ananias to Judas’ house to restore Saul’s sight, and Saul later got baptized. So instead of arresting the Jewish Christians, Saul became one of them. He began his career as a preacher of the good news in the synagogues of Damascus. After traveling to Arabia and then back to Damascus, Saul returned to Jerusalem, likely about the year 36 C.E.—Ac 9:1-6, 19-22; Ga 1:16, 17.

A. Damascus

1. Road to Jerusalem

2. Street called Straight

3. Agora

4. Temple of Jupiter

5. Theater

6. Musical Performance Theater (?)

B. Jerusalem