Thursday, 18 February 2016
Afterward I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. Galatians 1:21
Paul’s last words of explanation were found in the narrative of verses 18 & 19 –
“Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days. 19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.”
After that came the parenthetical oath claiming that his words were truthful. Now he continues on with the narrative saying that, “Afterward I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.” This is recorded in Acts 9:30 –
“When the brethren found out, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him out to Tarsus.”
However, this seems to be at odds with his words now. Acts says he went to Tarsus (which is in Cilicia), but he says here that he went to the regions of Syria and Cilicia. There is really no difficulty in this. The word Paul uses for “regions” is klima. It is also found in Romans 15:23 and 2 Corinthians 11:10. Vincent’s Word Studies explains the meaning of this infrequently used word –
“Κλΐμα, originally an inclination or slope of ground: the supposed slope of the earth from the equator to the pole. The ancient geographers ran imaginary parallel lines from the equator toward the pole, and the spaces or zones or regions between these lines, viewed in their slope or inclination toward the pole, were κλίματα. The word came to signify the temperature of these zones, hence our climate. In Chaucer’s treatise on the Astrolabe, chapter 39 is headed “Description of the Meridional Lyne, of Longitudes and Latitudes of Cities and Towns from on to another of Clymatz.” He says: “The longitude of a clymat is a lyne imagined fro est to west, y-lyke distant by-twene them alle. The latitude of a clymat is a lyne imagined fro north to south the space of the erthe, fro the byginning of the firste clymat unto the verrey ende of the same clymat, even directe agayns the pole artik.” In poetical language, “climes” is used for regions of the earth, as Milton:
“Whatever clime the sun’s bright circle warms.”
The “regions” of Syria and Cilicia is a correct description of the place to which Paul went. He is giving a general area which covers the specific places that he afterwards went to. Again, Vincent’s Word Studies gives the explanation –
“Syria, in the narrower sense, of the district of which Antioch was the capital: not the whole Roman province of Syria, including Galilee and Judaea. … This district was the scene of Paul’s first apostolic work among the Gentiles. Cilicia was the southeasterly province of Asia Minor, directly adjoining Syria, from which it was separated by Mt. Pierius and the range of Amanus. It was bordered by the Mediterranean on the south. It was Paul’s native province, and its capital was Tarsus, Paul’s birthplace.”
Life application: Taking time to refer to maps, or descriptions of ancient borders, while reading the Bible can be a helpful tool in understanding the biblical narrative.
Lord God Almighty, we who know what You have done through Christ the Lord stand in awe of Your majestic splendor. You, who created the universe and breathed life into man, were willing to come and dwell among us in order to redeem us to Yourself. How can such love be possible? What value do You see in us that You would do this thing? Though we cannot comprehend it, we can accept it at face value and marvel at what You have done. How great You are, O God. Amen.