Paul taught by Jesus in the desert for three years?

I have been asked where this is in the Bible that Paul was taught by Jesus for three years in the desert?

I did a search and found web sites that state this but they weren’t clear what scripture they were relying on.

I have not heard this before. Am I just skipping over the scripture?


I believe it comes from Galatians 1:11-18 - I never heard it before either - maybe someone with more knowledge will make a comment on it.

I’ve never heard that before, either. As hu324b said, Galatians indicates that after his conversion on the road to Damascus, he traveled to Arabia for three years before heading to Jerusalem to meet with Peter and the Apostles. But that isn’t mentioned specifically in Acts (the time period is sort of glossed over in Acts 9:23).

I suppose such a thing could have happened in those three years. But I don’t know of any scriptural or historical basis for such a hypothesis.

It’s providential timing because I have been looking into Acts and the Pauline epistles a lot in the last few weeks. :slight_smile:

Paul never met Jesus. He was not one of the Apostles. Jesus had already been crucified. Paul had his conversion experience, was greeted by some of the early Christians, and was instructed no doubt by some of them as well as by the Holy Spirit and several years later finally met up with some of the Apostles to discuss certain aspects of Jewish laws (he and Peter had quite the disagreement).

I believe Paul was instructed by the Holy Spirit and was given a special grace to evangelize to the Gentiles. But he never met Jesus nor was he instructed by him.

In thinking about this some more, I would think that if Jesus literally taught Paul in the desert for three years that he might have made some mention of it in his letters (particularly those letters of his where he is defending his authority). If it were true, it would be pretty strong evidence that he was commissioned by Christ. I cannot imagine him (or Luke in writing Acts – which is itself practically an apologetics work defending Paul’s authority) failing to mention it.

Paul did meet Jesus on the road to Damascus. The resurrected Jesus appeared to him. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:8, “Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me.”

Here is a fascinating examination of Galatians 1:17 by the Biblical historian N.T. Wright:

I’ve wondered before whether this were an apparition (e.g. the manner in which our Lord appeared to St. Faustina) or an in-person encounter in the conventional sense.

:Hmmm: Well St. Paul himself, described the event in detail. He fell off from his mount (an equine although we are not sure which kind probably a donkey) and hit the ground blinded by an intense light.
The voice he alone heard was “Saulo, Saulo why do you persecute me?”

Which was quite a revelation to him, since as far as “Saulo” was concerned he was persecuting the “followers of that one they called the Christ”

The people that were accompanying him on this endeveaour probably thought the guy had the bends literally.

this paper is worth reading for an answer to the question.

Luke has Paul imitating Phineas and Elijah from the Old Testament. Elijah did the same thing, went to Arabia (Mount Sinai) and returned to Damascus.


They are reading the chapter and paragraph completely wrong. After the incident with Jesus he went into Arabia then returned to Damascus. Three years after arriving in Damascus he returned to Jerusalem. Paul was taught by the Holy Spirit.

It doesn’t say that he fell off a mount only that he fell down and a light shone around him. The men with him heard the voice but could see no one.

And Who did he meet on his “conversion experience”?

Paul met Jesus but it was after the Crucifixion and it was after the Resurrection and it was after the Ascension.

One could say that Paul fell off of “his high horse” in this encounter, but I think that he was probably walking.

I think it is the Scripture passage hu324b gave - Galatians 1:11-18 - and especially verse 12*:For I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it; but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ. *

And along with that, perhaps the following passage from 1 Cor. 11:23 et seq.
*For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks … *

Paul was certainly not the only one to received instruction/infused knowledge from God. If you read the lives of saints, you’ll discover God granted that gift to some of them also.

Way to go above in beyond answering the OP’s question! :thumbsup: A noted biblical scholar wrote an entire paper on exactly the verse that is the source of the question!

That was a very interesting read. Thanks for posting.

From reading various sources, this is what I personally deduced:

Acts 9……Paul’s coversion is sometime after the death of Stephen (Acts 9).

Between 1 to 3 yrs after conversion, he goes to the Desert of Arabia…(Gal 1:17)….for prayer and reflection.

Then he goes to Damascus (Gal 1:17) for a period of three years….where he starts debating in the synagogues.

He flees the City and goes to Jerusalem to meet with Peter……Acts 9:20-25)…and (Gal 1:18).

Then another visit to Jerusalem later, (Gal 2:2)…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.

After this visit…he goes home to Tarsus…for another 3 years or so…Barnabas then arrived and asked him to come to Antioch and help him evangelize there (Acts 11:25-26)…he stays there for about a year…then goes again to Jerusalem to deliver a collection for the poor and returns to Antioch…

Then the events of Acts 13…where he is ordained and sent on his first missionary mission for the Gentiles… The leaders of the Church at Antioch were praying and received instruction from the Holy Spirit to Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them (Acts 13:3).

Correct! Earlier claims in this thread that Paul did not meet Jesus are not true.

That is a great article. I have always felt when reading Paul almost like a voyeur, eves dropping on a conversation where there is a subtext that those in the conversation fully understand. I am only now beginning to realise that through the Jewish daily, weekly, monthly, yearly and generational liturgical practice that nearly all Jewish people had a familiarity with the old testament scriptures that today one could only come close to with a lifetime of study, and that a single verse in the New Testament such as Gal 1:17 is just a single knot in a vast tapestry that the Jewish audience of the day could grasp.

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Who do you think Paul was having that conversation with on his way to Damascus? The one who told him “I am Jesus”?