Paul's lost years

Go to the back of your bible and thumb through the maps. Eventually you’ll find a map like this one, that shows each of Paul’s three missionary journeys.

There’s a problem.

The first of the journeys (Acts 13-14) began in AD45 when Paul and Barnabas set off for Cyprus and Galatia. That’s about 15 years after Paul was converted. Can anyone imagine Paul waiting that long to obey Jesus’ command to preach the gospel to the Gentiles?

I don’t think so.

Paul says he engaged in missionary work in Arabia right after his conversion (Gal 1:15-17; 2 Cor 11:32), before preaching the gospel in Syria and Cilicia (Gal 1:21-24).

Eckhard Schnabel rejects the three missionary journeys schema and identifies no less than fifteen phases or locations of Paul’s missionary work in the 35 years between his conversion in AD31-32 on the road to Damascus and his death in Rome in AD67.

Why all the fuss? Missionary movements spread chaotically and rapidly. They are messy. This view of Paul taking years, even decades, before obeying Jesus’ command just doesn’t fit.