Paul and the Nabatean ruler Aretas IV

Luke’s account of the conversion of Saul and his subsequent time in Damascus records the nighttime escape from the city.

When many days had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him,  but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket.  (Acts 9:23-25 ESV)

A modern chapel built into the old city wall marks a spot where this might have happened. Tradition calls it St. Paul’s Window.

St. Paul's Window in Damascus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

St. Paul’s Window in Damascus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul provides historical context for this event.

At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me,  but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands. (2 Corinthians 11:32-33 ESV)

Paul says that the governor (literally ethnarch) under Aretas the king was guarding the city. Aretas IV was a Nabatean ruler whose jurisdiction, in some way, extended to Damascus. The king, whose rule extended from 9 B.C. to A.D. 40, was father-in-law to Herod Antipas. This chronological note lets us know that Saul’s conversion was prior to A.D. 40.

Sometimes one gets lucky when visiting certain sites or museums. My last visit to the Vatican Museum in Rome provided a nice surprise. A Nabatean tomb inscription mentioning Aretas was on display in a special exhibit.

Nabatean inscription mentioning King Aretas. Vatican Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Nabatean inscription mentioning King Aretas. Vatican Museum. Photo: Ferrell Jenkins.

A friend in Pisa, Italy, Dr. Arrigo Corazza, has provided me with a quick translation of the Latin sign underneath the inscription:

NABATEAN SEPULCHRAL INSCRIPTION REFERRING TO THE 46th YEAR OF THE KING ARETAS (37 AD), WHO IS QUOTED BY THE APOSTLE PAUL (WHO CONVERTED AROUND THIS TIME).

For those who may have forgotten, the Nabateans were responsible for the beautiful temples and tombs we see when we visit Petra.
About these ads

One response to “Paul and the Nabatean ruler Aretas IV

  1. Pingback: Looting and vandalism in Petra | Ferrell's Travel Blog

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s