Jerome, Commentary on Galatians, [J.P. Migne, Editor]. Patrologiae Tomus XXVI. Paris: D’Ambroise, Pres La Barriere D’Enfer, ou Petit-Montrouge, 1845. pp. 307-438.
In Galatians 1:13, Paul speaks of the outstanding character of his work in Judaism, which makes his conversion to Christ all the more dramatic. Jerome points out the contrast between Paul and the Galatians, particularly seen in the fact that Paul was willing to be despised by all while the Galatians were not (Jerome, Galatians, 324). Jerome makes much of what Paul does not say in verse 14. For instance, Paul speaks of his “conduct, not grace: once, not now: in Judaism, not in the law of God” (Jerome, Galatians, 324, my translation).
Galatians 1:15 makes for a sharp contrast. Jerome notes that the calling of God to Paul is that he is set apart for the Gospel, not only to the Galatians but also the Romans (Jerome, Galatians, 325). He compares this to various Old Testament passages which speak of a divine call even from before the time of birth. Jerome here observes that heretics have used these passages to say that God chooses some to be saved and others to perish. He answers that it is a matter of divine foreknowledge, not that there is any iniquity with God, but that He knows who will be just and who will be sinners (Jerome, Galatians, 325). Jerome does note that our righteousness consists of faith, but that it is played out in good works, some of which he lists (Jerome, Galatians, 326).
In response to the divine call, Paul did not consult first with people, such as Peter, James, and John (Jerome, Galatians, 326). Rather, he went into Arabia. Jerome suggests this was an opportunity to consider and teach the Gospel so as to work through the implications, seeing if it really was from God (Jerome, Galatians, 327).
Galatians 1:17 shows Paul specifically avoiding a trip to Jerusalem, but going to Arabia. Jerome here refers to the narrative in Acts 9, when Paul was rejected in Damascus and eventually did go to Jerusalem (Jerome, Galatians, 327). It is significant that Paul made several trips to Jerusalem, not being widely known to the apostles, until after his time in Arabia (Jerome, Galatians, 328). The description in Acts, as opposed to that of Galatians, can suggest to Jerome that Paul’s time in Arabia was intended to allow a wave of persecution to die down, rather than serving as a chance for Paul’s consideration of the Gospel. Jerome notes that the idea of Arabia as the place of bondage appears later in Galatians 4, in contrast with jerusalem, “the place of vision and of peace” (Jerome, Galatians, 329, my translation).