Sunday, October 18, 2009

NT Pod 17: Paul's Conversion on the Damascus Road

NT Pod 17 is about Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus. Was it really "on the Damascus Road"? Does Paul himself say this? And is it right to call it a "conversion"? Or should it be described as a "call"?

It is twelve minutes long. Feel free to leave your comments below.

NT Pod Episode 17: Paul's Conversion on the Damascus Road (mp3)

Key texts: Acts 9.1-19; Acts 22.1-23; Acts 26.12-23; Luke 10.25-37; Luke 24.13-34; Acts 8.26-40; Galatians 1.11-20; 1 Corinthians 15.8-11.

Thanks to Ram2000, Me and You, for the opening theme, released under a Creative Commons agreement.


  1. Thanks for the podcast,

    I've been puzziling some about your question about whether Paul just had an experience of a call to serve God in a new way or whether he was actually converted to a new faith.

    I think you are right to argue that there is no difference in the God Paul followed; but there are certainly differences in how he followed God.

    I've come to believe that Paul, in his letters, expressed the dramatic nature of God's work to make us new in 2nd Corinthians 5:16-21. He wrote boldly about everything old passing away and all things becoming new so clearly he had another experience rather than conversion to a new faith he turned more fully to the God he already believed in. Perhaps Paul's experience is more akin to repentence than to conversion.

    thanks for the questions

  2. And his disciples took him by night and let him down over the wall, lowering him in a basket. And when he had come to Jerusalem he attempted to join the disciples but they are all afraid of him for they did not believe he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists; but they were seeking to kill him. And when the brethren knew it, they brought him down to Caesarea and set him off to Tarsus. (Acts 9:25-30)

    And (Ananias) . . .said, The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Just One and to hear a voice from his mouth; and you will be a witness for him to all men of what you have seen and heard. And now, why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name. When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple I fell into a trance and saw him saying to me, 'Make haste and get quickly out of Jerusalem, because they will not accept your testimony about me. And I said, 'Lord, they themselves know that in very synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believed in thee. And when the blood of Stephen thy witness was shed, I also was standing by and approving, and keeping the garments of those who killed him.' And he said to me, 'Depart; for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.' (Acts 22:14-21)

    But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia; and again I returned to Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas, and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord's brother. (In what I am writing to you, before God I do not lie!) Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; and I still was not known by sight to the churches of Christ in Judea; they only heard it said, “He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy. (Galatians 1:15-23)

    My conclusion: Paul either had a very poor memory, was mentally ill, or lied about what he did in the weeks, months, and first few years after his conversion experience on the Damascus Road. Yet, Christians base their belief in the Resurrection, the pinnacle event of their faith, on this man's testimony, which in his own words, was a "heavenly vision" of a talking, bright light...along with the writings of four anonymous first century authors, writing decades after the alleged event, in a foreign language, in far away foreign lands, for purposes we do not and will never know.

    That isn't evidence, folks. That is speculation, superstition, and fantasy.