Part 8 Fact three: conversion of persecuter Paul

Fact #3: The conversion of the church persecutor Paul

We know from multiple sources that Paul, known as Saul, was an enemy of the church and was committed to persecuting Christians.  In Acts 7 & 8 Saul approves of the stoning of Stephen, a Christian martyr.  After the burial of Stephen we see Saul continuing his hatred towards Christians.  Acts 8:1-3Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him. 3 But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.”

Saul was out to destroy Christianity going house to house to find Christians.  On the road to Damascus, to terrorize more Christians, Saul meets the resurrected Jesus.  Almost immediately after this historic meeting he becomes a devoted follower.  Here was an enemy of the church now fully transformed into an advocate for Christianity.  Saul’s transformation is very significant to the work of the historian.  What are the historical documents that confirm this transformation?

We have 6 ancient independent historical sources, in addition to the writings of Paul, that attest to how he had become a converted follower of Jesus Christ.  Those writers were Luke, Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Tertuallian, Dionysius of Corinth, and Origen.  They wrote about Paul and how much he was willing to suffer for the cause of Christ.  Years later Paul was executed, beheaded in prison in AD 68 for his belief in the risen Jesus.  As I have stated before, liars make poor martyrs.  We can be confident that Paul not only claimed Jesus appeared to him; he truly believed it[1].

What cannot be said was Saul was a good friend of Jesus and had a strong desire to have a vision of the resurrected Jesus.  He hated Jesus and his followers.  His radical transformation from persecutor to devoted follower has to be explained.  How could a Jesus hater instantly become a Jesus lover?  It would seem the best explanation is to take him at his word; that he met the resurrected Jesus.  Remember he had nothing to gain, but everything to lose by proclaiming this message.  If he made it up he would have died for a horrible lie; that explanation doesn’t make sense.

Go to part 9 here


[1] Strobel, Lee, “The Case for the Real Jesus,” Zondervan, 2007 p. 120

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{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Vinny February 9, 2010, 12:03 pm

    Don’t people who are antagonistic towards Christians convert to Christianity everyday? Why would you need an actual vision of the risen Christ to explain Paul’s conversion. Why couldn’t he simply have come to feel guilty about what he was doing?

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