From Saul to Paul
An Overview of Paul’s Conversion Experience
Let me start out by pointing out that according to today’s scholars, the term “conversion” is a modern concept. Paul would not know what being “converted” even means. Paul did not convert from Judaism to Christianity; he was already a devout Jew. This “revelation” of Christ to Paul is more aptly described as “a ‘call’ experience and not a ‘conversion’ experience at all.” 
In Acts 9:1-19, Luke is the narrator. He tells us that Saul was traveling to Damascus armed with letters to the synagogues allowing him to arrest any belonging to the Way. As he was traveling, a light from heaven flashed around him and he fell to the ground. He heard a voice asking him why he was persecuting the Lord. The speaker reveals Himself to be Jesus. Jesus instructs Saul to go to the city. Saul got up but was now blind. He stayed in Damascus three days while he fasted. Annias was instructed by the Lord to go to Saul and heal his blindness. Saul regains his sight, is baptized, and regains his strength. This experience convinced Paul that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.
In Acts 22:3-16, Paul himself, is the narrator as he addresses the crowd before being taken away. The events of Paul’s conversion are practically the same. Paul specifies this time that it was noon when he encountered the Lord. The healing by Ananias is slightly different. The mention of scales falling off of the eyes is not mentioned as is in the 9:1-19 account. This passage has more dialogue whereas the previous has more action.
In Acts 26:8-9, Paul is on trial before Fetus, King Agrippa II. His defense involves listing all the times he persecuted early Christians. He thought to himself that he had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. He thought he was doing the right thing for any faithful Jew in his position!
The chief difference between the three reports of Paul’s conversion are about the people with Paul; one account says that Paul’s companions heard a voice but did not see the Lord (Acts 9:7) and one said that Paul’s companions saw the light but did not hear a voice (Acts 22:9).
It has been suggested that since there are discrepancies, that perhaps these accounts have been fabricated. These accounts are so similar I can’t see why there would even be a question of authenticity. When telling and re-telling a personal event, one doesn’t recite verbatim the same exact script over and over. Instead, one is inclined to tailor the story to its respective audience. Evidence for my view is that the accounts are structurally identical. Let Scripture interpret Scripture. Nothing has been embellished. There is unity and harmony in all three accounts of Paul’s conversion.
F.F. Bruce, in “Paul, Apostle of the Heart Set Free,” remarks on the importance of Paul’s experience on the Damascus road: “No single event, apart from the Christ-event itself, has proved so determinant for the course of Christian history as the conversion and commissioning of Paul.” Paul’s story of his conversion can be used as a model for Christians today on many levels. First of all, no one is so far gone as to not be able to return to the loving Arms of the Father. Paul persecuted Christians heavily and with zeal. Also, there is humility to his story. He could have left out the unglamorous parts and painted himself in a more flattering light. Instead, Paul celebrated that if he could be saved, anyone could! He turned that zeal for darkness into a zeal for light. He became a new person, fitted with a new name and all! We, too, are born again and new creatures. That is something Christians of which any generation can relate and strive.
Lastly, we can plainly see that Paul had a personal encounter with the Risen Christ. Paul had direct revelation. As my Pastor (Dr. Rev. David Cyphers) told me, “We all want that Damascus Road experience!” But God may be in the small gentle whisper rather than the roaring wind (1 Kings 19:12). Modern Christians may not be literally blinded on the way to work by the Lord, but there are still personal encounters and direct revelation. The Lord makes Himself known to His children! Ultimately, Paul’s conversion is a story about God’s patient love for His children… even the most notoriously rebellious ones.
 D. A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament. 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), 359.
 F F. Bruce, Paul, Apostle of the Heart Set Free, pbk. ed. (Carlisle, Cumbria, UK: Paternoster Press, 2000), 75.
Bruce, F. F. Paul, Apostle of the Heart Set Free. pbk. ed. Carlisle, Cumbria, UK: Paternoster Press, 2000.
Carson, D. A., and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2005.
Stacy, Robert Wayne. 2012. “The Christology of Paul,” TheDocinabox, January 4, 2013. Accessed January 14, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35FfvIyIZcw.
Stacy, Robert Wayne. 2012. “The Jewish Setting of Early Christianity,” TheDocinabox, July 21, 2012. Accessed January 14, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FCIrVQAPZM.
Submitted to Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the completion of the course NBST 520 New Testament Orientation II