Was Paul appointed Apostle to the Gentiles on the road to Damascus, or in Damascus itself?

Posted on Jun.19, 2009. Filed in Acts. Average rating: 3.0 / 10 (Rate It).

In Acts, Paul tells the story of his conversion on three separate occasions. Each time the details are slightly different. One difference concerns where Jesus commissioned him to take the gospel to the Gentiles.

In the first Account of Paul’s conversion in Acts, Jesus tells Paul to go to Damascus and await instructions, and he is led away by his companions, still blind and still in the dark as to what his calling will be:

Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ He asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ The reply came, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what to do.’ The men who were travelling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. [Acts 9:3-7]

This is corroborated by Paul’s account to the tribune in Acts 22:

‘While I was on my way and approaching Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone about me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” I answered, “Who are you, Lord?” Then he said to me, “I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.” Now those who were with me saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me. I asked, “What am I to do, Lord?” The Lord said to me, “Get up and go to Damascus; there you will be told everything that has been assigned to you to do.” Since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, those who were with me took my hand and led me to Damascus.’ [Acts 22:6-11]

Again, then, Paul has to go to Damascus for his instructions.

When Paul recounts the story of his conversion to King Agrippa, however, he says that he received his commission then and there on the road to Damascus:

‘… I was travelling to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, when at midday along the road, your Excellency, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and my companions. When we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.” I asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The Lord answered, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and testify to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you. I will rescue you from your people and from the Gentiles – to whom I am sending you to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”‘ [Acts 26:12b-18]

So was Paul appointed Apostle to the Gentiles on the road to Damascus, or later, in Damascus itself?

N.B. All posts are written in a style sympathetic to the claim of Biblical error, even in cases where the author ("Errancy") disagrees with the claim. See the About page for the site's philosophy.

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    When we say Paul is an apostle, we mean that he was personally called by Christ (as described in part in Acts 26), and, on the basis of the calling, he is a participant in the promise of John 14:26. As such he has special authority to articulate spiritual truth.

    Paul received all the first-hand knowledge he needed to become an apostle there on the road to Damascus. He was actually certified as an apostle later by Peter, James and John.

    The Acts 9 and Acts 22 passages do speak of Paul being ‘told what to do’ in Damascus. But they say nothing about him receiving an apostolic revelation and calling in Damascus. When we actually look at what happens in Damascus, it basically involves Paul’s meeting with Ananias. Nothing about this meeting is particularly apostolic.

    In other words, when God tells him to go into Damascus where he’ll be told what to do, God is not talking about Paul’s apostolic ministry. He’s talking about what Paul needs to do to meet his immediate physical and spiritual needs, and to fulfill his immediate spiritual duties.

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