There are two different stories, their differences well known, of the circumstances surrounding Paul’s conversion and the later Jerusalem Conference in the New Testament.
The Two Conversions
In the Book of Acts (9:1-30) we read that
- Paul was persecuting the church until –
- Paul was struck down by a divine call on his way to Damascus,
- that he was baptized in Damascus by a lowly disciple (Ananias),
- and after some time (“many days”) he fled to Jerusalem because of Jewish persecution,
- His contacts in Jerusalem were limited but only on first arriving
- until Barnabas acted as his Janus-like gateway by taking him to the apostles –
- who, we learn elsewhere in Acts, were led by Peter and James
- Brethren took him away to Caesarea and then to Tarsus to protect him from the Hellenists
In the Epistle to the Galatians (1:13-24) we read a different story.
- Paul used to persecute the church until –
- Paul says Christ revealed himself by revelation “in him”,
- that he then went to Arabia.
- Only after he had been in Arabia did he return to Damascus.
- After three years in Damascus he went to Jerusalem because he wanted to see Peter
- His contacts in Jerusalem remained limited — the Judean churches did not see Paul
- He met Peter (staying with him 15 days) and James only.
- Paul then returned to the regions of Syria and Cilicia.
One can conclude that the author of Acts did not know of the Galatians letter. But I think it more likely that the author of Acts composed a narrative polemic against the letter. Each of the differences can be accounted for as a polemical response to some point in the Galatians account. . . . (more…)