Muslims are often quick to dismiss the letters of the apostle Paul. In a previous blog post, I showed why there is good reason to think that Paul's message was largely consistent with the message of the Jerusalem church, and why this presents a problem for Muslims. Here, I want to present another reason why Muslims need to start taking Paul more seriously. In this blog post, I want to examine the historical evidence bearing on Paul's conversion experience. What transformed the Pharisee Saul of Tarsus -- a persecutor of Christians -- into the great apostle Paul, arguably the greatest evangelist who ever lived? Did Paul really come to believe that he had a vision on the road to Damascus that he interpreted to be Jesus Himself? If so, then what best explains the origins of this belief? It is these questions that concern us in the present article.
The Acts of the Apostles contains a report concerning Paul's conversion. In Acts 9:1-19, we read the following:
32 At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me, 33 but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands.
And Paul, because of jealousy and contention, has become the very type of endurance rewarded. He was in bonds seven times, he was exiled, he was stoned. He preached in the East and in the West, winning a noble reputation for his faith. He taught righteousness to all the world; and after reaching the furthest limits of the West, and bearing his testimony before kings and rulers, he passed out of this world and was received into the holy places. In him we have one of the greatest of all examples of endurance.