Does Acts say Jesus appeared merely as an amorphous dazzling light with no emanating source (non-bodily)?
All three Acts account speak of Jesus “appearing” to Paul, describing a dazzling heavenly light that blinds him and the voice of Jesus saying “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Rather than Paul seeing the glory of Jesus’s body itself, shining in heavenly glory (i.e. Phil 3:21 — “body of glory”), is Acts saying that there was only a light and voice, with no humanoid physical source of light within it or causing it?
Paul: “the light was of Jesus’s glorified body”
Paul believed that the light he saw on the road to Damascus was heavenly glory, some or all of which was emanating from Jesus’s glorified body (even if emanated too blindingly for Paul to make out the figure it was emanating from).
A full page will analyze at least these 4 arguments:
- OT often says heavenly figures are beings of light.1
- Phil 3:21 — “I [Paul] want a Jesus-like ‘body of glory.’”
- Paul associated light with bodily glory (e.g. 1 Cor 15). 2
- In Acts, Paul sees the glory of Jesus’s body.
This is relevant because it entails he almost certainly did not believe Jesus was composed of amorphous light during this appearance since all sources are clear that Paul thought he saw Jesus himself.3
- Of course, Jesus would be even brighter than an angel. A Jew would not necessarily expect to be able to make out the figure, especially if the figure was so bright that it was literally blinding.
- • 1 Corinthians 15:40-41 — There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.
- • Acts 9:17, 27 — appeared to you on the road […] how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him.
• Acts 22:14-15 — he said, ‘The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will and to see the Righteous One and to hear an utterance from His mouth. 15 For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard.
Acts says Jesus rose physically
The book of Acts is very explicit in communicating that Jesus’ resurrection involved a raising of the same body he died in.
This full article analyzes these 5 arguments:
- That’s what “resurrection” meant.
- Acts 2 (“buried… raised up… [no] decay”).
- Acts 10 (“raised.. witnesses… ate & drank”).
- Acts 13 (“buried… raised… [no] decay”).
- Acts agrees with Paul.
This is relevant because this material is very old and reliable, and it entails that Paul saw Jesus himself (not just some remote light/voice miraculously created by Jesus).
Acts harmonizes with Paul’s letters
The account of Paul’s life in the book of Acts comports well with the picture given by Paul’s own writings.
A full page will analyze at least these 11 examples/arguments:
- Acts says Paul sees his calling via Jer 1 and Isa 49.
- Acts says Paul had impeccable Jewish credentials.
- Acts says Paul was a persecutor of the church.
- Acts says Paul converted in way xyz around Damascus.
- Acts says Paul supported himself by labor.
- Acts says Paul works to support himself (so as not to burden converts).
- Acts says Paul goes first to Jews, then Gentiles.
- Acts says Paul adapts well to different audiences (e.g. Jew/Gentile).
- Acts articulates a salvation history.
- Acts says Paul visits local synagogues first.
- Acts sermons match Paul.
This is relevant because Paul says he saw Jesus himself—not just a shapeless unsourced light.
Acts mentions light, but no body
During the alleged appearance of Jesus to Paul, Acts explicitly refers to dazzling light and yet makes no mention of Jesus’s body.
Here are the relevant portions of the 3 accounts given:
- Acts 9:3-4 — “light from heaven flashed around him.”
- Acts 22:6-8 — “a very bright light.”
- Acts 26:13-15 — “ I saw on the way a light.”
This is relevant because if Acts thought there was a body inside (or sourcing) the light, it would’ve said Paul saw it.
But so what?
- Readers knew the background and were expected to know that the light was from a source: Jesus Christ risen (all knew that with a sufficiently bright light you can’t make out the contours of the source—especially if you were blinded by it—but that doesn’t mean there is no source).