In 1 Cor 9:1 (“have I not seen”) Paul is saying the the saw appear before his physical eyes in the normal way.
• That’s what ἑόρακα (heōraka) means.
This is relevant because in order for Paul to think he physically saw Jesus with his eyes, he will have also had to think Jesus physically appeared to him.
When Paul writes (and recites) a formula saying Jesus was “buried, raised, and appeared,” the implication is that what appeared is what was buried and raised.
• “buried” & “raised” are juxtaposed.
• “buried…appeared” summarizes gospel tradition.
This is relevant because Paul definitely believes Jesus was physically resurrected, and obviously Jesus’ burial could only be physical.
In writing 1 Corinthians 15:6 (“[he appeared to] five hundred brethren… most of whom remain until now”) Paul implied that witnesses to a large group-appearance of Jesus remained and could be questioned.
• The comment is gratuitous otherwise.
• It matches similar appeals to public knowledge.
This is relevant because Paul’s encouraging others to question these “witnesses” about their merely personal vision/epiphany would have been counter-productive, communicating to critics that the resurrection is psychological or non-physical after all.
• N. T. Wright: “As we saw earlier, those who have wished to say that the risen Christ was not that kind of being, that the resurrection was not that sort of event, that it did not have that kind of evidence, and that any witnesses would simply be speaking of their own inner conviction and experience rather than the evidence of their eyes, have had to say that Paul has here undermined the point he really should have been making. [The Resurrection of the Son of God (Fortress, 2003), 383.]
Paul firmly believed that mere visions of Jesus and the actual appearances of Jesus were very different things.
• Early Christians in general differentiated them.
• Paul assumed all knew that “appearances” stopped.
• 1 Cor 9:1 “I saw” (in greek) implies an enduring effect.
• Jerusalem church: “Jesus literally appeared to Paul.”
This is relevant because Paul was adamant in saying “Jesus appeared to me,” rather than saying he merely had a vision.
Paul maintained that Jesus’ resurrection from the dead was a physical rising (i.e. leaving behind an empty grave).
A forthcoming article analyzes at least these 8 evidences:
• 1 Cor 15:2-11 (“died,… buried,… rose”) says so.
• Col 2:9 (“bodily form”) says so.
• Grk. “anastasis” = physical resurrection (by default).
• Grk. “egeiro” = physical resurrection (by default).
• Paul taught a personal return of Christ.
• Jesus overthrows death; he doesn’t flee it.
• Jesus’s resurrection matches how ours will be.
• Rom 8: 11 (“give life, mortal bodies”).
This is relevant because it would likely dictate how Paul interpreted what appeared to him, since Paul believed that what he saw was the very thing that was raised—Jesus Christ himself.
• See below
An overtly hallucination-like vision of Jesus (e.g. with an ethereal figure) would not persuade Paul that Jesus was God incarnate etc.
• Paul knew of hallucinations.
• Paul’s conversion would be radical.
• Few hallucinations are persuasive.
This is relevant because Paul did believe Jesus was God incarnate etc. as a result of this event, so Paul therefore did at least believe it was a physical appearance.
• Paul couldn't tell the difference. (cf. 2 Cor 12:1-4) [Forthcoming]
According to Acts, Paul was clear that Jesus’s appearing to him on the road to Damascus physically impacted all his companions who he was traveling with.
• Acts 9 & 22 (“Paul says ‘blinded me; guided!’”)
• Acts 22 & 26 (“Paul says ‘we all saw the light’”)
• Acts 9 & 26 (“Paul: ‘light threw us to ground!’”)
• Acts 22 & 9 (“Paul says ‘all heard the voice’”)
• The author of Acts just misrepresents Paul. [Forthcoming]
• Paul was lying. [Forthcoming]
The author of the book of Acts makes it very clear that the reported appearance of Jesus to Paul on the road to Damascus was physical in nature.
• Acts: “Paul says Jesus’ visit hit everyone.”
• Acts: “Jesus rose physically.”
This is relevant because the author of Acts accurately represents Paul’s report of his own beliefs.
• The Acts 26:19 “vision” is non-physical.
• Acts: “An ascended Jesus’d just use visions”[Forthcoming]
Paul believed that Jesus’ appearing to him was purely intra-mental, an ecstatic revelatory event akin to an epiphany.
• Gal 1:12 (“revelation”) = intra-mental.
• Gal 1:16 (“His Son in me”) says “in” (not “to”).
• 2 Cor 4:6 (“shown in hearts”) = the appearance.
• Paul’d have described the body (in 1 Cor 15).
This is relevant because Paul's thinking he felt Jesus show up in his heart was akind of way for him to think Jesus appeared to him non-physically.
According to Paul, rather than seeing a physical Jesus, he saw something which signified to him that he was instead seeing a vision of Jesus, or even just a light that represented Jesus.
• Acts 26 (“heavenly vision”) isn't physical.
• Paul: “I only saw a light” (not human).
• Paul: “I felt him appear in me.”
Paul maintained that Jesus’ resurrection from the dead was a non-physical rising (i.e. leaving the body behind).
• Paul doesn’t know of an empty tomb.
• 1 Cor 15:45 (“life-giving spirit”) says its non-physical.
• Paul says Jesus fills all (Eph 1:23).
• 1 Pet 3:18 (made alive in the spirit).
• Paul is critical of physical bodies.
• See above.
So what? Plausibly…
• Paul thought Jesus rose non-physically, but appeared physically.