Did Paul believe Jesus appeared to him as a non-physical vision/light?
According to Paul, Jesus appeared to him alive from the dead. However, what was the nature of this appearance? Did Paul most specifically maintain that, when Jesus appeared to him, the appearance was in fact a non-physical vision? Could it even have been a vision of a dazzling light and nothing more?
Paul: “Jesus physically appeared to me”
Paul denies that Jesus appeared non-physically (e.g. intra-mentally), insisting instead that what appeared to him was quite physical and extra-mental; it was Jesus in the flesh, and so externally perceptible. It was not a mere vision or epiphany.
This page analyzes these 8 arguments:
- 1 Cor 9:1 (“I've seen”) denotes normal sight.
- 1 Cor 15 (“buried-appeared”) = physical appear.
- 1 Cor 15:6 (“most remain”) meant witnesses.
- Paul: “Jesus-appearances and visions differ.”
- Paul: “Jesus resurrected physically.”
- An overtly immaterial visit'd not persuade.
- Acts: “Paul says Jesus’ visit hit his group.”
- Acts: “Jesus physically appeared to Paul.”
This is relevant, because if Paul hallucinated, it would’ve been either through a visual hallucination or non-visual hallucination (e.g. an epiphany), and neither of these is compatible with Paul’s understanding of the event.
- Paul: “Jesus resurrected non-physically.”
- Paul: “Apostles etc. saw it same as me.”
- God did not raise Jesus from the dead.
- It was a convincing hallucination.
A non-physical vision wouldn't persuade
If Paul only had a vision (hallucination?) on the road to Damascus, it is improbable that it would have resulted in Paul's converting.
- Ancients knew about hallucinations.
- Paul couldn't tell the difference.
Acts: “Jesus appeared as a shapeless light”
In the purported appearance of Jesus to Paul recorded in Acts, did Paul in fact only see a “light” which he identified as Jesus (rather than seeing Jesus himself)?
This page analyzes this 1 evidence:
This is relevant because a light as such is non-physical.
Optasia (e.g. Acts 26 “vision”) isn’t physical
The Greek “optasia” philologically denotes a denotes a non-physical experience. (See full page here.) This is relevant because Acts 26:19 reports Paul saying “I did not prove obedient to the heavenly vision [optasia]” and the “heavenly vision” was Jesus himself (or the nature of his appearance).
So what? Plausibly…
- The vision is not of Jesus, but of Paul’s mission. [Forthcoming]
Paul ”I felt him appear in me”
Paul actually was proclaiming that Jesus appeared inside of him in some sense.
This full page analyzes these 4 arguments:
But so what?,
- These scriptures fit equally well on the physical appearance hypothesis.1
- That is to say, these scriptures at best support the vision hypothesis by highlighting that there was a non-visual component to the experience, one that is subjective and epiphany-like. But you can have this subjective and epiphany-like experience just as easily if Paul was seeing the physical Jesus before him.