Was Paul saying, “Jesus appeared to me!”

  • Question

    Whether it happened while he was alone or with others (e.g. on the road to Damascus), and whether he meant something physical or non-physical, did Paul—formerly Saul—of Tarsus publicly maintain that, “Jesus actually appeared to me alive from the dead!”

  • Historians agree

    While there is debate over what exactly Paul meant by, “Jesus appeared to me,” it seems there is virtually no debate among historians that he made such a proclamation. This seems connected to the fact that several of the alleged letters of Paul are undisputed, and that in these letters we have Paul testifying to having experienced Jesus appear to him. See examples below.

“Yes, after all…
  • In 1 Cor 9:1, Paul says “Have I not seen”?

    Paul writes...,

    1 Corinthians 9:1 — Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?*

    This is relevant because historians do not dispute that Paul wrote it.

  • In 1 Cor 15:8f, Paul says “He appeared to me”

    Paul writes...

    * 1 Corinthians 15:8-10 — and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.

    This is relevant because historians do not dispute that Paul wrote it.

  • Acts 9, 22, 26 etc. says so

    The author of Acts reported very clearly, and in multiple places, that Paul was saying Jesus appeared to him.

    • Acts 9:3-4, 17, 27 — *“appeared to you.. seen the Lord on the road”
    • Acts 22:6-8, 14-15“He said to me, ‘I am Jesus’…”
    • Acts 26:13-15“I am Jesus... what you have seen.”
    • See conversion accounts

    So? Plausibly...

    • Acts is inventing “Jesus appeared to Paul” [Forthcoming]
    • Acts is sincerely mistaken about what Paul says.
  • In Gal 1:16, Paul says “revealed His Son to me”

    Paul writes...

    • Gal 1:11, 15-16 — I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.. God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased 16 to reveal His Son in [or “to”] me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles,

    This is relevant because historians do not dispute that Paul wrote it, and...

    • Michael Licona: “Most scholars maintain that Paul is referring here to his conversion experience on the road to Damascus.” [The Resurrection of Jesus (IVP Academic, 2011), 375.]