In the ecclesiastical calendar, 25 January (this Friday) marks the “Conversion of St. Paul.” Over the last several decades, however, scholars have differed over whether “conversion” is the right term to describe Paul’s change from fierce opponent of the young Jesus-movement to one of the most well-known advocates.
In general usage, a “conversion” marks a change from one religion to another. At the time of Paul’s experience (a scant couple of years after Jesus’ crucifixion), the Jesus-movement wasn’t what we know and think of as a self-standing “religion.” It was more a rather exclusive new sect or movement within the larger Jewish tradition. (And it must be emphasized that Paul’s “persecution” of Jesus-followers was not directed at “Christians” but solely at fellow Jews whom he must have regarded as having seriously problematic in their beliefs and practices.)
More significantly, Paul refers to that experience that prompted his shift in direction…
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