Week 4, Day 2: Acts 9:1—9

Stendahl: Paul Among Jews and GentilesGonzalez talks about this passage as a “conversion” story, but his comments on action in response to reading reveal that at some level he knows that the text is really about calling, and not conversion. Krister Standahl wrote an article in 1963 (The Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 56, No. 3) that shook the world of Pauline studies by questioning the notion that Paul ever had a conversion experience in the traditional way of understanding such experiences. While he certainly had a serious reorienting of his thinking, he appears to have never given up his Jewish faith.

Acts 9:1—9, rather, speaks of Paul’s calling to a new mission—a reorienting of his commitment to the God of Israel, not a rejection of his Jewish faith in favor of a new Christian faith. He continued to attend synagogue services and observe Jewish tradition, and he stopped persecuting his fellow Jews for their faith in Jesus. He accepted the call of God to minister among the Gentiles without insisting that they become Jews.

Note the parallels between this story about Paul and other call narratives in the Bible such as the appearance of God to Moses in the burning bush. Moses hears the voice of God, but sees only a burning bush. Paul hears the voice of Jesus, but sees only a bright light. Both Moses and Paul are presented as abandoning their current plans in order to take on a significant call to action.