Paul’s Conversion – Why Three Accounts, and How Do They Differ?

Paul’s conversion was seminal in the church, but the stories differ. Are they false, or true? Why do Paul’s three conversion accounts differ?

By Mark D. Harris

The story of Paul’s conversion from a devout Jew, violently persecuting believers in Jesus, to a devout Christian, fearlessly spreading the Gospel against all opposition, is found three times in Acts. The stories differ slightly, and many people harbor doubts about the truth of each.

Acts 9

The first account of Paul’s conversion, in Acts 9, narrates Paul’s conversion when it actually happened. After being a ringleader in persecuting Christians in Jerusalem and Judea, Paul obtained permission from the high priest, and then set out for Damascus, hoping to find and arrest Christians who had fled his persecution. While enroute, Paul and his companions suddenly saw a great light (v3). Paul fell to the ground and heard Jesus’ voice, asking why he was persecuting Him (vv4-5). The voice then told him what to do (v6).  Paul had been blinded by the light, and his companions led him to Damascus where neither ate nor drank for three days (v9). Meanwhile, the Lord commanded a believer named Ananias to meet Saul and minister to him (vv10-16).  Despite his fear at revealing himself to the feared Pharisee and persecutor of Christians Saul of Tarsus, Ananias obeyed (v17). Saul, soon to be known as Paul, regained his sight as “something like scales fell from his eyes.” He was baptized (v18), took food and water (v19), and began his ministry .

Continue reading “Paul’s Conversion – Why Three Accounts, and How Do They Differ?”