Deceived by appearances

For those of you who may be interested, we’re still going through William Lane Craig’s book On Guard over at my other blog. Here’s an excerpt from today’s installment, discussing the so-called appearance of Jesus to the soon-to-be Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus.

Notice, this is an appearance of Jesus, just like all the others. There’s just one problem. By Acts 9, Jesus had been gone from the earth for 8 whole chapters, having ascended bodily into heaven at the beginning of chapter 1. And there, we’re told, Jesus is going to stay until Judgment Day. The appearance of Jesus to Paul happened at a time when, according to the Bible, Jesus was not even here.

You can read the whole thing at Evangelical Realism.



  1. sailor1031 says

    “Paul contradicts Luke’s account and declares that “they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.”

    Not surprising. Saul was obviously near-missed by lightning, maybe ball lightning, which those with him also saw. If lightning came that close you’d be a little shook up too (it can leave you dazed and head-ringing), so of course they “were afraid”. When the strike happened Saul fell and hit his head so, also of course, nobody else heard the “voice” in his head.

    As for appearances of Yeshue bar Yussef, christian mystics are still having them to this day so what does Saul’s story prove?

  2. CJO says

    3. Appearance to five hundred brethren. The third appearance comes as somewhat of a shock: “Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time”! This is surprising, since we have no mention whatsoever of this appearance anywhere else in the New Testament. This might make us rather skeptical about this appearance, but Paul himself apparently had personal contact with these people, since he knew that some had died.

    You’ll hear this “no mention whatsoever of this appearance anywhere else in the New Testament” from all kinds of commentators, across the spectrum from nominally secular scholars to apologists like Craig, but as far as I’m concerned, the only reson not to regard the event that came to be known as the Christian Pentecost as related in Acts 2 as a later development of this same “appearance” is the pervasive assumption that Paul’s faith had as its inspiration the ministry and execution of an actual historical person.

    In my view, for Paul “appearances” of the risen Christ were precisely manifestations of just this kind of “pouring out of the Spirit” on the faithful. The later faith, which Acts articulates, needed to make the distinction because between Paul and the gospels such a historicization had been introduced, Jesus was a person who had been resurrected and not a cosmic mediator of the Spirit.

    There’s more apologetic tinkering in Acts 2 as well. When Paul writes of “speaking in tongues” he’s clearly referring to glossolalia, ecstatic babbling, and he denigrates it in favor of “prophecy” by which we can presume he means intelligible and “inspired” pronouncements. But the treatment of the phenomenon at Pentecost in Acts is as a useful supernatural gift bestowed by the Spirit on the faithful, the ability to communicate in any language. This is completely in keeping with the intent found throughout Acts: idealize the “apostolic age” and show a unified, orderly progression from the earliest profession of belief in the risen Christ to the gospel-narrative centered, historical faith of the 2nd century believers in Asia Minor for whom the author of Luke/Acts was writing.

  3. wholething says

    The 1 Corinthians passage appears to be an insertion with an insertion. The Peter reference may have been added first by the Catholic Church to make their favorite apostle Number 1.

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