The Evidential Value of Paul’s Conversion and Ministry -- By: Everett F. Harrison

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 093:370 (Apr 1936)
Article: The Evidential Value of Paul’s Conversion and Ministry
Author: Everett F. Harrison


The Evidential Value of Paul’s Conversion and Ministry

Everett F. Harrison

In one of his writings, G. K. Chesterton states that if the Christian man be questioned as to the reason for the hope within him, he is apt to be embarrassed, not for lack of evidence to support his faith, but because of its abundance. There is truth in such a claim, yet it is to be feared that there is too widespread a disposition to remain content amid this not unpleasant embarrassment. It is indefensible at the bar of a man’s intellectual honesty; it is unfair to the investigator who asks concerning the foundations upon which our spiritual hopes rest; it is dishonoring to the dignity of the Biblical revelation. It behooves us to order our case, if only for our own satisfaction and assurance.

Anyone who undertakes to make an investigation of the Christian faith naturally turns to the primary source materials, the documents comprising the New Testament. Very soon he is apt to make the discovery that the greater part of this literature has come from a man who was not numbered among the original Apostles. Further study reveals to him that some years before authentic Gospel records of the life of Jesus were released in written form, this man had carried on an extensive missionary campaign for Christ and had written several authoritative letters to churches largely founded by himself. Amazement grows when he learns that this individual probably had no contact with Jesus when the latter was on earth. (The interpretation of 2 Cor 5:16 may not be easy, but at any rate κατὰ σάρκα cannot be made to mean the same thing as ἐν σαρκί). Soon after the establishment of the church in Jerusalem, this man Saul of Tarsus came forward as a leader of the opposition, a zealous and inveterate persecutor. To him, Jesus of Nazareth was a

blasphemer who was worthy of the death meted out to Him. His followers were as guilty as He. They were traitors and heretics, and in arresting such with a view to their imprisonment and death, he felt that he was doing a service acceptable to God.

The more clearly the true caliber of Saul is perceived, the more evident does it become that any change in his attitude toward Jesus and His disciples is hardly to be expected. Yet he was gloriously transformed, and the fact, thrilling in itself, is so tremendous in its outreach that the divine character of Christianity can safely be made to rest on that fact alone, so impossible is it of any naturalistic explanation.

Paul’s letters, though presupposing on the part of his readers a considerable knowledge of the ear...

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