Reading this post will give you a new insight on Paul, and may even change your view of the scriptures. You have been warned.
Many believers and teachers believe and teach that Paul never knew Jesus, or ever heard of him prior to the Damascus road. I disagree with this tradition. I believe Paul would have had to have been blind and deaf to have NOT known about Jesus during his ministry in Jerusalem. Paul was THERE!!.
In this post, I will present just a few reasons I feel this way. I encourage you to research this yourself.
Personally, growing up, I had always been taught and led to believe that Paul had no idea who Jesus was before he met him on the road to Damascus. Many teachers and churches also teach this tradition today.
But after some study, and applying a genealogists approach to it, I have concluded that this idea is a church myth, with no scriptural or historical basis.
And no, Jesus did not “knock Paul off his horse” to get his attention. That is also a church myth.
Another Church myth is that “the Lord saved Paul personally”, as If Paul was special for some reason, and that Jesus is a respector of persons. I will address Paul’s knowledge of Jesus before the cross in this chapter.
- Paul says in Acts 23:6 that he was a “pharisee, the son of a pharisee”, “taught at the feet of Gameliel”, and sent to Jerusalem as a child, and had lived IN JERUSALEM since his youth. Most likely Paul had been in Jerusalem since well before the age of 13, which is the age Jewish boys begin their priestly training for the Temple, or training as a pharisee or sadducee.
Now consider this: Paul was at most, ten years younger than Jesus. Every source I have found shows that Paul was born five to ten years after Jesus. Eusibius, a credible historian, dates Paul’s birth at 10 AD, and his death about 66-67 AD. Other sources date his birth at 5 AD. Jesus died about 32 AD, at the age of 33. Paul would have been “a young man” of about 17 to 23 at this time.
- It is not hard to see a nine to fourteen year age difference. So, if Paul was in Jerusalem from the age of 13, Jesus would have been about 22 to 28 years old, so there is definitely an overlap of their lives in the same town, in the same time period, around the same Temple.
- Ok, now, imagine this now: Jesus was a Rabbi, and a teacher in the Temple in Jerusalem, “as was his custom”. So, if Jesus is a teacher in the Temple before he began his ministry, that puts him about 20-30 years old, making Paul about 15-20. With both men in the same Temple, in the same town, on Saturday of every week. FOR MANY YEARS!
- Another thing to consider: Paul’s mentor and teacher was Gameliel. Gameliel was on one of the councils that condemned Jesus, and urged the council to acquit him. As his student, where Gameliel went, no doubt Paul followed.
I doubt Paul actually witnessed Jesus trial, as it was so grossly injust, and against the laws and procedures being taught to him at the time, but I have little doubt in my own mind that Paul was fully aware of what was transpiring on the eve of passover. Paul was in town, I do know that.
Paul was very zealous, “excelling above his peers”(Acts 22:3). I doubt Paul ever missed church in the Temple on the Sabbath. If one were to be able to know, I’d think both Jesus and Paul had perfect attendance at the Temple or Synagogue on the Sabbath day. How could Paul NOT have known about this preacher from Nazereth causing such a stir in the Temple, and amongst the people?
- So here it is: Paul, a young man, living in Jerusalem, training to be a pharisee. Paul states in his testimony that he did attain that goal, but gave it all up for Jesus. Here he is in the same town with a young rabbi, who is a carpenter’s son, and a “customary” teacher in the temple. Taking all this into consideration, there are few alternate conclusions to make.
- Either Paul was living under a rock in Jerusalem during the time of Jesus service in the Temple, and earthly ministry, or Paul was fully aware of who the man Jesus of Nazereth was before he witnessed his death and met him again on the road to Damascus. My opinion is Paul had seen Jesus before his crucifixion. When Paul met Jesus again after his resurrection, his words “who art thou Lord?” are logical, if one considers Paul believed Jesus was still dead at that moment. Study and decide for yourself.