Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests,…
It cannot be explained by the supposition that the account was in any way forged. What motive had St. Paul for inventing it? Was it, as has been supposed, some private pique or annoyance with the Jews, that led him to change his religious profession, and to account for the change in this kind of way? But there is no trace of any feelings of this kind in his early life. It would have been a sin against natural feeling, since the Jewish people had singled Paul out for a place of special confidence and honour; and, as a matter of fact, when the Jews were persecuting him afterwards to death he expressed in more ways than one his deep love for his countrymen. He deplores their blindness; he excuses their conduct as far as he can. Even if, in one place, he paints it in dark colours he would gladly, he says in another, were it possible, he accursed in their place. Was it the spirit of a sensitive independence which will sometimes lead men to assert their own importance at the cost of their party or their principles? That, again, is inconsistent with his advocacy of the duty of subjection to existing authority, in terms and to a degree which has exposed him to fierce criticisms from the modern advocates of social and political change. Was it, then, a refined self-interest? Did the young Jew see in the rising sect a prospect of bettering himself? But Christianity was being persecuted — persecuted, as it seemed, to the very verge of extermination. It had been crushed out by the established hierarchy in Jerusalem itself. It was doomed to destruction, every intelligent Jew would have thought, as well by the might of the forces ranged against it as by its intrinsic absurdity. It had nothing to offer, whether in the way of social eminence or of literary attraction. It was as yet, in the main, the religion of the very poor, of the very illiterate. On the other hand, the young Pharisee had, if any man had, brilliant prospects before him if he remained loyal to the synagogue. The reputation of his great master, his own learning and acuteness, his great practical ability, would have commanded success. If his object was really a selfish one, no man ever really made a greater, or more stupid mistake, to all appearance, for no Jew could have anticipated for a convert to Christianity, within a few years of the Crucifixion, such a reputation as that which now surrounds the name of St. Paul.
Parallel VersesKJV: Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests,