The Conversion of Saint Paul


Conversion of St Paul (Feast)

Today’s feast commemorates the extraordinary conversion of Paul on the road to Damascus.  Paul, whose original name was Saul, was born in Tarsus, a city in the province of Cilicia, in what is now the south-east corner of Turkey.  As he himself boasted, his Jewish credentials were impeccable. He was also a Pharisee and hence an outstanding observer of the Mosaic Law.  It would be quite natural for him to be outraged by the teaching of the disciples of Jesus.   As far as he was concerned, it was a total distortion of the most sacred Jewish traditions.  And it is not surprising that we first meet him at the execution of Stephen, the first person to die in the name of Jesus Christ.  While Saul did not actually join in the stoning (would it have been below his dignity?), he stood by guarding the clothes of those who were stoning and clearly looked on with total approval.  In fact, he may well have been instrumental in the arrest and trial of Stephen and have been a member of the court.  But it is also possible that the heroic death of Stephen may well have sown the first seeds of doubt in his heart.  Who was this Jesus who could generate such total loyalty in a follower? However, he continued his campaign to wipe out what he regarded as a heretical and dangerous aberration of his Jewish faith.

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