Section 8: Companions—Had Paul Any Upon the Road?
Meantime, if all these miraculous visions and other miracles must needs be supposed,—a cluster of other miracles, though not mentioned, must be supposed along with them: miracles, for the production of which a still greater mass of supernatural force must have been expended. Here, their existence being supposed, here were those companions of his, who, unknown in names and number, saw or saw not all or anything that he saw, and heard or heard not all or anything that he heard. These men, at any rate, if so it be that they themselves, blind or not blind, led him, as it is said they did, into the city, because he could not see to guide himself,—must, in some way or other, have perceived that something in no small degree extraordinary had happened to him: so extraordinary, that, in the condition in which he was, and in which, if they saw anything, they saw him to be—no such commission, as that, for the execution of which, if, as well as companions, they were his destined assistants, they were put under his command,—could, in any human probability, receive execution at his hands. If they were apprised of this commission of his, could they, whether with his consent or even without his consent, avoid repairing to the constituted authorities to tell them what had happened? This commission of his, so important in itself, and granted to a man of letters by men of letters, could not but have been in writing: and accordingly, in the form of letters we are, by the historian, expressly informed it was. Of the existence of these letters, on the tenor of which their future proceedings as well as his depended,—these conductors of his, if he did not, with or without his consent would of course have given information, to the rulers to whom these same letters were addressed. Not being struck dumb, nor having, amongst the orders given by the voice, received any order to keep silence, or so much as to keep secret anything of what little they had heard, they would scarcely, under these circumstances, have maintained either silence or secrecy. The historian, knowing what he (the historian) intended to do with his hero—knowing that, at three days' end, he intended not only to make scales fall from his eyes, but to fill his belly,—might not feel any great anxiety on his account. But Paul himself, if he, in the condition he is represented in by the historian,—was, for three days together, with scales on his eyes, and nothing in his stomach: and, at the end of the three days, as ignorant as at the beginning, whether the scales would, at any time, and when, drop off, and his stomach receive a supply: in such a state surely, a man could not but feel a curiosity, not unattended with impatience, to know when and how all this was to end. Under these circumstances, by some means or other, would all these tongues have been to be stopped: otherwise, instead of the house of Judas in Straight-street, Paul might have had no other place, to receive his visitor in, than the town jail, or some one other of those strong places, into which visitors do not always find it more easy to gain entrance, than inmates to get out.
These tongues then—Paul's tongue, his companions' tongues—this assemblage of tongues, all so strongly urged to let themselves loose—by what could they have been stopped? If, by anything, by a correspondent cluster of miracles—nothing less.
That, from Jerusalem, about the time in question, Paul went to Damascus,—and that it was with some such letters in his possession,—seems, as will be seen presently, altogether probable;—also, that when there, he acted in the way his historian speaks of, betraying the confidence reposed in him by the constituted authorities, and joining with those whom he had solicited and received a commission to destroy;—that these were among the circumstances of his alleged conversion, seems probable enough:—though he, with all the need he had of miracles, if any were to be had, gives not—in what he himself, writing to his Galatian converts, says of his conversion—any of the slightest hint of them.
As to his conversion—meaning his outward conversion, which was all that was necessary to the production of the effect so notoriously produced by him—to that, it will be seen, no miracle was necessary: nothing but what belonged to the ordinary course of things. As to companions on the journey—whether he had any or not; and if he had any, whether they were attendants on his orders, or acquaintances of his not under his orders; or mere strangers into whose company accident threw him—all this we must satisfy ourselves, as well as we can, under the ignorance of.
That, for giving effect, by his means, to the sort of commission he went entrusted with, the power of local authorities was trusted to, is a supposition altogether natural. For bringing to Jerusalem "bound, for to be punished, (Acts 9:2, 22:4.) all the Christians that could be found in Damascus, both men and women," if the Damascus rulers were favourable to the persecuting design, no large force from Jerusalem could be needful. Even a small one would be superfluous: and, by a force, great or small, sent from the one set of constituted authorities, a slight would be shown to the other.