Chapter 4: Paul Disbelieved Continued. First of His Four Visits to Jerusalem After His Conversion—Say Jerusalem Visit I. or Reconciliation Visit.—Barnabas Introducing Him From Antioch to the Apostles
Section 3: Occasion of This Visit, As per Paul's Own Account
After his conversion—after the time at which, if he is to be believed, he saw that first-mentioned of his visions—that vision, by which the most strenuous opponent of the new religion was changed into one who, in profession, was the most active of its supporters,—what was the course he took? Did he repair immediately to Jerusalem from whence he came? Did he present himself to the eleven Apostles—to the confidential companions of the departed Jesus, to lay before them his credentials? to report to those by whom everything about Jesus that was to be known to man was known—what had been experienced by him?—by him, Paul, by whom, till the moment of that experience, nothing of it whatever had been known? Not he, indeed. Behold what he says himself.
Instead of so doing, off he goes, in the first instance to Arabia; from whence, at the end of a length of time not specified, he returns to Damascus. At length, however, to Jerusalem he does repair: at length, into the presence of those against whose lives he had so long conspired,—he now uses his endeavours to intrude himself.
At length? at the end then of what length of time? At the end of three years? Yes: but from what point of time computed? From the time of his conversion on the road,—or from the last day of his stay at Damascus, upon his return thither from Arabia? By that man, let an answer to these questions be given—by that man who can find grounds for it.
Thus much, however, may, at any rate, be said:—of the length of this interval three years is the minimum.
In what view did it occur to him to seek this conference? in what view to make the attempt? and in what view delay it?
- 1. As to his view in seeking it,—it must be left to inference:—to conjecture, grounded on circumstances.
- 2. Being engaged, as he was, in the plan of making converts to a religion, called by him the religion of Jesus,—and this among the nations at large—among others besides those in the bosom of whose religion the founder of the new religion had been born;—feeling, as it seemed to him, the need, of information in various shapes—concerning the acts and sayings of Jesus;—not having, for the purpose, had, as yet, access, to any of the persons, to whom the benefit, of an interview with Jesus, upon terms of peculiar confidence, had been imparted;—he was desirous, of taking this—his only course—for rectifying the misconception, under which, to no small extent, he must probably have been labouring,—and filling up the deficiencies, under which he could not but be labouring.
- 3. Obvious is the need he had, of countenance from these universally acknowledged chiefs, of the religion professed to be taught by him.
Good, says some one: but, having, from the first, been thus long labouring, under the need of information,—how happened it, that he so long delayed, the exertions he made at length, for the obtaining of it?
The answer is surely not unobvious.
Had the time, of his presenting-himself, been when the memory of his conversion was fresh,—when the memory, of the vision, by which it was to be stated as having been effected, would, supposing it really experienced, have been fresh also,—in such case, the narrative, true or untrue, would have found, opposed to its reception, all imaginable repugnance, in so many ulcerated minds: and, on the supposition of its being untrue, he—the supposed percipient and actually narrating witness—he, who knew nothing about the subject of his testimony, would have had to submit himself to the severest imaginable cross-examination, at the hands of those, to whom everything about Jesus was matter of perfect knowledge.
Thus the matter would have stood, in the first instance. On the other hand, as time ran on, several results, favourable to his design, would naturally have taken place.
- 1. The exasperation, produced by the experience of the persecution suffered at his hands, would have been diminished.
- 2. His own recollection, of the particulars, might be supposed less vivid.
- 3. The curiosity, respecting them, would have become less eager.
- 4. Time might have given admission to behaviour on his part, of a sort, by which distrust might be lessened, confidence strengthened.
Well; now we have him at Jerusalem,—and for the first time after his conversion. When thus, at Jerusalem,—of those whom he went to see, whom did he actually see? Answer, Peter for one; James, whom he styles the Lord's brother, and who, according to him, though not literally a brother, was, however, a kinsman of Jesus:—these two, according to his own shewing; these two, and no more.