The Conversion of Saul of Tarsus: A Narrative

The darkness was a thick suffocating blight. Nothing could pierce through the interminable black. Saul felt abandoned and utterly alone even. He had never felt such a complete absence of light. How appropriate for one that had once thought he could see so clearly. The events of the previous day showed how little he truly knew.

One of the Psalms of David entered into Saul’s mind.

“Lord, why castest thou off my soul? Why hidest thou thy face from me? I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up; while I suffer thy terrors I am distracted. The fierce wrath goeth over me; thy terrors have cut me off. They come around about me daily like water; they compassed me about together.  Lover and friend hast thou put far from me, and mine acquaintance into darkness.”

The events of the previous day had changed everything. Saul had a bright future mapped out. His father’s high position among the Sanhedrin would be useful leverage for a life of renown. Saul had read from all of the best books thought he knew the answers to all of the most difficult theological question in life. How little he truly knew. He now groaned under literal darkness, but Saul realized that every one of his friend and acquaintances groaned under a spiritual darkness though they realized it not. At least God has seen fit to reveal to me my ignorance, Saul thought—Yet, this thought brought him little comfort.

Saul was harrowed up as he considered his father and everyone that he had loved. They certainly would not understand what he had experienced. Indeed, Paul would have viewed as crazy or possessed by demons anyone that felt what he was now feeling. Could that be it? Could he now be possessed by an evil spirit? No! Even though he was submerged in darkness, Saul could also feel that his encounter had been divine rather than demonic. Still, his family would never understand. They would view him as deceived at best or fallen and wicked at worst. He could hardly bear to imagine the scorn and ostracism that would follow. Saul imagined with what zealousness he would have persecuted someone that claimed to experience what he now experienced.

Couldn’t he just ignore what he had seen and go back to his prior life? Chalk up the vision and the loss of his vision to a lack of sleep or perhaps to too much fasting. A couple of guards claimed to have also heard a voice, but they would be easy to ignore. It would be so easy to step back into the darkness and ignore what he had learned. It was undeniably tempting. Yet deep within Saul knew with an unshakeable certainty that what he had experienced changed everything.

Why had he persecuted so eagerly and zealously. Saul had once felt that he was being righteous and putting down a gross heresy. He was a master of the letter of the law and strove to prove that he was better at keeping it than everyone else around him. What hypocrisy, Saul thought to himself. Saul had considered his mentor Gamaliel weak because he sought to treat this sect with mercy. The law did not allow for mercy, it required Justice. And yet, wasn’t Sault now the petitioner for mercy standing tainted by all of his sins. Saul wept as he considered the state of his soul. The God that he had grown up contemplating would have no mercy for him. He would crush Saul like he had done the Edomites or Amalekites.

And Yet, Saul felt strangely sanguine. Though he could not exactly understand it, something about the vision filled him with hope. He tried to recall the doctrine that had been preached by the sect that until that day he had violently suppressed. The man that appeared before him in the vision was purportedly scourged and crucified in a humiliating fashion. He had died an ignoble death. But his followers suggested that he had risen from the dead and that his death in some way changed them. They claimed that he was Mashiach. Impossible Saul taught, the Masiach is not supposed to die or suffer but is to be a ruler and King in the house of David.

Saul stumbled in darkness. After the vision, his soldiers had brought Saul to the house of a local legionnaire named Judas. Saul had been unable to sleep. As he closed his eyes he was haunted by visions of that poor man Stephen that he had helped Stone to death. Perhaps the thing that bothered Saul the most was the look of serenity on Stephen’s face as he fell to his knees and cried out for the forgiveness of those that stoned him. Saul had never seen such selflessness or tranquility in the face of death. It was a trait that Saul noticed as he had driven men and women out of their homes and into prison. They were calm in the face of tragedy and this calm had only further infuriated Saul. Saul had raged and because of him men and died.

Oh that the ground could open and swallow Saul as the lord had done to the followers of Korah. Oh that a flood could come down and consume the fire that raged in Saul’s soul. Such torment contrasted vividly with the serenity of the followers of that Jesus of Nazareth. Saul would trade anything even his own life to experience that type of serenity and peace. And yet all around Saul felt nothing but hopeless crushing darkness.

Somehow despite the pain and the visions of death and destruction Saul fell asleep.


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