Paul himself makes no mention of a conversion on the road to Damascus, whereas Acts of the Apostles has not one, but three accounts:

  • At Acts 9:3-8, Paul was blinded by a light and fell down, then heard Jesus, who told Paul that he would be told what to do when he was in the city. His men did not see the light, but heard the voice. They remained standing.
  • At Acts 22:6-11, Paul told the people he was blinded by a light and fell down, then heard Jesus, who again told Paul that he would be told what to do when he was in Damascus. This time, his men saw the light but, unlike Paul, were not blinded, and did not hear the voice.
  • At Acts 26.13-19, Paul told Agrippa that he saw a brilliant light and heard Jesus, who gave him his mission, but did not command him to go to Damascus. He fell down, but there is no mention of blindness, nor is there any mention of the men seeing or hearing anything, although for some reason they also fell down. He told those at Damascus and Jerusalem about his conversion experience.

Was Acts 9:3-8 the true account of this event, and if so was Paul confused in his two separate accounts? How would we know?

  • 2
    See C. W. Hedrick, "Paul's Conversion/Call: A Comparative Analysis of the Three Reports in Acts" in Journal of Biblical Literature [PDF]. Commented Jan 24, 2015 at 10:02
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    @resident_heretic There is no deception on the part of Paul, because he did not write Acts of the Apostles. In his epistles, he makes no mention of this dramatic conversion event. Commented May 16, 2016 at 3:04
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    Paul does discuss his conversion in Galatians 1. It's not very detailed, but the account is different at key points from Acts.
    – Noah
    Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 17:05
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    Acts 22 does not say they did not hear the voice. It says they did not understand it. You can only not understand something you do hear. I'm struggling to see where the contradictions are? Can you point them out more directly? All I see are three different recountings that are not copies of each other but unique instances. As such they vary in language and are not word for word matches. I see a couple ommissions from one version to the next, are you counting omissions as necessary contradictions?
    – Joshua
    Commented Aug 13, 2016 at 12:41
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    @Joshua The problem of Acts 22 seems to have caused some interpreters to translate οὐκ ἤκουσαν as 'did not understand', when the literal translation is 'did not hear'. Many New Testament scholars have recognised the contradictions I have outlined here. Paul Vargas has given you a link that is summarised by: "Certain features are clearly contradictory in a formal sense but when viewed in the light of Luke's literary method they should be understood in an essential sense as improvements and corrections." Commented Aug 13, 2016 at 21:51

4 Answers 4


Even conservative theologians acknowledge that Luke was not with Paul on the road to Damascus so, if Luke was the author of Acts, he must have received all three versions from Paul, or at least one version that he subsequently amended for his own reasons and placed in three different contexts.

Rex Wyler says,in The Jesus Sayings, page 43, that historians consider Acts, written in the 90s, an anonymous work that freely mixes history with legend. Authorship some decades after the death of Paul means that this anonymous author would not have received the story from Paul himself. So Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus was either a tradition of unknown provenance or entirely a literary creation written by 'Luke'.

Charles W. Hedrick says in Paul's Conversion/Call: A Comparative Analysis Of The Three Reports In Acts, page 424, that the account in Acts 22 assumes and builds upon the account in Acts 9, hence, for the account in Acts 22 to be logically consistent, it must be read in the light of Acts 9. In page 428, he says that Acts 26:12-18 and 22:4-21 are compositions by Luke and their differences from each other and the account in Acts 9 are due to Luke's literary style and method. Thus, the accounts attributed in Acts to Paul are in fact written by the author of Acts, himself.

To ascertain whether the first account, in Acts 9:3-8, is based on fact, we need to go back to Paul's own epistles. If Paul told all the presbyters about this experience, as described in Acts 22:6-11, and also told King Agrippa a similar story, recounted in Acts 26:13-19, then we can expect him to be equally frank when writing to the Galatians. Yet in In Galatians 1:16 ("To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:"), there is no hint of this. Note that Paul says that God revealed his Son "in me," not "to me" (although some translations do incorrectly give this as "to me"). The significance of this is that for Paul, the revelation was internal, not an external vision or appearance. Note also that he did not immediately tell anyone about his conversion, instead travelling to Arabia, perhaps to meet King Aretas who also ruled Damascus at this time, and only then going to Damascus.


The differences among the three accounts in Acts of the Apostles do not show that Paul was confused, but that the author of Acts was exercising some literary licence. The differences between Acts 9:3-8 and Paul's own story of his conversion and his subsequent itinerary appear to show that Acts 9:3-8 was also a literary creation in Acts, entirely unknown to the apostle Paul.

  • It's kind of strange that we have contradictions within the same book written by the same author. Is it possible that Luke contradict himself? Or is book of acts written by a bunch of people?
    – user4951
    Commented Jun 1, 2015 at 11:08
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    So because Paul doesn't tell the whole conversion story in long form in his letter to the Galatians, it must be fiction? The point of the Galatians passage is to emphasize that Paul's teaching comes straight from Jesus Christ, and not from men (including the apostles). That's why he says, "I conferred not with flesh and blood." He's not saying he was completely isolated, merely that he didn't go to the established church to receive instruction. If anything, it confirms the idea of a direct "supernatural" experience with Christ, since that is the source of his message.
    – Solocutor
    Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 19:49

The three accounts are for the most part consistent with one another. Some differences may be attributed to the omission of details which would be of secondary significance given the particular setting in which Paul is speaking. For example, when speaking to King Agrippa, Paul makes no reference to the others taking him to Damascus. Instead he ends by explaining his response: 1

...O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. (26:19-20)

Paul’s point is that he preached as an act of obedience to the heavenly vision. He simply skips details about being taken to Damascus. There is no contradiction from this omission. Paul just truncated the details to describe the encounter in a way to present a relevant defense to his (unlawful) arrest in Jerusalem. That is, not only did he do nothing wrong; what he did was in response to the heavenly vision, a point which should be of importance to Agrippa, who is Jewish.

In the three accounts Paul states he asked two different questions:

”Who are you Lord?” (9:5 and 22:8)

”What shall I do, Lord?” (22:10 and 26:15)

“What shall I do Lord” is missing from the first account; “who are you Lord” from the third. An omission raises a question but it is not a contradiction. Based on all three accounts, Paul asked Jesus two different questions. The second account is complete in that sense.

The first step to evaluating the three accounts to assemble all individual details into one single record and then consider what is omitted from any one in particular. Here is what I consider to be the record of everything that took place:

3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus... (9:3 also 22:6)

13 At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. (26:13 also 9:3 and 22:6)

7 And I fell to the ground (22:7 also 9:4) 14 And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? (26:14a also 9:4 and 22:7) It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ (26:14b)

  • Paul fell to the ground first and then those with him fell down.
  • Jesus is speaking in Hebrew/Aramaic

8 And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ (22:8 also 9:5 and 26:15) 9 Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand [c] the voice of the one who was speaking to me. (22:9)

  • The others saw the light but did not understand Jesus (speaking in Hebrew/Aramaic).

16 But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ (26:16-18)

10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ (22:10 also 9:6)

7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. (9:7)

  • The men also rose.

  • The men saw the light; they did not see Jesus.

11 And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus. (22:11 also 9:8)

Understanding the Differences

The question, "What shall I do Lord" is missing from the description in Acts 9. This account is given from the perspective of the narrator; it is not Paul's direct testimony. From the narrators view, the answer to Paul's question is not in the words of Jesus. It is in the actions of Paul; what is recorded in Acts 9-28. In other words, the narrator omits the question they know was asked and documents what Paul did and places the why in Paul's own words.

Paul omits the question, "Who are you Lord?" in his testimony to King Agrippa. This may be odd but given his introductory remarks and the common knowledge of why he was arrested, this can hardly be considered a contradiction. Agrippa is Jewish and is familiar with their customs and controversies. Agrippa knows full well to whom Paul is referring. This too is consistent with Paul's speech as he attempts to get Agrippa to admit he knows Christ. (26:26)

The account which includes the most details is the one given after his arrest in the Temple. In particular it includes the details about the others who were with Paul. This is a logical inclusion. Paul knows that some of those may be in the crowd or have shared what happened with others. These are facts Paul would be expected to give in those circumstances. For those in Jerusalem, Paul's encounter can be immediately confirmed by the testimony of those who were with him at the time. Someone in the crowd should say "He is right! That is what happened."

In summary, Acts 9 is an accurate description of the encounter and Acts 22 and 26 contain two actual statements by Paul of his encounter. Paul's two testimonies are factual. Not only are there no contradictions, the differences are consistent with someone who is giving their testimony to different groups. When someone recounts an event at different times under different circumstances, minor variances are to be expected. In fact, if the two statements were identical they would be condemned as being rehearsed. Paul is not confused about what happens, he tells essentially the same story both times yet he omits some details which are not as pertinent as others, given the audience he is facing.

This is no different then the messages from Paul recorded in Acts. Paul does not have a single "canned" speech; he varies examples in recognition of who he is facing. He did not speak to the Athenians as he spoke to those in Antioch is Pisidia. These differences are not problematic. They are the type of differences to be expected in an accurate historical record.


There is no reason to impose a requirement for Paul to include his encounter on the road to Damascus in this, or any other letter. The significant aspect of Paul's testimony is not how he changed; it is who he was before:

For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. (Galatians 1:13)

The single most important aspect of Paul's status as an apostle is that he was zealous for Judaism and tried to stamp out Christianity right from the start:

And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. (Galatians 1:14)

The issue in the churches of Galatia is Jewish Christians from Jerusalem teaching the Law of Moses, claiming Paul failed to give them the complete Gospel. Again, how Paul became Christian is insignificant in this setting. What matters are Paul's Jewish credentials, which he gives.

Also there is no conflict with how Paul describes his travels:

nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. (Galatians 1:17)

There is no basis for using this to claim a contradiction with Acts. After going away to Arabia, Paul returned again to Damascus. The letter to the Galatians clearly states a sequence of Damascus then Arabia then Damascus. There is no contradiction with Paul's encounter in Acts 9 or his testimony in Acts 22 or Acts 26 with this letter. In fact claiming "Arabia" contradicts the events in Acts requires one to ignore what the verse plainly states.

Finally, Paul's encounter outside Damascus was not his "conversion":

And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank (Acts 9:9) ...So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized. (Acts 9:17-18)

Paul's conversion occurred 3 days later when he received the Holy Spirit and was baptized. So the Gospel he received was that given by the Holy Spirit. This is consistent with what Paul immediately spoke in Damascus:

And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” (Acts 9:20)

Nothing in the encounter outside Damascus made reference to Jesus being the Son of God and yet that is the message Paul preached. How did Paul come to the revelation that Jesus was the Son of God? There is nothing to support a belief in was in the encounter; rather he states:

to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. (Galatians 1:16-17 NKJV)

1. English Standard Version

c. Acts 22:9 Or hear with understanding


"... did not hear the voice."

Acts 22:9 in this section is apparently mistranslated, and does not mean did not hear the voice but says they did not understand it. Several versions do reflect this; and Thayer's Lexicon can be also understood to indicate this.

Some of the versions that say did not understand or did not hear with comprehension vs. did not hear at all are: NASB20, ESV, NIV, NASB95, NET, HNV, and NLT.


It has been generally accepted for about 2000 years that Acts was written before 70 a.d. There is no mention of the destruction of the temple, nor the death of Paul or any of the Apostles except Jacob, the son of Zebedee (Acts 12:2). I find it interesting that Jacob's murder is included, yet the author fails to mention the events of Peter, Jacob the just, or Paul's death. In fact, the author doesn't even indicate any of these people are dead. At the end, all that's said is:

"And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him,

Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him." Acts 28:30-31

This doesn't tell us anything. Was Paul killed two years later? Did somebody begin forbidding Paul to preach his gospel after two years? The churches of Asia perhaps (2 Timothy 1:15)?

Also significant is the authors use of "we" several times throughout Acts. If this were any other book, there would be no question as to when it was written. That is my own opinion of course, but here is a link to a lengthy excerpt of John A.T. Robinson's book Redating the New Testament for anyone interested in learning more about the validity of Acts and the other NT writings. Also please see What are the arguments that Acts was written prior to 70 AD? and Which NT books were written after the destruction of the temple? for additional information.

This assumption that the writer of Acts (from this time on I'll refer to this person as Luke) was mistaken seems to be taken exclusively on the idea that Paul was not lying in Galatians. This is understandable, since Paul says:

"Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not." Galatians 1:20

So if one wishes to take Paul's word as infallible, then I guess you have your proof right there. However, I find it highly unlikely that Luke was either mistaken or "exercising literary license".

It seems much more plausible that Luke was quite aware that he was reporting conflicting events. Based on the amount of detail concerning Paul's experience outside of Damascus and the events that followed, Luke writes chapter 9 as though it's what was directly told to him by Paul. I'll quote it so we can compare:

"And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,

And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.

And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:

And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?

And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

[And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him,] (Most translations omit this) Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice (φωνῆς: sound, voice) , but seeing no man.

And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.

And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.

And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord.

And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth,

And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.

Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem:

And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.

But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:

For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake.

And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.

And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.

And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus." Acts 9:1-19

So in this account, Paul saw "a light" and heard a voice. The men with Paul did not witness anything, but they heard a voice/sound. He is then taken to Ananias, who had a vision of 'the Lord' telling him a few words. Ananias puts his hands on Paul, says a few words, and immediately scales fall from his eyes.

When we get to Acts 21, we see Paul was warned beforehand not to go to Jerusalem. He honorably says he is ready to die for the Lord:

"And when he was come unto us, he took Paul's girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.

And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem.

Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." Acts 21:11-13

However, Paul was obviously not aware of what would happen next. The Jews were very angry at Paul. There was a man, named Trophimus (an Ephesian) that was seen with Paul earlier that day. Trophimus was an uncircumcised gentile, and he had gone into the temple- which was forbidden:

"But let none come into the house of YHVH, save the priests, and they that minister of the Levites; they shall go in, for they are holy: but all the people shall keep the watch of YHVH." 2 Chronicles 23:6

"Thus saith the Lord YHVH; No stranger, uncircumcised in heart, nor uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter into my sanctuary, of any stranger that is among the children of Israel." Ezekiel 44:9

So the Jews were pretty freaked out. They began accusing Paul of teaching all men everywhere against the Jewish people, the law, and the temple:

"And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him,

Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place.

(For they had seen before with him in the city Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.)

And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut.

And as they went about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar." Acts 21:27-31

The Jews were about to kill Paul until the chief captain was told that all of Jerusalem was angry. He couldn't figure out what Paul had done because so many people were shouting at once, so he led Paul away. Paul then asks if he may present his case to the Jews. This is what he says:

And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me.

And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?

And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest.

And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.

And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do.

And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus.

And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there,

Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him.

And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth.

For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard.

And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." Acts 22:6-16

In this account, Paul again sees a light. The men that are with him suddenly become "witnesses" to the light, but they don't hear any sound. Paul is taken to Ananius, who doesn't touch Paul, but simply tells him to receive his sight. Rather than immediately, it's now "within the hour" that Paul can see. Ananius then tells Paul a bunch of stuff that is not anything similar to what "the Lord" had said in Acts 9.

The Jews, upon hearing this, think like most people would when they hear a man say he saw a light and heard voices. They thought Paul was insane. So the chief captain took Paul aside, and they had decided to scourge him. This was going to be painful, so rather than suffer, Paul appeals to being a Roman citizen. The Romans decide not to harm him, and the next day he appeals to the Jews again. The high priest has his men smack Paul in the mouth, to which Paul replies:

"Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law?

And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God's high priest?

Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people." Acts 23:3-5

Then Paul realizes that some of the Jews are Sadducees and others are Pharisees. The Pharisees believe in a resurrection of the dead, so Paul (being a Pharisee) appeals to them. He then says something very interesting:

"But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question." Acts 23:6

We just saw that the Jews were angry because they accused Paul of teaching against the law and bringing a Gentile into the temple. But Paul says they're angry because he was preaching the resurrection of the dead. Is this another mistake on Luke's part? I doubt it.

So some Jews make a vow to kill Paul, and when the chief captain hears about this, he sends Paul to the governor Felix. Felix keeps Paul bound for two years, until Festus enters the picture. The Jews tell Festus what they have against Paul, and Festus decides that Paul should be sent to Jerusalem to be tried by his own people. Remember when Paul said he was ready to die in Jerusalem for the Lord? Well, he must have had a change of heart:

"But Festus, willing to do the Jews a pleasure, answered Paul, and said, Wilt thou go up to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these things before me?

Then said Paul, I stand at Caesar's judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest.

For if I be an offender, or have committed any thing worthy of death, I refuse not to die: but if there be none of these things whereof these accuse me, no man may deliver me unto them. I appeal unto Caesar. Acts 25:9-11

So next Paul is sent to king Agrippa, and this is when he tells his conversion story for a second time:

"Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests,

At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me.

And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.

But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;

Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,

To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me." Acts 26:12

That is a much different story than any of the other two. This time, Paul doesn't even mention Ananius. Instead he says this Jesus spoke directly to him, telling him the entire mission he was to accomplish.

All three of these accounts are way too inconsistent to be a mistake or considered "literary licence". There's no doubt that Luke loved Paul, but he wasn't going to lie for him. Luke knew the truth, and according to Albert W. Pink, "Luke's Gospel is concerned with the Humanity of our Lord".

So then we get to Paul's own account of his conversion in Galatians 1. He starts the letter off with:

"Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)" Galatians 1:1

Paul says he was sent out (an apostle), but not by man: he claims to be an apostle of Yeshua himself. Rather than quote them, the following verses show Paul being "sent out" several times by men: Acts 9:30, 11:30, 14:14, 15:22...

Paul then tells the Galatians that they should not listen to any other gospel than the one he has already told them:

"I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel.

Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.

But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed." Galatians 1:6-9

Notice Paul says "we" as though to say "me or any of the 'other' Apostles". It seems the Galatians had been hearing a different gospel, probably from Peter and John since Paul sets out to discredit them in the next chapter. Then Paul says:

"But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.

For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it:

And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.

But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace,

To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:

Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.

Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.

But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother.

Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not." Galatians 1:11-20

Paul says that he did not learn his gospel from any man. Instead, it was by revelation of Jesus Christ, delivered to Paul in the secret chambers of his own mind. He then boasts about how he worked zealously to persecute the church because of his faithfulness to his prior religion, but God set him apart. "Immediately" he did not talk to any men about his revelation, nor the Apostles "before him" (again signifying that he is one of the twelve). Instead he went to Arabia for three years. Luke makes no mention of Arabia, and shows Paul moving from Damascus straight to Jerusalem. Paul ends his conversion account with "before God, I lie not".


Acts was written before 70 a.d. and before the death of Peter and Paul. The author presents us with three different accounts of Paul's conversion that are so different, it is highly unlikely that this was a simple mistake. Paul lied to the Galatians because his gospel was losing it's authority, so he tried to distinguish himself from the real Apostles by claiming to be a direct mediator between man and Jesus Christ. YHVH the only true God, father of Yeshua and all his brothers, has stated many times that He will send false prophets to test us. It sucks, because I've always loved Paul. However, YHVH is our only father, and our master Yeshua teaches us everything we need to know.

Per request for a demonstration that Paul would stoop this low, please see my answer to What role did James have in Paul's conflict with Peter?

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    Most critical scholars date the writing of Luke/Acts around 80AD. So pre-70 AD is not "generally accepted." See earlychristianwritings.com/acts.html
    – Noah
    Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 17:03
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    A. This looks more like a wide-ranging opinion piece than an answer to why the accounts are different and whether or not Acts 9:3-8 the true account of this event. B. I also agree with @Noah that Acts could not have been pre-70, since there are 3 things that have almost universal acceptance among commentators: Acts was written after Luke; Luke was substantially based on Mark; Mark was written approximately 70 CE. There is an increasing preference to date Acts early 2nd century. Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 22:24
  • Hey @Noah and Dick. I edited my answer to include a few more details about why I believe the author of *Acts was written by somebody who actually witnessed these things. I needed to edit it anyways because I had made a mistake and forgotten about Jacob the son of Zebedee. I don't know if I'd say Luke was "substantially" based on *Mark. Maybe. Maybe Mark was written way earlier than 70 a.d. I happen to believe Yeshua was a prophet and able to predict the future. Anyways, thanks.
    – Cannabijoy
    Commented Aug 13, 2016 at 10:25
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    @anonymouswho I think it will be regarded as quite inappropriate to say "Paul lied to the Galatians" unless you can demonstrate, preferably with reliable citations, that the apostle Paul would stoop this low. Commented Aug 14, 2016 at 1:11
  • This answer requires Acts to have been written before 70 AD in order that the author might have known Paul. I cite When Was Acts Written? Not in the First Century: 1. "The dominant view in Acts scholarship places Acts around 85 CE, not because of any special event linking the book of Acts to that date but as a compromise between scholars who believe it was written by an eye-witness to the early Jesus movement and those who don’t. " 2. "The Acts Seminar concluded that Acts was written around 115 CE." Commented Aug 14, 2016 at 1:15

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