In objection to Part A, people will claim that Paul didn't actually see Jesus but that he only had a vision. This, however, contradicts Paul's own statement(s). Even if it was only a vision, that would make Paul's apostleship even more suspicious! Regardless, we need to put to rest the idea that Paul "merely had a vision"; he himself claims to actually have seen Jesus Christ in his first Epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 9 verse 1: "Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?" (Emphasis Added). I can assure you, Jesus is the premier lens through which we get all our correct understanding, including our understanding of false Christs and false Prophets.
Moving on, we'll now look at Luke's recordings of Paul's testimony. Before we do this, we need to understand a few things about Luke and the Book of Acts:
- Luke is a later companion of Paul--he wasn't there with Paul on the Road to Damascus
- Luke is merely recording what he hears and sees when he's with Paul
- Acts is History
If we don't keep these three basic facts in mind, we're likely to assume Luke himself is a witness to Paul's supposed encounter when in fact he wasn't. Some people also discredit Luke because he's Paul's travel companion. I personally am thankful for Luke's diligence. Luke merely heard Paul's testimony and wrote about it. As we'll see, each time it's given it's different!
There are several ways we can go about looking at Paul's own testimonies. You're encouraged to read them side-by-side to come to your own conclusion, but in Part B, we're going to look at the timeline of events in Acts 9:18-31 immediately after Saul’s conversion (Luke's history) and compare them to Paul’s account of events in Galatians 1:16-20. The pertinent details will be Italicized. Paul's letter will directly proceed the details given in Acts for immediate comparison. My notes will be proceeded by "NOTE:" and Underlined. We'll summarize the details at the end.
Acts 9:18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized; 19 and he took food and was strengthened. Now for several days he was with the disciples who were in Damascus,
Galatians 1:16 I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood...
20 and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” 21 All those hearing him continued to be amazed, and were saying, “Is this not the one who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name, and had come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?” 22 But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ. 23 When many days had elapsed, the Jews plotted together to do away with him, 24 but their plot became known to Saul. They were also closely watching the gates day and night so that they might put him to death;” 25 but his disciples took him at night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a large basket.”
NOTE: Notice how Saul was at first "with the disciples in v.19" at Damascus and how they're referred to as his disciples. From here, Saul flees to Jerusalem. But I thought he didn't immediately consult with flesh and blood...
26 When he came to Jerusalem, he tried repeatedly to associate with the disciples; and yet they were all afraid of him, as they did not believe that he was a disciple.
Galatians 1: 17 Nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me...
27 But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus at Damascus.
Galatians 1:17 But I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus...
28 And he was with them, moving about freely in Jerusalem, speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord.
Galatians 1:18-19 Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him for fifteen days. 19 But I did not see another one of the Apostles except James, the Lord's brother.
29 And he was talking and arguing with the Hellenistic Jews; but they were attempting to put him to death. 30 Now when the brothers learned of it, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus.
NOTE: It's because of these discrepancies that Paul feels compelled to exclaim the following in his letter:
Galatians 1:20 Now in what I am writing to you, I assure you before God that I am not lying.
31 So the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria enjoyed peace, as it was being built up; and as it continued in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it kept increasing.
NOTE: Paul said he only met Cephas and then fifteen days later, he met only James. In Acts, we're given the impression that Paul met more than just Peter and James, as Luke says, "and he was with them, moving about freely in Jerusalem."
Hopefully you see there are inconsistencies with Luke's historical account and Paul's account, in which he feels compelled to say "I assure you before God that I'm not lying" (a remarkable thing to have to say). To summarize...
- Paul said he didn't immediately confer with flesh and blood
- FACT: Paul was with the disciples at Damascus...his disciples
- Luke said Paul went to Jerusalem
- Paul said he went from Damascus to Arabia, back to Damascus, then to Jerusalem (a three year time period)
- Paul said he met with Cephas and James only (fifteen days)
- FACT: Luke said Paul met the apostles and was "with them" at the behest of Barnabas
This may not be the "smoking gun" you expected, but there's still more to examine in Paul's testimony. Part C will go deeper.
 Damascus Road: Part A
 Vine's: "The word has also a wider reference. In Acts 14:4, 14, it is used of Barnabas as well as of Paul." (Apostle/ Apostleship)
This is an on going study and is subject to revisions.