Contradiction Claim Busted: The Travels of Paul

Alleged discrepancy, from an anti-Christian blogger :

“In Acts 9:26-28, Paul travels to Jerusalem after his conversion, where Barnabas introduces him to the other apostles. However, in Paul’s own writings (Gal. 1:16-19), Paul states that he “did not consult any human being” after his conversion and did not travel to Jerusalem until three years after the event, where he only met Peter and James.”

This is very easy to resolve- just read the texts in question. The claim that there is some kind of contradiction between the account in Acts and Paul’s account in Galatians is just vapid and ridiculous. Let’s read for ourselves what Paul says regarding his conversion:

“For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 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. But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; 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. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only were hearing it said, ‘He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.’ And they glorified God because of me.” (Galatians 1:11-24 ESV)

Okay, and next the account of Acts, which the author above claims represents a discrepancy- but wait, if you read the text, it doesn’t really start at verse 26 as the author claims. The account of Paul starts earlier than that- at the very beginning of the chapter.

“But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest andasked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 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; and taking food, he was strengthened. For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ. When many days had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him, but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket. And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists. But they were seeking to kill him. And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.” (Acts 9:1-30 ESV)

As you may have already noticed by now, this account does not actually conflict with Paul’s account. Paul says he didn’t immediately consult with anyone after his experience. The account of Acts confirms this, mentioning that he was in Damascus praying immediately afterward. So that allegation falls flat. What about the allegation that there is a discrepancy between the two concerning when Paul arrived in Jerusalem? Well, Paul gives the specific time period- three years- while the Acts account doesn’t give any specific figure, but just a vague statement of “after many days” and “when he had come to Jerusalem”. Where’s this supposed contradiction? It’s not there. What about the issue of whom he met with? Same story. Paul is specific, while Luke, writing in Acts, is more vague. Luke only says “Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles…” That’s just a very vague, cursory statement, and in no way can be construed as a contradiction of Paul’s statement that he met only Peter and James. Simple stuff to get through, but this is what a person must do when confronted with the myriad of false allegations against the Bible that exist on the internet today.

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