"Christian conversion" as a radical philosophical turn : Lukan literary efforts in describing Paul's "Conversion" in Acts 9, 22, and 26
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The present report analyzes the three Lukan accounts on Paul's "conversion" in Acts 9:1-31, 22:6-21, and 26:12-17 in consideration of the contemporary literary milieu of the Greek philosophical and Hellenistic Jewish discourses on one's "conversion," i.e., a radical change as discarding his/her former thoughts. Through this analysis, I argue that Luke redescribed Paul’s experience of the risen Christ as a "conversion," and in doing so, constructed the concept of "Christian conversion" as a radical philosophical turn. In his undisputed letters, we find that Paul understood his encounter with the risen Christ as a "calling" within the Hebrew prophetic tradition. On the contrary, Luke stresses the radical rupture between Paul's before and after the revelatory experience by making it an immediate change and adding details such as Saul’s activities as a persecutor and his name change. In recasting Paul's experience as a "conversion," Luke utilized two main literary elements to characterize the nature of his experience as a radical cognitive shift. One is the metaphor of transition from darkness to light, which is applied to Paul in Acts 9 and 22 as he becomes blind after seeing the light and to the gentile conversion in Acts 26 that they should "turn from darkness to light (v.18)." Another is the notion of repentance that Luke applies directly to Paul in Acts 9 and 22 in his baptism and to the gentile conversion in Acts 26. These two motifs are what we often find in the Greek philosophical and Hellenistic Jewish texts discussing one's radical cognitive shift to a new philosophical system or the Jewish monotheism upon the revelation of a true teaching. By applying these motifs to the "conversion" of Saul, Luke identifies Paul's experience and "Christian conversion" as a radical philosophical turn from ignorance to a correct understanding of the messiah and the God. With the Lukan literary and conceptual efforts in Acts, Paul now becomes a paradigmatic "Christian convert" and a philosopher in Acts whose radical cognitive shift can be followed by Jews and gentiles in the Roman world.