It is a frequent assertion by atheist New Testament scholars, that Paul never saw the risen Jesus. This idea is particularly peculiar because the entire point of the New Testament is that eyewitnesses saw Jesus and they recorded a historical narrative about what they saw and heard.
The argument that Paul never saw Jesus is even more spectacularly bizarre, because there are ten citations in the New Testament which state Paul saw the risen Jesus. This assertion is one of the most frequent arguments that is presented to me by atheists who have read Bart Ehrman’s books. I have read most of Ehrman’s published books and they are filled with inaccuracies—such as the posit that Paul never saw Jesus, only a vision.
There are several false and unprovable claims that Ehrman makes:
- Bart Ehrman Is Wrong That Acts 4:13 Proves Peter Was Illiterate
- What Jesus Really Said About Heaven and Hell: According To Bart Ehrman
- The Gospels Were Not Written By Eyewitnesses
- The Gospels Were Written Anonymously
- Textual Variants Of The New Testament Change The Narrative
- The New Testament Is Not A Valid Historical Narrative
- The New Testament Was Written Late In The First Century
- Impeaching Bart Ehrman
The authority for whether Paul actually saw the risen Jesus, is the extant 24,593 New Testament manuscripts, not the opinions of a modern atheist New Testament scholar. There are 134 statements by the writers of the New Testament where they clearly say they saw Jesus and heard Him.
For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes. ~2 Peter 1:16
I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures had said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures had said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. ~1 Corinthians 15:3-7
We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. ~1 John 1:1
Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write an accurate account for you. ~Luke 1:1-3
One of the twelve Apostles, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus appeared after His resurrection. They told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”
Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”
“My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.
Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.” ~John 20:25-29
There Are 29 Statements In The Book Of Acts Where These Men State They Saw Jesus And Are His Eyewitnesses:
“God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this.” ~Acts 2:32
“We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.” ~Acts 4:20
“And we apostles are witnesses of all he did throughout Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a cross, but God raised him to life on the third day. Then God allowed him to appear, not to the general public, but to us whom God had chosen in advance to be his witnesses. We were those who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. ~Acts 10:39-41
When we study the New Testament for ourselves, we find that there are ten citations in the scriptures where Paul is documented as seeing the risen Jesus:
The clearest of these ten is the actual words of Paul who states clearly that He saw Jesus with his own eyes:
Am I not as free as anyone else? Am I not an apostle? Haven’t I seen Jesus our Lord with my own eyes? ~1 Corinthians 9:1
There are eight places in the New Testament where Paul states that he saw Jesus; two additional places where Ananias and Barnabas state that Jesus appeared to Paul:
- Paul’s statement (above): 1 Corinthians 9:1
- On the road to Damascus: Acts 9:3-6
- Ananias said that Paul saw Jesus: Acts 9:17
- Barnabas said that Paul saw Jesus: Acts 9:27
- At Corinth: 1 Corinthians 15:8
- At Corinth: Acts 18:9-10
- At Jerusalem: Acts 22:6-10
- While praying at the Temple: Acts 22:12-21
- At the Roman barracks: Acts 23:11
- Before King Agrippa: Acts 26:12-18
The personal visitation Paul had with Jesus in Acts 9, he later recounts in Acts 26:12-18 (above), as a part of his legal defense before king Agrippa. There is no ambiguity in what Paul recounts; Jesus personally appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus, and Paul saw Him with His own eyes.
As Paul recounts this event to king Agrippa in Acts 26, he quotes the words that Jesus said to him at that time:
Paul told Agrippa, Jesus said the following: “But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as my servant and witness. Tell people that you have seen me, and tell them what I will show you in the future. ~Acts 26:16
Jesus called Paul for the express purpose of being an eyewitness, who saw the risen Jesus with his eyes, and a minister to tell people about Jesus.
If Paul Did Not See The Risen Jesus, He Could Not Be An Apostle
Paul was accepted as a valid Apostle by the other 11 whom Jesus chose personally. If Paul had not seen the risen Jesus, he could not have been an Apostle, for this was the first and most important qualification of the 12 Apostles:
Acts 1:21: Acts 1:21-22 “So now we must choose a replacement for Judas from among the men who were with us the entire time we were traveling with the Lord Jesus—from the time he was baptized by John until the day he was taken from us. Whoever is chosen will join us as a witness of Jesus’ resurrection.”
Acts 4:33: “The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.“
Jesus also told Paul that He would give him more knowledge in the future, a continuing revelation. Paul knew more about Jesus than any of the other Apostles. There are 18 mysteries Jesus gave to Paul that are described as previously hidden from the foundation of the world.
Paul later wrote that these revelations of God that were not known before Jesus arrived, came at a great cost to Paul. Along with this tremendous knowledge about Jesus and events of the future, Paul was also given an infirmity in his body to keep him humble.
This boasting will do no good, but I must go on. I will reluctantly tell about revelations from the Lord…That experience is worth boasting about, but I’m not going to do it…even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, to keep me from becoming proud. ~2 Corinthians 12:1-7
Paul’s Abandonment Of His Status As A Respected Pharisee Makes No Sense, If He Did Not See The Risen Jesus
Paul was one of the leading Pharisees in Israel during this period, second only to Gamaliel. At the time Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), he was carrying letters given to him by the leaders of Israel, granting him authority to arrest Christians who declared that Jesus is the risen Messiah. Prior to this moment, Paul didn’t believe Jesus had risen or that He was the Messiah.
“Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers…” ~Acts 9:1
After Jesus appeared to Paul, everything changed. There was no hesitation by Paul. He immediately began telling people that he had seen Jesus and he believed Him to be the risen Messiah. Paul calls Jesus, “The Son of God.” No Pharisee would ever call a man, God. This is, of course, unless He saw the risen Jesus with his own eyes.
“Immediately Paul preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.” ~Acts 9:20
Paul said: “Am I not as free as anyone else? Am I not an apostle? Haven’t I seen Jesus our Lord with my own eyes?” ~1 Corinthians 9:1
Atheist scholars often assert that when Saul said he saw Jesus, it was nothing more than a vision or trance. This is not true, the text clearly states Saul physically saw the risen Jesus. It was Ananias, whom Jesus spoke to in a vision, not Paul:
A Physical Appearance of Jesus: Acts 9:3-6: “As Saul was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?” “Who are you, lord?” Saul asked. And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
A Vision of Jesus Before Ananias: Acts 9:10: “Now there was a believer in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him in a vision, calling, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord!” he replied.”
Acts 9:1, begins with: “Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers,” and ends with Acts 9:20: “Saul began preaching about Jesus, saying, “He is indeed the Son of God!” What caused the sudden change? The risen Jesus appeared to Saul!
This documented conversion of the esteemed Hebrew scholar and Pharisee, Saul, is one of the most compelling pieces of evidence to prove the risen Jesus. It exists as a historical record, by surviving manuscript evidence, recorded by Luke, “a historian of the first rank” (Ramsay).
One of the world’s greatest archeologists and historians is Sir William Ramsay. Notice how Dr. Ramsay describes the accuracy and detail of Luke’s historical references—as existing, without a single error.
“I began with a mind unfavorable to (the accuracy of the New Testament) but more recently I found myself brought into contact with the Book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities, and society of Asia Minor. It was gradually borne upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth.”
Dr. Ramsay believed at the onset that the accounts described in the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts were inaccurate. Over 100 years ago, he undertook an expedition to Asia to try and refute the New Testament—only to become so overwhelmed by the evidence, that he became a follower of Jesus Christ.
“Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy…this author should be placed along with the very greatest historians.”
This story makes no sense, unless Paul had actually seen Jesus with his own eyes
Would Paul have gone from staunch persecutor of Christians to chief architect of the New Testament, declaring the risen Jesus by writing 14 books, if he really didn’t see Jesus alive on the road to Damascus?
From that day forward, Paul became a hated Christian and lost everything he had formerly held as valuable. Paul was no longer a respected Pharisee. He lost his wealth, home, and was marked for death by his former colleagues. Paul was beheaded in 68 A.D. and maintained that he had seen the risen Jesus with his own eyes, right up until his final breath.
There are many false and misleading claims that atheist scholars make regarding Jesus, and the New Testament. I published three books which impeach the false claims of atheist scholars and prove that they are liars, with an agenda; to malign and misrepresent the truth of the New Testament narratives about Jesus.
- What Jesus Really Said About Heaven and Hell: According To Bart Ehrman
- Bart Ehrman Is Wrong That Acts 4:13 Proves Peter Was Illiterate
- The Errors Of Liberal Scholars In Disregarding Evidence
- A Demonstration In The Lack Of Knowledge By Liberal New Testament Scholars
- Were The Gospels Written By Eyewitnesses?
- New Testament Reliability: Eyewitnesses And Liars
- Were The Four Gospels Written Anonymously?
- When Were The Gospels Written?
- Has The Text Of The New Testament Been Changed?
- Alleged Textual Variants Of The New Testament Do Not Change The Narrative
- Is The New Testament A Valid Historical Narrative?
- “The New Testament Was Written Late In The First Century”
- Artifacts Of The New Testament That Prove Its Authenticity
- Historical, Evidentiary Proof Of New Testament Reliability
- Historical Evidence That Proves The Resurrection Of Jesus
- The Promise Of Resurrection: Ten Prophecies Of Messiah Rising From The Dead
- Saul Of Tarsus: Compelling Evidence For The Resurrection Of Jesus
- New Testament Scholars Teaching Errors To Students
- How Liberal New Testament Scholars Deceive The World Today
- A List Of Conservative And Liberal Bible Scholars
- Are There Sources For Jesus Outside The New Testament?
- Is The New Testament Filled With Errors?
- The Synoptic Problem
 18 Mysteries Revealed To Paul In The New Testament:
- The kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God (Mt. 13:11; Mk. 4:11; Lk. 8:10)
- Israel’s blindness (Rom. 11:25)
- Salvation in Christ (Rom. 16:25)
- The wisdom of God (1Cor. 2:7)
- The doctrines of God (1Cor. 4:1; Col. 2:2; 1Tim. 3:16)
- The gospel (Eph. 6:19)
- Gift of knowledge (1Cor. 13:2)
- Speaking in tongues (1Cor. 14:2)
- The rapture of the church (1Cor. 15:23,51-58 Jn. 14:1-3 1Th. 4:13-16)
- God’s will (Eph. 1:9)
- The church (Eph. 3:1-9; 5:32)
- Christ in people (Col. 1:26-27)
- Doctrines of Christ (Col. 4:3)
- Spirit of lawlessness (2Th. 2:7)
- Faith of the gospel (1Tim. 3:9)
- Seven candlesticks (Rev. 1:20)
- God’s delay in casting out of Satan (Rev. 10:7; 12:7-17)
- Mystery Babylon (Rev. 17:5,7)
List from Dake’s Commentary On The Bible
 William M. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen, 1982, page 8. Robinson, Robert Clifton. New Testament Apologetics . Teach The Word Publishing Inc. Kindle Edition.
 William M. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen, 1982, page 8..
 EUSEBIUS, Hist, Eccles. lib. ii. cap. 25
Categories: Agnostics and Skeptics, Atheists, Bart Ehrman, Common errors of Atheists, Dennis MacDonald, How Salvation Occurs, Messianic Prophecies, Mitchell G. Reddish, New Testament Criticism, One Gospel, Origin of the four Gospels, Pretend Believers, Resurrection Proven by Secular Sources, Richard Pervo, Robert Clifton Robinson, Salvation through Jesus, Scientists Who Believe in God, Secular sources for Jesus, The Existence of God, The Historicity of Jesus, These Things Were Written, We must repent, You Are My Witnesses