Christians argue that St Paul when he was known as Saul of Tarsus debunked Christianity and hated it and had Christians killed. The story according to the Acts of the Apostles is that he was on his way on another evil bigoted mission against believers in Jesus when he had a vision and Jesus spoke to him. He was blinded and fell off his horse. Soon he was baptised and set about becoming an extremely busy missionary for his new faith.

On the face of it the story looks convincing.

But while Paul did write that he encountered Jesus who converted him from his murderous hate for Jesus’ followers, he did not tell us much about it. The Acts story may have too much embellishment and we are under no duty to validate it when we don’t know if Paul ever seen it never mind approved it.

Another reason the story is weaker than you would think is that there is a good parallel case.

Alphonse Ratisbonne born 1814 was an atheist from a Jewish background. He bitterly hated how the Catholic Church treated the Jewish people and was an ardent anti-Catholic.

He was put to a challenge by a devout Catholic. As a test, he started to wear a medal to see if anything would happen. The medal was the popular Miraculous Medal with its prayer printed on it, O Mary Conceived without original sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. At the time he also undertook to say a prayer every day, the Memorare. He commented “If this won’t do me any good, at least it won’t do me any harm.” That comment hints that he was already softening towards the Catholic faith and was not admitting it. He was as good as saying that Catholic religious practice is harmless.

He agreed to wait in the Catholic basilica, St Andrea delle Fratte which is in Rome for a friend to return for him. The friend came back and was shocked to find Ratisbonne in prayer. Later Ratisbonne said, “"I was scarcely in the church when a total confusion came over me. When I looked up, it seemed to me that the entire church had been swallowed up in shadow, except one chapel. It was as though all the light was concentrated in that single place. I looked over towards this chapel whence so much light shone, and above the altar was a living figure, tall, majestic, beautiful and full of mercy. It was the most holy Virgin Mary, resembling her figure on the Miraculous Medal. At this sight I fell on my knees right where I stood. Unable to look up because of the blinding light, I fixed my glance on her hands, and in them I could read the expression of mercy and pardon. In the presence of the Most Blessed Virgin, even though she did not speak a word to me, I understood the frightful situation I was in, my sins and the beauty of the Catholic Faith."

It is possible that Saul of Tarsus had been started to develop an attraction for the Jesus faith and as the role of persecutor was expected of him he went along with it until he couldn’t any more.

Paul and Ratisbonne seem to have had some kind of seizure or attack.

Both lived lives that were out of character for them after their experience. They were not the same men at all.

Both converted too fast. Ratisbonne had his "apparition" on January 20 1842 and was received in to the Church soon after just eleven days later.

Both became missionaries. Ratisbonne became a priest and the co-founder of The Sisters of Our Lady of Sion. This was part of his plan for bringing Jews into the Church. Paul likewise would not leave the Jews alone either.

The apparition to Ratisbonne was accepted as true by the Church though it reads more like the imagination than anything else. There is no evidence that he had the ecstasy or trance that accompanies apparitions. Nobody saw him while it was having it. Remember his hatred was too much and indicates a disturbed mind. The Church usually only accepts apparitions when it is able to have the doctor's assessment and other tests for it says God does not ask for blind faith.

An anti-semitic religion that accepts a vision that leads to an anti-semitic mission is not looking good. That was the true motive for the enthusiastic and unprofessional endorsement. Plus the Miraculous Medal devotion is promoted by a "vision" that made false prophecies when the Bible says God owns the future so he cannot make mistakes about it. And Mary's appearance in it as a Caucasian woman is erasing her Jewishness.

You won't be as impressed by Paul now! I know I'm not. He was the only risen Jesus witness who wrote about what he experienced so it does not make the resurrection sound very plausible.


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