How Many Roads Lead to Damascus?

   Questioning the accuracy of the words in the Bible may seem like blasphemy, if you think that every word in the Holy Bible is the perfect Word of God. But, if the words in one part of the Bible directly contradict the words in another part of the Bible, there is no judgment of God’s perfect words, because a perfect God cannot and will not contradict Himself.
   Finding directly contradictory statements or theological concepts can only conclude that one or both of the concepts are in error. Hopefully, one of the concepts is true, while the other contradictory concept is false. Some Bible scholars may be afraid that if there is even one false statement or concept is in the Bible, that the entire Bible must be dismissed as unreliable. That seems to be a nonsensical notion, if you keep in mind that all the words in the Bible were indeed written by humans, who are not perfect.
   So how do you separate the weeds from the wheat in the Bible? That is a difficult question to answer, but it can be found by using God-given logic and heavenly wisdom. Logic says that when theological concepts are consistent from the beginning of the document all the way to the end, the likelihood is greater that they are correct. Again, a perfect God cannot and will not change the rules for us in the middle of the stream. Also, God will give us heavenly wisdom when we sincerely ask for it. I hope He gives it to you, just as I trust He gave it to me, over the many years I’ve been seeking God’s absolute truth, which in the Bible.
   The following example demonstrates how one part of the Bible contradicts another part of the Bible. This example will hopefully help you to start thinking objectively, logically, and wisely to begin your search for the whole truth, which is definitely in the Bible.
   When police detectives question a suspect, they have the suspect repeat his story or alibi several times, looking for inconsistencies in the various versions of their stories. Significant inconsistencies in the various story versions raise questions about the suspect’s honesty.
   There are three versions of Saul’s story of his conversion to become a Christian, while traveling on the road to Damascus. There are significant contradictions between the three versions of Saul’s miraculous encounter with the Lord and his conversion to become a follower of Christ. Analysis of Saul’s three versions of his trip to Damascus, raise questions about him telling his story consistently.
   The following are the three versions of Saul’s miraculous meeting with the Lord:
Version 1 is in Acts 9:3–20:
3As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?” 5“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” He replied. 6“Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” 7The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes, he could see nothing. So, they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything. 10In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord,” he answered. 11The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.” 13“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on Your name.” 15But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is My chosen instrument to proclaim My name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”17Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, Who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. (Acts 9:3–20 NIV)
Version 2 is in Acts 22:6–18:
6About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. 7I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, “Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute Me?” 8“Who are you, Lord?” I asked. “I am Jesus of Nazareth, Whom you are persecuting,” He replied. 9My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of Him Who was speaking to me. 10“What shall I do, Lord?” I asked. “Get up,” the Lord said, “and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.” 11My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me. 12A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. 13He stood beside me and said, “Brother Saul, receive your sight!” And at that very moment I was able to see him. 14Then he said: “The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know His will and hear the words of His mouth. 15You will be His witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. 16And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on His name.” 17“When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance 18and saw the Lord speaking to me. (Acts 22:6–18 NIV)
 Version 3 is in Acts 26:13–20:
13About noon, King Agrippa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. 14We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” 15Then I asked, “who are you, Lord?” “I am Jesus, Whom you are persecuting,” the Lord replied. 16“Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of Me. 17I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” 19So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. 20First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds. (Acts 26:13–20 NIV)
   The differences in these three recitations of Saul’s trip to Damascus are individually compared and contrasted in the following:
Version 1: 4He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4 NIV)
 Version 2: 7I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, “Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?” (Acts 22:7 NIV)
 Version 3: 14We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” (Acts 26:14 NIV)
and:
Version 1: “5Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, Whom you are persecuting,” He replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” (Acts 9:5 NIV)
 Version 2: 8“Who are you, Lord?” I asked. “I am Jesus of Nazareth, Whom you are persecuting,” He replied. …10“What shall I do, Lord?” I asked. “Get up,” the Lord said, “and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.” (Acts 22:8 and 10 NIV)
 Version 3: 15Then I asked, “Who are you, Lord?” “I am Jesus, Whom you are persecuting,” the Lord replied. 16Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of Me. 17I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.” (Acts 26:15–18 NIV)
   If God were to speak directly to you, wouldn’t you take each and every word He says to be perfect and not alter any of His words, for any reason at all? Why are Saul’s quotes of what Jesus is saying to him so different? In Versions 1 and 2, Jesus tells Saul that he will be told what to do, after he gets to Damascus. In Version 3, the Lord tells Saul what he must do before he reaches the city of Damascus.
Version 1: 4He fell to the ground.… 7The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless. (Acts 9:4 and 7 NIV)
 Version 2: 7I fell to the ground. (Acts 22:7 NIV)
 Version 3: 14We all fell to the ground. (Acts 26:14 NIV)
   Which is it? Did they all fall to the ground, or did only Saul fall to the ground? It seems like after Saul had told the story at least twice, he would honestly remember it the same way the third time.
Version 1: 3As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.… 7The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. (Acts 9:3 and 7 NIV)
 Version 2: 6About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me.… 9My companions saw the light. (Acts 22:6 and 9 NIV)
 Version 3: 13I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. (Acts 26:13 NIV)
    Was the flashing-bright light only seen by Saul, or by all of his companions? If the blazing light was around both Saul and his companions, why weren’t they blinded as well?
 Version 1: 17Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, Who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, (Acts 9:17-18 NIV)
Version 2: 9My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of Him Who was speaking to me. 10“What shall I do, Lord?” I asked. “Get up,” the Lord said, “and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.” 11My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me.… 13He [Ananias] stood beside me and said, “Brother Saul, receive your sight!” And at that very moment I was able to see him. (Acts 22:9–11 and 13 NIV)
Version 3: Acts 26 makes no mention of Saul losing or regaining his sight.
   So, was Saul blinded and forgot to tell King Agrippa about the miracle of his sight being lost and healed? Seems like this is an important fact to make Saul’s story more fantastic and miraculous. And was Saul cured by the “laying on of hands” or just by Ananias speaking five words?
Version 1: 9For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything. 10In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias.… 13“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to Your holy people in Jerusalem. 14And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on Your name.” (Acts 9:9-10 and 13-14 NIV)
Version 2: 12A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. (Acts 22:12 NIV)
Version 3: Acts 26 makes no mention of Ananias.
   Was Ananias a disciple of Christ? If he was, he should have feared Saul, or was he a respected Jew who had no fear of Saul? This is an important distinction. Saul and other observers of the Jewish laws were the ones who wanted Christ crucified and then they went about persecuting the new disciples of Christ. If Ananias was a disciple of Christ, he would not be respected by all the Jews, but he would be hated by the Jews for believing that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior.
   Again, when looking for the truth, inconsistencies in the same story, repeated several times, can raise questions about the validity of the storyteller. How would you judge the facts in this case? Perhaps what Paul wrote falls in the category of what Jesus said in Matthew 13:13-17.
13“Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. 14In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. 15For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ 16But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it. (Matthew 13:13-17 NIV)
Learn more about this in my book, The Bible’s Hidden Treasure –
James: The Precious Pearl
at: https://www.jamesbibleshiddentreasure.com/

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