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Wiley Lectures: Did Paul meet Jesus before the Damascus road?

Students and faculty gathered at Cooper Music Center last week to hear Stanley Porter at the annual H. Orton Wiley lectures titled, “Did Paul Meet Jesus Before the Damascus Road?”

Porter is an alum of Point Loma College, president and dean at McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton, Ontario- Canada’s largest Baptist seminary and professor of New Testament. He gave three lectures on the implications of Paul meeting Jesus before the Damascus road.

“The…thing that is important about this topic is that it provides a way of looking at old evidence—the New Testament evidence—through new eyes and a new perspective,” said Porter via email. “I am hoping to get people to shift their perspective and see if that offers them new insights into the relationship between Paul and Jesus.”

The H. Orton Wiley lectures, which started in 1951, are one of the most prestigious events on PLNU’s campus. The series focuses on an area each year on theology, philosophy, church history or biblical studies.

Porter thinks that this subject is so important because it allows people to see the relationship that Paul to had with Jesus later on in his life.

“Saul saw and heard Jesus during Jesus’s earthly ministry even though at the time he rejected Jesus’s message,” said Brad Kelle, professor of Old Testament. “Knowing him in this way is what later let Paul to such a dynamic conversation and powerful ministry in the name of this one whom he had formerly rejected.”

The main implication of this question that Porter set out to explore was the history of early Christianity.

“The question of whether Paul met Jesus bears on the question of continuity and discontinuity among the early Christian followers and their articulations of the faith,” Kelle said.

There was an average attendance of about 120 students and faculty for each lecture. Many students had to go for classes but also thought it was an interesting topic to think about.

“It was something I had never thought about before,” said Jessica Austin, a senior philosophy-theology major. “I’ve always just assumed that Paul didn’t meet Jesus until he was blinded. I had never thought about the possibility of him seeing Jesus in ministry while he was alive.”

Porter used evidence from Matthew, Luke and Romans to show that Paul knew the language of Jesus. His main stance on the subject was that Paul did know Jesus personally.