Q: #520. How long was it from the time of Jesus' death until He appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus?
A: In a previous study, I spent a considerable amount of time studying how old Jesus was when He died. Obviously, a part of determining that was trying to figure out the year that Jesus was born, as well as the year He died. Based on a number of things, I determined that Jesus likely died in 28 or 29 A.D. (between the ages of 33-35 years old).
Having determined the approximate year that Jesus died, we simply need to know when Jesus appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus. This was when Paul was converted, and became a Christian. We find this conversion experience in (Acts 9:1-19), and Paul later recounted it in (Acts 22:6-21) and (Acts 26:12-18). While we cannot know with certainty from the Bible when this occurred, most scholars believe that this was between 33 – 36 A.D.
However, I think that the lower end of this range is less likely. We need to factor in the date that Stephen was martyred, which happened before Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. While Paul did not actually stone Stephen, he was there, and “was consenting unto his death” (Acts 8:1)(Acts 22:20). (Acts 7:58) says that those who stoned Stephen “laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul (Paul).” The dating for when this happened is pretty narrow, with most scholars believing it was around 33 A.D., give or take a year (about 4 – 5 years after the death of Jesus). If this is the case, then Paul’s Damascus experience followed this somewhere between the dates of 34 – 36 A.D.
***Note: This means the time between the stoning of Stephen, and the appearance of Jesus to Paul on the road to Damascus was about 1 to 3 years.
Therefore, taking the above into account, the amount of time between the death of Jesus, and His subsequent appearance to Paul on the road to Damascus would be 6 to 8 years (28 or 29 A.D. to around 34 to 36 A.D.). The date of Paul’s birth is generally believed to be within a range of 1 to 5 A.D. (about 5 – 10 years after Jesus was born. So, Paul was likely in his late 20’s to early 30’s when Jesus appeared to him, and he became a Christian.
After his conversion, we are told that Paul went into Arabia for 3 years (Gal 1:17-18), probably to study and reflect on the revelation given to him by the Lord.
As a result of his seeing the resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul called himself an “Apostle” (one who has seen the risen Christ) who was “born out of due time” (1 Cor 15:8).
***Note: Some believe (me included) that Paul was God’s choice to replace Judas as the 12th apostle, but those in the “upper room” got ahead of God’s timing and chose Matthias instead (Acts 1:15-26). I discuss this in further detail here.