Making choices in chronology.

Paul sipped the coffee and set his mug on the bookshelf next to my rocking chair.

You asked how I changed from being devoted to destroying the church in its infancy?” he said. “It’s simple. God stopped me.”

I waited.

IMG_0932“Luke talked about it at length in his history of the time. I shared with him the details while we were traveling together. But in writing this letter to the Galatians, that whole biography didn’t matter. So I didn’t tell it. Instead, I pointed out that God had plans for me from before I was born. And at just the right time, I saw Jesus. I saw him as clearly as all of the disciples who had talked with him before and after his death. I saw him as convictingly as Thomas wanting a sign, as Peter owning up to his denial.”

I started to ask a question. He held up a finger.

“And God’s calling and the reason for the revelation was to send me, the young Jewish genius, across the cultural line to the Gentiles.”

He picked up his mug. I guessed that he was committed to making his calling clear even in conversations like this. I took the opportunity to speak.

“But why don’t you talk more about the voice of Jesus and being blind for a few days in Damascus? We love that story. It’s a great story to tell little kids.”

“I know,” Paul said. “But in this letter, I wasn’t telling stories to amuse preschoolers. I was establishing my credentials as an apostle, as a God-commissioned agent for Jesus. My timeline is accurate. But it isn’t comprehensive. My God-prompted reason for writing was fundamentally different from Luke’s.” 

“Like the difference between “The Gettysburg Address” and a history of the Revolutionary War?” I said. “One giving a comprehensive account and the other making an argument?”

Paul shrugged. “I can only speak of what I know,” he said. “And I know that I needed to show this church that God had taught me everything I knew, not Peter.”

He took another sip of coffee. And left for the week.

4 thoughts on “Making choices in chronology.

  1. Rich Dixon

    Two thoughts.

    Really useful to realize why Paul chose to include and exclude certain material. He was establishing his authority, not writing a biography.

    Second, I chuckled when I thought about how some folks nitpick scripture. You said Paul was drinking from a mug but you posted a photo of a cup and saucer. Clearly that invalidates the entire story, because it was really about the coffee.


    1. Jon Swanson

      Ah dear Rich.
      At 3:30 this morning, I was walking through the hospital thinking, “I mentioned a mug and a bookcase and the photo was a cup and saucer from a cafe in Nepal. What a failure.” But I then hoped no one would notice. Now you give me opportunity to confess to my oversight and to change the photo for the series to a mug. And to confess to the kinds of things I think about after visiting a deathbed.

      Being human is such a remarkably odd thing.


    2. Rich Dixon

      Yeah, that was truly a “failure.” 🙂

      What’s odd is that anyone would notice such an insignificant detail and that you and I as writers know that someone out there might fixate on it and miss the entire point of the writing.

      And that any of this matters after you wrote the word “deathbed.”

      Love you, my friend.


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