Paul’s Damascus experience has long been considered by Christians as the paradigm of conversion. Since the twentieth century, scholars such as Wrede, based on Paul’s claim in Philippians 3:6 that ‘as to righteousness under the law’ he is ‘blameless’, have refuted the idea that Romans 7 was Paul’s personal confession of his moral failure. They no longer see a contrite and guilt-ridden Paul, and neither the Damascus experience as represented in Romans 7. Which has raised two issues; firstly, was Paul still believing in his Jewish God after the Damascus encounter, or was it a conversion experience? Secondly, it is a consensus among the biblical scholars that Paul received his ‘calling’ at Damascus; however, what was he called for? In other words, what was the content of his Gospel calling?
This thesis analyzes the Pauline passages—1 Cor 9:1-2; 1 Cor 15:1-12; 2 Cor 4:6; Gal 1:11-16; Phi 3:4-11-- which have been considered by scholars as related to the Damascus event, as the scope of study. By working through these passages, this thesis intends to let Paul speaks for himself and to understand whether Paul himself considers this remarkable experience as one of conversion, and what the Gospel is about in his own mind.
The result of this study shows that Paul still sees himself as a Jew, however his Jewish heritage became meaningless while Jesus is to be valued as way to salvation. Rather, he sees himself as God’s people of the New Testament, turning from Judaism to God’s church. Only through Jesus does he see himself as one belonging to God. The Damascus event, thus, can be defined as a conversion experience.
As for the Gospel Paul received from this experience, unlike what Wrede, Schweitzer, Dunn have claimed, it is not only a confirmation of Jesus as Messiah, but also include Justification by Faith. In other words, Paul’s Gospel does have the aspect of personal justification which the Reformed tradition interprets as sinners being saved through their faith in Jesus, the eternal solution for human dilemma, while the aspect of collective justification which some scholars interpret as being in Christ through the Holy Spirit, that Gentiles are also included in God’s salvation plan, is not excluded as well.