Fact #5 – People once enemies to the Christian movement completely changed

It doesn’t stop at the disciples. There are at least two crucially important witnesses who had an even greater transformation. Instead of being followers of Jesus from the start, James (his brother), and a man called Saul from Tarsus were both opposed to what Jesus and subsequently his disciples were doing and saying.

James, along with the rest of the family, thought Jesus was stark, raving mad and tried on occasions to bring him back to the family home in Nazareth[1]. Saul, a young Pharisee student prodigy who had everything possible going for him as a teacher of the Rabbinical law[2], plus the eminent status that would have come with that, spent a good proportion of his time hunting out Christian believers for arrest and imprisonment.

But both James and Saul, (who would later become known in the record as Paul), changed their minds.

Paul remembers his ‘lightbulb’ moment and makes reference to it on numerous occasions. One of his close companions, Luke, wrote about what Paul claimed had happened[3] – he believed he had seen and heard the risen Jesus appearing to him when on the road to Damascus, just as the disciples also believed. Something similar had apparently happened to James as well, although no details of this are retained. Paul just includes James in a long list of people who had claimed to have seen Jesus alive again[4].

Both James and especially Paul rejected a life of high status that they could have had as prominent Jewish scholars. Instead, they willingly chose to align themselves with the maligned Christian movement, risking persecution and execution.

Indeed, church tradition understands that both James and Paul suffered the ultimate fate at the hands of the authorities, all on account of their new worldview and their unshakeable belief that Jesus of Nazareth had risen from the dead.

The conversion of these men, once in direct opposition to Jesus, is an important part of the evidence that we will need to take account of. Any explanation for what happened over the course of those three days must be consistent with this. It must have sufficient explanatory power.

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[1] Mark 3:21

[2] Philippians 3:5-7

[3] Acts 9:1-19

[4] 1 Corinthians 15:7