A convert is a person who humbly approaches the authorities of the religion which he wishes to join and submits himself for instruction. Paul denies such a description of his entry altogether... instead he goes off 'to Arabia'.There's more than one resonance in the official story with Old Testament precedents.
Just as Moses, on receiving the tablets of the law, stayed in the Arabian wilderness for forty days and forty nights (Exodus 34:28), so Paul retired to the desert to assimilate and meditate on the new revelation before returning to impart it to mankind.Once he has cogitated the situation thoroughly, Paul comes out with some astonishing claims, for example speaking of "my gospel".
Paul is claiming a much higher authority than that of the Jerusalem apostles, Peter, James and John; for their claim derived from acquaintance with the earthly Jesus, while Paul's claim derived from acquaintance with the heavenly Jesus...Then there's Galatians 1:16.
... what the Greek actually says is '... to reveal his Son in me', as the Revised Version says. Paul is saying, quite straightforwardly, that he is himself the incarnation of the Son of God. He is thus claiming to have even higher status in his new religion than was claimed for Moses in Judaism.But wait, there's more. Paul gets plugged in to the magic revelation machine again, being caught up to the third heaven and hearing secret stuff that simply cannot be repeated to mere mortals (2 Cor. 12:2-3).
But wait, there's even more. Galatians 6:17 is all about the holy stigmata. Protestants tend to react by seeing this reference as mere metaphor, but perhaps not.
The stigmata of Paul, whether self-inflicted or psychosomatically produced, made him, in his own eyes and those of his followers, the supreme embodiment of the power of the mystery of god, the Lord Jesus Christ.It all makes Joseph Smith's claims seem utterly credible. Can't you just see N. T. Wright choking on his communion wine? Paul isn't just adding a few more spices to the stew, according to Maccoby, he's cooking up a whole new dish.
(This is the latest part of a review of Hyam Maccoby's 1986 book Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity.)