Some years ago I wrote a blogpost ‘Was the rich young ruler actually Saul of Tarsus?’
It is one of my most-viewed blogposts and some people have commented on it, but without reading the Bible commentary that went with it. So it might be helpful to simply state in summary that:
- there was no rich, young ruler. Biblical exegesis suggests that there are three different people in this incident. There was a rich man Mk 10:17, a rich young man Mat 19:18 and a rich ruler Lk 18:18, but they were different people. There is no evidence that there was a ‘rich, young ruler’, which is a conflation of three people into one. The detailed analysis is here.
- I suspect that one of them might have been Saul of Tarsus, but it cannot be proved.
In the Bible commentary I supplied with that blogpost, I referred to 1Cor 15:8 and I have been asked to explain my understanding of this passage.
There are various translations of this passage. As usual, current versions copy each other, most interpreting it either as ‘an abnormal birth’ or as birth ‘at the wrong time’. The International Standard Version translates it ‘as though I were born abnormally late’, whereas the correct translation is the exact opposite, being born abnormally early.
The Greek word used here for ‘one born out of due time’ occurs only once in the New Testament, but it occurs three times in the LXX, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, at Job 3:16, Ps 58:8 and Ecc 6:3, where it refers to a miscarriage – being born too early, not too late, and thus aborting.
Some current versions have translated it correctly. The Aramaic Bible in Plain English has ‘an aborted baby’ and God’s Word Translation says ‘an aborted fetus’, but there is little excuse for the mistaken translations because the Darby Bible Translation had ‘an abortion’ since 1890 at least.
So what does Paul mean? In what sense did Paul miscarry? He was a witness of Christ’s resurrection ‘last of all the apostles’ 1Cor 15:7-8, but here Paul suggests that he had opportunity to become a disciple of Jesus Christ before Christ’s resurrection, but he miscarried. He was about ten years younger than Jesus and he had been a disciple of Gamaliel in Jerusalem. There is a strong possibility that he saw and even heard Jesus speak 2Cor 5:16, but he never became a disciple of Jesus at this stage in his life. This seems to be what he means by miscarrying.
This being so, Saul of Tarsus may have been the young man whom Jesus loved Mk 10:21, who miscarried by going away and failing to follow Jesus.
In due course, when he became an apostle of Jesus Christ, he learned his lesson and could write to the Philippians: ‘what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and reckon them to be rubbish in order that I should gain Christ’ Php 3:8.
The conversion of Saul of Tarsus from rabid opponent of Christianity to its foremost apostle is one of the significant testimonies to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. He knew about the empty tomb and that the dead body of Jesus Christ had never been discovered. If its whereabouts were known, the Jews could easily have said so in order to counteract the Christians. Instead, the apostle Paul preached the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, endangering his own life in the process.
The whole of 1Corinthians 15 is Paul’s defence of the doctrine and you can read it here.