Re: Conversion in Luke Acts

From: Edgar Krentz (
Date: Wed Apr 09 1997 - 11:59:05 EDT

You wrote:

>I am currently enrolled in a paper entitled Paul in Focus which is looking
>primarily at the three conversion stories in Acts i.e. 9, 22 and 26. However
>therein lies the question. The word for conversion epistrepho does not
>appear at all in these accounts and some suggest that Paul has only been
>My questions then are as follows.
>What are the semantics of epistrepho?
>Is it a technical term that deals with turning as an act or is it
>specifically related to turning to God?
>How does this relate to metanoia which is used in Peter's speech?
>Although the word convert is not mentioned in Paul's 'conversion' accounts
>could it be that if the account's activities correspond to what we
>understand as convesion then we may as well cll it that?
>It seems to me that Paul has done an about turn from persecutor to
>persecuted, from beleiving the torah to be the way of salvation to seeing it
>as hinging upon Jesus. Is Paul's acceptance of Jesus as risen Lord then to
>be seen as conversion, repentance, call or all of the above?

You are caught here in the definition of conversion. K. Stendahl argues
that Paul was not converted, since he still worshipped the same God after
the Damascus road experience that he did before. (See Paul among Jews and

The standard volume on ancient conversion is by Arthur Darby Nock:
<i>Conversion<i/> (Oxford University Press). You might also want to look at
Ramsey MacMullen's <i>Christianizing the Roman Empire<i/> (title from

Definition is important. Lucian's Nigrinus tells the story of his
conversion to philosophy, as does Justin Martyr about his conversion from
philosophy to Christianity in his Dialogue with Trypho. Read them and then
form yoiur definition of conversion. You might find conversion in the term
METANOEW/METANOIA (see the end of Paul's sermon in Acts 17)

Edgar Krentz, New Testament
Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
Tel: [773] 256-0752; (H) [773] 947-8105

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