The Road from Damascus

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For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything. The account continues with a description of Ananias of Damascus receiving a divine revelation instructing him to visit Saul at the house of Judas on the Street Called Straight and there lay hands on him to restore his sight the house of Judas is traditionally believed to have been near the west end of the street.

Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

Acts' second telling of Paul's conversion occurs in a speech Paul gives when he is arrested in Jerusalem. For example, Acts notes that Paul's companions did not see who he was speaking to, while Acts indicates that they did share in seeing the light see also Differences between the accounts , below. This speech was most likely originally in Aramaic [6] see also Aramaic of Jesus , with the passage here being a Greek translation and summary. The speech is clearly tailored for its Jewish audience, with stress being placed in Acts on Ananias's good reputation among Jews in Damascus, rather than on his Christianity.

Acts' third discussion of Paul's conversion occurs when Paul addresses King Agrippa , defending himself against the accusations of antinomianism that have been made against him. The speech here is again tailored for its audience, emphasizing what a Roman ruler would understand: the need to obey a heavenly vision, [Acts ] and reassuring Agrippa that Christians were not a secret society. A contradiction in the details of the account of Paul's revelatory vision given in Acts has been the subject of much debate. Biblical translations of Acts generally state that Paul's companions did, indeed, hear the voice or sound that spoke to him:.

The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, for they heard the voice but could see no one.

The Road to Damascus - Saul Takes his Journey

By contrast, Catholic translations and older Protestant translations preserve the contradiction in Acts , while many modern Protestant translations such as the New International Version NIV do not:. And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid, but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me. My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.

It often takes a noun in the genitive case for a person is being heard, with a noun in the accusative for the thing being heard.

The Road from Damascus

However, there has been debate about which rule Luke was following here. Wallace finds this argument based on case inconclusive. A similar debate arises with the NIV's use of the word "sound" instead of "voice" in Acts Although it is possible that there is a contradiction in these two passages unnoticed by their author, Richard Longenecker suggests that first-century readers probably understood the two passages to mean that everybody heard the sound of the voice, but "only Paul understood the articulated words.

The conversion of Paul, in spite of his attempts to completely eradicate Christianity, is seen as evidence of the power of Divine Grace , with "no fall so deep that grace cannot descend to it" [25] and "no height so lofty that grace cannot lift the sinner to it. The transforming effect of Paul's conversion influenced the clear antithesis he saw "between righteousness based on the law," [27] which he had sought in his former life; and "righteousness based on the death of Christ," [27] which he describes, for example, in the Epistle to the Galatians.


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The Acts of the Apostles says that Paul's conversion experience was an encounter with the resurrected Christ. Alternative explanations have been proposed, including sun stroke and seizure. In , D. Landsborough published an article in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry , [28] in which he stated that Paul's conversion experience, with the bright light, loss of normal bodily posture, a message of strong religious content, and his subsequent blindness, suggested "an attack of [ temporal lobe epilepsy ], perhaps ending in a convulsion The blindness which followed may have been post-ictal.

The road from Damascus

This conclusion was challenged in the same journal by James R. Brorson and Kathleen Brewer, [29] who stated that this hypothesis failed to explain why Paul's companions heard a voice Acts , saw a light, [Acts ] or fell to the ground. Additionally, Paul's blindness remitted in sudden fashion, rather than the gradual resolution typical of post-ictal states, and no mention is made of epileptic convulsions ; indeed such convulsions may, in Paul's time, have been interpreted as a sign of demonic influence, unlikely in someone accepted as a religious leader.

A completely different theory has been put forward in by astronomer W. Hartmann [31] [32] who argues that the three accounts in the book of Acts describe exactly the sequence of events that occur when a fireball , like the Chelyabinsk meteor of , passes through the sky. This includes people being knocked off their feet and the physical effects on Saul's eyesight. And what sealing off that area meant was something like 65 checkpoints around the town and something like 12, landmines dotted around to prevent even civilians from leaving the area.

Different families had to share meals. They were getting so thin, even starting to look like skeletons. In December we had no food left. We only had grass, but not even enough. It was winter and we were expecting snow. Some kids went too close to the checkpoints to find food and had limbs blown off by land mines. You are effectively saying that the most vulnerable, the weakest, should die first.

Is he eating, is he drinking? We made so many calls to the UN offices.

Robin Yassin-Kassab

We told them, people are dying of starvation, you must help save them. But it was really hard to find out exactly what was going on. But I managed to send a message online to this Dr Khaled asking him to send me some information, to send me some evidence, of what was happening inside Madaya.

At that point I decided to film any patient who came to see me. And I just remember watching this and just being so horrified. Not believing that it was real. Khaled Naanaa Subtitled : These children were denied their very basic rights, which is some food. They only wanted something to eat. This was the biggest dream in Madaya, a piece of bread. And within 24 hours it was just everywhere. Death stealing their children from them in front of their eyes. I dropped everything and went to watch. I started calling him but his mobile was off.

These are just the pictures we see. There are hundreds of thousands of people being deliberately besieged, deliberately starved, right now. And these images, they remind us of World War II; they shock the conscience. This is what this institution was designed to prevent. That convoy was not allowed to go forward.

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We renewed those requests later in December as well too as the situation had turned south. At that point the talk ended. No more questions were asked. Mohammad Essa emaciated child : "I'm tired. For God's sake please feed us. I want to be treated. And he told me, I have a direct threat. Once Khaled made that difficult decision to leave Madaya there was actually no guarantee that he was going to get out alive.


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He decided to try and get to Lebanon. So in the middle of the night, with a people smuggler, he took this difficult route where other people had lost limbs and been killed. He was in the country illegally and he could have been handed over into the custody of Hezbollah. And the worst case scenario for him, which was actually a very, very real threat, was being handed to the Syrian regime. I felt that him sending these photos and videos out to me is what placed him in danger. I wrote an email to Australian Immigration authorities in the Middle East explaining Khaled's case, why his life was still in such danger.

She said hello, are you Khaled Naanaa? One of the author's gifts — and he has many — is to give us characters who, even at their most wilfully one-dimensional, are believable and at times funny. Ammar, Muntaha's brother, is a wonderful portrait of a would-be radical. Muntaha's Eastern European admirer flirts with Islamic terminology in order to draw closer to her. In a witty set piece, a post-Islamic intellectual delivers an insider's rant against his own cradle Islam so accurate that it seems transcribed from life.

These portraits also link us to the polyglot London that is the vividly depicted backdrop. Though we have seen Arab London before — notably in Hanan Al-Shaykh's Only in London — this is mostly through the eyes of expats and outsiders. The Road to Damascus is the first novel that takes us into the British-Arab community and the anxieties and aspirations of its second generation.

It will inevitably be compared to White Teeth and Brick Lane; at times, Sami resembles a Kureishi hero in his search for hedonistic escapes in the city. In spite of its passing resemblances to other novels, this is a very original book that deconstructs, rather than celebrates, multi-culturalism and assimilation.

Written with an insider's anger and pain, it's also a double-edged narrative that sails with bold energy between its Arab, Islamic and British references, navigating Qur'anic discourse, the exhausted rhetoric of Arab nationalism, the pseudo-academic jargon of the diasporic intelllectual. At the heart of the novel is the love story of Sami and his wife, or more exactly the story of the fraying of their love. Muntaha is, though not idealised, a positive character, secure in her religious and existential choices.

Sami's own choices are not, however, always consistent. What makes him abandon his studies and marriage: exile or displacement?