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The Blinding of Paul and the Power of God: Masculinity, Sight, and Self-Control in Acts 9
Abstract

Abstract:

Treatments on the Lukan Paul have traditionally taken his status as a “man” for granted, rarely assessing the central character of Luke’s second volume in relation to ancient constructions of masculinity. Yet while Paul evinces some characteristically masculine traits, he is by no means the paragon of a “manly” man. This point is particularly evident in Acts 9 with Paul’s conversion, or call to follow Jesus. Here Paul, while en route to Damascus, loses control of his bodily faculties as a result of his encounter with “the Lord,” culminating in his loss of sight. For at least a number of Luke’s hearers, Paul’s divinely inflicted blindness would have arguably undermined his standing as a “manly” man, since blindness in the ancient world was viewed as particularly debilitating and, for a man who has that disability foisted upon him, emasculating. This article traces the story of Paul’s encounter with “the Lord” Jesus and his resulting blindness in Acts 9, examining (1) Paul’s loss of self-control, (2) the “unmanly” nature of blindness in the ancient world, and finally (3) Paul’s restoration of sight and subsequent characterization. After journeying with Paul on his way to Damascus, I will maintain that Luke’s first snapshot of his so-called hero Paul is anything but heroic and is, in fact, manifestly unmanly. When Paul loses his sight and self-control in Acts 9, he becomes subject to a God whose power is made complete in the persecuted person of Jesus, the crucified “Lord.”


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