Johannes Weiss: Did Paul meet Jesus before the crucifixion?

I often speculated that this was so and indeed wondered why I’d never heard or read it. But alas, it is a hypothesis that has popped up in various places. Stanley Porter, in a lecture attempting to answer this question, referred to this passage in Weiss and so I began to read (I had not read it, to my shame) and I found this:

For myself I feel bound to say, whether others support my views or not, that this mode of treating the problem seems entirely unsatisfactory and unconvincing. I lay no stress upon the historical difficulty, that the struggle with the Nazarene churches can hardly have left Paul with time or inclination to gather detailed knowledge of Jesus’ life or with leisure to assimilate it (Gal. 1:22). There is a more important point to consider. I must adhere to the statement that the vision on the road to Damascus is only intelligible on the supposition that Paul recognised Jesus in the heavenly vision. He may have heard a personal description of Jesus from the first disciples or from casual observers; but could such a description have enabled him to recognise Jesus? If we seriously consider the meaning of this vision, we are forced to conclude that the features of the earthly Jesus must have been known to him, seeing that the vision showed him the glorified Jesus. And I cannot but wonder how the whole school of modern theology has been able so readily to reject the best and most natural explanation of these difficulties, namely the assumption that Paul had seen Jesus personally, and that the sight had made an indelible impression upon him, perhaps unconsciously or even against his will. “We need not consider the possibility that Paul the Pharisee may have known the Galilæan prophet in person. The possibility naturally exists, but that it was ever realised there is no certain evidence in our sources of information.” Thus Kölbing (p. 109). One indication, at least, we have in the considerations above detailed, which show that a literal interpretation of the vision presupposes Paul’s personal knowledge of Jesus. But the problem may be more directly attacked by an opposite line of argument. Where is there a single syllable to show that Paul had not seen Jesus in person? The words of the exalted One, “I am Jesus, Whom thou persecutest,” given in the three accounts of the conversion to be found in the Acts (9:5; 21:7; 26:14) are no proof that Paul then saw Jesus for the first time; they were spoken because Paul saw no figure, but only heard the voice. It would have been an obvious course, both for the author of the Acts and for Paul, to declare the very surprising fact that Paul had never seen face to face the Lord, Whom he so zealously served. Yet we find no trace of any remark to this effect. -Johannes Weiss, Paul and Jesus, trans. H. J. Chaytor, Harper’s Library of Living Thought (London; New York: Harper & Brothers, 1909), 39–41.

Ancient Assistance for Memory in the Modern Mind

Many feel as though they could become wise if they only could remember things more exactly. But how? The ancients wondered the same thing.

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Fools lack wisdom, but how do you get wisdom?

One of the fundamental questions we should ask ourselves is this, “How can I get wisdom?” Wisdom can lead to riches, happiness, success, friendships, a good name, and so-on. Who wouldn’t want the riches of wisdom in their life? Few know this, but in more ancient times, the elements of wisdom were essentially agreed upon. If wisdom is a puzzle, the completion of which would make your life less anxious, wouldn’t you want to know what the pieces were?

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Martial arts for your mind: thought kata

One of the great analogies for growing in virtue is that of a battle against the passions and appetites. The particular virtues which are like a battle in the moment are temperance and fortitude.

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What is a virtue?

Understanding virtue is so crucial for true happiness and success that you should probably read this page even if you don’t intend to read anything else at Virtus et Potentia. Essentially a virtue is a good habit. But what is a habit and what does it mean for a habit to be good?

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Why Become a Christian?

In a previous post, I explained how to become a Christian.

In this post, I wish to explain (briefly, not in full) why to become a Christian.

  1. The gospel is true and it is important to believe true things
    I’m not going to delve into a length apologetic here, but in my mind the arguments for God’s existence are convincing if their premises are accepted in the same manner that Geometry proofs are convincing. Secondly, Jesus is too compelling a character to be invented and the resurrection story is the best explanation of the rise of Christianity.
  2. Happiness
    Martin Seligman has identified five aspects of happiness in the lives of people who claim to be happy (see below). Being a part of any religion can provide these, but Christianity has a special emphasis on rejoicing in the mundane aspects of life as well as in the transcendence of God. It also includes a command to take dominion over the earth (engagement), to spend time building up other Christians in their understanding of the gospel and of their callings (relationships), an allegedly true story of the whole world (meaning), and several duties and moral priorities (accomplishment).

    1. Positive Emotions
    2. Engagement with the world
    3. Relationships
    4. Meaning
    5. Achievement
  3. To Receive Forgiveness of Sins
    Having a guilty conscience is bad and having a guilty verdict is worse. This is especially so if the verdict is concerning rebellion against infinite truth, goodness, and beauty. But thankfully, if Christianity is true, then Jesus offers God’s forgiveness to the world, through the church.
  4. Eternal Life
    Most of us do not want to die. This is a good instinct. Jesus offers you an opportunity to experience God and his creation in a fashion that is both ecstatic in quality and eternal in duration. This can freak you out, but perhaps not as much as the notion of dying.
  5. Culture
    Let’s face it. While evangelical antics can be fairly stupid and Christians have done bad things in the past, people love Christian culture. Calculus, the scientific method, the Aristotelian synthesis, and the Roman Juriprudential system were all preserved/created/improved upon by Christians. The Christian systems of meditation on creation, Scripture, and the human tradition are frankly super effective and very awesome.
  6. Evil is Real
    Evil is real and must be stood against. But many people find themselves disagreeing with an evil and being told, “That’s just your preference.” Christianity, though Christians get the details wrong, provides a grounding for opposition to human evil in our own hearts and in others with both

    1. a tradition of natural/non-religious ethical reasoning
    2. a further Biblical tradition of ethical norms

Roid Rage vs Confidence

When I was 18, I did some personal training. During my certification test, the cert group had to move us to a different building across the city.

One of the guys needed a ride because a friend had dropped him off. He was jacked. I mean, a really really big dude. He was my height but weighed about 190 pounds. I remember feeling pretty good about myself when he asked if I used steroids based on my squat numbers (which were relatively high, but not absolutely high).

Anyhow, I knew how to get to the other location, but it was on the opposite side of San Antonio, so I drove through town rather than getting on the loop because it was a straight shot.

They guy started thinking I went the wrong way and began to yell at me. He also started punching my dashboard telling me to turn around or he was going to kick my ass.

I had been doing martial arts for a couple of years by this point and I’d beaten larger men in bjj matches, but I’d never been in a real fight against a guy that big with morals turned off.

I was trying to figure out what to do, so I told the guy that it didn’t matter how big he was he had two options:

  1. Get beaten into the pavement and left on the side of the road.
  2. Shut up and go finish his certification exam.

The reason I offered the concession in option two was that I knew that unless I used a weapon, I couldn’t win but the bluff seemed pretty serious.

He chose option 2 and as we pulled up to the test site, he apologized.

I would have done two things differently now:

  1. Not offered the guy a ride.
  2. If somehow, I had given him a ride, I would have made him get out of the truck.

There’s no moral to this story, I just suddenly remembered this event that I probably hadn’t ever told anybody about outside of a small circle of friends and my karate instructor.

Fake it Till You Make It

One of the weirdest struggles I have is periodic long stretches of depressive/depressing thoughts.

I’ve never been diagnosed with depression, but I sometimes struggle with debilitating self-doubt, lack of confidence, and even feelings of meaninglessness. And when I said debilitating, I meant that on a vacation I’ve been able to literally sit and do nothing unless somebody asked me to for days in a row. I’m sure that I don’t have clinical depression, because I manage to snap myself out of it. The point of this post is that tremendous self-doubts can be overcome, but not always by debating yourself.

One of the ways the feelings I described above manifest themselves is at my various jobs. I work as a software developer and I teach in various contexts.

I often feel completely out of place around people who are significantly better trained than I am. On top of that, I can attribute my lack of capability largely to decisions I made in the past that distracted me and kept me from all sorts of success.

One of the tactics I’ve used to help me overcome such feelings has been “fake it till you make it.” Here’s a great quote on the subject from an unusually helpful article at Psychology Today:

Likewise, the most effective way to move toward change is to act like you’ve already achieved it. Don’t worry about playing mind-games with yourself. Don’t worry about affirmations. The way to become a fit person is to act like one. I’ve always found that the hardest part of exercising—the only hard part, really—is putting on my sneakers. Once they’re on, there’s pretty much a 100 percent chance of getting some form of workout done. Why else would I have these shoes on?

Now, I do think that affirmations have their place as does debating your inner-monologue, but sometimes just acting like somebody who knows what’s going on helps you learn. Similarly, acting like somebody who isn’t feeling depressed is a good way to help yourself snap out of it.

So, if you want to get out of a funk, start pretending to be a person who isn’t in a funk. This isn’t insincere, this is defense against the dark arts. You’re using built in features of your brain to get out of feelings that hurt you, end of story.

Concluding Thought

Don’t fake it till you make it without actually doing the things that a competent person does (working, thinking things through, asking questions, etc).


Here is an important comment from a good friend named Kieran:

This is good advice if you get in a bit of a funk. There can come a point though where all you’re doing is faking it and not making it. That’s a sign of something dangerous and it’s both hard to spot from the outside and hard to admit to oneself. Real depression is an illness and should be treated as such, with medication and therapy.

The Fourth ‘C’

Over at the Bold and Determined blog there is a post about the Three Cs of a morning routine (their post is great, read it).

They are:

  1. Coffee
  2. Cardio
  3. Cold Shower

These are all good ideas. I’m not a fan of aerobics or cardio as a form of fat loss or as a way to “get in shape” for that you need sprints and weight training (which exercise your heart, btw). But caffeine has tremendous neuro-protective capacity, it improves working memory, focus, alertness, etc. It’s great stuff. I would switch the coffee and cardio order though. I prefer to be fully awake before consuming my coffee. But these guys are more successful in life than I am, so their advice might be better.

Not only would I change the order, I would add a fourth.

The Fourth C

The fourth C is calling, which is not the same as career.

Career is what you do to make money. Calling is what leaves a legacy that is unique to you, your circumstance, and your abilities. I wrote about the difference here: Career vs Calling.

In the mornings you get up, get your body and brain moving and while the rest of the world sleeps you work on your calling.

If you’re a teacher, you write lectures to put online in order to build a legacy for the future.

If you’re a home school parent you plan the day’s lessons.

If you’re going back to school to learn a new skill, you perfect if before you hit your 9-5.

If you’re a pastor you practice your Greek and Hebrew.

If you’re a student, you work on your blog to practice writing.

What will you do with your extra time in the morning?

If you don’t wake up early enough for a 4-C morning, what’s stopping you? Here’s how I wake up: How to become a morning person

Applying the Advanced Thought Kata: Evaluate Your Actions

Previously, I’ve written about two thought katas:

  1. The Beginner Kata
  2. The Advanced Thought Kata

The advanced kata has applications beyond mere thoughts. If we change the words, this kata becomes a useful tool for evaluating your habits:

All habits have a purpose with a point of view based on assumptions which have consequences and form our identities.  With facts, data, and our experiences, we use inferences and judgments in order to determine if our habits are worthwhile.

The subtle shift to habits is very important because many of us mindlessly perform the same habits for decades without ever thinking about them.

Application of the first move

I think that the first part, “All habits have a purpose with a point of view,” is especially important. Many of us have habits that, since we did not adopt them on purpose, have a purpose determined by somebody else! Mindlessly watching television instead of using it as an intentional rest period can work this way.

Here is an example from the weight room. If you lift weights, you might always turn the plates one way on the barbell. This makes literally no difference in how the weight sits on the bar. But many people learn this habit in high school football and never abandon it. Btw, the best direction to face the plates depends on what body position you use to remove them from the bar.

Other habits might be more insidious. Think of getting home from work with a bag of fast food and plopping down on the couch to watch television. Where does this habit come from? Did you choose to spend 2-3 hours a day passively absorbing other people’s ideas from a screen while eating food whose quality you know you could exceed with 30 minutes in the kitchen? Whose idea was it?

All habits, all habits have a purpose. The question is, what purpose? And what are the assumptions of that habit? With regard to fast food, the assumption is that speed is of more value than nutrients or the act of creating a dish. But is this assumption true? It depends on what your own goals are.

Socratic Questions for Habits using the Advanced Thought Kata

  1. What is the purpose of this habit? Is this a good purpose (does it match my values, is it objectively good from a moral stand-point, is it objectively good for me from a health/personal goal stand point)?
  2. What point of view is implied by this habit? Is it a despairing habit, a habit based on virtue, on lack of virtue and so-on? Does this habit assume that hope is real, that time has meaning, etc?
  3. What are the results of this habit in my life? What will the results be if I keep it up (how much money am I losing, what is happening to my health, are there eternal consequences, is it hurting others, etc)?
  4. What is this habit doing to my self-concept? Is it helping me to identify more and more with the good, with my family, to be at ease with myself? Is it building relationships with the tribe or community of which I am a part? Or is it creating anxiety about my purpose in life or at odds with what I believe truly matters?
  5. With these things in mind, is this a habit I wish to pursue whole-heartedly, alter, reframe, or abandon?


The other pieces of the kata apply in similar ways to the example above, but I thought that it would be easier for me to give you questions to find your own applications than it would be for me to give you examples.

I’ve often told people these two things:

  1. Never be embarrassed to do the thing that makes you the best.*
  2. If nobody finds your habits unusual, then perhaps you haven’t thought about them enough.

Number two is especially important, because very few people have chosen their habits and so doing something precisely because you’ve thought it through will be weird. I used to get made fun of at the gym for doing one set to failure, a buddy of mine ate with a perfect diet with no cheat days to lose weight in high school, some of the people I know with the most Bible verses memorized are people who hang them up all over their house, and several of the most successful people I know make it a point to wake up and do work for several hours before the sun comes up. None of these are the habits of normal people. What will you change?

*I received one of my greatest compliments from a student whose SAT I merely supervised and I said this while we were waiting for the last group of students to arrive. Several years later she told me that that quote had completely changed her approach to life.