THE VISION OF PAUL

Here is another 14th century fresco image from the Vysokie Dechani Monastery in Serbia:

If you are familiar with the Bible — which fewer and fewer people are these days — you may recognize the story depicted.  Here it consists of three scenes, and the central scene is the clue to identification.

Here is the scene at left:

The inscription at the top tells us what is happening.  It is a variant of Acts 9:1-2.  Here it is as found in the “Elizabeth” Bible:

Савл [Саул] же, еще дыхая прещением и убийством на ученики Господни, приступль ко архиерею, испроси от него послания в Дамаск к соборищем, яко да аще некия обрящет того пути сущыя, мужы же и жены, связаны приведет во Иерусалим.

And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.

So we see this image depicts Saul — who was to become the Apostle Paul — during his period of persecuting Christians.  In the image, we see Paul at right, standing before the High Priest.

The central scene depicts the Vision of Paul — the appearance of Jesus to him on the road to Damascus.  The top inscription is a variant of Acts 9:3:

Внегда же ити, бысть ему приближитися к Дамаску, и внезапу облиста его свет от небесе:

And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shone round about him a light from heaven.

We see Paul falling to the ground, as Jesus (in the “Immanuel” form) appears to him in the sky.  According to the account in Acts 9:3-7:

3 ἐν δὲ τῷ πορεύεσθαι ἐγένετο αὐτὸν ἐγγίζειν τῇ Δαμασκῷ, ἐξαίφνης τε αὐτὸν περιήστραψεν ⸃ φῶς ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ,
4 καὶ πεσὼν ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν ἤκουσεν φωνὴν λέγουσαν αὐτῷ Σαοὺλ Σαούλ, τί με διώκεις;
5 εἶπεν δέ · Τίς εἶ, κύριε; ὁ δέ · Ἐγώ εἰμι Ἰησοῦς ὃν σὺ διώκεις ·σκληρον σοι προς κεντρα λακτιζειν
τρεμων τε και θαμβων ειπεν κυριε τι με θελεις ποιησαι και ο κυριος προς αυτον ἀλλὰ ἀνάστηθι καὶ εἴσελθε εἰς τὴν πόλιν, καὶ λαληθήσεταί σοι ὅ τί ⸃ σε δεῖ ποιεῖν.
7 οἱ δὲ ἄνδρες οἱ συνοδεύοντες αὐτῷ εἱστήκεισαν ἐνεοί, ἀκούοντες μὲν τῆς φωνῆς μηδένα δὲ θεωροῦντες.

“And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shone round about him a light out of heaven:
And falling to the earth, he heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’
And he said, ‘Who are you, Lord [gr. kyrie]?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you persecute: it is hard for thee to kick against the goads’ [a goad is a sharp pole  used to control an animal through pain].
And he trembling and astonished said, ‘Lord, what will you have me do?’ And the Lord said to him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told you what you must do.”

The portion underlined in Greek and in bold type in English is not found in early Greek manuscripts, and occurs only in one 14th century manuscript, though it appears in varied manner in some Latin manuscripts from the 5th -12th centuries.

The scene at right depicts Paul — blinded by the vision, being led into the city of Damascus.  He is acting on the words spoken by Jesus in his vision, as the inscription tells us — again, a variant of a segment of Acts 9:6:

И Господь рече к нему: востани и вниди во град….

“And the Lord said to him, Arise, and go into the city….”

Greek icons of the incident on the road to Damascus generally bear a title such as: ΤΟ ὉΡΑΜΑ ΤΟΥ ΑΠΟCΤΟΛΟΥ ΠΑΒΛΟΥ
TO HORAMA TOU APOSTOLOU PAVLOU
“The Vision of the Apostle Paul”

In Slavic that is:
ВИДЕНИЕ АПОСТОЛА ПАВЛА
VIDENIE APOSTOLA PAVLA
“Vision of the Apostle Paul.”

Titles of this type vary, however,  so one may find instead something like “The Journey of Paul to Damascus.”

 

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