Paul's Trance - What It Says About Paul
Paul in Acts 22:17 speaks of experiencing a "trance" where the Jesus he met outside Jerusalem next spoke to him.
What is a trance? In Greek, it is the word "ekstasis." Our English word "ecstasy" derives from it.
Sabine-Baring Gould in A Study of St. Paul, His Character & Opinions (1897) at 118 wrote:
"At this point, just before starting for Antioch, Paul fell into an ecstasy, and in this condition received a mysterious communication from on high."
Gould opines that the 12 apostles when they finally met Paul regarded Paul suspiciously, as even the message Paul relayed from the "trance" implied would be the case, thinking to themselves why didn't Jesus instead tell them directly of Paul's mission:
Obviously, the apostles did not altogether trust Paul's account of his vision seen at Antioch. They thought he had unwittingly colored it to suit his own wishes. They may have argued that for the vision to be satisfactory it should be accorded to them rather than to Paul, who was only over eager to make a new departure. Id., at 121-22.
Gould explains the proofs from Acts:
Then it was, that, vexed at heart because the Twelve did not respond cordially to his proposals, Paul fell into a trance, while praying in the Temple. He saw Christ who said: 'Make haste and get quickly out of Jerusalem, for they will not receive your testimony concerning me." These words certainly intimate mistrust as to the fidelty of facts in Paul's statement relative to his commission received in a vision." Id., at 122.
Then Baring Gould says Paul's account before Agrippa of this trance raised more questions than it answered. We read on page 122:
Baring Gould then says Paul let's us know Paul did not receive any acknowledgment from men of his apostleship, including the 12 - Paul insisted it only came from Christ - page 124:
Trace Evidence of Continuing Non-Acceptance of Paul
Further, in Romans 15, Paul speaks of persecution by those who are "disobedient" in Judea, and seeking to bring a cash gift to Jerusalem, yet seeks prayer from the Romans that his "ministration" (cash gift) will be "acceptable to those in Jerusalem." Paul writes:
30 Now I beseech you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me;
31 that I may be delivered from them that are disobedient in Judaea, and that my ministration which I have for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints; (Romans 15:30-31, ASV.)
Hence, evidently, Paul was anticipating opposition in Judea and that the saints there might not accept the gift he was bringing.
What Is A Trance?
In the Original Testament, Saul - the rebellious Benjamite - experienced a trance, and Balaam - the true prophet who later turns false - did likewise. Both were expressed by the same word in the Greek Septuagint translation of 257 BC as in Luke's account of Paul's trance.This is interesting as both King Saul and Balaam are parallels to Benjamite Paul-Saul. Here is an excerpt from the Faussett-Brown dictionary entry on "Trance."
Greek ekstasis (Numbers 24:4; Numbers 24:16). Balaam "fell" (into a trance is not in the Hebrew) overpowered by the divine inspiration, as Saul (1 Samuel 19:24) "lay down naked (stripped of his outer royal robes) all that day and all that night." God's word in Balaam's and Saul's cases acted on an alien will and therefore overpowered the bodily energies by which that will ordinarily worked. Luke, the physician and therefore one likely to understand the phenomena, alone used the term.
...Paul in trance received his commission, "depart far hence unto the Gentiles."