From Saul the Pharisee to Paul the Apostle: The Conversion of Paul, a Prototype for Africans’ Conversion to Christianity?

Elia Shabani Mligo ORCID iD

Issue: Vol.7  No.1  January 2021 Issue  Article 3 pp. 21-29
DOI :  |   Published online 26th January 2021.
© 2021 The Author(s). This is an open access article under the CCBY license (


This article grapples with the question of the relevance of Paul’s conversion in Acts 8-9 in relation to the current African conversion to Christianity. While for many years, scholars have considered the conversion of Paul on his way to Damascus as a proto-type for people’s conversion to Christianity from other religions, this article argues that it can hardly be regarded in that way for African people’s conversion from African Traditional Religion (ATR) to Christianity due to the nature of ATR and its major emphasis. Christianity mostly emphasizes “other-worldly” affairs neglecting “this-worldly” affairs of humanity being conceived as a religion of the “hereafter,” the heavenly religion having little to do with this-worldly affairs. Instead, ATR, due to its concern about people’s current world’s predicaments becomes a religion favored by most Africans even after their conversion to Christianity.

Keywords: Paul’s Conversion, Prototype, Christian Conversion, African Traditional Religion.

Adamo, David Tuesday. “Christianity and the African Traditional Religion(s): The Postcolonial Round of  Engagement.” Verbum et Ecclesia 32, no.1 (2011), Art.285, 10 pages. doi:10.4102/ve.v32i1.285.

Akino-Otiko, Akinmayowa & Abbas, Aremu Rahman. “Return to African Traditional Religion after Conversion to Christianity or Islam: Patronage of Culture or Religious Conversion?” Ilorin Journal of Religious Studies 9, no.1 (2019): 27–36.

Amaladoss, Michael. “Religious Conversions: An Indian Christian Point of View.” Hindu-Christian Studies Bulletin 15 (2002): 3–5.

Banda, Collium. “The Sufficiency of Christ in Africa: A Christological Challenge from African Traditional Religions.” M.Th. Thesis, University of South Africa, 2005.

Bosch, J.D. Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. New York, NY: Orbis, 1991.

Boz, Tuba. “Religious Conversion, Models and Paradigms.” Epiphany: Journal of Transdisciplinary Studies 4, no.1 (2011): 128–145.

Cox, Richard. “Why Rangi Christians Continue to Practice African Traditional Religion? GIALens 3 (2008). Accessed January 6, 2021. ice-ATR.pdf

Dunn, James D.G. Jesus, Paul and the Law: Studies in Mark and Galatians. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1990.

Gaventa, Beverly R. From Darkness to Light: Aspects of Conversion in the New Testament. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986.

Gration, John A. “Conversion in Cultural Context.” International Bulletin of Missionary Research (1983): 157–162.

Ghansah, William Ekow. “Encounters between Christianity and African Traditional Religion in Fante Funeral Practices: A Critical Discussion of the Funeral Practices of the Fante in Ghana.” M.Phil. Thesis, University of Oslo Norway, 2012.

Hale, F. “Debating Igbo Conversion to Christianity: A Critical Indigenous View.” Acta Theologica 2 (2006): 116–135.

Kilbourne, Brock & Richardson, James T. “Paradigm Conflict, Types of Conversion, and Conversion Theories.” Sociological Analysis 50, no.1 (1988): 1 – 21.

Loba-Mkole, Jean-Claude. “Paul and Africa?” HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 67, no.1 (2011) Art. 888, 11 pages. DOI: 10.4102/hts.v67i1.888.

Longenecker, R.N. (ed.). The Road from Damascus: The Impact of Paul’s Conversion on His Life, Thought and Ministry. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997.

Mathole, Ezekiel Mokwele Katiso. “The Christian Witness in the Context of Poverty: With Special Reference to South African Charismatic Evangelicals.” PhD Thesis, University of Pretoria, South Africa, 2005.

Moe, David Thang. “Themes and Methodologies in Pauline Missiology for a Contemporary World.” Missionalia 45. no. 2 (2017): 99–116.

Mugabe, H.J. “Salvation from an African Perspective.” Evangelical Review of Theology 23/3 (1999): 238–247.

Munck, Johannes. Paul and the Salvation of Mankind. Atlanta, GA: John Knox, 1959.

Owineza, Marcel. “The Conversion of St. Paul.” Thinking Faith: The Online Journal of the British Jesuits(2011). Accessed January 6, 2021

Peace, Richard V. Conversion in the New Testament: Paul and the Twelve. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1999.

Pilch, John J. “Paul’s Ecstatic Trance Experience near Damascus in Acts of the Apostles.” HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 58, no. 2 (2000): 690–707.

Rweyemamu, Josephat Alphonce. “Conversion in Missionary Christianity, Northwest Tanzania: A Critical Assessment of Methods and Their Impact on Haya Christian Life.” PhD Thesis, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, 2012.

Sewakpo, Honore, “A Comparative Analysis of Pre-conversion of Paul in Acts 8 – 9 and Boko Haram Insurgence in Nigeria: Implications for National Unity.”

Smith, Gordon T. Beginning Well: Christian Conversion and Authentic Transformation. Downer Grove, IL: VIP Books, 2001.

Snow, David A. & Machalek, Richard. “The Sociology of Conversion.” Annual Review of Sociology 10 (1984):167–190.

______. “The Convert as a Social Type.” In Sociological Theory, ed. Collins, R. San Francisco: Jossey Bass,1983.

Stendahl, Krister. Paul Among Jews and Gentiles and other Essays. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976.

______. “The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West.” Harvard Theological Review 56. no. 3 (1963): 199–215.

Togarasei, Lovemore. “The Conversion of Paul in the Light of the Theory of Cognitive Dissonance.” Zambezia XXXI, no. i/ii (2004): 123–135.

______. The Bible in Context: Essay Collection. BiAS 1. Bamberg: University of Bamberg Press, 2009.

Elia Shabani Mligo is Associate Professor of Contextual Theology and Research at Teofilo Kisanji University in Mbeya Tanzania. Prof. Mligo has published extensively in areas of Contextual Theology and Research. His currently published books include, but not limited to, the following: Women within Religions: Patriarchy, Feminism and the Role of Women in Selected World Religions (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock/Resource, 2020), Rediscovering Jesus in Our Places: Contextual Theology and Its Relevance to Contemporary Africa (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock/Resource, 2020), Writing Effective Course Assignments: A Guide to Non-Degree and Undergraduate Students (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock/Resource, 2016) and Introduction to Research Methods and Report Writing: A Practical Guide for Students and Researchers in Social Sciences and the Humanities (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock/Resource, 2016).

Mligo,E.S,  “From Saul the Pharisee to Paul the Apostle: The Conversion of Paul, a Prototype for Africans’  Conversion to Christianity?” E-Journal of Religious and Theological Studies, 7 no.1 (2021): 21-29

© 2021 The Author(s). Published and Maintained by Noyam Publishers. This is an open access article under the CCBY license (