Biblical Reflection: St. Paul and the Allegory of the Cave
Plato’s famous work Allegory of the Cave and the bible passage about St. Paul’s conversion found in Acts of the Apostles 9: 1-19 have several connections and similarities between the symbols used in both passages. In both of these short texts the reader can easily recognize a symbolic prisoner, a symbolic sun, pain that the prisoner encountered, symbolic shadows, and lastly the journey back down to the cave.
In Plato’s philosophical story there is a literal prisoner that has been imprisoned since he was a youth, forced to face a wall casted with shadows unable to look away because of chains preventing him. Additionally, these shadows became the man’s reality as that is all he has ever known (1). On the other hand, in Saul’s conversion story the reader learns that Saul is a prosecutor of Jesus, because of this Saul is a prisoner to his own mind as his opinions on how to treat Christians restricted him from living out Gods plan. In the beginning of the passage Saul believes that he should be “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts of the Apostles 9: 1). Saul’s thoughts on Christians are symbolic chains within the prison of his thoughts and opinions, much like the prisoner in the Allegory of the Cave and his chains that restrict him from reality.
Moreover, in the Allegory of the Cave, the prisoner escapes and because of the sun he is capable of seeing the world outside of the cave. The prisoner’s eyes need to adjust to the brightness of the sun, and when they do he sees the true reality. In this case we can see that the sun is the provider of his understanding and knowledge of the world around him (2). On the contrary, in the bible passage the voice from the heavens that communicates to Saul is very similar to the symbol of the sun found in the allegory. The voice from the heavens says, “Saul, Saul why do you persecute me?” Saul asks, “Who are you, Lord?” The voice responds with, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do” (Acts of the Apostles 9: 4-7). This voice from the heavens initiates Saul’s understanding and beliefs towards Jesus as well the Catholic faith. Overall the voice from heaven in Saul’s conversion story is very much like the Sun in the Allegory of the Cave as b...