Saul’s Conversion. 1#This is the first of three accounts of Paul’s conversion (with Acts 22:3–16 and Acts 26:2–18) with some differences of detail owing to Luke’s use of different sources. Paul’s experience was not visionary but was precipitated by the appearance of Jesus, as he insists in 1 Cor 15:8. The words of Jesus, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” related by Luke with no variation in all three accounts, exerted a profound and lasting influence on the thought of Paul. Under the influence of this experience he gradually developed his understanding of justification by faith (see the letters to the Galatians and Romans) and of the identification of the Christian community with Jesus Christ (see 1 Cor 12:27). That Luke would narrate this conversion three times is testimony to the importance he attaches to it. This first account occurs when the word is first spread to the Gentiles. At this point, the conversion of the hero of the Gentile mission is recounted. The emphasis in the account is on Paul as a divinely chosen instrument (Acts 9:15). Now Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord,#8:3; 9:13; 22:4; 1 Cor 15:9; Gal 1:13–14. went to the high priest#9:14; 26:10. 2and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that, if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way,#The Way: a name used by the early Christian community for itself (Acts 18:26; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22). The Essene community at Qumran used the same designation to describe its mode of life. he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains. 3On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him.#1 Cor 9:1; 15:8; Gal 1:16. 4He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”#22:6; 26:14. 5He said, “Who are you, sir?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.#22:8; 26:15; Mt 25:40. 6Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.”#22:10; 26:16. 7The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, for they heard the voice but could see no one.#22:9; 26:13–14. 8Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing;#He could see nothing: a temporary blindness (Acts 9:18) symbolizing the religious blindness of Saul as persecutor (cf. Acts 26:18). so they led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus.#22:11. 9For three days he was unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank.
Saul’s Baptism. 10#22:12–16. There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias, and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” 11The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is there praying,#21:39. 12and [in a vision] he has seen a man named Ananias come in and lay [his] hands on him, that he may regain his sight.” 13But Ananias replied, “Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man, what evil things he has done to your holy ones#Your holy ones: literally, “your saints.” in Jerusalem.#8:3; 9:1. 14And here he has authority from the chief priests to imprison all who call upon your name.”#9:1–2; 26:10; 1 Cor 1:2; 2 Tm 2:22. 15But the Lord said to him, “Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and Israelites,#22:15; 26:1; 27:24. 16and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name.” 17So Ananias went and entered the house; laying his hands on him, he said, “Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me, Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came, that you may regain your sight and be filled with the holy Spirit.” 18Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. He got up and was baptized, 19and when he had eaten, he recovered his strength.#This is a brief resume of Paul’s initial experience as an apostolic preacher. At first he found himself in the position of being regarded as an apostate by the Jews and suspect by the Christian community of Jerusalem. His acceptance by the latter was finally brought about through his friendship with Barnabas (Acts 9:27).
Saul Preaches in Damascus. He stayed some days with the disciples in Damascus, 20and he began at once to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.#Son of God: the title “Son of God” occurs in Acts only here, but cf. the citation of Ps 2:7 in Paul’s speech at Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13:33). 21All who heard him were astounded and said, “Is not this the man who in Jerusalem ravaged those who call upon this name, and came here expressly to take them back in chains to the chief priests?” 22But Saul grew all the stronger and confounded [the] Jews who lived in Damascus, proving that this is the Messiah.
Saul Visits Jerusalem. 23After a long time had passed, the Jews conspired to kill him, 24#2 Cor 11:32–33. but their plot became known to Saul. Now they were keeping watch on the gates day and night so as to kill him, 25but his disciples took him one night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket.
26#Gal 1:18. When he arrived in Jerusalem#This visit of Paul to Jerusalem is mentioned by Paul in Gal 1:18. he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. 27Then Barnabas took charge of him and brought him to the apostles, and he reported to them how on the way he had seen the Lord and that he had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus. 28He moved about freely with them in Jerusalem, and spoke out boldly in the name of the Lord. 29He also spoke and debated with the Hellenists,#Hellenists: see note on Acts 6:1–7. but they tried to kill him. 30And when the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him on his way to Tarsus.#11:25.
The Church at Peace. 31#In the context of the period of peace enjoyed by the community through the cessation of Paul’s activities against it, Luke introduces two traditions concerning the miraculous power exercised by Peter as he was making a tour of places where the Christian message had already been preached. The towns of Lydda, Sharon, and Joppa were populated by both Jews and Gentiles and their Christian communities may well have been mixed. The church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria was at peace. It was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord, and with the consolation of the holy Spirit it grew in numbers.
Peter Heals Aeneas at Lydda. 32As Peter was passing through every region, he went down to the holy ones living in Lydda. 33There he found a man named Aeneas, who had been confined to bed for eight years, for he was paralyzed. 34Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and make your bed.” He got up at once. 35And all the inhabitants of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.
Peter Restores Tabitha to Life. 36Now in Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which translated means Dorcas).#Tabitha (Dorcas), respectively the Aramaic and Greek words for “gazelle,” exemplifies the right attitude toward material possessions expressed by Jesus in the Lucan Gospel (Lk 6:30; 11:41; 12:33; 18:22; 19:8). She was completely occupied with good deeds and almsgiving. 37Now during those days she fell sick and died, so after washing her, they laid [her] out in a room upstairs. 38Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, “Please come to us without delay.” 39So Peter got up and went with them. When he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs where all the widows came to him weeping and showing him the tunics and cloaks that Dorcas had made while she was with them. 40Peter sent them all out and knelt down and prayed. Then he turned to her body and said, “Tabitha, rise up.” She opened her eyes, saw Peter, and sat up.#Mk 5:40–41. 41He gave her his hand and raised her up, and when he had called the holy ones and the widows, he presented her alive. 42This became known all over Joppa, and many came to believe in the Lord. 43#The fact that Peter lodged with a tanner would have been significant to both the Gentile and Jewish Christians, for Judaism considered the tanning occupation unclean. #10:6. And he stayed a long time in Joppa with Simon, a tanner.