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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
Acts 9

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-43


Saul Becomes a Christian

1-30. The Conversion of Saul is to regarded as a miraculous event. The way for it may have been prepared by Stephen's speech, by the spectacle of the constancy of the Christian martyrs, and by Saul's own consciousness of the imperfections of the Law (Romans 7:7 to Romans 8:11). Yet there is no indication that he was anything but a violent enemy of Christianity until the moment of his conversion. His own language on this point is quite clear (1 Corinthians 15:9; Galatians 1:12-16; 1 Timothy 1:13). St. Paul always maintained that the appearance of the risen Christ to him which brought about his conversion, was as objective and real as the appearances to the other Apostles. He regarded it as the turning-point of his life, and the beginning of his new vocation. He claimed to be an Apostle of equal rank and authority with the other Apostles (2 Corinthians 11:5; Galatians 2:8, etc.), (1) because Christ had appeared to him as to the others (1 Corinthians 15:8; 1 Corinthians 9:1), and (2) because Christ had appointed him an Apostle just as He had appointed the others (Acts 22:21, etc.). For confirmation of the truth of this he appealed to 'the signs of an apostle' (miracles, conversions, etc.) which accompanied his ministry (2 Corinthians 12:12).

Saul's conversion at once gave Christianity a higher social status. He was an educated man, of good family, a rabbi, and (probably) a member of the Sanhedrin. It could no longer be objected to the teachers of the new faith that they were all ignorant and unlettered men.

The conversion of Saul is a turning-point in the history of Christianity. By conversion he became not merely a Christian, but an enlightened Christian. He perceived that the ceremonial Law was no longer binding, and his perception of this fact enabled him to preach Christianity as a universal religion. The Twelve already held this view in principle, but to Saul belongs the credit of acting upon it with energy, and of carrying it out to its logical results.

1. The high priest] The Romans allowed the Sanhedrin to exercise civil and criminal jurisdiction (except in capital cases) over the whole Jewish community, even outside Palestine.

2. Synagogues] clearly the Christians had not yet separated from the Jewish synagogues. This way] 'Way,' thus used absolutely for Christianity, is peculiar to Acts: see Acts 16:17; Acts 18:25-26; Acts 19:9, Acts 19:23; Acts 22:4; Acts 24:14, Acts 24:22.

3. A light] according to 1 Corinthians 9:1, Paul saw, within the light, Jesus Himself, in His risen and glorified body.

5. It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks] These words, which the RV omits as an interpolation from Acts 26:14, mean that the rôle of a persecutor is impossible to Paul. Paul is really in the position of a plough-ox. Jesus is his driver, and holds the goad. Paul can no more resist Jesus than the plough-ox can resist his driver. There is probably no allusion to stings of conscience, as some have supposed.

6. According to Acts 26:16, Jesus also told Paul that his mission would be to preach to the Gentiles.

7. Stood speechless] According to Acts 26:14, they fell to the earth. Hearing a voice] RV 'hearing the voice.' Yet in Acts 22:9; Paul says, 'they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.' The latter account, being Paul's own, is to be preferred. Those who wish to harmonise the two accounts translate here 'hearing the sound' (RM). But it is not necessary to harmonise. The variations in unimportant details only accentuate the general harmony.

8. Saw no man] RV 'saw nothing.'

9. Saul fasted to show his penitence.

10. Ananias] probably the head of the Christian body at Damascus. Late tradition makes him one of the Seven, consecrated bishop of Damascus by Peter and Andrew, and a martyr.

15. A chosen vessel] i.e. a chosen instrument: cp. Acts 13:2; Galatians 1:15, etc. The Gentiles] cp. Acts 22:21; Acts 26:17; Romans 1:5; Romans 11:13; Galatians 2:7, Galatians 2:8. And the children of Israel] Though Paul's mission was mainly to the Gentiles, it was his custom to preach the gospel first to the Jews: see Acts 13:14, etc.

16. I will shew him] see Acts 20:23; Acts 21:11; 2 Corinthians 11:23.

18. And was baptized] It is added (Acts 22:16) that St. Paul received at his baptism the remission of his former sins.

The three accounts of St. Paul's conversion (Acts 9, 22, 26) present some not very important variations. Thus, St. Paul alone fell to the earth (Acts 9), but in Acts 26 all fell to the earth The men heard a voice (Acts 9), but in Acts 22 they heard not the voice. These men 'saw no man' (Acts 9), but in Acts 22 they 'saw indeed the light.' In Acts 26 it is the Lord who declares that St. Paul is to be 'a minister and witness' to the Gentiles; in Acts 9 and Acts 22 it is Ananias. In Acts 26 no allusion is made to the Apostle becoming blind, or to Ananias, but it is noted that the Lord spoke in Hebrew.

19. Certain days] St. Luke makes no mention of the Arabian sojourn of St. Paul, which, according to Galatians 1:17, took place immediately after the conversion. Either St. Luke did not know of it, or thought it unimportant for his purpose. By 'Arabia' is probably meant the territory of the Nabatæans, which in the period of their greatest prosperity extended from the Euphrates to the Red Sea. To this race belonged king Aretas, whose ethnarch in Damascus endeavoured to arrest St. Paul (2 Corinthians 11:32).

20. Christ] RV 'Jesus.' The Son of God] Whatever may be the meaning of this term in the Synoptic Gospels, in the Pauline theology it undoubtedly means a preexistent divine being, consubstantial with the Father, and His agent in the Creation and Redemption of the world.

23. After many days] according to Galatians 1:18, after' three years.' The Jews] These must have persuaded the governor of king Aretas to persecute Paul: see 2 Corinthians 11:32.

25. The disciples] RV 'his disciples.'

26. It is strange that after this arduous work at Damascus the Church of Jerusalem should still doubt the fact of Paul's conversion.

27. To the apostles] according to Galatians 1, Paul stayed in Jerusalem fifteen days, and of the Apostles saw only Peter and James the Lord's brother.

29. Grecians] i.e. Greekspeaking Jews.

30. The reason why Paul was willing to leave Jerusalem is given in Acts 22:18; (a vision of Jesus in the Temple).

31. Extension of the Church in Judaea, Galilee, and Samaria.

The churches] RV 'the Church.' The local churches formed one organic whole.

32-43. Activity of Peter at Lydda and Joppa.

32. Throughout all quarters] or, 'throughout all the saints.' Lydda] in the plain of Sharon, about 10 m. SE. of Joppa, on the way to Jerusalem.

33. Æněas] the name is different from that of the hero of Virgil's poem (¯nças).

34. The Apostle healed 'in the name of Jesus.' Jesus healed in His own name, as being Himself the author of the cure.

35. Saron] or, Sharon, is a very fruitful plain extending along the coast of the Mediterranean from Joppa to Carmel (1 Chronicles 27:29; Song of Solomon 2:1, etc.).

36. Joppa] now Jaffa, the port of Jerusalem, and the only seaport ever possessed by the Jews. Dorcas] i.e. 'gazelle.'

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Acts 9:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/acts-9.html. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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