Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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ACTS - Chapter 9

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Acts 9

Supplemental Commentary:

I.  THE CHURCH IN PALESTINE AND SYRIA  2, 1 -- 12, 25 (continued)

2.  The Church in Judea and Samaria  8, 4 -- 9, 43 (continued)

9, 1-30:  The Vision of Saul; His Baptism and Zeal.  The Acts contain three accounts of St. Paul's conversion.  In 9, 3-18 it is St. Luke's narrative;  in 22, 6-16 it is St. Paul's summary to the Jews at Jerusalem when they were seeking to kill him; in 26, 12-18 there is another summary by St. Paul before King Agrippa and Festus, the Roman procurator.  Critics have vainly tried to discredit these accounts by claiming that they involve contradictions.  (a) It is claimed there is a contradiction between  9, 7 where St. Paul's companions are said to have heard the voice speaking to him, and 22, 9 where it is said they did not hear it.  The explanation is found in the different meanings of the word "hear"; they heard the sound of the voice, but did not understand what was said.  (b) In 9, 7 it is said his companions stood speechless, while in 26, 14 all are said to have fallen to the ground.  What is emphasized in 9, 7 is that his companions remained speechless; no attention is given to the effect the light had on them.  (c) Another supposed contradiction concerns the source from which St. Paul learned his future vocation; in 9, 15 f and in 22, 15 he learns it from Ananias, but in 26, 16 he learns it directly from Christ.  The solution is that in 26, 16 St. Paul, speaking in summary form, refers to Christ calling him without saying whether He spoke to him directly or through the medium of Ananias, or both.

2.  Being Jews, the disciples in Damascus could be denounced by the synagogues there as guilty of blasphemy, just as those in Jerusalem had been.  The civil ruler would not interfere, since in localities where they were numerous the Jews usually secured the privilege of holding their own courts for Jewish offenders.  The synagogues would either acknowledge the authority of the Sanhedrin or could be expected to yield to its wishes for the extradition of the converts, especially if these had fled from Jerusalem to escape prosecution.    3.  The light was brighter than the sun which was then shining in all the splendor of noon (26, 13).    4.  Jesus identifies Himself with His disciples; so close is His union with them that to persecute them is to persecute Christ Himself.  St. Paul is given his first glimpse of the doctrine of the Mystical Body which he develops in Eph.; Col.; 1 Cor. 12, 12 ff.    5.  It is hard . . . Lord said to him: not in the Greek, though the first part is in Acts 22, 10 and 26, 14.  This proverb is drawn from the image of an ox goaded by its driver which by kicking merely increases the pain of the goad.  Like many others St. Paul had previously been urged toward faith in Christ by the preaching of the Apostles and by the example of the disciples, especially in the persecution, and now there was the special extraordinary urging of this vision.  The kicking might in itself indicate the pricks of conscience, but up to this time St. Paul had given no sign that his conscience was uneasy; as in the image of the goaded ox, the struggle is against something external.  Francis Thompson's "Hound of Heaven" is built upon this same idea that it is hard to resist Christ.

12.  This vision, granted to St. Paul while our Lord was speaking to Ananias, prepares him for the visit of Ananias and the recovery of his sight.    16.  The cross must be borne by all the followers of Jesus, but especially by those who distinguish themselves in His service.    17.  This laying on of hands was not sacramental, but was for the purpose of restoring his sight and preparing him for Baptism.

22.  After the preliminary preaching of v.21, St. Paul retired for a while to Arabia (Gal. 1, 17), probably to a deserted spot near Damascus, for quiet study and prayer.  Returning to the city, he boldly confronted the Jews and demonstrated that Jesus is the Messias by carefully elaborated arguments drawn from the Scriptures and from the facts of His life.    26-30.  This visit to Jerusalem lasted only fifteen days (Gal. 1, 18).  As in Damascus, he entered into argument with the Hellenistic Jews, but they refused to listen to one whom they regarded as an apostate.  From v.27 it is clear that at the time of his conversion St. Paul had not only heard Jesus speaking to him, but had also seen Him.  After returning to his native Tarsus St. Paul occupied himself with preaching to the Jews in the neighboring districts of Syria and Cilicia (Gal. 1, 21) till Barnabas told him of the great work to be done among the Gentiles at Antioch (Acts 11, 25).

9, 31-43:  Peter Visits the Churches.  The violence of the persecution gradually spent itself and the Church throughout Palestine enjoyed a period of peace.  Then St. Peter as supreme pastor made a tour of all the churches, administering Confirmation to those who had been baptized by the evangelists and by his preaching and miracles increasing the number of converts.


Confraternity Bible:

The Vision of Saul  1 But Saul, still breathing threats of slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, when to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, that if he found any men or women belonging to this Way, he might bring them in bonds to Jerusalem.  3 And as he went on his journey, it came to pass that he drew near to Damascus, when suddenly a light from heaven shone round about him; 4 and falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why dost thou persecute me?"  5 And he said, "Who art thou, Lord?"  And he said, "I am Jesus, whom thou art persecuting.  [It is hard for thee to kick against the goad."  6 And he, trembling and amazed, said, "Lord, what wilt thou have me do?"  And the Lord said to him,] "Arise and go into the city, and it will be told thee what thou must do."  7 Now the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing indeed the voice, but seeing no one.  8 And Saul arose from the ground, but when his eyes were opened, he could see nothing.  And leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus.  9 And for three days he could not see, and he neither ate nor drank.

Saul's Baptism  10 Now there was in Damascus a certain disciple named Ananias, and the Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias."  And he said, "Here I am, Lord."  11 And the Lord said to him, "Arise and go to the street called Straight and ask at the house of Judas for a man of Tarsus named Saul.  For behold, he is praying."  12* (And he saw a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands upon him that he might recover his sight.)  13* But Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to thy saints in Jerusalem.  14 And here too he has authority from the high priests to arrest all who invoke thy name."  15 But the Lord said to him, "Go, for this man is a chosen vessel to me, to carry my name among nations and kings and the children of Israel.  16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for my name."

17 So Ananias departed and entered the house, and laying his hands upon him, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord has sent me---Jesus, who appeared to thee on thy journey---that thou mayest recover thy sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit."  18 And straightway there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he recovered his sight, and arose, and was baptized.  19 And after taking some food, he regained his strength.

Saul's Zeal  Now for some days he joined the disciples in Damascus, 20 and straightway in the synagogues he began to preach that Jesus is the Son of God.  21 And all who heard him were amazed and said, "Is not this he who used to make havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name, and who has come here for the purpose of taking them in bonds to the chief priests?"

22 But Saul grew all the stronger and confounded the Jews who were living in Damascus, proving that this is the Christ.

23 But as time passed on the Jews made a plot to kill him.  24 But their plot became known to Saul.  They were even guarding the gates both day and night in order to kill him; 25 but his disciples took him by night and let him down over the wall, lowering him in a basket.

26 Now on his arrival at Jerusalem he tried to join the disciples, and they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple.  27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles, and he told them how on his journey he had seen the Lord, that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had acted boldly in the name of Jesus.  28 And he moved freely among them in Jerusalem, acting boldly in the name of the Lord; 29 he also spoke and disputed with the Hellenists; but they sought to kill him.  30 When the brethren got to know this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus.

Peter Visits the Churches  31 Now throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria the Church was in peace and was being built up, walking in fear of the Lord, and it was filled with the consolation of the Holy Spirit.  32 And it came to pass that Peter, while visiting all the saints, came to those living at Lydda.  33 And he found there a certain man named Aeneas who had kept his bed eight years, being a paralytic.  34 And Peter said to him, "Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals thee; get up and make thy bed."  And straightway he got up.  35 And all who lived at Lydda and in Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.

36 Now at Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha (which is translated Dorcas); this woman had devoted herself to good works and acts of charity.  37 But it happened that at this time she fell ill and died; and they washed her, and laid her in an upper room.  38 And as Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, "Come on to us without delay."  39 And Peter arose and went with them, and on his arrival they took him to the upper room.  And all the widows stood about him weeping and showing him the tunics and cloaks which Dorcas used to make for them.  40 But Peter, putting them all out, knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body, he said, "Tabitha, arise."  And she opened her eyes and, seeing Peter, she sat up.  41 Then Peter gave her his hand and raised her up; and calling the saints and the widows, he gave her back to them alive.  42 And it became known all over Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.  43 And it came to pass that he stayed some time in Joppa at the house of one Simon, a tanner.
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12: This parenthesis describes a vision which St. Paul had while our Lord was speaking to Ananias.

13: Saints: those separated from other men and united to Christ.  They are sanctified by the presence in Him of the Holy Spirit.