Acts Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern
1. Meanwhile, Sha’ul, still breathing murderous threats against the Lord’s talmidim, went to the cohen hagadol
2. and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Dammesek, authorizing him to arrest any people he might find, whether men or women, who belonged to “the Way,” and bring them back to Yerushalayim.
Sha'ul was so incensed against the Messianic Jews (8:3) that he was not satisfied to conduct his inquisitions and persecutions only in Yerushalayim. Letters from the cohen hagadol would carry weight in the Diaspora. Under Roman rule the Sanhedrin did not have temporal power; but in internal Jewish matters it was honored even beyond the borders of Israel, for example, in Damascus (v. 3).
People... who belonged to '4he Way." Evidently this is how the early believers referred to themselves (19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14&N, 22). Other Jews, in calling them Natzratim or Notzrim, identified them as one Jewish school or sect among many (24:5&N); but the term 'The Way" is a claim to universal validity for Yeshua's doctrine and practice. Indeed, Yeshua called himself "the Way" (Yn 14:6).
Bring them back to Yerushalayim for trial and punishment (22:5). Apparently Sha'ul had become the Sanhedrin's prosecuting attorney (on his Sanhedrin membership see 7:58&N. 8:1 &N, 26:10&N).
He wanted to extradite people from Damascus across two borders to Jerusalem. The basis in Roman law for doing such a thing might have been that Messianism was not a religio licita, a "legal religion" given certain protections by the Romans, whereas Judaism was. Against this idea is the fact that Roman Emperors Nero and Claudius saw the Messianics as a Jewish sect, hence would have included them in the protection given Jews.
3. He was on the road and nearing Dammesek, when suddenly a light from heaven flashed all around him.
4. Falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Sha’ul! Sha’ul! Why do you keep persecuting me?”
A voice. The best known of many rabbinic stories about a bat-kol (voice from heaven, literally "daughter of a voice"; see Yn 12.28&N) is found in the Talmud. One time, in a dispute over a point of halakhah (Jewish law),
"Rabbi Eli'ezer adduced in defense of his opinion all the arguments in the world, but the audience of rabbis did not accept them. He said, 'If I am right about this point of halakhah, let this carob tree prove it!' Whereupon the carob tree moved two hundred feet from its place. 'A carob tree,' they retorted, 'doesn't prove a thing!'
"So he said to them, 'If the halakhah agrees with me, let the stream of water prove it!" And the stream flowed backward. 'Water proves nothing,' they said. "Again, he said, 'If the halakhah agrees with me, let the walls of this beit-midrash ["house of study"] prove it!' Then the walls of the house bent inward, as if they were about to fall down. But Rabbi Y'hoshua rebuked the walls and said, 'If scholars debate halakhah, what business is it of yours?' So to honor Rabbi Y'hoshua the walls did not fall down, but to honor Rabbi Eli'ezer they didn't straighten up altogether, and they stand inclined to this day.
"Then Rabbi Eli'ezer said to the other rabbis, 'If 1 am right, let it be proved from heaven!" Whereupon a bai-kol was heard, 'Why do you fight Rabbi Eli'ezer? He is always right about the hulakhuhY But Rabbi Y'hoshua stood up and said, ""It is not in heaven!" (Deuteronomy 30:12)' What did he mean by this? Rabbi Yirmiyahu explained that he meant the Torah had already been given from Mount Sinai; therefore we don't pay attention to a bat-kol, since God long ago said in the written Torah, 'You are to decide by a majority' (Exodus 23:2, as interpreted in Jewish tradition). Rabbi Natan met Eliyahu the Prophet and asked him, 'What did the Holy One, blessed be He, do when this happened?' Eliyahu replied, 'He laughed and said, "My children have gotten the better of me!""'(Bava Metzia 59b)
The sense of the reply attributed to God is: "I gave them an opinion by means of a bat-kol (either as a test, or by way of new revelation); but they found a way, based on the logic implicit in my previous revelations, to negate the impact of the bat-kol, and I have to admit that logic is logic!" The point of the passage as a whole is that God, like a chief executive who has delegated authority to subordinates, acquiesces to rabbinic rulings which apply Torah to ongoing Jewish life.
But it is wrong to conclude, as some opponents of the New Testament do, that after Mount Sinai God no longer reveals truth directly. In the Tanakh God is reported as having spoken not only with Avraham, Yitzchak, Ya'akov and Moshe, but with many of the Prophets and with others centuries after Sinai. In the New Testament a bat-kol was heard at Yeshua's immersion (Mt 3:17), on the Mount of Transfiguration (Ml 17:5) and in response to Yeshua's request that God glorify his own name (Yn 12:28).
Here the bat-kol turns out to be the voice of Yeshua himself, and apparently nothing less would have sufficed to turn Sha'ul 180 degrees around from his zealous persecution of Messianic Jews to becoming one himself. Many since then have testified that their own coming to faith in Yeshua followed on seeing or hearing him themselves.
One of the most remarkable of these appearances of Yeshua the Messiah was to the former Chief Rabbi of Bulgaria, Daniel Zion (see 4:13N). One morning at sunrise, as he was praying Shacharit (3:1N), he saw Yeshua. The vision repeated itself on several occasions; and in the period following he, like Sha'ul, came to trust Yeshua as Israel's Messiah.
5. “Sir, who are you?” he asked. “I am Yeshua, and you are persecuting me.
Sir, who are you? Or: "Lord, who are you?" The Greek word "kurios" may mean either (see Mt 1:20N, Mt 7:21 N). The correct rendering here depends on to what degree, at that moment, Sha'ul was aware of who was speaking with him. Obviously he was not fully aware, or he wouldn't have needed to ask!
You are persecuting me. How? By persecuting the Messianic Jews. This demonstrates how closely the Messiah identifies with his people (see 8:32-33N and Yochanan 17). Yeshua is "head" of the "Body of the Messiah"; when the body is pained, the head says so.
6. But get up, and go into the city, and you will be told what you have to do.”
7. The men traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one.
Compare Daniel 10:7, Yn 12:28-29.
8. They helped Sha’ul get up off the ground; but when he opened his eyes, he could see nothing. So, leading him by the hand, they brought him into Dammesek.
9. For three days he remained unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank.
10. There was a talmid in Dammesek, Hananyah by name; and in a vision the Lord said to him, “Hananyah!” He said, “Here I am, Lord.”
Chiinanyah ("Ananias") is described at 22:12 as being "an observant follower of the Torah who was highly regarded by the entire Jewish community" of Damascus. A Torah zealot like Sha'ul (22:3, Ga 1:13-14; also Ac 21:20, Ro 10:2) would not have found anyone else credible.
"Here I am," Greek Idou ego ("Behold, I"), corresponding to Hebrew Hineni. Chananyah joined a select company when he gave this answer expressing ready and expectant submission to God. Avraham answered, "Hineni!" when God told him to sacrifice his son Yitzchak (Genesis 22:1), and also when the angel of Adonai told him to stay his hand (Genesis 22:11). Moshe answered, "Hineni!" to God's call from the burning bush (Exodus 3:4). Shmu'el did the same when God first spoke to him (1 Samuel 3:4-10), likewise Yesha'yahu when the voice of Adonai asked, "Whom shall I send?" (Isaiah 6:8). Today anyone can say "Hineni!" to God by agreeing that he speaks to us through the Bible, repenting of his sins, accepting God's forgiveness through Yeshua's death as atonement, and offering himself to God unconditionally in obedient, holy service.
11. The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to Straight Street, to Y’hudah’s house; and ask for a man from Tarsus named Sha’ul; for he is praying,
12. and in a vision he has seen a man named Hananyah coming in and placing his hands on him to restore his sight.”
13. But Hananyah answered, “Lord, many have told me about this man, how much harm he has done to your people in Yerushalayim;
14. and here he has a warrant from the head cohanim to arrest everyone who calls on your name.”
Although Chananyah had offered himself to God he still had reservations about carrying out God's command — just like Moshe (Exodus 3:13; 4:1, 10, 13) and Yesha'yahu (Isaiah 6:5). God does not demand uncomprehending obedience, or obedience in (he face of overwhelming fears; if we are humble in turning to him, he will calm our fears and make us fit instruments for his use, as he did Moshe, Yesha'yahu, the prophet Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah 1:4-19), Chananyah and others. Yeshua's answer to Chananyah's reservation is given in vv. 15-16. That Chananyah was reassured is proved by his greeting Sha'ul as "Brother" (v. 17).
15. But the Lord said to him, “Go, because this man is my chosen instrument to carry my name to the Goyim, even to their kings, and to the sons of Isra’el as well.
To carry my name to the Goyim, Greek ethne, "nations, pagans, Gentiles" (see Mt 5:47N). This astounding tum of events, after two thousand years in which God's working in human history was largely mediated through the Jewish people, is the main theme of the book of Acts (see 1:8&N).
16. For I myself will show him how much he will have to suffer on account of my name.”
17. So Hananyah left and went into the house. Placing his hands on him, he said, “Brother Sha’ul, the Lord — Yeshua, the one who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here — has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Ruach HaKodesh.”
18. In that moment, something like scales fell away from Sha’ul’s eyes; and he could see again. He got up and was immersed;
19. then he ate some food and regained his strength. Sha’ul spent some days with the talmidim in Dammesek,
20. and immediately he began proclaiming in the synagogues that Yeshua is the Son of God.
The story of how Sha'ul came to trust in Yeshua is told again at 22:5-16 and a third time at 26:13-18, with varying details. See 26:13-14N on reconciling the differences. Compare also the visions described in Rv 1:9-20, Daniel 10:4ff.
21. All who heard him were amazed. They asked, “Isn’t he the man who in Yerushalayim was trying to destroy the people who call on this name? In fact, isn’t that why he came here, to arrest them and bring them back to the head cohanim?”
22. But Sha’ul was being filled with more and more power and was creating an uproar among the Jews living in Dammesek with his proofs that Yeshua is the Messiah.
See Mt 13:52&N.
23. Quite some time later, the non-believing Jews gathered together and made plans to kill him;
Jews... nonbelieving Jews. Greek loudaioi in both cases, and "nonbelieving" is not in the Greek text. See Yn 1:19N, where the argument is made that when the context is the Land of Israel "loudaioi" should usually be translated "Judeans," and when the context is the Diaspora it should be translated "Jews." But here confusion arises in v. 24 if the word "Jews" is left unmodified, because both the believers and the objectors were Jewish. Therefore here and in eleven other places in Acts (13:45,50; 14:4,19; 17:5,13; 18:12, 28; 20:3, 19; 21:27) the word "nonbelieving," "unbelieving" or an equivalent phrase is added to "Jews" in order to make clear precisely which Jews were involved; also see 14:2&N. To the original readers the unmodified word "loudaioi" was probably clear enough; but today's readers, because of twenty centuries of history, might easily read out of the unmodified word "Jews" an antisemitic tendency not present in what Luke wrote. See also Section V ("Translation Issues") of the Introduction to the JNT.
24. but their plot became known to Sha’ul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to do away with him;
25. but under cover of night, his talmidim took him and let him down over the city wall, lowering him in a large basket.
26. On reaching Yerushalayim, he tried to join the talmidim; but they were all afraid of him — they didn’t believe he was a talmid.
27. However, Bar-Nabba got hold of him and took him to the emissaries. He told them how Sha’ul had seen the Lord while traveling, that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Dammesek Sha’ul had spoken out boldly in the name of Yeshua.
28. So he remained with them and went all over Yerushalayim continuing to speak out boldly in the name of the Lord.
29. He talked and debated with the Greek-speaking Jews, but they began making attempts to kill him.
Greek-speaking Jews. See 6:1N.
30. When the brothers learned of it, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus.
31. Then the Messianic community throughout Y’hudah, the Galil and Shomron enjoyed peace and was built up. They lived in the fear of the Lord, with the counsel of the Ruach HaKodesh; and their numbers kept multiplying.
On the differences between the story of Sha'ul's life as reported here and as reported in Ga 1-2:11 see notes there.
Sha'ul created an uproar wherever he went, whether he opposed the Gospel (7:58-8:3) or proclaimed it (here and henceforth). The brothers sent him to Tarsus so that other aspects of Sha'ul's spiritual life could grow to match his zeal (v. 30). Only then did the Messianic Community enjoy peace (v. 31).
32. As Kefa traveled around the countryside, he came down to the believers in Lud.
The narrative returns to Kefa. The last reference to him was in connection with his return from Shomron (8:25). Lud or Lod; in other English versions Lydda. On the plain below Yerushalayim, about 10 miles east of Yafo (v. 38&N) and modem Tel Aviv and less than two miles from David Ben-Gurion Airport. Today it has a mixed Arab and Jewish population.
33. There he found a man named Aeneas who had lain bedridden for eight years, because he was paralyzed.
34. Kefa said to him, “Aeneas! Yeshua the Messiah is healing you! Get up, and make your bed!”
35. Everyone living in Lud and the Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord. Now in Yafo there was a talmidah named Tavita
A mass movement among Jewish people toward faith in Yeshua, likewise at v. 42 in the Yafo area. The Sharon is the flat plain between and north of Lud and Yafo.
36. (which means “gazelle”); she was always doing tzedakah and other good deeds.
Tavita (which means "gazelle"). Most English versions do not translate Greek dorkas, which is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew name Tavita, but simply transliterate it "Dorcas."
Doing tzedakah, charitable works; see Mt 6:1-4N.
37. It happened that just at that time, she took sick and died. After washing her, they laid her in a room upstairs.
38. Lud is near Yafo, and the talmidim had heard that Kefa was there, so they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come to us without delay.”
Yafo or Jaffa; in other English versions Joppa. A coastal city adjoining modern Tel Aviv to the south, where a promontory forms a natural harbor protected from the strong southwest winds that can whip up 15-foot seas during winter storms.
39. Kefa got up and went with them. When he arrived, they led him into the upstairs room. All the widows stood by him, sobbing and showing all the dresses and coats Tavita had made them while she was still with them.
40. But Kefa put them all outside, kneeled down and prayed. Then, turning to the body, he said, “Tavita! Get up!” She opened her eyes; and on seeing Kefa, she sat up.
41. He offered her his hand and helped her to her feet; then, calling the believers and the widows, he presented her to them alive.
42. This became known all over Yafo, and many people put their trust in the Lord.
43. Kefa stayed on in Yafo for some time with a man named Shim‘on, a leather-tanner.
Shim'on the leather-tanner stank all the time; his profession guaranteed it. Kefa's unpretentiousness, his straightforward identification with ordinary folks, is demonstrated by his staying on in Yafo for some time with him; in modern Hebrew slang Kefa would be called '"amkha" ("your [kind ofj people").
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