Bruce, F.F. The Book of Acts Revised. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988. Kindle Electronic Edition. “II. Persecution and Expansion (6:1-9:31).” “C. Conversion of Saul of Tarsus (9:1-31)” pp. 180-197.
In Ats chapter 9 we return to Saul as a main character. Verse 1 shows Saul’s enthusiastic plan. He will not be satisfied unless he drives out Christians everywhere (Bruce 1988, 180). Bruce notes, using extrabiblical sources, that the right of extradition was well established for the Jewish state. The letters Paul had to use as an arrest warrant were perfectly legal. All the language used is consistent with the actual state of affairs in the region at the time of Paul.
While on his way to Damascus, Saul had a vision of a bright light. He was knocked to the ground. He and his companions heard a voice, which Saul identified as Jesus, sending him to Damascus to await instructions. Bruce comments that Saul apparently had a genuine and complete conversion which could not be explained by any physical or medical situation (Bruce 1988, 182). Jesus himself appeared to Saul, calling him to faith in Christ (Bruce 1988, 183). Bruce adduces other conversion stories which may be similar. He also notes that Paul’s statements may suggest a variety of positions and that different witnesses heard different things (Bruce 1988, 184). Saul was led, blind, into Damascus, where he waited for instructions (Bruce 1988, 185).
In Damascus, Saul received another vision. A man named Ananias would lay hands on him. This Ananias also heard from God. Reluctantly he went (Bruce 1988, 186). When Ananias laid hands on Saul, he received his sight (Bruce 1988, 187). Bruce considers it clear that the power of the Holy Spirit was present, though not through the hands of an apostle (Bruce 1988, 188).
As we continue in Acts 9, Saul remained in Damascus for some time preaching Jesus. Bruce notes that he apparently did this before departing to Arabia for an extended period of study and prayer (Bruce 1988, 189). Jesus is identified here as the “Son of God.” Bruce sees this as an important title, used in Acts only at this place (Bruce 1988, 190). It is likely a note about Jesus’ role as Messiah. Rather than arresting followers of a false Messiah, Saul tells about the true Messiah. Saul’s escape from Jerusalem in 9:23-25 is also told in brief in 2 Corinthians 11:32-33 (Bruce 1988, 191). Bruce suggests that the context would indicate not merely a retreat but a move to preach Jesus. The chronology suggests that Paul’s escape from Damascus was after a subsequent trip into the city, probably about three years after his conversion (Bruce 1988, 192).
After leaving Damascus Saul visited the apostles in Jerusalem. He was eventually received by the Christians there, beginning with Barnabas. He consulted with Peter and James (cf. Galatians 1:18-24) before being urged to return to Tarsus (Bruce 1988, 193). At this time, in Acts 9:31, Luke reports that the church as a whole went through a time of peace (Bruce 1988, 196).