Catholic Encyclopedia
Church Fathers
Classics Library
Church Documents
Prayer Requests
Ray of Hope
Social Doctrine

An Exposition Of The Acts Of The Apostles


The Chapter commences with the wonderful and miraculous conversion of Saul on his way to persecute the Christians of Damascus, which was perfected by the instructions of Ananias, whose fears occasioned by the persecuting character of Saul were dissipated by Divine assurances on the subject (1–18). The zeal of Saul in preaching the Gospel, the conspiracy on the part of the Jews to kill him (19–25), His escape (25). The distrust of the faithful of Jerusalem regarding him on account of his repute, as Persecutor, quieted by the intervention of Barnabas, who introduced him to the Apostles (26, 27). The machinations of the Gentiles to kill him. Hence his escape to Tharsus (29, 30). The miracles wrought by Peter in the restoration to health of Eneas (32–35). The wonderful miracle wrought by him in raising Tabitha or Dorcas from the dead, which caused the conversion of many (36–43).


1. “And Saul,” who had already rendered himself prominently conspicuous in the persecution of the Christians, was now “as yet,” in the interval between the present time and the death of Stephen, indulging still, his passion for persecution, shown in the murder of Stephen.

“Breathing out.” Furiously agitated, displaying a violent thirst for vengeance. “Threatenings,” all kinds of threatening and denunciatory language. “And slaughter,” designs of wholesale murder “against the disciples of our Lord,” the converted believers. He had a hand in putting to death a great number of Christians (Acts 26:10, 11).

“Went to the High Priest,”

2. “And asked of him letters,” &c. The letters were written by the authority of the Sanhedrim and signed by the High Priest, as president of the Council. Some say the conversion of St. Paul took place in the thirty-fifth year of our era, three years after our Lord’s death. In that case the High Priest was Caiphas, who was deposed by Tertullus.

If it occurred later, the High Priest was Theophilus. To the Sanhedrim, belonged to take cognizance of offences against religion. The Romans connived at their doing this beyond the precincts of Judea, wherever synagogues were found, dependent on the Sanhedrim.

“Asked.” He himself volunteered to act as persecutor; “Letters,” credentials conveying a commission or authorization. “To Damascus” a celebrated well-known city of Asia, mentioned in Scripture city, in the days of Abraham (Genisis 15:2). After various vicissitudes, it was ultimately taken by Selim, A. D. 1517. Ever since, it has been subject to the Saracens.

It was well-known to Saul, that a large number of Christians had been at Damascus, and the credential letters gave him the power vested in the Sanhedrim to punish all offences against religion. The policy of the Romans was to leave the exercise of such power to the Sanhedrim, reserving for themselves the confirmation of the sentence of death.

“To the Synagogues.” Over whom the Sanhedrim exercised authority.

“Men and women,” even “women,” were not spared, which shows intense hatred.

“Of this way,” of thinking and believing; of this sect.

“Bring them bound,” for trial before the Sanhedrim, whose powers in matters pertaining to religion, the Romans sanctioned or connived at, save in the supreme case of death, specially reserved for themselves.

3. “While travelling along the road, and when he was near Damascus—how near, no one can tell—the important event here mentioned, took place.

“Suddenly.” With the suddenness of a flash of lightning. It was not, however, a flash of lightning. It was the transcendent, overwhelming, dazzling glory, surrounding our Lord Himself, as at his Transfiguration (John 17:5). It was our Lord Himself, personally appearing to St. Paul in His glory, which Paul recognized, calling Him “Lord” (v. 5). For Barnabas declared “how he had seen the Lord in the way (v. 27). He himself says (1 Cor. 9:1, 15:8), that he saw our Lord. Similar is the language (1 Cor. 9:1). He now sees resuscitated, living, glorious, our Lord, whom he supposed to be dead.

“A light from heaven,” from the sky, “above the brightness of the sun (26:13).

“About him,” and his companions also (26:13).

4. Overpowered by the dazzling light, he fell to the ground, and so did those who were with him, overawed by the majesty of what they saw (26:14). It is not opposed to this, that “they stood amazed” (v. 7), for they might have soon risen to their feet.

“He heard a voice, Saul, Saul.” The word is repeated for emphasis sake.

“Why,”—for what reason, on account of what provocation? “persecutest thou me,” viz., in his chosen members. He was head of the body whose members Saul was engaged in furiously and relentlessly persecuting.

5. “Lord” does not imply Divinity. It is only a term of courteous reverence elicited by the terror he was in. Up to this, Saul did not for certain acknowledge Jesus Christ to be God. Similar is the meaning of Magdalen’s words, when she thought she was addressing the gardener (John 20:15).

“I am Jesus,” &c. In chap. 22:8, it is “I am Jesus of Nazareth,” in which is conveyed that the humble Nazarene, whom Paul despised, as if nothing good could come out of Nazareth, is now Lord of all. He now appears to him in glory.

“It is hard for thee to kick,” &c. A proverbial expression with the Greeks and Romans, conveying that obstinate and stubborn resistance to lawful authority and rebellion against those who have a right to command is injurious to the man who resists. The idea is borrowed from stubborn oxen kicking against the “goad,” or sharp piece of iron used to urge them on. By kicking, they injure themselves. This according to the conjecture of some, denotes the resistance Paul had been giving before our Lord appeared to him, to the interior emotions of grace urging him to desist from the persecution he was practising. The example and admonition of his former teacher, Gamaliel (22:3) who embraced the faith, may have served to disquiet him and cause some remorse of conscience.

6. What he saw and heard created a feeling of terror and alarm on reflecting on the wicked course he had been pursuing.

“Lord.” The term here denotes the supreme reverence due to Him as God and Saviour. “What wilt thou,” &c., shows his thorough conversion and prompt change of heart. Giving up his own wicked will and feeling of opposition to God, he now professes at once his willingness to embrace in all things God’s Adorable Will.

7. “The Lord”—our God and Saviour—“arise.” He was still prostrate (v. 8, 26:16).

“Go into the city”—Damascus close by (v. 3). The whole narrative is more circumstantially detailed by St. Paul himself (c. 26:16–18) in his address to King Agrippa.

“And there it shall be told thee,” &c. In this we see the wonderful and mysterious ways of God’s Providence in carrying out his designs. He might himself have instructed him on the spot. But, no; it pleased Him to employ the ministry of an humble disciple at Damascus for perfecting His beneficent designs. In this He had also in view to test Paul’s humility, obedience and self abnegation.

“The men.… stood amazed.” The Greek word for amazed (εννεοι) means struck dumb, unable to speak. They were struck mute with terror. It may be, when the first feeling of alarm which prostrated them (26:14) subsided, they stood up immediately, while Paul, who was chiefly concerned in the matter, continued prostrate. In c. 26:14, it is said they were “all fallen on the ground.” This occurred, as the immediate effect of the light, before they heard the voice. Here we have an account of what took place after the first feeling of panic and alarm was over. They stood up immediately. It may be, the word, “stood,” has no particular meaning; that it merely denotes the feeling of alarm they felt, without reference to what position they were in, whether standing or prostrate.

“Hearing, indeed, a voice,” probably means hearing a sound, but not understanding the articulate utterance and meaning as it was understood by Saul.

8. “And when his eyes were opened.” The Greek would be more properly rendered, and although his eyes opened, “or with eyes opened.” For while prostrate, his eyes were opened, looking at our Lord in His glorious appearance. But, when he rose up, on account of the dazzling, intense brightness of the light emanating from the glorified body of Jesus, his eyes though opened, were bereft of the faculty of seeing “for three days,” v. 9.

9. “And he did neither eat,” &c. Terror and remorse, suspense and perplexity, as he received no intimation as to what he was to do, joined with fervent and absorbing prayer for pardon of his sins, for heavenly light to remove his state of perplexity, made him indifferent and unconcerned about all corporal sustenance.

10. “A certain disciple,” a Christian, who had already heard of Saul’s violent persecution of his fellow-believers (v. 13). “Ananias,” the term would indicate a Jew by birth converted to the faith.

11. “For he prayeth.” Fear him no longer, as a fanatical persecutor of the Christians. He is now a different man, completely changed, engaged in fervent prayer for light, guidance and forgiveness. This would point to the manner Paul spent the three days in question.

12. Very likely, the words of this verse are parenthetical, inserted by St. Luke, to inform us that while our Lord was addressing Ananias in a vision, Saul was favoured with another vision, assuring him that Ananias, whose name he gives, was no impostor, and would soon show him, on the part of God, what he was to do. “Quid Te oporteat facere” (v. 7).

13. In this Ananias expresses his fears and surprise. Probably, Ananias, informed by letters from the faithful of Jerusalem, or by public rumour, or by some Christians who fled on account of the persecution from Jerusalem to Damascus, heard all about Paul’s fanaticism and persecuting violence.

“Thy saints.” The term always applied by the Apostle, in his Epistles, to Christians.

14. “And here” in this very city. Likely, the companions of Saul published all about him, and so it reached Ananias.

15. “Go thy way.” A brief form of expressing that God will do what is just and reasonable. Here, it is a repetition of God’s instructions to Ananias regarding Saul.

“A vessel of Election.” “Vessel,” according to Hebrew usage, signifies an organ or instrument. “Election,” chosen, like the other Apostles, to carry out My designs of mercy. “Carry My name.” Proclaim My attributes as God and Man, Creator and Redeemer of mankind.

“Before the Gentiles.” The different nations of the earth. Paul was in a special manner constituted the Apostle of the Gentiles (Rom. 11:13, 15:16; Gal. 2:8).

“And kings.” This he did (Acts 25:23, 26:1).

“And children of Israel.” This he did at once (20, 21).

16. “I will shew him,” &c. As a proof that he will be a distinguished instrument to be employed by Me, I will have him suffer much on My account, and hence he will be distinguished in My service. His success will be proportioned to his fortitude and constancy in enduring evils. That he did suffer this is shown from the picture he draws for us (2 Cor. 11) and his subsequent History in these Acts of the Apostles.

17. In obedience to our Lord’s command, Ananias, proceeded to his destination, “and laying his hands upon him.” It was not for the purpose of giving the Sacrament of Confirmation. There is no evidence that Ananias was in a position to do so—moreover, Saul was still unbaptized, and Ananias himself states the object: “that thou mayst receive thy sight,” which he did on the spot, “and be filled with the Holy Ghost,” through the baptism, he was immediately to receive. The imposition of hands restored his sight. Baptism gave him the Holy Ghost.” It may be, that with the effect of baptism, Paul received in an extraordinary way the grace of Confirmation without the eternal rite, as did the Apostles on Pentecost Sunday.

18. The teguments that fell from his eyes and impeded his sight were like “scales.” They fell, as if “scales” had fallen, with which fishes and serpents are covered. The cure being so sudden, and, so far as human agency was concerned, without any human adequate cause, shows that it was manifestly miraculous.

“He was baptized.” As there is no mention of having received the necessary previous instruction in the truths of faith, it is most likely our Lord Himself fully instructed him during the three days preceding his baptism. Hence, he says (Gal. 1) he received the Gospel, not from man, but from Jesus Christ.

19. He recovered his natural strength, weakened by previous fasting.

After his communion he proceeded to Arabia, and then again came back to Damascus. St. Luke makes no mention of his journey to Arabia.

20. This shows the genuine sincerity of his conversion.

21. “Persecuted.” The Greek word would convey, ravaged, deprived of life.

22. “Increased,” &c. Animated and armed with greater energy and zeal in preaching the Gospel. “Confounded,” creating confusion among them; confuting them by argument.

“Affirming” by undeniable proofs “that this” our Lord “is the Christ,” the long-expected anointed Messiah.

23. Very likely the “many days” embrace the term within which he had been in Arabia; probably, a term of about three years. This is omitted by St. Luke. St. Paul himself tells us (Gal. 1:17) he went to Arabia after his conversion, and returned to Damascus, and after three years he went up to Jerusalem, not straightway from Arabia, but from Damascus, whither he had returned, and encountered the murderous designs of the Jews, who “consulted together to kill him.”

24. “Watched the gates” (2 Cor. 11:32) which were the only avenues for escape as the cities were surrounded with high walls. St. Paul says (2 Cor. 11:32) it was the governor under Aretas who did so, no doubt, at the instigation of the Jews, he himself being, probably, a Jew, and sharing in the feelings of his co-religionists. Up to the death of Tiberius (A.D. 37) Damascus was under the Romans. Probably Aretas got it from the Romans under Caligula, Tiberius’ successor.

“Watched the gates.” It was the Jews that got the city authorities to do so.

26. “And when he was come” for the first time, three years after his conversion, “to Jerusalem,” whither he had fled from Damascus; “and they were all afraid of him.” Likely owing to civil disturbances or the war between King Aretas and Herod, not to speak of the difficulty of communication at the time, the news of his conversion had not reached the Christians of Jerusalem, and the Jews would have concealed it had they known it.

“Not believing he was a disciple” or a sincere believer.

Although, they might have heard something of his conversion and its circumstances; still, they seemed inclined to regard the whole affair as a feint to deceive them, and persecute them still more.

27. “Barnabas,” between whom and Paul there may have been heretofore friendly relations, receiving him benevolently and hospitably, while others stood aloof and shunned him, as a suspect, took him and introduced him to the Apostles, Peter and James, the only Apostles who, it seems, were then at Jerusalem (Gal. 1:18).

28. “He was with them,” &c., lived on terms of friendly intercourse, as Apostle and convert to the faith. He abode with them only about a fortnight (Gal. 1:8).

“Dealing confidently,” &c. He courageously proclaimed our Lord to be God.

“In the name.” By the authority of the Lord Jesus.

29. “To the Gentiles,” &c. “Gentiles,” though found in the Vulgate, is found in no Greek Codex, nor in any ancient version save the Ethiopic. It is wanting in several old Latin copies. Hence, generally regarded as spurious, and supposed to be introduced by some copyist. Indeed the time for preaching to the Gentiles had not yet arrived It might, however, be said with Bellarmine (Rom. Pont. 22) that St. Paul did not yet preach to the Gentiles, but was only preparing the way for it by refuting the objections of the Gentiles.

“Disputed with the Greeks.” The Greek Hellenists denoted those Jews who scattered all over the world, spoke the Greek language, as their national language. St. Paul himself was a Hellenist Jew. These are contrasted with the “Hebrews,” Jews, who spoke the Hebrew, or Aramaic of Palestine; called in the Scriptures of the New Testament, Hebrew.

30. On being made aware of the wicked designs of the Hellenists against St. Paul the Christians of Jerusalem took measures for his safety. “Cæsarea,” of Palestine, “Tharsus,” his native city. Likely, St. Paul preached the Gospel in Cilicia (Gal. 1:21).

31. The Church had peace. (In Greek, churches); freed from the persecution which commenced with the death of Stephen.

“All Judea,” &c. The three provinces into which Palestine was divided, and to which the preaching of the Gospel was in a great measure hitherto confined. In other places, too, there were several converted Jews. But St. Luke speaks only of these three districts as it was in them persecution was so rife.

This cessation from persecution was probably owing to the conversion of the chief agent of persecution. Saul now became the most ardent and most zealous propagator of the faith. It may also be in some measure owing to the persecution the Jews themselves were suffering from Caligula who ordered his statue to be set up in the Temple, and instructed his lieutenant, Petronius, to extinguish in blood any attempt at opposition (Josephus, Antiq. xviii.; viii. 2–9; de Bello ii. c. 10). They had, therefore, themselves something else to mind besides persecuting the Christians.

“Edified.” A metaphorical expression, allusive to raising a material building. In a spiritual sense, it denotes an increase in grace and sanctity; in a physical sense, an increase of numbers. The former is chiefly meant as in following words: “walking,” living, regulating their lives “in the fear of the Lord,” walking in the way of his commandments and practising his true worship.

“Filled with the consolations.” Interior peace and abundant graces “of the Holy Ghost.”

32. Peter, who had up to this remained at Jerusalem to guard his flock against the effects of persecution, now availing himself of the temporary lull and calm, sets about discharging his office of Supreme Pastor of the entire fold, and visiting them in their several settlements.

“Lydda,” afterwards called Diospolis, or city of Jupiter, situated near the Mediterranean, about thirty miles north of Jerusalem, fifteen, to the east of Joppe. It belonged to the tribe of Ephraim.

33. “Æneas.” Judging from his Greek name he would seem to be a Gentile or Hellenist Jew, whether a Christian does not appear. If he were, likely St. Luke would have said so, as he does regarding “Tabitha” “a certain disciple.” He only speaks of “Eneas” as “a certain man.”

35. “All.” Taken in a morally universal sense. “Saron,” a large, fertile plain extending along the Mediterranean coast from Carmel to Joppe, having Carmel to the north.

36. “And in Joppe.” The Greek for “and” is “but” (δε), putting the following still greater miracle in opposition to the preceding. “Joppe,” now Jaffa, a seaport on the Mediterranean (Jonas 1:3) in the tribe of Dan, having Cæsarea, thirty miles to the north; it was forty-five miles north-west of Jerusalem.

“Tabitha.” A Syro-Chaldaic word, the same as “Dorcas” in the Greek, signifying a kind of goat, which the Italians term Gazella—antelope. The name is expressed in Syriac and Greek. She was known by both names.

“Good works and alms-deeds.” “Alms-deeds” are specially mentioned among “good works,” as it was in this she was specially distinguished; and it was to this kind of good works the miracle may be ascribed.

37. “An upper chamber.” A retired apartment in the upper part of the house. They had gone through the usual preparation for interment.

38. “Nigh to Joppe,” about six miles distant.

“To come to them,” to console them. There is no evidence that they expected the miracle of her resuscitation, especially as the Apostles had not yet raised anyone to life.

40. “All put out,” lest they might interrupt his fervent prayer. In this was followed the example left us by our Blessed Lord on the occasion of raising the daughter of Jairus (Matthew 9:24; Mark 5:40).

43. “Many days.” A considerable time. Patrizzi holds it embraced only some months, but not an entire year.

“Simon the tanner.” On account of contact with the dead bodies of animals, the trade of tanner was regarded by the Jews as impure. However, in his humility, St. Peter paid no heed to this Rabbinical opinion.

Copyright ©1999-2018 e-Catholic2000.com