SAUL’S VOCATION STORY
Acts 9: 1-19
This section is anyting but a simple story of how Saul was knocked off his horse and converted. Our popular religious imagination and art to the contrary notwithstanding, this section and its parallels in 22:1-6 and 26:9-18 nowhere say that he was riding a horse. Now do these texts speaks of Saul’s conversion as if he were the most wretched sinner antiquity sired. This section is a “vocation” story. We will mine the rich vein of this vocation story on three levels: (1) Saul as persecutor; (2) Saul’s vocation; (3) Luke’s intentions and the figure of Saul.
Saul as Persecutor
From what Luke says in Acts it is patent that Saul is not a private persecutor; he represents official Judaism. This factor is present in all three accounts of Sauls’call: 9:1-3, 22:4-5, 19; 26:9-11.
Saul would never have changed from awesome persecutor of the Lord’s disciples to tireless missionary to the gentiles unless the Lord had called him. In what have taken more time than the three accounts of Acts lead us to believe, Saul lets the Lord’s call to him sink into and under his persecutor skin.
The story of Saul persecutor edifies Luke’s community: God does preserve his church from persecution; encouragement is offered to those who suffer persecution like that directed by and enfleshed in Saul.
Luke’s Intentions and the Figure of Paul
A questio may help us peer into Luke’s threefold intention in this section: Why does Luke have three accounts of Paul’s call? First, by devoting precious space to three accounts of Paul’s call, Luke spotlights the significance of Paul as key points in his story. In chapter 9 the call of the missionary to the gentiles par excellence—Paul—is introduced when the Spirit is on the brink of moving the misson to the gentiles (see 10:1-48). In chapters 22 and 26 the call of Paul is introduced to show that Paul and Christianity are not apostates from Judaism; both Jews and Romans should take careful note that Christianity fulfills the promises God gave to Judaism. Second, Luke highlights the fact that the mission to the gentiles was not due to human caprice; God willed it in fulfillment of his promises. This fulfillment is embodied in the very person of Paul. Finally, Luke’s intent is to supply ammunition for his communities, some of which have been founded by Paul and are under attack from Jews because of their faith. Luke tells them that through Paul, once an observant Pharisee and merciless persecutor of the church, they stand in continuity with Judaism. Like Paul they are not apostates from Judaism. Like Paul, they have their eyes opened by God to see that Judaism is fulfilled in Jesus.
Damascus hovered witin sight. It was about noontime, or at least the other accounts so inform us (22:6; 26:13). A “light from heaven suddenly shone round about him.” “More brilliant that the rays of the sun” is the description offered in 26:13. Even his companions were affected by it, for “all fell to the ground” (26:14). What kind of light was it? We know from the gospels how the intervention of heavenly powers is very frequently accompanied by a mysterious light.. this light is a symbol, a reflection of that light which in language of the Bible is like the inscrutable glory of God.
A voice addresses the man prone on the ground: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” These words are also found in the parallel passages; and in verse 26:14 it is noted expressly that the voice made use of the Hebrew tongue. We can draw this conclusion from the name of Saul, by which he was addressed. The self-revealing Lord spoke in his mother tongue, which was essentially more familiar to Paul thank Greek, although he was Hellenic in origin.
For it is Jesus who speaks in this way, Jesus the Risen and Transfigured One. And we take fro granted that Saul saw the person of Jesus.. it was consequently a face-to-face...
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