9:1 – Saul is “breathing destruction and murder”. I had always assumed from the English that this meant he was “breathing out”, like a fire-breathing dragon. But the verb empnew means to breathe in. Turns out that is the correct understanding, despite the “in” prefix on the verb, and its root meaning of “breathe in.”
9:2 – tinas…tes hodou. It is remarkable that “The Way” is already a label for the Church. It bears some pondering. I would like to do some research into what terms Jews used for sects in the 2nd Temple period.
9:3 – periestrapsen – Contrary to the NKJV, this does not mean ” a light shone.” Most Christians’ conception of this event is shaped by Renaissance and Baroque paintings such as Carravaggio’s Conversion of St. Paul:
Carravaggio is of course the painter of light (sorry, Thomas Kincaid), and his painting is a masterpiece of shadows pieced by the luminous glow that surrounds the fallen Saul. But the Greek is not like this at all: the root of periastraptw is the word for “lightning.” This event was much closer to Luther getting blasted off his horse.
9:10 – God calls “Ananias,” who replies idou ego. This is a precise and literal translation of the boy Samuel’s response to the same God’s call by name (“Hinneni” – “Here I am.”) from 1 Sam. 3.
9:25 – The disciples “let Saul down through the wall, lowering him in a basket.” Two parallels come to mind: the Israelite spies in Jericho who are let out by Rahab, and David’s escape from Saul, lowered through a window by Michael, leaving behind an effigy (“teraphim”!) to fool Saul’s men. (The scene in the 1st of Peter Jackson’s LOTR films, “Fellowship of the Ring”, in which the black riders stab the empty beds in the Inn of Bree, also borrows from this motif.)
9:28 – eisporeuomenos kai ekporeuomenos – After Saul’s conversion, he “was coming in and going out with” the disciples. In the OT, this coming in and going out was an idiom denoting martial activity. It is what a king does with his army. Could there be a martial metaphor here as well? The very next thing Saul is said to do is “speaking boldly (parresiazomenos)in the name of the Lord”, reasoning with the Greek-speaking Jews and refuting them. We know from 2 Cor. 10:5 that Paul considered his speaking and reasoning with the Jews to be warfare: “overthrowing strongholds” and “tearing down arguments”. Paul is on the warpath again, but under a different general and with a different army.
9:40 – Peter’s raising of Tabitha to life is remarkable as an echo of Jesus’ activity in Mark 5. Not only does he follow Jesus pattern by kicking out everyone else from the room (ekbalwn de exw pantas; cf. Mk. 5:40, autos de ekbalwn pantas), but Peter’s command, “Tabitha, anastethi” is very similar to Jesus’ words in Mk. 5:41, “Talitha koum,” which is translated “To korasion, egeire” The two Greek verbs used in the commands, egeirw and anistemi barely differ at all. The difference between the two utterances in the original Aramaic was likely only one letter: Talitha vs. Tabitha.