A Commentary by John Stott

Acts 24:1-26:32. A note on the three accounts of Saul’s conversion. (continued).

The second supposed discrepancy relates to Saul’s commission and to the role of Ananias in it. Only A tells the full story of Ananias, how he had a vision of Jesus, was told to go to Saul, raised objections, was reassured that Saul was a chosen instrument to carry Christ’s name before the Gentiles as well as the Jews, and to suffer for the same name, went to Straight Street, laid hands on Saul and welcomed him into the fellowship. B omits the whole conversation between Jesus and Ananias, but says that Ananias came to Saul, restored his sight and relayed to him Christ’s commission to be a witness to all men. C, on the other hand, makes no reference to Ananias at all, but gives the impression that Christ commissioned Saul on the road before he entered Damascus, while the terms of the commission are much fuller, and seem to include not only the words of Ananias but also what Jesus said to Paul later in the temple when he fell into a trance (22:17ff.). Luke (or Paul himself) is evidently conflating what Jesus said on the road, to and through Ananias, and later in Jerusalem. If, as seems clear it is his intention to bring different parts of Christ’s commission together, and not to specify where and when each part was given, we must allow him this liberty and not accuse him of inaccuracy.

Finally, it is understandable that in his own narrative Luke should give a detailed account of the role of Ananias, and that Paul, addressing hostile Jews on the steps of the Fortress Antonia, should emphasize that Ananias was ‘a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there’ 22:12). But standing before Agrippa and Festus, Paul omitted Ananias from his story altogether. For one thing, Ananias would not have been known to them. For another, Paul wanted to stress the immediacy of his encounter with Christ. Christ had commissioned him personally and directly, and he had not been disobedient to this heavenly vision.

Tomorrow: Rome at last! Acts 27:1-28:31.

The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of Acts. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.