At this point Paul related his vision of Christ on the Damascus road. This is one of three detailed accounts of Paul’s conversion given in Acts. The first, contained in 9:1–30, is Luke’s third-person narrative of Paul’s experience. The present account and that of 26:4–23 are Paul’s own testimony to the event, delivered in the course of his defense speeches. The three accounts are parallel in their essentials but differ in small details. The most striking differences are to be seen in a comparison between the two accounts given in Paul’s defense speeches. These are very much adapted to the audience to whom they were addressed. For instance, in the present speech before the Jewish mob, Paul gave close attention to Ananias and his devout Jewishness. In the speech of chap. 26 before Agrippa and the Roman officials, Ananias is not even mentioned. Paul considered the role of this pious Jewish Christian not as important for the predominantly Gentile audience. The significant matter is that Luke included a detailed treatment of Paul’s conversion three times, this device of repetition underscoring the event and testifying to its importance.
Verses 6–11 are essentially parallel to 9:3–8, the only differences being in small details and the first-person narration. Only 22:6 gives the specific detail that it was “about noon” when the vision came upon Paul. This heightened the emphasis on the brightness of the vision. This was no nighttime experience but occurred in broad daylight, at noon when the sun was at its brightest. Verse 7 is closely parallel to 9:4, relating how Paul fell to the ground and heard the heavenly voice addressing him by his Hebrew name, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” As in 9:5, Paul responded by asking the heavenly visitant to identify himself—“Who are you, Lord?” Of all three conversion accounts, only in 22:8 do the words “of Nazareth” occur. The full designation “Jesus of Nazareth” was appropriate to the Jewish audience before whom Paul was relating his experience. The most significant difference between Paul’s account and the earlier conversion narrative occurs in 22:9, where it is said that Paul’s traveling companions saw the light but did not understand the voice speaking to Paul. In 9:7 the companions are said to have heard the sound but not to have seen anyone. Paul’s account emphasizes their seeing; the earlier account, their hearing. Both accounts make the same point. The companions were witnesses to the experience and could verify that something objective took place. It was not merely an inner experience of Paul’s psyche. On the other hand, the companions were not participants in the experience: they heard a sound but did not receive the message, saw a light but not the risen Lord. The vision itself was solely Paul’s experience.
Verse 10 parallels 9:6 with the difference that in Paul’s account he referred to Jesus as “the Lord” when relating the command to rise and go into Damascus. Paul made his confession known before his Jewish audience. At the outset of his vision he may not have known whom he was addressing as Lord (v. 8). Now he knew that it was Jesus, the risen Lord. Up to this point in his speech, Paul had identified closely with his Jewish listeners. In every way he had shown himself to be as Jewish as they were. Now he began to draw the line that differentiated himself from them. On the Damascus road he had seen the risen Jesus. Now he confessed Jesus as Lord. He surely wished the same for them. It was not inappropriate for a faithful Jew to confess Jesus as Lord. He was himself a living witness to that.
Verse 11 concludes the opening scene of Paul’s conversion account. It closely parallels 9:8, relating Paul’s blindness and how his companions had to lead him by hand into Damascus. The most significant difference from the earlier account is the reference to “the brilliance of the light” in Paul’s account. Indeed, the emphasis on light is striking when one compares chap. 9 with chap. 22. The light was so great it overwhelmed the noonday sun (v. 6). Paul’s companions “saw the light” (v. 9). Paul was blinded by “the brilliance of the light” (v. 11). None of these details occur in chap. 9. Perhaps this was Paul’s way of highlighting the significance of his conversion. In his experience on the Damascus road, he came to a confession of the risen Lord. He had “seen the light.” He wished the same for his fellow Jews in the temple square.