Acts 9:2 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Acts 9:2, NIV: and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.

Acts 9:2, ESV: and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

Acts 9:2, KJV: And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.

Acts 9:2, NASB: and asked for letters from him to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them in shackles to Jerusalem.

Acts 9:2, NLT: He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them--both men and women--back to Jerusalem in chains.

Acts 9:2, CSB: and requested letters from him to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them as prisoners to Jerusalem.

What does Acts 9:2 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

The devout young Jew Saul has discovered that when he persecuted the Jesus-followers in Jerusalem, they fled and spread their message. This has reached throughout Judea and Samaria and as far north as Damascus (Acts 8:1–3). What he thought would be a relatively simple job—to destroy the young church—has grown more complicated. He now requests authorization from the high priest to arrest Jesus-followers wherever they may be, as the Sanhedrin has religious jurisdiction over all who follow Judaism.

Damascus is a large city 133 miles from Jerusalem. It was a significant city with good roads north to Syrian Antioch, east to Arabia and Babylon, and south to the Decapolis and Judea, and was the "port" where the desert tribes came to trade. At this time, it's unclear if it's controlled by Nabataea, the kingdom east of the Jordan River, Syria, or if it's semi-independent. Either way, it has ties to Nabataea; Herod Antipas insulted the king of Nabataea when he divorced the king's daughter to marry his sister-in-law Herodias. When John the Baptist spoke out against Antipas' marriage, Antipas and Herodias killed him. It's thought that John's disciples may have fled to the safety of Nabataea and primed the population for the message of Jesus.

When the Hasmonaeans won Jewish independence in 142 BC, the Romans ordered neighboring states to extradite any Jew in their territory whom the Jewish government demanded. In 47 BC, when Israel was under Roman rule, Julius Caesar affirmed this policy. At this time, the Sanhedrin had the authority to send representatives to bring back Judean fugitives or immigrants to other Roman territories who have broken Jewish law. No matter who controls Damascus, they must extradite Jews who had fled the persecution in Jerusalem.

The synagogues were an important tool in the spread of the gospel. At this time, Christianity was still primarily a Jewish sect. Evangelists, like Stephen, go to synagogues to show how Jesus fulfills the prophecies of the Jewish Scriptures (Acts 6:8–15). Saul, who will later go by Paul, will continue this tradition; as he enters each town, he first preaches in a synagogue or, if the town has too few Jews, wherever the Jews meet (Acts 9:20; 14:1; 16:13; 17:1, 10; 18:4; 19:8).

"The Way" can mean different things. It can refer to Jesus, as "the way, and the truth, and the life" to attain reconciliation with God (John 14:6). It can mean the sect of Judaism that branches off into the religion Christianity (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22). The term "Christian" was not applied until later (Acts 11:26).