on Acts 9 :1
Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter - The original text is very emphatic, ετι εμπνεων απειλης και φονου, and points out how determinate Saul was to pursue and accomplish his fell purpose of totally destroying the infant Church of Christ. The mode of speech introduced above is very frequent in the Greek writers, who often express any vehement and hostile affection of the mind by the verb πνεειν, to breathe, to pant; so Theocritus, Idyll. xxii. ver. 82:
Ες μεσσον συναγον, φονον αλλαλοισι πνεοντες.
They came into the assembly, breathing mutual slaughter.
Euripides has the same form, πυρ πνεουσα και φονον, breathing out fire, and slaughter, Iphig. in Taur.
And Aristophanes more fully, referring to all the preparations for war: -
Αλλα πνεοντας δορυ και λογχας και λευκολοφους τρυφαλειας,
Και πηληκας, και κνημιδας, και θυμους ἑπταβοειους.
They breathed spears, and pikes, and helmets, and crests, and greaves, and the fury of redoubted heroes.
The figure is a favourite one with Homer: hence μενεα πνειοντες Αβαντες, the Abantes breathing strength. - Il. ii. 536. And how frequently he speaks of his fierce countrymen as, μενεα πνειοντες Αχαιοι, the Greeks breathing strength, see Il. iii. 8; xi. 508; xxiv. 364, which phrase an old Scholiast interprets, being filled with strength and fury. St. Luke, who was master of the Greek tongue, chose such terms as best expressed a heart desperately and incessantly bent on accomplishing the destruction of the objects of its resentment. Such at this time was the heart of Saul of Tarsus; and it had already given full proof of its malignity, not only in the martyrdom of Stephen, but also in making havoc of the Church, and in forcibly entering every house, and dragging men and women, whom he suspected of Christianity, and committing them to prison. See Acts 8:3.
Went unto the high priest - As the high priest was chief in all matters of an ecclesiastical nature, and the present business was pretendedly religious, he was the proper person to apply to for letters by which this virulent persecutor might be accredited. The letters must necessarily be granted in the name of the whole Sanhedrin, of which Gamaliel, Saul's master, was at that time the head; but the high priest was the proper organ through whom this business might be negotiated.
on Acts 9 :1
And Saul - See the notes on Acts 7:58; Acts 8:3. He had been engaged be fore in persecuting the Christians, but he now sought opportunity to gratify his insatiable desire on a larger scale.
Yet breathing out - Not satisfied with what he had done, Acts 8:3. The word breathing out is expressive often of any deep, agitating emotion, as we then breathe rapidly and violently. It is thus expressive of violent anger. The emotion is absorbing, agitating, exhausting, and demands a more rapid circulation of blood to supply the exhausted vitality; and this demands an increased supply of oxygen, or vital air, which leads to the increased action of the lungs. The word is often used in this sense in the Classics (Schleusner). It is a favorite expression with Homer. Euripides has the same expression: "Breathing out fire and slaughter." So Theocritus: "They came unto the assembly breathing mutual slaughter" (Idyll. 22:82).
Threatening - Denunciation; threatening them with every breath the action of a man violently enraged, and who was bent on vengeance. It denotes also "intense activity and energy in persecution."
Slaughter - Murder. Intensely desiring to put to death as many Christians as possible. He rejoiced in their death, and joined in condemning them, Acts 26:10-11. From this latter place it seems that he had been concerned in putting many of them to death.
The disciples of the Lord - Against Christians.
Went unto the high priest - See the notes on Matthew 2:4. The letters were written and signed in the name and by the authority of the Sanhedrin, or written and signed in the name and by the authority of the Sanhedrin, or Great Council of the nation. The high priest did it as president of that council. See Acts 9:14, and Acts 22:5. The high priest at that time was Theophilus, son of Ananus, who had been appointed at the feast of Pentecost, 37 a.d., by Vitellius, the Roman governor. His brother Jonathan had been removed from that office the same year (Kuinoel).
on Acts 9 :1
9:1 Acts 22:3, and c; Acts 26:9, and c.