Luke believes we need two Christmas stories. The first story is about the birth of Jesus (Luke 2). The second Christmas story is about the conversion of Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9). Luke believes we need a first and second Noel.
What do I mean? Well, Paul imitates Jesus in birth, life, rejection, trials, death, and resurrection. This is what I have discovered by approaching Luke-Acts from a canonical perspective for the last four years. All of the major events in Paul’s life are prefigured in the major events in Jesus’ life. Jesus and Paul are depicted to appear as twins. Paul appears to be Jesus revived. Luke designed the two accounts to be mirrors of each other.
A Second Noel
For example, Paul’s conversion experience in Acts 9 (also Acts 22, 26) is a mirror image of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem (Luke 2:1-20). Luke arranged the story of the conversion of Saul/Paul to correspond with the story of Jesus’ birth. In other words, the conversion of Saul of Tarsus is a second Christmas, a second Noel.
The textual ties linking the two “birth” passages together are numerous. Luke is showing us that the new birth of Saul is a reenactment of the birth of Jesus. Two Christmas stories.
Like Jesus, Like Paul
But Luke doesn’t stop with the two Christmases. The entire ministry of Paul in Acts 9-28 is a reenactment of Jesus’ whole life in the Third Gospel. Each major episode in Paul’s experience has a twin episode in Jesus’ life. Just as Jesus had a Gethsemane experience, so did Paul. Just as there were two thieves in Jesus’ death, so also there were two thieves in Paul’s life. Just as there was a Barabbas in Jesus’ story, so also there was a Barabbas in Paul’s experience. Just as Jesus had four trials, so did Paul. Just as Jesus was slapped at his trial, so also Paul was slapped at his trial. Just as Jesus experienced death and resurrection, so did Paul. The textual ties linking the two people number in the thousands. Luke-Acts is a literary masterpiece.
But this is not the only way that Luke ties Jesus to Paul. He also unites all of the major characters in Paul’s life to match the major characters in Jesus’ life. If there is a Joseph in Jesus’ life, there is also a Joseph (Barnabas’ real name; Acts 4:36) in Paul’s life who fulfills the exact same role. Every character in Jesus’ life has a twin in Paul’s life. Luke is a master of revealing parallel patterns.
Paul Reenacts Jesus
I cannot provide all the details in this format, of course. My dissertation is already over the limit of 100,000 words. But, the question for all serious Bible students is this: why would Luke intentionally craft the portrait of Paul in Acts to match the portrait of Jesus in the Third Gospel? Why would Luke arrange the story of Paul to be a reenactment of Jesus’ life and ministry?
A Second Christmas Story
Luke believes we need a second Christmas story. Why do we need a second Noel? Luke obviously had a purpose for his literary reenactment. Luke’s structure implies a purpose. Paul reenacts Jesus’ life. What could be his purpose? Why do we need a second Noel? We do need one. But why?
The first Noel, the angel did say,
was to certain poor shepherds in fields where they lay;
in fields where they lay keeping their sheep,
on a cold winter’s night that was so deep.