From 9:32 through chapter 12 Luke follows the story of Peter outside of Jerusalem among Hellenistic Jews as well as his arrest in Jerusalem. While Saul’s conversion is a major, dramatic event, Luke tells us almost nothing about what happens to Paul until he begins his missionary efforts in Acts 13. This is a literary maneuver by Luke, creating narrative tension. The reader know that eventually the book will turn to Paul’s mission, but Luke marks the passing of many years by offering another set of stories.
As for these Peter stories, there is little here to help with chronology. These stories “fit” any time after Saul’s conversion, there is little more to be said about when they occur. Only Herod Agrippa’s death can be dated with certainty (A.D.) James Dunn points out that Gal 2:7-9 implies that Peter had a successful mission to“the circumcision” by A.D. 50. In fact, Dunn suspects that Peter’s missionary activity was the result of the memory of Jesus’ instruction that the disciples ought to restrict their ministry to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Beginning at Jerusalem, 380).
But these stories are not simply filler – Luke is faithful to his theological agenda as well. He continues to tell the story of the apostolic community moving out from Jerusalem geographically and culturally. While Lydda and Joppa are not too far from Jerusalem, culturally they are far more Hellenistic. Caesarea was a thoroughly Roman city, built by Herod as a tribute to the Roman empire. We have not arrived at Gentile ministry yet, but we are certainly on the edges of what it means to be Jewish. Peter’s ministry here cannot be seen as directed to the Gentiles yet, although in chapter 10 he will be called to preach the gospel to a man who is ethically a Gentile.
The pair of healing stories is good a example of Luke’s literary style. First, in these two stories we have a man and a woman healed. This“paired” set of examples is common in Luke’s gospel (Simeon and Anna in the temple in Luke 2, the “lost” parables in Luke 15, etc.) Later in Acts, Paul will preach the gospel to Lydia and the Jailer in Philippi (Acts 16). Second, Luke portrays Peter as doing the same sorts of miracles which Jesus did, although he does them in the name of Jesus. Paul will also do similar miracles later in the book (a healing and a resurrection / resuscitation.)
While these two episodes in chapter 9 are miracle stories, they give a bit of insight into the way in which the apostolic office functioned in Acts. Peter is traveling in regions which may have been evangelized by Philip. It is possible this is simply to encourage the believers there, doing general pastoral teaching and preaching. But it is also possible that Peter is “inspecting” these believers to see that they have not strayed from the gospel as it was preached in Jerusalem. (Hengel, Between Jesus and Paul, 117; Schnabel disagrees, Early Christian Mission, 1:693. Witherington seems warm to the idea, Acts, 328).
That these locations are more Hellenistic than Jerusalem may be a hint that Peter is concerned with the “fringes of Judaism.” But he is not doing anything different than Jesus did, going to those who would have been considered on the outside of the heart of the Jewish people, Hellenistic Jews, and eventually, and Jewish Hellenist.