Slide 1

Acts 6:9:

Synagogue of freed persons

Synag’s community centers, prayer and Torah

Freed persons: libertini

-Roman cultures100%enslaved by Pompey, freed in Rome

Synagogue inser: Theodotus son of Vettenos (freedman)

Hellenists (6:1)

Internal issue in the community

Maybe compensating for forgiveness (like Agrippa 1)

Pharisees ranked 1st generation freed slaves just below proselytes


Later sources attest synagogue of Alexandrians and that of Cilicians

Capital of Cilicia was Tarsus

Those freed in Rome often made way eastward

Slide 2


“Blasphemy”: nontechnical: disrespect for God

Ironically: false testimony under oath desecrates divine Name!

Rhet. Alex: how to lie under oath

False witnesses to be executed (Deut 19:18-19); also Roman law)

Slide 3

Charges: against Law and Temple

Nationalism as well as religious issue

-in US: God and country

- in Jeremiah Wright, Pat Robertson

Prophesying against temple punished:

Jeremiah, Joshua ben Hananiah

Stephen’s response

-       Affirms Torah (cites laws)

-       Challenges Temple- sort of

Slide 4

6:15: Face like angel

Cf. transfiguration (Luke 9)

Moses transfigured, received law via angels (7:30, 35, 38, 53)

Angels with God’s servants (5:19; 8:26; 10:3)

Slide 5


Two charges against him:


- Temple

Two responses:

-       Explains temple issue: God not limited to Temple

-       Returns charges; You climaxed our ancestors’ rebellion

a.    Rejected Joseph; Moses

b.    Prophet like Moses (7:37)

c.     Killed prophets

Slide 6

Outline of Message

Abraham (7:2-8)

-       God spoke in Mesopotamia

Joseph (7:9-16)

-       God exalted in Egypt

Moses (7:17-37)

-       “This holy place- not temple, but Mt. Sinai

Ancestors’ rebellion (7:38-50)

Charges accusers (7:51-53)

Slide 7

Stephen’s Parallels in history- some already in Pentateuch

See video @ 30:54 for spread sheet of these parallels

Slide 8

7:1 Judge- high priest- offers Stephen the opportunity to deny the charge

Stephen’s liberties

Usually follows LXX

Summarizes, so occasionally telescopes events

Most is biblical quotation

Occasionally, inference (e.g., Moses’s Egyptian education

Lacks most legendary embellishments of Josephus (fighting Ethiopia), etc.

Slide 9

Background observations:

7:25: ”Deliverance” through Moses

7:29 Moses’s interethnic marriage (Nubian; crosses cultures)

7:35-38: in Greek, “This one” 5X- rhetoric emphasis- the rejected deliverer

7:41: calf-idol:

Greeks despised Egyptian animal figures

Israel ashamed; Josephus omits scene

7:42: Worshiping sun, moon, stars

Greeks thought them gods

Jews: angels; astrology’s predictive value


7:48: houses by human hands

“made-with-hands”: in 7:41, for idols

typical Jewish usage


Arguments often conclude with maxim or clinching point

Isaiah 66:1-2: heaven my throne… what house will you build me

Slide 11

7:51-53: returning the charges

Peroration, closing of speech- often most rousing

Returning charges against accusers- but here against even judges!

v. 51: stiff necked spiritually uncircumcised: together in Deut 10:16

v. 52: ancestors persecuted prophets: 1Kgs 18:4 (Jezebel): Ne 9:26; Uriah in Jer 26:20-23; tradition

v.53: tradition: angels mediated law

They resist HS: prophetic message

It is his critics who kill prophets and violate law

-They’ll prove it- by killing him

Slide 12

Parallels with Jesus in 7:54-60

At Sanhedrin trial, declares exalted Son of Man (Ac 7:56; Lk 22:69)

Entrusts spirit to God (Ac 7:59; Lk 23:46

Prays for persecutors to be forgiven (Ac 7:60; Lk 23:34)

Remember parallel biographies; also, disciples imitate teachers

Slide 13

Who’s really guilty?

Jesus stands in heaven- witness or judge (v.56)

Person to be executed stripped- but v.58

Executed person to confess sins- but v. 60

Sometimes ancient writers; unjust judges really on trial (before Truth or God)

Slide 14

Background on Stephen’s stoning:

Outside city


-       throw over cliff,

-       large stones, aim for chest

-       witnesses would strike first (Deut 17:7)

Illegal “lynching”:

-       governor only in Jerusalem during festivals

-       mobs did stone people


Penalty for blasphemy (Lev 24:16)

Seeking to stone God’s servants (Exod 17:4; Nu 14:10, 2Chronicles 24:21)

Slide 15

Saul as “young man”

-       teens through 30’s; most often 20’s

-       associated with strength; and rashness

Gal 1: advancing beyond contemporaries

Slide 16

Outline of Acts 8:

(Saul in 7:58-60 )+ 8:1-4: Persecution scatters believers

8:5-25: Philip’s ministry in Samaria

8:26-40: to African court official

-i.e. “to the ends of the earth”

Aithiopia (then= Africa S. of Egypt): “ends of the earth”

Careful structure:

-8:4: those scattered preached where they went

8:5: Philip preached in Samaria

8:25: Peter and John: good news in Samaritan villages en route to Jerusalem

8:40: Philip: good news in coastal towns until Caesarea

Slide 17

8: 1-4:

It took persecution to get the church to begin to do what Jesus had commanded them back in 1:8!

Ironically, Saul spreads church before conversion- by persecuting them!

Those who suffer for Christ: count the cost; more radical

V. 2 Stephen’s burial

- Dying unburied dishonor

-Risking life to bury honorable and heroic

-Adult sons of those closest to deceased would bury them

-Public mourning for condemned criminal prohibited

- Stephen’s pious friends ignore illegal ruling

V.3: Saul’s zeal: detaining women as well as men

v.4: Most ancient religions spread by travelers

-focus on apostles; but others did also (11:19-20)

Last modified: Sunday, April 7, 2019, 2:48 PM