Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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ACTS - Chapter 7

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Acts 7

Supplemental Commentary:

I.  THE CHURCH IN PALESTINE AND SYRIA  2, 1 -- 12, 25 (continued)

1.  Growth of the Church in Jerusalem  2, 1 -- 8, 3 (continued)

[7, 1.  See the last section of Commentary on the previous chapter.]

7, 2-60:  Stephen's Discourse and Martyrdom.  Stephen easily refuted the direct charges; he praised Moses as the one who had given them the words of life (30), and he appealed to the prophets who had asserted that no temple could be an adequate dwelling for God (49).  But the main line of his defense was an attack on their stubborn lack of faith and obedience to God; tracing their history from the early days, he showed that they had always resisted God and that they had lately displayed the same evil disposition in betraying and murdering the Just One, Jesus.  In blind rage his accusers clamored for his condemnation, rushed upon him, dragged him outside the city, and stoned him to death.

In this trial the legal forms seem to have been carried out essentially, though the actual condemnation and execution were hurried through under pressure of the mob.  The Sanhedrin had been deprived of the power of inflicting capital punishment, but if the Romans pressed the matter, they could have answered that the execution was really the work of the crowd which had become unruly.  It is quite possible that at this time there was a change of Roman procurators, and so the administration of affairs was confused for the moment.

Some of Stephen's statements differ from the accounts in the Old Testament.  Abraham's call (2) came in Haran according to Gen. 12, 1; Joseph's kindred (14) numbered only seventy according to Gen. 46, 27; the tomb bought by Abraham (16) was at Mambre (Hebron) according to Gen. 50, 13.  In these and similar instances Stephen was following the reading in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, or current traditions, or he was summarizing from memory.  As an inspired writer St. Luke gives a faithful record of what was said without guaranteeing the accuracy of the statements themselves.  Doctrinally Stephen follows closely in the footsteps of St. Peter who from the beginning, by proclaiming Jesus as the sole source of salvation for all men, had announced the inefficacy of the Old Law and the universality of the New.  In his trial before the Sanhedrin the conditions were quite different from those at the trials of the Apostles.  Fear of the people's resentment then prevented the rulers from resorting to extreme measures, but at the trial of Stephen the court was surrounded by a howling mob demanding his condemnation.  Whatever they may have thought of the legal charge lodged against him, the real cause of their rage and of their stoning him was his proclaiming Jesus as the Just One, seated at the right hand of God (7, 52.55).

Confraternity Bible:

1 And the high priest said, "Are these things so?"

Stephen's Discourse: the Patriarchs  2 Then he said, "Brethren and fathers, hear.  The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he settled in Haran, 3 and said to him, 'Go forth from thy country and from thy kindred, and come into the land that I will show thee.'  4 Then he went forth from the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran.  From there, after the death of his father, God removed him into this land where you now dwell.  5 And he gave him no property in it, not even a foot of land, but he promised 'to give it for a possession to him and to his offspring after him,' when as yet he had no son.  6* And God said,
'His offspring shall sojourn in a strange country, and they shall enslave and oppress them four hundred years.  7* And the nation to which they have been in bondage, I will judge,'
said God,
'and afterwards they shall go forth and shall worship me in this place.' 
8* And he gave him the covenant of circumcision, and so he begot Isaac and circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob the twelve patriarchs.

Joseph  9 "Out of jealousy the patriarchs sold Joseph into Egypt, but God was with him 10 and rescued him from all his tribulations, and gave him favor and wisdom 'in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he made him governor over Egypt and over all his household.'  11 Now there came a famine over all Egypt and Canaan, and great tribulation, and our fathers found no food.  12 But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our fathers there a first time, 13 and on their second visit Joseph was recognized by his brothers, and his family became know to Pharaoh.  14 And Joseph sent for his father Jacob and all his kindred, seventy-five souls in all.  15 And Jacob went down to Egypt, and he and our fathers died 16 and were taken to Sichem and laid in the tomb which Abraham bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hemor, the son of Sichem.

Moses  17 "Now when the time of the promise drew near that God had made to Abraham, the people increased and multiplied in Egypt 18 till 'another king arose in Egypt who knew nothing of Joseph.'  19 He dealt craftily with our race and oppressed our fathers by forcing them to expose their infants so that they might not live.  20 At this time Moses was born, and he was acceptable to God; he was nourished three months in his father's house, 21 and when he was exposed, Pharaoh's daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son.  22 And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and in his deeds.  23 And when he was forty years old, it occurred to him to visit his brethren, the children of Israel.  24 And when he had seen one of them being imposed upon, he defended him and, striking down the Egyptian, he avenged him who was being illtreated.  25 Now, he thought that the brethren understood that by his hand God was giving them deliverance; but they did not understand.  26 The next day he came across them fighting and he tried to reconcile them in peace, saying, 'Men, you are brethren; why do you injure each other?'  27 But the man who was wronging his neighbor thrust him aside, saying, 'Who has appointed thee ruler and judge over us?  28 Dost thou mean to kill me as thou didst the Egyptian yesterday?'  29 At those words Moses fled, and lived for a time in the land of Madian, where he begot two sons.

30 "When forty years had passed, there appeared to him in the desert of Mount Sinai an angel in a flame of fire in a bush.  31 But when Moses saw it, he marvelled at the sight; but as he drew near to look, there came the voice of the Lord, saying, 32 'I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.'  And Moses trembled and did not dare to look.  33 Then the Lord said to him, 'Remove the sandals from thy feet, for the place where thou art standing is holy ground.  34 I have seen all the oppression of my people in Egypt, and I have heard their groaning, and I have come down to deliver them.  And now come, I will send thee to Egypt.'

35 "This Moses whom they disowned, saying, 'Who has made thee ruler and judge?' --- him God sent to be ruler and redeemer, with the help of the angel who appeared to him in the bush.  36 This is he who led them out, working wonders and signs in the land of Egypt and in the Red Sea and in the desert, forty years.  37 This is the Moses who said to the children of Israel, 'God will raise up to you a prophet from among your brethren, as he raised up me; to him shall you hearken.'  38 This is he who was in the assembly in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, and he received the words of life to give to us.  39 But our fathers would not obey him, but thrust him aside and in their hearts turned back to Egypt, 40 saying to Aaron, 'Make us gods to go before us.  As for this Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.[']  41 And they made a calf in those days and offered sacrifice to the idol and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.  42* But God turned and gave them up to serve the host of heaven, even as it is written in the book of the Prophets:
'Did you offer victims and sacrifices to me for forty years in the desert, O house of Israel? 

43* Why, you took up with you the tabernacle of Moloch and the star of your god Rempham, images that you made to worship. 

And I will carry you away beyond Babylon.'
The Temple  44 "Our fathers had in the desert the tent of the testimony, as God arranged when he told Moses to make it according to the model that he had seen.  45 This tent also our fathers inherited, and they brought it here with them when under Josue they took possession of the territory of the Gentiles that God drove out before our fathers; and it remained down to the time of David.  46 He found favor before God and asked that he might find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob.  47 But Solomon built him a house.  48 Yet not in houses made by hands does the Most High dwell, even as the prophet says,
49* 'The heaven is my throne, and the earth a footstool for my feet. 

What house will you build me, says the Lord, or what shall be the place of my resting? 

50* Did not my hand make all this?'
Conclusion  51 "Stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ear, you always oppose the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so you do also.  52 Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted?  And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you have now been the betrayers and murderers, 53 you who received the Law as an ordinance of angels and did not keep it."

54 Now as they heard these things, they were cut to the heart and gnashed their teeth at him.  55 But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; 56 and he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."  57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed upon him all together.  58 And they cast him out of the city and stoned him.  And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul.  59 And while they were stoning Stephen he prayed and said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."  60 And falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Lord, do not lay this sin against them."  And with these words he fell asleep.  And Saul approved of his death.


6-7: Gen. 15, 13.

8: Gen. 15, 14.

42-43: Amos 5, 25.

49-50: Isa. 66, 1.