Acts 7 – Stephen’s Speech

Stephen is arrested for speaking out against the temple and the Law of Moses. While Luke is clear that these are false charges, it is possible that Stephen has preached something which could have been taken as “against the temple and the Law.” There is no indication in Acts that anyone “spoke out against the Law” among the apostolic community, they continued to worship in the Temple and most likely keep all of the Works of the Law which were expected of them as Jews. Sometimes scholars have speculated that Stephen, as a Hellenistic Jew, was already starting to give up elements of the Law, as if he were a forerunner of Paul’s theology in Galatians. There is nothing here that would give that impression, except the false witnesses.

St Stephen Fra AngelicoTo speak out against the Temple was not an offense worthy of death. There were in fact many critics of the Temple in the first century, including the Qumran community which separated itself entirely from Temple worship on the grounds that the Temple used the wrong calendar and was therefore celebrating Passover on the wrong day! If Stephen did speak out against the Temple, he is no different than Jeremiah, who condemned the Temple, the priesthood, and the worshipers of not doing true worship (Jer 7, for example), and Jesus himself who called the Temple a “den of thieves”! In addition, there are a number of Second Temple period books which also condemn the priesthood as corrupt.

If the audience could agree with most of Stephen’s sermon, it is his conclusion that angers them so greatly. This generation is just as stiff-necked, therefore they are under the same judgment! (7:51-53) The conclusion to this sermon draws on themes found throughout the Hebrew Bible.

Resistance to the apostolic message represents resisting the Holy Spirit. The people are called stiff-necked. The word appears only here in the New Testament and it appears 8 times in the LXX, usually in the context of covenant unfaithfulness (Ex 33:3, 34:9 and Deut 9:6). To be “stiff-necked” means to be stubborn, obstinate, or rigid” (HALOT). They are also described as having “uncircumcised hearts.” This phrase is also associated with covenant unfaithfulness, see Jer 9:25, Lev 26:41, Jer 6:10, Ezek 44:7, 9. Stephen says that this generation has always resisted the Holy Spirit. “Resistance” is a rare word in both the New Testament and the LXX, appearing only here and Num 27:14, where it describes the rebellion of the people in the Wilderness of Zin.

Stephen accuses the present generation of the same hard-headed resistance to the word of God which was demonstrated by the worst of Israel’s kings. Those who persecuted the prophets would include Ahab and Jezebel in the northern kingdom, Manasseh in the south (who was reputed to have killed Isaiah and any other true prophet who challenged him), but also the temple authorities who persecuted Jeremiah. Jeremiah spoke against the Temple and was nearly killed, Jesus also challenged the Temple and was killed.

The most stinging part of this critique is that these prophets predicted the coming of the messiah and were silenced by the appointed authorities of the nation. Most likely the Sanhedrin would have agreed with Stephen on this point, the prior generations were corrupt – but not so the current administration. This generation has done the same to the Righteous One himself!

What other elements of Stephen’s speech resonate with the prophets of the Hebrew Bible? Obviously he alludes to the Hebrew Bible extensively in the speech, but is he intentionally connecting his audience with the “wilderness generation”?  If so, what was the point of this allusion?

30 thoughts on “Acts 7 – Stephen’s Speech

  1. Stephen uses some amazing imagery in this passage as he goes through the story of Abraham and Moses. The people had to have know this story very well as it was a huge part of their history, so this sermon didn’t seem like anything new to them at first. The surprise comes at the end when Stephen equates them with the rebellious freshly liberated Israelites coming out of Egypt. This was a shock, because the people listening to this sermon believed that they had “arrived” spiritually. That they had overcome all the idols and sins of the past and were following God’s plan. But somewhere along the line, they actually started to worship the law itself, instead of God and his will. This was why they were so adamant about keeping the law so perfectly; because they unknowingly worshiped that instead of God. Stephen is then comparing them to a generation of people who would not listen to the will of God, a generation who did whatever they thought was right. The point of this was to say that they needed to give up this idol of the law that they have created and turn to God. i do not think that Stephen hates or even disagrees with the law. I think that he sees that the law is actually hindering their faith in God, and is becoming a stumbling block in their lives. This imagery put into place by Stephen is brilliant, and yet his analogy to the rebellious generation and calling out of this group was the leading cause to his death.

  2. As I wrote a few days ago, I am not sure that the story about Stephen is true as I believe that the Romans would not have allowed that execution. And if they found out about it, someone would have paid a severe price for an illegal execution. You said that you would explain all of that later. And also, Paul said that his FIRST visit to Jerusalem was three years after he experienced his calling from Jesus. Also, is there any other record of an execution by Jews after the Roman occupation? I haven’t heard or read of any. I do like Luke, but I think that he is a good historic-relgious-novel writer who loved to intrigue his audience (whom ever that was in the 1st or 2nd century) with some flights of fanciful story telling to prove a point he was trying to make. As a former priest once said on his radio show – “there is a lot of truth in the Bible but the Bible is not always truthful.” I am a Christian who is learning Hebrew and Greek in order to read all of these stories in their original languages.

  3. The stoning of Stephen was a turning point for the Jews during this time. Stephen was accused of speaking out against the temple and as so clearly stated by Professor Long this was not a large enough scale to be killed over. The idea that maybe he as a Hellenistic Jew was a forerunner of what Paul would preach later on after Acts 9 is a very interesting fact. I think it is interesting to note that Jesus called the Temple a den of thieves and was not immediately stoned after. I think Stephens speech was critical to help the Jews to become more bold and to have to go to all different parts of the country and spread out proclaiming Jesus. He becomes a Martyr for the people to get up and start sacrificing for Jesus. I would like to point out how when they are stoning Stephen he is filled with the Holy Spirit and the following happens: “But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:55-56) The fact that he sees the Son of Man standing next to God is something very interesting to make note of. I believe that Jesus is standing and not sitting next to His Father because He is so upset and appalled at the stiff-necked people who refuse to accept the Holy Spirit. The stoning of Stephen is a good place to see how the Holy Spirit has power and how we should be willing to do all for our Savior and Lord.

  4. Speaking out against the temple is something that is discouraged but nothing something to make a great deal about. When he spoke out, he not only was a strong and courageous man but he also made all his followers and fellow individuals to become strong in who God is and speak more courageously on what they want to speak up on. Stephen encouraged others to be the light and to hide the light of Christ. Yes, pain will come and there will be people who reject you because they reject Christ. Jesus has told us that there will be people who do not know us or hate us because they did not know us and they hated him. “The one who accepts Pau’s teaching must thereby confess that the resurrected Messiah in heaven is the one who defines sacred space” (Jipp 120).

    • Miranda, Good post. I agree, that speaking out against the temple is highly discouraged. To take it farther, it is near blasphemy because the temple is such a highly and holy reguarded place, it would be upsetting to anyone close to whoever speaks out against it. For those that don’t know whoever spoke against it, it would cause a riot and anger. Stephen was strong and didn’t hid the light of Jesus. It is said that many live in darkness and they will want to stay in the darkness (John 3:20). I think that is perfect example and Stephen is attempting to persuade the hearts of many toward the lifht.

  5. Stephen’s speech angered the temple workers, specifically the Sanhedrin, because he struck a nerve while speaking truth. He spends a lot of His time speaking about Moses and his life. The listeners seem to have no problem with this, but at the end of his speech they are aggravated. The problem arises when He calls them out for their rejection of the Holy Spirit. “Hi speech is operating typologically, or drawing patterns between Israel’s rejection of the prophet Moses and the current rejection of Jesus and the apostles” (Jipp 62). He shares how their ancestors rejected Moses, which the Sanhedrin know, but then tells them that they are the same. Acts 7:51 says, “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit.” He calls them out for being as blocked off to God’s moving as their ancestors were in the wilderness. As if that is not enough of a reason for them to feel offended, “Stephen accuses the present generation of the same hard-headed resistance to the word of God which was demonstrated by the worst of Israel’s kings” (Long). These temple leaders were men of pride, they held themselves in high regard. Hearing their own actions laid before them was enough to trigger them into rage. They killed Stephen because of his bold proclamations and that mirrors the events of both Jesus and Jeremiah who were also killed because of their testifying against the temple and its works (Long). Stephen was bold and fearless and spoke for the growth of the Kingdom despite the consequences. The Sanhedrin did not appreciate the truth because they were called stiff necked and compared to those who they were taught to despise throughout history. They considered themselves godly men, but clearly missed the opportunity to experience and accept the Spirit. This is the message that they so obviously missed within Stephen’s speech.

  6. The speech that Stephen gave angered many people including the Sanhedrin. I believe that this is because he was specifically calling them and others out for what they were doing and failing to do. He called them out for their rejection of the Holy Spirit. He compared them to their ancestors. Jipp states that, “His speech is operating typologically, or drawing patterns between Israel’s rejection of the prophet Moses and the current rejection of Jesus and the apostles” (Jipp, 62). He compared their actions to those of their ancestors that rejected the prophet Moses. This is seen in Acts 7:51. This is an especially hard thing for the temple workers to hear because they were proud people and they felt that they were right and following God. These proud people killed Stephen for what he was teaching and it reflected what happened to Jesus for his teachings (Long). Stephen did not let the possibility of upsetting people stop him from preaching the truth that God was leaving on his heart. He chose to be bold and follow God rather than fit in the ‘cool’ or normal crowd. He stood up for what he believed in even if it meant death.

  7. I think that Stephen absolutely takes shots at the Sanhedrin through referring to them as being of the same stiff-necked, hard-headedness as the Hebrews of the wilderness generation. Stephen reminds the Sanhedrin that those who were supposed to be following Moses continually were defying God and him and were constantly resisting the Spirit. Resistance is not used much in Scripture, but that is exactly what the Sanhedrin are doing here as they lie about and to Stephen simply because he is preaching about Jesus as Christ, and they disagree and cannot defeat the Spirit in an argument. Stephen explains that this generation he is speaking to are no different from those lost in the wilderness because they constantly went against God and were stubborn. Stephen says, “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— (7:51-52), and he wants the Sanhedrin to realize that they are simply just repeating history, in how they killed or pushed away many of God’s prophets who spoke of the coming Messiah, and then when Jesus finally did come they killed him too! It is a similar parallel to Peter’s speech in Acts 2, “and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.” Both take direct shots at the Sanhedrin who turned over and murdered Jesus, and Stephen, being the setting and topic of his sermon, was stoned as a result of his direct condemnation and convictions that he was targeting the Sanhedrin with.

  8. It is very noticeable when reading through Acts 7 that Stephen is indeed relating the people of his time to the Israelites who wandered in the wilderness. Stephen goes through the genealogy of Moses in chapter 7 and one interesting aspect that he points out is that the life of Moses loosely mirrors the role of Jesus. In verse 25, he speaks of how the Israelites did not understand that he was trying to rescue them through killing the Egyptian (Exudos 2:11-15) and he was rejected by his people just as Jesus had been. Verse 30 speaks of a 40-year period where stayed in the wilderness resembling Jesus’s 40 days in the wilderness. He even mentions in verse 37 that there will be another prophet to come that would be like him. Polhill mentions that the role of Moses as God’s unexpected source of salvation for his people is also parallel to the unexpected salvation through Jesus (2094). Stephen’s emphasis on Moses as the one who had delivered Israel is important because, as keepers of the law, the High Priest and Sadducees only studied the Pentateuch. It would not matter if Stephen had mentioned the other prophets because the leaders would have not paid any attention to the mention of someone outside of the scriptures that they studied. Thus, the allusion that Stephen creates around the wilderness is for the purpose of the leaders both acknowledging and comprehending what he was actually trying to say about Jesus. If Moses was the only true prophet to them, then he had to speak his message in their territory.

  9. It is interesting to read about this viewpoint of Stephen’s speech. In some ways it makes sense, from their point of view, that Stephen could be seen as a heretic and sharing false teachings in the synagogue. For instance, if someone today were to come into my church and say that everyone was “stiff-necked”, unfaithful, and resisting the Spirit, they may be asked or told to leave. Often times individuals feel embarrassed when they are called out on what they are doing incorrectly, and it was most likely no different for Stephen’s audience. Stephen does allow is speech to have an incredible about of credibility as he alludes to the Old Testament and “people of God” time and time again. In considering what other Old Testament references Stephen could have made to defend himself and his point of the allusions made, and prophesies fulfilled by Christ, there are many individuals that Stephen could have used as examples. For example, God used the judges such as Gideon, Deborah, and Samson to guide and teach His people to return back to Him and be faithful (Judges 4-7, 13-16). There is entire book of the Bible, along with other Old Testament books, that tell over and over again about the Israelite people not trusting God and being faithful to His commands and God needing to save them from destruction and captivity. God uses His prophet Hosea, to show quite literally how unfaithful the people are to him through the metaphor of Hosea’s unfaithful wife(Hosea 9).

  10. Stephen speaks towards the audience as “stiff-necked,” and it is true that throughout the Hebrew Bible, there are multiple generations that turn crooked and wicked. Whether it is acting in ignorance, or knowingly bowing to idols, humanity is consumed with a wilderness generation. Stephen highlights people like Moses, David, Joshua, and Abraham as examples of being fully devoted to the Lord. Each of these people in the Bible led people who were fully committed to the Lord and encountered great pushback as well.
    Stephen mainly emphasizes Moses, and how Israel did reject him, but yet God did miracles and signs through him (Polhill, p. 2094). Polhill makes the point that in the wilderness God gave the directions for the tabernacle (Polhill, p. 2095). Despite a wilderness generation then, and a wilderness generation today, God uses the wilderness to shed light to His desire to use His people, no matter what.
    It is interesting how each prophet or major leader in the Bible experienced pushback and a rebellious group, yet this is when the Lord moved greatly. There is always a remnant that He rises up on behalf of those falling astray. We see this today, even within the church, of hearts that are cold towards God, and how they must be softened and turned to repentance. Though Stephen’s speech was for the people in Acts, it is definitely relevant to culture today!

  11. There is a lot to unpack from Stephen’s speech in Acts 7. I agree that the people probably agreed with Stephen on a lot of what he said during his speech, since he talked about things that have already happened for a majority of the time. At the end of his speech in Acts 7:51-53, when he calls the people “stiff-necked”, I think he started to get the people angry with him. I understand why the people would be angry since they do not want to think of themselves or have other people think of them like that. I think that it was smart of Stephen to base his speech around Scripture for a variety of reasons. First off, I think that it shows his knowledge of the Bible and proves to people that he is credible. The high priest may have believed him, but did not like what he said, or maybe he did not believe what Stephen was saying about the people. Regardless, the readers of the Bible today are able to see that Stephen knew what he was talking about. Stephen also mentions that the people have “uncircumcised hearts and ears” in Acts 7:51. I can see why this comment would cause anger because of the covenant that God gives in Genesis 17:9-14. If these people tried to follow the Law, then this may have been something that they did not want to be accused of. Stephen did many amazing things for the people even though some were against his what he said.

  12. Looking at Stephen’s speech, his chronology seems to describe events in more detail leading up to the crafting of the tabernacle, then it suddenly connects quickly to the Temple, and judging the Sanhedrin as stiff-necked people. Perhaps, this is indeed an indication of Stephen focusing more on Israel’s early history. By making this connection, Stephen straight out affirms that throughout Israel’s history, Israel remained just as bad in their stubborn, unfaithful ways up to the present generation Stephen was preaching to. They expressed more zeal to their image by following the letter of the law and to things like the physical Temple. Stephen simply shows that they are missing the point. They have become a numerous nation, they have possessed the land, but they barely ever fulfilled their mission of blessing the whole Earth as a priestly nation (Exodus 19:6). Stephen also highlights that they “always resist the Holy Spirit” (v. 51) and it is possible to assert that Israel reject a trinitarian intervention from God. They rejected God as king (1 Samuel 8:7) and killed His prophets, Jesus as Messiah and killed Him (Acts 7:52), and rejected the apostles’ witness and the manifestations of the Holy Spirit. God, in His three persons, reaches out to Israel and is rejected. Ultimately, Stephen proclaims what every other prophet proclaims over Israel after their stubbornness, that Jesus is standing in judgment at the right hand of God.

  13. Looking into Stephens speech, I put myself in the people who he calls “stiff-necked”. I also think about people nowadays how they say, as Christians, when we speak it needs to be out of love. First being the people who he calls stiffed necked I feel like that is an insult. Maybe that will cuts to peoples heart and maybe it is the reason people started to turn hostile. After his speech they were outraged. it says in Verse 54 that they ground their teeth at him. Myself as a Christian I think about some kid trying to tell me that i am uncircumcised and stiff-necked … I would be pretty outraged too. We see that God opens up heaven for Stephen to see him and Jesus welcoming him in. I believe that Stephen’s heart was in the right place and his words were caring even though they came across as offensive and hurtful. He wants them to turn from their evil ways of their past and turn to Jesus. People today do not want to offend people or hurt them with their words but when it is done out of love from your heart God wants that. We are not perfect and the words we say can never be perfect. But showing that we care is all that God wants.

  14. Stephen’s speech is one of the most profound speeches in all of scripture. Up until this point in scripture, we have had many people post the life of Jesus proclaiming his name and assisting in bringing people to salvation. But it really was not until Stephen that we saw someone brutally suffer for following Christ. As we know, he became the first martyr for Christ’s cause. Sometimes I wonder, how could be killed for telling the truth? But once you quickly observe the context of the world he lived in, the odds were stacked against him. The Sanhedrin and other religious people of the time thought they could do no wrong, and when Stephen called them out on their wrongdoings and sin patterns they couldn’t stand to listen to him, even though what Stephen was saying was the truth- even going as far to compare them to the previous wandering Hebrew generation. He reminds me so much of Peter when he reminds the Israelites that the blood of Jesus is on their hands and that they as a people group are responsible for his death. Perhaps a central theme throughout these seven chapters of Acts is the true followers of Jesus continually reminding the Israelites of their responsibility in the death of Christ.

  15. From what I can tell Stephen was stoned because of his preaching and teachings about Jesus Christ, which were perceived as a threat to the religious leaders at that time. I believe these religious leaders were the priests and the Sanhedrin. Stephen was a strong man and wouldn’t let anything change his mind about who Jesus was and what he was going to do. You can see this when he was about to be stoned. Before he was stoned you can see Stephen staying strong to his faith. This can be found in these verses towards the end of Acts 7. “Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God”(7:54-55). After these verses Stephen says “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (7:56). These couple verses I find to be very significant because the men become very mad when this happens. I just listened to the weekly update from Professor Long, and he said that “the Lord was standing and not seated, this meant that it was the Lord doing some sort of judgment over what the men were doing to Stephen”. This is when they were so mad that they stoned him to death because they do not believe what he is saying is true about Jesus being the Messiah. One thing I am wondering is if the people that stoned Stephen see the heavens open and act as if they were wrong?

  16. In today’s day and age, it is very common for someone to be silenced when they are speaking on a controversial issue. When the masses disagree, they begin to have the power to pick and choose who has a voice. And, although this is prevalent in the modern day due to the widespread use and availability of social media platforms, it happened long ago as well. Stephen’s speech is an excellent example. Although Stephen may not have said anything against the Temple or the Law directly, he spoke in such a way that offended or maybe concerned the Jewish audience listening to his speech. They had such an angry and emotional response that they took Stephen away and stoned him to death, silencing him.
    Similarly, it makes me wonder what exactly pushed them to the point where they decided to kill Stephen. “To speak out against the Temple was not an offense worthy of death” (Long, 2019, para. 2). Even if Stephen had spoken out against the Temple, he should not have been killed. Was his death a result of mismanaged anger? Was it a result of an attempt to silence the truth?
    Long (2019) states if Stephen truly did speak out against the Temple, then there is no difference between him and Jeremiah, or even Jesus (para. 2). In this case, there is a pattern of people speaking out against the Temple’s corruptness. And maybe, the Jews listening to Stephen’s speech expected him to begin to repeat those same things, which would explain the false witnesses. Polhill (2008) states, “It was not Stephen but his accusers who were the ultimate rejecters of the law. In rejecting their God-sent deliverers they rejected God himself” (p. 2095).
    “Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he full of the Holy Spirit…” (Acts 7:54-55a, ESV). Here, it contrasts Stephen with his audience, explicitly stating that Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit, as opposed to the people angered at his speech.
    Who knows the awareness the Jewish audience had of their corruptness? But, Stephen’s speech ultimately triggered something within them that led to intense anger which led to a murder, only deepening the corruption.

  17. As Long alluded to in his post, there are many references back to the Hebrew Bible in Stephen’s speech in Acts 7. In the class notes, Stephen’s speech can be broken up into 8 points, 5 of which are connections to Genesis and the rest of the Pentateuch. Abraham and Isaac in verses 2-8, Joseph in verses 9-16, Moses preparing for the Exodus in verses 17-29, the actual Exodus in verses 30-36, and lastly the time period between the wilderness and the exile in verses 37-43 (Long, 2023, pp 43). Stephen spent the majority of his speech referencing how the Lord kept his promises and faithfulness to the Israelites, which is something the early church could’ve adopted. Like many of the comments above agree with, the main reason it is believed that the audience of Stephen’s speech disagreed with him is simply because of his conclusion. “You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears!” (ESV, Acts 7:51). Stephen is very strongly opinionated when he made this comment, basically acknowledging the resistance to the Holy Spirit of Jerusalem. Having uncircumcised hearts usually referred to having covenant unfaithfulness, basically meaning that the Jews had no faith in the Lord and the covenant that was established during the time of Moses. I believe that the reason Stephen alluded to the wilderness is that they could learn some very important lessons from their ancestors and how they didn’t learn from their sins the first couple of times. That is part of the reason why we have access to the Bible, to learn from the stories of our ancestors.

  18. The Sanhedrin people were so angered by what Stephen had to say in his speech that they ended up killing him over sharing the story of Moses for a majority of it. Stephen then directly attacks Israel for rejecting the Messiah and God’s will. The Holy Spirit led Stephen throughout his speech and when reading Acts 7 the audience sees the hatred that is built by Stephen for him explaining that they rejected the Messiah. When Stephen compared the Sanhedrin people that they were like their ancestors this did not help with them becoming angry with Stephen. It was hard for the temple workers to hear these things and for them to not understand the context in which Stephen was trying to explain. They accused him of false accusations, but they were being hurt by what Stephen said doesn’t change the truth of their rejection of Jesus. The amazing part of what Stephen was doing is Stephen did not stop, slow down, or change the truth that he was proclaiming because of how the Holy Spirit was guiding him. Stephen led like Jesus did and did not back down to fit in with societal norms in order to be accepted. Stephen spoke the truth until his dying breath.

  19. The Sanhedrin were certainly “stiff-necked” and rigid in their ways, but they were perhaps ignorant too. They could see how their prior generations were corrupt, but they failed to clearly see the error in their own ways. With that, the fact that they were unable to see that they were repeating what the prior generations did with the prophets with the Righteous One himself. However, their anger seemed surprising, considering the fact that speaking against the Temple itself did not warrant death. But, as the blog said, it was most likely the ending that angered them so much (Long, para. 3). This could possibly be because it was a direct attack against them. Additionally, there were many elements of Stephen’s speech that were similar to what was said by the prophets in the Hebrew Bible, like what was mentioned in the blog. For example, Acts 7:51 says, “As your fathers did, so do you,” which is also described in Malachi 3:7, which says, “From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them.” Israel’s inability to remain faithful to the Lord is a recurring problem both in the Old Testament and the New Testament. The current administration showed that pattern once again when instead of listening to Stephen, they covered their ears and sentenced him to death as well, showing that they were unable to change. This inability to change possibly plays a significant role in the shift from Israel to Jews and Gentiles as the people that was going to see the kingdom restored to them.

  20. Rather than beginning by admonishing the Sanhedrin for what they have done wrong (killing Jesus the Messiah), Stephen begins with “a selective recital of OT history” (Polhill, p. 2093). Throughout his reiteration of OT history, from Abraham to Joseph to Moses, Stephen highlights the fact that “God has appointed leaders and spokesmen in the past, yet the nation has by in large rejected them” (Long notes, pp. 42). In doing so, Stephen creates a sort of “camaraderie”, so to speak, with the Sanhedrin—hindsight is 2020, and so in looking back at the OT prophets and “spokespeople” who were rejected, the Sanhedrin cannot disagree with Stephen’s assertions. It is his conclusion, however—where he explicitly calls out the Sanhedrin for their role in killing Jesus, where he declares them “stiff-necked”—that drives the Sanhedrin to stone him.

    I think Stephen’s comparison of his Jewish audience with the “wilderness generation” is intentional. The Israelites doubted God’s ability to bring them safely into the promised land in Numbers 13 and 14 (despite his bringing them out of Egypt and proving himself a mighty God). In the same way, despite God proving himself time and again in the Old Testament, when presented with the Messiah, despite the signs he performed, and even now despite the fact that he was *raised from the dead*, the Sanhedrin are blinded by their stubbornness.

    I wonder if part of the reason the Sanhedrin are so stuck in their ways, so angered at Stephen’s proclamation, is out of a fear of acknowledging “what if we were wrong?” If they were wrong, then not only were they as blind as Israel throughout many parts of the Old Testament, but they also went so far as to crucify the very Messiah that they had hoped for. They are digging their heels in, because to acknowledge that they could possibly be in the wrong means their entire worldview would be shaken.

  21. Like you mentioned in the blog, even if Stephen did preach something that could have been seen as against temple law, there was no reason for him to be put to death for it. The Sanhedrin were clearly arrogant in their ways, and even though they knew their predecessors had done wrong, they believed themselves to be in the right. I believe this is the reason that they ended up stoning Stephen. In verses 51-53, he calls them out for resisting the Holy Spirit, not abiding by the law given to them by the angels, and the killing of Jesus. The fact he said this to them, and the arrogance that they had as people, led to them stoning Stephen. I do believe that Stephen is connecting The Sanhedrin to the wilderness generation for the reason that he is trying to point out the similarities that the two groups share. He is pointing out that while both of these groups claim to follow the Lord, they reject his overall plan. I believe his point in doing this is to try to get them to turn away from this rejection of Gods plan, and to instead follow Jesus and his message, which as we know, ultimately leads to his death at their hands, just as happened to Jesus.

  22. I believe the purpose of Stephen alluding to the wilderness generation with his current audience is because he saw similarities between the two. While these people likely believed in God and followed him, they also were not grateful. They were stubborn just like those in the wilderness who did not want to wait any longer or eat the food God provided for them. The crowd Stephen was speaking to was similar. Like the blog post says the crowd appeared to agree with Stephen to some extend until the end of his speech. They did not like the end of Stephen’s speech because he accused them of being stiff-necked people because he knew their true hearts and intentions were not that of God’s. Because they were so angry for Stephen revealing their true skin, they revolted and stoned him. Even in his stoning, Stephen forgave them. A lot can be learned from this. We can act like someone we want to be, but only God knows our true hearts and we cannot hide from him. Also, even Stephen forgave those who hated him and had him killed. Therefore, we should be able to forgive everyone who does us harm.

  23. It would appear to me that Israel has become idolaters over the temple itself at this point in Acts. Their reverence for the temple being the place of the LORD and all their worship parallels that of the golden calf (Polhill 2094). They, just like the children of Israel in the wilderness, reject every attempt that God makes to have a direct relationship with them. They reject Moses’ leadership with the calf, thus rejecting God, and they worship false Gods throughout the period of the judges once they finally get to the promised land. It may be weird to say but it is as if you can take Israel out of the wilderness, but you can’t take the wilderness out of the children of Israel. Yet again Israel is cut off from God when they reject the Holy Spirit, which makes them no different from when they were in the wilderness. Later on in Verse 52 Stephen, like Jesus before, accuses Israel of killing the prophets that God had sent to communicate with them. It’s quite similar to the judges cycle in that every single time a judge is raised up, Israel is delivered, they fall into poor choices and are once again under the law, thus condemned by it. As Paul would later point out, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).

  24. I learned that Stephen was a great believer, and he was arrested for speaking against the Law of Moses. The Israelites loved the law of Moses, and they obeyed the law of Moses. They practiced that law in their lives, and they highly respected that law. They kept the law, and they worshiped in the temple. I think the Jews were crazy about the temple and the Law of Moses. The prophets and believers who preached against the temple were killed or arrested. The Jews did not care about who, but if someone was against the Temple, then they killed those who were against the Temple. Jeremiah spoke against the Temple, and he was almost killed. Jesus also spoke against the temple, and people were mad at him, and they arrested him. They hated him so much that they killed him. The Jews were very wrong, and they always held on to the law of Moses and the temple. They did believe that God would give them the Messiah, but when Jesus came to earth, they did not believe him, and they crucified him. It is sad that the Jews did not believe in Jesus until today. If we went to Israel right now, most of the people would be Jews and Muslims. The Christians are very few there, and they must repent and follow Jesus. According to Jesus, he is the way, the truth, and the life. He is our only hope, and he can save us from death. Stephen was telling the truth to the people, and he changed so many lives even though the people did not like him. 

  25. Stephen was a Hellenistic Jew and a strong believer of Christ. The appointed authorities held the law of Moses close to them. They believed if anything went against the law of Moses was seen as blasphemous. The authorities of the law of Moses saw Stephen as someone who was speaking wrongly of the law. They couldn’t stand anyone speaking poorly of the temple or the law and would act against those people. When looking into Acts 7, I believe Stephen does intentionally connect his audience with the “wilderness generation” of Israelites who wandered in the desert after their escape from captivity in Egypt under the rule of Pharoah. I believe he does this by linking the parallels between the Israelites experience in the wilderness and of the early Christian community. Stephen’s point is possibly to show that the Jewish people have a history of rejecting God’s messengers. We see this with Moses after he freed them from slavery, and they started to worship idols. They even started to continuously reject prophets. Connecting the early Christian community with history, there is a case where the people of God are still rejecting God’s messengers (Stephen). Mr. Philip Long explains Stephen calling the authorities of the law “stiff-necked” very well. Sharing that the people were being stubborn and unfaithful. Rejecting God’s people’s words of Jesus being the Messiah. There were many people that didn’t like Stephen sharing the truth about Jesus being the Messiah. In the end he paid for it with his life as history will continue to share this with other followers of God.

  26. Stephen’s speech seems to be greatly comparing the Jews now to the wilderness generation of the past. There is a part of his speech where he mentions this time of the wilderness generation (Acts 7: 35-42). In this section we see him comparing the Jews now to those who were stuck in the wilderness for their actions. The Israelites at the time directly opposed Moses who was the one that God gave to them to lead them (Polhill, 2008, 2094). A very common story that is talked about in the Old Testament, we see Stephen using it as a comparison to what the people now have done to Jesus. This is Important because this was a huge point in which the people of God had rejected him. God clearly appointed Moses to be their leader, yet they rejected him. His comparison is almost scary with how similar it is. It seems as if it is a mirror of the rejection of Moses, but instead is now a rejection of Jesus. To drive the point home, Stephen in the end of his speech makes it clear that they are no better than the ones before them (Acts 7: 51-53). The people have constantly rejected God and Stephen makes it know that the prophets allude to this constant rejection (Polhill, 2095). This is a hard pill to swallow for those who are listening, and it can be seen very clearly in their reaction. Looking at this is why a conclusion can be made that in his speech he is directly comparing them to the wilderness generation.

  27. Stephens’s speech is an important story in the Bible and holds a lot of information about the biblical narratives about Abraham’s migration from Mesopotamia. When reading this speech in the Bible we can see the overall purpose of this speech is to lay a firm ideological foundation for the subsequent movement of the focus of God’s work. Like Long said in his blog post Stephen had preached “against the temple and the Law”. But when we read Acts we can see there is nowhere that someone actually spoke against the Law. Everyone during this time would worship in the Temple and praise things that were good and there was no one really going against the Law in some sort of way. Though if someone was speaking out against the Temple there would be no reason for someone to be punishable by death. In this speech, we can see that it is important to know that there were other people who had spoken out against the Temple and were nearly killed. Another person who was also challenged and spoke out against the Temple was Jesus and he was killed. All of these hold great significance and Stephens’s speech is important to read and understand in the Bible.

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