December 10, 2014
Heen/ NT 1
The Martyrdom of Stephen (Acts 7:54-8:3) The death of Stephen in Acts chapters seven and eight is an interesting passage that can leave readers quite perplexed – so much takes place in such a short narrative. Stephen’s martyrdom bears an uncanny similarity to the death of Christ in Luke chapter twenty-three; it seems as if the Greek-speaking Jews that condemned Stephen are the same as those who were in favor of executing Christ. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this passage though, is the introduction of Saul, who appears in the narrative almost unexpectedly, leaving the reader wondering about his significance in the death of Stephen. Through this transitional story, Luke shows…show more content… Specifically, the first seven chapters of Acts, which includes the martyrdom of Stephen, are characterized by the struggle for authority between the temple leaders and the Christ followers in Jerusalem. In these first chapters, Luke attempts to legitimize Christianity’s claim to be true children of God by pointing to the fact that most Jews in his community are not found amongst the heirs of God’s promises in the church. He does this through speeches like Stephen’s (7:1-53), in which the leaders of Judaism are accused of not speaking and leading on behalf of the one true God, and thus are replaced by Jesus’ disciples. With the stoning of Stephen and the introduction of Saul the persecutor, the pericope in focus is one of transition – the leader of the Christian movement is now not the only one being persecuted but his followers as well. So, perhaps Saul is not the evil leader of a militarized force, but instead functions as a symbol for the persecution of the Christians – perhaps Saul is the persecution embodied in a person.
Just before this pericope (7:54-8:3) we read Stephen’s lengthy speech, the speech that causes the crowds to kill him. It is important to note that Stephen employed a rhetorical strategy of refutation in order to attempt to persuade his audience of his legitimacy. With