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Jesus Creed

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The speech of Stephen is quite the speech in Acts. It illustrates both how the gospel was conceived as the climax of Israel’s Story and how the early Church read the Bible from beginning to end. But first we’ve got to get Stephen, one of the deacons, arrested so we can get him to his gospeling/speech!

6:8 Now Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. 6:9 But some men from the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, as well as some from Cilicia and the province of Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen. 6:10 Yet they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke. 6:11 Then they secretly instigated some men to say, “We have heard this man speaking blasphemous words against Moses and God.”6:12 They incited the people, the elders, and the experts in the law; then they approached Stephen, seized him, and brought him before the council. 6:13 They brought forward false witnesses who said, “This man does not stop saying things against this holy place and the law. 6:14 For we have heard him saying that Jesus the Nazarene will destroy this place and change the customs that Moses handed down to us.” 6:15 All who were sitting in the council looked intently at Stephen and saw his face was like the face of an angel.

The alleged case against Stephen has to do with how faithful he is to the Temple and to the Torah/Moses and to Israel and to God. Stephen’s opponents are Greek speaking Jews in a synagogue or two (text is not real clear here). Luke makes it clear — as a narrative makes clear — that God was with Stephen, and that means we are to hold the words of his opponents as potentially untruths. Then Luke tells us they looked at Stephen’s face and it glowed.
There is, then, a narrative that begins with God-with-Stephen, the critics, and then it finishes with God-with-Stephen. God, as it were, surrounds Stephen in the midst of potential (and about to happen) violence.
The gospel of God emerges from this opposed voice — and it is a voice near and around the Temple of Jerusalem. That temple, it becomes clear, will be destroyed and the little movement that predicted that destruction — Jesus to Stephen [if true] to others — will live on. God’s mission keeps on moving.
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