Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Stephen’

Scattered Thoughts on Acts: Part 1

I recently taught a short class on the book of Acts, something I rarely teach on.  I thought I would post some random thoughts that popped into my head, some (all?) of which will probably only interest me.

Herod, Agrippa, or Herod Agrippa

One of the potentially confusing aspects of the gospels and Acts is the use of “Herod,” which refers to 3 different men (unless I’m missing one).  The first is Herod the Great, who was alive when Jesus was born, but died soon after (see Matthew 2, where one of his sons, Archelaus, is also mentioned).  His son, Herod Antipas, is mentioned in the gospels as the one who had John the Baptist killed, as well as making an appearance in Jesus’ trial (Luke 23).  Then there’s Herod Agrippa, known as Agrippa I in non-biblical sources (“Agrippa the Great” in Josephus), who was responsible for the death of James, the brother of John and Son of Zebedee, and intended to have Peter killed as well.  He ultimately was stricken down (Acts 12).  All three of these men are referred to simply as “Herod” or “King Herod” in the Bible.

What I didn’t know was that the King Agrippa of Acts 25-26 is Agrippa II, the son of Agrippa I, the last in the line of the Herodian dynasty.  I wonder why Luke doesn’t simply refer to him as “Herod” like the rest of them.  The reason I find it interesting is that it seems the choice of the biblical writers to call the first 3 guys “Herod” was intentional and perhaps idiosyncratic, since extra-biblical sources generally refer to them using more distinct terminology.  So why wasn’t Agrippa II given the (dubious) honor of being called “Herod” like the rest of them?

Time & Dates

The narrative books of the Bible generally have an awkward way of portraying time elapsed.  That is, they will sometimes breeze over long stretches of time in a short amount of space, then dedicate a prolonged portion of the narrative to a shorter span of time.  I don’t have a problem with this, of course, because the authors have certain people and events they want to highlight and others they don’t.  It’s the author’s (or, you know… God’s) call.

Acts is no different.  The book as a whole covers nearly 30 years of history, ending around 62AD, but starting either 30AD or 33AD, depending on when you date Christ’s death & resurrection.  The first 9 chapters or so take up only 3 years or so (either 33 or 36).  Chapters 10-20 get us up to 58AD, give or take a little.  Then the final 8 chapters cover only a 4 year span. 

Persecution

It’s interesting to note that persecution in the book of Acts helps propel the spread of the gospel.  It’s after Stephen’s death that many were scattered and the gospel is spread outside of Jerusalem into Judea and Samaria (8:1).  Even Paul’s mission to Rome (representing the “uttermost parts”) is accomplished by his arrest and trial in Jerusalem and Caeserea.  What strikes me about all this is that the assumption held by the early Christians was that you share the gospel wherever you go.  Circumstances were secondary influencers (if they influenced decisions at all). 

We see this, of course, in Paul’s letters, too.  In Philippians, Paul mentions that the whole praetorium guard has heard the gospel (Philippians 1:13).  Why?  Because jail is simply a new church planting ground.  In the same way, Phillip didn’t hide or sulk when he had to escape Jerusalem in Acts 8.  He went with the plan to bring the gospel wherever he went- no matter the circumstances.

The Martyrdom of Stephen

I jotted down some quick notes on Stephen’s trial and death, noting the similarities to Jesus’ trial and death.  Here’s a quick list I came up with, with references in Acts and Jesus’ life:

  • His opponents couldn’t stand up to his wisdom (6:10; Luke 20:26, 40- see also Luke 12:11-12, 21:15)
  • Trial before the High Priest and the Sanhedrin (6:12; Luke 22:66-71)
  • They produced false witnesses to testify against him (6:11-14; Mark 14:55-59)
  • Stephen was accused of speaking against Moses, the Temple, the Law and God (6:11-14, Matthew 26:57-65 & other places)
  • Stephen accuses the people of not truly following the Law, killing the prophets, etc (7:51-53; Matthew 21:33-46, 23:29-36)
  • “Son of Man at the right hand of the Father” echoes Jesus’ words (7:55-56; Luke 22:69)
  • Stephen gives up his spirit (7:59; Luke 23:46)
  • Stephen asks God not to hold their sin against them (7:60; Luke 23:34)

Anything I missed?

It should be no surprise that those who choose to follow Jesus really will have to follow Him (Luke 9:23).

Read Full Post »