Following from The Hellenistic-Hebrew division in Acts – 1 . . . .
Stephen makes a most awkward fit into the narrative that follows the Acts 6:1-7 when we try to make sense of the account as history. There are two options that I see:
- Either the author of Acts is attempting to weave a narrative about Stephen that he has inherited from a tradition that is incompatible with his propaganda narrative about the growth of the church
- Or the same author or redactor who made a botch of trying to reverse the traditional order known to Mark and Matthew of Jesus appearing first in the Capernaum synagogue and later facing opposition in his hometown — an attempt that led to a number of anomalies and loose ends in his narrative — finds himself in Acts in something of a similar pickle with the way he attempts to explain a persecution event that is quite implausible historically with incompatible fictions.
- Or I am sure there are any number of other alternatives but I’m only counting to two for purposes of this post.
In this post I explain the argument for the first option as it appears in Paul and James by Walter Schmithals and conclude with a few thoughts from the alternative argument.
For Schmithals there is “no doubt for his account of Stephen’s martyrdom . . . Luke is making use of an existing tradition.” The reasons?
- The mention of the Hellenistic Jews who dispute with Stephen (Acts 6:9) is not accounted for by anything that has preceded (Stephen himself is not introduced as a Hellenist Jew).
- The description of Stephen as a powerful preacher is inconsistent with his introduction in 6:1-7 where it is the apostles whose job is to preach leaving the task of almsgiving to Stephen and his fellows. (more…)