Freethought Archives > Walter R. Cassels > Supernatural Religion





BEFORE the Apostle of the Gentiles himself comes on the scene, and is directly brought in contact with the Twelve, we have to study the earlier incidents narrated in the Acts, wherein it is said the emancipation of the Church from Jewish exclusiveness had already either commenced or been clearly anticipated. The first of these which demands our attention is the narrative of the martyrdom of Stephen. This episode, although highly interesting and important in itself, might, we consider, have been left unnoticed in connection with the special point now engaging our attention; but such significance has been imparted to it by the views which critics have discovered in the speech of Stephen that we cannot pass it without attention.

We read (Acts 6:1 f.) that, in consequence of murmurs amongst the Hellenists against the Hebrews that their widows were neglected in the daily distribution of alms, seven deacons were appointed specially to attend to such ministrations. Amongst these, it is said, was Stephen, "a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit." Stephen, it appears, by no means limited his attention to the material interests of the members of the Church, but, being "full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs (terata kai sêmeia megala) amongst the people." "But there arose certain of those of the synagogue which is called (the synagogue) of the Libertines [659:2] and of the Cyrenians and of the Alexandrians and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen; and they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake. Then they suborned men who said: We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God. And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and came upon him and seized him, and brought him to the Council, and set up false witnesses, who said: This man ceaseth not to speak words against the holy place and the law; for we have heard him say that Jesus, this Nazarene, shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered to us." The high priest asks him: Are these things so? And Stephen delivers an address, which has since been the subject of much discussion amongst critics and divines. The contents of the speech, taken by themselves, do not present any difficulty so far as the sense is concerned; but, regarded as a reply to the accusations brought against him by the false witnesses, the defence of Stephen has perhaps been interpreted in a greater variety of ways than any other part of the New Testament. Its shadowy outlines have been used as a setting for the pious thoughts of subsequent generations, and every imaginable intention has been ascribed to the proto-martyr, every possible or impossible reference detected in the phrases of his oration. This has mainly arisen from the imperfect nature of the account in the Acts, and the absence of many important details, which has left criticism to adopt that "divinatorisch-combinatorische" procedure which is so apt to evolve any favourite theory from the inner consciousness.

The prevailing view amongst the great majority of critics of all schools is, that Stephen is represented in the Acts as the forerunner of the Apostle Paul, anticipating his universalistic principles, and proclaiming with more or less of directness the abrogation of Mosaic ordinances and the freedom of the Christian Church. [660:1] This view was certainly advanced by Augustine, and lies at the base of his famous saying, "Si sanctus Stephanus sic non orasset, eccelesia Paulum non haberet"; [660:2] but it was first clearly enunciated by Baur, who subjected the speech of Stephen to detailed analysis, [660:3] and his interpretation has to a large extent been adopted even by Apologists. It must be clearly understood that adherence to this reading of the aim and meaning of the speech, as it is given in the Acts, by no means involves an admission of its authenticity, which, on the contrary, is impugned by Baur himself, and by a large number of independent critics. We have the misfortune of differing most materially from the prevalent view regarding the contents of the speech, and we maintain that, as it stands in the Acts, there is not a word in it which can be legitimately construed into an attack upon the Mosaic law, or which anticipates the Christian universalism of Paul. Space, however, forbids our entering here upon a discussion of this subject; but the course which we must adopt with regard to it renders it unnecessary to deal with the interpretation of the speech. We consider that there is no reason for believing that the discourse put into the mouth of Stephen was ever actually delivered, but, on the contrary, that there is every ground for holding that it is nothing more than a composition by the author of the Acts. We shall endeavour clearly to state the reasons for this conclusion.

No other evidence regarding Stephen
With the exception of the narrative in the Acts, there is no evidence whatever that such a person as Stephen ever existed. The statements of the Apostle Paul leave no doubt that persecution against the Christians of Jerusalem must have broken out previous to his conversion, but no details are given, and it can scarcely be considered otherwise than extraordinary that Paul should not in any of his own writings have referred to the proto-martyr of the Christian Church, if the account which is given of him be historical. It may be argued that his own share in the martyrdom of Stephen made the episode an unpleasant memory, which the Apostle would not readily recall. Considering the generosity of Paul's character, on the one hand, however, and the important position assigned to Stephen, on the other, this cannot be admitted as an explanation, and it is perfectly unaccountable that, if Stephen really be a historical personage, no mention of him occurs elsewhere in the New Testament.

Moreover, if Stephen was, as asserted, the direct forerunner of Paul, and in his hearing enunciated sentiments like those ascribed to him, already expressing much more than the germ - indeed, the full spirit -- of Pauline universality, it would be passing strange that Paul not only tacitly ignores all that he owes to the proto- martyr but vehemently protests: "But I make known unto you, brethren, that the Gospel which was preached by me is not after man. For neither did I receive it from man, nor was taught it, but by revelation of Jesus Christ" (Gal. 1:11-12). There is no evidence that such a person exercised any such influence on Paul. [661:2] One thing only is certain, that the speech and martyrdom of Stephen made so little impression on Paul that, according to Acts, he continued a bitter persecutor of Christianity, "making havoc of the Church."

The statement, 6:8, that "Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people," is not calculated to increase confidence in the narrative as sober history; and as little is the assertion, 6:15, that "all who sat in the Council, looking steadfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel." This, we think, is evidently an instance of Christian subjective opinion made objective. How, we might ask, could it be known to the writer that all who sat at the Council saw this? Neander replies that probably it is the evidence of members of the Sanhedrin of the impression made on them by the aspect of Stephen. [662:1] The intention of the writer, however, obviously is to describe a supernatural phenomenon, and this is in his usual manner in this book, where miraculous agency is more freely employed than in any other in the Canon. The session of the Council commences in a regular manner, [662:2] but the previous arrest of Stephen (6:11-12), and the subsequent interruption of his defence, are described as a tumultuous proceeding, his death being unsanctioned by any sentence of the Council. [662:4] The Sanhedrin, indeed, could not execute any sentence of death without the ratification of the Roman authorities, [662:5] and nothing is said in the narrative which implies that any regular verdict was pronounced; but, on the contrary, the tumult described in 5:57 f. excludes such a supposition. Olshausen [662:6] considers that, in order to avoid any collision with the Roman power, the Sanhedrin did not pronounce any formal judgment, but connived at the execution which some fanatics carried out. This explanation is inadmissible, because it is clear that the members of the Council themselves, if also the audience, attacked and stoned Stephen. The actual stoning [662:7] is carried out with all regard to legal forms, the victim being taken out of the city (Levit. 24:14), and the witnesses casting the first stone (Deut. 17:7), and for this purpose taking off their outer garments.

The whole account, with its singular mixture of lawlessness and formality, is extremely improbable, and more especially when the speech itself is considered. The proceedings commence in an orderly manner, and the high priest calls upon Stephen for his defence. The Council and audience listen patiently and quietly to his speech, and no interruption takes place until he has said all that he had to say; for it must be apparent that, when the speaker abandons narrative and argument and breaks into direct invective, there could not have been any intention to prolong the address, as no expectation of calm attention after such denunciations could have been natural. The tumult cuts short the oration precisely where the author had exhausted his subject, and by temporary lawlessness overcomes the legal difficulty of a sentence which the Sanhedrin, without the ratification of the Roman authority, could not have carried out. As soon as the tumult has effected these objects, all becomes orderly and legal again; and, consequently, the witnesses can lay their garments "at a young man's feet whose name was Saul." The principal actor in the work is thus dramatically introduced. As the trial commences with a supernatural illumination of the face of Stephen, it ends with a supernatural vision, in which Stephen sees heaven opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God. Such a trial and such an execution present features which are undoubtedly not historical.

Trial based on that of Jesus
This impression is certainly not lessened when we find how many details of the trial and death of Stephen are based on the accounts in the Gospels of the trial and death of Jesus. The irritated adversaries of Stephen stir up the people and the elders and scribes, and come upon him and lead him to the Council. [663:3] They seek false witness against him; [663:4] and these false witnesses accuse him of speaking against the temple and the law. [663:5] The false witnesses who are set up against Jesus with similar testimony, according to the first two Synoptics, are strangely omitted by the third. The reproduction of this trait here has much that is suggestive. The high priest asks: "Are these things so?" [663:6] Stephen, at the close of his speech, exclaims: "I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God." Jesus says: "Henceforth shall the Son of Man be seated on the right hand of the power of God." [664:1] Whilst he is being stoned, Stephen prays, saying: "Lord Jesus, receive my Spirit"; and, similarly, Jesus on the cross cries, with a loud voice: "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit; and, having said this, he expired." [664:2] Stephen, as he is about to die, cries, with a loud voice: "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge; and when he said this he fell asleep"; and Jesus says: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." [664:3] These two sayings of Jesus are not given anywhere but in the third Synoptic, [664:4] and their imitation by Stephen, in another work of the same Evangelist, is a peculiarity which deserves attention. It is argued by Apologists that nothing is more natural than that the first martyrs should have the example of the suffering Jesus in their minds, and die with his expressions of love and resignation on their lips. On the other hand, taken along with other most suspicious circumstances which we have already pointed out, and with the fact, which we shall presently demonstrate, that the speech of Stephen is nothing more than a composition by the author of Acts, the singular analogies presented by this narrative with the trial and last words of Jesus in the Gospels seem to us an additional indication of its inauthenticity. As Baur [664:5] and Zeller [664:6] have well argued, the use of two expressions of Jesus only found in the third Synoptic is a phenomenon which is much more naturally explained by attributing them to the author, who of course knew that Gospel well, than to Stephen, who did not know it at all. [664:7] The prominence which is given to this episode of the first Christian martyrdom is intelligible in itself, and it acquires fresh significance when it is considered as the introduction of the Apostle Paul, whose perfect silence regarding the proto-martyr, however, confirms the belief which we otherwise acquire, that the whole narrative and speech, whatever unknown tradition may have suggested them, are to be ascribed to the author of the Acts.

How was the speech preserved?
On closer examination, one of the first questions which arises is: how could such a speech have been reported? Although Neander [665:1] contends that we are not justified in asserting that all that is narrated regarding Stephen in the Acts occurred in a single day, we think it cannot be doubted that the intention is to describe the arrest, trial, and execution as rapidly following each other on the same day. "They came upon him, and seized him, and brought him to the Council, and set up false witnesses, who said," etc. (Acts 6:12 f.). There is no ground here for interpolating any imprisonment, and, if not, then it follows clearly that Stephen, being immediately called upon to answer for himself, is, at the end of his discourse, violently carried away without the city to be stoned. No preparations could have been made even to take notes of his speech, if upon any ground it were reasonable to assume the possibility of an intention to do so; and indeed it could not, under the circumstances, have been foreseen that he should either have been placed in such a position or have been able to make a speech at all. The rapid progress of all the events described, and the excitement consequent on such tumultuous proceedings, render an ordinary explanation of the manner in which such a speech could have been preserved improbable, and it is difficult to suppose that it could have been accurately remembered, with all its curious details, by one who was present. Improbable as it is, however, this is the only suggestion which can possibly be advanced. The majority of Apologists suppose that the speech was heard and reported by the Apostle Paul himself, or at least that it was communicated or written down either by a member of the Sanhedrin or by someone who was present. As there is no information on the point, there is ample scope for imagination; but, when we come to consider its linguistic and other peculiarities, it must be borne in mind that the extreme difficulty of explaining the preservation of such a speech must be an element in judging whether it is not rather a composition by the author of Acts. The language in which it was delivered, again, is the subject of much difference of opinion, many maintaining that it must have originally been spoken in Aramaic, whilst others hold that it was delivered in Greek. Still, a large number of critics and divines of course assert that the speech attributed to Stephen is at least substantially authentic. As might naturally be expected in a case where negative criticism is arrayed against a canonical work upheld by the time-honoured authority of the Church, those who dispute its authenticity are in the minority. It is maintained by the latter that the language is more or less that of the writer of the rest of the work, and that the speech, in fact, as it lies before us is a later composition by the author of the Acts of the Apostles.

Before examining the linguistic peculiarities of the speech, we may very briefly point out that, in the course of the historical survey, many glaring contradictions of the statements of the Old Testament occur. [666:1] Stephen says (vs. 2-3) that the order to Abraham to leave his country was given to him in Mesopotamia before he dwelt in Haran; but according to Genesis (12:1 f.) the call is given whilst he was living in Haran. The speech (v. 4) represents Abraham leaving Haran after the death of his father, but this is in contradiction to Genesis, according to which (Gen. 12:4) Abraham was 75 when he left Haran. Now, as he was born when his father Terah was 70 (Gen. 11:26), and Terah lived 205 years (Gen. 11:32), his father was only 145 at the time indicated, and afterwards lived 60 years. In v. 5 it is stated that Abraham had no possession in the promised land, not even so much as to set his foot on; but, according to Genesis (23:4 f., 17 f.), he brought the field of Ephron in Machpelah. It is said (v. 14) that Jacob went down into Egypt with 75 souls, whereas in the Old Testament it is repeatedly said that the number was 70. [666:6] In v. 16 it is stated that Jacob was buried in Schechem in a sepulchre bought by Abraham of the sons of Emmor in Schechem, whereas in Genesis (49:12; 50:13) Jacob is said to have been buried in Machpelah; the sepulchre in Schechem, in which the bones of Joseph were buried, was not bought by Abraham, but by Jacob (Josh. 24:32). Moses is described (v. 22) as mighty in words; but in Exodus (4:10 f.) he is said to be the very reverse, and Aaron, in fact, is sent with him to speak words for him. These are some of the principal variations. It used to be argued that such mistakes were mere errors of memory, natural in a speech delivered under such circumstances and without preparation, [667:1] and that they are additional evidence of its authenticity, inasmuch as it is very improbable that a writer deliberately composing such a speech could have committed them. It is very clear, however, that the majority of these are not errors of memory at all, but either the exegesis prevailing at the time amongst learned Jews, or traditions deliberately adopted, of which many traces are elsewhere found.

Analogy to speeches in others of Acts: Expressions of Stephen, Paul, and Peter
The form of the speech is closely similar to other speeches found in the same work. We have already, in passing, pointed out the analogy of parts of it to the address of Peter in Solomon's porch, but the speech of Paul at Antioch bears a still closer resemblance to it, and has been called "a mere echo of the speeches of Peter and Stephen." [667:2] We must refer the reader to our general comparison of the two speeches of Peter and Paul in question, [667:3] which sufficiently showed, we think, that they were not delivered by independent speakers, but, on the contrary, that they are nothing more than compositions by the author of the Acts. These addresses, which are such close copies of each other, are so markedly cast in the same mould as the speech of Stephen that they not only confirm our conclusions as to their own origin, but intensify suspicions of its authenticity. It is impossible, without reference to the speeches themselves, to show how closely that of Paul at Antioch is traced on the lines of the speech of Stephen, and this resemblance is much greater than can be shown by mere linguistic examination. The thoughts correspond where the words differ. There is a constant recurrence of words, however, even where the sense of the passages is not the same, and the ideas in both bear the stamp of a single mind. We shall not attempt fully to contrast these discourses here, for it would occupy too much space, and we therefore content ourselves with giving a few illustrations, begging the reader to examine the speeches themselves:

7:2. Men, brethren, fathers, hear. 13:15. Men, brethren … 16. Men, Israelites, and ye that fear God, hear.
  Andres adelphoi … akousate.
  22:1. Men, brethren, and fathers, hear.
Andres, adelphoi kai pateres, akousate. Andres adelphoi kai pateres, akousate.
The God of glory (ho Theos tês doxês[668:1] appeared to our father (tô patri hêmôn) Abraham when he was in (onti en tê M.) Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in (katoikêsai auton en) Haran, etc. 13:17. The God of this people (ho Theos tou laou toutou) Israel chose our fathers (tous patera hêmôn) and exalted the people in their sojourn in the land of Egypt (en tê paroikia en gê Aigyptô)...
6... that his seed should be a sojourner in a strange land (paroikon en gê allotpia) ...  
5... and to his seed ... (kai tô stermati autou). [668:2]
8. And he gave him (Abraham) a covenant ... (kai edôken autô diathêkên...) of circumcision. [668:3]
3:25 Ye are the children ... of the covenant (tês diathêkes) which God made with your fathers, saying unto Abraham: And in thy seed (kai en tô stermati sou), etc.
22. Moses was mighty in his words and deeds (ên de dynatos en logois kai ergois autou). (Lk. 24:19. Jesus ... mighty in deed and word (dynatos en ergô kai logô ...)
32. I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. (Egô ho Theos tôn paterôn sou, ho theos Abraàm  kai Isaàk kai Iakôb.) 3:13. The God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers. (Ho theos Abraàm  kai Isaàk kai Iakôb, ho theos ton paterôn hêmôn...)
36. This (Moses) brought them (the people ton laon) out (exêgagen autous) having worked wonders and signs [668:4] in the land of Egypt (en tê Aigyptô) and in the Red Sea, and in the wilderness forty years (en tê erêmô etê tesserakonta).
42... forty years in the wilderness ... (etê tesserakonta en tê erêmô).
13:17 ... and exalted the people (ton laon) in their sojourn in the land of Egypt (en gê Aigyptô), and with a high arm brought them out of it (exêgagen autois),
18. and for about the time of forty years [668:5] (tesserakontaetê) nourished them in the wilderness (en tê erêmô).


37. This is the Moses who said unto the children of Israel: A Prophet shall God raise up unto you from among your brethren, like unto me... 3:22. Moses indeed said: [668:6] A prophet shall the Lord our God raise up unto you from among your brethren, like unto me, etc.
42. ... God delivered them up to serve the host of heaven (ho theos paredôken autous latreuein, k.t.l.) (Rom. 1:24 ... God delivered them up ... to uncleanness (paredôken autous ho theos ... eis akatharsian, k.t.l. cf. 26 ... paredôken autous ho theos eis pathê atimias ...
28 ... paredôken autous ho theos eis adokimon noun ...).
45. Which also our fathers ... brought in with Joshua when they took possession of the Gentiles (tôn ethnôn), whom God drave out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David 13:19. And he destroyed seven nations (ethnê) in the land of Canaan, [669:1] and divided their land to them by lot.
46. Who found (eure) favour with God ... 22. ... he raised up unto them David as king, to whom also he bare witness and said: I found (euron) David, a man after mine own heart, etc.
48. Howbeit, the Most High dwelleth not in what is made with hands (ouch ho hupsistos en cheiroptoiêtois katoikei), even as the prophet saith:
49. The heaven (ho ouranos) is my throne, and the earth (hê gê) is my footstool.
50. did not my hand make all these things? (Ouchi hê cheir mou epoiêsen panta tauta?)
17:24 f. The God that made the world and all things therein (ho theos ho poiêsas ton kosmon kai panta ta en autô), he being lord of heaven and earth (ouranou kai gês) dwelleth not in temples made with hands (ouk en cheiropoiêtois naois katokei), neither is served by men's hands (cheirôn), etc.
51. Ye uncircumcised in hearts (aperitmêtoi kardiais) (Rom. 2:29. Circumcision is of the heart, in spirit (peritomê kardias en pneumati k.t.l.))
52. Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed (apekteinan) them which announced before the coming of the righteous One (tou dikaiou), of whom ye have become betrayers and murderers (phoneis). 22:14. ... the righteous One (ton dikaion) ...
3:14. But ye denied the holy and righteous One (ton dikaion), and desired a murderer (andra phonea) to be granted unto you,
15. and killed (apekteinate) the Prince of Life, etc.
53. Ye received the law at the arrangements of angels ... (elabete ton nomon eis diatagas angelôn ...) (Gal. 3:19. What then is the law? It was added ...; being arranged by means of angels ... (ti oun ho nomos; prosetethê ... diatageis di' angelôn ...)
54. And hearing these things they were cut to their hearts (akouontes de tauta dieprionto), and gnashed their teeth upon him. 5:33. When they heard they were cut (to their hearts) (oi de akousantes dieprionto) and took counsel to slay them.

It is argued that the speech of Stephen bears upon it the stamp of an address which was actually delivered. We are not able to discover any special indication of this. Such an argument, at the best, is merely the assertion of personal opinion, and cannot have any weight. It is quite conceivable that an oration actually spoken might lose its spontaneous character in a report, and on the other hand, that a written composition might acquire oratorical reality from the skill of the writer. It would indeed exhibit great want of literary ability if a writer, composing a speech which he desires to represent as having actually been spoken, altogether failed to convey some impression of this. To have any application to the present case, however, it must not only be affirmed that the speech of Stephen has the stamp of an address really spoken, but that it has the character of one delivered under such extraordinary circumstances, without premeditation, and in the midst of tumultuous proceedings. It cannot, we think, be reasonably asserted that a speech like this is peculiarly characteristic of a man suddenly arrested by angry and excited opponents, and hurried before a council which, at its close, rushes upon him and joins in stoning him. Unless the defence attributed to Stephen be particularly characteristic of this, the argument in question falls to the ground. On the contrary, if the speech has one feature more strongly marked than another, it is the deliberate care with which the points referred to in the historical survey are selected and bear upon each other, and the art with which the climax is attained. In showing, as we have already done, that the speech betrays the handiwork of the author of the Acts, we have to a large extent disposed of any claim to peculiar individuality in the defence, and the linguistic analysis conclusively settles the source of the composition. We must point out here in continuation that, as in the rest of the work, all the quotations in the speech are from the Septuagint, and that the author follows that version even when it does not fairly represent the original.

Results of Linguistic Analysis
A minute analysis of the language of the whole episode from 6:9 to the end of the seventh chapter, in order to discover what linguistic analogy it bears to the rest of the Acts and to the third Synoptic, leads to the certain conviction that the speech of Stephen was composed by the author of the rest of the Acts of the Apostles. [670:1] It may not be out of place to quote some remarks of Lekebusch at the close of an examination of the language of the Acts in general, undertaken for the purpose of ascertaining the literary characteristics of the book, which, although originally having no direct reference to this episode in particular, may well serve to illustrate our own results: "An unprejudiced critic must have acquired the conviction from the foregoing linguistic examination that throughout the whole of the Acts of the Apostles, and partly also the Gospel, the same style of language and expression generally prevails, and, therefore, that our book is an original work, independent of written sources on the whole, and proceeding from a single pen. For when the same expressions are everywhere found; when a long row of words, which only recur in the Gospel and Acts, or comparatively only very seldom in other works of the New Testament, appear equally in all parts; when certain forms of words, peculiarities of word-order, construction of phraseology, indeed even whole sentences, recur in different sections, a compilation out of documents by different earlier writers can no longer be thought of, and it is 'beyond doubt that we have to consider our writing as the work of a single author, who has impressed upon it the stamp of a distinct literary style' (Zeller, Theol. Jahrb., 1851, p. 107). The use of written sources is certainly not directly excluded by this, and probably the linguistic peculiarities, of which some of course exist in isolated sections of our work, may be referred to this. But as these peculiarities consist chiefly of hapax legomena, which may rather be ascribed to the richness of the author's vocabulary than to his talent for compilation, and in comparison with the great majority of points of agreement almost disappear, we must from the first be prepossessed against the theory that our author made use of written sources, and only allow ourselves to be moved to such a conclusion by further distinct phenomena in the various parts of our book, especially as the prologue of the Gospel, so often quoted for the purpose, does not at all support it. But in any case, as has already been remarked, the opinion that in the Acts of the Apostles the several parts are strung together almost without alteration, is quite irreconcilable with the result of our linguistic examination. Zeller rightly says: 'Were the author so dependent a compiler, the traces of such a proceeding must necessarily become apparent in thorough dissimilarity of language and expression. And this dissimilarity would be all the greater if his sources, as in that case we could scarcely help admitting, belonged to widely separated spheres as regards language and mode of thought. On the other hand, it would be altogether inexplicable that, in all parts of the work, the same favourite expressions, the same turns, the same peculiarities of vocabulary and syntax, should meet us. This phenomenon only becomes conceivable when we suppose that the contents of our work were brought into their present form by one and the same person, and that the work as it lies before us was not merely compiled by some one, but was also composed by him.'" [671:1]

Should an attempt be made to argue that, even if it be conceded that the language is that of the author of Acts, the sentiments may be those actually expressed by Stephen, it would at once be obvious that such an explanation is not only purely arbitrary and incapable of proof, but opposed to the facts of the case. It is not the language only which can be traced to the author of the rest of the Acts, but, as we have shown, the whole plan of the speech is the same as that of others in different parts of the work. Stephen speaks exactly as Peter does before him and Paul at a later period. There is just that amount of variety which a writer of not unlimited resources can introduce to express the views of different men under different circumstances; but there is so much which is nevertheless common to them all that community of authorship cannot be denied. On the other hand, the improbabilities of the narrative, the singular fact that Stephen is not mentioned by the Apostle Paul, and the peculiarities which may be detected in the speech itself, receive their very simple explanation when linguistic analysis so clearly demonstrates that the speech actually ascribed to the martyr Stephen is nothing more than a later composition put into his mouth by the author of the Acts.

< Previous section      Contents       Home      Top of Page      Next section >
HTML © 2002 -