Stephen’s Speech: A Possible Model For Luke’s Historical Method? -- By: J. Julius Scott, Jr.

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 17:2 (Spring 1974)
Article: Stephen’s Speech: A Possible Model For Luke’s Historical Method?
Author: J. Julius Scott, Jr.


Stephen’s Speech: A Possible Model
For Luke’s Historical Method?

J. Julius Scott, Jr.

Western Kentucky University Bowling Green, Kentucky

Stephen’s speech is different from the other speeches in Acts. It is longer and more polemical; it is more apologetic than evangelistic. Other speeches are organized around the Christocentric kerygma, Stephen mentions Jesus by name only after his speech has been interrupted and his audience transformed into a lynch mob. In the Acts speeches of Peter and Paul the OT is cited only by brief quotations or through allusions to events or predictions believed fulfilled by Jesus. In contrast most of Stephen’s speech comprises a survey of almost a millenium of OT history and used both quotations and descriptions of OT events, not merely to support his argument, but as his primary method for presenting it. This historical element in Acts 7 invites study, not only of the author’s theology and place in early Christianity,1 but also of his historical method.

In examining the historiography of Stephen’s speech the researcher finds himself in an unusually favorable position. Since most sources used by ancient historians have perished the modern student is usually limited only to tentative and conjectural conclusions about the writer’s attitudes toward his task and his methods of handling sources at his disposal. However, the major source for the history related in Stephen’s speech is the Old Testament. Consequently, in this case we can compare the historian’s product (the Acts 7 speech) with his primary source (the OT) and come to some fairly definite conclusions about how at least this one ancient historian practiced his craft.

To further set the scene we should note that this investigation is inter-related with two broader areas of enquiry, ancient historiography in general and the historical methods and reliability of Luke-Acts in the NT. Regarding the former a popularly held generalization assumes that ancient reporters did not have modem concerns for accuracy. They were motivated by desires to propogate a particular point of view, to please a wealthy patron, or to use history as a stage on which to display their own inventive-ness, rhetorical or literary skills. As a result truth, in the sense of a reliable account of what actually happened, was either ignored, distorted, or obscured in their writings.

In contemporary NT studies a growing number of students, led by Hans Conzelmann and Ernst Haenchen,2 hold that Luke-Acts is the product of this ancient attitude toward reporting the p...

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