Stephen’s Speech: A Theology of Errors? -- By: Rex A. Koivisto
GTJ 8:1 (Spr 87) p. 101
Stephen’s Speech: A Theology of Errors?
The points of seeming divergence between Stephen’s words in Acts 7 and the OT record have engendered attacks on inerrancy by some and attempts at reconciliation by others. A current approach to reconciliation involves the attempt to distinguish between inerrancy of content and inerrancy of record in Acts 7. This views the divergences in Stephen’s speech as admissible errors since inspiration is only posited of the author of Acts and not of Stephen as a character in the narrative. The present article seeks to show that three of these divergences are merely insertions into the narrative, not errors, and furthermore, that these divergences are calculated theological insertions. The result is a renewed need to seek their reconciliation with the OT record.
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Stephen’s speech in Acts 7:2–53 has remained an enigma for much of modern scholarship. In its current form it is clearly the longest speech in the book of Acts, yet it diverges from the other speeches in the book in that it is non-apostolic and apparently non-kerygmatic.1 Furthermore, the content of the speech is held by some to be little more than a dry recitation of the history of the Hebrews, having little to do with the judicial framework into which the author of Acts has placed it.2
An even more difficult quandary is left for those who look for historical consistency with the OT in the speech, for it diverges from the OT historical record in at least five places.3 Several approaches toward a reconciliation of these conflicts have been attempted, but
GTJ 8:1 (Spr 87) p. 102
one that has been gaining vogue in recent years is an attempt to distinguish between inerrancy of content and inerrancy of record.4 This option leaves the divergences in Stephen’s speech as admissible errors since inspiration, and its corollary, inerrancy, need only be posited of the author of Acts and not of Stephen as a character in the narrative.
Aside from the hermeneutical problems such an approach introduces,5 those who would adopt this distinction as an attempt to retain inerrancy fail to observe two key factors: (1) the function of the so-called errors in the theology of the speech; and (2) Luke’s adoption of that theology in Acts. Leaving the Lucan adop...
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