Stephen’s Speech As A Modified Prophetic “RÎḆ” Formula -- By: Brian Peterson

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 57:2 (Jun 2014)
Article: Stephen’s Speech As A Modified Prophetic “RÎḆ” Formula
Author: Brian Peterson


Stephen’s Speech As A Modified
Prophetic “RÎḆ” Formula

Brian Peterson*

* Brian Peterson is assistant professor of OT and Hebrew at Lee University, 1120 North Ocoee Street, Cleveland, TN 37320.

I. Introduction: The Problem Stated

For generations scholars have struggled with the purpose, content, and uniqueness of Stephen’s extended speech in Acts 7, especially his select abridgement of Israel’s history.1 Among the dominant higher-critical approaches, scholars have relied heavily, although not exclusively, upon redaction, rhetorical, and source-critical theory in an attempt to answer some basic queries in relation to the speech.2 For example, what sources informed or lay behind Stephen’s historical rendition?3

What is the rhetorical function of the speech both in whole and in part?4 Is Stephen’s speech merely a rhetorical device created in toto by Luke himself?5 Why does Stephen’s speech deviate from the normal rhetorical patterns of his day?6 Is the speech a unity or an amalgam of traditions?7 And finally, although one could go on,

is the speech intended to be a response to the accusations of Acts 6?8 Unfortunately, in attempting to find answers to these queries, scholars, both past and present, end up producing more questions than answers.

Scholars of the late 19th and 20th centuries wrote extensively on these issues with varied levels of success in solving the literary enigma of Acts 7.9 Typical of the critiques of Stephen’s speech is that of Ernst Haenchen who posits that the speech is a “history-sermon” not that of a “martyr”10—thus raising questions concerning literary unity, redaction history, and rhetorical intent. Also, F. J. Foakes Jackson suggests that the text of 7:1-54 is a later redactional insertion and not an original part of Stephen’s speech—thus removing the s...

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