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The New Oxford Annotated Bible New Revised Standard Study Bible that provides essential scholarship and guidance for Bible readers.

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Commentary on The Acts of the Apostles

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6.1–7 : Choice of the seven.

The seven are identified as the first deacons by later tradition but hold no ecclesiastical office here.

1 :

The Hellenists, Greek‐speaking Jewish Christians; the Hebrews, Aramaic‐speaking Jewish Christians.

2 :

The twelve is used to designate the apostles only here in Acts. To wait on tables, i.e., to feed the hungry.

5 :

Stephen, Philip, and the other names are Greek. Proselyte, a Gentile convert to Judaism, implying that the others were born Jews.

6 :

Laid … hands, a ritual of consecration and appointment; see Num 8.10; 27.23; 1 Tim 4.14; 2 Tim 1.6 (13.3).

7 :

Not all priests are hostile. Acts throughout reports the success (albeit partial) of the Christian movement among Jews ( 21.20n.; 28.24 ).

6.8–8.1a : Preaching and martyrdom of Stephen.

Elements of Stephen's trial and death reflect the passion of Jesus.

6.8 :

Stephen does wonders and signs like the apostles ( 2.43; 4.30; 5.12 ).

9 :

Diaspora Jews argued with Stephen. Freedmen, former slaves, either Jews or proselytes; an inscription found in Jerusalem possibly refers to this synagogue. Cyrenians, from Cyrene in northern Africa (see 11.20n. ). Cilicia, the southeastern portion of Asia Minor where Paul was from ( 21.39; 22.3; 23.34 ). Asia, the Roman province of that name in western Asia Minor.

10 :

A fulfillment of Jesus’ prediction in Lk 21.15 .

13 :

False witnesses, cf. Mk 14.55–57 .

14 :

Jesus … will destroy this place, Mk 14.58; Lk 21.6; Jn 2.19 . The change in customs reported by Mk 7.15,19 is not recorded in Lk. These charges had not been made in the earlier examinations of the apostles.

7.2–50 :

Stephen's speech contains some thirty citations from the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible (the Septuagint), which was the Bible of the early Christians. Accordingly, preaching often made reference to Abraham (v. 2 ), Joseph (v. 9 ), Moses (v. 20 ), and others (cf. 13.16–24; Heb 11.4–40 ).

3 :

Gen 12.1 ; according to Gen 11.31 Abraham was already in Haran (against v. 2 ).

5 :

Gen 12.7; 13.15; 17.8; 48.4 .

6–7 :

Four hundred years, see Gen 15.13–14; cf. Ex 12.40 .

8 :

Gen 17.10–13 .

9 :

Gen 37 .

10–16 :

Gen 39–50 .

14 :

Seventy‐five, according to the Septuagint of Gen 46.27; Ex 1.5 .

16 :

Shechem, but according to Gen 50.13 Jacob was buried at Hebron. Abraham, but according to Gen 33.19 and Josh 24.32 it was Jacob who bought the tomb at Shechem.

17–19 :

Ex 1–2 .

20–22 :

Ex 2.1–10 .

20 :

The importance of Moses is stressed by the amount of space devoted to him in the following verses.

23–29 :

Ex 2.11–22 .

29 :

Midian, northwestern Arabia, on the east coast of the Gulf of Aqaba (Eilat).

30–34 :

Ex 3.1–10 .

30 :

In Ex 3.1 the mountain is Horeb, not Sinai.

35 :

Ex 2.14 .

37 :

A prophet, 3.22 .

38 :

In the Hebrew Bible God, not an angel, speaks to Moses and gives him the law (living oracles); cf. v. 53 .

40 :

Ex 32.1 .

42–43 :

Am 5.25–27 is quoted to support the charge of idolatry raised in vv. 40–42 . The book of the (twelve minor) prophets (Hosea through Malachi) was thought of as a unit.

42 :

The host of heaven, the stars (2 Kings 17.16 ).

43 :

Moloch, a deity to whom children were offered as sacrifices (Jer 32.35 ). Rephan, an astral deity (Saturn).

44 :

The tent of testimony, the tabernacle (Ex 27.21 ), is brought forward in the following verses as preferable to the Temple; compare the “true tent” of Heb 8.1–5 .

45 :

Josh 3.7–4.18 .

46 :

Ps 132.5; cf. 2 Sam 7.1–2 .

47 :

1 Kings 6 .

48 :

Since made with human hands is language associated with idolatry in the Hebrew Bible (see Ps 115.4; Isa 2.8 ), its application to the Temple would be offensive to a Jewish audience. Cf. 17.24–25 .

49–50 :

Isa 66.1–2 .

51 :

Stiff‐necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, see Ex 33.3,5; Lev 26.41; Jer 9.26; cf. Rom 2.29 .

52 :

The question is hyperbolic but recalls Lk 11.47–48 .

53 :

The law, being ordained by angels (cf. v. 38 ) is considered valid (Heb 2.2 ); but Paul used this Jewish tradition to argue that the law is secondary (Gal 3.19 ).

54–58a :

Here Stephen appears as the victim of a lynching.

55–56 :

Lk 22.69 . Son of Man in the Gospels often denotes Jesus as the glorified heavenly judge; elsewhere in the New Testament the term is found only here and in Rev 1.13; 14.14 .

58b–8.1 :

The presence of witnesses, who were legally required to cast the first stones at the offender (Deut 17.7 ), suggests not a lynching but a judicial execution.

58b :

Saul, Luke's dramatic introduction of Paul. His presence may have been suggested by 1 Cor 15.9 and Gal 1.13 but is not confirmed by these references.

59 :

Lk 23.46 .

60 :

See Lk 23.34n.

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