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The first of the seven appointed to minister as a deacon in distributing alms, so that the Grecian widows should not be neglected while the Hebrew widows were served (Acts 6; 7). (See DEACON.) His Grecian name (meaning "crown"; by a significant coincidence he was the first who received the crown of martyrdom) and his anti-Judaistic speech indicate that he was a Hellenist or Greek speaking foreign Jew as contrasted with a home born Hebrew speaking Jew. frontGRECIAN.) "He did great miracles and wonders among the people," in confirmation of the gospel. He was, like the rest of the seven, "of honest report, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom"; also "full of faith and power," so that the disputants of the synagogue of the Libertines, Cyrenians, Alexandrians, Cilicians, all like himself Grecian Jews, "were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spoke." So they charged him before the Sanhedrin by suborned witnesses with speaking against Moses and God, the temple and the law, and asserting that, Jesus of Nazareth should destroy the temple and change the customs that Moses had delivered.
        Doubtless, he showed that Jesus really "fulfilled" the law while setting aside that part of its letter which was designed to continue only until the gospel realized its types. His Hellenistic life away from the temple and its rites made him less dependent on them and readier to comprehend the gospel's freedom from legal bonds. The prophets similarly had foretold the superseding of the legal types and the temple by the Antitype (Jeremiah 7:4; Jeremiah 31:31-34). His judges looking steadfastly on him "saw his face as it had been the face of an angel," like that of Moses after talking with God on the mountain (Exodus 34:29-35; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Ecclesiastes 8:1). They were at first awestruck, as the band that fell backward at Jesus' presence in Gethsemane. Then the high priest appealed to Stephen himself as Caiaphas had to Jesus. His speech is not the unconnected narrative that many suppose, but a covert argument which carries his hearers unconsciously along with him until at the close he unveils the drift of the whole, namely, to show:
        (1) That in Israel's past history God's revelation of Himself was not confined to the holy land and the temple, that Abraham had enjoyed God's revelations in Mesopotamia, Haran, and Canaan before he possessed a foot of the promised land; so also Israel and Moses in the strange land of Egypt, and in Midian and Sinai, which was therefore "holy ground" (Acts 7:33), and in the wilderness 40 years.
        (2) That in their past history from the first the same failure to recognize their true friends appeared as in their present rejection of the great Antitype Messiah and His ministers: "ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Spirit, as your fathers did so do ye"; so the brethren toward Joseph, the Israelites towards Moses (Acts 7:9; Acts 7:35; Acts 7:40), and worst of all toward God, whom they forsook for a calf and for Moloch.
        (3) That God nevertheless by ways seeming most unlikely to man ultimately exalted the exile Abraham, the outcast slave Joseph, and the despised Moses to honour and chiefship; so it will be in Messiah's case in spite of the humiliation which makes the Jews reject Him.
        (4) That Solomon the builder of the temple recognized that which the Jews lose sight of, namely, that the Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands, as though His presence was confined to a locality (1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chronicles 2:6; 2 Chronicles 6:18), and which Jehovah through Isaiah (Isaiah 66:1) insists on.
        Therefore spiritual worship is the true worship for which the temple was but a preparation. The alleged discrepancies between the Old Testament and Stephen's speech are only in appearance. He under the Holy Spirit supplements the statements in Exodus 7:7, Moses "fourscore years old" at his call, 40 years in the wilderness, 120 at his death (Deuteronomy 29:5; Deuteronomy 31:2; Deuteronomy 34:7), by adding that he was 40 at his visiting his Israelite brethren and leaving Egypt for Midian, and stayed there 40 (Acts 7:23-30). Also he combines, as substantially one for his immediate object, the two statements (Genesis 15:16), "after that they shall come here (to Canaan) again," and Exodus 3:12, "ye shall serve God upon this mountain" (Horeb), by Acts 7:7, "after that they shall come forth and serve Me in this place" (Canaan).
        Israel's being brought forth to worship Jehovah in Horeb, and subsequent worshipping Him in Canaan their inheritance, were but different stages in the same deliverance, not needing to be distinguished for Stephen's purpose. Moses' trembling (Acts 7:32) was a current belief which Stephen endorses under the Spirit. Again as to Acts 7:15-16, "Jacob and our fathers were carried over into Sychem, and laid in the sepulchre that Abraham bought of Emmor," Stephen with elliptical brevity refers to six different chapters, summing up in one sentence, which none of his hearers could misunderstand from their familiarity as to the details, the double purchase (from Ephron the Hittite by Abraham, and from Hamor of Shechem by Jacob: Genesis 23:16; Genesis 33:19), the double burial place (Machpelah's cave and the ground at Shechem), and the double burial (Jacob in Machpelah's cave: Genesis 50:13, and Joseph in the Shechem ground of Jacob, Genesis 50:25; Exodus 13:19; Joshua 24:32).
        The burials and purchases were virtually one so far as his purpose was concerned, namely, to show the faith of the patriarchs and their interest in Canaan when to the eye of sense all seemed against the fulfillment of God's promise; Stephen hereby implying that, however visionary Jesus' and His people's prospects might seem, yet they are as certain as were the patriarchs' prospects when their only possession in Canaan was a tomb. These seeming discrepancies with the Old Testament are just what a forger would avoid, they confirm, the genuineness of S.' s speech as we have it. So as to other supplementary notices in it as compared with Old Testament (Acts 7:2 with Genesis 12:1; Acts 7:4 with Genesis 11:32; Acts 7:14 with Genesis 46:27; Acts 7:20 with Exodus 2:2; Acts 7:22 with Exodus 4:10; Acts 7:21 with Exodus 2:10; Acts 7:53 with Deuteronomy 33:2; Acts 7:42-43 with Amos 5:26).
        The fascination with which at first Stephen's beaming heavenly countenance had overawed his stern judges gave place to fury when they at last saw the drift of his covert argument. Perceiving their resistance to the truth he broke off with a direct charge: "ye stiffnecked (with unbending neck and head haughtily thrown back), and (with all your boast of circumcision) uncircumcised in heart and ears (which ye close against conviction!), ye do always resist the Holy Spirit" (compare Nehemiah 9:29-30); with all your phylacteries "ye have not kept (efulaxate) the law," of which you boast. They were cut to the heart (Greek: "sawn asunder") and gnashed on him with set teeth. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit," strained his eyes with steadfast look into heaven" (atenisas, the same word as describes the disciples' look after the ascending Saviour: Acts 1:10). There he saw "standing (to help (Psalm 109:31), plead for and receive him, not as elsewhere sitting in majestic repose) the Son of man" (a phrase used elsewhere in New Testament by Jesus Himself).
        The members of the council, remembering probably the use of similar language by Jesus when on trial before them (Matthew 26:64), being at all events resolved to treat as blasphemy Stephen's assertion of the divine exaltation of Him whom they had crucified, cried aloud, stopped their ear's (unconsciously realizing Stephen's picture of them: Acts 7:51; Psalm 58:4), ran upon him with one accord (contrast "with one accord," Acts 4:24), and cast him out of the city (as was the custom in order to put out from the midst of them such a pollution: 1 Kings 21:13; Luke 4:29; Hebrews 13:12) and stoned him, all sharing in the execution, the witnesses casting the first stones (Deuteronomy 13:9-10; Deuteronomy 17:7; John 8:7), after having stripped off the outer garments for greater ease in the bloody work, and laid them at the feet of Saul who thereby signified his consent to Stephen's execution (Acts 8:1; Acts 22:20).
        The act was in violation of Roman authority, which alone had power of life or death, a sudden outbreak as in John 8:59. Like Jesus in his recognition of the glory of "the Son of man," he also resembled his Lord in his last two cries, the second uttered on bended knee to mark the solemnity of his intercession, "Lord Jesus (as Jesus had invoked the Father), receive my spirit." "Lord lay not this sin to their charge" (Luke 23:34; Luke 23:46). Thus Stephen was laid "asleep" (the term for death after Jesus' pattern: John 11:11, compare Deuteronomy 31:16; Daniel 12:2; 1 Corinthians 15:18; 1 Corinthians 15:51). Devout proselytes, a class related to the Hellenists to whom Stephen belonged, carried him to his burial and made great lamentation over him. His holy day is put next after Christmas, the martyr having the nearest place to the great Sufferer. It is the Lord's becoming man to die for man that nerves man to be willing to die for the Lord.
        The gate opening on the descent to the valley of the Kedron is called Stephen's gate. Stephen was first of the earliest Christian ministry, "the archdeacon," as the Eastern church calls him. To Stephen first the name "martyr" is applied (Acts 22:20). The forerunner of Paul, whose conversion was the first fruit of his prayer for his murderers; among the pricks of conscience which Saul vainly strove to resist (Acts 9:5) the foremost was remorse at the remembrance of the part he took in the last touching scene of the holy martyr's execution. The first martyr foreran the first apostle of the Gentiles; Stephen anticipated that worldwide universality of spirit which Paul advocated everywhere in opposition to the narrow prejudices of Judaism.

Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew Robert M.A., D.D., "Definition for 'stephen' Fausset's Bible Dictionary". - Fausset's; 1878.

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