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Seven Leaders Are Chosen
1In those days the number of believers was growing. The Jews who followed Greek practices complained against the Jews who followed only Jewish practices. They said that the widows of men who followed Greek practices were not being taken care of. They weren't getting their fair share of food each day. 2So the Twelve gathered all the believers together. They said, "It wouldn't be right for us to give up teaching God's word in order to wait on tables. 3Brothers, choose seven of your men. They must be known as men who are wise and full of the Holy Spirit. We will turn this important work over to them. 4Then we can give our attention to prayer and to teaching the word."
5This plan pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen. He was full of faith and of the Holy Spirit. Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon and Parmenas were chosen too. The group also chose Nicolas from Antioch. He had accepted the Jewish faith. 6The group brought them to the apostles. Then the apostles prayed and placed their hands on them.
7So God's word spread. The number of believers in Jerusalem grew quickly. Also, a large number of priests began to obey Jesus' teachings.
Stephen Is Arrested
8Stephen was full of God's grace and power. He did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. 9But members of the group called the Synagogue of the Freedmen began to oppose him. Some of them were Jews from Cyrene and Alexandria. Others were Jews from Cilicia and Asia Minor. They all began to argue with Stephen. 10But he was too wise for them. They couldn't stand up against the Holy Spirit who spoke through him.
11Then in secret they talked some men into lying about Stephen. They said, "We heard Stephen speak evil things against Moses. He also spoke evil things against God."
12So the people were stirred up. The elders and the teachers of the law were stirred up too. They arrested Stephen and brought him to the Sanhedrin. 13They found people who were willing to tell lies. The false witnesses said, "This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place. He also speaks against the law. 14We have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place. He says Jesus will change the practices that Moses handed down to us."
15All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked right at Stephen. They saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
The Appointment of the First Seven Deacons
1 Now in those#tn Grk “these.” The translation uses “those” for stylistic reasons. days, when the disciples were growing in number,#tn Grk “were multiplying.” a complaint arose on the part of the Greek-speaking Jews#tn Grk “the Hellenists,” but this descriptive term is largely unknown to the modern English reader. The translation “Greek-speaking Jews” attempts to convey something of who these were, but it was more than a matter of language spoken; it involved a degree of adoption of Greek culture as well.sn The Greek-speaking Jews were the Hellenists, Jews who to a greater or lesser extent had adopted Greek thought, customs, and lifestyle, as well as the Greek language. The city of Alexandria in Egypt was a focal point for them, but they were scattered throughout the Roman Empire. against the native Hebraic Jews,#tn Grk “against the Hebrews,” but as with “Hellenists” this needs further explanation for the modern reader. because their widows#sn The care of widows is a major biblical theme: Deut 10:18; 16:11, 14; 24:17, 19-21; 26:12-13; 27:19; Isa 1:17-23; Jer 7:6; Mal 3:5. were being overlooked#tn Or “neglected.” in the daily distribution of food.#tn Grk “in the daily serving.”sn The daily distribution of food. The early church saw it as a responsibility to meet the basic needs of people in their group. 2 So the twelve#sn The twelve refers to the twelve apostles. called#tn Grk “calling the whole group…together, said.” The participle προσκαλεσάμενοι (proskalesamenoi) has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style. the whole group#tn Or “the multitude.” of the disciples together and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to wait on tables.#tn Grk “to serve tables.” 3 But carefully select from among you, brothers,#tn It is not clear from a historical standpoint (but it is unlikely) that women would have been involved in the selection process too. For this reason the translation “brothers” has been retained, rather than “brothers and sisters” (used in contexts where both male and female believers are clearly addressed). seven#sn Seven. Jewish town councils often had seven members (Josephus, Ant. 4.18.14 [4.214]). men who are well-attested,#tn Or “are of good reputation” (BDAG 618 s.v. μαρτυρέω 2.b). full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge#tn The translation “put in charge” is given by BDAG 492 s.v. καθίστημι 2. of this necessary task.#tn Grk “of this need”; translated “necessary work” or “needed task” by L&N 42.22. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 The#tn Grk “And the.” Because of the difference between Greek style, which often begins sentences or clauses with “and,” and English style, which generally does not, καί (kai) has not been translated here. proposal pleased the entire group, so#tn The translation “so” has been used to indicate the logical sequence in English. they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, with#tn “With” is smoother English style for an addition like this. Because of differences between Greek and English style, καί (kai), which occurs between each name in the list, has not been translated except preceding the last element. Philip,#sn Philip. Note how many of the names in this list are Greek. This suggests that Hellenists were chosen to solve the problem they had been so sensitive about fixing (cf. 6:1). Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a Gentile convert to Judaism#tn Or “a proselyte.” from Antioch.#map For location see JP1-F2; JP2-F2; JP3-F2; JP4-F2. 6 They stood these men before the apostles, who prayed#tn Literally this is a participle in the Greek text (προσευξάμενοι, proseuxamenoi). It could be translated as a finite verb (“and they prayed and placed their hands on them”) but much smoother English results if the entire coordinate clause is converted to a relative clause that refers back to the apostles.sn Who prayed. The prayer indicates their acceptance and commissioning for ministry (cf. Deut 34:9). and placed#tn Or “laid.” their hands on them. 7 The word of God continued to spread,#tn Grk “kept on spreading”; the verb has been translated as a progressive imperfect. the number of disciples in Jerusalem#map For location see Map5-B1; Map6-F3; Map7-E2; Map8-F2; Map10-B3; JP1-F4; JP2-F4; JP3-F4; JP4-F4. increased greatly, and a large group#tn Grk “a great multitude.”sn A large group. Many Jews, even some religious leaders, were responding. of priests became obedient to the faith.
Stephen is Arrested
8 Now Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and miraculous signs#tn The miraculous nature of these signs is implied in the context. Here the work of miracles extends beyond the Twelve for the first time. among the people. 9 But some men from the Synagogue#sn A synagogue was a place for Jewish prayer and worship, with recognized leadership (cf. Luke 8:41). Though the origin of the synagogue is not entirely clear, it seems to have arisen in the postexilic community during the intertestamental period. A town could establish a synagogue if there were at least ten men. In normative Judaism of the NT period, the OT scripture was read and discussed in the synagogue by the men who were present (see the Mishnah, m. Megillah 3-4; m. Berakhot 2). of the Freedmen (as it was called),#tn Grk “the so-called Synagogue of the Freedmen.” The translation of the participle λεγομένης (legomenh") by the phrase “as it was called” is given by L&N 87.86. “Freedmen” would be slaves who had gained their freedom, or the descendants of such people (BDAG 594-95 s.v. Λιβερτῖνος). both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, as well as some from Cilicia and the province of Asia,#tn Grk “Asia”; in the NT this always refers to the Roman province of Asia, made up of about one-third of the west and southwest end of modern Asia Minor. Asia lay to the west of the region of Phrygia and Galatia. The words “the province of” are supplied to indicate to the modern reader that this does not refer to the continent of Asia. stood up and argued with Stephen. 10 Yet#tn Grk “and.” The context, however, indicates that the conjunction carries an adversative force. they were not able to resist#sn They were not able to resist. This represents another fulfillment of Luke 12:11-12; 21:15. the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke. 11 Then they secretly instigated#tn Another translation would be “they suborned” (but this term is not in common usage). “Instigate (secretly), suborn” is given by BDAG 1036 s.v. ὑποβάλλω. some men to say, “We have heard this man#tn Grk “heard him”; but since this is direct discourse, it is more natural (and clearer) to specify the referent (Stephen) as “this man.” speaking blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12 They incited the people, the#tn Grk “and the,” but καί (kai) has not been translated since English normally uses a coordinating conjunction only between the last two elements in a series of three or more. elders, and the experts in the law;#tn Or “and the scribes.” See the note on the phrase “experts in the law” in 4:5. then they approached Stephen,#tn Grk “approaching, they seized him”; the referent (Stephen) has been specified in the translation for clarity. seized him, and brought him before the council.#tn Or “the Sanhedrin” (the highest legal, legislative, and judicial body among the Jews). Stephen suffers just as Peter and John did. 13 They brought forward false witnesses who said, “This man does not stop saying things against this holy place#sn This holy place is a reference to the temple. and the law.#sn The law refers to the law of Moses. It elaborates the nature of the blasphemy in v. 11. To speak against God’s law in Torah was to blaspheme God (Deut 28:15-19). On the Jewish view of false witnesses, see Exod 19:16-18; 20:16; m. Sanhedrin 3.6; 5.1-5. Stephen’s speech in Acts 7 may indicate why the temple was mentioned. 14 For we have heard him saying that Jesus the Nazarene will destroy this place and change the customs#tn Or “practices.”sn Will destroy this place and change the customs. Stephen appears to view the temple as a less central place in light of Christ’s work, an important challenge to Jewish religion, since it was at this time a temple-centered state and religion. Unlike Acts 3-4, the issue here is more than Jesus and his resurrection. Now the impact of his resurrection and the temple’s centrality has also become an issue. The “falseness” of the charge may not be that the witnesses were lying, but that they falsely read the truth of Stephen’s remarks. that Moses handed down to us.” 15 All#tn Grk “And all.” Because of the difference between Greek style, which often begins sentences or clauses with “and,” and English style, which generally does not, καί (kai) has not been translated here. who were sitting in the council#tn Or “Sanhedrin” (the highest legal, legislative, and judicial body among the Jews). looked intently at Stephen#tn Grk “at him”; the referent (Stephen) has been specified in the translation for clarity. and saw his face was like the face of an angel.#sn His face was like the face of an angel. This narrative description of Stephen’s face adds to the mood of the passage. He had the appearance of a supernatural, heavenly messenger.