Acts 7:2
And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran,
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(2) Men, brethren, and fathers.—The discourse which follows presents many aspects, each of special interest. (1) It is clearly an unfinished fragment, interrupted by the clamours of the by-standers (Acts 7:51)—the torso, as it were, of a great apologia. Its very incompleteness, the difficulty of tracing the argument as far as it goes, because we do not see how far it was meant to go, are indirect proofs that we have a true, though not necessarily a verbatim, report. A later writer, composing a speech after the manner of Herodotus and Thucydides, would have made it a much more direct answer to the charges in the indictment. And this, in its turn, supplies a reasonable presumption in favour of other speeches reported by the same author. (2) Looking to the relations between St. Luke and St. Paul, and to the prominence of the latter among the accusers of Stephen, there is a strong probability that the report was derived from him. This is confirmed by some instances of remarkable parallelism between the speech and his later teaching. (Comp. Acts 7:53, Galatians 3:19; Acts 7:48, Acts 17:24). (3) The speech is the first great survey of the history of Israel as a process of divine education—the first development from the lips of a human teacher of principles that had before been latent. As such, it contains the germs which were, in their turn, to be afterwards developed, on the one hand, by St. Paul in the Epistles known to be his, on the other hand by Apollos, or whoever was the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews. (4) The speech is also remarkable as bringing together within a comparatively small compass a considerable number of real or seeming inaccuracies in the details of the history which is commented on. Whether they are real or apparent will be discussed as we deal with each of them. It is obvious that the results thus arrived at will form something like a crucial test of theories which men have formed as to the nature and limits of inspiration. (5) As Stephen was a Hellenistic or Greek-speaking Jew, it is probable that the speech was delivered in Greek, and so far it confirms the inference which has been drawn from the Aramaic words specially recorded in our Lord’s teaching—“Ephphatha,” “Talitha cumi,” and the cry upon the cross—that He habitually used the former language, and that this was the medium of intercourse between the priests and Pilate. (See Notes on Mark 5:41; Mark 7:34.)

The God of glory.—The opening words are an implied answer to the charge of blaspheming God. The name contained an allusive reference to the Shechinah, or cloud of glory, which was the symbol of the Presence of Jehovah. That was the “glory of the Lord.” He, in like manner, was the “Lord of glory.” (Comp. James 2:1.)

Before he dwelt in Charran.—We come, at the very outset, on one of the difficulties above referred to. Here the call of Abraham is spoken of as before he sojourned in Haran, or Charran, west of the Euphrates. In Genesis 12:1 it is first mentioned after Abraham’s removal thither. On the other hand, Genesis 15:7 speaks of God as bringing him “from Ur of the Chaldees”—i.e., from Mesopotamia, or the east of the Euphrates; and this is confirmed by Joshua 24:3, Nehemiah 9:7. The language of writers contemporary with Stephen (Philo, De Abrah.; Jos. Ant. i. 7, § 1) lays stress, as he does, on the first call as well as the second. Here, accordingly, it cannot be said that the statement is at variance with the Old Testament narrative. The word Mesopotamia was used by the LXX., and has thence passed into later versions, for the Hebrew Aram-Naharaim, “Syria of the two rivers” (Genesis 24:10; Deuteronomy 23:4; Judges 3:8), and, less accurately, for Padan-Aram in Genesis 25:20; Genesis 28:2; Genesis 28:5-6; where our version retains the Hebrew name.

7:1-16 Stephen was charged as a blasphemer of God, and an apostate from the church; therefore he shows that he is a son of Abraham, and values himself on it. The slow steps by which the promise made to Abraham advanced toward performance, plainly show that it had a spiritual meaning, and that the land intended was the heavenly. God owned Joseph in his troubles, and was with him by the power of his Spirit, both on his own mind by giving him comfort, and on those he was concerned with, by giving him favour in their eyes. Stephen reminds the Jews of their mean beginning as a check to priding themselves in the glories of that nation. Likewise of the wickedness of the patriarchs of their tribes, in envying their brother Joseph; and the same spirit was still working in them toward Christ and his ministers. The faith of the patriarchs, in desiring to be buried in the land of Canaan, plainly showed they had regard to the heavenly country. It is well to recur to the first rise of usages, or sentiments, which have been perverted. Would we know the nature and effects of justifying faith, we should study the character of the father of the faithful. His calling shows the power and freeness of Divine grace, and the nature of conversion. Here also we see that outward forms and distinctions are as nothing, compared with separation from the world, and devotedness to God.Men, brethren, and fathers - These were the usual titles by which the Sanhedrin was addressed. In all this Stephen was perfectly respectful, and showed that he was disposed to render due honor to the institutions of the nation.

The God of glory - This is a Hebrew form of expression denoting "the glorious God." It properly denotes His "majesty, or splendor, or magnificence"; and the word "glory" is often applied to the splendid appearances in which God has manifested Himself to people, Deuteronomy 5:24; Exodus 33:18; Exodus 16:7, Exodus 16:10; Leviticus 9:23; Numbers 14:10. Perhaps Stephen meant to affirm that God appeared to Abraham in some such glorious or splendid manifestation, by which he would know that he was addressed by God. Stephen, moreover, evidently uses the word "glory" to repel the charge of "blasphemy" against God, and to show that he regarded him as worthy of honor and praise.

Appeared ... - In what manner he appeared is not said. In Genesis 12:1, it is simply recorded that God "had said" unto Abraham, etc.

Unto our father - The Jews valued themselves much on being the children of Abraham. See the notes on Matthew 3:9. The expression was therefore well calculated to conciliate their minds.

When he was in Mesopotamia - In Genesis 11:31, it is said that Abraham dwelt "in Ur of the Chaldees." The word "Mesopotamia" properly denotes the region between the two rivers, the Euphrates and the Tigris. See notes on Acts 2:9. The name is Greek, and the region had also other names before the Greek name was given to it. In Genesis 11:31; Genesis 15:7, it is called Ur of the Chaldees. Mesopotamia and Chaldea might not exactly coincide; but it is evident that Stephen meant to say that "Ur" was in the country afterward called Mesopotamia. Its precise situation is unknown. A Persian fortress of this name is mentioned by Ammianus Genesis 25:8 between Nisibis and the Tigris.

Before he dwelt in Charran - From Genesis 11:31, it would seem that Terah took his son Abraham of his own accord, and removed to Haran. But from Genesis 12:1; Genesis 15:7, it appears that God had commanded "Abraham" to remove, and so he ordered it in his providence that "Terah" was disposed to remove his family with an intention of going into the land of Canaan. The word "Charran" is the Greek form of the Hebrew "Haran," Genesis 11:31. This place was also in Mesopotamia, in 36 degrees 52 minutes north latitude and 39 degrees 5 minutes east longitude. Here Terah died Genesis 11:32; and to this place Jacob retired when he fled from his brother Esau, Genesis 27:43. It is situated "in a flat and sandy plain, and is inhabited by a few wandering Arabs, who select it for the delicious water which it contains" (Robinson's Calmet).

2-5. The God of glory—A magnificent appellation, fitted at the very outset to rivet the devout attention of his audience; denoting not that visible glory which attended many of the divine manifestations, but the glory of those manifestations themselves, of which this was regarded by every Jew as the fundamental one. It is the glory of absolutely free grace.

appeared unto our father Abraham before he dwelt in Charran, and said, &c.—Though this first call is not expressly recorded in Genesis, it is clearly implied in Ge 15:7 and Ne 9:7; and the Jewish writers speak the same language.

Brethren; to take away any prejudice they might have conceived against him, and to recommend, not his person as much as his doctrine to them, he calls them brethren;

1. As hoping in the same promises with them;

2. Observing the same law;

3. Worshipping the same God.

Fathers; a word of respect; especially the elder amongst them, or his judges: thus the Roman senators were called fathers; and magistrates ought to be reverenced as the fathers of their country.

The God of glory; who is also called, Psalm 24:7, the King of glory; from whom all glory descends to angels or men. By this, and what follows, St. Stephen would show that he honoured the true God, and thought respectfully of the law, the temple, and the patriarchs, whom he was accused to contemn and disgrace. He names Abraham, because he was accounted the first father and patriarch of the Jews, and had the first clear promise that the Messiah should come of his seed.

Mesopotamia is sometimes taken strictly for that country which lies between the two rivers, Tigris and Euphrates, from whence it had its name; sometimes more largely, including Chaldea; and so it is taken here.

Charran; a city of the Parthians, in the borders of Mesopotamia, towards the land of Canaan.

And he said,.... Stephen replied, in answer to the high priest's question, and addressed himself to the whole sanhedrim, saying:

men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; to the following oration and defence; he calls them men, brethren, by an usual Hebraism, that is, "brethren"; and that, because they were of the same nation; for it was common with the Jews to call those of their own country and religion, brethren; and he calls them "fathers", because of their age and dignity, being the great council of the nation, and chosen out of the senior and wiser part of the people:

the God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham; he calls God "the God of glory", because he is glorious in himself, in all his persons, perfections, and works, and is to be glorified by his people; and his glory is to be sought by all his creatures, and to be the end of all their actions; and the rather he makes use of this epithet of him, to remove the calumny against him, that he had spoke blasphemous things against God; and because God appeared in a glorious manner to Abraham, either in a vision, or by an angel, or in some glorious form, or another; and it is observable, that when the Jews speak of Abraham's deliverance out of the fiery furnace, for so they interpret Ur of the Chaldees, they give to God much such a title; they say (r).

""the King of glory" stretched out his right hand, and delivered him out of the fiery furnace, according to Genesis 15:7.''

Stephen uses a like epithet; and he calls Abraham "our father", he being a Jew, and according to the common usage of the nation: and this appearance of God to Abraham was "when he was in Mesopotamia"; a country that lay between the two rivers Tigris and Euphrates, from whence it had its name; and is the same with Aram Naharaim, the Scriptures speak of; See Gill on Acts 2:9. Of this appearance of God to Abraham, mentioned by Stephen, the Scriptures are silent; but the Jewish writers seem to hint at it, when they say (s),

"thus said the holy blessed God to Abraham, as thou hast enlightened for me Mesopotamia and its companions, come and give light before me in the land of Israel.''

And again, mentioning those words in Isaiah 41:8 "the seed of Abraham my friend, whom I have taken from the ends of the earth"; add by way of explanation, from Mesopotamia and its companions (t): and this was

before he dwelt in Charan; or Haran; see Genesis 11:31 where the Septuagint call it "Charan", as here; and by Herodish (u) it is called where Antoninus was killed; and by Pliny (w), "Carra"; and by Ptolomy (x), "Carroe"; it was famous for the slaughter of M. Crassus, by the Parthians (y). R. Benjamin gives this account of it in his time (z);

"in two days I came to ancient Haran, and in it were about twenty Jews, and there was as it were a synagogue of Ezra; but in the place where was the house of Abraham our father, there was no building upon it; but the Ishmaelites (or Mahometans) honour that place, and come thither to pray.''

Stephanus (a) says it was a city of Mesopotamia, so called from "Carra", a river in Syria.

(r) Pirke Eliezer, c. 26. (s) Bereshit Rabba, sect. 30. fol. 25. 1((t) lb. sect. 44. fol. 38. 3.((u) L. 4. sect. 24. (w) L. 5. c. 24. (x) L. 5. c. 18. (y) ----Miserando funere Crassus Assyrias Latio maculavit sanguine Carrhas. Lucan. Pharsal. l. 1. v. 105. (z) Itinerar. p. 60. (a) De Urbibus.

{2} And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of {a} glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in {b} Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran,

(2) Steven witnesses to the Jews that he acknowledges the true fathers, and the only true God, and more than this shows this that these are more ancient than the temple and all the temple service appointed by the Law, and therefore they ought to lay another foundation of true religion, that is to say, the free covenant that God made with the fathers.

(a) The mighty God full of glory and majesty.

(b) When he says afterwards in Ac 7:4 that Abraham came out of Chaldea, it is evident that Mesopotamia contained Chaldea which was near to it, and bordered upon it; and so writes Plinius, book 6, chap. 27.

Acts 7:2-3. Brethren and respectively (καί) fathers. The former (kinsmen, אַחִים) refers to all present; the latter (comp. the Latin Patres and the Hebrew אָב in respectful address to kings, priests, prophets, and teachers; Lightfoot, ad Marc. p. 654), to the Sanhedrists exclusively. Comp. Acts 22:1.

ὁ Θεὸς τῆς δόξης] God, who has the glory. And this δόξα (כָּבוֹד), as it stands in significant relation to ὤφθη, must be understood as outward majesty, the brightness in which Jehovah, as the only true God, visibly manifests Himself. Comp. Acts 7:55; Exodus 24:16; Isaiah 6:3; Psalm 24:7; Psalm 29:3; and on 1 Corinthians 2:8.

Haran, חָרָן, LXX. Χαῤῥάν, with the Greeks (Herodian. iv. 13. 7; Ptol. v. 18; Strab. xvi. 1, p. 747) and Romans (“miserando funere Crassus Assyrias Latio maculavit sanguine Carrhas,” Lucan. i. 104; comp. Dio Cass. xl. 25; Ammian. Marc. xxiii. 3) Κάῤῥαι and Carrhae, was a very ancient city in northern Mesopotamia. See Mannert, Geogr. V. 2, p. 280 ff.; Ritter, Erdk. XI. 291 ff. The theophany here meant is most distinctly indicated by Acts 7:3 as that narrated in Genesis 12:1. But this occurred when Abraham had already departed from Ur to Haran (Genesis 11:31); accordingly not: πρὶν ἢ κατοικῆσαι αὐτὸν ἐν Χαῤῥάν. This discrepancy[196] is not to be set at rest by the usual assumption that Stephen here follows a tradition probably derived from Genesis 15:7, comp. Nehemiah 9:7 (Philo, de Abr. II. pp. 11, 16, ed. Mang.; Joseph. Antt. i. 7. 1; see Krause, l.c. p. 11), that Abraham had already had a divine vision at Ur, to which Stephen refers, while in Genesis 12 there is recorded that which afterwards happened at Haran. For the verbal quotation, Acts 7:3, admits of no other historical reference than to Genesis 12:1. Stephen has thus, according to the text, erroneously (speaking off-hand in the hurry of the moment, how easily might he do so!) transferred the theophany that happened to Abraham at Haran to an earlier period, that of his abode in Ur, full of the thought that God even in the earliest times undertook the guidance of the people afterwards so refractory! This is simply to be admitted (Grotius: “Spiritus sanctus apostolos et evangelistas confirmavit in doctrina evangelica; in ceteris rebus, si Hieronymo credimus, ut hominibus, reliquit quae sunt hominum”), and not to be evaded by having recourse (see Luger after Beza, Calvin, and others) to an anticipation in Genesis 11:31, according to which the vision contained in Acts 12:1 is supposed to have preceded the departure from Ur; or, by what professes to be a more profound entering into the meaning, to the arbitrary assumption “that Abraham took an independent share in the transmigration of the children of Terah from Ur to Haran” (Baumgarten, p. 134), to which primordial hidden beginning of the call of Abraham the speaker goes back.

ἐν τῇ Μεσοποτ.] for the land of Ur (אוּר כַּשְׂדִּים, Genesis 11:28) was situated in northern Mesopotamia, which the Chaldeans inhabited; but is not to be identified with that Ur, which Ammianus Marc. xxv. 8 mentions as castellum Persicum, whose situation must be conceived as farther south than Haran. See, after Tuch and Knobel on Genesis, Arnold in Herzog’s Encykl. XVI. p. 735.

ΠΡῚΝ Ἤ] see on Matthew 1:18.

ἫΝ ἌΝ ΣΟΙ ΔΕΊΞΩ] quamcunque tibi monstravero. “Non norat Abram, quae terra foret,” Hebrews 11:8, Bengel.

[196] Ewald explains the many deviations in this speech from the ordinary Pentateuch, by the supposition that the speaker followed a later text-book, then much used in the schools of learning, which had contained such peculiarities. This is possible, but cannot be otherwise shown to be the case; nor can it be shown how the deviations came into the supposed text-book.

Acts 7:2-53. On the speech of Stephen, see Krause, Comm. in hist, et orat. Steph., Gott. 1786; Baur, de orat. hab. a Steph. consilio, Tub. 1829, and his Paulus, p. 42 ff.; Luger, üb. Zweck, Inhalt u. Eigenthümlichk. der Rede des Steph., Lübeck 1838; Lange in the Stud. u. Krit. 1836, p. 725 ff., and apost. Zeitalt. II. p. 84 ff.; Thiersch, de Stephani orat., Marb. 1849. Comp. his Kirche im apost. Zeitalt. p. 85 ff.; Rauch in the Stud. u. Krit. 1857, p. 352 ff.; F.Nitzsch in the same, 1860, p. 479 ff.; Senn in the Evang. Zeitschr. f. Prot. u. Kirche, 1859, p. 311 ff.

This speech bears in its contents and tone the impress of its being original. For the long and somewhat prolix historical narrative, Acts 7:2-47, in which the rhetorical character remains so much in the background, and even the apologetic element is discernible throughout only indirectly, cannot—so peculiar and apparently even irrelevant to the situation is much of its contents[190]—be merely put into the mouth of Stephen, but must in its characteristic nature and course have come from his own mouth. If it were sketched after mere tradition or acquired information, or from a quite independent ideal point of view, then either the historical part would be placed in more direct relation to the points of the charge and brought into rhetorical relief, or the whole plan would shape itself otherwise in keeping with the question put in Acts 7:1; the striking power and boldness of speech, which only break forth in the smallest portion (Acts 7:48-53), would be more diffused over the whole, and the historical mistakes—which have nothing surprising in them in the case of a discourse delivered on the spur of the moment—would hardly occur.

But how is the authentic reproduction of the discourse, which must in the main be assumed, to be explained? Certainly not by supposing that the whole was, either in its main points (Krause, Heinrichs) or even verbally (Kuinoel), taken down in the place of meeting by some person unknown (Riehm, de fontib. Act. ap. p. 195 f., conjectures: by Saul). It is extremely arbitrary to carry back such shorthand-writing to the public life of those times. The most direct solution would no doubt be given, if we could assume notes of the speech made by the speaker himself, and preserved. But as this is not here to be thought of, in accordance with the whole spirit of the apostolic age and with Acts 6:12, it only remains as the most natural expedient: to consider the active memory of an ear-witness, or even several, vividly on the stretch, and quickened even by the purpose of placing it on record, as the authentic source; so that, immediately after the tragical termination of the judicial procedure, what was heard with the deepest sympathy and eagerness was noted down from fresh recollection, and afterwards the record was spread abroad by copies, and was in its substantial tenor adopted by Luke. The purely historical character of the contents, and the steady chronological course of the greater part of the speech, remove any improbability of its being with sufficient faithfulness taken up by the memory. As regards the person of the reporter, no definite conjectures are to be ventured on (Olshausen, e.g., refers to Acts 6:7; Luger and Baumgarten, to the intervention of Saul); and only this much is to be assumed as probable, that he was no hostile listener, but a Christian (perhaps a secret Christian in the Sanhedrim itself),—a view favoured by the diffusion, which we must assume, of the record, and more especially by the circumstance, that Acts 7:54-60 forms one whole with the reproduction of the speech interrupted at Acts 7:53, and has doubtless proceeded from the same authentic source. With this view even the historical errors in the speech do not conflict; with regard to which, however,—especially as they are based in part on traditions not found in the O. T.,—it must remain undetermined how far they are attributable to the speaker himself or to the reporter. At all events, these historical mistakes of the speech form a strong proof in what an unaltered form, with respect to its historical data, the speech has been preserved from the time of its issuing from the hands that first noted it down.

From this view it is likewise evident in what sense we are to understand its originality, namely, not as throughout a verbal reproduction, but as correct in substance, and verbal only so far, as—setting aside the literary share, not to be more precisely determined, which Luke himself had in putting it into its present shape—it was possible and natural for an intentional exertion of the memory to retain not only the style and tone of the discourse on the whole, but also in many particulars the verbal expression. Definitions of a more precise character cannot psychologically be given. According to Baur and Zeller the speech is a later composition, “at the foundation of which, historically considered, there is hardly more than an indefinite recollection of the general contents of what was said by Stephen, and perhaps even only of his principles and mode of thought;” the exact recollection of the speech and its preservation are inconceivable; the artificial plan, closely accordant with its theme, betrays a premeditated elaboration; the author of the Acts unfolds in it his own view of the relation of the Jews to Christianity; the discussion before the Sanhedrim itself is historically improbable, etc.; Stephen is “the Jerusalem type of the Apostle of the Gentiles.” See in opposition to Baur, Schneckenburger in the Stud. u. Krit. 1855, p. 527 ff. Bruno Bauer has gone to the extreme of frivolous criticism: “The speech is fabricated, as is the whole framework of circumstances in which it occurs, and the fate of Stephen.”

[190] Comp. Calvin: “Stephani responsio prima specie absurda et inepta videri posset.”

Interpreters, moreover, are much divided in their views concerning the relation of the contents to the points of complaint contained in Acts 6:13-14. Among the older interpreters—the most of whom, such as Augustine, Beza, and Calvin, have recourse to merely incidental references, without any attempt to enter into and grasp the unity of the speech—the opinion of Grotius is to be noted: that Stephen wished indirectly, in a historical way, to show that the favour of God is not bound to any place, and that the Jews had no advantage over those who were not Jews, in order thereby to justify his prediction concerning the destruction of the temple and the call of the Gentiles.[191] But the very supposition, that the teaching of the call of the Gentiles was the one point of accusation against Stephen, is arbitrary; and the historical proofs adduced would have been very ill chosen by him, seeing that in his review of history it is always this very Jewish people that appears as distinguished by God. The error, so often committed, of inserting between the lines the main thoughts as indirectly indicated, vitiates the opinion of Heinrichs, who makes Stephen give a defence of his conversion to Christ as the true Messiah expected by the fathers; as well as the view of Kuinoel, that Stephen wished to prove that the Mosaic ceremonial institutions, although they were divine, yet did not make a man acceptable to God; that, on the contrary, without a moral conversion of the people, the destruction of the temple was to be expected. Olshausen stands in a closer and more direct relation to the matter, when he holds that Stephen narrates the history of the O. T. so much at length, just to show the Jews that he believed in it, and thus to induce them, through their love for the national history, to listen with calm attention. The nature of the history itself fitted it to form a mirror to his hearers, and particularly to bring home to their minds the circumstance that the Jewish people, in all stages of their development and of the divine revelation, had resisted the Spirit of God, and that, consequently, it was not astonishing that they should now show themselves once more disobedient. Yet Olshausen himself does not profess to look upon this reference of the speech as “with definite purpose aimed at.” In a more exact and thorough manner, Baur, whom Zeller in substance follows, has laid down as the leading thought: “Great and extraordinary as were the benefits which God from the beginning imparted to the people, equally ungrateful in return and antagonistic to the divine designs was from the first the disposition of that people.” Comp. already Bengel: “Vos autem semper mali fuistis,” etc. In this case, however, as Zeller thinks, there is brought into chief prominence the reference to the temple in respect to the charges raised, and that in such a way that the very building of the temple itself was meant to be presented as a proof of the perversity of the people,—a point of view which is foreign to Stephen, and arbitrarily forced on his words, as it would indeed in itself be unholy and impious (2 Samuel 7:13; 1 Kings 5:5; 1 Kings 6:12; 1 Chronicles 18:12); comp. on Acts 7:49-50. With reason, Luger (who yet goes too far in the references of details), Thiersch, Baumgarten, and F. Nitzsch have adhered to the historical standpoint given in Acts 6:13-14, and kept strictly in view the apologetic aim of the speech (comp. also de Wette); along with which, however, Thiersch and Baumgarten not without manifold caprice exaggerate, in the histories brought forward by Stephen, the typical reference and allegorical application of them (by which they were to serve as a mirror to the present) as designed by him,[192] as is also done in the Erlang. Zeitschr. 1859, p. 311 ff. Rauch is of opinion that the speech is directed against the meritoriousness of the temple-worship and of the works of the law, inasmuch as it lays stress, on the contrary, upon God’s free and unmerited grace and election (a similar view was already held by Calvin); but to this there remains the decisive counter-argument, that the assumed point (the non-meritorious nature of grace and election) is not at all expressly brought out by Stephen or subjected to more special discussion. Moreover, Rauch starts from the supposition that the assertion of the witnesses in Acts 6:14 was true (see, against this, on Acts 6:13), inasmuch as Stephen had actually said what was adduced at Acts 6:14.

But if the assertion in Acts 7:2. Ἄνδρες ἀδελφοὶ καὶ πατέρες, cf. St. Paul’s address, Acts 22:1, and also note on Acts 23:1. On St. Stephen’s speech see additional note at the end of chapter.—ὁ Θεὸς τῆς δόξης: lit[199], “the God of the glory,” i.e., the glory peculiar to Him, not simply ἔνδοξος, a reference to the Shechinah, Exodus 24:16-17, Psalm 29:3, Isaiah 6:3, and in the N.T. cf. 1 Corinthians 2:8, and Jam 2:1 (John 1:14). The appearances to Abraham and Moses were similar to those later ones to which the term Shechinah was applied. Such words were in themselves an answer to the charge of blasphemy; but Stephen proceeds to show that this same God who dwelt in the Tabernacle was not confined to it, but that He appeared to Abraham in a distant heathen land. ὤφθη: there was therefore no need of a Temple that God might appear to His own (Chrys., Hom., xv.; see Blass, in loco).—τῷ πατρὶ ἡμῶν: emphatic, cf. Acts 7:19; Acts 7:38-39; Acts 7:44-45; St. Stephen thus closely associates himself with his hearers. Wetstein comments: “Stephanus ergo non fuit proselytus, sed Judæus natus,” but it would seem from Wetstein himself that a proselyte might call Abraham father; cf. his comment on Luke 1:73, and cf. Sir 44:21; Speaker’s Commentary, “Apocrypha,” vol. ii.; see also Lumby’s note, in loco, and cf. Schürer, Jewish People, div. ii., vol. ii., p. 326, note, E.T.—Μεσοποταμίᾳ: a difficulty at once arises in comparing this statement with the Book of Genesis. Here the call of Abraham is said to have come to him before he dwelt in Haran, but in Genesis 12:1, after he removed thither. But, at the same time Genesis 15:7, cf. Joshua 24:3, Nehemiah 9:7, distinctly intimates that Abraham left “Ur of the Chaldees” (see “Abraham,” Hastings’ B.D., p. 14, and Sayce, Patriarchal Palestine, pp. 166–169, as to its site) in accordance with the choice and guidance of God. St. Stephen applies the language of what we may describe as the second to the first call, and in so doing he was really following on the lines of Jewish literature, e.g., Philo, De Abrah., ii., 11, 16, Mang., paraphrases the divine counsel, and then adds διὰ τοῦτο τὴν πρώτην ἀποικίαν ἀπὸ τῆς Χαλδαίων γῆς εἰς τὴν χαῤῥαίων λέγεται ποιεῖσθαι. Moreover the manner of St. Stephen’s quotation seems to mark the difference between the call in Ur and the call in Haran (R.V., not Charran, Greek form, as in A.V.). In Genesis 12:1 we have the call to Abraham in Haran given as follows: ἔξελθε ἐκ τῆς γῆς σου καὶ ἐκ τῆς συγγενείας σου καὶ ἐκ τοῦ οἴκου τοῦ πατρός σου. But the call in Ur, according to St. Stephen’s wording, is one which did not involve the sacrifice of his family, for Abraham was accompanied by them to Haran, and so the clause ἐκ τοῦ οἴκου κ.τ.λ. is omitted because inappropriate. Of course if we omit ἐκ before τῆς συγγενείας (see critical notes), St. Stephen’s words become more suitable still to the position of Abraham in Ur, for we should then translate the words, “from thy land and the land of thy kindred” (Rendall, cf. Lightfoot, Hor. Heb.). St. Stephen may naturally have referred back to Abraham’s first migration from Ur to Haran, as desiring to emphasise more plainly the fact that since the call of God came to him before he had taken even the first step towards the Holy Land by settling in Haran, that divine revelation was evidently not bound up with any one spot, however holy.—Χαῤῥὰν, Genesis 11:31; Genesis 12:5; Genesis 27:43, LXX, in the old language of Chaldea = road (see Sayce, u. s., pp. 166, 167, and “Haran” Hastings’ B.D., and B.D.2, i. (Pinches)), in Mesopotamia; little doubt that it should be identified with the Carrœ of the Greeks and Romans, near the scene of the defeat of Crassus by the Parthians, B.C. 53, and of his death, Lucan, i., 104; Pliny, N.H., v., 24; Strabo, xvi., p. 747. In the fourth century Carrœ was the seat of a Christian bishopric, with a magnificent cathedral. It is remarkable that the people of the place retained until a late date the Chaldean language and the worship of the Chaldean deities, B.D.2, “Haran,” and see Hamburger, Real-Encyclopädie des Judentums, i., 4, p. 499, and references cited by him for identification with Carrœ (cf. Winer-Schmiedel, p. 57).

[199] literal, literally.

2. And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken] Omit men. Cp. Acts 1:16, note. For an account of the argument in Stephen’s speech and its connection with the whole design of the writer of the Acts, see Introduction pp. ix. x.

The God of glory] A not very common expression (see Psalm 29:3), but probably chosen designedly as an introduction to this discourse, which deals with the several stages of God’s manifestation of Himself. The term is applied (John 1:14) to the incarnate Word; “we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father.”

appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia] The ancestral home of Abraham is called “Ur of the Chaldees” (Genesis 11:31), and it is said (Joshua 24:2-3) to have been “on the other side of the flood,” i.e. beyond the Euphrates. It is not possible to determine the site of Ur, but the most probable opinion seems to be that which places it at Edessa, now called Orfah, and said to have been called Orrha in early times. If this were the place the journey thence to Charran (O.T. Haran), i.e. Carrhæ, would not have been so very formidable for the father of the patriarch to undertake, and at Charran Terah remained till he died (Genesis 11:32). Abraham when without his father could remove with greater ease to the distant Canaan.

our father Abraham] If Stephen were merely a proselyte he might yet use this expression, for Abraham is regarded as the father of proselytes. On Genesis 12:5, “The souls which they had gotten [Heb. made] in Haran,” the Targum of Onkelos explains “The souls which they (Abraham and his family) had brought to serve the Law,” i.e. made them proselytes: and on the same text Berashith Rabbah, par. 39, has “Rabbi Eliezer, the son of Zimra, said: If all the men in the world were to combine to create even a single gnat, they could not infuse into it a soul; and thou sayest, ‘The souls which they made.’ But these are the proselytes whom they brought in. Yet, if so, why does it say they made them? This is to teach thee that when anybody brings near the stranger, and makes him a proselyte, it is as good as if he had created him.”

before he dwelt in Charran] The Greek verb rendered dwelt is one which implies a settled residence, though it conveys no idea of permanent abode. It is used (Matthew 2:23) of Joseph and Mary dwelling at Nazareth, and (Matthew 4:13) of Christ’s less fixed dwelling in Capernaum.

Acts 7:2. Ἀδελφοὶ καὶ πατέρες, brethren and fathers) Stephen, being a young man, addresses them according to their different ages.—ὁ Θεὸς τῆς δόξης, the God of glory) The sum of the Divine praise. Glory is the Divinity manifest. This magnificent, appellation implies that Abraham was indebted to GOD for both himself wholly, and his posterity, and the land and all the blessings promised and performed to himself and his posterity, and this without anything on the credit side of the account.—ὤφθη, appeared) as the GOD of glory exhibited Himself to be seen.—τῷ πατρὶ ἡμῶν, to our father) Thence it was that this benefit appertained also to the offspring of Abraham.—πρὶν ἢ, before that) comp. Acts 7:4, at the end.

Verse 2. - Brethren and fathers for men, brethren, and fathers, A.V. Haran for Charran, A.V. Brethren and fathers. The Greek is ἄνδρες ἀδελφοὶ (i.e. "men who are also my brethren") καὶ πατέρες. He adds "and fathers" out of respect to the elder and more dignified portion of the Sanhedrim. It seems probable that Stephen, as a Hellenist Jew, spoke in Greek, which is borne out by the quotations being from the LXX. (see Alford), though Meyer and others think he spoke in Hebrew. Greek was generally understood at this time by all educated persons (see Roberts, 'Discussions on Gospels,' Acts 2. - 7.). The speech itself is almost universally admitted to bear strong internal marks of genuineness and originality. But different estimates have been formed of its excellence, and different explanations given of its scope and object. Difficult but striking; long and prolix;" "at first sight absurd and out of place;" "wonderful but difficult;" "of inestimable value;" "a speech containing many things which don't seem much to the point;" "a powerful speech;" a speech combining "the address of the advocate and the boldness of the martyr;" - are some of the estimates that have been formed of it by modern commentators. As regards its scope and object, the two main clues to it are the accusation which Stephen rose to rebut, and the application with which he ended in vers. 51-53. If we keep these two things steadily in view, we shall not be very far wrong if we say that Stephen sought to clear himself by showing,

(1) by his historical summary, what a true and thorough Israelite he was in heart and feeling and fellowship with the fathers of his race, and therefore how unlikely to speak blasphemous words against either Moses or the temple;

(2) how Moses himself had foretold the coming of Christ as a prophet like himself, to enunciate some new doctrines;

(3) how at every stage of their history their fathers had resisted those who were sent to them by God, and that now his judges were playing the same part. Perhaps it may be further true, as Chrysostom explains it (Hom. 15, 16, 17.), that his intention in the early part of the speech was to show "that the promise was made before the place, before circumcision, before sacrifice, before the temple," in accordance with St. Paul's argument (Galatians 3:16-18); and that therefore the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant could not be dependent upon the Law or the temple. The God of glory. This unusual phrase identifies God, of whom Stephen speaks, with the God whose visible glory was seen by the patriarchs (Genesis 12:7; Genesis 18:1; Genesis 26:2; Genesis 28:12, 13; Genesis 35:9; Exodus 24:16, 17; Numbers 16:19; Isaiah 6; John 12:41). St. Paul uses a similar phrase, "The Lord of glory '(1 Corinthians 2:8). Our father. He thus identifies himself with his judges, whom he had just called "brethren." In Mesopotamia, which would be in Hebrew "Aram of the two rivers." The exact place, as we learn from Genesis 11:31, was "Ur of the Chaldees;" whence the Israelites were taught to say (Deuteronomy 26:5), "An Aramcan ready to perish was my father." That this appearance was in Ur, before he dwelt in Haran, is manifest from Genesis 11:31, because it is there said that they went forth from Ur "to go into the land of Canaan," which makes it quite certain that the appearance of God to Abraham had preceded their leaving Ur, and was the cause of it. And this is confirmed by Genesis 15:7; Nehemiah 9:7; and Josephus ('Ant.,' 1. 7:1). Moreover, the very language of the call shows plainly that it came to him when he was living in his native country, among his kindred, and in his father's house, i.e. at Ur, not in Haran, where they were only sojourners. There is nothing the least unusual, in Hebrew narrative, in the writer going back to any point in the preceding narrative with which the subsequent narrative is connected. Genesis 12. I precedes in point of time Genesis 11:31; similar examples are Genesis 37:5, 6; Judges 20, passim; 1 Samuel 16:21 compared with 1 Samuel 17:28; 1 Samuel 22:20, 21, compared with 1 Samuel 23:6; and many more. It is, however, of course possible that a fresh call may have been given after Terah's death, though it is by no means necessary to suppose it. Another imaginary difficulty arises from the statement in Genesis 12:4 that Abraham was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran, that Terah lived seventy years and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran, and that Terah died at the age of two hundred and five; and from the statement in ver. 4 of this chapter that Abram did not leave Haran till Terah's death. From which it is concluded that Terah must have lived sixty years after Abram's departure (70 + 75 + 60 = 205). But the whole difficulty arises from the gratuitous supposition that Abram was Terah's firstborn because he is named first. If Terah were a hundred and thirty at the birth of Abram, he would be two hundred and five when Abram was seventy-five. Now, there is absolutely nothing to forbid the supposition that such was his age. It does not follow that because Abram is named first he was the eldest. He might be named first as being by far the most illustrious of the three, he might be named first because the subsequent genealogies - Isaac, Jacob, and the twelve Patriarchs - were deduced from him. There may, too, have been other sons of Terah, not named here because nothing was going to be said about them. Nahor is mentioned because Rebekah was his granddaughter (Genesis 24:15, 24) and Rachel his great-granddaughter. And Haran is mentioned because he was the father of Lot. Others, whether sons or daughters, would not be mentioned. If Terah, therefore, began to have children when he was seventy, it is quite probable that Abram may not have been born till he was a hundred and thirty. That the son named first need not necessarily be the eldest is clear from the order in which Shem, Ham, and Japheth are named, whereas it appears from Genesis 9:24 that Ham was the youngest, and from Genesis 10:2, 21 (according to the A.V. and the LXX., Symmachus, the Targum of Onkelos, and the old Jewish commentators), that Japheth was the eldest. In Joshua 24:4 God says, "I gave unto Isaac Jacob and Esau," though Esau was the elder; and so Hebrews 11:20. So again in Exodus 5:20 we read, "Moses and Aaron" (see also Exodus 40:31; Numbers 16:43; Joshua 24:5; 1 Samuel 12:6; etc.), though it appears from 1 Chronicles 6:3 that Aaron was the eldest. So again we read in Genesis 48:5, "Thy two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh," and in ver. 20, "God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh," though in ver. I of the same chapter they are named according to the true order of birth - "Manasseh and Ephraim." It is, therefore, an unwarrantable inference that Abram was the eldest son because he is named first; and with the removal of this inference the difficulty vanishes; and Stephen was quite accurate when he said that God appeared to Abraham in Ur, before he dwelt in Haran, and that he did not move from Haran till the death of Terah. Haran. Charran in A.V. marks the difference between Haran (הָרָן), Lot's father, and the name of the place (הָרָן). It is called "the city of Nahor" (Genesis 24:10 compared with Genesis 47:43). It still exists as an Arab village, with the name of Harran (see 'Dictionary of Bible'). Acts 7:2Brethren

Addressing the audience generally.


Addressing the members of the Sanhedrim.

Of glory

Outward, visible glory, as in the shekinah and the pillar of fire.

Appeared (ὤφθη)

See on Luke 22:43.

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