Acts 7:52
Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom you have been now the betrayers and murderers:
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(52) Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted?—St. Stephen echoes, as it were, our Lord’s own words (Matthew 5:12; Luke 13:34). Every witness for the truth had in his day had to suffer. The prophet was not only “without honour,” but was exposed to shame, treated as an enemy, condemned to death. 1Thessalonians 2:15, perhaps, reproduces the same fact, but more probably refers to the sufferings of the prophets of the Christian Church who were treated as their predecessors had been.

The coming of the Just One.—The name does not appear to have been one of the received titles of the expected Messiah, but may have been suggested by Isaiah 11:4-5. It seems to have been accepted by the Church of Jerusalem, and in 1John 2:1, and, perhaps, in James 5:6, we find examples of its application. The recent use of it by Pilate’s wife (Matthew 27:19) may have helped to give prominence to it. He who had been condemned as a malefactor was emphatically, above all the sons of men, the “righteous,” the “Just One.”

The betrayers and murderers.—The two words emphasise, the first the act of the Sanhedrin and the people, and secondly, the persistence with which they urged on Pilate the sentence of death, and which made them not merely accessories, but principals in the deed of blood.

7:51-53 Stephen was going on, it seems, to show that the temple and the temple service must come to an end, and it would be the glory of both to give way to the worship of the Father in spirit and in truth; but he perceived they would not bear it. Therefore he broke off, and by the Spirit of wisdom, courage, and power, sharply rebuked his persecutors. When plain arguments and truths provoke the opposers of the gospel, they should be shown their guilt and danger. They, like their fathers, were stubborn and wilful. There is that in our sinful hearts, which always resists the Holy Ghost, a flesh that lusts against the Spirit, and wars against his motions; but in the hearts of God's elect, when the fulness of time comes, this resistance is overcome. The gospel was offered now, not by angels, but from the Holy Ghost; yet they did not embrace it, for they were resolved not to comply with God, either in his law or in his gospel. Their guilt stung them to the heart, and they sought relief in murdering their reprover, instead of sorrow and supplication for mercy.Which of the prophets ... - The interrogative form here is a strong mode of saying that they had persecuted "all" the prophets. It was "the characteristic of the nation" to persecute the messengers of God. This is not to be taken as literally and universally true; but it was a general truth; it was the national characteristic. See the notes on Matthew 21:33-40; Matthew 23:29-35.

And they have slain them ... - That is, they have slain the prophets, whose main message was that the Messiah was to come. It was a great aggravation of their offence that they put to death the messengers which foretold the greatest blessing that the nation could receive.

The Just One - The Messiah. See the notes on Acts 3:14.

Of whom ye ... - You thus show that you resemble those who rejected and put to death the prophets. You have even gone beyond them in guilt, because you have put the Messiah himself to death.

The betrayers - They are called "betrayers" here because they employed Judas to betray him - agreeable to the maxim in law, "He who does anything by another is held to have done it himself."

52. Which of, &c.—Deadly hostility to the messengers of God, whose high office it was to tell of "the Righteous One," that well-known prophetic title of Messiah (Isa 53:11; Jer 23:6, &c.), and this consummated by the betrayal and murder of Messiah Himself, on the part of those now sitting in judgment on the speaker, are the still darker features of the national character depicted in these withering words. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? This is the rather said to stain all their glory from succession, and their ancestors, Matthew 5:12 23:31,37.

The Just One; our Saviour deservedly, and by way of eminence, is so called; as not only being himself just, and fulfilling all righteousness, but being The Lord our Righteousness, Jeremiah 23:6, and is of God made unto us, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, 1 Corinthians 1:30. This word is used in a forensic sense, and is the same with innocent, and opposite to guilty; whereby St. Stephen vindicates our Saviour, notwithstanding the unjust sentence passed here upon him.

The betrayers, in hiring Judas, and murderers, in that they excited Pilate to condemn him, and abetted the soldiers and others in executing of him. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted?.... Either by reviling and speaking all manner of evil of them, Matthew 5:11 or by killing them, Matthew 23:31 and they have slain them; as Isaiah, Zachariah, and others:

which showed before of the coming of the just one; of Jesus the Messiah, whose character in the prophecies of the Old Testament is righteous servant, righteous branch, just, and having salvation; and whom Stephen styles so partly on account of the holiness of his nature, and the innocence and harmlessness of his life; and partly because he is the author of righteousness, and the end of the law for it to all that believe; of whose coming in the flesh all the prophets more or less spoke: and this being good news, and glad tidings, made the sin of the Jewish fathers the greater, in putting them to death, as the innocent character of Christ was an aggravation of the Jews' sin, in murdering of him, as it follows:

of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers; Judas, one of their nation, betrayed him into the hands of the chief priests and elders; and they betrayed, or delivered him into the hands of Pontius Pilate to be condemned to death, which they greatly importuned, and would not be satisfied without; and therefore are rightly called the murderers, as well as the betrayers of him.

Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:
Acts 7:52. Proof of the ὡς οἱ πατέρες ὑμῶν καὶ (also) ὑμεῖς.

καὶ ἀπέκτ.] καί is the climactic even; they have even killed them. Comp. on this reproach, Luke 11:47. The characteristic more special designation of the prophets; τοὺς προκαταγγείλαντας κ.τ.λ., augments the guilt.

τοῦ δικαίου] κατʼ ἐξοχήν of Jesus, the highest messenger of God, the (ideal) Just One, iii. 14, xxii. 14; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 John 2:1. Contrast to the relative clause that follows.

νῦν] in the present time, opposed to the times of the fathers; ὑμεῖς is emphatically placed over against the latter as a parallel.

προδόται] betrayers (Luke 6:16), inasmuch as the Sanhedrists, by false and crafty accusation and condemnation, delivered Jesus over to the Roman tribunal and brought Him to execution.Acts 7:52. τίνα τῶν προφ.—ἀσυνδέτως, to mark the vehemence of the speech, as above, Acts 7:51 : cf. 2 Chronicles 36:16 for the general statement, and for individual cases, Jeremiah, Amos, and probably Isaiah, the prophet just quoted. We may compare the words of our Lord, Matthew 5:12, Luke 13:34, and also Luke 11:49, Matthew 23:29-37 where the same words ἐδίωξαν and ἀπέκτειναν are used of the treatment of the prophets.—καὶ ἀπέκ.: “they even slew”—perhaps the force of καί (Wendt), “they slew them also” (Rendall).—ἐλεύσεως: only here in the N.T., not in LXX or Apocrypha, or in classical writers, but found in Acta Thomæ 28, and in Iren., i., 10, in plural, of the first and second advent of Christ (see also Dion. Hal., iii., 59).—τοῦ δικαίου, see Acts 3:14 and note. It has been suggested that it is used here and elsewhere of our Lord from His own employment of the same word in Matthew 23:29, where He speaks of the tombs τῶν δικαίων whom the fathers had slain whilst the children adorned their sepulchres. But it is more probable that the word was applied to our Lord from the LXX use of it, cf. Isaiah 53:11. Even those Jews who rejected the idea of an atoning Messiah acknowledged that His personal righteousness was His real claim to the Messianic dignity, Weber, Jüdische Theologie, p. 362; Taylor, Sayings of the Jewish Fathers, p. 185, second edition. We cannot forget that one of those present who heard St. Stephen’s burning words was himself to see the Just One and to carry on the martyr’s work, cf. Acts 22:14, ἰδεῖν τὸν δίκαιον κ.τ.λ.—νῦν ἐγένεσθε: “of whom ye have now become,” R.V., the spirit of their fathers was still alive, and they had acted as their fathers had done; ὑμεῖς again emphatic.52. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted?] Better, did not your fathers persecute? Cp. the history, 2 Chronicles 36:16, “They mocked the messengers of God and despised his words and misused his prophets.” And Christ (Matthew 23:37) brought the same charge against Jerusalem, “thou that killest the prophets.”

the Just One] The same epithet is applied to Jesus by St John (1 John 2:1), and is found so used in the Acts (Acts 3:14, Acts 22:14).

of whom ye have been [become, even] now the betrayers] Thus proving yourselves true children of those who misused the prophets.Acts 7:52. Καὶ ἀπέκτειναν, and they have slain) This is commonly construed with what follows; but it is more suitable to connect it with the verb ἐδίωξαν, persecuted. [The margin of Ed. 2 and the Vers. Germ. more clearly answers to this judgment than the larger Ed.—E. B.] For, Which of the prophets not expresses, with the addition of feeling, the same meaning as, all the prophets; whence the construction should be, [“Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted and slain,” i.e.] all the prophets, who announced or showed before, etc. Syllepsis. [Append. Where the sense regulates the construction more than the words; as here the Plural, τοὺς προκαταγγείλαντας, refers to the antecedent plural implied in the singular, τίνα τῶν προφητῶν;]—περὶ τῆς ἐλεύσεως, concerning the coming) Whence He is so often called ὁ ἐρχόμενος, the Comer, He who is to come.—τοῦ δικαίου, of the Just One) A remarkable Antonomasia [substitution of an appellative designation for a proper name]. The true Messiah is the Just Author of justice or righteousness.—νῦν, now) The now answers to the before in who announced or showed before.—προδοται, betrayers) to Pilate. Refer this to the previous, persecuted.—φονεῖς, murderers) Pilate delivering Him up to them. Refer this to the previous, have slain.Verse 52. - Did not... persecute for have not... persecuted, A.V.; killed for have slain, A.V. ; righteous for just, A.V.; have now become for have been now, A.V.; betrayers for the betrayers, A.V. The close resemblance of Stephen's words to those of our Lord recorded in Luke 13:33, 34; Matthew 5:12; Matthew 23:30, 31, 34-37, lend some support to the tradition that he was one of the seventy, and had heard the Lord speak them. But the resemblance may have arisen from the Spirit by which he spake, "the Spirit of Christ which was in" him.
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