Acts 7:59
And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
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(59) Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.—The words are memorable as an instance of direct prayer addressed, to use the words of Pliny in reporting what he had learned of the worship of Christians, “to Christ as God” (Epist x. 97). Stephen could not think of Him whom he saw at the right hand of God, but as of One sharing the glory of the Father, hearing and answering prayer. And in the prayer itself we trace an echo of words of which Stephen may well have heard. The Son commended His Spirit to the Father (Luke 23:46); the disciple, in his turn, commends his spirit to the Son. The word “God,” in the sentence “calling upon God,” it should be noted, is, as the italics show, an insertion to complete the sense.



Acts 7:59 - Acts 7:60

This is the only narrative in the New Testament of a Christian martyrdom or death. As a rule, Scripture is supremely indifferent to what becomes of the people with whom it is for a time concerned. As long as the man is the organ of the divine Spirit he is somewhat; as soon as that ceases to speak through him he drops into insignificance. So this same Acts of the Apostles-if I may so say- kills off James the brother of John in a parenthesis; and his is the only other martyrdom that it concerns itself even so much as to mention.

Why, then, this exceptional detail about the martyrdom of Stephen? For two reasons: because it is the first of a series, and the Acts of the Apostles always dilates upon the first of each set of things which it describes, and condenses about the others. But more especially, I think, because if we come to look at the story, it is not so much an account of Stephen’s death as of Christ’s power in Stephen’s death. And the theme of this book is not the acts of the Apostles, but the acts of the risen Lord, in and for His Church.

There is no doubt but that this narrative is modelled upon the story of our Lord’s Crucifixion, and the two incidents, in their similarities and in their differences, throw a flood of light upon one another.

I shall therefore look at our subject now with constant reference to that other greater death upon which it is based. It is to be observed that the two sayings on the lips of the proto-martyr Stephen are recorded for us in their original form on the lips of Christ, in Luke’s Gospel, which makes a still further link of connection between the two narratives.

So, then, my purpose now is merely to take this incident as it lies before us, to trace in it the analogies and the differences between the death of the Master and the death of the servant, and to draw from it some thoughts as to what it is possible for a Christian’s death to become, when Christ’s presence is felt in it.

I. Consider, in general terms, this death as the last act of imitation to Christ.

The resemblance between our Lord’s last moments and Stephen’s has been thought to have been the work of the narrator, and, consequently, to cast some suspicion upon the veracity of the narrative. I accept the correspondence, I believe it was intentional, but I shift the intention from the writer to the actor, and I ask why it should not have been that the dying martyr should consciously, and of set purpose, have made his death conformable to his Master’s death? Why should not the dying martyr have sought to put himself {as the legend tells one of the other Apostles in outward form sought to do} in Christ’s attitude, and to die as He died?

Remember, that in all probability Stephen died on Calvary. It was the ordinary place of execution, and, as many of you may know, recent investigations have led many to conclude that a little rounded knoll outside the city wall-not a ‘green hill,’ but still ‘outside a city wall,’ and which still bears a lingering tradition of connection with Him-was probably the site of that stupendous event. It was the place of stoning, or of public execution, and there in all probability, on the very ground where Christ’s Cross was fixed, His first martyr saw ‘the heavens opened and Christ standing on the right hand of God.’ If these were the associations of the place, what more natural, and even if they were not, what more natural, than that the martyr’s death should be shaped after his Lord’s?

Is it not one of the great blessings, in some sense the greatest of the blessings, which we owe to the Gospel, that in that awful solitude where no other example is of any use to us, His pattern may still gleam before us? Is it not something to feel that as life reaches its highest, most poignant and exquisite delight and beauty in the measure in which it is made an imitation of Jesus, so for each of us death may lose its most poignant and exquisite sting and sorrow, and become something almost sweet, if it be shaped after the pattern and by the power of His? We travel over a lonely waste at last. All clasped hands are unclasped; and we set out on the solitary, though it be ‘the common, road into the great darkness.’ But, blessed be His Name! ‘the Breaker is gone up before us,’ and across the waste there are footprints that we

‘Seeing, may take heart again.’

The very climax and apex of the Christian imitation of Christ may be that we shall bear the image of His death, and be like Him then.

Is it not a strange thing that generations of martyrs have gone to the stake with their hearts calm and their spirits made constant by the remembrance of that Calvary where Jesus died with more of trembling reluctance, shrinking, and apparent bewildered unmanning than many of the weakest of His followers? Is it not a strange thing that the death which has thus been the source of composure, and strength, and heroism to thousands, and has lost none of its power of being so to-day, was the death of a Man who shrank from the bitter cup, and that cried in that mysterious darkness, ‘My God! Why hast Thou forsaken Me?’

Dear brethren, unless with one explanation of the reason for His shrinking and agony, Christ’s death is less heroic than that of some other martyrs, who yet drew all their courage from Him.

How come there to be in Him, at one moment, calmness unmoved, and heroic self-oblivion, and at the next, agony, and all but despair? I know only one explanation, ‘The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.’ And when He died, shrinking and trembling, and feeling bewildered and forsaken, it was your sins and mine that weighed Him down. The servant whose death was conformed to his Master’s had none of these experiences because he was only a martyr.

The Lord had them, because He was the Sacrifice for the whole world.

II. We have here, next, a Christian’s death as being the voluntary entrusting of the spirit to Christ.

‘They stoned Stephen.’ Now, our ordinary English idea of the manner of the Jewish punishment of stoning, is a very inadequate and mistaken one. It did not consist merely in a miscellaneous rabble throwing stones at the criminal, but there was a solemn and appointed method of execution which is preserved for us in detail in the Rabbinical books. And from it we gather that the modus operandi was this. The blasphemer was taken to a certain precipitous rock, the height of which was prescribed as being equal to that of two men. The witnesses by whose testimony he had been condemned had to cast him over, and if he survived the fall it was their task to roll upon him a great stone, of which the weight is prescribed in the Talmud as being as much as two men could lift. If he lived after that, then others took part in the punishment.

Now, at some point in that ghastly tragedy, probably, we may suppose as they were hurling him over the rock, the martyr lifts his voice in this prayer of our text.

As they were stoning him he ‘called upon’-not God, as our Authorised Version has supplied the wanting word, but, as is obvious from the context and from the remembrance of the vision, and from the language of the following supplication, ‘called upon Jesus, saying, Lord Jesus! receive my spirit.’

I do not dwell at any length upon the fact that here we have a distinct instance of prayer to Jesus Christ, a distinct recognition, in the early days of His Church, of the highest conceptions of His person and nature, so as that a dying man turns to Him, and commits his soul into His hands. Passing this by, I ask you to think of the resemblance, and the difference, between this intrusting of the spirit by Stephen to his Lord, and the committing of His spirit to the Father by His dying Son. Christ on the Cross speaks to God; Stephen, on Calvary, speaks, as I suppose, to Jesus Christ. Christ, on the Cross, says, ‘I commit.’ Stephen says, ‘Receive,’ or rather, ‘Take.’ The one phrase carries in it something of the notion that our Lord died not because He must, but because He would; that He was active in His death; that He chose to summon death to do its work upon Him; that He ‘yielded up His spirit,’ as one of the Evangelists has it, pregnantly and significantly. But Stephen says, ‘Take!’ as knowing that it must be his Lord’s power that should draw his spirit out of the coil of horror around him. So the one dying word has strangely compacted in it authority and submission; and the other dying word is the word of a simple waiting servant. The Christ says, ‘I commit.’ ‘I have power to lay down My life, and I have power to take it again.’ Stephen says, ‘Take my spirit,’ as longing to be away from the weariness and the sorrow and the pain and all the hell of hatred that was seething and boiling round about him, but yet knowing that he had to wait the Master’s will.

So from the language I gather large truths, truths which unquestionably were not present to the mind of the dying man, but are all the more conspicuous because they were unconsciously expressed by him, as to the resemblance and the difference between the death of the martyr, done to death by cruel hands, and the death of the atoning Sacrifice who gave Himself up to die for our sins.

Here we have, in this dying cry, the recognition of Christ as the Lord of life and death. Here we have the voluntary and submissive surrender of the spirit to Him. So, in a very real sense, the martyr’s death becomes a sacrifice, and he too dies not merely because he must, but he accepts the necessity, and finds blessedness in it. We need not be passive in death; we need not, when it comes to our turn to die, cling desperately to the last vanishing skirts of life. We may yield up our being, and pour it out as a libation; as the Apostle has it, ‘If I be offered as a drink-offering upon the sacrifice of your faith, I joy and rejoice.’ Oh! brethren, to die like Christ, to die yielding oneself to Him!

And then in these words there is further contained the thought coming gleaming out like a flash of light into some murky landscape-of passing into perennial union with Him. ‘Take my spirit,’ says the dying man; ‘that is all I want. I see Thee standing at the right hand. For what hast Thou started to Thy feet, from the eternal repose of Thy session at the right hand of God the Father Almighty? To help and succour me. And dost Thou succour me when Thou dost let these cruel hands cast me from the rock and bruise me with heavy stones? Yes, Thou dost. For the highest form of Thy help is to take my spirit, and to let me be with Thee.’

Christ delivers His servant from death when He leads the servant into and through death. Brothers, can you look forward thus, and trust yourselves, living or dying, to that Master who is near us amidst the coil of human troubles and sorrows, and sweetly draws our spirits, as a mother her child to her bosom, into His own arms when He sends us death? Is that what it will be to you?

III. Then, still further, there are other words here which remind us of the final triumph of an all-forbearing charity.

Stephen had been cast from the rock, had been struck with the heavy stone. Bruised and wounded by it, he strangely survives, strangely somehow or other struggles to his knees even though desperately wounded, and, gathering all his powers together at the impulse of an undying love, prays his last words and cries, ‘Lord Jesus! Lay not this sin to their charge!’

It is an echo, as I have been saying, of other words, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ An echo, and yet an independent tone! The one cries ‘Father!’ the other invokes the ‘Lord.’ The one says, ‘They know not what they do’; the other never thinks of reading men’s motives, of apportioning their criminality, of discovering the secrets of their hearts. It was fitting that the Christ, before whom all these blind instruments of a mighty design stood patent and naked to their deepest depths, should say, ‘They know not what they do.’ It would have been unfitting that the servant, who knew no more of his fellows’ heart than could be guessed from their actions, should have offered such a plea in his prayer for their forgiveness.

In the very humiliation of the Cross, Christ speaks as knowing the hidden depths of men’s souls, and therefore fitted to be their Judge, and now His servant’s prayer is addressed to Him as actually being so.

Somehow or other, within a very few years of the time when our Lord dies, the Church has come to the distinctest recognition of His Divinity to whom the martyr prays; to the distinctest recognition of Him as the Lord of life and death whom the martyr asks to take his spirit, and to the clearest perception of the fact that He is the Judge of the whole earth by whose acquittal men shall be acquitted, and by whose condemnation they shall be condemned.

Stephen knew that Christ was the Judge. He knew that in two minutes he would be standing at Christ’s judgment bar. His prayer was not, ‘Lay not my sins to my charge,’ but ‘Lay not this sin to their charge.’ Why did he not ask forgiveness for himself? Why was he not thinking about the judgment that he was going to meet so soon? He had done all that long ago. He had no fear about that judgment for himself, and so when the last hour struck, he was at leisure of heart and mind to pray for his persecutors, and to think of his Judge without a tremor. Are you? If you were as near the edge as Stephen was, would it be wise for you to be interceding for other people’s forgiveness? The answer to that question is the answer to this other one,-have you sought your pardon already, and got it at the hands of Jesus Christ?

IV. One word is all that I need say about the last point of analogy and contrast here-the serene passage into rest: ‘When he had said this he fell asleep.’

The New Testament scarcely ever speaks of a Christian’s death as death but as sleep, and with other similar phrases. But that expression, familiar and all but universal as it is in the Epistles, in reference to the death of believers, is never in a single instance employed in reference to the death of Jesus Christ. He did die that you and I may live. His death was death indeed-He endured not merely the physical fact, but that which is its sting, the consciousness of sin. And He died that the sting might be blunted, and all its poison exhausted upon Him. So the ugly thing is sleeked and smoothed; and the foul form changes into the sweet semblance of a sleep-bringing angel. Death is gone. The physical fact remains, but all the misery of it, the essential bitterness and the poison of it is all sucked out of it, and it is turned into ‘he fell asleep,’ as a tired child on its mother’s lap, as a weary man after long toil.

‘Thou thy worldly task hast done,

Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages.’

Death is but sleep now, because Christ has died, and that sleep is restful, conscious, perfect life.

Look at these two pictures, the agony of the one, the calm triumph of the other, and see that the martyr’s falling asleep was possible because the Christ had died before. And do you commit the keeping of your souls to Him now, by true faith; and then, living you may have Him with you, and, dying, a vision of His presence bending down to succour and to save, and when you are dead, a life of rest conjoined with intensest activity. To sleep in Jesus is to awake in His likeness, and to be satisfied.

Acts 7:59-60. And thus they stoned Stephen — Who, during this furious assault, continued with his eyes fixed on the heavenly glory, of which he had so bright a vision, calling upon God — The word God is not in the original, which is literally, invoking; and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit — For Christ was the person to whom he prayed: and surely such a solemn prayer addressed to him, in which a departing soul was thus committed into his hands, was such an act of worship as no good man could have paid to a mere creature; Stephen here worshipping Christ in the very same manner in which Christ worshipped the Father on the cross. And he kneeled down, &c. — Having nothing further relating to himself which could give him any solicitude, all his remaining thoughts were occupied in compassion to these inhuman wretches, who were employed in effecting his destruction. Having, therefore, as we have reason to suppose, received many violent blows, rising as well as he could upon his knees, he cried, though with an expiring, yet with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge — With severity proportionable to the weight of the offence, but graciously forgive them, as indeed I do from my heart. The original expression, μη στησης αυτοις την αμαρτιαν, has a peculiar emphasis, and is not easy to be exactly translated, without multiplying words to an improper degree. It is literally weigh not out to them this sin; that is, a punishment proportionable to it; alluding, it seems, to passages of Scripture where God is represented as weighing men’s characters and actions in the dispensations of his justice and providence. This prayer of Stephen was heard, and remarkably answered, in the conversion of Saul, of whose history we shall shortly hear more. When he had said this — Calmly resigning his soul into the Saviour’s hand, with a sacred serenity, in the midst of this furious assault, he sweetly fell asleep — Leaving the traces of a gentle composure, rather than a horror, upon his breathless corpse.

7:54-60 Nothing is so comfortable to dying saints, or so encouraging to suffering saints, as to see Jesus at the right hand of God: blessed be God, by faith we may see him there. Stephen offered up two short prayers in his dying moments. Our Lord Jesus is God, to whom we are to seek, and in whom we are to trust and comfort ourselves, living and dying. And if this has been our care while we live, it will be our comfort when we die. Here is a prayer for his persecutors. Though the sin was very great, yet if they would lay it to their hearts, God would not lay it to their charge. Stephen died as much in a hurry as ever any man did, yet, when he died, the words used are, he fell asleep; he applied himself to his dying work with as much composure as if he had been going to sleep. He shall awake again in the morning of the resurrection, to be received into the presence of the Lord, where is fulness of joy, and to share the pleasures that are at his right hand, for evermore.Calling upon God - The word God is not in the original, and should not have been in the translation. It is in none of the ancient mss. or versions. It should have been rendered, "They stoned Stephen, invoking, or calling upon, and saying, Lord Jesus," etc. That is, he was engaged "in prayer" to the Lord Jesus. The word is used to express "prayer" in the following, among other places: 2 Corinthians 1:23, "I call God to witness"; 1 Peter 1:17, "And if ye call on the Father," etc.; Acts 2:21, "whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord," etc.; Acts 9:14; Acts 22:16; Romans 10:12-14. This was, therefore, an act of worship; a solemn invocation of the Lord Jesus, in the most interesting circumstances in which a man can be placed - in his dying moments. And this shows that it is right to worship the Lord Jesus, and to pray to him. For if Stephen was inspired, it settles the question. The example of an inspired man in such circumstances is a safe and correct example. If it should be said that the inspiration of Stephen cannot be made out, yet the inspiration of Luke, who has recorded it, will not be called into question. Then the following circumstances show that he, an inspired man, regarded it as right, and as a proper example to be followed:

(1) He has recorded it without the slightest expression of an opinion that it was improper. On the contrary, there is every evidence that he regarded the conduct of Stephen in this case as right and praiseworthy. There is, therefore, this attestation to its propriety.

(2) the Spirit who inspired Luke knew what use would be made of this case. He knew that it would be used as an example, and as an evidence that it was right to worship the Lord Jesus. It is one of the cases which has been used to perpetuate the worship of the Lord Jesus in every age. If it was wrong, it is inconceivable that it should be recorded without some expression of disapprobation.

(3) the case is strikingly similar to that recorded in John 20:28, where Thomas offered worship to the Lord Jesus "as his God," without reproof. If Thomas did it in the presence of the Saviour without reproof, it was right. If Stephen did it without any expression of disapprobation from the inspired historian, it was right.

(4) these examples were used to encourage Christians and Christian martyrs to offer homage to Jesus Christ. Thus, Pliny, writing to the Emperor Trajan, and giving an account of the Christians in Bithynia, says that they were accustomed to meet and "sing hymns to Christ as to God" (Latriner).

(5) it is worthy of remark that Stephen, in his death, offered the same act of homage to Christ that Christ himself did to the Father when he died, Luke 23:46. From all these considerations, it follows that the Lord Jesus is a proper object of worship; that in most solemn circumstances it is right to call upon him, to worship him, and to commit our dearest interests to his hands. If this may be done, he is divine.

Receive my spirit - That is, receive it to thyself; take it to thine abode in heaven.

59, 60. calling upon God and saying, Lord Jesus, &c.—An unhappy supplement of our translators is the word "God" here; as if, while addressing the Son, he was really calling upon the Father. The sense is perfectly clear without any supplement at all—"calling upon [invoking] and saying, Lord Jesus"; Christ being the Person directly invoked and addressed by name (compare Ac 9:14). Even Grotius, De Wette, Meyer, &c., admit this, adding several other examples of direct prayer to Christ; and Pliny, in his well-known letter to the Emperor Trajan (A.D. 110 or 111), says it was part of the regular Christian service to sing, in alternate strains, a hymn to Christ as God.

Lord Jesus, receive my spirit—In presenting to Jesus the identical prayer which He Himself had on the cross offered to His Father, Stephen renders to his glorified Lord absolute divine worship, in the most sublime form, and at the most solemn moment of his life. In this commitment of his spirit to Jesus, Paul afterwards followed his footsteps with a calm, exultant confidence that with Him it was safe for eternity (2Ti 1:12).

Stephen called upon him whom he saw standing, and that was our Saviour.

My spirit; or, my soul: thus our Saviour commended his spirit into his Father’s hands, Luke 23:46 and this disciple imitates his Master, and comforts himself with this, that to be sure his soul should be safe, whatever became of his body.

And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God,.... As he was praying, and putting up the following petition;

and saying, Lord Jesus receive my Spirit; from whence we learn, that the spirit or soul of man sleeps not, nor dies with the body, but remains after death; that Jesus Christ is a fit person to commit and commend the care of the soul unto immediately upon its separation; and that he must be truly and properly God; not only because he is equal to such a charge, which none but God is, but because divine worship and adoration are here given him. This is so glaring a proof of prayer being made unto him, that some Socinians, perceiving the force of it, would read the word Jesus in the genitive case, thus; "Lord of Jesus receive my Spirit": as if the prayer was made to the Father of Christ, when it is Jesus he saw standing at the right hand of God, whom he invokes, and who is so frequently called Lord Jesus; whereas the Father is never called the Lord of Jesus; and besides, these words are used in like manner in the vocative case, in Revelation 22:20 to which may be added, that the Syriac version reads, "our Lord Jesus"; and the Ethiopic version, "my Lord Jesus".

And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
Acts 7:59-60. Ἐπικαλούμενον] while he was invoking. Whom? is evident from the address which follows.

κύριε Ἰησοῦ] both to be taken as vocatives (Revelation 22:20) according to the formal expression κύριος Ἰησοῦς (Gersdorf, Beitr. p. 292 ff.), with which the apostolic church designates Jesus as the exalted Lord, not only of His church, but of the world, in the government of which He is installed as σύνθρονος of the Father by His exaltation (Php 2:6 ff.), until the final completion of His office (1 Corinthians 15:28); comp. Acts 10:36. Stephen invoked Jesus; for he had just beheld Him standing ready to help him. As to the invocation of Christ generally (relative worship, conditioned by the relation of the exalted Christ to the Father), see on Romans 10:12; 1 Corinthians 1:2; Php 2:10.

δέξαι τὸ πνεῦμά μου] namely, to thee in heaven until the future resurrection. Comp. on Php 1:26, remark. “Fecisti me victorem, recipe me in triumphum,” Augustine.

φωνῇ μεγάλῃ] the last expenditure of his strength of love, the fervour of which also discloses itself in the kneeling.

μὴ στήσῃς αὐτοῖς τ. ἁμαρτ. ταύτ.] fix not this sin (of my murder) upon them. This negative expression corresponds quite to the positive: ἀφιέναι τὴν ἁμαρτίαν, to let the sin go as regards its relation of guilt, instead of fixing it for punishment. Comp. Romans 10:3; Sir 44:21-22; 1Ma 13:38; 1Ma 14:28; 1Ma 15:4, al. The notion, “to make availing” (de Wette), i.e. to impute, corresponds to the thought, but is not denoted by the word. Linguistically correct is also the rendering: “weigh not this sin to them,” as to which the comparison of שָׁקַל is not needed (Matthew 26:15; Plat. Tim. p. 63 B, Prot. p. 356 B, Pol. x. p. 602 D; Xen. Cyr. viii. 2. 21; Valcken. Diatr. p. 288 A). In this view the sense would be: Determine not the weight of the sin (comp. Acts 25:7), consider not how heavy it is. But our explanation is to be preferred, because it corresponds more completely to the prayer of Jesus, Luke 23:34, which is evidently the pattern of Stephen in his request, only saying negatively what that expresses positively. In the case of such as Saul what was asked took place; comp. Oecumenius. In the similarity of the last words of Stephen, Acts 7:59 with Luke 23:34; Luke 23:40 (as also of the words δέξαι τὸ πν. μου with Luke 23:46), Baur, with whom Zeller agrees, sees an indication of their unhistorical character; as if the example of the dying Jesus might not have sufficiently suggested itself to the first martyr, and proved sufficient motive for him to die with similar love and self-devotion.

ἐκοιμήθη] “lugubre verbum et suave,” Bengel; on account of the euphemistic nature of the word, never used of the dying of Christ. See on 1 Corinthians 15:18.

Acts 7:59. καὶ ἐλιθ. τὸν Σ. ἐπικ.: imperf., as in Acts 7:58, “quia res morte demum [60] perficitur,” Blass. ἐπικ., present participle, denoting, it would seem, the continuous appeal of the martyr to his Lord. Zeller, Overbeck and Baur throw doubt upon the historical truth of the narrative on account of the manner in which the Sanhedrists’ action is divided between an utter absence of formal proceedings and a punctilious observance of correct formalities; but on the other hand Wendt, note, p. 195 (1888), points out with much force that an excited and tumultuous crowd, even in the midst of a high-handed and illegal act, might observe some legal forms, and the description given by St. Luke, so far from proceeding from one who through ignorance was unable to distinguish between a legal execution and a massacre, impresses us rather with a sense of truthfulness from the very fact that no attempt is made to draw such a distinction of nicely balanced justice, less or more. The real difficulty lies in the relations which the scene presupposes between the Roman Government and the Sanhedrim. No doubt at this period the latter did not possess the power to inflict capital punishment (Schürer, Jewish People, div. ii., vol. i., p. 187, E.T.), as is evident from the trial of our Lord. But it may well be that at the time of Stephen’s murder Roman authority was somewhat relaxed in Judæa. Pilate had just been suspended from his functions, or was on the point of being so, and he may well have been tired of refusing the madness and violence of the Jews, as Renan supposes, or at all events he may well have refrained, owing to his bad odour with them, from calling them to account for their illegal action in the case before us (see McGiffert, Apostolic Age, p. 91). It is of course possible that the stoning took place with the connivance of the Jewish authorities, as Weizsâcker allows, or that there was an interval longer than Acts supposes between the trial of Stephen and his actual execution, during which the sanction of the Romans was obtained. In the absence of exact dates it is difficult to see why the events before us should not have been transacted during the interregnum between the departure of Pontius Pilate, to answer before Tiberius for his misgovernment, and the arrival of Marcellus, the next Procurator. If this was so, we have an exact historical parallel in the illegal murder of James the Just, who was tried before the high priest, and stoned to death, since Ananias thought that he had a good opportunity for his violence when Festus was dead, and Albinus was still upon his road (Jos., Ant., xx., 9, 1). But if this suggestion of an interregnum is not free from difficulties, we may further take into consideration the fact that the same Roman officer, Vitellius, prefect of Syria, who had caused Pilate to be sent to Rome in disgrace, was anxious at the same time to receive Jewish support, and determined to effect his object by every means in his power. Josephus, Ant., xviii., 4, 2–5, tells us that Vitellius sent a friend of his own, Marcellus, to manage the affairs of Judæa, and that, not content with this, he went up to Jerusalem himself to conciliate the Jews by open regard for their religion, as well as by the remission of taxation. It is therefore not difficult to conceive that both the murder of Stephen and the persecution which followed were connived at by the Roman government; see, in addition to the above references, Rendall’s Acts, Introd., p. 19 ff.; Farrar, St. Paul, i., p. 648 ff., and note, p. 649. But this solution of the difficulty places the date of Saul’s conversion somewhat late—A.D. 37—and is entirely at variance with the earlier chronology adopted not only by Harnack (so too by McGiffert), but here by Ramsay, St. Paul, 376, 377, who places St. Stephen’s martyrdom in A.D. 33 at the latest. In the account of the death of Stephen, Wendt, following Weiss, Sorof, Clemen, Hilgenfeld, regards Acts 7:58 b, Acts 8:1 a, 3, as evidently additions of the redactor, although he declines to follow Weiss and Hilgenfeld in passing the same judgment on Acts 7:55 (and 56, according to H.), and on the last words of Stephen in Acts 7:59 b. The second ἐλιθοβόλουν in 59b, which Hilgenfeld assigns to his redactor, and Wendt now refers to the action of the witnesses, as distinct from that of the whole crowd, is repeated with dramatic effect, heightened by the present participle, ἐπικ., “ruthless violence on the one side, answered by continuous appeals to heaven on the other”; see Rendall’s note, in loco.ἐπικ.: “calling upon the Lord,” R.V. (“calling upon God,” A.V.), the former seems undoubtedly to be rightly suggested by the words of the prayer which follow—on the force of the word see above, Acts 2:21.—Κύριε Ἰησοῦ, δέξαι τὸ πνεῦμά μου: a direct prayer to our Lord, cf. for its significance and reality, Zahn, “Die Anbetung Jesu” (Skizzen aus dem Leben der alten Kirche, pp. 9, 288), Liddon, Our Lord’s Divinity, lect. vii.; cf. Luke 23:46. (Weiss can only see an imitation of Luke, and an interpolation here, because the kneeling, and also another word follow before the surrender of the spirit; but see on the other hand the remarks of Wendt, note, p. 196.)

59. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God] The last word is supplied to make the sense clear in English, but from the words which follow it is better to read “the Lord” instead of “God,” for it is the Lord Jesus who is invoked.

and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit] i.e. at its departure from my body; which he knew was soon to take place.

Acts 7:59. Κύριε Ἰησοῦ, Lord Jesus) Stephen still confesses His name.

Θεὶς, laying down [resting on his knees]) He was not able to do so previously: yet he was able to pray, being more unimpeded in mind than in body. At the same time the knees being laid down, so as to kneel, more properly accords with his intercession for the sin of his enemies.—φωνῇ μεγάλῃ, with a loud voice) with boldness of speech; in order that those raising the tumult might hear.—Κύριε, Lord) He calls the same Jesus, Lord. Dying persons ought to invoke Him.—ἁμαρτίαν, sin) It is not inconsistent with maintaining patience to call sin, sin.—ἐκοιμήθη, he fell asleep) A mournful but sweet word. This proto-martyr had (strange to say) all the very apostles as his survivors.

Verse 59. - The Lord (in italics) for God (in italics), A.V. The A.V. is certainly not justified by the context, because the words which follow, "Lord Jesus," show to whom the invocation was made, even to him whom he saw standing at the right hand of God. At the same time, the request, Receive my spirit, was a striking acknowledgment of the divinity of Christ. Only he who gave the spirit could receive it back again, and keep it safe unto the resurrection. Compare "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit" (Luke 23:46). Acts 7:59Calling upon God

God is not in the Greek. From the vision just described, and from the prayer which follows, it is evident that Jesus is meant. So Rev., the Lord.


An unquestionable prayer to Christ.

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