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Old 11-10-2001, 12:16 PM   #1
Clay
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Post Stephen's speech to the Sanhedrin

Is it possible that the speech Stephen gives in Acts 7 was not his own but instead written by Luke in an attempt to put a good "spin" on the first case of a christian martyr.

Stephen is chosen for a position of responsibility in Acts 6:5 so I think it is fair to say that he was probably somewhat intelligent and responsible but was he capable of coming up with a speech as good as the one that he is credited with? Is there anything to suggest that the speech is authentic.

I don't like to discredit and tear apart the bible unless there is good cause, I just want to know if Luke's authorship of this speech is a valid theory even if it is not the most likely one.

I have not been able to find any verses outside of this account that refer to this speech, are there any that I missed?

Thank You.

Clay
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Old 11-12-2001, 03:56 PM   #2
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Generally speaking, I believe that speeches reported in ancient histories are rarely, if ever, accurate renditions of what was actually said. The historian simply would not have had access to that level of detail - no TV cameras or radio microphones were present; even if anybody had been taking notes they would not have been widely circulated because of the cost and effort of copying manuscripts pre-printing press; and even if the historian was able to speak to an eyewitness he would likely have got no more than a broad impression of what the speech was like (let's face it - could you accurately repeat the whole of one of Geroge Bush's TV addresses, or could you just give a general overview and perhaps a few of the best lines?). So when the narrative called for a speech, the historian would as likely as not write one himself which, in his judgement, was the sort of thing his subject would have said under the circumstances. I believe that many of the ancient historians said as much themselves when writing on the art of writing history.

So in all probability the speech reported in Acts is not what Stephen actually said at his trial, but rather Luke's take on the sort of thing he was likely to have said. Possibly with a few embellishments to put the best possible "spin" on it - Luke did after all see Stephen as a hero, so it was only appropriate that he should have made a suitably grand speech. Note that this is not to imply dishonesty on the part of the author - he would simply have been following the standard practice of his time - a time when the notion of what a historian "should" do was quite different to what it is now.
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Old 11-12-2001, 04:26 PM   #3
HelenM
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Exclamation

I know that the 'standards' of reporting were different then from now, but it seems that to make a whole speech up isn't consistent with this, that Luke wrote:

Quote:
Luke 1:1-4 (ESV)
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, [2] just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, [3] it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, [4] that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
I'd want more proof that it was ok to make up speeches in those days, before I'd believe Luke could have made the whole thing up and it been perfectly ok to write it down as if it really was said by Stephen.

I know that the authors did have more freedom to put things in their own words, and perhaps add their own 'take' on things...be quite interpretative, that is...compared with today when we are picky about the exact words, when we say we are 'quoting' someone.

love
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Old 11-12-2001, 04:41 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally posted by HelenSL:
<STRONG>I'd want more proof that it was ok to make up speeches in those days, before I'd believe Luke could have made the whole thing up and it been perfectly ok to write it down as if it really was said by Stephen.</STRONG>
But that's the point; in the first century it wouldn't have been viewed as what Stephen actually said, just something that accurately (according to Luke) transmitted the purpose and character of Stephen's martyrdom.

Historians in the ancient world would view our modern preoccupation with verbal accuracy and sequences of events as inordinate and petty. What mattered more to them was the meaning of a person's life (in the case of a biography) or of a series of events (in the case of a history.)
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Old 11-12-2001, 04:50 PM   #5
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A quick search turns this up, as an example of how the ancient historian dealt with speeches.

“As to the speeches that were made by different men, either when they were about to begin the war or when they were already engaged therein, it has been difficult to recall with strict accuracy the words actually spoken, both for me as regards that which I myself heard, and for those who from various other sources have brought me reports. Therefore the speeches are given in the language in which, as it seemed to me, the several speakers would express, on the subjects under consideration, the sentiments most befitting the occasion, though at the same time I have adhered as closely as possible to the general sense of what was actually said.” - Thucidydes, History of the Peloponnesian War, 1.22.1
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Old 11-12-2001, 07:43 PM   #6
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If Stephen did in fact give the speech in front of the Sanhedrin, two scribes would have been there to record it.

There is a book entitled Paul on Trial: Acts as a defense of Christianity.

The author's position is that both Luke and Acts are a two part legal brief to one Theophilous, a roman official possibly assigined to defend Paul in front of Nero.

The two chief charges against Paul are civil unrest, and starting a new religion. Luke's Acts is a passsionate rebuttal against both.

He starts with both Stephen's and Peter's speeches to drive home that point that Christianity can only be fully understood within the context of Judaism.

Other points include that when Paul had a chance to flee jail after an earthquake..he stayed !

As for the riots, during one Paul didn't get a chance to speak and in another Demitrius, a silvesmith of tinker gods whipped up a crowd after Paul wryly put his fake god busiess down.

There are many examples of both pronged defenses thru out Acts. You might want to check out the book.
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Old 11-12-2001, 10:09 PM   #7
Clay
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Thanks for the responses everyone.

I am going to check out that book you recommended Storm & Stress.

I agree that Ancient Speeches cannot be expected to be accurate representations of what was actually said. However, I am writing a paper for an Acts of the Apostles class in a christian college and I don't know if my professor would agree that ALL speeches in the bible were written in that way. I am basically interested in investigating whether Stephen was capable of coming up with this defense because it is a very good speech and he is not talked about at all in Acts before this.

Quote:
If Stephen did in fact give the speech in front of the Sanhedrin, two scribes would have been there to record it.
That is a good point I had not thought about. Would Luke have have had access to those records and would he consulted them even if they were available?

Thanks.

Clay.
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