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Acts 6

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The Appointment of the First Seven Deacons

6:1 Now in those 1  days, when the disciples were growing in number, 2  a complaint arose on the part of the Greek-speaking Jews 3  against the native Hebraic Jews, 4  because their widows 5  were being overlooked 6  in the daily distribution of food. 7  6:2 So the twelve 8  called 9  the whole group 10  of the disciples together and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to wait on tables. 11  6:3 But carefully select from among you, brothers, 12  seven 13  men who are well-attested, 14  full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge 15  of this necessary task. 16  6:4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 6:5 The 17  proposal pleased the entire group, so 18  they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, with 19  Philip, 20  Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a Gentile convert to Judaism 21  from Antioch. 22  6:6 They stood these men before the apostles, who prayed 23  and placed 24  their hands on them. 6:7 The word of God continued to spread, 25  the number of disciples in Jerusalem 26  increased greatly, and a large group 27  of priests became obedient to the faith.

Stephen is Arrested

6:8 Now Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and miraculous signs 28  among the people. 6:9 But some men from the Synagogue 29  of the Freedmen (as it was called), 30  both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, as well as some from Cilicia and the province of Asia, 31  stood up and argued with Stephen. 6:10 Yet 32  they were not able to resist 33  the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke. 6:11 Then they secretly instigated 34  some men to say, “We have heard this man 35  speaking blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 6:12 They incited the people, the 36  elders, and the experts in the law; 37  then they approached Stephen, 38  seized him, and brought him before the council. 39  6:13 They brought forward false witnesses who said, “This man does not stop saying things against this holy place 40  and the law. 41  6:14 For we have heard him saying that Jesus the Nazarene will destroy this place and change the customs 42  that Moses handed down to us.” 6:15 All 43  who were sitting in the council 44  looked intently at Stephen 45  and saw his face was like the face of an angel. 46 

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1 tn Grk “these.” The translation uses “those” for stylistic reasons.

2 tn Grk “were multiplying.”

3 tn Grk “the Hellenists,” but this descriptive term is largely unknown to the modern English reader. The translation “Greek-speaking Jews” attempts to convey something of who these were, but it was more than a matter of language spoken; it involved a degree of adoption of Greek culture as well.

sn The Greek-speaking Jews were the Hellenists, Jews who to a greater or lesser extent had adopted Greek thought, customs, and lifestyle, as well as the Greek language. The city of Alexandria in Egypt was a focal point for them, but they were scattered throughout the Roman Empire.

4 tn Grk “against the Hebrews,” but as with “Hellenists” this needs further explanation for the modern reader.

5 sn The care of widows is a major biblical theme: Deut 10:18; 16:11, 14; 24:17, 19-21; 26:12-13; 27:19; Isa 1:17-23; Jer 7:6; Mal 3:5.

6 tn Or “neglected.”

7 tn Grk “in the daily serving.”

sn The daily distribution of food. The early church saw it as a responsibility to meet the basic needs of people in their group.

8 sn The twelve refers to the twelve apostles.

9 tn Grk “calling the whole group…together, said.” The participle προσκαλεσάμενοι (proskalesamenoi) has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style.

10 tn Or “the multitude.”

11 tn Grk “to serve tables.”

12 tn It is not clear from a historical standpoint (but it is unlikely) that women would have been involved in the selection process too. For this reason the translation “brothers” has been retained, rather than “brothers and sisters” (used in contexts where both male and female believers are clearly addressed).

13 sn Seven. Jewish town councils often had seven members (Josephus, Ant. 4.18.14 [4.214]).

14 tn Or “are of good reputation” (BDAG 618 s.v. μαρτυρέω 2.b).

15 tn The translation “put in charge” is given by BDAG 492 s.v. καθίστημι 2.

16 tn Grk “of this need”; translated “necessary work” or “needed task” by L&N 42.22.

17 tn Grk “And the.” Because of the difference between Greek style, which often begins sentences or clauses with “and,” and English style, which generally does not, καί (kai) has not been translated here.

18 tn The translation “so” has been used to indicate the logical sequence in English.

19 tn “With” is smoother English style for an addition like this. Because of differences between Greek and English style, καί (kai), which occurs between each name in the list, has not been translated except preceding the last element.

20 sn Philip. Note how many of the names in this list are Greek. This suggests that Hellenists were chosen to solve the problem they had been so sensitive about fixing (cf. 6:1).

21 tn Or “a proselyte.”

22 map For location see JP1 F2; JP2 F2; JP3 F2; JP4 F2.

23 tn Literally this is a participle in the Greek text (προσευξάμενοι, proseuxamenoi). It could be translated as a finite verb (“and they prayed and placed their hands on them”) but much smoother English results if the entire coordinate clause is converted to a relative clause that refers back to the apostles.

sn Who prayed. The prayer indicates their acceptance and commissioning for ministry (cf. Deut 34:9).

24 tn Or “laid.”

25 tn Grk “kept on spreading”; the verb has been translated as a progressive imperfect.

26 map For location see Map5 B1; Map6 F3; Map7 E2; Map8 F2; Map10 B3; JP1 F4; JP2 F4; JP3 F4; JP4 F4.

27 tn Grk “a great multitude.”

sn A large group. Many Jews, even some religious leaders, were responding.

28 tn The miraculous nature of these signs is implied in the context. Here the work of miracles extends beyond the Twelve for the first time.

29 sn A synagogue was a place for Jewish prayer and worship, with recognized leadership (cf. Luke 8:41). Though the origin of the synagogue is not entirely clear, it seems to have arisen in the postexilic community during the intertestamental period. A town could establish a synagogue if there were at least ten men. In normative Judaism of the NT period, the OT scripture was read and discussed in the synagogue by the men who were present (see the Mishnah, m. Megillah 3-4; m. Berakhot 2).

30 tn Grk “the so-called Synagogue of the Freedmen.” The translation of the participle λεγομένης (legomenh") by the phrase “as it was called” is given by L&N 87.86. “Freedmen” would be slaves who had gained their freedom, or the descendants of such people (BDAG 594-95 s.v. Λιβερτῖνος).

31 tn Grk “Asia”; in the NT this always refers to the Roman province of Asia, made up of about one-third of the west and southwest end of modern Asia Minor. Asia lay to the west of the region of Phrygia and Galatia. The words “the province of” are supplied to indicate to the modern reader that this does not refer to the continent of Asia.

32 tn Grk “and.” The context, however, indicates that the conjunction carries an adversative force.

33 sn They were not able to resist. This represents another fulfillment of Luke 12:11-12; 21:15.

34 tn Another translation would be “they suborned” (but this term is not in common usage). “Instigate (secretly), suborn” is given by BDAG 1036 s.v. ὑποβάλλω.

35 tn Grk “heard him”; but since this is direct discourse, it is more natural (and clearer) to specify the referent (Stephen) as “this man.”

36 tn Grk “and the,” but καί (kai) has not been translated since English normally uses a coordinating conjunction only between the last two elements in a series of three or more.

37 tn Or “and the scribes.” See the note on the phrase “experts in the law” in 4:5.

38 tn Grk “approaching, they seized him”; the referent (Stephen) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

39 tn Or “the Sanhedrin” (the highest legal, legislative, and judicial body among the Jews). Stephen suffers just as Peter and John did.

40 sn This holy place is a reference to the temple.

41 sn The law refers to the law of Moses. It elaborates the nature of the blasphemy in v. 11. To speak against God’s law in Torah was to blaspheme God (Deut 28:15-19). On the Jewish view of false witnesses, see Exod 19:16-18; 20:16; m. Sanhedrin 3.6; 5.1-5. Stephen’s speech in Acts 7 may indicate why the temple was mentioned.

42 tn Or “practices.”

sn Will destroy this place and change the customs. Stephen appears to view the temple as a less central place in light of Christ’s work, an important challenge to Jewish religion, since it was at this time a temple-centered state and religion. Unlike Acts 3-4, the issue here is more than Jesus and his resurrection. Now the impact of his resurrection and the temple’s centrality has also become an issue. The “falseness” of the charge may not be that the witnesses were lying, but that they falsely read the truth of Stephen’s remarks.

43 tn Grk “And all.” Because of the difference between Greek style, which often begins sentences or clauses with “and,” and English style, which generally does not, καί (kai) has not been translated here.

44 tn Or “Sanhedrin” (the highest legal, legislative, and judicial body among the Jews).

45 tn Grk “at him”; the referent (Stephen) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

46 sn His face was like the face of an angel. This narrative description of Stephen’s face adds to the mood of the passage. He had the appearance of a supernatural, heavenly messenger.



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