Which version of Stephens’s Acts 7 speech is correct?

Stephen’s speech, made while he was supposedly “full of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 7:55), shows a number of distinct differences from that found in Christian versions of the Bible which follow the Jewish Masoretic text (Acts 7:14-16). If these differences were said while under the influence of the “Holy Spirit” should this not mean that Stephen’s version is correct and should be reflected in the appropriate texts found in Christian Bibles?

Answer:

In his speech, Stephen states: “And Joseph sent and called Jacob his father and all his relatives, seventy-five souls; and Jacob went down into Egypt. And he died, he and our fathers, and they were removed to Shechem and were laid in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem” (Acts 7:14-16).

Jacob’s family that came down to Egypt, inclusive of Joseph and his sons, numbered seventy persons, not seventy-five (Genesis 46:27, Exodus 1:5, Deuteronomy 10:22).

Jacob was not buried in the city of Shechem, but in the cave of Machpelah, which is located in the city of Hebron (Genesis 23:19; 49:29-30; 50:13).

The Jewish Scriptures do not give any indication that the forefathers of the tribes of Israel were buried in Shechem. Only Joseph is said to have been buried there. Joseph was buried at Shechem, in the piece of ground which Jacob had purchased for a hundred silver shekels from the sons of Hamor (Genesis 33:19, Joshua 24:32). According to Josephus, the other sons of Jacob were buried in Hebron (Josephus, Jewish Antiquities II. 8. 2 [199]).

Abraham did not buy a tomb in Shechem. He bought the cave of Machpelah, which he used as a burial place, and which, as PREViously stated, is located in the city of Hebron (Genesis 23:19).

The cave of Machpelah was not bought from the sons of Hamor, but from Ephron the Hittite (Genesis 23:17-18, 50:13).

Christians offer a number of reasons for the differences between what is found in Genesis and what is found in Stephen’s speech. Yet, whatever explanations are made it should be understood that if he was under the influence of the “Holy Spirit” he would have calmly said what needed to be said and no crowd would have been able to touch him until he finished. He wouldn’t need to telescope the material for brevity nor would he become confused. If the New Testament, generally, and this passage, in particular, is the result of divine influence by the “Holy Spirit” then Christian renderings of the Book of Genesis should surely reflect this in their translations.

As it is, Stephen’s overall speech expresses a Samaritan outlook and it is more than likely that these comments were taken from a Samaritan source.

 

© Gerald Sigal