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Perfect MartyrThe Stoning of Stephen and the Construction of Christian Identity$
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Shelly Matthews

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195393323

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195393323.001.0001

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Perfect Martyr

Perfect Martyr

Situating Stephen within Acts

(p.55) 2 Perfect Martyr
Perfect Martyr

Shelly Matthews (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Acts might be considered as holding an eccentric view on early Christian martyrdom through its focus on Stephen, who is otherwise unknown before Irenaeus, and through its silence concerning deaths of prominent Christian leaders, for whom rich martyrdom traditions are extant. Moreover, its focus on Jews and Jerusalem as the origin of the murderous impulse against Christians stands outside of developing martyrdom traditions in which Romans or “pagans” stand as agents of persecution. This chapter accounts for this eccentric presentation, by noting how the Stephen pericope, including his introduction as a Hellenist standing against Hebrews, the condemnatory speech of Jews as prophet persecutors, and his stoning, conforms perfectly to Acts’ larger rhetorical method concerning Jews and Romans. Stephen’s role as typological martyr also reduces tension between Acts’ depiction of Paul both as martyr willing to die in Jerusalem and as citizen of empire arguing his case in Rome.

Keywords:   death of Paul, Hellenists and Hebrews, Jews in Acts, prophet persecution, Stephen’s speech

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