I have run into references to someone named William Stringfellow a few times recently — and being suspicious about coincidences I thought I’d see what the issue is with this guy. Sounds like he was doing the Walter Wink thing twenty years before Walter Wink was doing it.
I think you mentioned him once or twice. What can you say about him? What woudl be a good starting place if I wanted to read something by/about him.
If you’d rather answer privately — my email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Again I’ll be out of town a few days. Take your time.
Forgive me for posting before anyone has commented on the last passage. I will be out of town and sans internet for the next 3 days and I’m hoping — in light of previous considerations — to go back to posting two passages a week to pick up the pace. Given that this is a story of some fellow named Phillip it seemed appropriate somehow to post in the JB Phillips translation.
Philip is given an unique opportunity
8:26 – But an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go south down the road which runs from Jerusalem to Gaza, out in the desert.”
8:27-29 – Philip arose and began his journey. At this very moment an Ethiopian eunuch, a minister and in fact the treasurer to Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, was on his way home after coming to Jerusalem to worship. He was sitting in his carriage reading the prophet Isaiah. The Spirit said to Philip, “Approach this carriage, and keep close to it.”
8:30 – Then as Philip ran forward he heard the man reading the prophet Isaiah, and he said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
8:31 – And he replied, “How can I unless I have someone to guide me?”
8:32-33 – And he invited Philip to get up and sit by his side. The passage of scripture he was reading was this: ‘He was led as a sheep to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he opened not his mouth. In his humiliation his justice was taken away. And who will declare his generation? For his life is taken from the earth.’
8:34 – The eunuch turned to Philip and said, “Tell me, I beg you, about whom is the prophet saying this – is he speaking about himself or about someone else?”
8:35-36 – Then Philip began, and using this scripture as a starting point, he told the eunuch the good news about Jesus. As they proceeded along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Look, here is some water; is there any reason why I should not be baptised now?”
8:38-40 – And he gave orders for the carriage to stop. Then both of them went down to the water and Philip baptised the eunuch. When they came up out of the water the Spirit of the Lord took Philip away suddenly and the eunuch saw no more of him, but proceeded on his journey with a heart full of joy. Philip found himself at Azotus and as he passed through the countryside he went on telling the good news in all the cities until he came to Caesarea.
If you saw my earlier posting of this passage — consider it not — or consider it a lame homage to a comment on this blog posting here — I too found the concept of Swedish Pentecostals in Burundi funny. And if you found this posting helpful when it was entitled Apostagärningarna 8:4-25 (Svenska 1917) — well its still available at the link (or at Bible Gateway.
Phillip Preaches in Samaria
Forced to leave home base, the followers of Jesus all became missionaries. Wherever they were scattered, they preached the Message about Jesus. Going down to a Samaritan city, Philip proclaimed the Message of the Messiah. When the people heard what he had to say and saw the miracles, the clear signs of God’s action, they hung on his every word. Many who could neither stand nor walk were healed that day. The evil spirits protested loudly as they were sent on their way. And what joy in the city!
Previous to Philip’s arrival, a certain Simon had practiced magic in the city, posing as a famous man and dazzling all the Samaritans with his wizardry. He had them all, from little children to old men, eating out of his hand. They all thought he had supernatural powers, and called him “the Great Wizard.” He had been around a long time and everyone was more or less in awe of him.
But when Philip came to town announcing the news of God’s kingdom and proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ, they forgot Simon and were baptized, becoming believers right and left! Even Simon himself believed and was baptized. From that moment he was like Philip’s shadow, so fascinated with all the God-signs and miracles that he wouldn’t leave Philip’s side.
When the apostles in Jerusalem received the report that Samaria had accepted God’s Message, they sent Peter and John down to pray for them to receive the Holy Spirit. Up to this point they had only been baptized in the name of the Master Jesus; the Holy Spirit hadn’t yet fallen on them. Then the apostles laid their hands on them and they did receive the Holy Spirit.
When Simon saw that the apostles by merely laying on hands conferred the Spirit, he pulled out his money, excited, and said, “Sell me your secret! Show me how you did that! How much do you want? Name your price!”
Peter said, “To hell with your money! And you along with it. Why, that’s unthinkable—trying to buy God’s gift! You’ll never be part of what God is doing by striking bargains and offering bribes. Change your ways—and now! Ask the Master to forgive you for trying to use God to make money. I can see this is an old habit with you; you reek with money-lust.”
“Oh!” said Simon, “pray for me! Pray to the Master that nothing like that will ever happen to me!”
And with that, the apostles were on their way, continuing to witness and spread the Message of God’s salvation, preaching in every Samaritan town they passed through on their return to Jerusalem.
A short passage and so in three versions:
And Saul approved of their killing him. That day a severe persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria. Devout men buried Stephen and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church by entering house after house; dragging off both men and women, he committed them to prison.
Acts 8:1-3 (NRSV)
That set off a terrific persecution of the church in Jerusalem. The believers were all scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. All, that is, but the apostles. Good and brave men buried Stephen, giving him a solemn funeral—not many dry eyes that day!
And Saul just went wild, devastating the church, entering house after house after house, dragging men and women off to jail.
Acts 8:1-3 (The Message)
AND SAUL was [not only] consenting to [Stephen’s] death [he was pleased and entirely approving]. On that day a great and severe persecution broke out against the church which was in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles (special messengers).
[A party of] devout men with others helped to carry out and bury Stephen and made great lamentation over him.
But Saul shamefully treated and laid waste the church continuously [with cruelty and violence]; and entering house after house, he dragged out men and women and committed them to prison.
Acts 8:1-3 (Amplified Bible)
We seem to be running out of gas on this one. Just a personal observation — if that sentiment doesn’t speak for you feel free to contradict me!
But we have fewer and fewer postings and by fewer of our members. And what to do?
1) Continue to carry on as we have been — the issue is temporary. Maybe. But the summer weather is here and I’m betting most of us would rather be sipping iced tea and admiring the lilacs than kickin’ about here.
2) Abandon Acts and try somethin’ else. Okay. But see the note above about iced tea and lilacs. Yet new might be nice.
3) Continue with Acts but instead of trying to cover everything — your erstwhile scripture poster tries to select some highlights to get us through faster.
4) Go on summer vacation and revisit next steps in September.
5) Some other idea I haven’t thought of but one of you folks have.
And sorry — the low energy may partly be me. I have been doing some rather study-ful stuff elsewhere (my blog, local church) and this has taken a back seat. If so. I apologize for this.
A note on the passage limits. This section – based on the section divisions in the NRSV ends mid-point through the verse 8:1 and leaves the second half of the verse for the next section. Hence my reference 8:1a with the next section beginning 8:1b.
When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen. But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died. And Saul approved of their killing him.
Stephen’s speech to the religious leaders seems to focus on the way the people have traditionally responded to God’s chosen ones, like Joseph and Moses … disrespectfully, sometimes violently … as they did also with Jesus. He brings up, too, the idea tha the man-made temple can’t really house God. It’s as if Stephen is telling them that they never really got the God thing right, despite helpful hints from the prophets along the way … ouch!
It’s not so surprising that things go downhill from here. No one likes to hear they’ve been wrong, whether they’re wrong or not. This reminds me of someone Meredith mentioned here once – Matthew Fox, a priest dismissed from the Dominican Order for his break with official teachings. About a year ago, he nailed some criticisms of the catholic church on the door of Wittenberg’s Castle Church, like Luther. How can a religious institution determine whether it should listen to dissent and accept change, or should get rid of the dissenter and preserve its status quo?
This longish passage is a rather involved interpretation of Hebrew history making the Jews out to be a bunch of malcontents consistently resisting God’s voice calling them to repentance and to obedience.
Seen as a Christian harangue of Jews it speaks of supersessionism — a heresy that I have no truck with. But this is Stephen — a Jew — though not a Palestinian Jew — making this harangue and he is in good company. Much of the books of Chronicles and the writings of the prophet Isaiah similarly harangue. There is a self-criticism within Judaism which I think is healthy. And a willingness to argue with God which is generally seen as irreverent in Christian circles but which may indicate a certain intimacy and trust in God when seen from a differing light.
For me, in this day, Stephen’s words must apply not to Jews but to Christians — for it is in our scriptures that his speech is recorded:
You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are forever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do. Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, and now you have become his betrayers and murderers. You are the ones that received the law as ordained by angels, and yet you have not kept it.
Keep everything here and change one word — change “law” to “gospel” and 2000 years of Christian history stands indicted.
And I, I, I have been stiff-necked, uncircumcised in heart and ears, forever opposing the Holy Spirit. Perhaps I have not murdered anyone. But I have murdered in my heart with unrighteous anger. And I have received the gospel as ordained by angels, and yet I have not kept it. The talents are still buried in the earth ready to be dug up. I have remained behind, guarding the 99 sheep when the little one was lost. My lamp is empty of oil, the wick is untrimmed. Life happens.
But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (1 John 2:1)
Then the high priest asked him, “Are these things so?” And Stephen replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me. The God of glory appeared to our ancestor Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, ‘Leave your country and your relatives and go to the land that I will show you.’ Then he left the country of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After his father died, God had him move from there to this country in which you are now living. He did not give him any of it as a heritage, not even a foot’s length, but promised to give it to him as his possession and to his descendants after him, even though he had no child. And God spoke in these terms, that his descendants would be resident aliens in a country belonging to others, who would enslave them and mistreat them during four hundred years. ‘But I will judge the nation that they serve,’ said God, ‘and after that they shall come out and worship me in this place.’ Then he gave him the covenant of circumcision. And so Abraham became the father of Isaac and circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs.
“The patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him, and rescued him from all his afflictions, and enabled him to win favor and to show wisdom when he stood before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who appointed him ruler over Egypt and over all his household. Now there came a famine throughout Egypt and Canaan, and great suffering, and our ancestors could find no food. But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our ancestors there on their first visit. On the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph’s family became known to Pharaoh. Then Joseph sent and invited his father Jacob and all his relatives to come to him, seventy-five in all; so Jacob went down to Egypt. He himself died there as well as our ancestors, and their bodies were brought back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.
“But as the time drew near for the fulfillment of the promise that God had made to Abraham, our people in Egypt increased and multiplied until another king who had not known Joseph ruled over Egypt. He dealt craftily with our race and forced our ancestors to abandon their infants so that they would die. At this time Moses was born, and he was beautiful before God. For three months he was brought up in his father’s house; and when he was abandoned, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. So Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in his words and deeds.
“When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his relatives, the Israelites. When he saw one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. He supposed that his kinsfolk would understand that God through him was rescuing them, but they did not understand. The next day he came to some of them as they were quarreling and tried to reconcile them, saying, ‘Men, you are brothers; why do you wrong each other?’ But the man who was wronging his neighbor pushed Moses aside, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ When he heard this, Moses fled and became a resident alien in the land of Midian. There he became the father of two sons.
“Now when forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in the flame of a burning bush. When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight; and as he approached to look, there came the voice of the Lord: ‘I am the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’ Moses began to tremble and did not dare to look. Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. I have surely seen the mistreatment of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their groaning, and I have come down to rescue them. Come now, I will send you to Egypt.’
“It was this Moses whom they rejected when they said, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’ and whom God now sent as both ruler and liberator through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. He led them out, having performed wonders and signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea, and in the wilderness for forty years. This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up a prophet for you from your own people as he raised me up.’ He is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors; and he received living oracles to give to us. Our ancestors were unwilling to obey him; instead, they pushed him aside, and in their hearts they turned back to Egypt, saying to Aaron, ‘Make gods for us who will lead the way for us; as for this Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has happened to him.’ At that time they made a calf, offered a sacrifice to the idol, and reveled in the works of their hands. But God turned away from them and handed them over to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets:
‘Did you offer to me slain victims
forty years in the wilderness,
O house of Israel?
No; you took along the tent
and the star of your god
the images that you made
so I will remove you beyond
“Our ancestors had the tent of testimony in the wilderness, as God directed when he spoke to Moses, ordering him to make it according to the pattern he had seen. Our ancestors in turn brought it in with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations that God drove out before our ancestors. And it was there until the time of David, who found favor with God and asked that he might find a dwelling place for the house of Jacob. But it was Solomon who built a house for him. Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made with human hands; as the prophet says,
Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
What kind of house will you build
for me, says the Lord,
or what is the place of my rest?
Did not my hand make all these
“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are forever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do. Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, and now you have become his betrayers and murderers. You are the ones that received the law as ordained by angels, and yet you have not kept it.”