I had always assumed the interval between Jesus’ ascension into heaven and Stephen’s death at the end of Acts 7 was about three to four years, and most of my commentaries agree. However, recently I have run across the opinion that Stephen’s death and the ensuing persecution of the Hellenist Messianic Jews was only a matter of months. The argument is that there aren’t any time indicators to prevent such an understanding, so why not just a few months? I don’t mean to misrepresent the understanding, but, although I have seen the understanding presented, I haven’t seen it defended, and I wonder if it could be.
On the other hand I could probably say the same for the understanding I hold. I have the support of several commentaries to which I could make reference, but none of them say why the interval between Acts 1 and 8 is three to four years. Therefore, I would like to take the time to see what is there in these beginning chapters of Acts that would offer support one way or the other. To be perfectly honest, however, I have made a cursory read with a view of identifying events which would point to the passing of time, and I have, tentatively, concluded there are more indicators supporting the opinion that the interval is a period of years rather than a few months. However, if I have misjudged the text, it ought to become evident that I am overly presumptuous in interpreting these indicators, and others who read it and are disposed to comment should be able to argue conclusively against what I’ve concluded. Anyway, this is how it is supposed to work!
In my next few blogs I hope to bring out this evidence that I presume supports my point of view and we’ll see where it leads. I am thinking it should take about four to six blogs to present my case, but anyone willing may chime in at any interval to help me see any error I may have made or any point that needs further consideration.
The timeframe I am working with is that Jesus died on the Passover of 31 CE and Stephen’s death which triggered the expulsion of the Hellenist Messianic Jews from Jerusalem in Acts 8 and following occurred probably late in 34 CE. With this as my canvas, let’s see what sort of scene can be painted, and will it be believable?