Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Great lamentation

In Acts 8:2, we read: “Devout men buried Stephen, and made great lamentation over him.” Initially we note that the Greek word εὐλαβεῖς for devout and the Greek word κοπετὸ for lamentation are both Lucan hapax appearing only in Acts. It may be that verses 2:5 which states “Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven” and 8:2 form an inclusio with “devout men” as the bookends. These Jews had respect for Stephen and his views and saw him as a noble and righteous man, a man like Simeon.

This Greek word εὐλαβεῖς for devout appear in the Septuagint in two places of interest. In Lev. 15:31, the LXX states: “You shall make the sons of Israel be reverent εὐλαβεῖς because of their uncleanness.” Secondly in Micah 7:2, the LXX reading says: “For the reverent εὐλαβής one are destroyed and there does not exist one keeping straight among men.” Luke suggests that Stephen was such a devout man that devout men buried and made lamentation over him. Yet other men considered Stephen to be so unclean that they stoned him.

The Greek phrase κοπετὸν μέγαν only appears in Acts 8:2 and Genesis LXX 50:10 which is part of the narrative of Joseph burying his father in the land of Canaan beyond the Jordan at the cave that Abraham had purchased as a burial site.

Today Hebron is known as the city of the Patriarchs because it is believed to be the location of cave site purchased by Abraham. This double hapax is an allusion to Genesis 50:10 but does it relates back? When Paul made his speech at Miletus, there is an allusion to Genesis 50. Thus Luke introduced Paul as the new Joseph but the significance of this allusion is not disclosed until Paul makes a speech at Miletus. In fact, this double hapax does also relate back and alerts the audience that a place location shift had occurred in Stephen’s Sermon, suggesting that this is a type of hidden polemics.

There are four separate mentions in Genesis of the purchase of this burial site that Abraham had purchased (Genesis 23; 25:9-10; 49:29-32; 50:13). Joseph made his brothers promise that he will be buried at this site where Jacob his father had been buried. However, when the people of the Exodus transported his casket to its final resting place, the bones of Joseph were buried at Shechem in the burial site that Jacob had purchased (Joshua 24:32). Stephen in his last sermon stated: “and Jacob went down into Egypt. And he died, himself and our fathers, and they were carried back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.”

Luke, in alluding to Genesis 50:10 in Acts 8:2, with his use of the Greek phrase κοπετὸν μέγαν is telling us he is aware of the two burial site traditions and that Stephen had used a burial tradition offensive to the temple establishment. At the same time Luke is disclosing that Stephen has employed hidden polemics in his speech in his use of the place name, Shechem, associated with the Samaritans.

Copyrighted 2007


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