Dec. 26, 2021
And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.
2Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.
3Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.
4But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.
5And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch:
6Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.
7And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.
8And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.
9Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen.
10And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.
11Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God.
12And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council,
13And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law:
14For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us.
15And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.
The Book of Acts is, as we know, ‘the rest of the story’. Jesus has ascended to the Father and now the Apostles are about the business of preaching, teaching, providing funds and needs to the existing churches and of planting new churches. Their first order of business is to find a replacement for Judas Iscariot.
Verses 5 and 6 are believed by many to be the first ordinations of deacons. The word ‘deacon’ is derived from the Greek word for servant.
The two reference books I use, the King James Study Bible and the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible – New Testament, both explain that ‘the Grecians’ are not Greeks but multiple ethnic groups of freed slaves who are influenced by the language and societal thought of the Greeks; these groups are better referred to as Hellenistic, rather than Greek. Neither of my reference books, however, shed light on the cause of the Hellenistic widows being ignored in their need. Care for the widowed and orphaned goes all the way back to Deuteronomy (chapter 10) but perhaps they (the Apostles) simply weren’t aware that the Hellenistic widows were suffering.
In any event, once the Apostles are made aware of the unassuaged need, seven men (all with Greek names) are appointed to correct the situation and attend the Hellenistic widows.
Of the seven men chosen, Stephen is the strongest (verse 8 – “full of faith and power”). Verses 9-14 sound very familiar to us, don’t they? Sounds much like what Jesus went through leading up to the crucifixion. St. Luke, the author of Acts, sees this comparison very clearly.
It has always been so – people are very quick to condemn and notoriously slow to do their research and verify if condemnation is justified. We see this sort of thing in the news of our own time and place. We never seem to learn.