The Politics of Stephen’s Storytelling: Narrative Rhetoric and Reflexivity in Acts 7:2–53

Michal Beth Dinkler 1
  • 1 Yale Divinity School, 409 Prospect St., New Haven, USA
Michal Beth Dinkler


Taking Stephen’s lengthy speech in Acts 7:2–53 as its case study, this paper considers the complex ways that narratives function politically, and especially how the author of Acts constructs the act of storytelling as a purposive persuasive strategy within the complex political landscape of the first-century Mediterranean world. Although some have interpreted Stephen’s speech in light of ancient rhetorical conventions, I contend that Stephen is not portrayed primarily as an elite classical orator; he is, fundamentally, a storyteller. This paper considers previous approaches to Stephen’s speech, and then analyzes the speech as an act of persuasive political narration. In the end, I argue that Stephen’s audience reacts so violently because of the particular kind of national narrative that Stephen tells about the people of Israel.

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A highly reputed journal published since 1900, the Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft is an international journal for the exegesis of the New Testament and knowledge of the early church (patristics).