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.
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).