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Franck wrote:

Hi, guys —

I recently became interested in the date when the first martyr Stephen (Acts 7:54-60) was killed. I have seen the date 34 A.D. online quite often, but I could not find any historical source proving this date is correct.

  • Are there any such sources you could direct me to, which mentions this event and provide some support beyond the traditional the date of 34 A.D.?
  • Do you know if this topic has ever been studied by historians?

Thank you in advance for your help.

Franc

  { Are there any other sources that date the martyrdom of St. Stephen beyond the traditional date? }

John replied:

Franck,

Dating St. Stephen's death precisely is very difficult but we know it was 45 A.D. or earlier.

It is widely held that that the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) was held between 50 and 55 A.D.

Paul writes that he went back to Tarsus or Antioch for about 3 years, after he first met with the Apostles shortly after his conversion recorded in Acts Chapter 9.

Steven's stoning seems to have occurred shortly before Saul (who became Paul) was sent to Damascus and was converted on route but there was likely a short period before this happened so, working backwards, we can assume it was between 33 A.D. and 45 A.D.

Let me clarify this in more of a timeline manner to make it easier to follow.

Acts 15: Jerusalem 50 A.D. to 55 A.D.

At least 3 years prior, Paul met with Peter, James and John.  As we know Paul wrote in Galatians that after that meeting, he went off to study and pray for 3 years in Arabia. The text in Chapter 9 also says Paul stayed some time in Jerusalem preaching. So this is sometime after Acts 9.

Chapter 8: Christians flee Jerusalem to places like Sammaria immediately after Steven's stoning at the end of Acts 7 and the Gospel spreads to Jews outside of Jerusalem . . . that's likely when it reaches Jerusalem. 

So Steven's stoning could have been as late as the late 40s. Again, we can't know for sure but it certainly happened several years before the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15).

The first few Chapters of Acts tends to lack more details than the latter, as Luke was writing from second-hand accounts. He didn't join Paul for many years and he starts writing in the first person, so the first few chapters are compressed.

That's the best that the biblical text seems to offer. At least that's what I can recall off hand, without actually doing a more in depth study.

I'm not sure if there are any reliable extra biblical sources that can narrow the date down.

John

Franck replied:

Dear John,

Thank you for your answers. They were very helpful. I will have to read the book of Acts more carefully to fully grasp the chronology of events.

I will let you know if I find more on this topic.

Best regards,

Franck

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