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Acts 7 – Skeptic's Annotated Bible answered

A response and reply to the notes on Acts 7 in the Skeptic's Annotated Bible (SAB).

King James Version

SAB comment

My comment

1 Then said the high priest, Are these things so?

2 And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran,

3 And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee.

4 Then came he out of the land of the Chaldaeans, and dwelt in Charran: and from thence, when his father was dead, he removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell.

(7:4) "When his father was dead"
Abraham's father, Terah, was 70 when Abraham was born (Gen.11:26), and Terah died at 205 years of age (Gen.11:32), and according to this verse, Abraham didn't leave home until after Terah died. If all this is true, then Abraham must have been at least 135 years old when he left Haran. Yet according to Gen.12:4, Abraham was 75 years old when he left home.
How old was Abraham when he left Haran?
The author of the SAB asks how old Abraham was when he left Haran. The argument is as follows:
  1. Gen. 12:4 says Abraham was seventy five years old when he left Haran.
  2. This verse says Abraham left Haran when his father, Terah, died.
  3. As his father died when Abraham was two hundred and five years, Gen. 11:32, and Abraham was born when Terah was seventy, Gen. 11:26, Abraham must have been hundred and thirty five years when he left Haran as per this verse. So that contradicts the seventy five years mentioned in Gen. 12:4
But a conclusion only follows when it premises at true. And the premise that is false is that Abraham was born when Terah was seventy. Readers who actually read Gen. 11:26, will see that three sons were born to Terah. And they were not all born in the same year... The first was born when Terah was seventy. Given this verse we know that Abraham wasn't the firstborn. And given the date in this verse it must be that Abraham was born when Terah was hundred and thirty.
Note: it's not uncommon in Genesis to mention the more important son before the firstborn, see another example in Gen. 5:32.

5 And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child.

(7:5) "He gave him none inheritance in it."
God's promise to Abraham was not fulfilled. (See Gen.12:7, 13:15, 15:18, and 17:8)
I do not understand the objection of the author of the SAB. The promise was fulfilled, as Abraham's seed inherited the land after the sins of its inhabitants were fulfilled.

6 And God spake on this wise, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil four hundred years.

(7:6) "Four hundred years"
How long was the Egyptian captivity?
See Gen. 15:13, the verse Stephen quotes.

7 And the nation to whom they shall be in bondage will I judge, said God: and after that shall they come forth, and serve me in this place.

8 And he gave him the covenant of circumcision: and so Abraham begat Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat the twelve patriarchs.

9 And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him,

10 And delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favour and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house.

11 Now there came a dearth over all the land of Egypt and Chanaan, and great affliction: and our fathers found no sustenance.

12 But when Jacob heard that there was corn in Egypt, he sent out our fathers first.

13 And at the second time Joseph was made known to his brethren; and Joseph’s kindred was made known unto Pharaoh.

14 Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jacob to him, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls.

"Jacob ... and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls."
How many were in Jacob's family when they came into Egypt?
The author of the SAB compares oranges and apples to make a contradiction. Moses speaks of the number of children born to Jacob, Stephen of the number of people called by Joseph to come to Egypt.
Let's do the math. In Gen. 46:27 we are told the number of people who where born to Jacob: seventy people, including Jacob. How is that number derived?
  1. 34 children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren through Leah, Gen. 46:8-14 (see Gen. 46:15 verse why I count 34 children, not the 33 mentioned there);
  2. 16 children, and grandchildren through Zilpah, Gen. 46:18;
  3. 14 children, and grandchildren through Rachel, Gen. 46:22;
  4. 7 children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren through Bilhah, Gen. 46:25.
If we add them up, we arrive at the conclusion that Jacob had seventy one children and grandchildren. Exclude the two who died, and include Jacob himself and we arrive at seventy souls derived from Jacob and including Jacob that came to —although at different times, Joseph came first of course— and dwelt in Egypt, Gen. 46:27 and Deut. 10:22.
But Stephen in this verse does not tell us how many children and grandchildren Jacob had, but how many people were called by Joseph to come to Egypt. So this time we not only look at Jacob's children, but also at the wives of his sons. Again the math:
  1. Of Jacob's sixty nine children still alive, three were already in Egypt: Joseph and his two sons. So that's sixty six children which are in Canaan, Gen. 46:26.
  2. Add the number of wives of Jacob's children, which are eleven wives. That would give us a total of 77 souls called. But it might be that, like Jacob's wives, some of them had died as well. So two could have died as well.
  3. But there is another explanation that is more likely. It seems that the events mentioned in Gen. 38 played itself out over a number of years. So when Judah traveled to Egypt, Perez and Zerah might have been just young children. So the two sons of Perez, Hezron and Hamul, would have been born in Egypt, and therefore cannot be included in the number of persons that Joseph called.
  4. All Jacob's wives had died by this time, so we don't have to include them.
And we arrive at a total of seventy five souls called by Joseph.
As always I'm heavily indebted to John Gill. See also Jacob's journey to Egypt.

15 So Jacob went down into Egypt, and died, he, and our fathers,

It Stephen really had made an error in a well-known fact here, it's quite likely his hostile audience would have had a field day. But it appears they understood Stephen perfectly well, so that's why no comments on his supposedly imperfect knowledge of history are recorded.
So how did they understood Stephen's words and how should we understand them? First of all, Jacob was buried in a cave in the field of Machpelah, about fifty kilometers from Sichem as Gen. 50:13 clearly states. But Stephen here does not just mention Jacob, he also mentions his twelve sons. Jacob's twelve sons were buried in Sichem/Shechem as we can glimpse from Jos. 24:32. So the phrase “were carried over into Sychem” refers to the twelve patriarchs, the twelve sons of Jacob, not to Jacob. The original Greek language makes this very clear. A better translation would be:

and he died; and our fathers died, and were carried over into Shechem.

16 And were carried over into Sychem, and laid in the sepulchre that Abraham bought for a sum of money of the sons of Emmor the father of Sychem.

Gen. 23:16 tells us that Abraham bought the field and cave of Machpelah from the sons of Heth and of Ephron, the son of Zohar the Hitrite. But in Gen. 33:19 we read that Jacob bought a parcel of a field from the children of Hamor, the father of Shechem. The best explanation for this verse is that some words have been left out. In English we would have inserted the word sepulchre again. This is not rare the Bible, for example Psalm 133:3 and 1 John 2:19 (added words are in italics). So a translation of this verse, with all the words English would require, is:

and were laid in the sepulcher, that Abraham bought for a sum of money, and in the sepulcher (bought by Jacob) of the sons of Emmor, the father of Sichem

17 But when the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt,

18 Till another king arose, which knew not Joseph.

19 The same dealt subtilly with our kindred, and evil entreated our fathers, so that they cast out their young children, to the end they might not live.

20 In which time Moses was born, and was exceeding fair, and nourished up in his father’s house three months:

21 And when he was cast out, Pharaoh’s daughter took him up, and nourished him for her own son.

22 And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.

23 And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.

24 And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian:

25 For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not.

26 And the next day he shewed himself unto them as they strove, and would have set them at one again, saying, Sirs, ye are brethren; why do ye wrong one to another?

27 But he that did his neighbour wrong thrust him away, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us?

28 Wilt thou kill me, as thou diddest the Egyptian yesterday?

29 Then fled Moses at this saying, and was a stranger in the land of Madian, where he begat two sons.

30 And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sina an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush.

31 When Moses saw it, he wondered at the sight: and as he drew near to behold it, the voice of the Lord came unto him,

32 Saying, I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Then Moses trembled, and durst not behold.

33 Then said the Lord to him, Put off thy shoes from thy feet: for the place where thou standest is holy ground.

34 I have seen, I have seen the affliction of my people which is in Egypt, and I have heard their groaning, and am come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send thee into Egypt.

35 This Moses whom they refused, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge? the same did God send to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel which appeared to him in the bush.

36 He brought them out, after that he had shewed wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red sea, and in the wilderness forty years.

"in the wilderness forty years"
It took the Israelites 40 years to travel from Egypt to Canaan, yet such a journey, even at that time, would have taken no more than ten days.
Indeed, the journey itself wouldn't have been too long. But the Israelites were not allowed to march straight to Israel. So including some detours they arrived at Canaan's borders after about five months, Num. 13:3. They send out spies, Num. 13:17, but when they returned with a bad report, God forbade them to enter Canaan, and said they had to dwell in the desert, until every man above twenty had died, Num. 14:33.

37 This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear.

38 This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:

39 To whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt,

40 Saying unto Aaron, Make us gods to go before us: for as for this Moses, which brought us out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.

41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.

42 Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the wilderness?

43 Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them: and I will carry you away beyond Babylon.

44 Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen.

45 Which also our fathers that came after brought in with Jesus into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drave out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David;

46 Who found favour before God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob.

47 But Solomon built him an house.

48 Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet,

"The most High dwelleth not in temples."
God doesn't dwell in temples. But according to 1 Kg.8:13 Solomon built God a temple for him to live in forever.
Does God dwell in temples?

49 Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest?

50 Hath not my hand made all these things?

51 Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.

(7:51-52) "Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears.... Ye have been now the betrayers and murderers."
Stephen blames the Jews for persecuting the prophets and murdering Jesus.
BOM: 2 Nephi 9:33
Yes, I wonder who killed Jesus and the prophets? Can't have been Jews doing this.

52 Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:

53 Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.

54 When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.

55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,

56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.

57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord,

58 And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.

59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.

(Jehovah's Witnesses) "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
Although in verse 59, Stephen was clearly praying to Jesus, the NWT tries to give the (false) impression that he was really praying to Jehovah by translating "Lord" (kyrios) as "Jehovah". [Then, bending his knees, he cried out with a strong voice: "Jehovah, do not charge this sin against them." NWT]
The author of the SAB makes an excellent point here.

60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.