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The Church as Scapegoat?

Posted by on Sep 26, 2011 in blog links | 5 comments

The Church as Scapegoat?

Bill at “NT/History Blog” has written a fascinating post called “Stephen as Scapegoat, Scattering as Ingathering.”

The post is a mix of history, Scripture, and theology, and Bill does this kind of thing better than most.

In the post, he steps us through the events of Acts 6-8 including the speech and death of Stephen and the scattering of the church (except the apostles) because of persecution. Now only does Bill place these events chronologically within history, he also discusses their theological significance.

He writes:

So, on the day they heard Stephen’s “blasphemy”, they had him executed to set an example, and quite an effective one, evidently. In the moment, however, at some psychological level, this execution also must have been partly to cover up their own suspicions of self-guilt. Whatever their internal thoughts, the Sanhedrin evidently decided that killing Stephen was a sacrifice needed for Israel’s good. That makes him a “scapegoat” in the absolutely most classical (if not absolutely the most biblical) sense.

Next, all but twelve Christians fled Jerusalem. Not only Stephen, but the Church was therefore sent out of the camp, exiled to wander away, in the Wilderness. Not only Stephen, but the Church became Israel’s – well, Jerusalem’s – Scapegoat.

Next, Bill discusses the implications of the church being scattered, and how this actually resulted in a harvest for God. He connects this back to the timing of the event, around the feast of booths (Sukkot).

Very interesting indeed…

What do you think?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 9-26-2011

    Was just reading these passages yesterday with my buddy and the question came up, why did the apostles stay in Jerusalem and why weren’t they scattered?

  2. 9-26-2011

    What, within four months from Pentecost to Atonement the church managed to notice the problem of neglected widows, act on it, make a formal decision to appoint seven “deacons”, select them, train them, and put them to work? Doesn’t sound like the institutional church I know!

  3. 9-26-2011


    Good question. According to later passages in Acts and some of Paul’s letters, they didn’t stay in Jerusalem for long.


    It was a fast track leadership training course… online… intensive.


  4. 9-26-2011

    Oh, Peter, you just made my day! LOL!

    And Alan, thanks very much for all this.

    For Dan B, a quick thought: it sortof happens that the apostles were probably the most homeless of all Jerusalem’s christians at that time. What I mean is, none of them were from Jerusalem, and they’d long since become infamous back home. For the other several thousand believers who scattered, those from Jerusalem could least afford to stay, and those who’d come in for the Pentecost season had homes they’d been missing for several months at that point. At least the pilgrims had a chance to be welcomed back home. The apostles had no place to run to, and had several earlier become good at hiding.

    Aside from that, they may also have felt some dedication to stay in Jerusalem, as Jesus (kindof, maybe?) told them to. But for how long were they supposed to have stayed? Ah, those twelve. Gotta love ’em.

    What’s really intriguing, separately, is why Luke chooses to *mention* that the twelve stayed behind. But that is a whole other topic…

  5. 9-27-2011


    Thanks for the great post! But, don’t you know that historians are not supposed to deal with theology?