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Did Stephen pray to Jesus? Acts 7:59

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Did Stephen pray to Jesus? Acts 7:59

 

The Watchtower has said, “Every prayer is a form of worship.” (The Watchtower, December 15, 1994, p. 23)

 

The Watchtower, February 1, 1959 page 96 in the section ‘Questions from Readers’ says, “the PRAYER offered by Stephen when he was being martyred is recorded at Acts 7:59, 60….”

 

The Watchtower admits that this was a prayer!

 

Stephen prayed to Jesus. Stephen therefore actually worshipped Jesus! <><

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4 hours ago, Cos said:

Stephen prayed to Jesus. Stephen therefore actually worshipped Jesus!

Wow! That wasn't handled very well in 1959 was it?.

Although, to be fair, the dictionary does state on the term "pray":     adverb formalarchaic     1. used as a preface to polite requests or instructions. "ladies and gentlemen, pray be seated"

Anyway, there's a clearer explanation now, published in the Watchtower a bit later than the '94 reference:

*** w05 1/1 p. 31 Questions From Readers ***
Does Stephen’s exclamation at Acts 7:59 indicate that prayers should be directed to Jesus?

Acts 7:59 says: “They went on casting stones at Stephen as he made appeal and said: ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’” Those words have raised questions in the mind of some, since the Bible says that Jehovah is the “Hearer of Prayer.” (Psalm 65:2) Did Stephen really pray to Jesus? Would this indicate that Jesus is the same as Jehovah?

The King James Version says that Stephen was “calling upon God.” Understandably, then, many draw the conclusion reached by Bible commentator Matthew Henry, who said: “Stephen here prays to Christ, and so must we.” However, that viewpoint is erroneous. Why?
Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament makes this honest admission: “The word God is not in the original, and should not have been in the translation. It is in none of the ancient [manuscripts] or versions.” How did the word “God” come to be inserted into that verse? Scholar Abiel Abbot Livermore called this “an instance of the sectarian biases of the translators.” Most modern translations, therefore, eliminate this spurious reference to God.

Nevertheless, many versions do say that Stephen “prayed” to Jesus. And the footnote in the New World Translation shows that the term “made appeal” can also mean “invocation; prayer.” Would that not indicate that Jesus is Almighty God? No. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words explains that in this setting, the original Greek word, e·pi·ka·leʹo, means: “To call upon, invoke; . . . to appeal to an authority.” Paul used this same word when he declared: “I appeal to Caesar!” (Acts 25:11) Appropriately, then, The New English Bible says that Stephen “called out” to Jesus.

What prompted Stephen to make such an appeal? According to Acts 7:55, 56, Stephen, “being full of holy spirit, gazed into heaven and caught sight of God’s glory and of Jesus standing at God’s right hand.” Normally, Stephen would have addressed his requests to Jehovah in the name of Jesus. But seeing the resurrected Jesus in vision, Stephen apparently felt free to appeal to him directly, saying: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Stephen knew that Jesus had been given authority to raise the dead. (John 5:27-29) He therefore asked Jesus to safeguard his spirit, or life force, until the day when Jesus would raise him to immortal life in the heavens.

Does Stephen’s brief utterance set a precedent for praying to Jesus? Not at all. For one thing, Stephen clearly distinguished Jesus from Jehovah, for the account says that he saw Jesus “standing at God’s right hand.” Also, these circumstances were exceptional. The only other case of such an utterance being directed to Jesus is that of the apostle John, who similarly addressed Jesus directly when he saw Him in vision.—Revelation 22:16, 20.

Although Christians today properly direct all their prayers to Jehovah God, they too have unshakable faith that Jesus is “the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25) As it did Stephen, so faith in Jesus’ ability to raise his followers from the dead can help and sustain us in times of trial.
 

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1 hour ago, Eoin Joyce said:

Wow! That wasn't handled very well in 1959 was it?.

Although, to be fair, the dictionary does state on the term "pray":     adverb formalarchaic     1. used as a preface to polite requests or instructions. "ladies and gentlemen, pray be seated"

Anyway, there's a clearer explanation now, published in the Watchtower a bit later than the '94 reference:

*** w05 1/1 p. 31 Questions From Readers ***
Does Stephen’s exclamation at Acts 7:59 indicate that prayers should be directed to Jesus?

Acts 7:59 says: “They went on casting stones at Stephen as he made appeal and said: ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’” Those words have raised questions in the mind of some, since the Bible says that Jehovah is the “Hearer of Prayer.” (Psalm 65:2) Did Stephen really pray to Jesus? Would this indicate that Jesus is the same as Jehovah?

The King James Version says that Stephen was “calling upon God.” Understandably, then, many draw the conclusion reached by Bible commentator Matthew Henry, who said: “Stephen here prays to Christ, and so must we.” However, that viewpoint is erroneous. Why?
Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament makes this honest admission: “The word God is not in the original, and should not have been in the translation. It is in none of the ancient [manuscripts] or versions.” How did the word “God” come to be inserted into that verse? Scholar Abiel Abbot Livermore called this “an instance of the sectarian biases of the translators.” Most modern translations, therefore, eliminate this spurious reference to God.

Nevertheless, many versions do say that Stephen “prayed” to Jesus. And the footnote in the New World Translation shows that the term “made appeal” can also mean “invocation; prayer.” Would that not indicate that Jesus is Almighty God? No. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words explains that in this setting, the original Greek word, e·pi·ka·leʹo, means: “To call upon, invoke; . . . to appeal to an authority.” Paul used this same word when he declared: “I appeal to Caesar!” (Acts 25:11) Appropriately, then, The New English Bible says that Stephen “called out” to Jesus.

What prompted Stephen to make such an appeal? According to Acts 7:55, 56, Stephen, “being full of holy spirit, gazed into heaven and caught sight of God’s glory and of Jesus standing at God’s right hand.” Normally, Stephen would have addressed his requests to Jehovah in the name of Jesus. But seeing the resurrected Jesus in vision, Stephen apparently felt free to appeal to him directly, saying: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Stephen knew that Jesus had been given authority to raise the dead. (John 5:27-29) He therefore asked Jesus to safeguard his spirit, or life force, until the day when Jesus would raise him to immortal life in the heavens.

Does Stephen’s brief utterance set a precedent for praying to Jesus? Not at all. For one thing, Stephen clearly distinguished Jesus from Jehovah, for the account says that he saw Jesus “standing at God’s right hand.” Also, these circumstances were exceptional. The only other case of such an utterance being directed to Jesus is that of the apostle John, who similarly addressed Jesus directly when he saw Him in vision.—Revelation 22:16, 20.

Although Christians today properly direct all their prayers to Jehovah God, they too have unshakable faith that Jesus is “the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25) As it did Stephen, so faith in Jesus’ ability to raise his followers from the dead can help and sustain us in times of trial.
 

Hello Mr Joyce,

 

Your response from the viewpoint of the Watchtower Society has to now be “no” (another flip flop), although they do agree that Stephen did; but in so answering they make some interesting claims that are not altogether true.

 

First they make a statement that:

“Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament makes this honest admission: ‘The word God is not in the original, and should not have been in the translation. It is in none of the ancient [manuscripts] or versions.'”

 

True, but not the whole truth, because the full quote from Barnes is as follows:

“The word God is not in the original, and should not have been in the translation. It is in none of the ancient mss. or versions. It should have been rendered, “They stoned Stephen, invoking, or calling upon, and saying, Lord Jesus,” etc. That is, he was engaged “in prayer” to the Lord Jesus. The word is used to express “prayer” in the following, among other places: 2Co_1:23, “I call God to witness”; 1Pe_1:17, “And if ye call on the Father,” etc.; Act_2:21, “whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord,” etc.; Act_9:14; Act_22:16; Rom_10:12-14. This was, therefore, an act of worship; a solemn invocation of the Lord Jesus, in the most interesting circumstances in which a man can be placed – in his dying moments. And this shows that it is right to worship the Lord Jesus, and to pray to him.(emphasis mine)

 

If they accept Barnes on the fact that God should not be in the text they should also accept Barnes when he informs us that Stephen is praying to the Lord Jesus and that Scripture indicates we can do it too. But no, they simply take the first part and ignore the rest. They then talk about the Greek word used:


“Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words explains that in this setting the original Greek word, epikaleo, means: ‘To call upon, invoke; … to appeal to a authority.”

 

But words have been missed out from the Vine’s quote which put a different light on the issue:

 

“in the Middle Voice, to call upon for oneself (i.e., on one’s behalf), Acts 7:59

 

Clearly Stephen called upon, invoked, prayed to the Lord Jesus. The Society, albeit seemingly reluctantly admit this was happening but want to show that you cannot do it today.

 

“Does Stephen’s brief utterance set a precedent for praying to Jesus? Not at all. For one thing, Stephen clearly distinguished Jesus from Jehovah, for the account says that he saw Jesus “standing at God’s right hand.'”

 

What this has to do with praying to Jesus I am not sure. We Christians make a distinction between  God the Son and God the Father but we can still pray to Jesus in His own right.

 

Next they say:

“Also, these circumstances were exceptional. The only other case of such an utterance being directed to Jesus is that of the apostle John, who similarly addressed Jesus directly when he saw Him in vision. – Revelation 22:16,20

 

No clear reason is given as to why, if Stephen prayed to Jesus and it was accepted, and John prayed to Jesus and it was accepted, you and I cannot pray to Jesus and it will be accepted!

 

They end the article with this:

“Although Christians today direct, all their prayers to Jehovah God, they too have unshakable faith that Jesus is “the resurrection and the life.”

 

This refers back to an earlier paragraph where they stated:

“He therefore asked Jesus to safeguard his spirit, or life force, until the day when Jesus would raise him to immortal life in the heavens.”

 

Not according to other parts of the New Testament where the same Greek word, δέχομαι, is used.

 

"whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time." (Acts 3:21)

 

Heaven actually received Him and Jesus was in heaven.

 

"So when He came to Galilee, the Galileans received Him, having seen all the things that He did in Jerusalem at the feast; for they themselves also went to the feast." (John 4:45)

 

The Galileans actually received Jesus and He was in Galilee.

 

"Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet." (Matt 10:14)

 

They were literally received into the home and stayed there.

 

"By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed (literally received) the spies in peace." (Heb 11:31)

 

Rahab actually received the spies into her home.

 

"They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!'" (Acts 7:59)

 

Stephen was asking Jesus to actually receive his spirit and so he would be with Jesus in heaven; nothing to do with safeguarding for a future day.

 

There is nothing to stop us praying to Jesus, indeed the teaching is that we should be praying just as Stephen did. <><

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Did Paul pray to Jesus? 

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 - To keep me from becoming overly exalted, I was given a thorn in the flesh, an angel of Satan, to keep slapping me, so that I might not be overly exalted. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it would depart from me.  But he said to me: “My undeserved kindness is sufficient for you, for my power is being made perfect in weakness.” Most gladly, then, I will boast about my weaknesses, in order that the power of the Christ may remain over me like a tent.  So I take pleasure in weaknesses, in insults, in times of need, in persecutions and difficulties, for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am powerful.
 

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Just another thought.

The Org highlights in its QFR that 'God' was inserted into the KJV translation of Acts 7:59, thereby giving the wrong impression (in its view) that Jesus is God. However, it is also important to note that 'Jehovah' has been inserted into the NWT translation of the following verse 60 rather than keeping to the original 'Lord,' thereby similarly biasing the reader - this time into thinking Stephen was addressing the Father instead of the Son (the latter is consistent with the immediate context).

This is how the verses ought to read:

Acts 7:59, 60 - As they were stoning Stephen, he made this appeal: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”  Then, kneeling down, he cried out with a strong voice: “Lord, do not charge this sin against them.” And after saying this, he fell asleep in death.
 

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WTS says John prayed to Jesus and that JWs should also:

[w07 3/15 p.3] John earnestly prayed: “Come, Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22:20) 

And *** re chap. 44 p. 319 par. 19 Revelation and You ***19 Thus, with John, we fervently pray: “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus.”

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5 hours ago, Cos said:

Your response from the viewpoint of the Watchtower Society has to now be “no” (another flip flop)

You are doing that thing again in trying to force an answer to a polar question but never mind.

5 hours ago, Cos said:

“Barnes’ Notes

I haven't got a problem with selective quoting here as the point is to address an interpolation in the King James version. It is hardly necessary really, as the marginal references in the KJ I use indicate this anyway, and I expect this is widely recognised as an example of the doctrinal insecurity that went on at 1 Jn .5:7-8.

Thanks for setting out your position on Stephen's relationship with Jesus so clearly. It isn't one I share, but I have met it several times before as held by members of a variety of groups including Pentecostal, Evangelical, Roman Catholic, (although I recognise personal beliefs may not necessarily reflect those of the invidual's denominational identity.)

4 hours ago, Ann O'Maly said:

Did Paul pray to Jesus?

I feel no, actually. The text seems to display Paul's earlier recognition as expressed at 1Cor.1:24.

4 hours ago, Ann O'Maly said:

'Jehovah' has been inserted into the NWT translation of the following verse 60

Valid point. It could have been marginally referenced I suppose.

4 hours ago, Ann O'Maly said:

consistent with the immediate context

Not a foolproof technique, as consistency may be only apparent (erroneously).

4 hours ago, Ann O'Maly said:

This is how the verses ought to read

Just your opinion of course. However, I can accept such a rendering conditional on a marginal reference as mentioned, particularly as Stephen's words "“Lord, do not charge this sin against them.”  would appear to reflect what was expressed by Jesus at Luke 23:34: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" , similarly directed.

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42 minutes ago, Eoin Joyce said:

C'mon HollyW. This isn't up to your usual standard. You should come out more often!  :) 

Please explain.

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32 minutes ago, Eoin Joyce said:

I feel no, actually. The text seems to display Paul's earlier recognition as expressed at 1Cor.1:24.

However, the context and wording of the passage in the other letter - the second one to the Corinthians - strongly suggests Paul was addressing Jesus. Let's take another look:

Three times I begged the Lord [which Lord?] about this, that it would depart from me.  But he said to me: “My undeserved kindness [which Lord's 'undeserved kindness'? But cp. Acts 15:11; Rom. 1:7; 16:20; 2 Cor. 8:9; etc. - 'undeserved kindness' can derive from Jesus as well as from God]  is sufficient for you, for my power [which Lord's power?] is being made perfect in weakness.” Most gladly, then, I will boast about my weaknesses, in order that the power of the Christ [ahh, Paul clarifies that he means the Lord Christmay remain over me like a tent.  So I take pleasure in weaknesses, in insults, in times of need, in persecutions and difficulties, for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am powerful.

56 minutes ago, Eoin Joyce said:

Just your opinion of course. However, I can accept such a rendering conditional on a marginal reference as mentioned, particularly as Stephen's words "“Lord, do not charge this sin against them.”  would appear to reflect what was expressed by Jesus at Luke 23:34: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" , similarly directed.

Well, I'm of the opinion that it's the translator's job to translate what's there - not to interpolate. Yes, the NWT should have put the replacement 'Jehovah' as a footnote rather than into the main text. 

Regarding the parallel phrasing Stephen used:

Jesus cried out, "Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit." (Luke 23:46) Stephen similarly cried out, "“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Seeing as Stephen was clearly addressing Jesus here, it's most natural that he'd continue addressing him when, a moment later, he says, "Lord, do not charge this sin against them."
 

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      Then the angel who had been talking with me woke me, as though I had been asleep.
      2. What do you see now?” he asked.
      I answered, “I see a golden lampstand holding seven lamps, and at the top there is a reservoir for the olive oil that feeds the lamps, flowing into them through seven tubes. 3 And I see two olive trees carved upon the lampstand, one on each side of the reservoir. 4 What is it, sir? I asked. “What does this mean?” 5 Don’t you really know?” the angel asked. “No sir, I said, “I don’t.”
      6 Then he said, “This is God’s message to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Hosts—you will succeed because of my Spirit, though you are few and weak’.
      7 Therefore no mountain, however high, can stand before Zerubbabel! For it will flatten out before him! And Zerubbabel will finish building this Temple with mighty shouts of thanksgiving for God’s mercy, declaring that all was done by grace alone.”
      8 Another message that I received from the Lord said: 9 Zerubbabel laid the foundation of this Temple, and he will complete it. (Then you will know these messages are from God, the Lord of Hosts.) 10 Do not despise this small beginning, for the eyes of the Lord rejoice to see the work begin, to see the plumbline in the hand of Zerubbabel. For these seven lamps represent the eyes of the Lord that see everywhere around the world.”
      11 Then I asked him about the two olive trees on each side of the lampstand, 12 and about the two olive branches that emptied oil into the golden bowls through two golden tubes.
      13 “Don’t you know?” he asked. “No, sir,” I said.
      14 Then he told me, “They represent the two anointed ones who assist the Lord in all the earth.”
       
       
      Consider - “The Rise of Mount Zion” 4womaninthewilderness
       


    • By sami
      Worship
              שׁחה         schacah

      In our modern western culture worship is an action directed toward Elohiym and Elohiym alone. But this is not the case in the Hebrew Bible. The word shahhah is a common Hebrew verb meaning to prostrate oneself before another in respect, or simply, obeisance. We see Moses doing this to his father-in-law in Exodus 18:7. From a Hebraic perspective obeisance is the act of getting down on ones knees and placing the face down on the ground before another worthy of respect.
      scha-cah         Bend Down (verb)         7812         To pay homage to another one by bowing low or getting on the knees with the face to the ground.

      The English word obeisance is a valid translation for the Hebrew schacah and the koine Greek cognate proskuneo?

      obeisance [oh-bay-sanss] : a bow or curtsy showing this attitude [Old French obéissant obeying]; an attitude of respect or humble obedience; a gesture of respect, as a bow; homage or an act of homage; a gesture or movement of the body, such as a curtsy, that expresses deference or homage; an attitude of deference or homage [collectively taken from Amercian Standard, Collins Basic English, and Ologies, etc]

      The above is quite consistent with the Hebrew schacah, and the koine Greek cognate proskuneo - It means bow down or lie down in recognition of higher authority whether that be by Jacob toward Esau, Judah's brothers toward Judah, Nebuchadnezzar toward Daniel, malak toward Jesus whom was raised up in authority over the malak, and all things toward Jehovah - including Jesus bowing down to his god and father, Jehovah [Matthew 4:10; John 20:17, et al]. That is all it has ever meant - to bow down in recognition of relative higher authority. Could be your dog toward another dog,or another dog toward your dog, or even your dog toward you when you come home.

      Proskuneo toward Jesus has always been acceptable. Proskuneo toward Jesus as or in the place of Jehovah is defined as blasphemy in both the Hebrew and Greek texts.

      Proskuneo toward Jesus as or in the place of Jehovah is defined as blasphemy in both the Hebrew and Greek texts

      "Worship" is an English word, and at best, has a strained abstract association with schacah - strained particularly far if one presumes that it is indicative of use in identification of Jehovah [as is the common modern Christian theory brought forth, that if the malak schacah Jesus this means Jesus = Jehovah].

      That logic and reasoning, however, are shown flawed, as such logic and reasoning would then extend to present Esau as Jehovah, and Abraham's father in-law and the Canaanites as = to Jehovah as well - when in fact there is nothing in the word itself which meant the object of schacah as identification of Jehovah himself. A True and accurate translation will consistently employ the abstract sense of the English word "worship" in translating both the Hebrew and the Greek in harmony with the directive rendered in Deuteronomy.

      Is this theological bias? You bet. It is however, biblically reflected and established theological bias [bowing to men does not necessarily indicate an English equivalent to worship, but biblically, throughout, bowing down to Jehovah can be supported in the more abstract sense of "worship"] - as the Tanakh establishes such bias, there are translations however, which adhere to the Tanakh written directive - only Jehovah is worshiped, all others are paid deep respect and homage - the act is the same, the object is quite differently presented biblically.

      It is also out of theological bias from which so many employ the same translational approach, but add certain individual humans to switch from "bow down" to "worship" - such as Jesus wherein many late period Christian organizations raised Jesus to the level of Jehovah. Both approaches demonstrate theological bias, but one has support of the remainder of the biblical texts, and the other, the later especially, does not.


      Original Word Word Origin

      proskuneÑw from (4314) and a probable derivative of (2965) (meaning to kiss, like a dog licking his master's hand)

      Definition
      to kiss the hand to (towards) one, in token of reverence
    • By Bible Speaks
      GO AWAY SATAN! IT IS JEHOVAH GOD YOU MUST WORSHIP
      4 "Then Jesus was led by the spirit up into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil.  
      2 After he had fasted for 40 days and 40 nights, he felt hungry. 
      3 And the Tempter approached and said to him: “If you are a son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” 
      4 But he answered: “It is written: ‘Man must live, not on bread alone, but on every word that comes from Jehovah’s mouth.’”
      5 Then the Devil took him along into the holy city, and he stationed him on the battlement of the temple 
      6 and said to him: “If you are a son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written: ‘He will give his angels a command concerning you,’ and, ‘They will carry you on their hands, so that you may not strike your foot against a stone.’” 
      7 Jesus said to him: “Again it is written: ‘You must not put Jehovah your God to the test.’”
      8 Again the Devil took him along to an unusually high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 
      9 And he said to him: “All these things I will give you if you fall down and do an act of worship to me.” 
      10 Then Jesus said to him: “Go away, Satan! For it is written: ‘It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.’” 
      11 Then the Devil left him, and look! angels came and began to minister to him."
      (Matthew 4;1-11) NWT
      jw.org

    • By Jack Ryan
      In the NWT, every time the Greek word "proskuneo" is used in reference to God, it is translated as "worship" (Rev 5:14, 7:11, 11:16, 19:4, Jn 4:20, etc.). Every time "proskuneo" is used in reference to Jesus, it is translated as "obeisance" (Mt 14:33, 28:9, 28:17, Lk 24:52, Heb 1:6, etc.), even though it is the same word in the Greek (see Gr-Engl Interlinear).
      Especially compare the Greek word "prosekunhsan" used with reference to God in Rev 5:14, 7:11, 11:16, and 19:4 and used with reference to Christ in Mt 14:33, 28:9, and 28:17. What is the reason for this inconsistency? If the NWT was consistent in translating "proskuneo" as "worship", how would the verses above referring to Christ read?
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