Acts 7:52 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Acts 7:52, NIV: Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him--

Acts 7:52, ESV: Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered,

Acts 7:52, KJV: 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:

Acts 7:52, NASB: Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, and you have now become betrayers and murderers of Him;

Acts 7:52, NLT: Name one prophet your ancestors didn't persecute! They even killed the ones who predicted the coming of the Righteous One--the Messiah whom you betrayed and murdered.

Acts 7:52, CSB: Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They even killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become.

What does Acts 7:52 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Stephen is bringing his argument home. His accusers claim to defend the Mosaic law, but they don't even have the hearts to understand it. They actively resist the leading of the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51), just as their forefathers did throughout the Old Testament. Now, Stephen declares the biggest irony of all. These same forefathers, whose legacy they claim to honor, persecuted the prophets God sent them to turn their hearts back to Him. Jezebel killed many prophets (1 Kings 19:10). God sent more, warning of the Babylonian captivity, and the people mocked them (2 Chronicles 36:15–16). Jesus accused the scribes and Pharisees—Jewish religious leaders—of continuing that legacy (Luke 11:47–48), a legacy Stephen's audience continues as well.

The ironic part is that those prophets often spoke about the Messiah. It's thought that the prophet described as "sawn in two" (Hebrews 11:37) was Isaiah, one of the most prolific writers about the coming Messiah. If Stephen's audience had studied and accepted the prophets with hearts bent toward God and focused on understanding, they would have recognized that Jesus is the Messiah (Luke 24:26–27; John 5:39–40). Instead, they functionally "killed" the prophets by disregarding their words. Not only that, they had actually conspired to have Jesus crucified; they "betrayed and murdered" the Messiah, the Righteous One.

Verses 51 through 53 feel rather abrupt, compared to Stephen's prior words. It's possible that Stephen senses the crowd is getting agitated and he must cut his speech short. It's also possible he realizes he is about to become one of those whom the "sons" will persecute and kill.