Acts 7:54 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Acts 7:54, NIV: When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him.

Acts 7:54, ESV: Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him.

Acts 7:54, KJV: When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.

Acts 7:54, NASB: Now when they heard this, they were infuriated, and they began gnashing their teeth at him.

Acts 7:54, NLT: The Jewish leaders were infuriated by Stephen's accusation, and they shook their fists at him in rage.

Acts 7:54, CSB: When they heard these things, they were enraged and gnashed their teeth at him.

What does Acts 7:54 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Stephen has finished his defense against false accusations that he blasphemed the Mosaic law and Moses and wished to destroy the temple. The rushed tempo in Acts 7:51–53 suggests the crowd's anger has been quickly building and Stephen had to cut his speech short.

"They" is a reference to Jews from Cyrene, meaning Libya, Alexandria, meaning Egypt, and the provinces of Cilicia and Asia in modern-day Asia Minor, as well as Jews descended from freed slaves who apparently live in or are visiting Jerusalem (Acts 6:8–15). Many have traveled to Jerusalem to worship in the temple. Stephen, a Jewish Christian and one of the first deacons of the church, may be a member of the synagogue of the Freedmen; it's there that he preached the gospel of Jesus.

It's very possible that many members of his audience know little about Jesus, as Jews dwelling outside Judea didn't make it to Jerusalem for all the required feasts. The men from northern Africa and Asia Minor have made a significant time and financial commitment to get to their homeland; the members of the Freedmen synagogue may be especially reverent since if they were the first free generation, they would be the first generation allowed to worship in the temple. The message that a man they know little about is the Son of God is not something they can accept.

To "ground" or "gnash" teeth is a sign of an imminent attack (Job 16:9; Psalm 35:16; 37:12; 112:10). The Jews who came to worship at the Pentecost seven weeks after the crucifixion had a better reaction. When Peter preached to them, they "were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?'" (Acts 2:37).

God's plan was always that once Jerusalem was sufficiently saturated with the gospel, Jesus-followers would spread throughout Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. He's about to use persecution to do this.