Take the 2-minute tour ×
Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professors, theologians, and those interested in exegetical analysis of biblical texts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Acts 7:58:

Then they dragged him [Stephen] out of the city and began to stone him, and the witnesses placed their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul.

However, Paul was likely born between the years of 5 BC and 5 AD1. Stephen was martyred in 342 or 35 AD3.

This would make Paul between 29 and 40 years old at the time of Stephen's death. So how can he be considered a "young man"?

My understanding is that he would be considered a man from the age of 13 - so I would have guessed that a "young man" would have been a teenager or a most in his early twenties.

Or is Wikipedia wrong about Paul's year of birth? Other sites4 have Paul's birth in 10 AD.

1 Source: Wikipedia.

2 Source: Wikipedia, though it merely states the date without justification.

3 Source: Smoodock's Blog and SonOfMan.org.

4 Source: SonOfMan.org, nndb.com & ask.com.

share|improve this question
    
>Or is Wikipedia wrong about Paul's year of birth? I think this is the source of your problem. Wikipedia is hardly an authoritative source. I'm not aware of any evidence in Scripture about Paul's age, other than this reference. Since this is the only reference, wouldn't it be logical to derive his age from this reference, rather than to question this reference based on some supposed outside date? –  Bill Aug 22 at 17:52

1 Answer 1

up vote 10 down vote accepted

It's an interesting question, and one that has caught the eye of commentators for a long time. Let's get the text of Acts 7:58b first:

[NASB] ... and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul.
[SBL GNT] ... καὶ οἱ μάρτυρες ἀπέθεντο τὰ ἱμάτια αὐτῶν παρὰ τοὺς πόδας νεανίου καλουμένου Σαύλου

The term here is νεανίας [neanias], used only in Acts in the NT (7:58; 20:9; and 23:17), although none of these contexts gives much help for determining how youthful a neanias might be. It is also used about 30 times in the Septuagint (LXX),1 however, as well as more widely of course. In the LXX, it can sometimes simply refer to fighting men (2 Sam 6:1; 1 Kgs 12:21).

R.J. Knowling included a pithy but helpful comment on this problem in the old Expositor's Greek Testament (1897), vol. 2 pp. 201-202, including the observation that

Josephus applies the term to Agrippa I. when he was at least forty. Jos., Ant., xviii., 6, 7. [+ Whiston]2

Knowling suggests the possible range for the term anywhere between 24 and 40, so roughly the boundaries suggested by OP's research. More recently, Craig Keener's (massive) Acts commentary reflects on the issue.3 He adds some consideration about the "phases of life" in both Roman and Jewish settings, all of which adds to the wooliness (not the clarity) of the lower and upper limits suggested by this term. Keener himself opts for a younger birth-date for Saul.4

In any case, it appears that "young man" in Acts 7:58 contrasts with "old man" on the broad scale of adult male life. The dates involved do not present a problem, as they might appear to in our contemporary West's youth-obsessed culture.


Notes

  1. Jdg. 16:26; 17:7, 11; 19:3, 9, 11, 13; Ruth 3:10; 1 Sam. 20:31, 37; 2 Sam. 6:1; 1 Ki. 12:21; 1 Chr. 19:10; 1 Es. 8:88; 2 Ma. 3:26, 33; 7:25, 30; 10:35; 12:27; 4 Ma. 8:5, 27; 9:13, 21, 25; 14:9; Prov. 7:7; 20:29; Zech. 2:8; and Dan. 1:10.
  2. I'm not sure that this is the correct reference; might need some adjustment in a future edit.
  3. Craig Keener, Acts: An Exegetical Commentary: 3:1-14:28 (Baker Academic, 2013), pp. 466ff..
  4. For random comparison, it's often noted that the study of Ezekiel 1 was restricted to men over thirty in b. Ḥagigah 13b -- another kind of age of "maturity"?
share|improve this answer
3  
I first read "R.J. Knowling" as "J.K. Rowling," and thought "What?" I think I need caffeine. –  Frank Luke Aug 21 at 13:30
1  
@FrankLuke - ha! :D You know, I had half a mind to put "[sic]" after that, because the possible confusion occurred to me, too. As info in ExGrkT vol. 2 says, R.J. Knowling was NT Professor at King's College London. Turns out he was quite prolific, too although none of his titles are in Archive.org. Wee shame, as his Acts commentary looks quite useful. They are found in Google Books, too. –  Davïd Aug 21 at 13:53

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.