Most scholarship, I believe, puts the stoning of Stephen in 34 or 35 CE. Is there reason within the Scriptures to substantiate this claim? Yes, I believe there is! However, such substantiation comes from prophecy in both Old and New Testaments, but the understanding of these very prophecies is clouded by the interpretation of most scholarship, which puts the fulfillment of them at the second coming of Jesus.
I have written similar posts which had to do with Stephen’s death back in November of 2009. However, I think I should be clearer on this matter in order to have a better understanding of the timeline of early Acts with a particular interest in the placement of the High Priests for Stephen’s death, Paul’s persecution of the Jewish believers in Jesus in Acts 9:1, and when the “peace” occurred in Acts 9:31.
The Seventy Weeks Prophecy of Daniel 9 was supposed to offer the believer the identity of the Messiah by showing the exact time in which he would appear. The 70 Weeks Prophecy begins with the first sacrifice offered on the rebuilt altar on the Temple mount when Joshua, the High Priest, and Zerubbabel returned from the captivity. The Jews began to make daily offerings to God from the first day of the seventh month upon their return from captivity (Ezra 3:6). This is a very important date, as it represents the first time in decades that worship of the God of Israel was offered from the Temple mount, and it represents the “firstfruits” of the decree of the emperor, which I believe is implied in the prophecy. So, the date of the decree itself is not important, but date of the firstfruits of that decree is the important part of the prophecy in terms of when it begins. The Messiah was to come at the beginning of the 70th week or 483 years after the first sacrifice was offered by the returning captives.
No matter which year one chooses to begin the 70 Weeks Prophecy, the 484th year must begin in the fall and on the Feast of Trumpets. I submit that from Luke 4:16 and up to Luke 6:49 Luke shows Jesus beginning his ministry on the Feast of Trumpets (Luke 4:16) and each Sabbath mentioned thereafter is either an annual Holy Day or a seventh day Sabbath. The odd “second Sabbath after the first” in Luke 6:1 is the seventh day Sabbath which occurred in that year back to back with the annual Day of Atonement, a fast day, which is why the Apostles were hungry and began to take some grain from the fields on the Sabbath day, rubbing it in their hands and eating the kernels.
Anyway, long-story-short, 3 ½ years later Jesus was crucified, and the 70 Weeks prophecy foretold the Messiah would be ‘cut’ (offered for the covenant) in the midst or the middle of the prophetic week (Daniel 9:26-27). The 70th week comprises 7 years, 3 ½ of which represented Jesus public ministry culminating in his crucifixion and resurrection. The final period of 3 ½ years or the second part of the 70th prophetic week was fulfilled by Jesus through the ministry of the Apostles up to the time of Stephen’s death. Blood was shed in the midst of the week, and blood was shed at the culmination of the week.
Notice in Luke 10:18 that Jesus said he beheld Satan like lightning fall from heaven. This is shown in Revelation 12:7-10 where Michael/Jesus makes war with Satan. Now I am not saying Jesus is an angelic being, but I am saying Michel is Jesus—the Angel of the LORD who is God in the Old Testament. Anyway, Jesus with his disciples were waging spiritual warfare against Satan’s kingdom (cp. Luke 10:17). The angels in Revelation 12 represent the messengers of Jesus and Satan respectively. In the Gospels they are Jesus’ disciples waging war against Satan or the Pharisees and High Priests who fought against Jesus and his disciples.
Notice in Revelation 12:6 the woman (the Jewish believers) had a place of safety for 1260 days. This is the first part of the 70th prophetic week and represents Jesus care for his disciples—they were safe, and he lost no one. In the second part of the week the disciples were also safe according to Revelation 12:14. The believers were spiritually nourished for a time (1) + times (2) and half a time (1/2) or 3 ½ years. Daniel divides his 70th week up in Daniel 12 into portions of time, times and half a time (1260 days in Revelation), 1290 days (Revelation’s time, times and half a time) and 1335 days. I have argued in previous posts that all these days in Jesus’ ministry begin and end on annual Holy Days, or on an important day within those annual Feast Days, and same is true for the first few years of the ministry of the Apostles. Those studies can be found HERE, HERE and HERE respectively.
The point is there is a compelling argument that the Seventy Weeks Prophecy is fulfilled. There is no authority to remove the 70th week from the 1st century and place it in our day. That said, there is also a compelling argument showing Stephen’s death represents the end of the “safe” period for believers in Jesus. Both portions of the 70th week show Jesus’ disciples protected, but also both portions end with the shedding of blood under similar circumstances in a “kangaroo-court” that was bent upon shedding the blood of the accused.
Therefore, Stephen was stoned in the fall of 34 or 35 CE at the latest (depending upon the year Jesus began his public ministry 27 or 28 CE). This would put Caiaphas as High Priest at the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:1). Jonathan would be the new High Priest in 36 CE in Acts 9:1, but his tenure lasted only a year and a half, or from Passover in 36 CE to the fall Festivals in 37 CE. So Theophilus would have been the High Priest immediately following Paul’s conversion in Acts 9:17-20. However, since Paul didn’t arrive at Jerusalem until 3 years afterward (Galatians 1:18), Theophilus would have continued the persecution of Jewish believers in Jesus until about 39 CE, when Caius Caesar’s determination to place a statue of himself in the Temple at Jerusalem became more important than perusing Jews who believed in Jesus and preached Stephen’s Gospel that all people are equally acceptable to God. It was this event concerning the image of Caius Caesar rather than the conversion of Paul that brought peace and a cessation of persecution of believers in Jesus (Acts 9:31).