The perplexing aspect of Steven’s speech comes in the movement from verse 50 to 51. The entire section reads as follows:
Acts 7:44–53 (ESV)
44 “Our fathers had the tent of witness in the wilderness, just as he who spoke to Moses directed him to make it, according to the pattern that he had seen. 45 Our fathers in turn brought it in with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations that God drove out before our fathers. So it was until the days of David, 46 who found favor in the sight of God and asked to find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. 47 But it was Solomon who built a house for him. 48 Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet says,
49 “ ‘Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord,
or what is the place of my rest?
50 Did not my hand make all these things?’
51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 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, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”
The trouble here is not the Temple as an idol per se (see Sweeney, J. (2002), “Stephen’s Speech (Acts 7:2-53): Is it as ‘Anti-‘Temple’ as Is Frequently Alleged?”, TrinJ 23, NS, 185-210). I don’t think it lies in attacking the crowd because of the Temple. Jesus nowhere decried the Temple per se.
When we look at the structure of the speech: proposed savior-rejected savior in the context of the people being returned to the land to worship God, we have to see the temple as somehow aligned with Jesus and also tied to the rejection of Jesus (which Stephen contends — and which leads to him being stoned to death): These people rejected, Jesus just as their fathers had rejected Joseph, Moses, and God (by idol worship).
The accusers draw this precise correlation as quoted in Acts 6:
Acts 6:13–14 (ESV)
13 and they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, 14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.”
This of course seems to derive from John 2:
John 2:18–21 (ESV)
18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body.
And Mark 14:
Mark 14:57–58 (ESV)
57 And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’ ”
So the destruction of Jesus = the destruction of the Temple (in some manner) goes back to Jesus.
Saul was present and the writing of Hebrews:
This leads to something more speculative. The language in this section parallels themes and allusions used in the book of Hebrews. Here are two examples. First Acts 7:44 quotes Exodus 25:40, that the temple was to be built “according to the pattern that he had seen”. This verse is quoted in one other place in the NT, Hebrews 8:5, where the writer draws a connection between the heavenly tabernacle:
Hebrews 8:1–5 (ESV)
8 Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. 3 For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. 4 Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. 5 They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.”
Notice also that the heavenly tabernacle is not made by man (which is a point raised by Stephen). In Hebrews 9:11, the heavenly tabernacle is explicitly said to be not “with hands”.
Stephen’s speech also concerns itself with the wilderness rebellion. The accusation of Stephen’s speech is that his audience has not changed from the wilderness rebellion. And, the wilderness rebellion is a constant theme of the Hebrews.
Finally, Hebrews draws an explicit line between Jesus and the Temple, even referring to the veil in the temple as his “flesh” (Hebrews 10:20).
More parallels could be drawn between Acts 7 & Hebrews at the level what was written. But, there was a man Saul (soon to be Paul) who was present at Stephen’s murder. This event must have been formative for Paul, because Luke records it.
This speech which drew Jesus and the Temple together must have had a profound effect upon Paul. And, while most at present would deny Paul was the author of Hebrews, it is commonly granted that Hebrews was written by someone in Paul’s orbit (I tend toward Luke as the author of Hebrews myself).
Thus, we have a tentative theory of development (and yes, I unquestionably hold to plenary verbal inspiration): Jesus (John 2); false accusation (Mark 14); false accusation (Acts 6); development (Acts 7); unwritten process of development Saul-Paul-Luke (?) – culmination of the doctrine (Hebrews).