Questions From Readers
● Does Stephen’s prayer to Jesus, as found in Acts 7:59, show that he understood Jesus to be Jehovah?—W. R., U.S.A.
The prayer offered by Stephen when he was being martyred is recorded at Acts 7:59, 60, which says: “And they went on casting stones at Stephen as he made appeal and said: ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then, bending his knees, he cried out with a strong voice: ‘Jehovah, do not charge this sin against them.’ And after saying this he fell asleep in death.” Rather than indicating that Stephen understood both Jesus and Jehovah to be the same person, his prayer shows that he knew they were not, because he differentiates between the two. His request to Jesus he does not address merely to the Lord, but to the Lord Jesus, thus doing away with any ambiguity. Further, his statement shortly prior to this, as recorded in Ac 7 verse 56, indicates two persons: “And he said: ‘Look! I behold the heavens opened up and the Son of man standing at God’s right hand.’” He does not say the Son of man, Christ Jesus, is Jehovah God, but that he was standing at God’s right hand.
Not only does Stephen’s request, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,” not prove the trinity, but Jesus’ similar fervent prayer, “Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit,” conclusively shows that Jesus is not the same as his Father Jehovah.—Luke 23:46.
In the wording of his prayer Stephen showed that he understood the difference between Jehovah and the Lord Jesus as set out in Psalm 110:1 and applied by Jesus at Matthew 22:42-46. He was not perplexed by Jesus’ application of it, as were the Pharisees to whom Jesus spoke and who were silenced by his answer.
Jesus had taught his followers that the Father authorized him to raise others to life. (John 5:26; 6:40; 11:25, 26) So it was proper for Stephen to petition Jesus over this matter, and his prayer indicates proper understanding on his part. It does not support the trinity.