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Verse 57

But they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and rushed upon him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul.

Stopped their ears ... rushed upon him ... etc. This was a mob scene, not the execution of a deliberate sentence. It was illegal, no Roman sanction having been given for execution of the death penalty; and those critics who question John's gospel with its reference repeatedly to Jewish efforts to stone Jesus, declaring such to have been illegal and therefore impossible, are frustrated by this episode. As Richardson said, "Here is a case of mob stoning such as is said to have been impossible.[20]

The witnesses laid down their garments ... This was probably the only formality observed during the mob stoning of Stephen. The ancient law required that the hands of the witnesses were to be first against the one stoned, and Adam Clarke tells us that "when they came to within four cubits of the place of execution, the victim was stripped naked."[21] One cannot help wondering about those "witnesses" who had accepted money to swear lies against Stephen and thus found themselves to be his murderers also. Thus, once more, there is scriptural testimony of the relationship between lying and murder, these two sins having been named by Jesus as "works" of Satan (John 8:44), an Old Testament example of the same thing being that of Doeg (1 Samuel 22:9-18).

Young man named Saul ... Here, in this bloody episode, there was evidence of the timeless principle that "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church." That young man was never to forget what his eyes that day beheld, what his heart felt, and what his conscience said; and there was born in his soul that instant an impression that would in time recruit him to the faith of Christ and energize the greatest evangelist of all ages.

[20] Alan Richardson, The Gospel according to St. John (London: SCM Press, 1959), p. 135.

[21] Adam Clarke, op. cit., p. 736.

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