Stoned To Death
St. Stephen, who is called the Proto-Martyr, or first martyr, and whose history is in the Acts of the Apostles, in the New Testament, was the first Christian man to be put to death for his faith in Jesus Christ. He thus followed next his Master in the path that leads to glory.
Owing to the increasing numbers of the disciples, many of whom were poor people, complaint began to be made that some were neglected in the daily alms-giving. Then the apostles said, It is not right that we should cease preaching to serve tables; so Stephen was chosen from among the Lord's disciples, with six others, to be a deacon. He helped in giving alms to the poor and also preached to the people. He was so good and holy a man that he was permitted to work miracles by healing the sick, and converting unbelievers. He preached to the Jews in words so full of power that they could not answer him nor contradict him. The principal persons belonging to Jewish synagogues entered into debate with him, but by the soundness of his doctrine and the strength of his reasoning he overcame them all. This so angered them that they paid false witnesses to accuse him of blaspheming God and Moses.
On being taken before the council, he made a noble defense: but that so much the more enraged his judges, so that they resolved to condemn him to death. At this instant, Stephen saw a vision from heaven, and in rapture he exclaimed, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God!" Then the Jews cried out against him, and having dragged him out of the city, they stoned him to death.
After the martyrdom of St. Stephen there was a great persecution against the Christians at Jerusalem: "And they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles." Nicanor, one of the deacons, and more than 2000 Christians are believed to have perished during this persecution.
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