Erich Lessing

The stoning of St. Stephen. On this 12th-century Limoges enamel, which decorates the treasury of the church of Gimel-les-Cascades, France, appears the event that is depicted in Acts as the turning point in relations between Jews and Christians. Stephen, a Hellenistic Jewish Christian, is accused of preaching against Moses and God. He defends himself before a religions court, but his defense enrages the court, which casts him out of the city and has him stoned to death (Acts 6:11–7:60). Acts portrays this event as the start of general Jewish persecution of Christianity. However, no other documents in early Christian literature attest to the martyrdom of St. Stephen, and Paul’s letters give no indication of the kind of change in Jewish-Christian relations that Acts depicts. It therefore appears that the subsequent conflict over the question of circumcision colored the recounting of events in Acts.