Today we honor Stephen, the first Christian put to death for his beliefs. He was stoned to death by members of the Synagogue of the Roman Freed Men, and by Saul, whom we know as Paul. He held the coats of the men stoning Stephen.
It may be that Saul and the young men in the story thought they were doing a good thing. (The members of the synagogue of the Roman freed men were a special group. Let me explain.) The Roman Empire, with Jewish communities in every port around the rim of the Mediterranean, had a way of keeping those people in line.
They took five young Jews from every place as hostages to Rome for five years each., threatening to kill them if their families at home were disobedient to Rome. All those boys were not very religious to start with, but during their five years as hostages for being Jews, they became so religious, that when their years as hostages were over, they went to Jerusalem to take part in the temple worship. They also formed their own synagogue of Roman freedmen.
What is more, they became such conservative Jews, that they could not stand the way the Christians were open to al men. So, in attacking Stephen and other Christians, they thought they were doing good deeds.
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