Acts 7:58
And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul.
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(58) And stoned him.—Literally, were stoning him. The verb is repeated in Acts 7:59, as if to show that the shower of stones went on even during the martyr’s prayers.

The witnesses laid down their clothes.—The Law required, as if to impress on witnesses their solemn responsibility, that they should be the first, if the accused were condemned to death, to take part in his execution (Deuteronomy 17:7). Our Lord, it will be remembered, had applied the rule in the case of the woman taken in adultery (John 8:7). The loose, flowing cloak, which was worn as an outer garment, would have impeded the free action of their arms, and had therefore to be laid on one side.

A young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.—As defined by Philo, on the authority of medical writers, the term thus used extended from twenty-one to twenty-eight years of age. Looking to the prominent position taken by Saul in this matter, and to his description of himself as “Paul the aged,” A.D. 64 (Philemon 1:9), it will be safe to assume that he had nearly attained the later limit. It will be convenient on this his first appearance to put together the chief facts of his life up to this period. He was of the tribe of Benjamin (Philippians 3:5), and had been named after its great hero-king. His father had obtained, perhaps as a freed-man, after a time of slavery at Rome, the privilege of Roman citizenship (Acts 22:28). He had settled at Tarsus. The absence of any reference to him or to the Apostle’s mother makes it probable that they were both dead before he appears on the scene. The son of a married sister is found, apparently residing in Jerusalem, in Acts 23:16. At Tarsus the boy would probably receive a two-fold education, instructed at home in the Holy Scriptures daily, and in Greek literature and philosophy in the schools for which the city was famous. Traces of the knowledge thus acquired are found in his quotations from the Cilician poet Aratus (see Note on Acts 17:28), Menander (see 1Corinthians 15:33), Epimenides (see Titus 1:12), and the Festival Hymn quoted by him at Lystra (see Note on Acts 14:17). At twelve he would become a child of the Law (see Note on Luke 2:42); and showing great devotion to the studies which thus opened on him, was probably dedicated by his parents to the calling of a scribe. This, however, did not involve the abandonment of secular occupation; and after some years spent in Jerusalem, studying under Gamaliel (we may say, with almost absolute certainty, before the commencement of our Lord’s ministry), he returned to his native city, and became a “tent-maker” (Acts 18:3)—a manufacturer, i.e., of the coarse goats’ hair sail-cloth, for which Cilicia was famous. There seems reason to believe that somewhere about this time he became acquainted with Barnabas (see Note on Acts 4:36), and possibly also with St. Luke (see Note on Acts 13:1; Acts 16:10, and Introduction to St. Luke’s Gospel). In the interval between the Ascension and the appointment of the Seven Deacons, he came up to Jerusalem. He finds a new sect, as it would seem, added to the three—the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes—whom he had known before. In some respects their teaching is such as Hillel, the grandfather of Gamaliel, would have approved. They pray and fast, and give alms. They proclaim a resurrection and a judgment after death. They connect that proclamation with the belief that a teacher of Nazareth, who had died a malefactor’s death, was the long-expected Messiah. What is he to think of these startling claims? What were others thinking? Gamaliel, his master, counselled caution and a policy of expectation (Acts 5:35-39); Barnabas, his early friend, had joined the new society (Acts 4:36); Andronicus and Junias, his kinsmen, had followed the example (Romans 16:7). But Saul had a zeal which was more fiery than theirs. He was a Pharisee after the straitest sect, and the teaching of Stephen, more conspicuously, it would seem, than that of Peter, was a protest against Pharisaism, and told of its coming downfall. He, therefore, could make no truce with that teaching, and burst impatiently from the cautions of his master. For good or for evil, he was at least “thorough,” and had the courage of his convictions. Even the face as of an angel and the words of ecstatic joy did but kindle in him the fire of a burning indignation.



Acts 7:58
. - Philemon 1:9.

A far greater difference than that which was measured by years separated the young Saul from the aged Paul. By years, indeed, the difference was, perhaps, not so great as the words might suggest, for Jewish usage extended the term of youth farther than we do, and began age sooner. No doubt, too, Paul’s life had aged him fast, and probably there were not thirty years between the two periods. But the difference between him and himself at the beginning and the end of his career was a gulf; and his life was not evolution, but revolution.

At the beginning you see a brilliant young Pharisee, Gamaliel’s promising pupil, advanced above many who were his equals in his own religion, as he says himself; living after its straitest sect, and eager to have the smallest part in what seemed to him the righteous slaying of one of the followers of the blaspheming Nazarene. At the end he was himself one of these followers. He had cast off, as folly, the wisdom which took him so much pains to acquire. He had turned his back upon all the brilliant prospects of distinction which were opening to him. He had broken with countrymen and kindred. And what had he made of it? He had been persecuted, hunted, assailed by every weapon that his old companions could fashion or wield; he is a solitary man, laden with many cares, and accustomed to look perils and death in the face; he is a prisoner, and in a year or two more he will be a martyr. If he were an apostate and a renegade, it was not for what he could get by it.

What made the change? The vision of Jesus Christ. If we think of the transformation on Saul, its causes and its outcome, we shall get lessons which I would fain press upon your hearts now. Do you wonder that I would urge on you just such a life as that of this man as your highest good?

I. I would note, then, first, that faith in Jesus Christ will transform and ennoble any life.

It has been customary of late years, amongst people who do not like miracles, and do not believe in sudden changes of character, to allege that Paul’s conversion was but the appearance, on the surface, of an underground process that had been going on ever since he kept the witnesses’ clothes. Modern critics know a great deal more about the history of Paul’s conversion than Paul did. For to him there was no consciousness of undermining, but the change was instantaneous. He left Jerusalem a bitter persecutor, exceeding mad against the followers of the Nazarene, thinking that Jesus was a blasphemer and an impostor, and His disciples pestilent vermin, to be harried off the face of the earth. He entered Damascus a lowly disciple of that Christ. His conversion was not an underground process that had been silently sapping the foundations of his life; it was an explosion. And what caused it? What was it that came on that day on the Damascus road, amid the blinding sunshine of an Eastern noontide? The vision of Jesus Christ. An overwhelming conviction flooded his soul that He whom he had taken to be an impostor, richly deserving the Cross that He endured, was living in glory, and was revealing Himself to Saul then and there. That truth crumbled his whole past into nothing; and he stood there trembling and astonished, like a man the ruins of whose house have fallen about his ears. He bowed himself to the vision. He surrendered at discretion without a struggle. ‘Immediately,’ says he, ‘I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision,’ and when he said ‘Lord, Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?’ he flung open the gates of the fortress for the Conqueror to come in. The vision of Christ reversed his judgments, transformed his character, revolutionised his life.

That initial impulse operated through all the rest of his career. Hearken to him: ‘I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. To me to live is Christ. Whether we live, we live unto the Lord; or whether we die, we die unto the Lord. Living or dying, we are the Lord’s.’ ‘We labour that whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him.’ The transforming agency was the vision of Christ, and the bowing of the man’s whole nature before the seen Saviour.

Need I recall to you how noble a life issued from that fountain? I am sure that I need do no more than mention in a word or two the wondrous activity, flashing like a flame of fire from East to West, and everywhere kindling answering flames, the noble self-oblivion, the continual communion with God and the Unseen, and all the other great virtues and nobleness which came from such sources as these. I need only, I am sure, remind you of them, and draw this lesson, that the secret of a transforming and noble life is to be found in faith in Jesus Christ. The vision that changed Paul is as available for you and me. For it is all a mistake to suppose that the essence of it is the miraculous appearance that flashed upon the Apostle’s eyes. He speaks of it himself, in one of his letters, in other language, when he says, ‘It pleased God to reveal His Son in me.’ And that revelation in all its fulness, in all its sweetness, in all its transforming and ennobling power, is offered to every one of us. For the eye of faith is no less gifted with the power of direct and certain vision-yea! is even more gifted with this-than is the eye of sense. ‘If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.’ Christ is revealed to each one of us as really, as veritably, and the revelation may become as strong an impulse and motive in our lives as ever it was to the Apostle on the Damascus road. What is wanted is not revelation, but the bowed will-not the heavenly vision, but obedience to the vision. I suppose that most of you think that you believe all that about Jesus Christ, which transformed Gamaliel’s pupil into Christ’s disciple. And what has it done for you? In many cases, nothing. Be sure of this, dear young friends, that the shortest way to a life adorned with all grace, with all nobility, fragrant with all goodness, and permanent as that life which does the will of God must clearly be, is this, to bow before the seen Christ, seen in His word, and speaking to your hearts, and to take His yoke and carry His burden. Then you will build upon what will stand, and make your days noble and your lives stable. If you build on anything else, the structure will come down with a crash some day, and bury you in its ruins. Surely it is better to learn the worthlessness of a non-Christian life, in the light of His merciful face, when there is yet time to change our course, than to see it by the fierce light of the great White Throne set for judgment. We must each of us learn it here or there.

II. Faith in Christ will make a joyful life, whatever its circumstances.

I have said that, judged by the standard of the Exchange, or by any of the standards which men usually apply to success in life, this life of the Apostle was a failure. We know, without my dwelling more largely upon it, what he gave up. We know what, to outward appearance, he gained by his Christianity. You remember, perhaps, how he himself speaks about the external aspects of his life in one place, where he says ‘Even unto this present hour we both hunger and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling-place, and labour, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it; being defamed, we entreat. We are made as the filth of the world, and as the offscouring of all things unto this day.’

That was one side of it. Was that all? This man had that within him which enabled him to triumph over all trials. There is nothing more remarkable about him than the undaunted courage, the unimpaired elasticity of spirit, the buoyancy of gladness, which bore him high upon the waves of the troubled sea in which he had to swim. If ever there was a man that had a bright light burning within him, in the deepest darkness, it was that little weather-beaten Jew, whose ‘bodily presence was weak, and his speech contemptible.’ And what was it that made him master of circumstances, and enabled him to keep sunshine in his heart when winter bound all the world around him? What made this bird sing in a darkened cage? One thing-the continual presence, consciously with Him by faith, of that Christ who had revolutionised his life, and who continued to bless and to gladden it. I have quoted his description of his external condition. Let me quote two or three words that indicate how he took all that sea of troubles and of sorrows that poured its waves and its billows over him. ‘In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.’ ‘As the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation aboundeth also by Christ.’ ‘For which cause we faint not, but though our outward man perish, yet our inward man is renewed day by day.’ ‘Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.’ ‘I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content.’ ‘As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing all things.’

There is the secret of blessedness, my friends; there is the fountain of perpetual joy. Cling to Christ, set His will on the throne of your hearts, give the reins of your life and of your character into His keeping, and nothing ‘that is at enmity with joy’ can either ‘abolish or destroy’ the calm blessedness of your spirits.

You will have much to suffer; you will have something to give up. Your life may look, to men whose tastes have been vulgarised by the glaring brightnesses of this vulgar world, but grey and sombre, but it will have in it the calm abiding blessedness which is more than joy, and is diviner and more precious than the tumultuous transports of gratified sense or successful ambition. Christ is peace, and He gives His peace to us; and then He gives a joy which does not break but enhances peace. We are all tempted to look for our gladness in creatures, each of which satisfies but a part of our desire. But no man can be truly blessed who has to find many contributories to make up his blessedness. That which makes us rich must be, not a multitude of precious stones, howsoever precious they may be, but one Pearl of great price; the one Christ who is our only joy. And He says to us that He gives us Himself, if we behold Him and bow to Him, that His joy might remain in us, and that our joy might be full, while all other gladnesses are partial and transitory. Faith in Christ makes life blessed. The writer of Ecclesiastes asked the question which the world has been asking ever since: ‘Who knoweth what is good for a man in this life, all the days of this vain life which he passeth as a shadow?’ You young people are asking, ‘Who will show us any good?’ Here is the answer-Faith in Christ and obedience to Him; that is the good part which no man taketh from us. Dear young friend, have you made it yours?

III. Faith in Christ produces a life which bears being looked back upon.

In a later Epistle than that from which my second text is taken, we get one of the most lovely pictures that was ever drawn, albeit it is unconsciously drawn, of a calm old age, very near the gate of death; and looking back with a quiet heart over all the path of life. I am not going to preach to you, dear friends, in the flush of your early youth, a gospel which is only to be recommended because it is good to die by, but it will do even you, at the beginning, no harm to realise for a moment that the end will come, and that retrospect will take the place in your lives which hope and anticipation fill now. And I ask you what you expect to feel and say then?

What did Paul say? ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.’ He was not self-righteous; but it is possible to have lived a life which, as the world begins to fade, vindicates itself as having been absolutely right in its main trend, and to feel that the dawning light of Eternity confirms the choice that we made. And I pray you to ask yourselves, ‘Is my life of that sort?’ How much of it would bear the scrutiny which will have to come, and which in Paul’s case was so quiet and calm? He had had a stormy day, many a thundercloud had darkened the sky, many a tempest had swept across the plain; but now, as the evening draws on, the whole West is filled with a calm amber light, and all across the plain, right away to the grey East, he sees that he has been led by, and has been willing to walk in, the right way to the ‘City of habitation.’ Would that be your experience if the last moment came now?

There will be, for the best of us, much sense of failure and shortcoming when we look back on our lives. But whilst some of us will have to say, ‘I have played the fool and erred exceedingly,’ it is possible for each of us to lay himself down in peace and sleep, awaiting a glorious rising again and a crown of righteousness.

Dear young friends, it is for you to choose whether your past, when you summon it up before you, will look like a wasted wilderness, or like a garden of the Lord. And though, as I have said, there will always be much sense of failure and shortcoming, yet that need not disturb the calm retrospect; for whilst memory sees the sins, faith can grasp the Saviour, and quietly take leave of life, saying, ‘I know in whom I have believed, and that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day.’

So I press upon you all this one truth, that faith in Jesus Christ will transform, will ennoble, will make joyous your lives whilst you live, and will give you a quiet heart in the retrospect when you come to die. Begin right, dear young friends. You will never find it so easy to take any decisive step, and most of all this chiefest step, as you do to-day. You will get lean and less flexible as you get older. You will get set in your ways. Habits will twine their tendrils round you, and hinder your free movement. The truth of the Gospel will become commonplace by familiarity. Associations and companions will have more and more power over you; and you will be stiffened as an old tree-trunk is stiffened. You cannot count on to-morrow; be wise to-day. Begin this year aright. Why should you not now see the Christ and welcome Him? I pray that every one of us may behold Him and fall before Him with the cry, ‘Lord! what wilt Thou have me to do?’

1  To the young.

7:54-60 Nothing is so comfortable to dying saints, or so encouraging to suffering saints, as to see Jesus at the right hand of God: blessed be God, by faith we may see him there. Stephen offered up two short prayers in his dying moments. Our Lord Jesus is God, to whom we are to seek, and in whom we are to trust and comfort ourselves, living and dying. And if this has been our care while we live, it will be our comfort when we die. Here is a prayer for his persecutors. Though the sin was very great, yet if they would lay it to their hearts, God would not lay it to their charge. Stephen died as much in a hurry as ever any man did, yet, when he died, the words used are, he fell asleep; he applied himself to his dying work with as much composure as if he had been going to sleep. He shall awake again in the morning of the resurrection, to be received into the presence of the Lord, where is fulness of joy, and to share the pleasures that are at his right hand, for evermore.And cast him out of the city - This was in accordance with the usual custom. In Leviticus 24:14, it was directed to bring forth him that had cursed without the camp; and it was not usual, the Jewish writers inform us, to stone in the presence of the Sanhedrin. Though this was a popular tumult, and Stephen was condemned without the regular process of trial, yet some of the "forms" of law were observed, and he was stoned in the manner directed in the case of blasphemers.

And stoned him - This was the punishment appointed in the case of blasphemy, Leviticus 24:16. See the notes on John 10:31.

And the witnesses - That is, the false witnesses who bore testimony against him, Acts 6:13. It was directed in the Law Deuteronomy 17:7 that the "witnesses" in the case should be first in executing the sentence of the Law. This was done to prevent false accusations by the prospect that they must be employed as executioners. After they had commenced the process of execution, all the people joined in it, Deuteronomy 17:7; Leviticus 24:16.

Laid down their clothes - Their "outer garments." They were accustomed to lay these aside when they ran or worked. See the notes on Matthew 5:40.

At a young man's feet ... - That is, they procured him to take care of their garments. This is mentioned solely because Saul, or Paul, afterward became so celebrated, first as a persecutor, and then an apostle. His whole heart was in this persecution of Stephen; and he himself afterward alluded to this circumstance as an evidence of his sinfulness in persecuting the Lord Jesus, Acts 22:20.

58. cast him out of the city—according to Le 24:14; Nu 15:35; 1Ki 21:13; and see Heb 13:12.

and stoned—"proceeded to stone" him. The actual stoning is recorded in Ac 7:59.

and the witnesses—whose hands were to be first upon the criminal (De 17:7).

laid down their clothes—their loose outer garments, to have them taken charge of.

at a young man's feet whose name was Saul—How thrilling is this our first introduction to one to whom Christianity—whether as developed in the New Testament or as established in the world—owes more perhaps than to all the other apostles together! Here he is, having perhaps already a seat in the Sanhedrim, some thirty years of age, in the thick of this tumultuous murder of a distinguished witness for Christ, not only "consenting unto his death" (Ac 8:1), but doing his own part of the dark deed.

Cast him out of the city; that the city might not be polluted with his blasphemy.

Stoned him; this punishment was appointed for such as seduced them to the worship of false gods, Deu 13:6,10; and though all power of capital punishment was taken from them, as they themselves confess, John 18:31, yet what will not popular rage attempt?

The witnesses; who were by the law to cast the first stones, Deu 17:7, whereby the witnesses, if they had not testified true, did take upon themselves the guilt of the blood that was spilt, and freed the people, who only followed them in the execution.

Laid down their clothes; their upper garments, that they might carry and cast down the heavier stones.

And cast him out of the city,.... Of Jerusalem; for the place of stoning was without the city. The process, when regular, according to the sentence of the court, was after this manner (p);

"judgment being finished, (or the trial over,) they brought him out (the person condemned) to stone him; the place of stoning was without the sanhedrim, as it is said, Leviticus 24:14 "bring forth him that hath cursed without the camp", when he was ten cubits distant from the place of stoning, they order him to confess and when four cubits from it, they take off his garments--the place of stoning was twice a man's height.''

And elsewhere (q) it is said, that the place of stoning was without three camps (the camp of the Shekinah, the camp of the Levites, and the camp of the Israelites): upon which the gloss has these words;

"the court is the camp of the Shekinah, and the mountain of the house the camp of the Levites, and every city the camp of the Israelites; and in the sanhedrim in every city, the place of stoning was without the city like to Jerusalem.''

And these men, though transported with rage and fury, yet were so far mindful of rule, as to have him out of the city before they stoned him:

and they stoned him; which was done after this manner, when in form (r):

"the wise men say, a man was stoned naked, but not a woman; and there was a place four cubits from the house of stoning, where they plucked off his clothes, only they covered his nakedness before. The place of stoning was two men's heights, and there he went up with his hands bound, and one of the witnesses thrust him on his loins, that he might fall upon the earth; and if he died not at that push, the witnesses lifted up a stone, which lay there, the weight of two men, and one cast it with all his strength upon him; and if he died not, he was stoned by all Israel.''

And the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul; for the witnesses, according to the above account, were first concerned in the stoning; and this was agreeably to the rule in Deuteronomy 17:7 and which they seem to have observed amidst all their hurry and fury: and that they might perform their work with more ease and expedition, they plucked off their upper garments, and committed them to the care of Saul of Tarsus; who was now at Jerusalem, and belonged to the synagogue of the Cilicians, that disputed with Stephen, and suborned false witnesses against him. He is called a young man; not that he was properly a youth, for he must be thirty years of age, or more; since about thirty years after this he calls himself Paul the aged, Plm 1:9 when he must be at least sixty years of age, if not more; besides, Ananias calls him a "man", Acts 9:13 nor would the high priests have given letters to a mere youth, investing him with so much power and authority as they did; but he is so called, because he was in the prime of his days, hale, strong, and active. The learned Alting has taken a great deal of pains to show, that this Saul, who was afterwards Paul the apostle, is the same with Samuel the little, who is frequently mentioned in the Talmud; he living at this time, and being a disciple of Rabban Gamaliel, and a bitter enemy of the heretics, or Christians; and who, at the instigation of his master, composed a prayer against them; and his name and character agreeing with him: but it is not likely that the Jews would have retained so high an opinion of him to the last, had he been the same person: for they say (s),

"that as the elders were sitting in Jabneh, Bath Kol came forth, and said, there is one among you fit to have the Holy Ghost, or the Shekinah, dwell upon him; and they set their eyes on Samuel the little; and when he died, they said, ah the holy, ah the meek disciple of Hillell!''

(p) Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 6. sect. 1, 2, 3, 4. (q) T. Bab Sanhedrin, fol. 42. 2.((r) Moses Kotsensis Mitzvot Tora, pr. Affirm. 99. Vid. Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 6. sect. 4. & Maimon. Hilchot Sanhedrin, c. 15. sect. 1.((s) Shilo, l. 4. c. 26, 27, 28.

And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the {b} witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul.

(b) It was appointed by the Law that the witnesses should cast the first stones; De 17:7.

Acts 7:58. ἔξω τῆς πόλεως: according to the law, Leviticus 24:14, so in Luke 4:29, our Lord is cast out of Nazareth to be stoned.—ἐλιθοβόλουν: as guilty of blasphemy. St. Stephen’s closing remarks were in the eyes of his judges a justification of the charge; imperf. as in Acts 7:59, see note below. The judicial forms were evidently observed, at least to some extent (Weiss attributes the introduction of the witnesses to a reviser), and whilst the scene was a tumultuous one, it was quite possible that it was not wholly bereft of judicial appearances.—μάρτυρες: whose part it was to throw the first stone, cf. Deuteronomy 17:7 (John 8:7).—ἀπέθεντο τὰ ἱμάτια αὐτῶν: to perform their cruel task with greater ease and freedom, cf. Acts 22:20.—νεανίου: only used in Acts, where it occurs three or four times, Acts 20:9, Acts 23:17 (18), several times in LXX. It has been thought (Wendt) that the term could not have been used of Saul if he had been married, or if he was at this time a widower, but if νεανίας might be used to denote any man of an age between twenty-four and forty, like Latin adulescens and the Hebrew נַעַר, Genesis 41:12 (Grimm-Thayer), Saul might be so described. Josephus applies the term to Agrippa I. when he was at least forty. Jos., Ant., xviii., 6, 7. See further on Acts 26:10.—Σαύλου: “If the Acts are the composition of a second-century writer to whom Paul was only a name, then the introduction of this silent figure in such a scene is a masterpiece of dramatic invention” (Page, Acts, Introd., xxxi.); for the name see below on Acts 13:9, and also on its genuineness, Zahn, Einleitung in das N. T., ii., 49, as against Krenkel. Of Saul’s earlier life we gather something from his own personal notices, see notes on Acts 22:3, Acts 23:6, Acts 24:14, Acts 26:4, and cf. Acts 9:13. He was a Hebrew sprung from Hebrews, Php 3:5; he was a Roman citizen, and not only so, but a Tarsian, a citizen of no mean city; cf. for the two citizenships, Acts 21:39 (Acts 9:11) and Acts 22:27, “Citizenship,” Hastings’ B.D.; Zahn, u. s., p. 48; Ramsay, St. Paul, p. 30. Zahn, u. s., pp. 35, 49, maintains that Saul’s family had only recently settled in Tarsus (but see Ramsay, u. s.), and defends the tradition that his parents had come there from Gischala, their son being born to them in Tarsus. On Saul’s family and means see notes on Acts 23:16 and Acts 24:26. But whatever his Roman and Tarsian citizenship may have contributed to his mental development, St. Paul’s own words clearly lead us to attach the highest and most significant influence to the Jewish side of his nature and character. Paul’s Pharisaism was the result not only of his training under Gamaliel, but also of the inheritance which he claimed from his father and his ancestors (Acts 23:6, Φαρισαίων not Φαρισαίου, cf. Galatians 1:14). His early years were passed away from Jerusalem, Acts 26:4 (the force of τε (R.V.) and the expression ἐν τῷ ἔθνει μου, Zahn, u. s., p. 48), but his home-training could not have been neglected (cf. 2 Timothy 1:3), and when he went up to the Holy City at an early stage to study under Gamaliel (Acts 22:3, ἀνατεθραμμένος, on its force see Sabatier L’Apôtre Paul, p. 30) he “lived a Pharisee,” and nothing else than his well-known zeal is needed to account for his selection to his dreadful and solemn office at St. Stephen’s martyrdom. As a Pharisee he had been “a separated one,” and had borne the name with pride, not suspecting that a day was at hand when he would speak of himself as ἀφωρισμένος in a far higher and fuller sense, Romans 1:1, Galatians 1:15 (Zahn, u. s., p. 48); as a Pharisee he was “separated from all filthiness of heathenism” around (Nivdal), but he was to learn that the Christian life was that of the true “Chasid,” and that in contrast to all Pharisaic legalism and externalism there was a cleansing ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, a perfecting holiness in the fear of God—God Who chooseth before all temples the upright heart and pure-(Edersheim, Jewish Social Life, p. 231). On the question whether St. Paul ever saw our Lord in the flesh, see Keim, Geschichte Jesu, i., 35, 36, and references, and for the views of more recent writers, Witness of the Epistles (Longmans), chaps. i. and ii.

58. and cast him out of the city, and stoned him] In accordance with the Law (Leviticus 24:14) the person to be stoned must be carried without the camp, and to the people of Jerusalem the walls of the city were as the limits of the camp. Though there was much popular excitement exhibited in this proceeding, we are not to think that it was looked upon by those who were actors in it as other than the carrying out of the Law.

There was a place set apart for such punishment. The person to be stoned was placed on an elevation twice the height of a man, from whence with his hands bound he was thrown down, and then a stone as much as two men could carry was rolled down upon him by the witnesses, after which all the people present cast stones upon him.

and the witnesses laid down their clothes] i.e. their loose outer garments, that they might be more ready for the task which they had to discharge. The law which ordained that the first stone should be thrown by the witnesses was meant to restrain hasty accusation. Men would only bring an accusation for grave reasons when they knew that their own hand must be first upon the condemned person.

at a young man’s feet] Saul was already of such an age that the authorities could entrust him (Acts 9:2) with the duty of going to Damascus to arrest the Christians in that city. The Greek word is applied to persons up to the age of forty. In the Epistle to Philemon (9) St Paul speaks of himself as aged. That Epistle was probably written about a.d. 63, and the death of Stephen took place about a.d. 35, therefore Saul may well have been between 30 and 40 years of age.

whose name was Saul] Lit. called Saul. The name is the same as that of the first King of Israel, and signifies “one asked for” (i.e. in prayer). This Saul was also of the tribe of Benjamin, and had come from his home at Tarsus in Cilicia to attend on the lessons of the great teacher Gamaliel (Php 3:5-6; Acts 22:3).

Acts 7:58. Ἔξω τῆς πόλεως, out of the city) They regard Stephen as having been injurious to the city, and therefore unworthy to die in it.—ἀπέθεντο, they laid down) in order to be the less encumbered.—νεανίου, of a young man) Saul already at that time seems to have held some degree of dignity among them. It was, however, so ordered by Providence, that he did not raise his hand against the martyr: ch. Acts 26:10.—Σαύλου Saul) He was perhaps of the progeny of King Saul.—Valla. At least they were of the same tribe.

Verse 58. - They cast for cast, A.V. ; garments for clothes, A.V.; the feet of a young man for a young man's feet, A.V.; named Saul for whose name was Saul, A.V. They cast. We have here the identical phrase of Luke 4:29. The witness. According to Deuteronomy 17:7, "the hands of the witnesses were to be first upon" the idolater "to put him to death." They took off their clothes, their outer garments, so as to be free to hurl the stones at their victim with greater force. The feet of a young man. The word νεανίας is found only here and in Acts 20:9; Acts 23:17, 18, 22; and frequently in the LXX. for the Hebrew נַעִר. A man might be called a νεανίας probably to the age of thirty. This appearance of Saul upon the stage of St. Luke's narrative is an element which will soon change the whole current of the narrative, and divert it from Jerusalem to the whole earth. Nothing can be more striking than this introduction of the young man Saul to our view as an accomplice (albeit "ignorantly in unbelief") in the martyrdom of Stephen. Who that stood there and saw him keeping the clothes of the witnesses would have imagined that he would become the foremost apostle of the faith which he sought to destroy from off the face of the earth? Acts 7:58Stoned

According to the Rabbis, the scaffold to which the criminal was to be led, with his hands bound, was to be twice the size of a man. One of the witnesses was to smite him with a stone upon the breast, so as to throw him down. If he were not killed, the second witness was to throw another stone at him. Then, if he were yet alive, all the people were to stone him until he was dead. The body was then to be suspended till sunset.

A young man (νεανίου)

Which, however, gives no indication of his age, since it is applied up to the age of forty-five. Thirty years after Stephen's martyrdom, Paul speaks of himself as the aged (Plm 1:9).


The first mention of the apostle to the Gentiles.

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