Acts 7:51-60 (ESV):

51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”

54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. 58 Then 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. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

If we list the events that are probably relevant to Stephen's stoning in sequential order, in an attempt to recover a deductive argument from the text, it would look something like this:

  1. Stephen accuses the Jews of resisting the Holy Spirit and not being truly convert at the heart (from v51).
  2. Stephen accuses the Jews' fathers of having killed the prophets in the past (from v52)
  3. Stephen claims that the prophets have announced the coming of the Righteous One (i.e. Jesus) (from v52 and the context).
  4. Stephen accuses the Jews of having murdered Jesus (from v52).
  5. Stephen accuses the Jews of breaking the law (from v53).
  6. Therefore, the Jews become enraged (from v54).
  7. Stephen claims that he is seeing the Son of Man (i.e. Jesus) in heaven, at the right hand of God (from v56 and the context).
  8. Therefore, the Jews explode, rush together at Stephen and stone him to death (from v57-60)

I think it's not very complicated to understand why the Jews were very enraged (point 6) at Stephen's accusations against them (points 1 through 5). However, it was not until point 7 came along (Stephen's supernatural vision of Jesus at the right hand of God) that the Jews exploded and spontaneously rushed to kill him.

If we try to understand the implicit logic at play that led the Jews to explode and kill Stephen, my personal thoughts would be that points 1 through 5 played an important "warmup" role, but the thing that definitely riled up the Jews to the point of turning them into spontaneous murderers was point 7 (i.e. Stephen openly stating that Jesus is in heaven at the right hand of God). So, I believe that we should pay special attention to point 7. Yet, I'm struggling to see the exact logic connecting point 8 with the previous points, especially point 7. My educated guess is that Stephen's statement in point 7 made "click" in the minds of those first-century Jews with the concept of blasphemy --and very likely an extremely outrageous one.

Question: what is the implicit logic that made point 8 follow from the previous points? Are there implicit premises or factors not stated in the text which may help us understand the Jews' spontaneous stoning of Stephen?

Note: this question (in terms of format and topic) was inspired by the success achieved by a previous similarly formatted question: What is the logic behind the Jews' reasoning which led them to conclude that Jesus was “making himself God” in John 10:22-39?.


4 Answers 4


I cannot help but note the irony in our efforts to reconstruct the deductive reasoning employed by an angry mob--anger can so often turn reason on its head and lead people to ask later “what was I thinking?”

Nevertheless, I agree with the general framework of the OP--several specific statements can be identified that enraged the people (I don’t know that I can craft that so much as a deductive proof as an axiom of human nature). Then, there came a point in which anger boiled over into murderous rage. How did the people connect the dots from step 6 to step 8?

Some Legal background

As explored in greater detail in a post here, the Jewish Sanhedrin had the authority to try criminal cases, but could not (at the time of Jesus' death) carry out the death penalty (see John 18:31). This is why the Sanhedrin had to take Jesus to Pilate for condemnation (though they may well have had other ulterior motives as well, see here ).

The Talmud may indicate that the Sanhedrin was stripped of the power of carrying out capital punishment in approx. AD 30 (see here), though the precise timing & meaning of the Talmud's statement is uncertain.

This didn't entirely put a stop to executions that weren't sanctioned by Rome. The people in Jerusalem used the leadership vacancy after the death of Porcius Festus in AD 62 to illegally put James (the Lord's brother) to death (see Josephus Antiquities 20.9). Each of the New Testament stonings (or attempted stonings) follow a similar pattern--the leaders want a troublesome teacher killed, but they know they lack legal authority to do it, so they rile up a mob to do the dirty work. There is no formal trial. That way if Rome investigates, the murder can be blamed on a mindless mob, and the true instigators can (probably) go free.

These are not legal executions, they are lynch mobs.



Once before this passage led me to pursue an abductive argument to try to explain what happened. I believe that course of action may again be helpful.

The people stoned Stephen in a furious rage. Possible motives include all of premises 1-5 and 7 above--I can see any of these eliciting furor from the Sanhedrin and the crowd.

However, their response to the first five was not to attack him with stones but to attack him with words (see Acts 7:54). If calling them murderers or claiming Jesus was greater than the prophets was sufficient cause for stoning, verse 52 should be the end of the speech. #’s 1-5 above were put to use by the leaders to serve their diabolical purposes--they were useful for making a crowd angry (I can just see them working the crowd, vituperating Stephen for what was said pre-verse 54). But we must look to something after verse 54 for the motive to take the terrible risk of putting anger into action, and risking retaliation by the Romans.

There is only one statement Stephen makes after verse 54 and before rocks are thrown:

Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God (Acts 7:56)

Then--and only then--we are told they covered their ears and attacked him with stones. The people administered the punishment for blasphemy and hypocritically covered their ears so as not to defile them with such evil words (evil in their view, not mine):

14 Bring forth him that hath cursed without the camp; and let all that heard him lay their hands upon his head, and let all the congregation stone him.

15 And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, Whosoever curseth his God shall bear his sin.

16 And he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the Lord, shall be put to death. (Leviticus 24:14-16, the context of the passage is the penalty being declared for a man who had blasphemed the name of the Lord and cursed)

Abductively, I conclude that it is the testimony of the vision that resulted in Stephen’s stoning. But why?



[Blasphemy was] the most heinous offense known in Jewry (see Talmage, Jesus the Christ, p. 627).

The exact details of what constituted blasphemy were not spelled out in the Torah, but the case law was based upon the case in Leviticus 14 described above. This allowed some judicial discretion to the Sanhedrin.

From JewishEncyclopedia:

"And he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord,"...does not seem to signify that the mere pronunciation of the Ineffable Name was considered blasphemy, but that it was blasphemous to curse or revile the same. The later law, however, took the word "noḳeb" in the sense of "pronouncing," and declared that the Ineffable Name must have been pronounced before the offender could be subjected to the punishment provided by the Law.


The Gemara goes further and extends the crime to an impious use of any words which indicate the sacred attributes of God, such as "The Holy One" or "The Merciful One." (see here)

Talmage’s summary of the practical application is helpful:

The essence of the deep sin of blasphemy lies not, as many suppose, in profanity alone, but as Dr. Kelso, Stand. Bible Dict., summarizes: “Every improper use of the divine name (Lev. 24:11), speech derogatory to the Majesty of God (Matt. 26:65), and sins with a high hand--i.e. Premeditated transgressions of the basal principles of the theocracy (Numbers 9:13; 15:30; Exo. 31:14) -- were regarding as blasphemy; the penalty was death by stoning”

Smith’s Bible Dict. states: “Blasphemy, in its technical English sense, signifies the speaking evil of God, and in this sense it is found in Psalm 74:18; Isa. 52:5; Rom. 2:24...On this charge both our Lord and Stephen were condemned to death by the Jews." (Jesus the Christ p. 201)

If we are looking for a statute in the Torah that explicitly describes what is and is not blasphemy, we will search in vain. But in actual practice, stating the name of God, reviling God, or showing extreme disrespect for God were at times adjudicated as blasphemous.


How did Stephen commit blasphemy?

What blasphemy did Stephen commit? I’ll offer two separate deductive proofs, both of which are logically valid--as to whether they are sound (valid + the premises are true), you be the judge.

It is important to emphasize that regardless of what Stephen believed (I don’t care to get sidetracked into that debate here), the crowd did not believe Jesus was God, so they did not stone Stephen for claiming to see Jesus (nor was Stephen the first to claim to see the resurrected Jesus). To the audience in Acts 7, claiming to see Jesus in heaven may have been insulting to the people who killed Him, but it was no more blasphemous than claiming to see Abraham in heaven.

Argument 1:

P1: The people believed Stephen was not a righteous man sent from God (would you believe someone who called you a murderer was a righteous man sent from God?)

P2: Stephen was a mortal man

P3: The people believed a mortal man could not see God in glory (a possible interpretation of Exodus 33:20-23) OR The people believed God would not appear to a wicked man (a possible interpretation of Exodus 33:11-17)

C1: The people believed God could not appear in glory to Stephen

P4: Stephen claimed to see Jesus in glory in heaven

P5: The people did not believe Jesus was God

C2: Stephen was not charged with blasphemy for claiming to see Jesus

P6: Stephen was charged with blasphemy

C3: The people understood that Stephen saw Jesus and someone else in glory in heaven, someone to whom Jesus showed deference

P7: The Being to whom Jesus showed deference was the Father (see John 14:28)

P8: Claiming God appeared to someone that God could not appear to was considered insulting to God

P9: Insulting God was considered blasphemy (see Kelso quote above)

C4: Stephen was charged with blasphemy because he claimed to see God the Father in glory

Argument 2

P1: If (B is at the right hand of A) => (B is accepted, acknowledged, and authorized by A)

P2: Stephen claimed Jesus was at the right hand of God

C1: Stephen claimed that Jesus was accepted, acknowledged, and authorized by God

P3: The Sanhedrin believed Jesus’ claims of divine authority were blasphemous

P4: Stephen claimed that God had vindicated Jesus’ claims

C2: Stephen endorsed the blasphemy the Sanhedrin believed was committed by Jesus



Both of the arguments above are logically valid, and are therefore sound if their premises are true.

It is tempting to say that Stephen was stoned for claiming that Jesus was greater than Abraham, Moses, and the other prophets, but that ground had already been covered by verse 52, and although the people were angry, nothing yet had been said that caused them to cover their ears in pious horror.

I conclude that Stephen was stoned either for claiming to see God the Father, or for claiming that Jesus’ claims of divine authority were vindicated by God, or both.


I recognize that some dislike my suggestion that Stephen saw God the Father. Perhaps you find it blasphemous. Please know that no disrespect is intended.

I explored this subject in greater detail in this post.

As some on the site are aware, I do in fact believe on separate grounds (outside the scope of this site) that God the Father is capable of appearing mortals (but I do not claim it is commonplace). I do not hold that this claim is proved by the Bible, but rather that it is consistent with the Bible. Two of the reasons I believe this are described here (verses 15-17) and here.


What is the [logic] that made the Jews "explode"?

Are there implicit premises or factors not stated in the text which may help us understand the Jews' spontaneous stoning of Stephen?

Answer: As per @Miguel de Servet's observations, this question almost answers itself. It was the culmination of many factors, as you suggest.

While most of the points in the OP are perfectly valid, we cannot overlook the fact that a great trial had taken place. The entire ruling authority of the Jews may likely have been shaken by recent events.

Christ's murder through death by torture was probably a distasteful event to them because it rattled their relative tranquility and authority among both the people and the Romans. Despite being horribly ruthless, the Romans knew an extreme injustice when they saw one. They probably now looked upon the Jews with more contempt than ever, all of which would culminate in the Siege of Jerusalem merely one generation later.

As well, hear how Stephen condemns them all. Surely their own hearts convicted them through his righteous words:

Acts 7: 51: “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it” (emphasis added).

What disbeliever of great authority would not be incensed by what had just been spoken? (I am certainly not condoning the Jews' reaction). The very last thing they expected to hear was this young upstart again proclaiming Jesus. Each word out of Stephen's mouth was another nail in his coffin as far as the leadership was concerned.

From a skeptic's point of view, Stephen's intense zeal must have sounded like the words of a madman:

Acts 7:54: "Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him.

What broke the camel's back was Stephen's final revelation:

Acts 7:56: "Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."

This was a bridge too far for this highly cynical, vicious audience. Stephen had to go.

This "explosive" reaction to Stephen may have been a catalyst for the persecutions of Christians to come.


You have done most of the work yourself. You have quoted a passage, Acts 7:51-60, where the accusation of blasphemy is not explicit, and cited John 10:22-39 where it is. Both contain the element of the Son of Man (or the Son of God).

In both of them the charge is of blasphemy, as it is here:

But Jesus was silent. The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his clothes and declared, “He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? Now you have heard the blasphemy! What is your verdict?” They answered, “He is guilty and deserves death.” (Matthew 26:63-66 NET)

So, the "implicit logic" is this:

  1. To mention a man in Heaven next to God was considered blasphemous.
  2. Jesus (about himself) and Stephen (about Jesus) both mentioned Jesus in Heaven next to God.
  3. Jesus was charged with blasphemy and therefore it was declared, “He is guilty and deserves death” (but, because the Sanhedrin - allegedly, John 18:31 NET, see fn 6sn - could not pass capital sentences, he was brought in front of Pilate with the capital accusation of lese-majesty).
  4. Stephen was not openly charged with blasphemy, either by the Sanhedrin or by the High Priest, but the mob lynched him: "When they had driven him out of the city, they began to stone him".
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Steve can help
    Commented May 23, 2021 at 13:14

If Jesus is at the right hand of God, it means He's the Christ. St. Stephen here is claiming that Jesus is indeed the Christ, in fulfillment of Psalm 110:5-6.

"The Lord is at Your right hand; He will crush kings in the day of His wrath. 6 He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead; He will crush the leaders far and wide."

Jesus was handed over to Pilate because he blasphemed by claiming to be the Christ (= the Son of God). Falsely claiming to be the Christ, especially when taking an oath before God, is blasphemy. This is the main charge that the Jews then present to Pilate - Jesus is claiming (falsely, of course - from their view) to be the Christ (i.e., Messiah), a King. This transforms the blasphemy into a political charge.

Acts 7:56-58 is a continuation and intensification of 51-53. Imagine being in a situation where someone goes from claiming something you consider highly inflammatory and blasphemous to apparently having a vivid vision of it.

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    – curiousdannii
    Commented May 23, 2021 at 21:41

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