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In Acts 26:10 Paul says,

Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them.

I have heard that the Jews for awhile could execute people, but that this was taken away shortly after the death of Jesus. The verse in question is sometime after the death of Jesus. Can you explain this because it's one of those things people like to point to as a contradiction in the Bible; ergo the Bible isn't reliable.

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    Stephen was stoned to death, whilst Paul (then Saul) was present, Acts chapters 6 and 7. I don't see what point you are trying to make.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Nov 21, 2022 at 19:23
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    What contradiction do you see here?
    – Dottard
    Commented Nov 21, 2022 at 20:22
  • There were Roman soldiers watching the Temple area.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Nov 21, 2022 at 22:03
  • I don't see a contradiction here. At the time of Jesus, Jews were not allowed to execute people. It would appear, then, that the moratorium on this law must have begun after Jesus' death, and continued for a certain time. Stephen was stoned 3.5 years after Jesus' crucifixion--so that is well within the "shortly" you mention, at least in my opinion. It seems that "shortly" is subjective, and without more precision, the question would be tough to answer.
    – Biblasia
    Commented Nov 22, 2022 at 2:07

3 Answers 3

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By the time of Jesus' crucifixion the Jewish Sanhedrin had lost the power to perform capital punishment without Rome's approval.

This did not mean they could not execute criminals; it meant they had to work within the confines of the Roman legal system. This is demonstrated in Paul's trial before Felix in Acts 24, and addressed specifically in John 18:31

Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death:

Stephen was executed illegally by a mob, James the Lord's brother was illegally executed during a Roman interregnum. These circumstances gave hostile religious leaders the opportunity to break the law without being punished by Rome for doing so, but their actions were not legal.

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  • Looks like a perfectly good answer to me. What is the reason for the downvote? Commented Nov 22, 2022 at 8:24
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    You are absolutely correct to say that the mob who stoned Stephen to death did so illegally. +1 for the link on that subject.
    – Lesley
    Commented Nov 23, 2022 at 15:13
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The verse in question gives rise to two considerations - first, what it actually does say about those persecuted Christians and, second, what it does not say.

What it does say:

When in Jerusalem, Saul of Tarsus imprisoned many Christians, having been given that authority from the chief priests.

Saul of Tarsus gave his vote towards having those ones put to death.

What it does not say:

It does not say that Saul of Tarsus personally put them to death. (We know he held the garments of those who stoned Stephen to death - Acts 8:1, or should that be Acts 7:60?)

It does not say that the killing of those Christians was legal. If the Jewish religious leaders here acted illegally, they would have done it behind the Romans' backs, while they weren't looking, when they expected they could get off with that crime. That could be indicated in the case of the woman caught in the act of adultery - John 8:1-11 - especially with a woman. Who knows but that if the adulterous man had also been captured alongside her, they would have felt obliged to get Roman permission first?

Conclusion: This question about Acts 26:10 can only be answered by consideration of the actual information and sticking only to what we are told. There is not enough information in the verse to assume that the Jews were allowed to carry out the death penalty at that time, which was after the time of Christ on earth. Those who conclude that this verse is a contradiction, or error, in the Bible, have jumped to a conclusion that is simply not warranted.

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I don't think there is a clear cut answer. Jesus saved a women who was about to be executed by stoning for adulatory. Capital punishment by Jews, was very much a way of life in the time of Jesus. I know of no historical record limiting Jewish authorities from executing those who broke Jewish law.

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