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Acts 7:58

When they had driven him (Stephen) out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul (who later became Saint Paul)

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    The sheer physical energy required to stone a person to death would be hot work, at any time of the year. It would be customary for all the men doing the stoning to throw off their cloaks, and a young person charged with looking after them till the job was done.
    – Anne
    Aug 21, 2023 at 13:55
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    . . . . . and Luke points out that, by looking after the garments, Saul was 'consenting' to the death. Acts 8:1.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 21, 2023 at 14:21

3 Answers 3

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As per Leviticus 24:14-16, the punishment for blasphemy against the Name of the Lord was death by stoning. The entire assembly was the judging authority while those who witnessed the accused blaspheme were required to lay their hands on his head. That would be followed by the stoning of the person by the assembly. Coming to the trial of Jesus, we see him being taken to the Sanhedrin with accusations of blasphemy. In Matt 26:65, we have the High Priest tearing his garment after Jesus says that he would be seen sitting at the right hand of the Father. The High Priest is thus witnessing that Jesus is guilty of blasphemy, but does not hand him over to the Jews to be stoned to death in accordance with Leviticus 24.

It is not clear when the Jews developed the practice of tearing one's garments as a sign of testimony to someone else having blasphemed. Perhaps, it served the purpose of recusing oneself from pelting stones at the accused. The act may also have automatically disqualified one from active participation in the group stoning, following the common principle that the witness and the accuser/executioner should not be the same person.

Now, in the case of Stephen, he was judged by a group for blasphemy and the execution was summary. The wearing of the outer garment during the hectic activity of stoning the accused ran the risk of its getting torn. And, tearing of the garment would automatically make one a witness, and disqualify one from actually executing the punishment (We do not see the witnesses laying their hands on Stephen's head, as was required under the law!). Putting things together, we can safely conclude that the Jews who would stone Stephen to death for blasphemy, kept their outer garments in Saul's custody so that they would not get torn, disqualifying them from pelting stones during the execution.

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    Is it possible that Acts 8:1, where Saul is consenting to the death, indicates some sort of judiciary oversight on Saul's part? We do, after all, see him ravaging the church hereafter. Aug 25, 2023 at 14:48
  • Mike Borden, I think the intent of the question is to know why all the people took out their cloaks and kept it in one place, before proceeding to stone Stephen . They could have pelted stone with the cloak on. Aug 26, 2023 at 10:12
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I think Saul was the accuser of Stephen. They both (Saul and Stephen were members of the same synagogue) had knowledge of each other. I believe Saul was jealous of the fact that none could dispute Stephen's proclamation that Jesus was the Christ. Jewish tradition at that time, in the case of execution, dictated that the accuser and executioner could not be one and the same. This is most likely the reason for the "coats" being laid at the feet of Saul.This laying of the "coats" at Saul's feet maintained this ordinance adhered to. Although Saul probably didn't actively stone Stephen (Stephen's blood) his death remained on Saul's hand. Saul was very zealous for the traditions of his ancestral Judaism beliefs. Paul (Saul) states in the New Testament how vigorously he prosecuted the the Church of Christ. This may be the very thorn that Paul talks about, his conscious. To forgive is to forget, through Jesus Christ our sins are washed cleaned, but human nature remembers the sins forgiven. As Paul dealt with his thorn, though we remember our sins, rejoice in the remembrance of our forgiveness, don't forget those sins, but stride to move above them,"Be you perfect as your Father in Heaven is". Love conquers all, Love God your Father first, your Neighbor second, for all of The Father's Commandments hinge on this. Love yourself, know that your Father in Heaven thought YOU special enough to suffer the injustices of this world, to die for your sins while being innocent. We can all identify with Paul, without doubt Paul realized the awesomeness of what Jesus Christ did, Jesus Christ paid our debt for sin, our sins meant eternal death, yet now we are all pardoned through our Father's sacrifice. I'm the last one you should listen to, I find myself so discouraged with my fellow brethren, call me a hypocrite, for I find it harder and harder to love my neighbor. "Don't allow yourselves to be hardened by the world"...I write that with a sigh. Thank you to those who actually live the life of disciples, those who help our fellow neighbors, those who care so much that it moves them to action. Christ be with you, your light shines the way. Paul (Saul) also was blind and then he saw. What is it that changes one such as Saul?

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On the words (below): "This may be the very thorn that Paul talks about, his conscious. To forgive is to forget, through Jesus Christ our sins are washed cleaned, but human nature remembers the sins forgiven. As Paul dealt with his thorn, though we remember our sins, rejoice in the remembrance of our forgiveness, don't forget those sins, but stride to move above them..."

I reply: 1) by "conscious" I take it that he means 'conscience'-- and, 2) I disagree, for Paul did not judge his own self, because God in Christ was his Judge, now (Rom 8:1) and on the Day of judgment (1 Cor 4:3,4).

See also The Grace of Christ, Third Edition, (Wipf and Stock), Chapter 7 (on Romans 4).

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    As it’s currently written, your answer is unclear. Please edit to add additional details that will help others understand how this addresses the question asked. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Mar 10 at 2:53
  • @Eric Roessing - The asker wanted to know the why behind Paul's action, so it is best to address that aspect of curiosity. Your answer may be true, but it deviates from the original intent. Keep studying the Bible; it will draw you closer to Jesus! Peace.
    – ray grant
    Mar 11 at 21:38

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