Today is the feast day of St. Stephen, often called the first Christian martyr. Stephen was called a deacon in the church of Jerusalem, and we read about his in the Acts of the Apostles. He was accused of blasphemy by the Jewish authorities, and was condemned to death, and was stoned. His martyrdom was witness by the Pharisee Saul of Tarsus, the man who would later become Paul the Apostle.
The name Stephen is a Greek name, and Stephen was a Jew who spoke Greek. He converted to Christianity and was opposed to the sacrificial cult at the Temple in Jerusalem. For him, the building of the Temple was akin to idolatry, and in this he felt much more strongly about the Temple than did his fellow early Christians. At his trial, he said, ““However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands.” (Acts 7:48)
The stoning of Stephen (Acts 7: 54-60):
When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.