In The Trial of Stephen Alan Watson studies the first Christian martyr, who was stoned to death by a mob outside of Jerusalem around A.D. 36 during his trial by the supreme rabbinic court for blasphemy against the Jewish faith. Watson focuses on Stephen’s enthralling defense speech, as found solely in the Acts of Apostles, which is both the pivotal and, until now, least understood part of the fatal proceedings. Watson locates the speech in the well-known genre of criminal trial defenses, which shows that the conduct of the accused was either justified or needs no justification and that the prosecutors themselves are the real wrongdoers. Noting Stephen’s departure from mainstream early Christian thought and the enmity he brought down upon all Christians, Watson suggests that Stephen was perhaps not only Christianity’s first martyr, but also its first heretic.
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