The Stoning of Stephen

Scripture Reference: Acts 6:8- 8:1a

Story Overview: Stephen (who was one of the first seven deacons) preached to the people about God. Some of the Jews got very angry because they did not want Jewish people to listen to Stephen and become Christians. The Jews got so angry at Stephen that they told lies about him and had him taken before the Jewish court (Sanhedrin). Peter preached a sermon telling about how God had always taken care of the Jewish people and loved them. God wanted the Jews to follow Jesus and become Christians. The Jews became so angry at Stephen that they threw stones at him until he died.

Suggested Emphasis: Even when everyone was mad at him and hurt him Stephen still stood up for God. We can stand up for God today.

Background Study
Way to Introduce the Story
The Story
Review Questions
Craft and Activity Ideas
Online Resources

Background Study:

SYNAGOGUE: A Jewish building, constructed for the purposes of teaching the scriptures to the Jewish people and as a place of worship.  During the later missionary journeys of Paul, you will see Paul’s pattern of preaching in a town’s local synagogue first in order to reach those already seeking God.

THE SYNAGOGUE OF THE FREEDMAN: No Synagogue has yet been uncovered by this specific name, however an inscription was discovered in Jerusalem dating to circa 70 A.D. and possible earlier, tells of a man called “Theodotos” a son of a “Vettenus.”  Vettenus is a Latin name which indicates the possibility that Vettenus was a former slave who took Vettenus as his name, thus making Theodotus the son of the Freedman.  The Theodotus Synagogue may well have been the Synagogue of the Freedmen mentioned in Acts.

Stephen was known to be a man of high repute.  He was one of the Seven appointed by the apostles in Acts 6:1-7 as a Deacon.  Acts 6:8 tells us that He was full of God’s grace and power and he performed miraculous signs.  Acts 6:10 indicates that Stephen was a dynamic speaker with wisdom.  Stephen was seized when his teaching had upset some members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen.  These members arranged for Stephen to be arrested.

The Sanhedrin was the Jewish Council which administered justice.  The word Sanhedrin comes from two words; “Sun” meaning “together: and “hedra” meaning “seat”.  This Council consisted of 71 members and Jewish tradition traces its establishment back to the 70 elders appointed by God in Number 11:16.  The Sanhedrin was made up of Pharisees and Sadducees, Elders, Scribes and priests.  The Sanhedrin was overseen by the High Priest.  The Sanhedrin had the power to carry out justice for all matters of Jewish law.  At this time historically the Sanhedrin had a great deal of independence and could judge all cases not involving capital punishment.  To put someone to death they required the approval of the Roman Procurator.  In most cases though, the Roman procurator bent to the demands of the Sanhedrin.  It is interesting to note that the Stoning of Stephen was most likely illegal, as there is no indication of the Sanhedrin seeking the confirmation of the Roman procurator.  By comparison the crucifixion of Christ went through all the “proper” routes of justice and was a legal (although unjust) crucifixion.

Stephen was a faithful follower of Christ whose only crime was obedience to the Lord.  Stephen’s courage to continue to preach even when facing death in an unjust trial remains an inspiration and encouragement to many Christians who are suffering for doing what is right.  When encouraging children to stand up for God and be obedient to Him, be sure to remind them that God is always with them, just as God was with Stephen when He stood up for Jesus.
Background Information submitted by Kayla Robinson-Thanks Kayla!

Way to Introduce the Story:
What would you do if someone came up to you and said, “Only stupid people believe in Jesus”? Would you be quiet or would you tell them that you believe in Jesus. What if they laughed at you? The book of Acts tells us about a man named Stephen who said he believed in Jesus even when people said they would hurt him if he did.
The Story:

Review Questions:

  1. What is a martyr? A person who chooses to die rather than give up his belief
  2. Who was the first Christian martyr? Stephen
  3. Why was Stephen killed? Because he taught people about Jesus
  4. How did Stephen die? He was stoned (rocks thrown at him until he died)

Craft and Activity ideas for the class (choose age appropriate ones):

  • Let children act out situations where they would have to stand up for God (school, playing a game, in bible class)
  • Arrange to have the “Leroy Takes a Stand” play performed for your class.
  • Have children act out this story.

Online Resources:


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