Acts 8:1-3 Saul Persecutes the Church

A short passage and so in three versions:

And Saul approved of their killing him. That day a severe persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria. Devout men buried Stephen and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church by entering house after house; dragging off both men and women, he committed them to prison.

Acts 8:1-3 (NRSV)

That set off a terrific persecution of the church in Jerusalem. The believers were all scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. All, that is, but the apostles. Good and brave men buried Stephen, giving him a solemn funeral—not many dry eyes that day!

And Saul just went wild, devastating the church, entering house after house after house, dragging men and women off to jail.

Acts 8:1-3 (The Message)

AND SAUL was [not only] consenting to [Stephen’s] death [he was pleased and entirely approving]. On that day a great and severe persecution broke out against the church which was in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles (special messengers).

[A party of] devout men with others helped to carry out and bury Stephen and made great lamentation over him.

But Saul shamefully treated and laid waste the church continuously [with cruelty and violence]; and entering house after house, he dragged out men and women and committed them to prison.

Acts 8:1-3 (Amplified Bible)

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7 responses

  1. It seems to me this short passage wants to make at least three points: 1) Paul’s pre-Christian history as Saul the persecuter of the church; 2) the faithfulness and devotion of those who do not flee under the persecution; and 3) the great love for Stephen that was present.Stephen is given very little space in Acts and appears nowhere else but Acts. Yet what we see of him, makes him out to be a kind of Christ figure (his last prayer) and this passage documents the great sorrow at his passing. It speaks to me of the millions of invisible faithful who never make it into the history books yet shaped who we are today by simply living their lives as faithfully as possible.

  2. Good comment, David. I was about to suggest longer portions, but I see you’ve made a lot out of this short one. Many faithful Bible students believe that there is a message is every verse of the Bible. I agree about Stephen: the first martyr (after Jesus) and archetype for the millions who came after. These verses introduce Paul, called Saul here, an example of the most abrupt about face one can imagine (which is just about to happen).Thereafter the great preponderance of Acts will concern his missionary wanderings. He called himself an apostle thereby changing the meaning of the word. Henceforth it has come to mean those who “establish the church”. Any of us may qualify.

  3. I guess this passage and the ones to come, are an example of Christian forgiveness. Saul was so zealously anti-christian, responcible for the imprisonment and death of who knows how many, yet he ends up being one of the most powerful leaders. How could the other apostles 1) trust his conversion, 2) accept him after what he’d done, 3) allow him to take a leadership role? I would have been tempted to push him out an aurlick.

  4. Crystal wrote: “how could the other disciples….?”Well you can just bet they responded like you might have; they wanted nothing to do with him, BUT he outperformed the lot of them as an apostle, which is to say he established the church all over the Roman Empire, while they were (relatively speaking) gazing at their navels in Jerusalem.This is not entirely true, but there is much truth in it. In all likelihood without Paul there would be no church; possibly a particular sect of Jews, no more.

  5. In all likelihood without Paul there would be no church; possibly a particular sect of Jews, no more.I wonder what that would look like? But then — what was and is I suppose is by the grace of God and so is for the best. But I cannot help but wonder if we would be more Christ-like if we were more like those ragamuffins form that particular sect of Jews.

  6. I feel sure ‘we’ would be more Christ-like if the “Church Fathers” had not played ball with Constantine and his successors.

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