Faith on Trial

May 29, 2022 • John Parke • Series: To Be Continued…

Courtrooms seem like the perfect setting for great drama: Witnesses recount crimes under oath, lawyers display evidence, and judges and juries ultimately decide fates. Countless films and TV shows have used the courtroom to capitalize on the climactic moments and sensational elements of the justice system. If the accused takes the stand, they use the time to testify to their innocence of the crime. They typically do not speak for long. They try to avoid giving the prosecuting attorney a reason to cross examine them. In our study today, we enter a Jewish courtroom set in the early days of the church. The ancient Jewish court system was called the Sanhedrin. The Great Sanhedrin was the supreme religious body in the Land of Israel during the time of the Holy Temple. They dealt with religious and ritualistic Temple matters. Unlike our favorite television court scenes, there were no defense attorneys. The accused provided their own defense. Stephen stands before the Sanhedrin to defend the charge of blasphemy. He proceeds to deliver the longest speech recorded in scripture. He uses the speech to plead with the Council that they are the guilty ones. While defending the charge of blasphemy, his recall of Old Testament history becomes more of a prosecution against the Sanhedrin than a defense of the false charges against him.

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