The Academy which was closest was the one also known as "The school of Gamaliel," since Gamaliel was the head teacher. It was now several months since Joseph had first enrolled in the school. He found he enjoyed the lessons more than he thought he would at first. The study of the Torah was quite interesting. While there, he made friends with the other students, but there was one in particular with whom he formed a special bond. It was a young man by the name of Saul. Somehow Joseph and Saul hit it off from the start.
One day after classes had finished for the day and Gamaliel had left for the council meeting, they were studying in the Academy library, and he found himself talking to Saul.
"I’m really glad my father suggested that I come here to study." ventured Saul.
"What does your father do?" asked Joseph.
"He's a tent maker. He wanted me to do better. What about your father?"
Joseph sighed. "My father was a shopkeeper. But someone killed him in a robbery attempt."
"Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that."
"Anyway, I’m really glad I took my father's suggestion and decided to come here. Of course I couldn't have done it if I didn't have the help of those Jesus followers."
"Jesus followers? Why would they help you to come here?"
“I think the one man felt guilty. You see, one of them is the one who killed my father."
"What? A Jesus follower killed your father?"
"Well he says it was before he became a Jesus follower. But who knows."
"Yes, "sighed Saul. “I really don't trust those Jesus followers at all."
Just then a noise was heard outside the building. It sounded like the uproar of an angry crowd. “I wonder what that is."
"Yeah, let's go see, shall we?"
A crowd of angry people were running at and pushing a young man. They pushed him till he fell down a small incline. Joseph and Saul were curious as to what was going on. "What's happening?" asked Joseph.
"This fellow is one of those Jesus followers," shouted one man above the din. "And he has the gull to denounce us--called us stiff necked, uncircumcised at heart, slayers of the prophets and such like."
"He claimed to see this Jesus at the right hand of God." another said.
"What blasphemy!" shouted another.
"Why don't we just stone him and get it over with?" yelled another.
"Great idea" said another man, who took off his coat and handed it to Saul. "Here, young man, hold my coat, will y'! Let me at him."
"Me too" said another, taking off his coat and handing it to Saul.
Soon several more joined in and Saul had more coats then he could handle, so he gave a few to Joseph, who looked stunned over the whole incident.
One man after another hurled heavy stones at Stephen, who just lay there peacefully and died.
As they walked back to the school, they were silent. After a few minutes, Saul spoke up: "Well, that'll teach 'em not t' go spreading their false beliefs around."
Joseph sighed. "But he wasn't hurting anyone. Did they have to do that?"
"What's th' matter with you? Are you going soft? All heretics like him deserve his fate."
"B-but can you really be sure he's a heretic? Can you really be sure he's not telling the truth?"
"What?--about their dead rabbi, Jesus raising from the dead? Be serious!"
"Well, doesn't the Torah say that all things are possible? And didn't God promise to send the Messiah?"
"Oh, so now you believe this Jesus was the Messiah?"
“I don't know what I believe. I just think it's possible and that that poor fellow didn't deserve what those men did to him."
"Oh, since when did you become such a free thinker?"
"Probably since the man who killed my father, came to our house and apologized and said he had become a follower of this Jesus afterward and was a changed man, and offered to do anything he could to help us. And he did. It's because of him and the believers that I’m able to afford to come here and study the law."
"Well, if that isn't quite a turn of events. So what are you going to do? Are you going to join with those Jesus followers?"
“I don't know what I’m going to do. I think I’ll take a Sabbatical and go home and think about the whole situation."
"You do that. And think about the penalties in the law for false teachers while you're at it."
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