- The most notable of the Seven (Acts 6:5), and the Church's first martyr. Sometimes called a ‘deacon’ on the basis of Acts 6:1–2, though the noun is not used of him in the NT and any link with the later office in the Church of deacon is unlikely. When there was a dispute between ‘Hellenists’ (Jewish Christians from abroad who also spoke Greek) and the Hebrews (Palestinian Jewish Christians who spoke Aramaic) about fair shares in charitable gifts, the apostles appointed seven Hellenists to serve or organize (Greek, diakonein) the distribution, Stephen among them. However, so far from undertaking any subordinate job, Stephen instantly became a Christian propagandist—though the Twelve [[➝ Twelve, the]] had appointed the Seven precisely in order that they themselves should have more time for preaching. Stephen's active role brought him into conflict with the authorities; apparently he had claimed that Jesus as Messiah had rendered the Temple and its worship obsolete. He is credited with a speech accusing the Jews of constantly rejecting those whom God had sent to them, and the mob set upon him and lynched him. The author of Acts describes Stephen's death in terms recalling that of Jesus; he died, with words of forgiveness on his lips. The immediate result was the dispersion of disciples to evangelize elsewhere; this included Philip, the only other well-known member of the team of Seven.
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