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."
The rest of the way back to the Academy, Joseph was silent and pensive, walking slower than his friend, so that Saul, full of fury and energy, arrived and entered the building slightly before Joseph did, quickly disappearing down the corridor that led to the rooms.
As Joseph was opening the door to enter the Academy building, he saw his teacher, Gamaliel making his way to the door with some books in his hands. "Gamaliel!" he exclaimed, astonished. “I thought you were at the council meeting."
"No, I came back to get some books I would need to prepare for tomorrows lessons and I had a hard time locating one of them. What was all of that commotion in the streets just now?"
"Thankfully you missed it. It was a stoning."
"Oh? Whom did they stone?"
"It was a young man who was a Jesus follower. They said he was stirring up trouble and blaspheming."
"Oh, no! I told them the other week to leave those poor people alone."
"What do you mean? Do you favor the Jesus followers?"
“I don't know what to think of them, actually."
"Well, that's the way I feel about it, but Saul says the man deserved to be stoned."
Gamaliel sighed. "Oh, Saul is a zealot. Don't pay attention to him. What I told them the other week at the council when they brought in several of them for preaching was that if this movement is of men it will come to nothing anyway, but if it is of, God, we cannot overthrow it, lest we be found to fight against God."
Joseph marveled at the wisdom of this great teacher of the law. He sighed and said "You know this whole thing has me rather confused. I think I’ll take a sabbatical and try to think it out."
"What is it that has you so confused, my son?"
"This whole thing about Jesus. You know it is because of his followers that I’m able to attend here."
"No, I didn't know that. But why would they send you here. It doesn't make any sense."
"Saul asked me the same thing. I can't say for sure. But the man who killed my father is now a Jesus follower. He says following Jesus changed his life."
"Perhaps it did. But that doesn't mean it has to change yours. I don't see how you could become a Jesus follower and still be a doctor of the law."
"Well you are a doctor of the law and your position on the matter is non-committal. I could be like you."
"You could at that.
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