First English edition of the Nuremberg chronicle: being the Liber chronicarum of Dr. Hartmann Schedel…

Stephen, the first martyr, and a native of Jerusalem, was the first of the seven deacons. He was elected to the office of deacon and servant of the Faith by the Apostles because of his piousness and virtue. He began to strengthen the Christian religion (as Luke writes) among the Jewish people by many signs and miracles. Although many Jews opposed him, they were unable to withstand his wisdom and spirit; for his face appeared unto them as that of an angel.[Acts 7:15.] After he triumphed over their errors they cast him out of the city and stoned him to death. To prevent hindrance in their work they laid their outer garments down at the feet of a young man whose name was Saul. While being stoned Stephen kneeled down and looked into heaven, and he saw Jesus, and zealously pleaded to him on behalf of those who were doing the stoning.[Acts 7:57-60.] And while this Stephen, a living image of virtue, was being crushed with stories, and the stones were whizing about his head, he remained steadfast and calm in the hope of setting an example of patience for the future. When his prayer was ended he fell asleep in peace. He was stoned in the month of August of the year in which Christ was crucified. His body was found by Saint Lucian, the priest, in the time of Honorius, the pope, in the Year of the Lord 407. At this same time (as Augustine states) six persons awoke from the dead, and seventy were cured of various maladies. The body was taken to Constantinople, and from there to Rome, where it was buried in a more diginified place.

With Stephen we enter upon the martyrologies. With very few exceptions nearly all of the material concerning these individuals is legendary.

Stephen, generally known as the first martyr, was one of the seven of honest reputation elected at the suggestion of the apostles to relieve them of certain labors. He was a forerunner of the apostle Paul and argued for the new faith. He was arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin. As he made his defense he awed his judges. He was calm and his proofs were: (1) God had not limited his favor to the Holy Land or to the Temple; (2) The Jews had always opposed to this free spirit of their God a narrow bigoted spirit. The manner in which Stephen’s quiet words were received caused him to break off abruptly into fiery reproach; but so direct was its appeal to the conscience of the people that they were excited to madness (Acts 7:54), and they fell upon Stephen like wild beasts, shouting and stopping their ears. After they had forced Stephen beyond the walls of the city they stoned him to death, Saul being present and conspicuous in this tumultuous transaction. The last breath of Stephen was spent in prayer for the forgiveness of his murderers. His death occurred about 37 CE.

Philip, the second deacon, after preaching in Samaria, came to Caesarea (Cesarea) and there became known for his virtues and miracles. He had three daughters who were filled with the spirit of prophecy and who were buried in his grave. He died in the time of Nero, and was esteemed a saint by many.[Philip, the evangelist, was one of the seven deacons of the primitive church at Jerusalem (Acts 6:3-5). He went down to Samaria and preached Christ. The people gave heed to those things that Philip spoke, hearing and seeing the miracles he did. "For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: And many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed." (Acts 8:5-8). At Samaria Philip received divine intimation to go to Gaza. He is next found at Azotus, 40 miles away, in Caesarea. He had four daughters, reputedly endowed with the gifts of prophecy (Acts 21:8-9).] Prochorus (Procorus), the third deacon, zealously multiplied the churches begun at Antioch by the Apostles; and there he received the martyr’s crown. Nicanor, the fourth deacon, flourished in grace of faith and virtue at Jerusalem to the time of Vespasian and was martyred there. Timon (Tymon), the fifth deacon, first officiated at Beroaz, and later proclaimed the word of the Lord at Corinth, where he was thrown into a fire that failed to consume him. He was finally crucified. Parmenas, the sixth deacon, fulfilled his office in the completeness of his faith, and was martyred in the time of Trajan. Nicholas, the seventh deacon, did not remain in the faith; but from him the heresy of the Nicolaitanes originated.[]

Paul, one of the most worthy apostles of Jesus Christ, was of the tribe of Benjamin, of the city of Giscalis. While a child he was taken prisoner by the Romans, and emigrated with his parents to the city of Tarsus[ Tarsus was the capital of Cilicia in Asia Minor. It lay in the center of a fertile plain twelve miles north from the Mediterranean and about the same distance south from the Taurus range. The city stood on both banks of the Cydnus, which has since changed its course. At the mouth of the river were docks, and the port of Tarsus was a place of much commerce. It suffered severely during the civil wars following the death of Caesar. Augustus made it a free city and it became famous as the seat of one of the three great universities of the pagan world, ranking next to Athens and Alexandria.] in Cilicia. There his father received Roman citizenship; for this was the Roman custom as they brought the whole world under their dominion: Those people who came to the Romans in peace acquired Roman citizenship, and the Romans called them brothers. Now, when the Romans with their forces marched into Cilicia, the father of Paul, together with other notable men of Tarsus, went forth in peace to meet them. And by that action he earned the official toga, so that he was accounted a Roman citizen. In consequence Paul was also a Roman citizen. But when the Christian faith began to grow throughout the land of Judea, Paul, while still a youth, carried letters from the Temple priests for the persecution of the Christians. But he had been present at the stoning of Stephen, where he had taken charge of the clothing of all those who stoned him; and Stephen had prayed for him and had raised him from the earth. And not long after that when Paul went to Damascus (as Luke states) he was touched by the Holy Spirit and impelled to the Christian faith and chosen as one of its vessels; and this all happened in the year in which Christ suffered. Soon afterwards Paul was called and the Gospel of Christ was revealed to him; and he was commended to the highly learned Gamaliel at Jerusalem.[Gamaliel, a distinguished Rabbi, was a prominent member of the Sanhedrin, and for thirty-two years its president. We come upon him in the earlier attempts made at Jerusalem, in 33 CE, to intercept the progress of the gospel. On one occasion, when the apostles aroused the feelings of the Sanhedrin to a high pitch and that body discussed measures for putting them to death, Gamaliel counseled more moderate and prudent action. His words on this occasion are among the most famous that the opponents of Christianity uttered in the early church: "And now I say to you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone; for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, you cannot overthrow it; unless by chance you are found even to fight against God" (Acts 5:38-39). Gamaliel was Paul’s teacher at Jerusalem.] After his conversion he, together with the Apostles, wandered through many cities. Returning to Jerusalem with Peter, John and James, he collected the Gospels of Christ. And he was pronounced an apostle to the pagans (Gentiles). He sailed to Spain in order to preach there; and he made many converts at Narbonne. He returned to Jerusalem a second time, and was sent to Rome as a prisoner. There he remained under free parole for two years, daily disputing with the Jews. After Nero released him he preached many sermons and wrote much.

Paul, "the Apostle of the Gentiles," was the first Christian missionary and theologian, and holds second place in Christianity (behind Jesus). Paul was born and bred a strict Jew. In course of time he came to distinguish clearly between Judaism and the gospel of Christ, and presented Christianity as the universal religion for man as man, not merely a sect of Judaism with proselytes of its own. This was the issue between Christianity and the Jewish Law, and Paul settled it for all time. With him it was Pharisaism or Jesus—law or love, as the ultimate revelation of God. As Saul the Pharisee, he had taken the Mosaic Law in the strict sense, as one demanding perfect obedience; and he had relied on it utterly for the righteousness it was held able to confer.

"Saul, who is also Paul," was reared amid the Diaspora, at Tarsus in Cilicia, the son of a Roman citizen named Paulus. His original Hebrew name was Saul, but in his intercourse with the Gentiles he later changed it for the Hellenistic or Latin form, ‘Paul.’ He had knowledge of the Greek language and literature. Indeed, Greek may hae been his first language, and he probably studied at a Greek (Cynic?) school. As a Jew, born in the city of Tarsus, and a Roman citizen, he combined three of the more prominent nationalities of the Roman Empire, and was eminently prepared for his apostolic mission among the Jews and Gentiles, Greeks and foreigners. He mastered Jewish law, and, according to the custom of the Rabbis, was taught a useful trade. His residence at Jerusalem commenced at an early period, and he was probably twenty when Christ entered upon his public ministry. In the beginning he was a strict Pharisee. He was present as a spectator and promoter of the stoning of Stephen, and his fanatical temperament fitted him to become a leader in the persecution of the Christians. He even sought authority to go to Damascus, to which many of the disciples fled after Stephen’s death, in order to bind and drag to Jerusalem such followers of Christ as he might discover. Just before reaching Damascus he was, according to the Bible, arrested by a miraculous light, intense enough to blind him (Acts 9:8-9), in which Jesus revealed himself as the real object of the persecution (Acts 26:15). From this point on Paul became a different man, having believed that he received from the lips of Jesus himself his commission as an apostle of the Gentiles (Acts 26:16). The miraculous restoration of his sight, his baptism, and the gift of the Holy Spirit followed in quick succession, and we soon find him zealously preaching the New Faith. To this he devoted the remainder of his life with energy and fanatic devotion.

Acts trace his career to the time of his first imprisonment at Rome, which lasted for two years, and left him free to labor for his new religion. After this we are left in the dark. Some say he suffered martyrdom in the persecutions of Nero in 64 CE; others, that he was freed from the first Roman imprisonment, made new missionary tours in the East, and possibly also in the West as far as Spain, was taken prisoner to Rome a second time, and suffered martyrdom in 67 or 68 CE.


We enter upon the martyrology:


The Stoning of Stephen is based on Acts 7:57-60. The first martyr is shown in priestly garb, his head encircled by a nimbus. Stephen has been dragged to a place outside the city walls, and his execution is in progress. He has fallen upon his knees in an attitude of prayer as the stones fly about him. Saul (Paul) clad in a flowing robe and wearing an oriental headdress, stands at the right, abetting the conduct of the mob by holding the outer garments and weapons of the participants, in order that they may be more free and effective in their deadly business. Only two of these, one of whom is ‘crying out with a loud voice,’ are comprehended in the woodcut. They are vigorous and vicious in their work, while their victim remains calm and resigned. At the left stands an old patriarch, staff in hand, looking on. Is he the high priest of the Sanhedrin before whom Stephen made his defense, or merely an idle bystander? The inscription over the woodcut reads: "The Stoning of Saint Stephen."


The Conversion of Saul (later called Paul), former persecutor of the Christians, is a woodcut of what happened on his punitive expedition to Damascus. A burst of blazing light strikes him from the heavens at the right. He and his steed are sinking to the ground as he tries to shield his eyes. "And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? And he said, Who are you, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom you persecute. . . And he, trembling and astonished, said, Lord, what should I do? And the Lord said to him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told to you what you must do. And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. And Saul arose from the earth. And when his eyes were opened he saw no man. But they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither did he eat nor drink. . . . And when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples who were at Damascus. And immediately he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God." (Acts 9:1-8 and 19-20). The inscription over the woodcut reads: "The Conversion and Life of the Apostle Paul."