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Acts 6:13

ESV and they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law,
NIV They produced false witnesses, who testified, 'This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law.
NASB They put forward false witnesses who said, 'This man does not stop speaking against this holy place and the Law;
CSB They also presented false witnesses who said, "This man never stops speaking against this holy place and the law.
NLT The lying witnesses said, 'This man is always speaking against the holy Temple and against the law of Moses.
KJV And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law:

What does Acts 6:13 mean?

The council will see Stephen, and Stephen will make his defense (Acts 6:8–12; 7:1–53). We're not told exactly how—or if— Stephen is speaking against the temple. In Stephen's explanation before the Sanhedrin, he will use Jewish history to show the temple cannot and never could contain the worship of God (Acts 7:48).

The patriarchs followed God without a building. For generations, the Israelites worshiped God in a tent. The Jews didn't build a fixed temple until the reign of Solomon, and even then, Solomon admitted it wasn't enough. In his prayer of dedication he said "But will God indeed dwell with man on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less this house that I have built!" (2 Chronicles 6:18).

Even more odd is the charge that Stephen is speaking against the Mosaic law. Jesus certainly condemned the extra regulations the Pharisees added to the Law, but He held the utmost respect for the Law and for Moses (Matthew 5:18; 8:4; Mark 7:10; 10:3). As Stephen points out in his defense, his accusers are spiritual descendants of the Jews who couldn't follow the Law and who killed the prophets God sent to enforce it (Acts 7:51–53). Their charge is the highest hypocrisy.

Soon after this, the mob will stone Stephen (Acts 7:54–60). Many question why Stephen is killed with impunity, while the Sanhedrin had to go through legal gymnastics to convince Pilate to kill Jesus (John 18:31). The main reason is that Jesus was popular, and the religious leaders didn't want to be responsible for a riot (Mark 14:1–2). Also, because Jesus and His conflict with Israel's priests was so public, a mob-induced death would immediately have been blamed on those leaders, anyway.

Stephen is relatively unknown, the false witnesses are more coordinated, and he doesn't have the widespread infamy that Jesus did prior to His death. So, Stephen's conviction and execution will go through unchallenged (Acts 7:54–59).

Some scholars suggest Roman law did not allow the Jews to execute someone—unless the accused threatened a religious structure. That was an automatic capital offense anywhere in the Empire. The Sanhedrin was unable to convincingly accuse Jesus of such a charge (Mark 14:55–59), but they have an easier time fabricating witnesses against Stephen.
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