According to the book of Acts, Stephanos was a student of Rabbi Gamliel, and was among the first leaders of the Judeo-Christian community in Jerusalem. His Christian teachings aroused enmity among the local Jewish population, and eventually he was accused of blasphemy, trialed by the Jewish Sanhedrin court, and was sentenced to death. His execution was done by stoning which took place “outside the city“.
“Godly Men” then came and buried him. The exact location of the burial is not given. He is known in the Roman Catholic church as Saint Stephen, and the source of the personal name Steven, Steve, Stephan, Ettienne, and more. Furthermore, being the first believer in Jesus to die because of faith, he is also titled at times as – Protomartyr.
Commemoration sites of Saint Stephen in the Holy Land
There are several places across Israel that relate to the Saint Stephen in Israel
Beit Jimal and Saint Ettienne Church
In 415 CE a priest named Lucian claimed he discovered the remains of the burial of St. Stephen at “Kafer Gamla”, (Today’s Beit Jimal), 35 km west of Jerusalem. The bishop of Jerusalem visited the site, and together with Lucian they uncovered three bone boxes in a burial cave. One, which was inscribed “Stephanos”, was identified as containing the remains of Saint Stephen.
Most of the bones were moved to Jerusalem and were eventually placed in a church erected by the Empress Eudocia north of the city. The church was destroyed during the Persian invasion in 614 CE, and was rediscovered only in 1882. In 1900 the Dominicans built a new church at the site, naming it Saint Etiénne Church, after Stephen.
The tomb in Kafr-Gamla was also rediscovered, in 1917, and a church was built over it. Some also argue for a commemoration church for Saint Stephen in the nearby site of Khirbet Jiljil.
Monastery of Saint Stephen
In 1967 the Greek-Orthodox church erected another church and monastery in memory of Stephen, near the old city of Jerusalem. By local tradition, the monastery is next to the site where Stephen was executed.