A site of exceptional archaeological value was discovered in 2014 near RAMALLAH in Israel. This city located in the Palestinian enclave hosts political institutions, the residence of the President of the Palestinian Authority, ministries….
Dn this region of Palestine, history sometimes emerges from archaeological excavations. For if the men are silent, the stones will cry out, Jesus said. (Luke 19:40) In a time when Christian persecution has resumed as brutal a scale as at the time of the first martyrs of Christendom, this discovery stands as a symbol, on our civilization troubled by the bitter taste of the religious intolerance, which we believed from another age.
As part of an Israeli-Palestinian project carried by the University of Jerusalem al-Quds on the discovery and restoration of antiquities, a group of archaeologists, led by Professor AL HUDELIYYA discovered the remains of a site ecclesial, which includes a church from the Byzantine-Umayyad era as well as a Byzantine monastery. In KHARABA in the village of TAIAR 2km west of RAMALLAH, excavation work has led archaeologists to discover the burial place of the holy deacon Stephen, the first martyr of Christ.
The researchers are convinced that they have brought Stephen's tomb to light. An inscription indicates that this church was built in honor of the Holy Apostle and Archdeacon Stephen.
According to a statement by Prof. Al Hudeliyya, this finding is of great value to Christians around the world. “Inside one of these churches we discovered an inscription which indicates that this church was built in honor of the holy apostle and deacon Stephen the proto-martyr, who was buried there in the year 35 ”, says the historian.
A quarter of the village is owned by the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, which experts say will help transform the place for pilgrims.
Who is Etienne?
Stephen is described in the Bible, in chapters 6 and 7 of the book of Acts of the Apostles. A Jew of Greek culture, he became an ardent servant of the apostles in service. He is the witness of the action of the Holy Spirit on the disciples of Christ as well as in the early church. The apostles need help to concentrate on prayer and worship, but also on evangelism. They call on men and women to support them. Etienne is part of this team dedicated to service.
Inspired preacher, he breathes divine wisdom and asserts himself as a respected evangelizer of his own. He is at the origin of diakonia in the church, that is to say of the service of mercy as a complement to the gospel. Filled with the Holy Spirit, he diffuses faith in Christ. His verve and his wisdom find no resistance. None of his opponents has the upper hand in theological contests. Etienne will thus make enemies ready to defame in order to harm him and harm his teachings.
"So they pay people to say: We heard Stephen speak against Moses and against God" they say
The elders, the doctors of the law are excited against him to the point of having him arrested and taking him to court. Stephen accuses the elders of being like their fathers, deaf to the word of God, resistant before the law.
“You received the law of God through the angels, but you did not obey that law. "
These words will lead Etienne to death. Mad with rage, the people of the tribunal threw themselves on Etienne and stone him. His clothes are thrown at the feet of a young man, Saul.
Stephen prays under the blows and continues to fix his gaze on Christ:
"I see the sky open and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God"
He died as a witness of Christ under Saul's gaze, forgiving his executioners, in AD 35. “He falls to his knees and cries out with all his might:
« Lord, forgive them this sin! "After he said that he died"
From the death of Etienne, a wave of persecutions will fall on Christians. The Roman Saul will lead these persecutions. Saul will later become the apostle Paul, apostle of Jesus Christ whom he will meet on the road to Damascus.
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