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Why did they lay their coats at Saul's feet?

The witnesses, laying their coats at the feet of Saul, were the men that would cast the first stones at Stephen in Acts 7. Why did they all lay their coats at Saul’s feet? The Talmud contains a very interesting account of the act of stoning that may provide the answer.

“When the trial was over, they take him [the condemned person] out to be stoned. The place of stoning was at a distance from the court, as it is said, ‘Take out the one who has cursed.’[i] A man stands at the entrance of the court; in his hand is a signaling flag [Hebrew sudarin = sudar, ‘scarf, sweater’]. A horseman was stationed far away but within sight of him. If one [of the judges] says, ‘I have something [more] to say in his favor,’ he [the signaler] waves the sudarin, and the horseman runs and stops them [from stoning him]. Even if [the condemned person] himself says, ‘I have something to say in my favor,’ they bring him back, even four of five times, only provided that there is some substance to what he is saying.”[ii]

The Jewish New Testament Commentary by David H. Stern has an interesting comment about the above quote from the Talmud.

“. . .Joseph Shulam thinks sudar in later Hebrew can also mean ‘coat.’ Thus, he conjectures, the Greek translator of Acts from a presumed original Hebrew text didn’t understand the Jewish context and therefore wrote of laying coats at Sha’ul’s feet, whereas actually Shu’ul was a member of the Sanhedrin, specifically, the one who held the sudar.”[iii]


  1. Thanks for the background, Jim.
    It appears to me that it would be useful to the readers for you to summarize your conclusions at the end of the article. You appear to be ready to state that Shu'ul was making the claim that he was a member of the Sanhedrin. Is that correct? If so, are there any other corroborating witnesses to that claim? Are there any documents that confirm or deny that he could possibly hold such a position? That would be useful.
    Thanks for continuing to bring interesting pieces of information to puzzle my brain.

  2. Thanks for the comment Phil. As far as I am aware of no such documents exist. One of the reasons for presenting Saul in the role of a member of the Sanhedrin may have been to elevate his status in the Jesus Movement by the author of Acts. The book is clearly much more about Paul than "the apostles." It would also provide a link to explain why the Temple authorities would have selected him to pursue, arrest, and return members of "the Way" to Jerusalem to be tried.

    As far as my conclusions go, I am just gathering information at this point and have a long ways to go before I will try to put all the pieces together. But, I am a whole lot closer than I was before. Thanks for the comments.

  3. This really does help us see that Paul was high in status; as Paul called himself the Pharisees of Pharisees. Very insightful.


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