Among the Jews of Judea were some called Hellenists, who had links with Jewish communities in the eastern Mediterranean provinces outside the Holy Land, who normally spoke Greek and attended synagogues where the service was conducted in Greek. A number of Hellenists joined the new movement. They kept less to Jewish traditions: some, indeed, thought that the temple, with its priesthood and sacrifices, had outlived whatever usefulness it formerly had.

The Journeys of the Apostles
Image source: © Carta, Jerusalem

They could claim that several of the great prophets of Israel and, in some degree, Jesus himself had shared this view. One Hellenistic leader, Stephen, stated these ideas publicly and found himself in court on a charge of blasphemy.

Blasphemy was a capital offence, and Stephen was found guilty and executed by stoning. All who had worked with him—mainly, but not only, Hellenists like himself—now came under attack from the authorities, with popular approval.