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Did The Apostles Really Die For Their Faith?


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One of the arguments Christian apologists love to use to prove the resurrection of Jesus is real is the argument that nobody would die for a lie so obviously the apostles must have been telling the truth since they were martyred for their faith. But is it even true that the apostles were martyred? The only evidence we have for the martyrdom of the apostles that I'm aware of is church tradition which isn't exactly the world's most reliable source and some of the martyrdom stories just sound too fantastical to me, like that bizarre story of Peter being crucified upside down. Even the bible is silent about the apostles' fate and never tells us if any of Jesus' apostles died for the faith. So what evidence is there the apostles were martyred?

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Nothing. I think Clement(?) mentions Peter and Paul both died and that's the earliest.

 

mwc

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Nothing. I think Clement(?) mentions Peter and Paul both died and that's the earliest.

 

mwc

Except for what's in Acts. I think there's a stoning in there, but considering the source and many other errors in Acts, it's not very reliable evidence.

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I've also heard it stated that even if Rome put some of them to death, it wasn't for not renouncing their faith, but for being considered rabblerousers. This link has a fairly balanced report of the traditions and what is actually known: Link

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Aside from the lack of credible evidence that the apostles did die specifically because they refused to recant their belief that they saw Jesus resurrected, there are other problems.

 

First, it's invalid to claim that people don't die for a lie, especially if they believe the lie to be true. Think of David Koresh and his Waco bunch or Jim Jones and his followers in Jonestown. Think of the Heaven's Gate members who killed themselves thinking they were going to be transported to a UFO. If some of the apostles truly died for their faith, it could be because they believed the lie that Jesus was god. It's definitely not clear that they died specifically for believing that they had seen Jesus resurrected. I'd like to see any credible evidence that backs up those claims.

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Except for what's in Acts. I think there's a stoning in there, but considering the source and many other errors in Acts, it's not very reliable evidence.

That was the stoning of Stephen but he wasn't one of the original apostles who witnessed the resurrection on the third day.
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Lot's of people die for their faith. Witness Muslims blowing themselves up for Allah. Japanese kamikazi crashing planes into ships for their Emperor-god and becoming war-gods themselves. This is usually the approach I take to disprove this argument

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That was the stoning of Stephen but he wasn't one of the original apostles who witnessed the resurrection on the third day.

No one witnessed any resurrection on any day.

 

But from this statement I'm assuming you're conflating the "twelve" with "apostles" as most people do. The word "apostle" has a specific usage. If you look in G.Mark you can see that it's used only when the disciples are sent out and then, when they return, they lose the designation. This is how the word is used. It wasn't a title bestowed upon someone like "lord" or something. This is why Paul mentions, or hints at, many apostles. There were any number of people sent out on these missions. And this is why the "twelve" is a separate group. They might overlap, in that the twelve could also be apostles, but the word apostles was not reserved strictly for the twelve.

 

So you're asking about the death of the twelve.

 

Matthew 27

3 Then Judas, who was false to him, seeing that he was to be put to death, in his regret took back the thirty bits of silver to the chief priests and those in authority, 4 Saying, I have done wrong in giving into your hands an upright man. But they said, What is that to us? it is your business. 5 And he put down the silver in the Temple and went out, and put himself to death by hanging. 6 And the chief priests took the silver and said, It is not right to put it in the Temple store for it is the price of blood. 7 And they made a decision to get with the silver the potter's field, as a place for the dead of other countries. 8 For this cause that field was named, The field of blood, to this day. 9 Then came true that which was said by Jeremiah the prophet, And they took the thirty bits of silver, the price of him who was valued by the children of Israel; 10 And they gave them for the potter's field, as I had word from the Lord.

 

Acts 1

16 My brothers, the word of God had to be put into effect, which the Holy Spirit had said before, by the mouth of David, about Judas, who was guide to those who took Jesus, 17 For he was numbered among us, and had his part in our work. 18 (Now this man, with the reward of his evil-doing, got for himself a field, and falling head first, came to a sudden and violent end there. 19 And this came to the knowledge of all those who were living in Jerusalem, so that the field was named in their language, Akel-dama, or, The field of blood.) 20 For in the book of Psalms it says, Let his house be waste, and let no man be living in it: and, Let his position be taken by another.

 

Fragments of Papias:

Judas walked about in this world a sad example of impiety; for his body having swollen to such an extent that he could not pass where a chariot could pass easily, he was crushed by the chariot, so that his bowels gushed out.

 

Ignatius to the Tarsians (Ignatius is considered spurious):

And why such facts as the following: Peter was crucified; Paul and James were slain with the sword; John was banished to Patmos; Stephen was stoned to death by the Jews who killed the Lord? But, [in truth,] none of these sufferings were in vain; for the Lord was really crucified by the ungodly.

 

Clement to the Corinthians:

But not to dwell upon ancient examples, let us come to the most recent spiritual heroes. [25] Let us take the noble examples furnished in our own generation. Through envy and jealousy, the greatest and most righteous pillars [of the Church] have been persecuted and put to death. [26] Let us set before our eyes the illustrious [27] apostles. Peter, through unrighteous envy, endured not one or two, but numerous labours and when he had at length suffered martyrdom, departed to the place of glory due to him. Owing to envy, Paul also obtained the reward of patient endurance, after being seven times thrown into captivity, [28] compelled [29] to flee, and stoned. After preaching both in the east and west, he gained the illustrious reputation due to his faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world, and come to the extreme limit of the west, [30] and suffered martyrdom under the prefects. [31] Thus was he removed from the world, and went into the holy place, having proved himself a striking example of patience.

 

These are the earliest stories related to the deaths of any of these people that I could find. It's easier to find their deaths as time goes by since xians start to get martyred in real life. During the time of Domitian, for example, the persecution wasn't at the point where they needed a great many martyrs to model themselves upon. Once they become a truly independent cult and persecution becomes greater this is more important and it's reflected in all the texts.

 

mwc

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