Martyrdom of the Apostles

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Re: Martyrdom of the Apostles

Post by jimwalton » Mon Jun 25, 2018 1:13 pm

> Obviously he wasn't purporting to, but that is essentially what it was.

This calls for substantiation. If you can't provide evidence, it's nothing more than a biased opinion.

> The key difference being that the actual historians tell you who they are and what sources they are using.

Some do, some don't. The ancients weren't verbose about their sources, though they mention some. There certainly aren't footnotes as we have today. Luke mentions eyewitnesses and servants of the word as source material (Lk. 1.2); the "we" sections of Acts pose himself as an eyewitness and therefore his own source (Acts 20-21); in Acts 21.8 Luke stayed with Philip, a source for the story of Acts 8.26-40; in Acts 21.17-18 Luke has access to the church leaders in Jerusalem. We at least have some of his sources.

> except for the various parts where Acts contradicts other sources.

Well, these we need to discuss. I can't comment if I don't know to what you are referring.

> But in the end Acts doesn't even tell us that the apostles were martyred for their faith.

It's very possible they were still alive. The fact that Acts doesn't mention mention the Fall of Jerusalem (AD 70), Nero’s persecutions (mid-60s), the martyrdoms of James (61), Paul (64), and Peter (65), or the Jewish war against Rome from 66 on leads some to believe that Acts was written before AD 61, and that argument actually has some plausibility to it.

Re: Martyrdom of the Apostles

Post by J Lord » Thu Jun 14, 2018 1:31 pm

> The author of Acts was not purporting to write historical fiction.

Obviously he wasn't purporting to, but that is essentially what it was.

> Luke opens Acts with a preface resembling "scientific" prose, much like what we consider to the best of ancient Greco-Roman historians

The key difference being that the actual historians tell you who they are and what sources they are using.

> We cannot reasonably conclude if it's true or false until further information becomes available.

I agree with except for the various parts where Acts contradicts other sources. In those cases you could have some reason to prefer the other source as being more likely reliable.

But in the end Acts doesn't even tell us that the apostles were martyred for their faith. Even where persecution is described it does not describe a situation where recanting one's faith would have saved them or was even an option.

Re: Martyrdom of the Apostles

Post by jimwalton » Wed Jun 13, 2018 5:04 pm

Unsubstantiated is exactly that: unsubstantiated. We cannot reasonably conclude if it's true or false until further information becomes available. It's just as unfair to just assume it to be false as true. What we can do is process what we DO know, and that's where Acts comes our as a reliable historical account. Those things we can substantiate show it to be accurate.

> What you are pointing to are accurate facts relating to the setting of the story.

Oh, it's FAR more than that. There are hundreds of things I could have listed, but I stopped at a few. But you also must realize that historical fiction was a virtually unknown genre in the ancient world. The author of Acts was not purporting to write historical fiction. So few did that (the Iliad and the Odyssey, and something like the Aeneid are possibly the only examples) that we can consider it unpracticed. Historical fiction wasn't born until just a few centuries ago, so your Oliver Twist analogy is anachronistic. Nobody (except Homer) wrote like that. (The problem with seeing Acts like Homer is that Homer wrote in poetry, so Acts isn't like that either.) Those ancient works sometimes involved some genuine historical characters, but not the concentration of known individuals, exact locations, accurate customs, and even autobiography like in Acts. It's really not parallel with ancient historical fiction.

In addition, these few works of historical fiction contain obvious and deliberate historical "errors" showing that the author is not intending to write history. Acts doesn't do that either.

Acts also lacks the characteristic features of these works: romance, closure, encounters with bandits or pirates, and what have you. Acts isn't like them.

Acts, by contrast, seems to be in the genre of collected biography (Peter, Philip, Stephen, S/Paul) written as historiography. It was a common genre of the era (Cornelius, Nepos, Philo, Plutarch, Diogenes, and many others wrote and compiled multiple biographies in single volumes, often highlighting the parallels among them). Certainly the author was telling the story with an ideological and theological agenda, but that doesn't make it untrue.

Luke opens Acts with a preface resembling "scientific" prose, much like what we consider to the best of ancient Greco-Roman historians like Polybius, Herodotus, Thucydides, and Ephorus. His structure and contents are like the historiography of the era. His use of number, time, chronology, and dates are realistic and coherent, and at times can be corroborated. The way he integrates his source material, only rarely citing what that source is, resembles his contemporaneous historiographers as well. All of this speaks to the historical reliability of the book.

Re: Martyrdom of the Apostles

Post by J Lord » Wed Jun 13, 2018 5:04 pm

> The book is an incredibly accurate historical narrative, from everything we can tell.

No, most of the narrative remains unsubstantiated. Parts of it appear to be fictional or conflict with other Christian texts. What you are pointing to are accurate facts relating to the setting of the story. So this tells you that the author had some familiarity with the place where the story takes place. But that is what you would expect from historical fiction as well. You could probably go through Oliver Twist and find lots of historically accurate details about London in the 1830s. But that wouldn't tell you anything about the historical accuracy of the narrative. So whether the author somehow had access to historically accurate information or whether he was going by hearsay, legends, revelation, etc. Either way you would expect to find the same sorts of factual details regarding the setting as long as the author had a familiarity with the place.

Re: Martyrdom of the Apostles

Post by jimwalton » Wed Jun 13, 2018 3:19 pm

1. The preaching of the resurrection is what has motivated all the persecution in the book (3.2; 5.20, 28-32; 7.55-56; 8.1-5; 9.16, 27).

2. Herod Agrippa must have known that Herod Antipas was a participant in Jesus's crucifixion (as well as John the Baptist's execution). There was both family and political precedent for hostility to Jesus and what he stood for. Jesus's crucifixion was a catalyst for Herod and Pilate to become friends (Lk. 23.12), so it's a safe bet Herod Agrippa knew all about it. Agrippa was born in 11 BC, so would have been around 35 or so years old when Jesus was executed. Agrippa's father Aristobulus had a friendship with Rome, as did his grandfather. Agrippa had grown up in Rome but came to Judea in AD 23, then returned to Rome in 36, so he would have been in the region when Jesus was crucified, and plausibly knew about it. Acts 12.1 even refers to Herod Antipas's hostility to Christians. Bringing up this detail is an association with the death/resurrection narrative. Matthew 14.1-2 (and its parallels) tell us of a fear Antipas had of prospects of resurrection.

Look at the history and context. Luke introduces Herod at the very beginning of his Gospel (1.5, along with Augustus Caesar in 2.1), setting up a contrast of sorts between the kings of the Jews and of the world vs. the kingdom of God. Luke 3 brings in Augustus's son Tiberius and Herod's son Antipas into the narrative when it speaks of Jesus's ministry (kingdom) being launched. Herod Antipas's puzzlement in 9.7-9 again pertained to resurrection themes.

In 13.31 we find out that Herod Antipas wanted to kill Jesus (Agrippa would have been in the region at this time).

The point is that the resurrection is the foundation on which the entire narrative rests. Everything but everything pertains to the resurrection, and especially (1) the apostles' preaching and (2) the persecutions.

> They died for their faith, but not necessarily for the belief in the resurrection.

This statement betrays a fundamental lack of understanding. "The faith" is the resurrection; the resurrection is "the faith." Look back at the bullet list in my previous post. The two are inseparable.

Re: Martyrdom of the Apostles

Post by Choking » Wed Jun 13, 2018 2:33 pm

I think what you are missing is the specific reason why Herod killed James and wanted to kill Peter as well. What we can see from Acts is that Herod wanted to persecute the church. Now you are equating being persecuted with believing in the resurrection. That is not necessarily the case. For example, if I am a terrorist who hates people who believe that Noah's ark is a real historical event and kill people for this belief, I would persecute Christians and kill them. They died for their faith, but not necessarily for the belief in the resurrection. Your task is to show that Herod killed James specifically for believing in the resurrection.

Re: Martyrdom of the Apostles

Post by jimwalton » Wed Jun 13, 2018 2:30 pm

Oh, of course. The conversation reverts back to "these accounts are not trustworthy." It's only by an assessment of the material that a conclusion of historical reliability can be drawn. A critique of the specific details of Acts yields an enormous amount of historical data, so much so that credibility and reliability are not only possible but plausible.

    * Jesus's command not to start the world mission effort immediately seems counterintuitive and would not likely have been invented.
    * A Sabbath day's walk (1.12) is an accurate figure for the distance from the Mt. of Olives to Jerusalem.
    * Peter's decision to replace Judas would not likely have been invented on the basis of Ps. 69.25 and 109.8
    * Luke's depiction of individuals from all major parts of the empire rot exactly what was expected (Acts 2.5-12). The subsequent Christian celebration of Pentecost makes sense only if ecstatic phenomena were experienced by the disciples on that date.
    * The response of 3000 new adherents is easily credible given the size of the Temple mount. At least 150 ritual pools have been found in Jerusalem, making it easy to baptize that many people.
    * In Acts 3.1 Luke correctly identifies the afternoon time of Jewish prayer as 3 pm.
    * Beggars frequented the area outside the Temple precincts.
    * Solomon's colonnade is well known.

And on and on it goes for HUNDREDS of reliable references. The book is an incredibly accurate historical narrative, from everything we can tell. The burden of rebuttal is on you to substantiate where the book has been proved false.

Re: Martyrdom of the Apostles

Post by J Lord » Wed Jun 13, 2018 2:29 pm

You are using one part of the legend (acts) to prove another part (the resurrection). If you start from the premise that Acts is historically accurate, then of course you would think there is some evidence that some of the apostles were executed for being Christians. But what good reason is there to think that Acts is historically reliable? Why not just start from the premise that the gospels are historically reliable?

Re: Martyrdom of the Apostles

Post by jimwalton » Tue Jun 12, 2018 10:36 pm

> I'm saying there's no evidence to claim that he did.

I must be missing something. I gave you a list of evidences to give not only plausibility but rippin' good possibility that he did. What do you mean "there's no evidence"?

> Herod persecuted Christians, including James. Not all those Christians had witnessed the resurrection.

But your point was that the apostles had not been martyred for preaching about the resurrection.

"There is no evidence that the Apostles died for the belief that Jesus was resurrected."
"These sources do not say that the Apostles died for believing in the resurrection."
"My point is that the account in Acts does not indicate that James died for the belief in the resurrection."

Your whole case is not that those other Christians hadn't witnessed the resurrection (which is speculative at best), but that the apostles, James in particular, was not killed for his belief in the resurrection. And I have shown by the evidence that view is untrue. When his execution of James pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also, so the connection with the preaching of the resurrection is both sure and secure.

Re: Martyrdom of the Apostles

Post by Choking » Tue Jun 12, 2018 10:05 pm

> How can you possibly claim that this isn't about James's preaching of the resurrection?

I'm not claiming that, I'm saying there's no evidence to claim that he did. Herod persecuted Christians, including James. Not all those Christians had witnessed the resurrection.

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