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Martyrdom of the Apostles

Postby Choking » Sun Jun 10, 2018 3:19 pm

As part of his "minimal facts" argument, Gary Habermas makes the following point:

1) that Jesus died by crucifixion; 2) that very soon afterwards, his followers had real experiences that they thought were actual appearances of the risen Jesus; 3) that their lives were transformed as a result, even to the point of being willing to die specifically for their faith in the resurrection message; 4) that these things were taught very early, soon after the crucifixion; 5) that James, Jesus’ unbelieving brother, became a Christian due to his own experience that he thought was the resurrected Christ; and 6) that the Christian persecutor Paul (formerly Saul of Tarsus) also became a believer after a similar experience.
Fact 3 is implying that the apostles so sincerely believed in the Resurrection that they were willing to die for it, and many of them did in fact die (were martyred) for this belief. No one would willingly die for something they know to be false, thus if the apostles were truly willing to die for believing in the Resurrection, then the Resurrection is likely to be a true event.

A similar claim was made by William Lane Craig:

Nevertheless, the original disciples suddenly came to believe so strongly that God had raised Jesus from the dead that they were willing to die for the truth of that belief.
The apologists' claim that the Apostles were willing to die specifically for the belief that Jesus was resurrected, and that some of them did indeed die for that belief. I will argue that this claim is not substantiated by the available evidence.

Apostles here is defined as the 12 followers of Jesus

1.Simon/Peter 2.Andrew (Simon/Peters brother) 3.James son of Zebedee 4.John son of Zebedee 5.Philip 6.Bartholomew/Nathanael 7.Thomas (Didymus) 8.Matthew 9.James son of Alphaeus 10.Thaddaeus/Judas son of James 11.Simon the Canaanite/the Zealot 12.Judas Iscariot

In response to the claim by William Lane Craig, Bart Ehrman gives the following statement:

Most of the available sources for the martyrdom of the Apostles do not mention why they died. Those sources that do mention the reasons why they died do not mention that the Apostles died for believing in the resurrection. For example, in the Acts of Peter,

Peter is crucified because Agrippa and Albinus are angry at Peter for causing their wives/concubines to become chaste.

And a certain woman which was exceeding beautiful, the wife of Albinus, Caesar's friend, by name Xanthippe, came, she also, unto Peter, with the rest of the matrons, and withdrew herself, she also, from Albinus. He therefore being mad, and loving Xanthippe, and marvelling that she would not sleep even upon the same bed with him, raged like a wild beast and would have dispatched Peter; for he knew that he was the cause of her separating from his bed. Many other women also, loving the word of chastity, separated themselves from their husbands, because they desired them to worship God in sobriety and cleanness. And whereas there was great trouble in Rome, Albinus made known his state unto Agrippa, saying to him: Either do thou avenge me of Peter that hath withdrawn my wife, or I will avenge myself. And Agrippa said: I have suffered the same at his hand, for he hath withdrawn my concubines. And Albinus said unto him: Why then tarriest thou, Agrippa? let us find him and put him to death for a dealer in curious arts, that we may have our wives again, and avenge them also which are not able to put him to death, whose wives also he hath parted from them.

In the Acts of Thomas, Thomas is speared to death for practicing sorcery.

And Misdaeus saith unto him: I have not made haste to destroy thee, but have had long patience with thee: but thou hast added unto thine evil deeds, and thy sorceries are dispersed abroad and heard of throughout all the country: but this I do that thy sorceries may depart with thee, and our land be cleansed from them. Thomas saith unto him; These sorceries depart with me when I set forth hence, and know thou this that I shall never forsake them that are here.

There is no evidence that the Apostles died for the belief that Jesus was resurrected.
Choking
 

Re: Martyrdom of the Apostles

Postby jimwalton » Sun Jun 10, 2018 3:20 pm

James was killed by Herod Agrippa (Acts 12.2). The implication is that his death related to his faith, because the text says he arrested some who belonged to the church. Herod then proceeds to arrest Peter. The logical connection between the two arrests is their Christian faith. James's death is also mentioned by Clement of Rome.

Peter's martyrdom is reported by Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Dionysius of Corinth, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Eusebius, and more.

Andrew is thought (supposedly by the Acts of Andrew, a document that is no longer extant, but is referred to in the 3rd c. and in the 6th c.) to have been martyred by crucifixion at the city of Patras in Achaea, on the northern coast of the Peloponnese. We have no earlier information about his death.

We just have traditions about Philip. Stories of his death come from "The Acts of Philip," a 4th c. work. According to one tradition, he was crucified upside-down; in another he was martyred by beheading.

Bartholomew (Nathanael): One tradition says he was flayed alive and crucified upside-down, while another says he was beheaded. These accounts are sparse and their reliability is unknown.

Thomas: The earliest record of his death comes from Ephram the Syrian in the 4th c. According to tradition, he was killed in AD 72 in India.

Matthew (Levi): As far as I know, nothing is known of his death.

James, the son of Alphaeus: Very late tradition says he was crucified in Egypt.

Thaddeus (Judas, not Iscariot): Late tradition says he was martyred in Lebanon (Roman Syria).

Judas: suicided.

Simon the Zealot: Traditions vary from dying peacefully to being martyred by being sawn in two.

John, son of Zebedee: Little or nothing is known about his death.

As for the Apostle Paul, Ignatius of Antioch, in about 110, writes that he was martyred (Letter to the Ephesians, chapter 12). That's the earliest account. Dionysius of Corinth (in about 170) also says that Paul was martyred.

Little is known about the reliability of these accounts, and yet they are the only accounts we have. There is no evidence to the contrary, but that doesn't make these traditions true. Nor does it make them false. The truth is, this is all we know, and it's precious little. But I would disagree that "there's no evidence the Apostles died for the belief that Jesus was resurrected."
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Re: Martyrdom of the Apostles

Postby Choking » Mon Jun 11, 2018 9:48 pm

> The logical connection between the two arrests is their Christian faith. James's death is also mentioned by Clement of Rome.

All Christians have faith, but not all Christians have first hand accounts of the resurrection. Presumably, the Apostles witnessed the resurrection and the claim made by apologists is that they were martyred for believing in it even though they could have known if it were false. It is not mentioned that James was beheaded because of believing in the resurrection, but simply because he belonged to the church, and it "pleased the Jews".

I am not saying that we do not have any sources for their deaths, but that these sources do not say that the Apostles died for believing in the resurrection.
Choking
 

Re: Martyrdom of the Apostles

Postby jimwalton » Mon Jun 11, 2018 9:49 pm

> Presumably, the Apostles witnessed the resurrection

If you believe the Bible, all 11 witnessed the risen Christ (John 20; Matt. 28.16-20; Acts 1.1-9).

> the claim made by apologists is that they were martyred for believing in it even though they could have known if it were false.

The evidence is entirely in the direction of belief (Acts 2.14-41; 1 Cor. 15.1-5). Any speculation otherwise is exactly that: speculation and invention. Not a single one of them believed it was false.

> It is not mentioned that James was beheaded because of believing in the resurrection, but simply because he belonged to the church, and it "pleased the Jews".

James was in the upper room and witnessed the risen Christ (Jn. 20.19-30). He was on the shore when Jesus visited them there (Jn. 21.1-2ff.). James was with Jesus when he ascended into heaven (Acts 1.1-11). He was in the Temple courts at Pentecost when the Spirit came (Acts 2.1-4). He stood with Peter for his sermon testifying to the resurrection (Acts 2.14ff.). He was part of the miraculous signs of Acts 2.43; 5.12-16). He was arrested for his faith and preaching (Acts 5.17-28ff.). He preached that Jesus was the Christ (Acts 2.41-42). Now, on what basis are you claiming he was merely put to death with the sword and it had nothing to do with belief in or preaching of the resurrection?

> I am not saying that we do not have any sources for their deaths, but that these sources do not say that the Apostles died for believing in the resurrection.

We most assuredly have such a source for Peter and James, but that's all. The other records we have are just traditions, and some may even be legends for all we know. It's interesting that the ones we have are all mentions of martyrdom, but there's no way to verify them.
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Re: Martyrdom of the Apostles

Postby Choking » Mon Jun 11, 2018 10:28 pm

> Now, on what basis are you claiming he was merely put to death with the sword and it had nothing to do with belief in or preaching of the resurrection?

I'm not claiming that they did. My point is that the account in Acts does not indicate that James died for the belief in the resurrection.
Choking
 

Re: Martyrdom of the Apostles

Postby jimwalton » Mon Jun 11, 2018 10:29 pm

The implication is that he did die for his belief in the resurrection. The context is that he did. His association with Jesus would imply that he did. His association with the apostles would imply he did. The text doesn't lead us in any other direction. So you're saying that because Acts 12.2 doesn't mention that specific word "resurrection" that you can claim beyond a reasonable doubt that he was killed for being a church member? It seems to me you're denying the obvious.
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Re: Martyrdom of the Apostles

Postby Choking » Tue Jun 12, 2018 5:49 pm

No I don't think so. The implication is that Herod had him killed. From the same source, Herod has many people killed for various reasons.

> So you're saying that because Acts 12.2 doesn't mention that specific word "resurrection" that you can claim beyond a reasonable doubt that he was killed for being a church member?

I'm saying that the account in Acts does not mentioned why Herod wanted James killed. Possible that it was because that James was proclaiming the resurrection, but that is not demonstrated from the text.
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Re: Martyrdom of the Apostles

Postby jimwalton » Tue Jun 12, 2018 6:45 pm

> No I don't think so. The implication is that Herod had him killed. From the same source, Herod has many people killed for various reasons.

Of course Herod had people killed for many reasons, and particularly those perceived as some kind of threat. Contextually, the case that James was killed for his belief in the resurrection has particular strength. Three strong themes in Acts are (1) the Apostles preaching the resurrection, (2) the persecution that came to them for such preaching, and (3) the spread of the Church. If we look at the particulars:

- Acts starts with the fact that the apostles were convinced about the resurrection based on the evidence available to them (1.3).
- Jesus expected them to spread the Word about the resurrection (1.8)
- Peter's first sermon was about the resurrection (2.23-36) and their eyewitness evidence that convinced them of it (2.32)
- Peter's second sermon was about the resurrection (2.15) and their eyewitness evidence of it.
- Persecution came upon them because of this message (3.2)
- Peter's 3rd message (his defense here) was that Jesus was indeed raised from the dead (4.10)
- Herod is identified as a political entity conspiring against Jesus (4.27)
- They all continued to testify to the resurrection (4.33)
- The apostles are persecuted specifically because of their preaching of the resurrection (5.20, 28-32)
- Stephen was killed for preaching the resurrection (7.55-56)
- Saul persecuted the church (8.1-5) for preaching the same message
- Philip preached the same message of resurrection (8.32-35)
- Saul, while on a trip to persecute the church, was converted to Christianity having been convinced of the resurrected Christ (9.4-5), and was told there would be much suffering for Christians because of this message (9.16) of resurrection (9.27)
- Now Saul was persecuted for this message (9.29) of resurrection
- Saul preached the same message (9.22)
- Peter preached to Cornelius the message of resurrection (10.39-43), with the specific instruction that all the apostles are commissioned to preach this message (10.42-43)

Now, it was then that Herod arrested James "intending to persecute" the Christians (12.1). How can you possibly claim that this isn't about James's preaching of the resurrection? It's the whole flow of the book. The "intending to persecute the church" seals the case, and especially since it is followed by his arrest of Peter.
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Re: Martyrdom of the Apostles

Postby 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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Re: Martyrdom of the Apostles

Postby 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.
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