The Historicity for the Martyrdom of the Apostles

by Max Andrews

The disciples were not expecting the Christ and Messiah to be a spiritual Messiah, rather, they expected the Messiah to be a political Messiah redeeming indentured Israel from Roman captivity and rule. According to church tradition, eleven of the twelve disciples (later apostles) died for their belief in the resurrection of Jesus. What can account for such belief and fortitude? It would be unlikely that the disciples contrived the resurrection as a means of social, spiritual, or a political influence. All eleven died independently from each other and never retracted their belief. There are martyrs today but there would be no reasonable explanation for why the disciples would die for something they knew to be false and never retracted it, independent of each other’s influence, before their deaths. Paul accounted for the disciples’ belief in the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15.9-11 and Galatians 2.1-10.

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If the apostles knew that what they were claiming was a lie then that radically decreases the prior probability that one would die for a belief that one knows to be false. The apostles were eyewitnesses and they would be the ones to know whether or not they fabricated their claims or if they’re actually true. No one dies for something they know to be a lie. Liars make poor martyrs.

Saul of Tarsus was a persecutor of the early Church so he would be an unlikely candidate to be the proponent that he was for the church if his conversion was not genuine. He had been on hearings and had been a factor in determining the death of Christians. He had a testimony to the Galatians as “He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy,” verifying that others either knew or had heard of his pre-Christian actions against the church. Paul’s own testimony is given by Luke’s record in Acts, and a story that was circulating among Christians in Galatia…

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