Do the Deaths of the Apostles Prove Anything?

by Sean McDowell

The willingness of the apostles to die for their faith is one of the most commonly cited arguments for the historicity of the resurrection. And yet in my research and experience, it is one of the most widely misunderstood. It is important we neither overstate nor understate the significance of this point. In my book The Fate of the Apostles, I carefully state the argument this way:

The apostles spent between one and a half and three years with Jesus during his public ministry, expecting him to proclaim his kingdom on earth. Although disillusioned at his untimely death, they became the first witnesses of the risen Jesus and they endured persecution; many subsequently experienced martyrdom, signing their testimony, so to speak, in their own blood. The strength of their conviction, marked by their willingness to die, indicates that they did not fabricate these claims; rather, without exception, they actually believed Jesus to have risen from the dead. While in and of themselves these facts prove neither the truth of the resurrection in particular nor Christianity as a whole, they do demonstrate the apostles’ sincerity of belief, lending credibility to their claims about the veracity of resurrection, which is fundamental to the case for Christianity.

Nevertheless, many critics have rightly pushed back and questioned the value of this argument. In her book The Myth of Persecution, Professor Candida Moss, for example, claims that…

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Do the Deaths of the Apostles Prove Anything? – Sean McDowell