No evidence the Apostles and Eyewitnesses were martyred

I’m studying the historical evidence for the Resurrection of Christ (Including N. T. Wright’s book) I’ve just finished watching a debate between William Lane Craig and Bart Ehrman:
I plan on watching it again tomorrow. One the things he said that bothered me was that there was no evidence the Apostles and Eyewitnesses of the Resurrection were tortured and killed how can refute this? How can one prove that the Apostles were tortured and killed or if one the Apostles was interrogated and blurted out that Resurrection was invented by themselves or others the Romans wouldn’t ignore it but use to it to debunk Christianity

I’m not sure exactly what you are asking in the second half of your post…

But I’m pretty sure that most Christian-Biblical historians like Erhman agree that we do not know how the apostles died…that there are no ancient sources that provide reliable information on their deaths and that the details you mention are considered later, legendary stories.


This is a Catholic link which indicates how each of the apostles died. What the original sources were I don’t know.

They were all unpleasant deaths, and even John was at one stage boiled in oil, but miraculously survived to be exiled to Patmos.

The devil certainly didn’t want these witnesses to Christ’s resurrection hanging around.

Which sort of gives some indication of what hell would be like.

This is an interesting link. :thumbsup:

From Josephus, a contemporary historian, we know that James the brother of Jesus, who can be considered an Apostle, was executed by the Jewish Sanhedrin in A.D. 62. That’s about as veracious as we can get on the subject.

Even if you found it carved in stone, you couldn’t prove it to some people. It’s interesting to note that they will, however, accept without question anything written in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Right! I forgot about James!
Was this in his “Antiquities” history of the Jews tome?


I think finding “it carved in stone” would go a long way to convince people.
Historians would take evidence like that seriously into account.


James, son of Zebedee: Killed by Herod (Acts 12:2). Eusebius says James’ calm demeanor at trial sufficiently impressed one of his accusers to convert him.

Simon Peter: Crucifixion, as implied by Jesus in John 21:18-19 in Rome, as mentioned by second-century sources such as Tertullian .

Andrew: Reportedly martyred by crucifixion on an X-shaped cross (“St. Andrew’s cross”). his information comes from a second-century book

Philip: According to the Acts of Philip he died after being hung upside-down with iron hooks through his ankles by the proconsul of Hierapolis.

Bartholomew: Bishop Hippolytus tells us he was crucified in Armenia.

Thomas: Tradition holds that he was sent to India to preach, where he was killed by being stabbed with a spear. This claim is made by local Indian Christians.

Matthew: Was martyred in Egypt or in Persia. The manner of his death is unknown.

James, son of Alphaeus, “James the Less” mentioned in Mark 15:40 as the son of Mary and Clopas. According to the first century Jewish historian Josephus, he was stoned by the Pharisees. This is seconded by Hippolytus.

Jude/Lebbaeus Thaddaeus: He went with Simon to preach in Armenia.The Catholic saints index says he was clubbed to death.

Simon the Zealot: Conflicting traditions. Tradition holds that he was martyred in Persia or Edessa.

I think the point he was trying to make was, for someone who doesn’t want to believe, no amount of evidence would be sufficient to convince them.

We have written documents from as early as the 50’s / 60’s AD which recount the trials of certain individuals on account of their faith in Jesus Christ. There are documents written by Church officials and Jewish / Roman historians which allude to or outline different forms of persecutions at the hands of both the Jewish leadership, and the Roman empire. In addition to these, we have different grave sites / catacombs which have early Christian symbols literally carved in stone, where the bodies display causes of death similar to those recounted in these other sources. We also have the bodies of several of the Apostles themselves, preserved in various Church throughout the world.

On top of all of this, we also have the Bible, which is a historical document. Even if you reject Christ’s miracles, that is not cause to reject the historicity of the rest of the document. Consider that there are certain Roman Emperors (One of the Caesars, I can’t recall if it was Augustus or one of the others offhand, sorry) that we really only know about because of a document about a battle he was involved with. In this document, the writer talks about how certain mythological creatures guided him across a river and to victory int eh battle. Despite this, the document is considered more than enough evidence for the existence of the individual being spoken of. It’s a logically-incoherent position to accept the one document as sufficient evidence, while simultaneously rejecting the Bible as evidence for historical events.

Are we discussing historians or the population at large?

Yes. In Book XX, I believe.

Hey, don’t call it a tome! :slight_smile:

If you really want to understand those times, you have to read Josephus. And it is a great stand-alone read. All of his works. Josephus’ autobiography is especially gripping.

FWIW, Hagan does an excellent job of melding in Josephus with the other “best” sources to come up with a time line and coherent story of Chrisitanity in the early first century A.D. through to the end of the Jewish revolt.

Symeon, 2nd Bishop of Jerusalem, son of Clopas/Mary, tortured for many days, at age 120 years according to Eusebius Church History Book III. He quoted Hegesippus as a witness. Clopas is brother of Joseph, so uncle of Jesus.

That’s an absurd thing to say. Many people who don’t believe in the Ressurection or the legendary deaths of the Apostles also don’t give much credibility to thing like Egyptian hieroglyphics, and are even right-minded enough to question the veracity of ancient historians (because they were notoriously biased and inaccurate). Many people who are not Christian have put a lot of thought and discernment into it and have good reasons for it (such as no actual reliable records). They are not all moronic pagan fools. Don’t make sweeping statements like that.

No evidence? What exactly do they call the skeleton of St. Peter under the basilica altar at the Vatican? The fact that its feet are severed tells us that he was indeed crucified upside down and taken down by the Romans by simply hacking him down.

The generalization “all the Apostles were martyred except for John” should not be used in apologetics, because our sources for most of these deaths are legendary.

James is the major exception. The stories about Peter’s martyrdom are also pretty early, and there is that tomb, although of course it can’t be proved that the skeleton is his, and his feet being severed doesn’t prove that he was crucified upside down.

However, that’s two, not twelve. Most of the other accounts are later legends. They may be true, but it would be unwise to rely on them in controversy with unbelievers.


Other than James and Peter, Paul’s martyrdom is also fairly well attested, imho

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