One of the biggest reasons I came to believe that the Bible is trustworthy as an historical document is the various fates of its writers. If we claimed that a man asserted something and willingly died for it, where would we have to begin and end? An atheist once asked for this set of proofs on a skeptical blog:
- Was the Apostle in question a real person?
- Did he make specific claims about seeing the resurrected Christ?
- Is there a well-documented incident in which he faced execution for this claim?
- Was he specifically informed that he was facing execution for his claim?
- Were opportunities given to recant his position before execution?
- Was the Apostle in question firm in his confession, and thus painfully executed?
The only evidence we have that any of the Apostles were martyred are various tales and legends. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs from the 16th century is hardly reliable, since it lists prominent Medieval heretics as “martyrs” for the true faith which he believed Rome had corrupted. Anyway, I can’t see any reason to believe the Apostles were martyred, except for traditions and tales. As important as these may be for faith, they are not convincing historically.
My entire conversion was based, in its early stages, on the premise that these men firmly witnessed the faith unto death. If there’s no evidence for that, how can I believe what they said? Those who die peacefully, praying for their persecutors, are more reliable than some guys who wrote books.