Were the Apostles martyred?

Friends :),

One of the biggest reasons I came to believe that the Bible is trustworthy as an historical document is the various fates of its writers.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:

  1. Was the Apostle in question a real person?
  2. Did he make specific claims about seeing the resurrected Christ?
  3. Is there a well-documented incident in which he faced execution for this claim?
  4. Was he specifically informed that he was facing execution for his claim?
  5. Were opportunities given to recant his position before execution?
  6. 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. :confused:

All the apostles were martyred except for John. St. James the Just, the first bishop of jerusalem’s martyrdom is recounted in Acts, I believe.

Others we know from Oral tradition passed on through history. There are quotes from ECFs who recounted how some died.

It is historic fact, so I do not know how it could be questioned? There is a recent article that the tomb of St Philip was just discovered, so the oral tradition of his death will be verified. St. Thomas reached India, and his tomb is there too.

Hippolytus, who lived in the second century, tells us in his book *On the Twelve *Apostles.

"Peter preached the Gospel in Pontus, and Galatia and Cappadocia [all in Asia Minor], and Betania and Italy, and Asia and was afterwards crucified by Nero in Rome with his head downward as he had himself desired to suffer in that manner.

Andrew preached to the Scythians [in Russia] and Thracians, and was crucified, suspended on an olive tree at Patrae, a town of Achaia [in Greece]; and there too he was buried.

John, again in Asia was banished by Domitian the King to the isle of Patmos in which he also wrote his Gospel and saw the apocalyptic vision; and in Trajan’s time he fell asleep at Ephesus where his remains were sought for, but could not be found.

James his brother when preaching in Judea, was cut off with the sword by Herod the tetrarch, and was buried there. .

Philip preached in Phrygia [in Asia Minor] and was crucified in Hierapolis with his head downward in the time of Domitian, and was buried there.

Bartholomew again preached to the Indians, to whom he also gave the Gospel according to Matthew, and was crucified with his head downward and was buried in Albanum, a town of Great Armenia.

And Matthew wrote the Gospel in the Hebrew tongue and published it at Jerusalem, and fell asleep at Hierees a town of Parthia [Iran]. Papias (65-156 A.D.) also records that Matthew was written in Hebrew.

And Thomas preached to the Parthians, Medes Persians Hyrcanians, Bactrians, and Margians (Magi?) [all in Iran and Afghanistan, and USSR], and was thrust through in the four members of his body with a pine spear at Calamene, the city of India and was buried there.

And James the son of Alphaeus when preaching in Jerusalem, was stoned to death by the Jews and was buried there beside the temple.

Jude, who is also called Lebbaeus preached to the people of Edessa, and to all Mesopotamia, and fell asleep at Berytus, and was buried there.

Simon the Zealot, the son of Cleopas, who is also called Jude, became the bishop of Jerusalem after James the Just (Lord’s brother), and fell asleep and was buried there at the age of 120 years.

And Matthias, who was one of the seventy, was numbered along with the eleven apostles, and preached in Jerusalem, and fell asleep and was buried there.

And Paul entered into the apostleship a year after the assumption of Christ; and beginning at Jerusalem, he advanced as far as Illyricum, and Italy, and Spain, preaching the Gospel for thirty-five years. And in the time of Nero he was beheaded at Rome and was buried there."

if people were going to make up a religion, you’d think they could work in a better end of this life scenario than getting killed! But they didn’t make up a religion!

We have 1st century reports of three of the apostles dying as martyrs. Clement of Rome mentions the martyrdoms of Peter and Paul in the late 90’s. Clement places their martyrdoms in the 60’s A.D. Josephus chronicles the martyrdom of James the cousin/brother of Jesus. He places James’ martyrdom in the 60’s A.D. The book of Acts reports the martyrdom of James the son of Zebedee. We have good reason to trust Acts as good history and I see no reason to question Luke here.

The more important point is that the disciples/apostles were willing to suffer and die for their faith. Whether each and every apostle actually died for his faith is not nearly as important as whether they were willing to die for their belief. Such willingness shows that they were not deliberately lying.

This article may help: triablogue.blogspot.com/2008/08/early-christians-willingness-to-suffer.html

That’s James of Zebedee (aka St. James the Greater) you’re thinking about. We know of the death of James the Just, “brother of the Lord”, through extrabiblical sources, the Jewish historian Josephus (in book 20 of his Antiquities) being the earliest of these. :slight_smile:

I think that the atheist who designed this did so expressly for the intention of sowing seeds of doubt among believers, and to try to affirm his own disbelief. Considering that we are speaking of events that happened 2000 years ago, the questions that he posited are far from reasonable, and therefore are not credible as a “set of proofs.” After all, exactly how would people 2000 years ago provide the sort of documentation that this skeptic seems to demand? A video tape of an Apostle’s trial and execution? Various testimony from unbiased reporters in the mass media at the time? An autopsy report from a licensed medical examiner who received the body of the Apostle? Naturally, all these things didn’t exist 2000 years ago.

Now consider this. As most Americans know, during the Revolutionary War, the British executed Nathan Hale for treason against the King of England. Before he was hanged, it is said that he bravely faced his execution, spoke very eloquently at the scaffold, and delivered the famous line, “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” And yet historians debate as to whether or not he actually said this. Moreover, there seems to be no way for us today to verify with certainty a number of the elements associated with his life, trial and death. How do we know he didn’t actually cry like a baby in front of the hangman and the story (which has been handed down) was invented as revolutionary propaganda? How do we know that he was truly an early example of an American espionage agent? How do we know that he was, indeed, the American hero that legend purports?

Let me be clear that I do not doubt the stories told about Nathan Hale. My point is that we could apply the atheist’s “set of proofs” to Nathan Hale (indeed, to just about anybody who lived prior to the 20th Century), and not be able to provide satisfactory answers to the questions therein. The “set of proofs” demands information which, by and large, could not be ascertained based on the technology available at the time, or at least not the kind of quality of information that a hardened skeptic would require (in order to be convinced).

So if information cannot be provided for this “set of proofs” to validate the accounts of Nathan Hale, who only died approximately two centuries ago, then why think this “set of proofs” is a reasonable method of validating the accounts of the Apostles who died approximately two thousand years ago? If the “set of proofs” require people to do the impossible concerning proving things about Nathan Hale, so much more so would it be impossible concerning the Apostles. A “set of proofs” that demands the impossible cannot be considered reasonable, and therefore lacks credibility as a tool for validating the accounts told of the Apostles.

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