Monday, April 7, 2014

6. How do we know the disciples weren't lying about seeing the resurrected Christ?

The only disciple whose fate I can remember ever being mentioned growing up was Judas.  Judas hangs himself  in remorse (Mt 27:5) after the Sanhedrin condemns Jesus.  So what happened to the other 11? They settled down, get married & live happily ever after on the royalties from all those stories? No, unfortunately, the majority died for their beliefs, for being christians and for saying they had seen the resurrected Christ.

It is hard to do justice to this subject without writing a full book.  I was tempted to quote the first chapter of from Foxe's Book of Martyrs, but it would be way too long. John Foxe gave his book a much longer name when it was published in the late 1500's, but nobody used it. Book of Martyrs was the popular name. Foxe collected stories about christians who had died for their faith & that included information on the disciples & apostles.

The book is old enough that you can find it on the internet (full text at Christian Classics). If you'd like to look at the info on the disciples, you can read chapter 1. Or you might prefer the summary on BibleStudyTools.com. Just click on the person & read the story.  What I am doing here is just summarizing the information that seems most certain to me.

John, the son of Zebedee, brother of James – John is the 'lucky' one. Foxe claims John was boiled in oil around 81 A.D., miraculously survived & was banished to the island of Patmos. Eventually dies of old age in Ephesus (~100 A.D.). The late 80's & 90's A.D. are the years he is thought to have done most of his writing.

James, son of Zebedee, brother of John – Foxe calls him James the Great. Acts 12:2 tells us that King Herod had him put to the "death by the sword" meaning beheaded.  This is Herod Agrippa as opposed to his father Herod the Great who was in power when Jesus was born & died a few years later.  Foxe reports James was martyred in 44 A.D.

Stephen – Not one of the 11, but he was selected as one of 7 deacons in Acts 6. Acts 7:54-59 describes the Sanhedrin stoning him. Acts 8:1 mentions Saul was there approving of his death and that a great persecution broke out afterwards. Foxe says about 2000 christians died in the persecution along with Nicanor another of the 7 deacons.

Peter – Foxe says Peter was crucified upside down.  Probably got that from Eusebius (c.263-339 A.D.) who cited Origen(c. 185-254 A.D.).  Foxe says in chapter 2 in the section labelled "The First Persecution, Under Nero, A.D. 67" that both Peter & Paul died then.

The CASE for the Resurrection of JESUS by Habermas & Licona (2004) says it was more likely 64 A.D. right after the Great Fire of Rome.  I've also seen the Great Fire as dated as happening in 60 A.D.  No matter which year, it's pretty certain Rome burned in the early to mid 60's & Peter & Paul die mid to late 60's.

Paul – Not one of the 11, but an accepted apostle of Jesus.  Saul's conversion to Paul is very significant, because he claims it was because he saw the risen Christ (1 Cor 15:8).  His conversion story is in Acts 9.  Remember he's been running around killing christians as heretics, so it had to take something really convincing to turn him into a christian.

Foxe says he was ordered to be executed by Nero in Rome in 67 A.D. by beheading.  This fits with his description of himself in Phil 2:17 where he says is being poured out like a drink offering. In 2 Tim 4:6 he mentions the drink offering again & adds the time has come for his departure.  My NIV Study Bible mentions his impending death in 67/68 A.D in a footnote.

James brother of Jesus – Foxe calls him James the Less. Like Paul he was a skeptic that converted to Christianity.  Mark 3:21-35 & Mark 6:3-6 & especially John 7:1-5 confirm that he was not a believer or follower of Jesus while Jesus was alive. Josephus reports shortly after Albinus became procurator of Judea that the Sanhedrin condemned James to be stoned.  Albinus was procurator from 62-64 A.D.  Why would James do an about face on what he believed?  He claimed he had seen the risen Christ.  Must have been pretty convinced to be willing to die for it.

Fanatics do sometimes die for their beliefs, but the apostles were in a unique position to really know whether or not they were telling the truth about the resurrection. They would not have died for a story they knew was wasn't true. Many today would lie about what they knew or believed to be true to avoid death. These men didn’t do that. The later ones knew of Stephen's stoning, the persecution that followed in Jerusalem & of James the brother of John's beheading.  They knew they could die for telling others that they had seen the resurrected Christ & yet they pressed on. They 100% believed they had seen Jesus alive after the crucifixion & that life after death was possible.

Okay, okay, I'll admit the gospels have lots of truth in them & the disciples weren't lying about the resurrection, but what if something misled them?  What if they didn't know they were lying?  How do we know it was Jesus on the cross & not a twin or a someone else taking his place?  How we know that the tomb was really empty? Next time.

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