Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Answering a Question

DoOrDoNot asked, “I'm interested in what you would do with this in light of the "die for a lie" argument. Even if Christians weren't systematically persecuted, but had legitimate reason to fear prosecution, wouldn't that still lend some support to the argument?”

The problem regarding “Die for a Lie” is:

1) We don’t have enough information;
2) The information we do have tends toward bias; and
3) We fail to understand people’s motivations.

Remember, this argument is ONLY useful regarding those claiming to see a physically resurrected Jesus, or perhaps those involved in an initial fabrication and/or conspiracy. Everyone agrees people willingly face persecution, torture and martyrdom for something incorrect—a “lie.” Even Christians agree Muslims will blow themselves—dying for “a lie.” Imagine a few scenarios—all very plausible.

1) Peter (and Paul) have an altered state of consciousness, believe they see Jesus post-mortem and convince others Jesus is still alive. They spread Christianity, are persecuted, and eventually suffer martyrdom. “Die for a Lie” doesn’t work, because they didn’t think it a lie—just like Muslims dying for an incorrect claim, these individuals were dying for what they thought was true (even though it wasn’t.)

2) Peter and Paul initially teach and believe Jesus was resurrected spiritually in heaven, and it is only later-developed Christianity, after Mark’s Gospel, that the idea of a physically resurrected Jesus is claimed. Again, taught, persecuted and martyrdom. Again, “Die for a Lie” doesn’t work, because they were dying for what they thought was true—even if it wasn’t.

Let’s try something allowing “die for a lie” to have more force:

3) Peter (and/or other Disciples) completely make-up the concept of physically resurrected Jesus. They obtain wealth, honor and status as leaders in the church. There is sporadic persecution in certain localized areas against the Church. Unless one can demonstrate the conspirators themselves were in actual danger, “die for a lie” still doesn’t hold sway, because the persons involved didn’t think it would happen to them until too late.

We should pause at this point and note Paul certain was persecuted and actively pursued. But Paul is a later convert who (even under the best Christian scenario) saw a vision and was converted. He wasn’t part of any initial conspiracy.

And finally, the best possible chance for “die for a lie”:

4) Peter (and/or other Disciples) completely make-up the concept of physically resurrected Jesus. They obtain wealth, honor and status as leaders in the church. Active persecution directly against the conspirators putting them in imminent danger. Now they would certainly not “die for a lie,” right? ‘Cause we certainly would not. But are we projecting our 21st Century motivations on 1st Century individuals?

Dr. Moss raises the interesting example of Achilles. Remember, for these individuals, unless one was a great person of importance, there would be no record of your ever having been alive. No obituaries, no High School yearbooks, no scrapbooks, no pictures, no videos, no Facebook. Nothing. Once dead, you disappeared like your ancestors did, and your descendants would likely do. The only way to be known was to have your reputation remembered.

Dr. Moss pointed out Achilles had two (2) contradictory prophecies about his life. Either he would live a very, very long time but he would be an unknown person, eventually long forgotten. Or he would gloriously die at a young age, and his reputation would be remembered forever. Achilles chose fame as his means of living forever.

If given the same choice—what would Peter do? Or the other Disciples? If they believed they would be remembered for a long time….would they willingly die for a lie?

Instead of creating possible scenarios, look at the facts we have:

1. At some point in the First Century, individuals began claiming Jesus was resurrected either physically or spiritually post-mortem from crucifixion death.
2. This group—Christians—fought amongst themselves regarding whether to continue Jewish practices. Some did, some claimed they did not.
3. There is no Jewish or secular record of Jewish persecution against Christians.
4. The only record of organized Jewish persecution against Christians is from Christian sources, almost exclusively one (1) book—Acts of the Apostles. A book demonstrating an anti-Jewish bias.
5. The Jewish authorities had their hands full with a variety of competing Jewish claims—Christianity would be one amongst dozens. Not to mention governmental shifts, Roman oppression, and rebellion.
6. Within the first 10 years of its existence, Christianity shifted its focus from converting Jews to converting Gentiles.

[From this, I would argue there was no organized Jewish persecution, but the readers can draw their own conclusion.]

7. The Christian leaders (by their own accounts) gained wealth, honor and status within their community.
8. The first Roman persecution—Tacitus’ account of Nero—the Christians were scapegoats. No opportunity to recant, or avoid persecution. Plus this was Rome, not necessarily near the disciples.
9. The second recorded account regarding organized Roman government pursuit of Christians was Pliny the Younger where Christianity is reviewed as a puzzlement. This is too late for “die for a lie” to work.

So where does “die for lie” even come in? One would have to create a scenario similar to number 4 above that speculatively draws from Christian documents, and ignore the culture, Jewish situation, leaders’ status and complete absence in other historical documents of the times.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Review “The Myth of Persecution”

History is replete with certain well-known images—George Washington crossing the Delaware, Crusades for a Holy Grail, cities of gold, etc.—and included in our iconography is the concept of Persecuted Christians in Rome. Christians thrown to the lions by cruel Roman governors; Christians secretly meeting in catacombs with symbolic fish markings on walls. Many people envision Christianity constantly, persistently and universally hounded from its very inception until Emperor Constantine sanctioned Christianity in 313 CE.

Dr. Candida Moss wrote The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians invented the story of Martyrdom to counter this conception, arguing while Christians were persecuted for short periods (12 total years within this 300 year period), most persecution was localized (not universal) and sporadic (not constant.) Her ambition is clearly stated in the introduction:

What if Christians weren’t continually persecuted by the Romans? If there had never been an Age of Martyrs, would Christians automatically see themselves as engaged in a war with critics?...The history of Christianity is steeped in the blood of martyrs and set as a battle against good and evil. How would we think about ourselves if that history were not true? The language of martyrdom and persecution is often the language of war. It forces a rupture between ‘us’ and ‘them’ and perpetuates and legitimizes an aggressive posture toward the ‘the other’ and ‘our enemies’ so that we can ‘defend the faith.’ Without this posture and the polarized view of the world upon which it relies, we might—without compromising our religious or political convictions—be able to reach common ground and engage in productive government, and we might focus on real examples of actual suffering and actual oppression.

Dr. Moss has the proverbial snowball’s chance in hell of modifying Christianity by intellectual discussion—martyrdom is the tool Christians liberal engage to legitimize their belief. Jesus—the leader of the faith—was wrongfully pursued, beaten and executed for saying the right thing; how much more the poor Christian’s view must be right when the world is seen as howling against it.

Think I am outrageous?

Recently one (1) Army reserve officer prepared a presentation regarding discrimination. In a poorly (i.e. internet google search) researched powerpoint slide, she referred to Catholicism and Evangelical Christianity as “Religious Extremism.” Let me emphasize—this was one (1) person with their own presentation. Not Army Reserve documents. Not General Army documents. One person. Yet what does the headline read? Defense Department Classifies Catholics, Evangelicals as Extremists. That’s right—the entire Defense Department (including Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard) is encompassed in this one (1) person’s single powerpoint slide. A slide immediately removed upon new information.

And how does the Christian community respond? This Christian’s comment referencing the article states, “Reading about the Christians in the first 300 years in the Roman Empire, the Romans had a problem. They hated the Christians (called them ‘atheists’), but had difficulty getting rid of them because they were renowned for being well-mannered, obedient, model citizens (except, of course, when it came to idolatry.”

Yep. One person with a powerpoint? Next thing will be Christians thrown to the lions on the White House Lawn!

But this shan’t distract us from pressing forward. Dr. Moss essentially tackles the issue from two fronts:

1) Demonstrates the Martyrdom stories were later myths, developed for particular purpose; and
2) The Romans were “prosecuting,” not “persecuting.”

I have dealt with the first point extensively and will not address it much more here. Dr. Moss did present some martyr tales later than I normally discuss (I don’t go much beyond Second Century) and pointed out interesting facets. Probably the most important point (unfortunately not presented until the end) was how significant Eusebius is on our understanding of Church History in the first three Centuries. Eusebius, in extolling martyrdom, essentially created the imagery of constant persecution by his own emphasis.

Almost our entire knowledge regarding the first three centuries of Christianity comes through Eusebius’ writing. Those documents he chose to emphasize—he included. Others he downplayed and even failed to mention entirely. Therefore, we are left with his perception of how Christianity developed through doctrinal bias—not historical accuracy.

It is the second point—“persecution” vs “prosecution” I want to address at more length. Dr. Moss points out the Christians were not necessarily being persecuted as a group to quash a belief, but instead were primarily being prosecuted under laws that would have been applicable to any group—including Christians—under the Roman Justice system. At the time I read it, I found this a very valid point, and one worth pointing out; I looked forward to doing so in my eventual review.

However, between reading the book and this writing, I read other reviews (on Amazon and elsewhere) to see how others reacted. I was stunned at how many people bellowed against this notion and were particularly upset. The general response was, “If Rome made Christianity illegal, and then punished it—what is the difference between such a ‘prosecution’ and ‘persecution.’ Isn’t this mincing words? A difference without a distinction?” Perhaps it is my familiarity with the legal system; perhaps my familiarity with certain situations—either way, I understood the difference, and why it is significant.

Let me start with a modern example before turning to the ancient illustration. In America, we are concerned with discriminating against minorities. As such, we have entered laws (even amended our Constitution), and established departments to handle claimed discrimination. If I open a restaurant and indicate, “White’s Only!”—we have laws to prohibit such behavior. Or only renting to married couples, or refusing Muslims from entering a store, or numerous other examples you can think for yourselves. We are so accustomed to this culture that if we saw a “Whites Only” sign, it would be immediately offensive, even though not long ago such a practice was accepted and even legitimatized.

Right now, in America, same-sex marriage is entering our culture. And the question being debated is whether sexual orientation is entitled to the same protection as race, religion and marital status. And if it is—can businesses discriminate against sexual orientation? This is a growing concern especially in jurisdictions allowing same-sex marriage. See, for example, this article on a bakery refusing to provide a wedding cake to a same-sex couple. (with other examples cited within.)

What is happening here, is that Christians are being prosecuted for violating discrimination laws, not persecuted for being Christian. The law enforcement agency doesn’t care if a store owner has a Christian or non-Christian belief regarding homosexuality—sexual orientation is a protected class under the law and discrimination under the law is a legal violation. Period.

I understand Christians want to claim they are being “persecuted” under the law—they are claiming their religious beliefs are being infringed upon. But the law itself is not making such a distinction—the law is saying, “The same way you can’t prohibit African-Americans from using your establishment--regardless of your reasons, religious or otherwise--you can’t prohibit homosexuals from using your establishment.” Both are protected classes; both are entitled to freedom from discrimination; both require legal response if discrimination occurs.

Now, if the US Government passed a law saying, “All Christians must pay a $100 tax for being Christian”—that would be persecution. But saying, “You cannot discriminate based on sexual orientation” and a Christian claims because of their religious beliefs they will not serve homosexuals—that would be prosecution.

I hope that sufficiently explains the difference. Again, because I am familiar with the legal system, this distinction was obvious to me, and I was surprised certain reviewers did not recognize the differentiation.

Turning to our ancient Roman culture. Dr. Moss touched on the fact this was a polytheistic culture. Again, we have become a monotheistic culture (in America) and many people do not understand the vast difference between the two. Because theism is now considered monotheistic, there is one and ONLY one God. Either the Catholic depiction of God is correct or the Protestant—not two differing gods. Either God is Yahweh or Allah or Jehovah—but not all three are gods. One person’s god-belief necessarily excludes ALL other god-beliefs.

However, first century Mediterranean culture embraced polytheism—there were multiple gods or multiple possibilities of gods. This does not mean every god was accepted—but upon being confronted with a new god, it was inspected and determined whether it was simply a description of some god already in existence, or some new god to embrace. Equally, emperors were commonly deified and considered part of the god pantheon.

Society’s forturnes were attached to gods, whereby cities would have celebrations combined with sacrifices to their chosen god. If a city worshiped Zeus (for example) on a particular day, or in celebration of games (like the Olympiad), the leaders would kill a cow, sacrifice a portion to Zeus, and the remainder of cow would be a feast for the citizenry. Remember, this was a time of sustenance living—for the poor this was one of the very few times meat would be available as a meal. An emperor giving a feast in his honor, whereby the citizenry would be anticipated to sacrifice to the emperor and then partake in the feast was integrated in the society. As normal as we expect Secret Service around the US President. Part of the culture.

Further, Roman governments often returned to traditional worship of the gods in order to stabilize the society. If it looked like society was getting out of control, or the wars were not going well, a return to traditions was embraced. (Sidenote—are we so different? After 9/11 how many people bought flags & flagpoles?) Worship of gods was included in this return to tradition.

The Christians refused to sacrifice to the emperors. This was inexplicable in the Society. “For the Romans, participation in the imperial cult was something that bound the empire together. Much like the pledge of allegiance, it was a communal ritual that solidified social ties between individuals on a local level and disparate regions and groups on an imperial level. In times of political or social instability, the imperial cult became particularly important as a form of steadying the ebb and flow of potential unrest.” (pg. 175)

Dr. Moss goes on to note even when being tried, the Christian’s response were baffling to the Roman judges, and appeared to lean toward sedition. Not only couldn’t the judge figure out why the Christians wouldn’t participate in normal cultural routines—their answers gave no information and tended toward rebellion. “We ought to obey God, rather than man.” Can you see why a Judge would be concerned?

This resonated with me on a personal level, because it has been my misfortune to…on occasion…deal with the Michigan Militia in a courtroom. They only adhere to the United States Constitution. Since the Constitution says nothing about having a driver’s license, they don’t need one. Therefore, charging them with “driving without a license” is not a legitimate crime. (And they argue the Prosecutor [absent authority from the Constitution] has no jurisdiction. Not to mention the judge, etc.)

I once was representing a Michigan Militia fellow and the Judge called the case. Imagine your typical courtroom layout. I started walking through the gate separating the audience from the counsel’s table, holding the gate for my client. (It is called a “bar” and what was originally meant by “passing the bar.” Attorneys once could cross over, non-attorneys could not. Get it?) He stopped.

Me: C’mon, the judge called the case.
Him: No. I won’t go pass the bar.
Me: Huh?
Him: I know this court does not have any jurisdiction over me, but once I pass the bar, I have agreed to their jurisdiction. I won’t do it. Until I cross that point, there is nothing they can do to me.

I was baffled. I explained it to the judge. The Judge told my client he could stand behind the bar, sentenced him and the deputy demonstrated exactly how much jurisdiction the court really did have!

I imagine a similar situation with Roman Judges and Christians. They were refusing to abide by the societal norms (like my client not going before the judge) and the reasons given made no sense to those questioning them (like saying the court would not have jurisdiction until he went pass the bar.)

Dr. Moss gives numerous examples-- from history and the martyr accounts-- of Christian interactions in trials and why Christians would be prosecuted—not persecuted—under the Roman judicial system. And yes…Christians were killed. Sedition was punishable by death.

Pliny the Younger’s
112 CE letter to the emperor Trajan admirably demonstrates the Roman governor’s puzzlement at Christians and what to do with them:

I have never participated in trials of Christians. I therefore do not know what offenses it is the practice to punish or investigate, and to what extent. And I have been not a little hesitant as to whether there should be any distinction on account of age or no difference between the very young and the more mature; whether pardon is to be granted for repentance, or, if a man has once been a Christian, it does him no good to have ceased to be one; whether the name itself, even without offenses, or only the offenses associated with the name are to be punished.

Meanwhile, in the case of those who were denounced to me as Christians, I have observed the following procedure: I interrogated these as to whether they were Christians; those who confessed I interrogated a second and a third time, threatening them with punishment; those who persisted I ordered executed. For I had no doubt that, whatever the nature of their creed, stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy surely deserve to be punished.

Those who denied that they were or had been Christians, when they invoked the gods in words dictated by me, offered prayer with incense and wine to your image, which I had ordered to be brought for this purpose together with statues of the gods, and moreover cursed Christ--none of which those who are really Christians, it is said, can be forced to do--these I thought should be discharged. Others named by the informer declared that they were Christians, but then denied it, asserting that they had been but had ceased to be, some three years before, others many years, some as much as twenty-five years. They all worshipped your image and the statues of the gods, and cursed Christ.

Pliny (as typical Roman) attempts to ascertain the matter, has them offer sacrifices to the Emperor, and if they did—they were seen as not a problem. If, however, they refused and continued to refuse after numerous attempts, they were executed for “stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy.” This was prosecution under Roman Law.

As for the remainder of the book, much of the material (Jewish Persecution, Death of Apostles) I have done quite a bit of study and this was more of a brief review. Obviously for Dr. Moss to keep it at a level people will actually read, she would not include the in-depth information that would put most to sleep.

I think Dr. Moss has good intention. I think she will ultimately fail—those Christians who want their religion to have birthed in persecution, ripened on Roman crosses and advanced despite Roman lions will (as I saw in other reviews) reject her premises with little thought. For me, the value was in reviewing the Christians from the Roman perspective, while reminiscing of my own history with people unwilling to abide under society’s expected norms.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Thought for the Day

Inexplicably, I have been recently been fascinated with
J. Warner Wallace , bringing me to converse on Stand to Reason’s blog ). I was particularly struck by the comments in that blog entry referring to an Argument from Silence (if a historical document would be expected to record an event but does not, the event probably didn’t occur. Think of it this way—because our newspapers record momentous events, and there is no record the Statute of Liberty blew up yesterday, we can reasonably determine the Statute of Liberty did not blow up yesterday.)

The concern being an argument from silence would be utilized to state, “The canonical gospels do not record their authorship; therefore they were not authored by the claimed individuals.”

The first comment starts off with, “To make a case from silence on a particular issue, such as they never said they were eye witnesses, seems flimsy at best.” O.K. Not sure I agree we can broadly say all arguments from silence are flimsy, but I understand what this person’s position is. He goes on to say, “We know the book of acts was from 62 A.D 2 years before the martyrdom of Paul and 3 before Peter placing it within the life of eye witnesses.”

What?! Does he understand this dating of Acts of Apostles is explicitly based upon the Argument of Silence? Namely Acts is silent as to Peter and Paul’s death, so it must be prior to 64 CE? The irony is strong in this one—in the first sentence to claim arguments from silence are flimsy, and in the second, utilize an argument from silence!

However, we see he indicates he is a novice at apologetics, so perhaps we give it a pass. On a brighter note, another Christian apologist recognized this inherently inconsistent approach:
One of the primary methods by which the Gospels are dated is based on the lack of mention of the deaths of Peter and Paul in Acts, along with the lack of any mention of the destruction of Jerusalem.

On one hand, I agree with this reasoning. It makes sense. But on the other hand, isn't this a classical "argument from silence"? We (as apologists) frequently reject arguments from silence when they are presented by critics of the New Testament. But here we are MAKING an argument from silence in our dating methods!

Aha! A bright light of intelligent question! Alas, the next response immediately quashes our hope: “Nathan, I don't think this argument from silence, but a logical inference.”

Eh….right….a “logical inference” from what? The…uh…silence…maybe?

I asked, “What is the difference between a ‘logical inference’ from an author’s silence and the Argument from Silence?” but unfortunately, my question was deleted by moderation for being off-topic.

What hope for Christian apologetics when they don’t even understand or deal with their own rationalizations?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Allusions in Culture

Allusions in Culture

Roger Ebert died. Famously (as you know) reviewing movies with his friend, Gene Siskel wherein each would give a movie a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down” A good movie would be “two thumbs up.” “Two thumbs up” became part of our vernacular.

Now, if you asked my opinion of a restaurant, and I said, “two thumbs up!” you understand the meaning—not only do I approve, it was particularly good.

Imagine most of Siskel & Ebert’s reviews were lost. But we still had numerous copies of Happy Days and the Fonz giving his famous two thumbs up. Arguably, later generations could be persuaded “two thumbs up” came from the Fonz. Or Siskel & Ebert stole it from the Fonz. Or they both borrowed it from another source.

The point being, allusions in culture are difficult to track with precision. Even more so when discussing a culture 1000’s of years in the past, with a different language, society, religion, economic make-up and government.

I am currently reading The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians invented the story of Martyrdom and will eventually write a review. Vinny and Bruce Gerencser already wrote reviews. The author—Dr. Moss—argues some Christian Martyr myths were derived from allusions to Socrates death, specifically the Martyrdom of Polycarp. She states:

There’s no doubt that the author of this account [Martyrdom of Polycarp] wants to portray Polycarp as being just like Jesus or, to use religious terminology, an “imitator of Christ.” At the same time, however, there are parallels with other important ancient literary traditions. Both Polycarp and Socrates are described as “noble” and charged with atheism. Neither was willing to persuade others in order to save his life. Socrates took control of this death by requesting the hemlock rather than waiting for it to be administered to him. Polycarp took control of this death by removing his own clothes and standing on the pyre without being nailed to a stake. Both Socrates and Polycarp prayed before dying, and the accounts of their deaths explicitly interpret their deaths as sacrifices. Socrates refers to Asclepius and pours out the hemlock as a libation offering, and Polycarp is described as being like a ram bound for sacrifice. With regard to the image conjured up in the minds of the audience, both men are elderly….Finally, their deaths are described as models for others.

I initially thought this a bit too much stretching to make her case. Too speculative.

Socrates was condemned by his fellow citizens of Athens, Greece, for failing to worship Athenian Gods and for persuading others to follow his philosophy. He was sentenced to death by poison in 399 BCE. Plato gives an account regarding the death of Socrates wherein Socrates takes a bath, dismisses the women, and prepares for death. The jailer apologizes for doing his duty, provides the poison, Socrates drinks (making speeches along the way, of course) and then dies in noble fashion amongst his wailing friends.

Polycarp (according to the Martyrdom of Polycarp ) was killed around 150 CE. [It is unclear when the Martyrdom of Polycarp was written. Dr. Moss argues for early 3rd Century, whereas I tend toward middle 2nd. *shrug*] When taken, the soldiers (like Socrates) repented and were regretful for doing their duty. Polycarp also made speeches throughout. However, there are many differences. Polycarp predicted his own death by fire. Miracles surrounded the event such as he was not being consumed by the fire, so a soldier stabbed him in the side and a bird flew out, along with so much blood, the fire was put out!

There are numerous differences causing one to wonder whether the few similarities were really an allusion to Socrates.


We have another story from the same time period--Lucian of Samosata wrote The Passing of Peregrinus around 165 – 175 CE. Peregrinus was a cynic philosopher (who embraced Christianity for a time) and decided to establish his own immortal reputation by killing himself at the conclusion of the Olympic Games. Lucian writes a sarcastic tale regarding the entire incident.

What is interesting, though, is Lucian’s direct reference to Socrates’ death. For example, Lucian noted when imprisoned for Christianity, Peregrinus was called (by Christians), “the new Socrates.” After he died, Peregrinus’ companions stood around the fire—Lucian mocks them, asking if they are waiting for a painter to paint them like the companions of Socrates.

Clearly Socrates’ death, 500 years previously, still held significance upon the society as a familiar point of reference.

Upon returning to the city from Peregrinus’ pyre Lucian notes he informed intelligent people what precisely happened, but to “dullards” he made up whatever would suit his recipient’s fancy. Lucian even made up a tale about a vulture flying out of the fire and an earthquake. Humorously, Lucian chances upon a gray-haired fellow who tells Lucian he (the gray-haired man) saw the vulture flying from the fire—Lucian is astounded because the tale had just been made up by Lucian himself!

Interesting Polycarp had a bird fly up at the time of death, and Lucian did as well. Did the Passing of Peregrinus impact the Martyrdom of Polycarp? Or vice versa? Or were both using symbols lost to us? Or is it a coincidence?

(Christians may also take note Lucian added an earthquake to the event. One can’t help but wonder about Matthew doing likewise at Jesus’ death. Matt. 27:51)

As I read the Passing of Peregrinus, I am more firmly convinced the story of Socrates’ death continued to have cultural significance. Too often we treat these tales as black and white—it happened exactly as recorded or it didn’t happen at all. We may not be realizing how many additional details are introduced that would provide substantial insight to the people of that time and culture, and are lost to us now.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

“Wouldn’t Die for a Lie”…won’t die

I recently learned of J. Warner Wallace author of Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels As he ostensibly utilizes methodology akin to the legal system…well…you can see why I was intrigued. Alas, it is nothing more than Christian apologetics.
But recently, he offered a video blog entry: How do we know the Apostles Died as Martyrs. Of course I could not resist. Mr. Wallace indicates he is convinced the Apostles died as martyrs because there is no counter-evidence to the contrary. He points out how defense lawyers offer counter arguments, and opposing factual with differing evidence, yet we have none of that here. On the one hand we have tradition they died as martyrs, but we have no First Century documents (Mr. Wallace points out) saying they lived long lives or were not martyred.

Curious, I asked a question. “What documents would include such information?” Was there some Jerusalem Journal or Galilean Gazette I did not know about keeping obituaries? Was there some First Century High Priest diary listing out each of the 12 disciple’s deaths as they passed on? Yet what really intrigued me was Mr. Wallace’s insistence on First Century documents.

See the first writing we have regarding even a possible martyrdom is 1 Clement, traditionally dated to the early 90’s CE. The second writing would be Josephus’ account regarding James, the brother of Jesus, dating to the later 90’s CE. The third possible writing would be Acts of the Apostles, dated after Josephus (in my opinion), making it very late 90’s CE at best. (And in case one wanted to date it earlier, I am including it within the First Century.)

As you can immediately see—the stories themselves did not circulate amongst Christians in writing prior to the very end of the First Century! It seems slightly…unreasonable…to anticipate anyone disputing these tales MUST be within the few years left within the First Century.

Further, 1 Clement does not explicitly indicate Peter and Paul died martyrs, Josephus does not indicate James’ death had anything to do with Christianity, and Acts only utilizes James, son of Zebedee’s death like a Star Trek Red shirt (as I previously pointed out.) Indeed it was not until the Second Century the martyrdom tales gained their legendary legs and took off with Acts of Peter, Acts of Paul, and Second Apocalypse of James. It wasn’t until the very end of the Second Century, perhaps the beginning of the Third, that Hippolytus gave us the deaths of the other disciples.

So…we don’t really have obituaries in the First Century. And no one is even saying the disciples died martyrs to provide anyone with the notion of countering the tales.

What possible documents could Mr. Wallace be referring to?

We will never know.