APOSTLE MOTIVES….FOR DOING WHAT THEY DID?
FROM THE BOOK “COLD-CASE CHRISTIANITY” BY WARNER WALLACE
WERE THEY BIASED?
The one thing we know about the Christians after the death of Jesus
is that they turned to their scriptures to try and make sense of it....
How could Jesus, the Messiah, have been killed as a common criminal?
Christians turned to their scriptures to try and understand it, and they
found passages that refer to the Righteous One of God’s suffering death.
But in these passages, such as Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 and Psalm 61,
the one who is punished or who is killed is also vindicated by God. Christians came to believe their scriptures that Jesus was the Righteous One and that God must have vindicated him. And so Christians came to think of Jesus as one who, even though he had been crucified, came to be exalted to heaven, much as Elijah and Enoch had in the Hebrew scriptures— But if Jesus is exalted, he is no longer dead, and so Christians started circulating the story of his resurrection.180 —Bart Ehrman, New Testament scholar, professor of religious studies, and author of Forged: Writing in the Name of God—Why the Bibles Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are
Everyone has a motive. We tend to think of criminals when we hear the word, but jurors must also consider motive when examining and evaluating eyewitnesses who have testified in a trial.
Jurors learn that they must think about whether or not a witness was “influenced by a factor such as bias or prejudice, a personal relationship with someone involved in the case, or a personal interest in how the case is decided.” There are two factors at work in a question like this: bias and motive. Were the disciples lying about the resurrection, as Bart Ehrman claims? Were their claims based on religious expectation or bias? If so, what was it that they were hoping to gain from this elaborate lie? If the apostles wanted Jesus to be God, an elaborate lie wouldn't actually accomplish this, at least for the apostles. Lies might fool those who weren't there, but they wouldn't fool those who knew better. What did the disciples hope to gain if their stories were false? Let's study the issue of motive and finish our journey with an examination of Christian eyewitness bias.
In all my years working homicides, I've come to discover that only three broad motives lie at the heart of any murder. As it turns out, these three motives are also the same driving forces behind other types of misbehavior; they are the reasons why we sometimes think what we shouldn't think, say what we shouldn't say, or do what we shouldn't do.
This is often the driving force behind the crimes that I investigate. Some murders, for example, result from a botched robbery. Other murders take place simply because they give the suspect a financial advantage. As an example, I once worked a homicide committed by a husband who didn't want his wife to receive a portion of his retirement.
SEXUAL OR RELATIONAL DESIRE
I've also investigated a number of murders that were sexually (or relationally) motivated. Some sexual attackers murder their victims so they can't testify later. Some murders occur simply because a jealous boyfriend couldn't bear to see his girlfriend dating another man.
PURSUIT OF POWER
Finally, some people commit murders to achieve or maintain a position of power or authority. It might be a rivalry between two people who are trying to get the same promotion. Others have killed simply because the victim dishonored or "disrespected" them in front of a group of peers.
Sex, money, and power are the motives for all the crimes detectives investigate. In fact, these three motives are also behind lesser sins as well. Think about the last time you did something you shouldn't have. If you examine the motivation carefully, you'll probably see that it fits broadly into one of these three categories.
The presence of motive doesn't always mean that a suspect actually committed the crime. Someone might have the motive to do something criminal, yet be able to resist the temptation to act. On the flip side, however, defense attorneys often cite the lack of motive when they are making a case for their client's innocence. "Why would my client have done such a thing when it would not benefit him in any way?" That's a fair question and one that we need to ask as we examine the claims of the apostles.
Did the alleged eyewitnesses of Jesus's life and ministry have an ulterior motive when writing the Gospels? Do we have any good reason to believe that the apostles were driven to lie by one of the three motives we have described? No. There is nothing in history (neither Christian history nor secular history) to suggest that the disciples had anything to gain from their testimony related to Jesus.
THE APOSTLES WERE NOT DRIVEN BY FINANCIAL GAIN
There are many ancient accounts describing the lives of the apostles following the period of time recorded in the book of Acts. Local believers in a variety of ancient communities wrote about the activities of the individual disciples as they preached the gospel across the region. None of these texts describe any of the disciples as men who possessed material wealth. The disciples repeatedly appear as men who were chased from location to location, continually abandoning whatever property they owned and vacating whatever homes they were borrowing. The disciples were accustomed to living in this manner; they decided to leave their homes and families when they first began to follow Jesus. Peter acknowledged as much when he told Jesus, "Behold, we have left our own homes and followed You" (Luke 18:28). The disciples rejected all material wealth, believing that the truth of the gospel provided eternal life, something that was vastly more valuable. Paul described their impoverished financial condition many times, reminding his listeners that the apostles were "both hungry and thirsty, and [were] poorly clothed, and [were] roughly treated, and [were] homeless" (1 Cor. 4:11). The apostles lived "as unknown yet well-known, as dying yet behold, we live; as punished yet not put to death, as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things" (2 Cor. 6:9-10). If the disciples and apostles were lying for financial gain, their lies didn t seem to be working. Those who watched Paul closely knew that he was dedicated to spiritual life rather than material gain; he "coveted no ones silver or gold or clothes" (Acts 20:33).
[Judges advise juries that they may consider motive as they assess the guilt of defendants:
"The People are not required to prove that the defendant had a motive to commit any of the crimes charged. In reaching your verdict you may, however, consider whether the defendant had a motive."
"Having a motive may be a factor tending to show that the defendant is guilty. Not having a motive may be a factor tending to show the defendant is not guilty" (Section 370, Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions, 2006)]
The other apostles were in a very similar financial situation. When Peter and John were in Jerusalem in the first half of the first century, they were approached by a poor disabled man who asked them for money. Peter told the man, "I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!" (Acts 3:6).
The disciples were consistently described as having chosen a life of material poverty in pursuit of spiritual truth. When James described the rich (as in James 5:1-5), he always did so in second person. He didn't include himself in their numbers. The apostles never described themselves as wealthy; instead, they warned those who were rich that their wealth could indeed threaten their perspective on eternal matters. Like the other apostolic writers, James described his fellow believers as joyfully impoverished: "Did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?" (James 2:5).
The apostles gained nothing financially from their testimony of Jesus’s life and ministry.
The New Testament letters of Paul were written very early in history to people who knew Paul personally. If he was lying about his financial situation, his readers would have known it. All the nonbiblical accounts related to the lives of the apostles, whether legitimate or legendary, affirm the poverty of the disciples as they traveled the world to proclaim their testimony. The most reasonable inference from the early record of the New Testament document and the agreement of the nonbiblical record is that the writers of the New Testament were as contentedly as they proclaimed. It is reasonable to conclude that financial greed was not the motive that drove these men to make the claims they made in the Gospels. In fact, they remained impoverished
THE APOSTLES WERE NOT DRIVEN BY SEX OR RELATIONSHIPS
It's equally unreasonable to suggest that the apostles were motivated by lust or relationships. While the New Testament documents say little about the "love lives" of the apostolic eyewitnesses, we do know that Peter was married and had a mother-in-law (Matt. 8:14). Paul confirmed this and suggested that Peter wasn't the only one who was married when, in his letter to the Corinthians, he asked, "Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas [Peter]?" (1 Cor. 9:5). The early church fathers also suggested that all of the apostles were married, with the possible exception of the youngest apostle, John. Clement of Alexandria wrote that Peter and Philip had children181 and that Paul, although married, did not take his wife with him when testifying as an apostle.
[CLEMENT WAS FROM 150-215 — AND WAS WELL AFTER THE APOSTLE PAUL; THERE ARE A NUMBER OF IDEAS AND TEACHINGS THAT THE SO-CALLED “CHURCH FATHERS” WERE INTO; THEIR THEOLOGY MANY TIMES WAS QUESTIONABLE; IT WAS THE TIME OF THE RISE OF THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH. I FIND IT HARD TO BELIEVE PAUL WOULD NOT TAKE HIS WIFE WITH HIM AS LIKE PETER ETC. THE NT IS SILENT ON PAUL BEING MARRIED, AND IF HE WAS I CAN NOT BELIEVE HE WOULD NOT MENTION IT IN SOME WAY, IN ALL HIS EPISTLES - Keith Hunt]
The only reason why he did not take her about with him was that it would have been an inconvenience for his ministry.... [The apostles], in accordance with their particular ministry, devoted themselves to preaching without any distraction, and took their wives with them not as women with whom they had marriage relations, but as sisters, that they might be their fellow-ministers in dealing with housewives.182
[THIS IDEA AND COMMENT IS A BIT OF OUTRIGHT SILLY THEOLOGY. PAUL WROTE PETER LED HIS WIFE ABOUT, AS DID OTHER APOSTLES. TRYING TO SAY IT WOULD HAVE BEEN A DISTRACTION TO HAVE YOUR WIFE WITH YOU, IS AGAIN SILLY IDEAS OF A SILLY THEOLOGY. AND TO ADD MORE SILLINESS TO SILLINESS, IS THAT THE APOSTLES TOOK THEIR WIVES WITH THEM AS “SISTERS” - THIS IS LAUGHABLE IF NOT SUCH A SERIOUS MATTER. PAUL TAUGHT REGULAR SEXUAL RELATIONS FOR THE MARRIED, AND ONLY NOT FOR FASTING AND PRAYER, THEN COME TOGETHER AGAIN - 1 COR. 7: 1-5. IN MARRIAGE (INCLUDING MINISTERS) PROPER REGULAR SEXUAL RELATIONS IS COMMANDED (THE APOSTLE PAUL UNDER DEVINE INSPIRATION SAYS SO). NEVER SHOULD A MINISTER (OR ANYONE) WITH A WIFE, EVER LIVE AS IF SHE WAS YOUR SISTER. SUCH THEOLOGY TEACHING IS EXACTLY OPPOSITE TO THE DIVINE TRUTH AND COMMANDMENT GOD GAVE THROUGH THE APOSTLE PAUL. AND I WILL ADD THERE ARE TOO MANY JOBS IN THIS MODERN WORLD WHERE HUSBAND AND WIFE ARE APART FROM EACH OTHER FOR WAY TOO LONG A TIME, AND SO AS PAUL SAID, “…..SO SATAN DOES NOT TEMPT YOU BECAUSE OF YOUR LACK OF SELF CONTROL.” (1 COR. 7:5) - Keith Hunt]
Clement suggested here that the apostles were not only married, but also denied themselves sexual contact with their wives after the ascension in order to better minister to those they sought to reach with their testimony. Ignatius also referred to the apostles as married.
[YA WELL CLEMENT WAS A NUT CASE ON THIS MATTER….HE WAS ONE OF THE ROOT PEOPLE WHO FOUNDED THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH, WITH ITS FALSE TEACHING ON MANY SIDES OF SEXUALITY - CLEMENT WAS JUST WRONG, VERY WRONG - Keith Hunt]
For I pray that, being found worthy of God, I may be found at their feet in the kingdom, as at the feet of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob; as of Joseph, and Isaiah, and the rest of the prophets; as of Peter, and Paul, and the rest of the apostles, that were married men. For they entered into these marriages not for the sake of appetite, but out of regard for the propagation of mankind.183
[YA FOUNDERS OF THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH. WE HAVE NO PROOF PAUL WAS MARRIED, AND THE SILLY WORDS “FOR THEY ENTERED INTO THESE MARRIAGES NOT FOR THE SAKE OF APPETITE, BUT OUT OF REGARD FOR THE PROPAGATION OF MANKIND” IS, OR WAS, A VERY COMMON THINKING BY MANY IN THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH, BOTH IN THE LAY PEOPLE AND PRIESTHOOD. WORDS FAIL ME TO DESCRIBE MY THOUGHTS AS TO THE STUPIDITY OF SUCH A FALSE DOCTRINE…..GETTING MARRIED OR SEXUALITY IN MARRIAGE JUST FOR, AND ONLY FOR “PROPAGATION OF MANKIND”….. A SILLY ROMAN CATHOLIC IDEA, BUT PUT TO ONE SIDE TODAY, AS EVEN MOST ROMAN CATHOLIC COUPLES WOULD LAUGH AT IT, IF NOT PUBLICALLY CERTAINLY IN PRIVATE - Keith Hunt]
Like Clement of Alexandria, Ignatius also reported that the apostles held a view of sexuality that placed their testimony ahead of their personal desire. This was affirmed by another early Christian author named Tertullian, who wrote in the early third century:
[The] Apostles, withal, had a "licence" to marry, and lead wives about (with them). They had a "licence," too, to "live by the Gospel."184
[MORE WORDS FROM FOUNDERS OF THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH, WITH THEIR FALSE IDEAS OF MARRIAGE AND SEX. “PERSONAL DESIRE” - WHAT ABOUT THEIR WIVES? DID THEY NOT HAVE DESIRES? IT IS MADE OUT THAT ONLY MEN HAD PERSONAL DESIRES, AND THEY WERE SO RIGHTEOUS AND SELF-CONTROLLED THEY PUT AWAY THEIR PERSONAL DESIRES OF SEXUALITY; THE WIVES IT SEEMS WERE SEXLESS IN HORMONES…..WHAT A BIG FAT LIE OR MISCONCEPTION THAT IS….ASK ANY MARRIED WOMAN, WITH NORMAL FEMALE HORMONES. YES THE APOSTLES HAD A RIGHT TO HAVE A WIFE, AND WITH THEM, AND TO LIVE OFF THE GOSPEL ALSO; BUT SOME LIKE PAUL DID NOT CLAIM IT, BUT CHOSE TO WORK IN A TRADE AT TIMES. NOW SPENDING TIME TO WORK AT YOUR TRADE FOR HOURS A DAY, IS WAY MORE TIME SPENT THAN HAVING AN HOUR OR TWO IN SEXUAL RELATIONS WITH YOUR WIFE. OH, THE BRAINLESS, NO COMMON SENSE THINKING BY SOME….. SUCH THEOLOGY THINKING IS FROM PLANET PLUTO - Keith Hunt]
The apostles had a right to bring their wives with them on their journeys, and some may have done so. In any case, it is clear from both the biblical record and the nonbiblical history that the apostles were careful to live their sexual lives in a manner that was beyond reproach. In fact, while other men within the culture often had more than one wife, the apostles allowed men to rise to leadership only if they limited themselves to one wife (1 Tim. 3:2).
[YES AND AS WE HAVE SEEN, THE APOSTLE PAUL WAS INSPIRED TO SAY MARRIED COUPLES SHOULD LIVE A NORMAL SEXUAL LIFE WITH EACH OTHER, AND ONLY BY CONSENT, LIKE FASTING AND PRAYING SHOULD THAT NORMALITY BE PUT TO ONE SIDE. AND THERE IS NOT ONE LAW FOR THE LAY PEOPLE AND ANOTHER LAW FOR THE MINISTERS - Keith Hunt]
The twelve apostles were not twelve single men in search of a good time. They weren't using their position or testimony to woo the local eligible women. If the apostles were motivated by sexual desire, there is certainly no record of it in the ancient writings of the time and no hint of it in their own texts. They were married men (most likely) who held chastity and sexual purity in high regard. The most reasonable inference, given what we know about the lives of the apostles, is that sexual or relational desire was not the motive that drove these men to make the claims they made in the Gospels.
[YES THE MOTIVE OF GAINING MANY WIVES OR HAVING SEX WITH NEW CHRISTIAN WOMEN, WAS AS FAR AWAY FROM THE APOSTLE’S MIND AS MARS IS FROM EARTH - Keith Hunt]
THE APOSTLES WERE NOT DRIVEN BY THE PURSUIT OF POWER
Some skeptics have argued that the apostles were motivated by a desire to be powerful within their individual religious communities. They will often point to the power that Christian leaders eventually had in Rome when Christianity became the state-sponsored religion in the fourth century. There is no doubt that the Popes of the Roman Catholic Church eventually became incredibly powerful both religiously and politically. But when we examine the lives of the first-century apostles, they bear little resemblance to the lives of the Roman Catholic Popes.
Power has its perks, not the least of which is the ability to protect oneself. This kind of power was never available to the apostles. The early Christian movement immediately faced hostility from those who actually did possess power in the first century. Rumors quickly spread that the Christians practiced rituals that offended Roman sensibilities and were unwilling to worship Emperor Nero as divine. Tacitus recorded Nero's response:
Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.185
At this early point in Christian history, leadership within the Christian community was a liability rather than an asset. Prominent believers and leaders who openly admitted their allegiance to Jesus ("pleaded guilty") and refused to recant this allegiance were the first to die. It was during this time in history when Peter and Paul were executed in Rome, but they weren't the only apostles whose prominence as Christian leaders cost them their lives. The nonbiblical histories and writings related to the lives and ministries of the twelve disciples consistently proclaimed that the apostles were persecuted and eventually martyred for their testimony. The apostolic eyewitnesses refused to change their testimony about what they saw, even though they faced unimaginable torture and execution. Only John appears to have escaped martyrdom, but he, too, was exiled and persecuted for his position as an apostle.
Persecution was the uniform experience of the apostles, long before they were finally executed for their faith. Paul's experience, as he told it in his letter to the Corinthians, was sadly normative for the apostles:
Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure upon me of concern for all the churches. (2 Cor. 11:24—28)
[Bias and Prejudice
"An inclination of temperament or outlook; especially a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment."
"(1) Preconceived judgment or opinion (2): An adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge."
(Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition)]
As the apostles rose to positions of leadership, they made themselves the target of persecution and abuse. The more prominent they became, the more they risked death at the hands of their adversaries. The most reasonable inference, given what we know about their deaths, is that the pursuit of power and position was not the motive that drove these men to make the claims they made in the Gospels.
If a defense attorney were representing any of the apostles, defending them against the accusation that they lied about their testimony, the attorney could fairly ask the question "Why would my client have done such a thing when it would not benefit him in any way?" Certainly there was no benefit to any of the apostles in the three areas we would expect to motivate such a lie.
FREE FROM ULTERIOR MOTIVE
Motive is a key factor that jurors must assess when evaluating the reliability of witnesses. That's why judges advise jurors to ask questions like "Was the witness promised immunity or leniency in exchange for his or her testimony?" (See chapter 4.) We need to know if something other than the simple desire to report the truth motivated the witnesses to say what they said. As we examine the motives of the gospel writers, it's clear that the forces that typically compel people to lie didn't drive the authors. The apostles were free from ulterior motive.
But what about bias? Even if they didn't possess one of these three self-serving motives, how do we know that the gospel writers weren't simply biased? Judges encourage jurors to find out if the witness was "influenced by a factor such as bias or prejudice, a personal relationship with someone involved in the case, or a personal interest in how the case is decided." If a witness held a preconception or partiality as he or she watched the event, that bias may have influenced how the witness interpreted what he or she saw. Bias can cause people to see something incorrectly. Was this the case with the apostles?
SO, IS THIS WHY SOME CONTINUE TO DENY IT?
Some skeptics base their distrust of the Gospels (and of the nonbiblical accounts of the apostles' lives following Jesus's ascension) on the possible presence of bias. Even though there is no evidence to suggest that the apostles were motivated by greed, lust, or power, critics are still suspicious of the gospel accounts.
Let's look at the reasons behind their suspicions and include them in our final evaluation utilizing abductive reasoning.
THE GOSPELS WERE WRITTEN BY CHRISTIANS
Skeptics have argued that the Gospels cannot be trusted because they were not authored by objective non-Christians. The New Testament records, according to this view, were written by biased Christians who were trying to convince us of their religious perspective. Critics claim that these Christians observed the events through a charged religious lens and then reported the events from this viewpoint. As a result, the gospel narratives are biased and unreliable.
This is not an accurate description of what occurred in the first century as the gospel eyewitnesses observed the life and ministry of Jesus. Let me give you an example from one of my cases to illustrate the point. Many years ago, when I was working robberies, I had a case in which a local bank was robbed. The suspect (Mark Hill) entered the bank in the afternoon and waited in line to approach the teller. He stood in the lobby for two or three minutes, waiting to walk up to the counter, where he eventually gave the teller a "demand note" and flashed a handgun in his waistband. While he was waiting for the opportunity, a bank employee (Kathy Smalley) saw him standing in line. Kathy was working as an assistant manager and had a desk located in the lobby, adjacent to the teller line. She recognized Mark as he waited for his turn. Kathy had attended high school with Mark and recognized him because he was a talented (and popular) athlete. Even though many years had passed, Kathy still recognized him with certainty. Mark, on the other hand, was focused as he waited to rob the bank. He never even looked up to see Kathy watching him. He eventually approached the teller (Debra Camacho) and completed his robbery. Debra gave Mark the money he demanded and then pushed the silent alarm button as he turned to walk away. She motioned quickly to Kathy, who was sitting within her view.
Kathy recognized the fact that Debra had just been robbed. She couldn't believe it. She never considered Mark to be the kind of person who would commit a robbery. In fact, she thought Mark got an athletic scholarship after high school and assumed he became a successful athlete and college graduate. When she first saw Mark enter the lobby, she never thought he was about to commit a robbery. After the fact, however, she was certain that Mark was the robber. She was now a true believer in Mark's guilt. After all, she saw it with her own eyes. You might say that Kathy was now a "Mark Hillian" believer related to the robbery. So let me ask you a question. Should I trust her testimony? Isn't she too biased to be a reliable witness? Kathy is not neutral about what she saw in the bank. She has a perspective and an opinion about the identity of the robber. She's a Mark Hillian believer; she is certain that of all the possible truths related to who committed the robbery, only one is accurate. If she's this biased, how can I trust what she has to say?
Can you see how ridiculous this concern would be? Kathy didn't start off with a bias against Mark or a presupposition that tainted her observations. In fact, she was shocked to find that Mark was capable of committing such a crime. She was not a "Mark Hillian" believer until after the fact.
In a similar way, the authors of the Gospels were not "Christian" believers until after they observed the life and ministry of Jesus. Much has been written about the fact that Jews in first-century Palestine were looking for a Messiah who would save them from Roman oppression. They were expecting a military liberator, not a spiritual savior. Even Bart Erhman admits that the disciples found themselves asking the question "How could Jesus, the Messiah, have been killed as a common criminal?" They didn't expect Jesus (as the military messiah) to die, and they certainly didn't expect Him to come back to life.
The Gospels are filled with examples of the disciples misunderstanding the predictions and proclamations of Jesus. There are many examples of doubt and hesitancy on the part of those who witnessed Jesus's life. The skeptical disciples continually asked Jesus for clarification, and Thomas, after spending three years with Jesus, still wouldn't believe His prediction of the resurrection until he saw Jesus with his own eyes and touched Jesus with his own hands.
The apostles became convinced of Jesus’s deity after they observed His life and resurrection. They didn't start off as Christians any more than Kathy started off as a "Mark Hillian." The disciples ended up as Christians (certain that Jesus was God) as a result of their observations, just as Kathy ended up as a "Mark Hillian" (certain that he was the robber) as a result of her observations. The disciples were not prejudicially biased; they were evidentially certain.
THE DEATH NARRATIVES OF THE APOSTLES WERE WRITTEN BY CHRISTIANS
Skeptics have also argued that little or no weight can be given to the fact that the apostles were allegedly martyred for their testimony because the "histories" that describe their martyrdom are largely Christian legends written by believers. How do we even know that these martyrdoms really occurred if the only records we have are biased stories and legends filled with miraculous tales?
As described in chapter 1, we can’t allow the description of miraculous occurrences to automatically disqualify the ancient accounts. If we are going to claim that the ancient stories are biased (because they were written by Christians), we cannot reject them with a bias of our own (against supernaturalism). While it is true that some accounts related to the martyrdom of the apostles are more reliable than others, we have no reason to reject all of them as historically inaccurate. The deaths of Peter, Paul, James, and John are very well attested, and the remaining martyrdom accounts of the apostles (with the possible exception of Matthias and Philip) are sufficiently documented to provide us with confidence that we know the truth about their deaths.
Most importantly, there aren't any ancient non-Christian accounts that contradict the claims of the Christian authors who wrote about the deaths of the eyewitness disciples. It's not as though we have competing accounts related to the testimony of these men. We don't have ancient Christians on one side, claiming that the apostles died because they proclaimed the truth about Jesus and refused to recant their testimony, and ancient non-Christians on the other side, claiming that the apostles eventually confessed that it was all a lie. There are no ancient authors claiming anything other than what the Christians described; there are no contradictory accounts that portray the apostles as liars who confessed their lies when pressured. The unanimous testimony of antiquity is that the early Christian eyewitnesses suffered for their testimony but stayed the course. They didn't flinch, and they never changed their story.
THE MOST REASONABLE CONCLUSION
Abductive reasoning can help us decide between two possible conclusions related to the bias or motive that the apostolic eyewitnesses may have had when writing their Gospels or testifying to their observations. Let's list the evidence one final time, alongside the two possible explanations that can account for what we have seen so far:
The Apostles Were Not Driven by Financial Grain
The Apostles Were Not Driven by Sex or Relationship.
The Apostles Were Not Driven by the Pursuit of Power
The Gospels Were Written by Christians
The Death Narratives of the Apostles were written by Christians
The apostles lacked evil intent. They simply couldn't benefit from lying about what they saw. In fact, they would have been far better off if they had kept their mouth shut. What could they possibly have gained from this elaborate lie? It's clear that the gospel writers appeared to be more concerned about eternal life than material gain. Could a lie about Jesus make His spiritual claims true? Does it make sense that the disciples would forsake everything for spiritual claims they knew were untrue?
The evidence from history once again supports the first explanation better than the second. It offers reasonable responses to the challenges offered by skeptics.
The second explanation, on the other hand, is simply unable to account adequately for the lack of motive on the part of the apostles. The first explanation is feasible, straightforward, and logical. It exhausts all the evidence we have assembled, and it is superior to the alternative explanation. It is, once again, the most reasonable explanation.