Is there a difference between Christian martyrs and Muslim martyrs?

I found an interesting post on the Truth in Religion & Politics blog that asks and answers the question.


What is so unique about the earliest disciples of Jesus being martyred for their claim Jesus was raised from the dead?  Many believers of various religious systems–Muslims for example–die and commit suicide regularly for what they believe to be true.  Christian apologists arguing for the historicity of the Resurrection use the fact that Jesus’ disciples and subsequent followers allowed themselves to be killed, without recanting their conviction that Jesus was raised from the dead.  Is this line of reasoning valid?  Does the fact that others die willingly for their religious faith undercut the veracity of the argument for the Resurrection?

The most important aspect of this detail is the historical proximity of the disciples to the event.  The disciples were contemporaries of Jesus and the Resurrection event.  They were witnesses to Jesus’ life; witnesses to His death; and claimed to be witnesses of His being alive after having been buried.

If we claim the Resurrection was a story invented by the disciples, we have to also have to claim they died for an event they knew they invented themselves.

[…]Keep in mind I am not arguing for modern or even 2nd century Christian martyrs as evidence, but rather the first disciples who claimed to be actual witnesses to the events themselves.  Muslims who die in suicide attacks are not first hand witnesses to Allah, or miracles of Allah.  Mohammad did not perform miracles, he claimed only to be a prophet.  Given this aspect of Islam, Mohammad’s cohorts were getting their theological insight second-hand from someone who claimed to speak for God.  They are not in parallel circumstances as the first martyred disciples who claimed to see with their own eyes the events for which they were killed.  Muslims willingly die for what someone told them was true, and in fact they do believe the message of Mohammad is true, but they lack first hand experience of his claims; they could not necessarily have known his claims were false.  Jesus’ disciples claimed to be eye witnesses to the Resurrection, they would be in the position to know their own story was false.

Lots of people die for their beliefs, but only the first century Christian martyrs were in a position to know whether they saw Jesus after his death or not.

30 thoughts on “Is there a difference between Christian martyrs and Muslim martyrs?”

  1. My favorite quote from “The Princess Bride”:

    Westley: Give us the gate key.
    Yellin: I have no gate key.
    Inigo Montoya: Fezzik, tear his arms off.
    Yellin: Oh, you mean this gate key.

    People will lie, and people will suffer for their beliefs, but who would willingly suffer for something they know is a lie?


  2. Oooh, nice slight of hand, there:
    What is so unique about the earliest disciples of Jesus being martyred for their claim Jesus was raised from the dead? Many believers of various religious systems–Muslims for example–die and commit suicide regularly for what they believe to be true.

    Being murdered for telling the truth is JUST like blowing yourself up to kill women and children!

    The essence of a Christian martyr is not death; the essence of a Christian martyr is sacrifice for God.


    1. *points at the Christ*
      Those before us sacrificed animals, plants, spices; He offered his own life as a mortal man, and his death, gently given. (even if it was harshly taken)

      A major difference, even compared to those others who are killed for what they believe, is that we’re called to follow his example.


    2. I agree with what you say, Foxfier (though I had to read carefully to be sure you were being sarcastic).

      Please also take the point that there is a difference between dying for what someone told you is the truth as opposed to dying for testifying what you claimed to see with your own eyes.

      If the claim is a lie, the sane response is “OK — I admit I made up the stuff about seeing the risen Jesus — please don’t kill me”. On the other hand, if you die believing a lie, then that’s less insane and more an act of misguided faith.


      1. though I had to read carefully to be sure you were being sarcastic

        Yay, the internet.

        Please also take the point that there is a difference between dying for what someone told you is the truth as opposed to dying for testifying what you claimed to see with your own eyes.

        There’s also a difference between dying for what you’ve been “told” is the truth and what you believe is the truth.

        There’s a difference between believing in those who have told you something, and believing something to the point of giving up your life.

        A lot of the Martyers were not eye-witnesses to Jesus, even if they saw the miracles of the disciples.


  3. Actually, the historical evidence for the claimed martyrdom of the Disciples is extremely poor. Most people simply assume it is good, without doing the research themselves.

    For Peter, we have the implications of his death in John 21 and 2 Peter (written around 100 CE), without saying when, where or why. 1 Clement (65 or 95 CE) says he is dead, but again doesn’t say when, where or why. The first historical evidence we have surrounding Peter’s death is Acts of Peter (150 – 200 CE) that says he was killed for convincing wives not to have sex with their husbands. Unfortunately he convinced some powerful governmental officials who had him killed.

    Nothing about the resurrection at all.

    James, son of Zebedee, is recorded as killed by King Herod (41-44 CE) in Acts, but no further details are given. One can imply it was due to his Christianity (as Herod then seized Peter), but no account indicates James was given an opportunity to recant.

    James, brother of Jesus is recorded as being killed within political machinations by Josephus. It is only after the Gnostic work of 2nd Apocalypse of James is incorporated by Heggesippus do we get any Christianization surrounding his death. Most evangelicals don’t realize they are relying upon a mid-Second century Gnostic work for James’ death.

    Tertullian refers to Peter, Paul and John (dipped in oil, but lived), but is writing after Acts of Paul and Acts of Peter, acknowledging he knows at least Acts of Paul.

    After that, the best we could hope for is Hippolytus, writing in the early 200’s (and THAT is assuming the scrap we have really came from Hippolytus.)

    In short, there is no contemporary historical evidence for the martyrdom of any Disciple, let alone a tale giving them an opportunity to recant.

    Most people repeat the tradition without reading the source material. Those who have actually read the source material abstain from the argument “not willing to die for a lie.”


    1. You might want to re-check your sources.

      James won the crown of martyrdom fourteen years after this prophecy, A.D. 44. Herod Agrippa I, son of Aristobulus and grandson of Herod the Great, reigned at that time as “king” over a wider dominion than that of his grandfather. His great object was to please the Jews in every way, and he showed great regard for the Mosaic Law and Jewish customs. In pursuance of this policy, on the occasion of the Passover of A.D. 44, he perpetrated cruelties upon the Church, whose rapid growth incensed the Jews. The zealous temper of James and his leading part in the Jewish Christian communities probably led Agrippa to choose him as the first victim. “He killed James, the brother of John, with the sword.” (Acts 12:1-2). According to a tradition, which, as we learn from Eusebius (Church History II.9.2-3), was received from Clement of Alexandria (in the seventh book of his lost “Hypotyposes”), the accuser who led the Apostle to judgment, moved by his confession, became himself a Christian, and they were beheaded together. As Clement testifies expressly that the account was given him “by those who were before him,” this tradition has a better foundation than many other traditions and legends respecting the Apostolic labours and death of St. James, which are related in the Latin “Passio Jacobi Majoris”, the Ethiopic “Acts of James”, and so on.”

      James, son of Alphaeus, “brother” of Jesus (means male relative)– who is not to be confused with St. James the Greater, brother of John– was indeed mentioned by Josephus in passing.
      Where he’s mentioned as being stoned to death as “breakers of the law.” Not really a political thing– expressly religious, since it was the high priest doing it.

      Paul was mentioned by St. Dionysius, who was Bishop of Corinth when Tertullian would have been a child.
      Incidentally, Tertullian’s “mention” of those three goes like this:
      …happy Church, in which the Apostles poured out their whole teaching with their blood, where Peter suffered a death like his Master’s, where Paul was crowned with an end like the Baptist’s, where John was plunged into fiery oil without hurt!

      That’s called a “miracle,” btw.

      Incidentally, Saint John the Evangelist is famous for being the one of the Apostles who didn’t get martyred.

      As for the Acts of Paul, the first three paragraphs here might be enlightening. As with most everything else in the post, the description is misleading.


      1. On St. James the Less:

        The identity of James

        The name “James” in the New Testament is borne by several:

        James, the son of Zebedee — Apostle, brother of John, Apostle; also called “James the Greater”.
        James, the son of Alpheus, Apostle — Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13.
        James, the brother of the Lord — Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3; Galatians 1:19. Without a shadow of doubt, he must be identified with the James of Galatians 2:2 and 2:9; Acts 12:17, 15:13 sqq. and 21:18; and 1 Corinthians 15:7.
        James, the son of Mary, brother of Joseph (or Joses) — Mark 15:40 (where he is called ò mikros “the little”, not the “less”, as in the D.V., nor the “lesser”); Matthew 27:56. Probably the son of Cleophas or Clopas (John 19:25) where “Maria Cleophæ” is generally translated “Mary the wife of Cleophas”, as married women are commonly distinguished by the addition of their husband’s name.
        James, the brother of Jude — Jude 1:1. Most Catholic commentators identify Jude with the “Judas Jacobi”, the “brother of James” (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13), called thus because his brother James was better known than himself in the primitive Church.
        The identity of the Apostle James (2), the son of Alpheus and James (3), the brother of the Lord and Bishop of the Church of Jerusalem (Acts 15, 21), although contested by many critics and, perhaps, not quite beyond doubt, is at least most highly probable, and by far the greater number of Catholic interpreters is considered as certain (see BRETHREN OF THE LORD, where the chief argument, taken from Galatians 1:19, in favour of the Apostleship of St. James the brother of the Lord, is to be found). The objection moved by Mader (Biblische Zeitschrift, 1908, p. 393 sqq.) against the common statement that “Apostles” in Galatians 1:19 is to be taken strictly in the sense of the “Twelve” has been strongly impugned by Steinmann (Der Katholik, 1909, p. 207 sqq.). The James (5) of Jude 1:1 must certainly be identified with James (3), the brother of the Lord and the Bishop of Jerusalem. The identification of James (3), the brother of the Lord and James (4), the son of Mary, and probably of Cleophas or Clopas offers some difficulty. This identification requires the identity of Mary, the mother of James (Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40), with Mary the wife of Cleophas (John 19:25), and, consequently, the identity of Alpheus (2) and Clopas (4). As Clopas and Alpheus are probably not two different transcriptions of the same Aramaic name Halpai (see CLEOPHAS), it must be admitted that two different names have been borne by one man. Indeed, there are several examples of the use of two names (a Hebrew and a Greek or Latin name) to designate the same person (Simon-Petrus; Saulus-Paulus), so that the identity of Alpheus and Cleophas is by no means improbable.

        On the whole, although there is no full evidence for the identity of James (2), the son of Alpheus, and James (3), the brother of the Lord, and James (4), the son of Mary of Clopas, the view that one and the same person is described in the New Testament in these three different ways, is by far the most probable. There is, at any rate, very good ground (Galatians 1:19, 2:9, 2:12) for believing that the Apostle James, the son of Alpheus is the same person as James, the brother of the Lord, the well-known Bishop of Jerusalem of the Acts. As to the nature of the relationship which the name “brother of the Lord” is intended to express, see BRETHREN OF THE LORD.


  4. Thanks, Wintery Knight.

    If you perused the comments (I cannot open them) you might have seen a familiar name…mine! I asked C. Michael Patton if he actually read the sources.

    He didn’t reply.

    Curiously, he conflates James the Lesser with James the brother of Jesus, skips the 2nd Apocalypse, and never tells you much (if anything) about the sources. For example, he mentions Hippolytus, but doesn’t mention the dating, the controversy or earlier sources.

    Kinda suspect.

    You may be interested to know I asked similar questions of a Biola professor, and he has declined to answer as well.



    1. I think you have a good objection here. And I have heard Habermas say so in his resurrection presentations. Which is why we don’t use this as a minimal fact.

      If you don’t accept ALL the martyrdoms, then you at least have to accept the conversion of Paul, who is a former enemy. And his martyrdom is recorded in the first century by Clement I – at least most scholars think that is the best interpretation of the passage.

      I think most scholars would accept Peter as well, and even James.


  5. Wintery Knight,

    I accept the conversion of Paul. However, 1 Clement and Paul is not helpful to the Christian apologist.

    1) It is never claimed (even by orthodox Christianity) Paul saw a physically resurrected Jesus. The claim is based upon demonstrating a physical Jesus; not a vision. Think of it this way, would you agree any Catholic who was “willing to die” after seeing the Virgin Mary is proof the Virgin Mary physically came back from the dead?

    Of course not. It was a vision—a dream. A spiritual sighting. Much the same way, Paul is not helpful–even granting arguendo he had a vision—Jesus physically rose from the dead.

    2) 1 Clement does not indicate how, why or when Paul died. The word used can be translated “witness.” (This was before Justin Martyr was killed—where we get the word “martyr.”) It does not necessarily mean he was killed for being a Christian, even! Although I do think 1 Clement does means he was, we need to be careful, not knowing the precise use of this word at the time.

    3) 1 Clement gives specifics regarding Paul—he was put in chains and stoned, yet doesn’t conclude with the grand finale which would culminate his point—that Paul was beheaded. He says, “Paul was in chains 7 times, exiled and stoned. Oh…then he died.” One would wonder–if Paul was beheaded–why it wasn’t listed.

    4) 1 Clement states Paul went to Spain (the “limits of the West”) which causes havoc with the traditional Acts/Pastoral chronology. When did he go to Spain?

    5) 1 Clement is deliberately listing contenders of the faith. He lists Abel, Moses, David and then turns to contemporary examples. He lists Peter, Paul and…Danaids and Dircae. Who?

    Think about this—many apologists are claiming the disciples and early followers were killed for their belief, and the Bishop of Rome, in either 65 or 95 CE, could only come up with Peter, Paul, Danaids and Dircae. Do you even know who Danaids and Dircae are? (I imagine the google search in my mind.)

    No James, the son of Zebedee. No James, brother of Jesus. No Matthew, Bartholomew, Thomas, Philip, Andrew.

    The biggest death knell for “not willing to die for a lie” is 1 Clement’s inability to come up with any disciples who did so!

    6) Finally, for completeness, I should note Tertullian stating Peter was alive when Clement became Bishop, combined with Acts of Paul and Acts of Peter causes chronological nightmares where we are forced to start picking one works’ historicity over another.

    Wintery Knight, I am convinced of both the historicity of Paul’s conversion AND 1 Clement’s account on Paul. Unfortunately, in the end, it not only fails to help “not willing to die for a lie”–if one stays consistent with 1 Clement–it hurts it.


    1. This is from Gary Habermas regarding Paul’s interaction with other apostles:

      “Paul made at least two trips to Jerusalem to check out the Gospel, as reported in Galatians 1:18-20 and 2:1-10. The first time, he met with Peter and James, the brother of Jesus. On the second occasion, Peter, James, and john were all present. Depending on what we do with Acts 15 (some say it is the same trip as Galatians 2, while others disagree), Paul may have made at least three trips to Jerusalem to confirm his preaching of the Gospel. And as he says in Galatians 1:20, he was not lying about this.”


      “We don’t have early historical evidence for the deaths of several of the disciples. But four key apostles–Peter, Paul, James the brother of Jesus, and John–are most important in terms of their immense influence in the early church and their strong testimony for Jesus’ resurrection. We have very early, first century data for the deaths of the first three of these apostles. Clement of Rome (Corinthians 5) reports the deaths of Paul and Peter. Josephus, of course, is a non-Christian and reports James’ martyrdom (Antiquities 20:9:1). On this topic, then, Christianity is on very firm grounds. However, besides these early first century reports, I think all we need to argue is that Jesus’ disciples were willing to die for their faith, which virtually no one will dispute. This shows that they at least believed that their message was true.”


      And of course, you are familiar with the literature that argues that Paul believed that the resurrection implied a resurrection body. He had a vision, he was in a position to evaluate the truth of it, he met with the two core apostles multiple times, he died for his belief in what he knew to be true. Moreover, he was willing to suffer based on things he had personally experienced.

      Are you going to give me the martyrdoms of Peter and James? That would be two more cases.


  6. Foxfier,

    Thank you. I have checked my sources. Indeed, I have read them. I am not asking this in a flippant, sarcastic way—I am genuinely asking this. Have you read these sources? Have you read Josephus on the death of James? Assuming arguendo “who was called Christ” is in the original—what was the specific reason Ananus killed James, according to Josephus?

    Hint: to demonstrate his authority while Albinus was on the road. (Are you aware why the Procurator being absent from Jerusalem was important, and why Ananus did it when he was gone? Because procurators appointed the High Priest and Ananus wanted to demonstrate how he (Ananus) had authority and should be the one appointed High Priest once Albinus arrived.)

    Do you know who stuck up for James? Pharisees. Can you explain why Pharisees would stick up for a Christian? Are you aware of the political tension and machinations between Pharisees and Sadducees such as Ananus?

    Secondly, have you read the 2nd Apocalypse of James? And then Hegesippus?

    As to Paul, yes I have read Tertullian on Paul. Do you know where the earlier account of Paul’s death is found? In Acts of Paul. Are you aware Tertullian refers to Acts of Paul as a forgery, but indicating his awareness of it?

    If we have an earlier document a later writer refers to, as a historian we always look to the earlier document first. The first account on Paul’s death is Acts of Paul. You may not like the book—that is your concern. Not mine.

    As to James, the son of Zebedee, I am aware of Acts, yes. It does not say why James was killed by Herod (although I do think that Luke was implying it was Christianity.)

    Curious Luke spent a chapter on Stephen’s martydom, yet only refers to James in a passing introduction to a story on Peter. Also curious that 1 Clement has no knowledge of this death. Frankly, I do not find it historical (I don’t trust Acts). Even under the Acts account, we have no idea whether he had the chance to recant.

    Finally, I am aware of Eusebius. Even Hippolytus is earlier. I look to the earliest accounts…not the latest one that fits what I want to believe. Why is it…I wonder…many apologists skip all those unwelcome, unsightly accounts, and then claim “historicity” in an account 240 years after the fact!

    Yet the same apologists reject numerous other works as not historical for being “too late” such as the Gospel of Thomas or the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. Works written prior to Eusebius.


    1. The time of writing is not the only factor that causes me to reject Thomas. It was written in COPTIC and it did not originate in Jerusalem, but probably in Syria. Not only that, but there are issues with the content as well, i.e. – reflecting gnosticism. So time of writing is not the only factor.

      I can defend the martyrdoms of Paul, Peter and James, and testify to the willingness of the earliest followers of Jesus to die for what they believed, (by appealing to Roman and Jewish sources). The point of the original post was that the Christian martyrs were dying because of things that they were in a position to know – his death and subsequent appearances alive. No scholar denies that the earliest follows of Jesus had post-mortem experiences where they thought they saw him. That’s what they believed, and that’s what they were willing to die for. And I am well withing the mainstream when I make those modest assertions.


    2. Thank you. I have checked my sources. Indeed, I have read them

      You really like trying to call on authority, don’t you? Coupled with your disinclination to link or cite, failure to directly respond, inability to identify quotes even when directly linked, and the general dishonest representation, you’re not worth the time.


    3. Incidentally, it’s just amazing that with all your reading, knowledge and sources, you weren’t aware that St. John the Evangelist wasn’t martyred.


  7. “I don’t trust Acts.” *snicker snicker snort* On what basis? Seriously, you’re playing pick-and-choose history. Then you ask (with great wonder, I might add) why people think the gospel of Thomas is suspect. Why, indeed? Because, perhaps, just maybe…it’s a gnostic fabrication. You can’t trust the historical record of people willing to lie about history. Shouldn’t that at least be obvious?


  8. Foxfier,

    You raise a fair criticism—I have started to avoid links in comments as many blogger programs filter any link into spam, taking too much time and effort to resurrect my comments with additional statements of “Did my comment disappear?” Even comments blog owners want to appear may take time to locate and post. By then the conversation has moved on, making the original comment disappear in internet fog. Easier to avoid linking altogether.

    However, in the hopes Wintery Knight is on top of his game (per usual), I will provide you with a few links. Note many of these articles have additional links to the actual sources.

    I wrote on the necessary underpinnings of this “die for a lie.” We have certain requirements, namely:

    1) It must be a person who claims to see a physically resurrected Jesus; and
    2) They must be given an opportunity to recant and avoid punishment.

    Otherwise, “Not willing to die for a lie” fails in the basic argument form.

    Wintery Knight referred to C. Michael Patton’s Article and while I cannot retrieve the comments I made, I did make numerous references to it over at Tough Questions Answered.

    Now as to the particulars, I wrote regarding Peter (with a reference to Paul). Again, the article itself has the links to the source material. I presumed one has a background in martyrdom genre source material, reading Lucian and Martyrdom of Polycarp. I can provide additional links, if anyone requires them.

    This blog entry was referred to in a conversation with an asst. Professor at BIOLA. (Again, with links.) You may be interested in that discussion—he has not provided us with additional sources, nor has he responded to the problem Acts of Peter presents.

    As to James, the brother of Jesus, I had a discussion at Ten Minas Ministries Blog but we both tend to be long-winded, so you may not want to dig through all the material. A shorter version would be to review the Josephus passage on James (90 – 100 CE) (albeit disputed as to whether “who was called Christ” was in original)

    We then see the legend development in the 2nd Apocalypse of James (120-180 CE), for the first time associating James’ death with his Christianity, rather than political machines. This legend develops even further in Hegesippus (165-200 CE).

    I have yet to see a Christian apologist refer to the 2nd Apocalypse when recounting James’ death. They always skip from Josephus to Hegesippus. I suspect it is recalcitrance to utilize a Gnostic work. Notice, though, the 2nd Apocalypse is a necessary transition, so in the end the Christian apologist IS utilizing a Gnostic work—just not acknowledging it. An excellent example is James’ means of death:

    Josephus: Stoning.
    2nd Apocalypse: Thrown from a height, then stoning.
    Hegesippus: Thrown from height, stoned, then hit with a club.

    See how the 2nd Apocalypse gives the added detail of being thrown (not to mention the Christianity of James’ death) which Hegesippus uses?

    As I mentioned earlier, we have James, son of Zebedee killed by King Agrippa in Acts, although no particular reason was given. (Consider this: according to the Gospels, John the Baptist was not killed for preaching repentance—he was killed for criticizing Herod the Tetrarch’s marriage. We have no information what particular event or statement caused King Agrippa to arrest and kill James—even in Christian sources.)

    Finally, for the rest of the disciples, we have Hippolytus (Although interestingly Hippolytus disagrees with Acts by indicating James, son of Zebedeee was killed by Herod the Tetrarch rather than King Agrippa [who is referred to as “King Herod” in Acts] This makes no sense, as Herod the Tetrarch had no authority in Judea, and why would Hippolytus disagree with Acts, which was certainly known at the time of writing?) This is written far too late, and Dr. Licona notes in his recent book on The Resurrection of Jesus, the deaths are anecdotal and not helpful to the discussion.

    Finally, since you mentioned it, I wrote on the various James in the Bible as well.

    Hopefully this will provide you with enough links to substantiate my earlier statements.

    P.S. I am uncertain what led you to believe I thought John, son of Zebedee was killed. Indeed, I said the exact opposite—that he lived—in my comments. Regardless, I apologize for any confusion. (Although, *cough, cough* there IS some scholarly debate. Ben Witherington III believes John, son of Zebedee WAS martyred.)


    1. This comment had too many links and was intercepted by the SPAM filter! I had to fish it out when you brought my attention to it.

      Sometimes I do get annoyed with atheist commenters that make all kinds of crazy statements and don’t link any evidence. But that doesn’t apply to you.


    2. Acts 12:1-3
      And at the same time, Herod the king stretched forth his hands, to afflict some of the church. 2 And he killed James, the brother of John, with the sword. 3 And seeing that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to take up Peter also

      Because even I get tempted by low-hanging fruit, no matter what my resolve.

      Especially when it’s linked from the first link in the first reply I posted.

      Unsubscribing, now, because it’s clear you’re never going to be swayed by a mortal power.

      Again, you are at best hugely misleading in your claims of what things say.


  9. Wintery Knight,

    It is not a matter of “giving you” certain people as martyrs. (I look at this more as an interesting discussion, rather than an antagonistic debate.) The question is what argument is stronger—not whether one can make an argument. Some may be convinced by your argument; others may not. *shrug* Such is life.

    I perform a three step analysis:

    1) Look to what the source specifically says.
    2) Then look to the reliability of the source (including authorship, dating, genre, favorable vs. neutral vs. antagonistic); and
    3) Then arguments for/against the proposition being made.

    Take James, brother of Jesus. (I presume this is the James you refer to. If it is son of Zebedee, I can perform the same analysis.)

    1) The source (Josephus) says he was killed by Ananus so Ananus could demonstrate his political power. James was accused of breaching the law. No specific allegation is listed. The Pharisees protested this treatment to the extent Ananus was removed as High Priest.

    2) This was written by a neutral party (albeit disposed toward Pharisees), around 40 years after the happening. However, as I indicated in the links to Foxfier, there is scholarly debate whether this refers to James, the brother of Christ, or James, the brother of Jesus, son of Damneus.

    3). There is no indication James here was persecuted as a Christian. Why would it demonstrate political power to kill a person everyone agrees could be killed? Merely administrative; not significant. Why would Pharisees come to the aid of a Christians?

    In the end, there is no enough information to claim James, brother of Jesus, was killed for being a Christian, nor that this passage was even referring to James, the brother of Jesus.

    The next source we have is 2nd Apocalypse. Since it is Gnostic, not sure even Christian apologists consider it reliable. The next source is Hegesippus, but as it relies upon a Gnostic source—do Christian apologists consider it reliable?

    Or take Peter.

    The first source we have giving the specifics as to his death is Acts of Peter.

    1. The source itself indicates he was killed for telling wives to stop having sex with their husbands.

    2. It is a pro-Christian source, dated late, and of dubious reliability.

    3. I do not think the arguments are strong for its historicity–but it’s the best the apologist has!

    Any other sources are later and indicated awareness of the various martyr genre Acts.


    Again, all we have is Acts of Paul with similar problems as Acts of Peter. I have previously listed the issues (and lack of information) in 1 Clement as to both Peter and Paul.

    You ask me if I am “giving” the martyrdoms of Peter and Paul—but that isn’t really the question. Remember—the premise here is that they were willing to die for what they saw–not what they believed. We all agree people are willing to die for what they believe; alas we have demonstrations of that daily.

    We need to demonstrate they were willing to die for what they saw. Peter, being a Christian martyr for preaching abstinence to married women (and concubines) does not support this argument. Yes, he is a martyr, but he was not killed for saying Jesus rose from the dead—he was killed for a wacky belief.

    Paul, being killed as a scapegoat for Nero, does make him a martyr. It does not help this argument.

    So even if a “give” you martyrs—we still need to demonstrate recanting would have saved them.

    Think about Joseph Smith. He was killed by a mob for his beliefs. Was he a Mormon martyr (killed for his Mormonism?) Yes. Was he willing to die for a lie? Well….we don’t know. I presume you do not agree with Mr. Smith’s claim he saw the Angel Moroni, got inspired plates, etc. Yet he took that claim and created a religion with it.

    However, at the time of his death, he was killed by a mob—not a rationale scholarly debate as to the veracity of the claims. He couldn’t shout out, “Hey, I was lying about the plates!” and the mob suddenly stop and say. “Oh…sorry about that…I guess we will quietly disperse to our various homes now.” How silly!

    In the same way if Paul (or Peter or James) were condemned to die as scapegoats, their recanting or not wouldn’t make a difference. They would still die. They would still die as martyrs. They just can’t be used for this argument.

    I am not certain whether Peter and Paul were martyred. 1 Clement is just not that clear. But even if they were, we don’t have any source material (indeed 1 Clement’s silence is deafening) as to their “not willing to die for a lie.” Not enough information as to the where, when, why and how surrounding their deaths until legendary development fills in the details.

    I can best end with a quote from Dr. Jim West, “When one is arguing for the truth of Christianity and the truth of the resurrection of Jesus, falling back to the martyrdom argument is a sign of argument-weakness.” Here.

    As to Minimal facts, I am conversant in the approach. Here I was only pointing out source material does not support the claim about disciples “not willing to die for a lie.”


  10. In Russet Shadows,

    I was not aware, “snicker snicker snort” constituted valid argumentation. Alas and alack, I fear you miss the tremendous irony in your comment picking and choosing to suspect writings as people “willing to lie about history” when they are Gnostic; yet not understanding why I—likewise—distrust Christian polemics such as Acts with demonstrated historical errors.


  11. Bwahahahahaha!


    I posted a comment that started with this paragraph:

    “You raise a fair criticism—I have started to avoid links in comments as many blogger programs filter any link into spam, taking too much time and effort to resurrect my comments with additional statements of “Did my comment disappear?” Even comments blog owners want to appear may take time to locate and post. By then the conversation has moved on, making the original comment disappear in internet fog. Easier to avoid linking altogether.”

    Of course…after posting it…exactly as I feared….it disappeared into spam filter (I believe, as it did not appear.)

    I don’t provide links because my comments disappear through no fault of the blog-owner. Let us cross our fingers Wintery Knight can locate my precious comment in the internet dust bin!


  12. Sigh.

    I guess I can’t win with Foxfier. And now he’ll never know—having unsubscribed from this blog entry.

    First the complaint I don’t link enough; now I apparently link too much. I’m called a liar…er…”general dishonest representation”…and when it turns out I was right—Spam filters DO gobble up my comments—I get no apology. Not even the teeniest, tiniest jot of charity; I perhaps have done a smidge of homework.

    [Thanks, by the way, to Wintery Knight for so quickly retrieving the comment from spam. I did not think for a minute you deleted it—I knew it had been filtered. As I said, this has become a perpetual problem with the inundation of Korean Porn on bloggers everywhere.]

    Foxfier (in case you catch this inadvertently)

    Yes, I am aware of Acts 12:1-3. But why? Why was King Agrippa harassing the church? Was it like Nero—did he accuse them of causing some affliction? Was it due to their taking money from the temple? For not paying taxes? For not following some temple practice? For not enforcing circumcision? For saying Jesus was king—not Herod? For saying…or doing….or what?

    And what “Judeans” did it please? Perhaps knowing who it pleased would tell us what was being done. Did it please the Sadducees? Pharisees? Herodians? Baptists? Essenes? The Samaritans, Galileans, the Nazarenes?

    And why James, son of Zebedee? Why not John as well? Or James, the brother of Jesus? Or Peter first?

    None of these questions is answered. Yes, it says, “King Agrippa molested the church, killed James, son of Zebedee, and seeing it [James’ death] pleased ‘the Judeans’—he decided to grab Peter.” It makes sense (in my opinion) that Peter was similarly situated as James—i.e. doing the same thing—which would be why Agrippa grabbed Peter as well.

    And, as I initially said, Luke is definitely implying that same thing was Christianity. Not that they happened to do laundry together.

    But a bare statement, “King Agrippa decided to afflict the church” doesn’t give us the why behind the reason for doing so.

    Again (and again and again) the point of this argument—“not willing to die for lie”—is very specific. It requires a statement about a physically resurrection by a particular person in a position to recant. A general pogrom against the Church for reasons unknown is not sufficient to support the claim.

    If I am misleading in my claim—I would be thrilled to bits to have someone show me! Tell me what the church was doing that caused King Agrippa to harass it. Not some apologetic speculation as to “Jews vs. Christians.” That ship has long sailed amongst biblical scholarship. Tell us what the source SAYS.


  13. Holy smokes! I must have failed to click the “notify” button. I probably won’t catch up with the reading, but I skim read the general flow.

    OK — I slightly overstated my case. Habermas warns people not to do this, now I know why. Allow me to back-peddle a bit and re-state properly.

    Some followers of Jesus willingly put themselves in harm’s way by claiming to be witnesses of the resurrected Christ. Others put themselves in harm’s way because they believed what they were told about the resurrection.


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