Fall 2013

Did the Apostles Really Die as Martyrs for their Faith?

By Sean McDowell

“Even though they were crucified, stoned, stabbed, dragged, skinned and burned, every last apostle of Jesus proclaimed his resurrection until his dying breath, refusing to recant under pressure from the authorities. Therefore, their testimony is trustworthy and the resurrection is true.”

If you have followed popular–level arguments for the resurrection (or ever heard a sermon on the apostles), you’ve likely heard this argument. Growing up I heard it regularly and found it quite convincing. After all, why would the apostles of Jesus have died for their faith if it weren’t true?

Yet the question was always in the back of my mind — how do we really know they died as martyrs? For the past couple years I have been researching this question as part of my doctoral dissertation. And what I have found is fascinating!

While we can have more confidence in the martyrdoms of apostles such as Peter, Paul and James the brother of John (and probably Thomas and Andrew), there is much less evidence for many of the others (such as Matthias and James, son of Alphaeus). This evidence is late and filled with legendary accretion. This may come as a disappointment to some, but for the sake of the resurrection argument, it is not critical that we demonstrate that all of them died as martyrs. What is critical is their willingness to suffer for their faith and the lack of a contrary story that any of them recanted.

Historian Michael Licona captures the key point in his book The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach: “After Jesus’ death, the disciples endured persecution, and a number of them experienced martyrdom. The strength of their conviction indicates that they were not just claiming Jesus had appeared to them after rising from the dead. They really believed it. They willingly endangered themselves by publicly proclaiming the risen Christ.”

Here are the key facts:

First, the apostles were eyewitnesses of the risen Jesus. When a replacement was chosen for Judas, one necessary criterion was that the person had seen the risen Lord (Acts 1:21–22). Paul and James the brother of Jesus were also eyewitnesses (1 Cor. 15:3–8). Their convictions were not based on secondhand testimony, but from the belief that they had seen the resurrected Christ with their own eyes. This makes the disciples’ willingness to die different from Muslim martyrs, who certainly sincerely believe in Islam, but base their belief on secondhand testimony.

Second, early Christians were persecuted for their faith. John the Baptist was imprisoned and beheaded (Matt. 14:1–11). Jesus was crucified. Stephen was stoned to death after his witness before the Sanhedrin (Acts 6–8). And Herod Agrippa killed James the brother of John (Acts 12:12), which led to the departure of the rest of the Twelve from Jerusalem. The first statewide persecution of Christians was under Nero (AD 64), as reported by Tacitus (Annals 15.44:2–5) and Suetonius (Nero 16.2). Although persecution was sporadic and local, from this point forward Christians could be arrested and killed for proclaiming the name of Jesus. And many of them were.

Third, the apostles were willing to suffer for their faith. This is certainly true of Paul, who recounts the suffering he endured, which included being whipped, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, near starvation and in danger from various people and places (2 Cor. 6:4–9). Speaking for the apostles, after being threatened by the religious leaders, Peter and John say, “For we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). The apostles are then thrown in prison, beaten for their faith, but they continued to preach and teach the gospel (Acts 5:17–42).

While the evidence of martyrdom is far better for some of the apostles than others, the evidence for Peter is particularly strong. The earliest evidence is found in John 21:18–19, which was written about 30 years after Peter’s death. Bart Ehrman, in his book Peter, Paul, & Mary Magdalene: The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend, agrees that Peter is being told he will die as a martyr. Other evidence for Peter’s martyrdom can be found in early church fathers such as Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Dionysius of Corinth, Irenaeus, Tertullian and more. The early, consistent and unanimous testimony is that Peter died as a martyr.

This does not prove that the resurrection is true. But it shows the depth of the apostles’ convictions. They were not liars. They truly believed Jesus rose from the grave and they were willing to give their lives for it.

Sean McDowell (’98, M.A. ’03) is a popular author and speaker, and the newest faculty member in Biola’s M.A. program in Christian apologetics. Find him online at seanmcdowell.org.



  • Jason from Massachusetts April 14, 2014 at 3:14 PM

    I am a father of three and a believer, and I'm seeking out apologetics information so I'm prepared to answer their questions. And they will ask. This article is very helpful. Thank you.

  • Diane June 12, 2014 at 2:37 PM

    I'm researching this topic to give evidence to my oldest son, who has adopted atheism, that some of the apostles were indeed martyred.

    I need solid evidence not just legends. Are there any writings outside of the church that supports this?

  • Bobby Brooks July 17, 2014 at 4:53 AM

    The apostles martyrdom is one of the most powerful evidences for what they witnessed. It has certainly impacted my belief in Jesus Christ. I will research what you have provided here, but will need to examine each source, rather than rely on legends.I wonder if anyone has developed a "toolbox" of sources and evidences to support the price paid by the apostles for what the believed? Thank you for the article.

  • Jason August 30, 2014 at 5:52 PM

    Do you have any evidence aside from the bible? Unless you are a christian the bible is horrible evidence.

  • Jeff November 28, 2014 at 7:31 AM

    Eusebius - Historia Ecclesiastica ( a chronological account of the development of Early Christianity)

    Matthew suffered martyrdom in Ethiopia, killed by a sword wound.

    Mark died in Alexandria, Egypt, after being dragged by horses through the streets until he was dead.

    Luke was hanged in Greece as a result of his preaching.

    John faced martyrdom when he was boiled in a huge basin of boiling oil during a wave of persecution in Rome. John was then sentenced to the mines on the prison island of Patmos. He was later freed and returned Ephesus in modern Turkey. He died as an old man, the only apostle to die peacefully.

    Peter was crucified upside down on an x-shaped cross. He told his tormentors that he was unworthy to die the same way Jesus Christ had died.

    James, the leader of the church in Jerusalem, was thrown over a hundred feet down from the southeast pinnacle of the Temple when he refused to deny his faith in Christ. When they discovered that he survived the fall, his enemies beat James to death with a fuller's club. This was the same pinnacle where Satan had taken Jesus during the Temptation.

    James, a leader of the church, was beheaded at Jerusalem. The Roman officer who guarded James watched amazed as James defended his faith at his trial. Later, the officer walked beside James to the place of execution. Overcome by conviction, he declared his new faith to the judge and knelt beside James to accept beheading as a Christian.

    Bartholomew, also known as Nathanal, was a missionary to Asia. He witnessed to our Lord in present day Turkey. Bartholomew was martyred for his preaching in Armenia when he was believed to have been flayed to death by a whip. He may have also been crucified.

    Andrew was crucified on an x-shaped cross in Patras, Greece. After being whipped severely by seven soldiers they tied his body to the cross with cords to prolong his agony. His followers reported that, when he was led toward the cross, Andrew saluted it in these words: "I have long desired and expected this happy hour. The cross has been consecrated by the body of Christ hanging on it." He continued to preach to his tormentors for two days until he expired.

    Thomas was stabbed with a spear in India during one of his missionary trips to establish the church in the subcontinent.

    Jude, the brother of Jesus, was killed with arrows when he refused to deny his faith in Christ.

    Matthias, Matthias was chosen by the Apostles to replace Judas Iscariot, after the death of Judas in the Field of Blood. Information concerning the life and death of Matthias is vague and contradictory. One tradition maintains that Matthias was stoned at Jerusalem by the Jews, and then beheaded.

    Barnabas, one of the group of seventy disciples. He preached throughout Italy and Cyprus. Barnabas was stoned to death at Salonica.

    Phillip was crucified, according to the plaque in the church of the Holy Apostles.

  • JACOB THOMAS December 7, 2014 at 12:43 AM


  • Mike December 23, 2014 at 5:28 AM

    Jason, why would the Bible be considered horrible evidence? Historians accept documents based on much less scholarship than the Bible as truth; why do you single out and discount consistent, eyewitness accounts just because they're included in the Bible?

  • Babs March 3, 2015 at 1:31 AM

    Maybe because all the "eyewitnesses" were dead when the "eyewitness accounts" were documented

  • Brad Hetler April 15, 2015 at 1:05 PM

    I take it there are no unbiased historical sources?

  • ENB May 15, 2015 at 9:03 AM

    There were more ancient records found, similar to the Bible, yet translated directly to English. It is another Testament of Jesus Christ, it is called the Book of Mormon (because like the book of John, or Mark, or Matthew, Mormon was the name of the man who wrote it ( well he abridged a lot of ancient records who were witnesses of Christ.)

  • John July 28, 2015 at 6:59 AM

    This topic has interested me for some time. I have a couple things I have really been struggling with. One is the ONLY apolstle whose death is actually recorded in the bible is James. Peter's death is alluded to but not actually recorded. This a little problematic as we Christians are relying for part of our doctrine on sources other than the Bible, which can be fraught with lies, inaccuracies, etc, even if we think it supports what we believe. Second, the death of James is a good example that the suffering and martyrdom of the apostles may not have gone quite according to the typical "recant or die" script we normally assume happened. In Acts 12, all the Bible says is that King Herod arrested some christians then had James put to death. There was nowhere documented that James had an opportunity to recant, or that by doing so his life would have been spared. We as christians need to be careful using as "evidence" assumptions and non-biblical accounts of the early christian church.

  • RedPop4 October 19, 2015 at 12:18 PM

    There's also "The Jewish War" by Flavius Josephus. Josephus was a Roman citizen and not a Christian, He, nevertheless, was an eyewitness to the Jewish rebellion that culminated in the destruction of the Temple and the Diaspora of the Jews from Jerusalem. He objectively discusses the Christians, as well.

  • Kristen November 20, 2015 at 8:37 PM

    In response to what "John" said, how can we as Christians then know how the apostles were persecuted and killed if the Bible itself doesn't say and other accounts may not be credible? Is there even any evidence that the witnesses to Christ's resurrection were killed for that profession? Please answer me I'm a Christian but I'm plagued with so many questions and doubts...

  • David December 4, 2015 at 3:06 AM

    Kristen , I am an atheist. I was a Christian. I have done the research. Unfortunately christians either knowingly or unknowingly misrepresent the reliability of various sources.

    Here are a couple answers to your questions , if you would like further clarity you can email me at dbarnard1803@gmail.com and I will provide all the sources from where I draw my conclusions.

    1. Matthew mark luke and John never write matthew mark luke and John
    2. The Gospels were written by highly educated people many years after Jesus in a language non of Jesus followers could understand. The writer were probably christians whoever knew evidence suggests that they may have been in the employ of the Roman Empire to redact a story to quell the Jewish uprising in Judea by presenting them with the messiah they wanted who was a pasifist.
    3. Eusebius was written 300 years after Jesus . It's completely unreliable as a source of what happened to the disciples.
    4. No well know contempories of Jesus wrote about Jesus despite his well known fame from healing the sick and various miracles ( the only explanation here is that there was no fame aand there were no miracles).

  • David December 4, 2015 at 3:11 AM

    Kristen , I am an atheist. I was a Christian. I have done the research. Unfortunately christians either knowingly or unknowingly misrepresent the reliability of various sources.

    Here are a couple answers to your questions , if you would like further clarity you can email me at dbarnard1803@gmail.com and I will provide all the sources from where I draw my conclusions.

    1. Matthew mark luke and John never wrote matthew mark luke and John
    2. The Gospels were written by highly educated people many years after Jesus in a language none of Jesus followers could understand. The writers were probably christians and new evidence suggests that they may have been in the employ of the Roman Empire to redact a story to quell the Jewish uprising in Judea by presenting them with the messiah they wanted who was a pasifist.
    3. Eusebius was written 300 years after Jesus . It's completely unreliable as a source of what happened to the disciples.
    4. No well known contempories of Jesus wrote about Jesus despite his well known fame from healing the sick and various other miracles ( the only explanation here is that there was no fame and there were no miracles).

  • wiiliam December 8, 2015 at 12:02 AM

    Neither one of you has truly found Christ or been reborn. The bible is the living word of God and speaks for its self. Obey,submit,believe,put in practice Luke 10:27 and God will change your life. Your testimony will be the truth of Jesus Christ existence. May God take out your hearts of stone and replace it with one of flesh. Faith is the beginning to a new life and eternity with Christ.

  • Diteboho Sentoeli December 26, 2015 at 7:10 AM

    JESUS CHRIST IS GOD we are HIS Church surely as our fore brethren died as matyrs, we will also do the same because we believe only in HIM and ready to die for HIM in HIM.

  • Rob March 3, 2016 at 2:38 PM

    Wiiliam, did you really just post THAT comment? Kristen is asking for help with finding the answer to a question that is troubling her and you tell her that her heart is made of stone. What outcome were you hoping for? I have never met you, but let me assure you that you are not qualified to judge her or to determine if she has been reborn.

    In this case the Bible does not speak for itself. The Bible only speaks about the death of one of these eyewitnesses, vaguely eludes to the future death of another, and does not speak on whether anyone did or did not recant their faith. You're comment was not helpful nor did it show the love of Christ.

    Also, while David's comment was annoying, mostly wrong, and also not helpful, we cannot judge his heart either. Please be careful and consider the effects of your comments and why you're posting them before you submit them.

  • Amy March 4, 2016 at 4:44 AM

    I agree with Rob. The bible calls us to lI've Him with ALL of our minds. I believe that is what Kristen is trying to do. I could never imagine God looking down on her saying "Oh you and your heart of stone." It seems more in His character to be glad that Kristen is using her God given brain to search for answers. Blind faith is not the only way. I was once in the same place as Kristen is. I found many answers... the book Case for Christ was very helpful but in the end, what really became "proof" to me was God showing up in a real and undeniable way in my life. Everyone comes to faith in different ways. Don't discount someone else's journey.

  • Tom March 9, 2016 at 9:00 AM

    Now, I'm kinda curious about outside the Bible sources on disciples' martyrdom. It seems to me that from the article contemporary sources are Clement of Rome, who knew Peter, and Ignatius, who knew John. The others mentioned seem a little late in time to be of any sort of good witness, even born well after the fact. But, did Clement of Rome and Ignatius see firsthand or did they receive word from someone else? What did they report (if it's long, I think most of us would appreciate a summary instead)?
    As for throwing in early church fathers, I think it is important to note the dates they lived. Like someone references Eusebius claims on the disciples' deaths, but they seem to edit out that Eusebius was born way after their deaths. I don't know if leaving out Eusibius' time frame was intentional or just accidentally overlooked.

    Below is a digression and reference to a previous post:
    As for Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John claims that they weren't written by them. True, they were anonymous, but it is also reported that early church fathers attest to them. But, I never heard or seen which early church fathers they are referencing that attest to the authenticity of the gospels.
    Then people say the disciples were illiterate and couldn't have written the gospels. But, it looks like the disciples, for the most part, didn't write these gospels. Matthew and Luke weren't disciples; they were a tax collector and a physician, respectively. Matthew and Luke may have been educated men who understood Aramaic and Greek. As for Mark, they say John Mark wrote for Peter; therefore, Peter didn't need to know Greek or how to write. But I wonder what was John Mark's educational background. So, educated men may have wrote Matthew, Mark, Luke.
    John is said to have been written around 90 A.D. It seems to me that is plenty of time for John to learn how to read and write Greek if we consider Jesus died around 30 - 33 A.D. But, John looks weird to me.
    John seems like a weird gospel to me if it was written by John because of the way John and Revelation are written (if John wrote Revelation). The gospel John seems to be written in the third person while Revelation seems to be written in the first person. At first I wondered if Greek didn't have a literary construct for the first person. But, Revelation seems to deny this if it too was written in Greek. (I'm not a scholar; so, I got this from English translated Bibles).

  • Tom March 9, 2016 at 9:00 AM

    Lastly, I too always wondered if so many heard of Jesus healing and miracles why wasn't there a contemporary, outside the Bible, to write about Him? (Josephus was born after Jesus' death). Even a centurion sent his servant from afar to ask Jesus for help because he heard of Him. So if this centurion heard of Him, could not have others? Why is it not reported aside from the Bible? Surely, not everyone was illiterate. Surely, the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. couldn't have wiped out every little bit of writing.
    Lots of questions. Answers would be nice. A faith based on facts and reality would be nice. Some can have blind faith. But to me blind faith seems a bit gullible (no disrespect) like that saying "If you believe that, I got a bridge I'd like to sell to you." However, if the Bible is true, Jesus does laud those who have not seen, yet believe.
    One last thing, all, please be honest with your statements saying what is known to the best of your knowledge. Some atheists and Christians purposefully skew the data and even plain out lie to support what they want to believe. If an atheist does it, I feel less surprised but more forgiving of them. But, when a Christian does it, then it's just downright appalling; even Paul or Peter has implied not to adopt the idea of "Come let us do evil so that good may come of it."

  • Jennifer March 27, 2016 at 5:22 PM

    I can and will look up information that you request about outside information. But Jesus performing miracles and raising from the dead, or the missing body have been reported by quite a few highly acclaimed historians that were alive during this time. I will have to look into the names, bit last year I got curoius and looked into it and there is evidence documented in many cuktures, even as far as China, where leaders, theologians, and scientists were curious and made mention of this Jesus person and the reported miracles, death and resurrection. It has been said, by sources I trust, though I do not know how to verify, that there is more first hand evidence thay Jesus existed than there is George Washington. So something to keep in mind and look into. Happy resurrection Day!!!

  • Tom March 30, 2016 at 7:45 AM

    Jennifer, be careful at what you look for. If you're a christian, you may want to start with looking at authors like Josh McDowell (Sean McDowell's father), Lee Strobel, Norman Geisler, Frank Turek, Lee Strobel, William Lane Craig. Others I have heard of are Gary Habermas, N.T. Wright, Bruce Metzger. Their books will reference other authors and thinkers as well. After all that, then and only then, you may want to look into the Bill Nye v Ken Ham debate and examine some of the scientific arguments Bill Nye makes against the Bible. Then, you have the lack of archaeology for Joseph, Moses, David, and Solomon. However,Tim Mahoney's video "Pattern of Evidence" does present some interesting things implying the existence of Joseph and Moses. Also, some claim Imhotep was Joseph. David and Solomon are lacking in spite of their claimed power and prestige; however, that time is known as a dark period - but, still nothing or a supposed forgery or two. Then, Kenneth Humphrey has a lot of material going over contradictions in the Bible. Bart Ehrman is a self-proclaimed agnostic with some interesting things to say too....So this claim of disciples dying for their faith is just one of a myriad things many argue against. Good luck in your research on finding names and outside information. Remember, this goes for anyone, you best know what you believe, why you believe it, and what they say about it or else you'll be an atheist before you know it. The church's do need apologetics more than they realize in this time.

  • Doug Ribot April 9, 2016 at 5:10 PM

    Many unusual synchronicities in my life began when I first believed. Unbelievers also claim synchronicities however I found a pattern to them that showed me God loves me and was breaking me of being egocentric. He also showed me a pattern in the Bible there almost 2,000 years but never written about. Don't believe me but look at it for yourself

    Forward Key Events

    1) The Garden of Eden — Adam and Eve were judged by the tree “of knowledge of good and evil”. Cherubims and a flaming sword (time?) which turned every way kept mankind from going back to eat of the tree of life.
    2) The Flood of Noah’s Ark — It rained 40 days. After a 40 day period a dove and raven were sent up from the ark. The rainbow shows that we will not be judged by water again.
    3) The Law and Israel — Israel was freed from Egypt and given the Law through Mose “Christ is the end of the law”

    The N.T. story of Jesus’ life mirrors, follows chronologically reversed, the above summarized OT events.

    Backward Key Events

    How They Relate To Forward Key Events
    3) The Law
    In the NT Jesus and his parents kept Torah law Before he was 2 they fled to Egypt to avoid death of their 1st born (Kept the law — then fled to Egypt)
    In the OT Israel fled from Egypt after the death of Egypt’s first born. Before 2 (may be before 1) years they were given the law at Sinai. (Fled Egypt — then given the law)
    “The Last Supper” was about Passover. The death of the 1st born is what the Passover supper is named for. The angel of death passed over the houses of Israel but killed the first born of the Egyptians. This story begins near the first Passover and ends near the last supper Passover.
    Continued --

  • Doug Ribot April 9, 2016 at 5:11 PM

    -- continued --
    2) The Flood
    In the OT It rained 40 days. A dove and raven were sent up from Noah’s Ark after another 40 day period. (Rain 40 days — Dove and Raven go up)
    In the NT Jesus was baptized by John. The spirit of God descended on Jesus like a dove. He went into the wilderness 40 days.
    The dove = the spirit God.
    The raven = the spirit of Elijah.
    The word translated “Raven” occurs 10 times in the Old Testament. I relate 3 of them to John through Elijah. Elijah was fed by ravens (1 Kings 17:6). Elijah was to turn the heart of the fathers to the children and visa versa (Malachi 4:6). The eye that mocks at his father and despises to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out (Proverbs 30:17). Jesus said that If you care to believe it John is the Elijah to come (Matthew 11:14). Hence John’s baptism has something to do with a raven.

    [note 1 (scripture references outside the strict chronology of Moses to Adam):
    Matthew 4:4, 7 & 10 is paralleled in reverse by Deuteronomy 8:3; 6:16 & 6:13

    Matthew 4:4 Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. Deuteronomy 8:3 Man does not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD …

    Matthew 4:7 You shall not tempt the LORD thy God.
    Deuteronomy 6:16 You shall not tempt the LORD thy God,

    Matthew 4:10 Thou shalt worship the LORD thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
    Deuteronomy 6:13 Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name.

    Note: The backward walk goes from before the giving the law of Moses in Exodus to the beginning of Genesis (Romans 5:14 “Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses,” … ) and, I believe, into Revelations. The above further evidence is outside the thread of the Gospel in reverse from Exodus to Genesis. It’s in reverse but in Deuteronomy. I don’t know why yet but I wonder about it]

    1) The Garden of Eden
    Jesus went backward before the flood to the garden of Eden.

    [note 2 (this scripture reference is outside the strict chronology of Moses to Adam):
    It says in Deuteronomy 30:6 The LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your seed to love the LORD your God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, that you may live.
    We can be alive without a circumcised heart. In order to “live” one must eat of the tree of life which is in the garden of Eden.]

    to be continued

  • Doug Ribot April 9, 2016 at 5:12 PM

    continued --
    Genesis 3:24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

    The angel of death that passed over the Israeli homes on the Jewish holiday of Passover is, I believe, the Cherubim and sword guarding Eden. I suspect the flaming sword going every way is also symbolic of time as you would have to go back in time to find Eden since it does not physically exist today to my knowledge. Einstein showed the faster something goes the slower time gets. It doesn’t matter what direction you go – “every way”. Jesus takes us to the Eden of God.

    The Last Supper
    The last supper of Jesus was the Passover supper. The angel of death passed over when it saw the blood of the lamb on their doorposts. (119 ministries disagrees but I don’t see how it could be otherwise)
    On Passover Jesus and his disciples revisit the original scene in Eden in reverse. Jesus is the 2nd/last Adam The disciples – the bride of Christ. Judas “One of you is a devil” (Jesus said of Judas)
    In the OT Eve gave to Adam to eat to forget our creator.
    In the NT Jesus gave to his disciples eat in remembrance of him.

    OT – Where were Adam and Eve before they ate? In a garden (Eden) being tempted.
    NT – Where were Christ and the disciples after they ate? In a garden (Gethsemane) during their time of temptation.
    note – Gethsemane was on or near the Mount of Olives. The olive tree to many is symbolic of the tree of life, “I’ll live” or O’ live” may be carryover to English “olive”.

    The Bride
    OT Adam and Eve were naked and not ashamed before they ate of the tree.
    NT Messiah was crucified naked and despised the shame of being hung on a tree.
    Jesus went back before Eve was formed.
    OT Adam was put into a deep sleep. His side was opened. A helps meet was made for him from his side.
    NT Christ was put into a deep sleep, death. His side was opened. Water and blood came out. The bride of Christ is the witness on earth with the spirit, water and blood.

    The Alpha and Omega
    The Beginning Meets The End
    One must be born again. In Christ, our creator takes us to heavenly places but there was a battle in heaven. He takes us back to the beginning and where are we? At the end of the scripture. “Revelations” is the description of that battle. In the beginning of Genesis and at the end of Revelation we have a new creation. This is where the beginning meets the end.

    Copyright © Douglas Ribot 1986-2016 all rights reserved backwardwalk.com

    May not be copied without written permission from author (me) and must include all copyright info above and link backwardwalk.com

  • Tom April 13, 2016 at 2:24 PM

    You can't copyright the Bible, Doug. Besides, if you want to spread the Word, why care about a copyright infringement? Lastly, at least address proof of the disciples being martyred, like their supposed grave sites or attestation from early church fathers are truthful or something historical about the disciples like Sean McDowell uses in the article.
    If you don't know the history, archaeology, and science along with the Bible, fine. There are resources to learn from. But, using the Bible the way you have is only good for confirmation bias - that's not what Paul meant on fact checking. Take care, brother.

  • Tom April 18, 2016 at 7:47 AM

    Maybe , in the 4th century, Eusebius (apparently, an early church father) did record what was said to have happened to the disciples in his "Historia Ecclesiastica.". But, there are accusations circulating that Eusebius promoted lying to further promote Christianity and church advancement. If that is true, then how deep do these lies run within the church, the Bible, and Christianity? Or, were the lies contained? That might put the accounts of the disciples being martyred for their faith even more into question unless sources instead of Eusebius are used.

    The main questions are: was Eusebius a liar who promoted lies for Christianity? Or, has modern slander and libel propagated unfairly against a dead man? Or, are the quotes of Eusebius' lies actually just quotes accidentally taken out of context thus vindicating an early church father?

    This is why Christians should not lie for the faith because it only complicates things and in actuality leads to more Atheism than Christians once a lie is uncovered. Hopefully, Eusebius can be vindicated and his account of the disciples in "Historia Ecclesiastica" shown as trustworthy as possible.

  • Stephen May 5, 2016 at 10:15 PM

    The Lord Jesus Christ reigns!

  • Rob Tentoy May 9, 2016 at 10:55 AM

    Eyewitness accounts are notoriously unreliable. Ask lawyers about that.
    Back in 1912, Lawrence Beesley wrote and published a book about the sinking of the Titanic. He was a survivor of that disaster and so he was right there when it sank. The Titanic sank in April. His book was published in June. Beesley was both a scientist and a journalist meaning he (presumably) had training to be good at watching and recording events.
    And yet, he said in his book that the Titanic went down intact. It didn't break apart. He was wrong.
    And actually, there were other survivors that said it did break apart. Both sides had supporters and they argued about it for 70 years. The 1976 Clive Cussler novel "Raise the Titanic" sided with Beesley and had the entire ship raised from the bottom completely intact. Not until Ballard found the wreck in 1985 did we discover for certain it had, in fact, broken apart.
    Somebody saying something happened, even if they wrote it down, is effectively anecdotal evidence until something tangible that forensics can add to the testimony.
    We don't have any of that in regards to these stories.

  • Rob Tentoy May 9, 2016 at 10:57 AM

    "After all, why would the apostles of Jesus have died for their faith if it weren’t true?"

    One of the worst apologetics arguments. Replace "apostles of Jesus" with "followers of Mohammed/Allah" and you've just rendered your own faith false.

  • Tom May 10, 2016 at 4:59 PM

    I really liked your example of eyewitnesses to the Titanic and their different views of how the Titanic sank. However, their accounts differed on how it sank, but they all agree beyond any doubt that it sure sank.

    "After all, why would the apostles of Jesus have died for their faith if it weren’t true?"

    Actually, to be fair, they take the argument a little further. As Sean McDowell's article says, they all profess to seeing Jesus' resurrection. If the resurrection were not true and/or they made it up, then they allowed themselves to suffer and be killed knowing it was all lie. "Who dies for a lie like that?" they ask. Whereas, many of Muhammed's followers died believing it was the truth; or, the early ones like Muhammed might have died somewhat comfortably knowing it was a lie (my worthless two cents on this last bit).

    Anyways, "anecdotal evidence" I like that term, thanks for using that. Although, maybe just maybe, on some accounts eyewitness accounts are enough - the Titanic sank, we didn't need see the actual boat to trust eyewitness accounts of it. And, I don't think too many people back home thought they were all liars until the Titanic was surveyed at the bottom.

    But, my problem with the discples' deaths and Jesus' resurrection is the nature of the eyewitness accounts. Unbiased? Trustworthy? Verifiable from outside sources? Person of authority/reputation (would be nice)? Contemporary? Etc.
    Like Philo, He lived during Jesus' time and rumored to have visited Peter in Rome, yet Philo writes nothing of any of these things. That's why mythicists like to use him.

  • Tom May 11, 2016 at 11:42 AM

    Bart Ehrman, Kenneth Humphry, Matt Dillahunty, Sam Harris are some guys who go over the credibility of the Bible. I haven't noticed much on the credibility of the disciples' deaths, though. If you're a hard core Christian who knows little about the Bible and apologetics involved, I recommend you don't watch these guys because you're mental self-defense mechanisms will kick in to protect yourself - you may even find the evil kind of hatred in your heart to protect your world as you know it. For those very new to Christianity, just don't watch these guys, seriously.

    I just wanted to reiterate that the credibility of the disciples deaths' are questionable. As Rob says, tangible evidence would be nice and may even be all that is needed. But, with lack of that, then the eyewitnesses need to be extremely good. Unfortunately, some of the early church fathers integrity are questionable. And, Roman or other historians seemed to not take note of these disciples' deaths - like Paul appearing before high officials yet not one document such an interesting meeting.

  • ofstedahl July 17, 2016 at 10:59 AM

    If what you say is true - that people willing to die for their beliefs is evidence of the truth of those beliefs, then we might all want to take a look at Islam - more Muslims have died as martyrs for their faith n the last 20 years than died during the 1st hundred years of Christianity.

  • Friend August 2, 2016 at 4:40 PM

    Joseph Smith wrote the book of Mormon. He claims to have found ancient tablets that could only be read through seer stones. He claims he was led to them by an angel. Someone read the manuscripts before they were don. He claims the angel was angered and made him write a different testament from the one he wrote before. The Mormon religion is a scam made by a scammer who was kicked out of several towns for being a scammer. Oh yeah anyone who's not white is that color because they turned there back to the light of God. And that's what they believe

  • Ress September 8, 2016 at 12:19 PM

    A suicide bomber is not the same as a martyr. Killing yourself and others is not a Testament to faith, but rather to insanity.

  • David October 17, 2016 at 7:13 AM

    Thanks for the research it was helpful (although not as solid as I would have liked.) Please continue to research this point (for Paul the apostle in particular.) It would be nice if we could historically back up this point.

  • Tom January 21, 2017 at 1:57 PM

    No, the argument isn't that if people are willing to die for their beliefs then their belief must be true.
    You have to listen and read the apologists' argument carefully. It states something like - it must be true because they were willing to die for their belief; no one is willing to die for something they know to be a lie.
    It becomes different for Islamic followers as in that they die believing it is true; whereas, the Christian disciples died knowing, it was a lie if they made it all up...

  • Justin February 7, 2017 at 8:18 PM

    With ancient history it is difficult to achieve the level of certainty we have with events that have occurred in modern times. There have been 100 generations of people in the Ancient Near East from the time of Christ to now, along with many, many global conflicts and wars, earthquakes, fires, floods and other events that by their very nature erase recorded history.

    The fact that we do have hundreds upon hundreds of early manuscripts of the old and new testament writings is unique and is an enormous blessing to modern historians who are trying to arrive at a better understanding of those ancient times.

    The Dead Sea Scrolls are for me a uniquely powerful testimony to the historicity and reliability of scripture since their discovery in the 20th century substantially matched the masoretic text despite their great antiquity.

    But while the Bible is a uniquely well preserved historical document and there is good evidence that the apostles died for or at least were persecuted for their faith, there can be no substitute for a personal encounter with God himself, who the scripture teaches is plainly evident through the world he has made and the eternity he set on our hearts. A simple prayer will bring a person into conference with the creator of heaven and earth. No amount of intellectual discourse can take the place of a personal audience with the King of Kings.

  • bruce ledyard March 10, 2017 at 2:10 PM

    whoever posted the above comment has smoked wayyy to much maryjane ...

  • Charlie Propst March 22, 2017 at 11:37 AM

    Look, why must we be so careful all the time of what we born-again Christians say to those who deny and vilify the One who died for my soul. Most of these remarks have just been cut and pasted from some anti-God web sites. They are believing what someone else is saying about it. I doubt any of them have actually prayed, researched, and labored to seek the truth.
    If you've ever actually had an experience with Christ, then you just know. He confounds the wise with foolishness.
    Sadly, everyone is just not going to make it. In Hell, the worse thing that will remain in our screaming minds, will be our memory.
    Those will remember every idle word and spoke and thought. They will also remember evertime someone tried to lead them to Jesus. They will curse you for eternity for not making them somehow believe.

  • Jayfhord March 22, 2017 at 8:39 PM

    Seek God with a sincere heart and do His will through the dictates of one's conscience.

  • Immanuel Hamatwi April 5, 2017 at 3:49 AM

    Romans 2:16
    1 Peter 1:25
    James 1:22

  • Jacklin May 9, 2017 at 8:21 AM

    I came to this website with what I thought was a simple question: did Jesus tell people to die for their faith? I believe Jesus himself absolutely sacrificed himself on the cross, and I am reasonably comfortable with the idea that the disciples ultimately died as martyrs when they were killed by various governments that prohibited teaching of Christianity. But where in the bible does it say that Jesus taught that people should die and even kill themselves for their faith and beliefs? I was thinking specifically of the People's Temple and Heaven's Gate suicides where these people believed they were following modern day incarnations of Christ to "heavenly" afterlife. Now, I realize and agree that Jim Jones and Applegate were really just crackpots and probably mentally ill people who, nonetheless, did have real charisma and ability to make crazy talk sound like The Answer! But the same was said of Jesus in his all too brief time as preacher and messiah on Earth. The difference is Jesus allowed others to kill him as part of his compact with God to save the world. The disciples, apparently, also were killed by others for the crime of continuing Christianity. But there is not a lot of historical evidence of how the disciples died, accept for the two written about in the New Testament. We could include Judas, the traitor, who hanged himself according to biblical testament. But none of this answers my question about JESUS' view on suicide as an acceptable form of death in order to remain true to one's faith, or as a means of leaving the sinful world and ascending to heaven or whatever the Kingdom of God means to a believer. I would really be interested in any thoughts on this, and if anyone directs me to scripture, could you kindly also paraphrase the passage, to increase my understanding? Thank you so much, in advance.

  • Jacklin May 9, 2017 at 8:32 AM

    Whoops... I meant "Applewhite"... not Applegate.

  • John June 10, 2017 at 6:47 PM

    Jacklin, as I have read and understand the Bible no where does the Bible say it is right to commit suicide or to actively seek out death for your beliefs. In Hebrews 11 coined the "fath" chapter it talks about the people of the Bible who had faith and the vision they had and the truly miraculous things that happened to them. Then it goes on to mention about other prophets and people of faith who were not miraculously saved but did indeed die for their faith as their main goal and reward is in the future (of new Jerusalem/Eternal Life with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ)... much like the 12 apostles (save John) and many others since then. Also Christ says that we are to not deny him but be willing to accept persecution and martyrdom in this life if it comes for his name sake. Reference "“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.”
    ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭16:26-27‬ ‭KJV‬‬.

    That section of verse is not talking about actively seeking suicide or killing yourself but more of being true to follow Christ and to not give it up with the promise of an awesome reward for staying true to Christ and the Father of martyrdom does come. I hope this does help in your search.

  • Rocky July 23, 2017 at 4:39 PM


    I remember as a child that a man was arrested after trying to commit suicide by jumping off of a bridge, and he survived. They charged him with attempted murder, and I asked my mom why. She told me that because God is the Creator of life, that it is a crime against Him. The State has the right to put someone to death, and that is to protect society from murderers, but we as individuals do not have the right to commit murder. Killing differs from murder. Killing can be done for self-defense, whereas murder is committed with an evil heart. So suicide is self-murder, and used to be illegal. How far have we fallen since those days?

  • Martin August 1, 2017 at 10:22 AM

    So, to show that the claims of the Bible are historically accurate you simply quote the Bible? How is this not the definition of a circular argument?

  • TheApprenticeCo August 17, 2017 at 4:27 PM

    Hi All

    I am a Christian, and pursuing to say "I am of Christ", also I am a telco engineer (a wannabe inventor and scientist)

    I feel the digging of evidence about our faith is convenient regarding the separation of true doctrine and traditions of men. Also to know the life stories of the martyrs and the early followers of Jesus the Christ.

    However, I think that Bible is not a book of history or a book of science (despite it contains some pearls or history and science), Its a book of Faith, willing to demonstrate every word of "the word" is not so convenient and not so useful. The one fetching inaccuracies will find it and a lot.

    Faith comes by hearing, and hearing what? the word.

    Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.

    I don't want to be a "blind" faith, but neither the opposite, I am committed to have a relationship with the living God (YHWH) through his Son Jesus (Yeshua) made possible by the Holy Spirit (Rua ha kadosh), strong enough to live all this life for him, and strong enough to die for him if necessary.

    I recommend lectures of "Voice of Martyrs" like Richard Wurmbrand ones.

    my prayer: 1 Kings 18:36

  • Howard Pitterson September 20, 2017 at 8:53 PM

    For the longest time it did not make sense to me why the apostles died such horrible deaths.. I now understand that their firsthand encounter of the resurrection of Christ made it impossible for them to deny this truth.

  • Greg November 15, 2017 at 6:11 PM

    You should know that you can't use the bible to prove the bible. You need some relevant and reliable historical evidence to support your claims.

  • Bob McCall March 19, 2018 at 4:51 AM

    I used to believe martyrdom was fairly strong proof for what the followers of Jesus believed. However, that was tempered by the knowledge that even today people believe in their religion strongly enough to self detonate high powerful explosives strapped to their back.

  • Molly April 23, 2018 at 11:53 PM

    Bob- It’s a long thread. Don’t expect you to have combed through everything but your subject has already been addressed. Apostles were only a few and knew they were special and had to do everything in their power to evangelize.

    Each of them were killed by tyrannical governments to prove they were peddling a lie. Goveners expected them to save themselves to prove Jesus was not God.

    Each of them on their own felt they must die to further their unique cause they couldn’t deny.

    All of those that detonate themselves believe they have 72 good reasons to do so. Each of these “martyrs” usually have some strange statement or propaganda for why they did what they did.

    They are usually loners and have broken from their own version of their own Muslim religion.

  • Molly April 24, 2018 at 12:02 AM

    For all the Doubting Thomas’s out there that don’t want to take it on “blind faith” but a “researched/ reasoned faith” I’m with you…but you will have better success trying to prove there is a God by investigating “Intelligent Design”

    There is way to much proofs packed within the science of intelligent design to deny there was an Intelligent Designer. Just Google it!

    Now, did this intelligent designer have a plan for your life? Want a relationship with you? Afterlife? Just compare the words religions. What kind of headlines have you read about Muslims? Terrorism? Catholics? Gay priests? Etc. What God do about all religions point to? What God got it right when it came to proven prophecy? Just do a little research with a little prayer and you will find Him!

  • Michael Flores August 5, 2018 at 12:10 AM

    All citations for the martyrdoms of the apsotles listed in the above article are from 2nd and 3rd century authors.

  • Sosohai August 17, 2018 at 2:11 AM

    This proves that.christianity is.fake. Ffs, all disciples of Jesus died a painful death. Yet God didn't prevent them from suffering. And christians nowadays believe that they are protected by God. They even pray for safety in the road while driving. This is all cow shit. As if God cares if anyone die a painful death.

  • rudy urban August 20, 2018 at 1:35 AM

    Im convinced beyond any doubt that Jesus lived , performed many , many miracles , spoke the word of God , was He Himself God as part of the Trinity , suffered horribly under the Jews and Romans , died and rose from the dead as documented by many people of the time. We all believe in something , even atheists believe in themselves if nothing else. Im firm and comfortable in my beliefs in Jesus and know I will see Him face to face after this short life which is equated to a "mist in time and soon disappears" He came as a lamb the first time but now sits at the right hand of the Father and will judge every man according to what He has said and done. There are 2 eternal destinations : smoking and non smoking. Accept Christ as Saviour to in inherit eternal life or stay resolute in your unbelief and suffer the consequences - your choice -

  • Tracey September 6, 2018 at 4:12 AM

    Finding the true interpretation of the various translations has been tantamount to my growth and faith. Jesus implored and directed us to explore the scriptures unrelentingly - because they heal, nourish and grow our hope, souls, faith, righteousness, patience, long suffering and understanding to do Gods will dor us all which is to live as Jesus lived, with his character. That takes months and years of study, but He rewards us every inch of the way. The other thing i just want to mention is that Jesus told us His kingdom is not of this world and that the evil one is prince of this world and Jesus told and Paul wrote grievously about EXTREME divisions and false teachings within the church both from the start and in the latter days which we all know is the time we live. The fierceness of those predictions implies the work of the evil one which as the bible says, he succeeds in deceiving the whole world as to his workings - which certainly implies that his work, his influence AND HIS FOLLOWERS are at work in every sector of society worldwide. Sounds paranoid right, or as news people like to chortle - conspiracy theories. If u know the TRUTH OF THE PROPHECIES AND THE WORD OF GOD, u know it is accurate beyond compare - Jesus also mentions widespread deception, cold-heartedness....is it the cold heartedness that Daniel mentions as those who, in the latter days will, mingle their seed with the seed of men and they will not cleave - if so, what kind of implacable deception and crafty double-minded hard-hardedness are they capable of? Will they smile while they perpetrate lies to lead the sheep astray from a life filled with the knowledge, grace and direction of God? Please be careful who u trust - research the various translations - many point to the concordant bible but even that does not use the names of God as He gave them to us, still pursue diligently ur understanding of the Word, this is more important than these apologetics. Please, if i offend anyone with my comments, forgive me. But i have gained so much by investigating the original language meanings that modern translations do get important doctrine wrong. The bible does not tell us to depend solely on rabbis, teachers or pastors for understanding. We are to pray for Him to open our hearts eyes ears and minds. Our relationship with Him is our responsibility. Please excuse my preachiness. Gods love to all who see this.

  • Phil Perry November 27, 2018 at 7:40 AM

    Just found this site. I'm a believer. Read all the previous posts and admittedly it got my mind swirling. I really think our God wants to keep it simple. We humans sure have a way to complicate things. The evidence is there and I simply believe it. To me, it's overwhelming. Btw, anyone read Flight to Heaven? As a pilot myself (retired senior military officer), I could totally relate. Folks, and I'm saying this to myself, SEEK AND YOU WILL FIND. Read the scriptures daily, pray constantly and God will give you answers. It's true...HE works in mysterious ways.

  • Phil Perry November 27, 2018 at 7:45 AM

    Meant to add...we were created with Free Will. Not robots. The one person besides Christ that seals it for me...the Apostle Paul. It's mind blowing now, and I can't imagine how much so then. Did I mention God works in mysterious ways? How cool was that one.

  • June March 16, 2019 at 5:03 AM

    Guys! What more proof do you need except look into your own hearts and own life after you choose to take God's free offer of Grace. I see my proof in my personal existence. The scales fell off my eyes and truth became obvious. You all sound like the people standing on the sandy beach discussing the drowning people in the sea. You know, like a clanging gong. Believe and know doubt is from evil and ask God for strength. Same with you Krisren. Don't ask someone you don't know who says they are an atheist to help you with your belief! Ask God! You want proof, ask God for His Wisdom and Truth.

  • June March 16, 2019 at 5:18 AM

    PS. It's called Faith, believing without seeing. It's not called "Proof"

  • John May 14, 2019 at 6:07 AM

    Even more proof that the apostles were not liars and even more convincing for the reason that they died horrible painful deaths for the risen Lord is their reaction to when Jesus is arrested. They all fled because they were terrified of the consequences of being associated with Jesus. Peter even denied knowing him three times. To go from being terrified and wanting absolutely nothing to do with Christ to proclaiming his name and glory to all the world and gladly dying for the Lord means something HAD to have happened between Jesus’ death and their evangelism. That something must have been so profound and unbelievably Earth shattering for them to change their hearts.

    That something was the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. May God bless all who believe in him. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

  • Rob Tentoy November 12, 2019 at 2:06 PM

    Someone once wrote, in a book, a story about how George Washington chopped down a cherry tree as a boy and told his father the truth because he could not tell a lie. That became an accepted fact. Why? Because somebody wrote it and it was in a book. It fit a writer's narrative.

    Find me some evidence from unbiased historians and not the narratives of early church leaders with an agenda.

  • Phil May 21, 2020 at 10:33 AM

    Work hard to be more spiritual and less religious

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