"Die for a Lie" won't Fly

One of the arguments that Jesus was physically resurrected is that he appeared to his Disciples, and they believed it to the point they died for it. If it were a “hoax” they would not have “died for a lie.” For many Christians, this is the anchor of the argument for a resurrection. We can discuss empty tombs, and swoon theories and wrong tomb theories, but many keep coming back to the fact that the disciples believed it to the point of dying and cannot get around it.

It is not as strong an argument as Christians believe, and few have actually researched the area. In order to explain why the argument is frail, we must understand what exactly is being claimed first.

The claim is composed of five elements. It requires:

1) A group of individuals;
2) Specifically named;
3) Who saw a physically resurrected Jesus;
4) Willingly dying for this belief; (key issue)
5) And not for any other reason.

In the back of our mind, it must be remembered that the events surrounding the early church were not recorded contemporaneously, but after they had happened. These are not daily reports, nor newspaper headlines. Paul recorded certain events, then the Gospels were written, and finally Acts was written.

Whether one holds that these were written only a few years, or many decades after the event, either situation provides ample opportunity to add, remove, or modify events with just the flick of a pen. We should keep a careful and cautious eye investigating these events.

The longer the period of time from the happening to the writing, the better the opportunity to introduce legend, or hyperbole, or myth. Many Christians do not accept books written after 100 CE as being too late. Too far after the event. This argument has the same problem.

Let’s review each element.

Group of Individuals Certainly a most significant force of this argument is that not one, or two, but many of those persons claimed to have seen a physical resurrected Jesus.

If all we had were one or two disciples, it is very possible they saw a vision, had a dream, and deluded themselves. One? Very possible. 12? Not so likely, is how the argument goes.

In fact, we can tragically recall the events of Heaven’s Gate, in which one person, Marshall Applewhite became convinced there was a spaceship traveling behind the Hale-Bopp Comet. We all agree this man was delusional (he had a history of mental instability), yet was firmly convinced of an untruth. So convinced, he not only died for this belief, but managed to convince 37 others to die as well.

Equally, one disciple could possibly convince other disciples of seeing a physically resurrected Jesus. In order to make this case powerful, the proponent would like to state every disciple, each from their various beliefs and walks of life, uniformly confirms as to what they saw. In short—they need a group.

And is that what we see? Well….not exactly. During Jesus’ life he had many followers. But primarily he had Twelve Disciples. Of the Twelve, he displayed a preference for Peter, James and John. (Mark 14:33) Traditionally, even of these three, John was slightly closer. (Jn. 21:20)

But following the resurrection, it is Peter that assumes the leadership role among the Disciples. He preaches the first sermon. Although he is walking with John, it is Peter that heals the cripple on the way to the temple. (Acts 3:6) John, the beloved disciple, receives cursory mention, and then is heard no more. In fact, when counting separate instances in the Acts of the Apostles, John Mark is referred to as many times as John the Disciple, and John the Baptist is referred to more! What happens to John is not recorded in Acts.

Philip, another disciple, also receives cursory mention. Assuming he was one of the Seven (Acts 6:5) a story is recounted about his witnessing to an Ethiopian eunuch. (Acts 8) What happens further to Philip is not recorded.

Peter is the most talked about disciple in the early church. The first part of Acts is replete with his tales. By Herod (died 44 CE) his tales start to peter out (sorry) and he is only mentioned once more in the Council of Jerusalem. (Acts. 15:7) What happens to Peter is not recorded.

The rest of Acts focuses on Paul’s ministry.

The only disciple noted as killed is James, the brother of John (Acts 12:2) and even then it is merely an introduction into a story about Peter. More on James in a bit.

The inspired Bible does not record all Twelve of one accord. It does not mention what each one did separately. It does not indicate they were not “dying for a lie.” While referred to as a group, the events recorded as history do not include information as to their death.

The concept of an entire group is not laid out specifically in the Bible, and must be read, in between the lines. The Bible does not provide us very much information at all for this argument. It begins to smell of speculation.

Specifically Named. There are other people recorded as having seen Jesus physically appear after his resurrection, but are not specifically named. Without even knowing who they are, attempting to lay any claim as to their mode or reason for death becomes mere speculation.

The argument for silence cuts both ways—if one can speculate that these unknown persons are some that died, it is just as credible to speculate they are not. The problem with silence is that it doesn’t tell us anything.

Remember, this is not the silence of “the Bible says it, but history does not record it, so it still could have happened. Just because History is silent doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.” No, here we have history AND the Bible not recording it. The silence has graduated to nobody stating it, but it still could be true.

In fact, to some extent, these unknowns hurt this claim. Paul, writing first about them, claims Christ appeared to more than five hundred at the same time. (1 Cor. 15:6) Matthew admits that some actually saw this resurrected person but doubted. (Mt. 28:17) Doubted about whether it was he, whether he had died, or whether it was a vision or not is unclear. The author of Acts, writing last, concedes within a few months of this appearance, there were only 120. (Acts 1:15)

Simple math tells us 500 seeing –120 believers = 380 believers that doubted! In other words, on this argument, 3 out of 4 believers would not die for the lie—they did not believe in a physical resurrection!

As we shall see, we have problems enough confirming what happened to the few actually named, let alone starting to guess over people we do not know, as to how they possibly died, and the possible reasons why.

The Gospels record various women having seen Jesus. Their deaths are unknown and unrecorded. Paul, of course, does not even mention their existence. While they are named, I do not recall ever seeing their deaths as being reason to prove the resurrection of Christ, and will not address them.

We have exactly twelve named individuals—the eleven disciples and James, the brother of Jesus. Again, Paul gives us James as a witness, but the Gospels do not. (As a side note, I am presuming “The Twelve” is a title in 1 Cor. 15:5, and does not include Judas. If Paul was including Judas, that becomes an interesting story, but committing suicide does not help this particular argument any.)

We know we are looking for the events surrounding twelve individual men’s death. The searching narrows.

Saw a physically resurrected Jesus You may have noticed I did not include Paul in the list of named individuals. That is because Paul saw Jesus in a vision, not within the 40 days prior to Jesus’ ascension. Paul’s vision (or the vision of any other) does not confirm or deny a physical resurrection and provides us no new information on the subject.

Proponents of this argument occasionally indicate Paul as one of those that wouldn’t “die for a lie.” They forget what they are arguing. This is a claim that Jesus physically resurrected, with a body that walked, talked, ate fish and touched people. That people saw this body, and because of the miraculous implications, went to their death. It is not a claim about what visions people have at a later time.

If Jesus died, and his soul was taken to heaven (a spiritual resurrection) Paul could still have a vision of Jesus. If Jesus died, and physically re-animated, and then ascended to heaven, Paul could still have a vision of Jesus. Paul’s vision provides no information that mandates a physically resurrected Jesus.

Paul, in recounting his interaction with Jesus, refers to it as “God’s son revealed in me.” (Gal. 1:16) Paul indicates that Jesus appeared to him, just like Jesus appeared to the other apostles. (1 Cor. 15:8) [Is Paul arguing that Jesus appeared as a vision to the other apostles? Hmm….]

But Acts makes it very clear this is a vision. Paul is recorded as only seeing a flash of light and hearing only a voice. (Acts 9:4; 22:7; ) Paul records later seeing Jesus in a vision. (Acts. 18:9; 22:17; 23:11) Paul tells King Agrippa this is a vision. Acts 26:19

Paul speaks of getting information directly from Jesus. (1 Cor. 11:23. 2 Cor. 12:9) Every encounter of Paul with Jesus is in the form of a vision. This does not even remotely promote a physical resurrection.

I wonder if any Christian that claims Paul is helpful in this regard consistently maintains that method. We have visions of the Virgin Mary today. Is this evidence that not only Jesus, but also Mary was physically resurrected from the dead? Of course not!

This is belief that Mary, living in heaven, occasionally graces us with a ghastly apparition, or a ghostly appearance left on the incidental grilled cheese sandwich. It has absolutely, positively nothing to do with her physically resurrecting. (Although it is confirmation of a spiritual resurrection, perhaps.)

Any visions, or appearances of a spiritual Jesus do not qualify for this particular argument. While they may be interesting in other discussions—not here

Why they died The crux of the matter.

You can die. You can be a Christian. You can even die because you are a Christian. You can be a martyr. But all that does not mean you had a choice as to whether to “die for a lie.”

In order for this argument to work, the proponent would need to demonstrate that the disciple (or James) had an opportunity to avoid death by claiming, “It is a hoax,” and did not take it. Simply dying because they are a Christian, (while making them a martyr) is not enough for this argument.

Let me use a few examples to emphasize this point. Imagine I decided to go on a killing rampage. I decide, for whatever inexplicable reason, that I will kill all Christians whose name starts with “X.” The extent of depth of the person’s belief, whether they actually saw Jesus or not, makes no difference on my violence. They will die, because they are Christians, and even be martyrs, but they had no choice in the matter. It was my picking out Christians, not what they believe.

Or another. Tacitus recounts Nero blaming Christians for the burning of Rome (64 C.E.) and then persecuting them. Whether the Christians recanted, or did not would not make a whit of difference. They were being the “fall-guy” for the blame of a crime. Traditionally Peter was killed during this persecution. How would that provide him an opportunity to absolve himself, and avoid dying for a lie?

Imagine Peter leading a church service at that time, and Roman Soldiers bust in:

Soldier: All right. Who is in charge here?
*Everyone points to Peter*
Soldier: You, and your entire group here are charged with the crime of arson. You will be tried, found guilty, and executed, and not necessarily in that order.
Peter: But it is all a hoax. Jesus wasn’t physically resurrected. I don’t want to die for a lie.

Now, is the Soldier going to apologize for bothering Peter, and then leave, chuckling how he single-handedly eliminated Christianity? Of course not. He will proceed with his orders, and, regardless what Peter says, Peter will die. Yes, he is a martyr. Yes, he died for being a Christian.

But that does not address the crux of this argument—did he voluntarily assume a risk that by claiming it was a hoax could be avoided? According to Acts, the Disciples were the first vocal supporters of the new Christian Church. Any persecution that would focus on the leaders would center on these disciples. They could not “avoid” it by recanting. By then it is far too late.

King Herod, having killed one disciple, arrests Peter because it would please the people. (Acts 12:3) Whether Peter would have died or not at this point was dependant on what the people wanted, not what Peter would or would not say.

A more modern example would be the Salem Witch Trials. A young woman would be accused of being a witch. After various accusations, cross-examinations and times of imprisonment, she may “confess” to being a witch.

Does anyone believe this confession would be accurate—they really were a witch? Nope. It would be felt the confession was extracted out of them by violence. According to Christianity’s own claimed history, the methods of torture and persecution would be as bad. If someone even overheard Peter say it was a lie, would they record it as a truth? Not at all, in the same way, they would assume he was coerced into the statement.

Some of the accused women insisted they were not, nor ever were witches—yet they were still executed! When a persecution cycle begins, what the accused say will neither save them, nor damn them. They will be killed, regardless.

Some of the accused women offered up others, in the hope of saving themselves. It only brought in more martyrs and saved none. If 10 or 15 people all accused a disciple, regardless of whether that disciple decried it was all a hoax, they would still die.

According to Acts, the Disciples were at the forefront of the Christian movement. They would be well known, and acknowledged as the leaders of the church. If the persecution was as widespread, and involved literally the death of Christians, the Disciples would be singled out. They would be marked for death, despite any trial, any statements, anything they might claim. The person that argues, “would not die for a lie” forgets that the impetus of persecution, for whatever reason, would not stop simply because the Disciple recanted. That is not what persecution was about! It was about stopping the movement through threat and application of violence.

In order for this argument to be persuasive, the proponent would need to show how and what manner the named individuals died. We have no facts, no history, no Biblical support. It is here this argument crashes.

Before we briefly look at four specific examples, the last requirement—

Not for any other reason Although Christians may not like the materialistic side to it, there would have been a great deal of wealth and power as the leaders of this new movement. Perhaps they were in it up to their necks, before realizing it might mean their necks, and could not extract themselves from it in time.

We have twelve disciples and the brother of Jesus all from Galilee. Some had houses, some had family, but in a word—they had roots. After the Pentecost, the most natural place to begin this new movement was at home, in Galilee. But what do they do? Stay in Jerusalem. How are all twelve (not a one returns to Galilee) able to afford and survive this move? Even the family of Jesus comes along. Acts 1:12-14.

A simple question—what are they living on? They had either given up their jobs, or only worked part-time for three years. Funds must be low. The answer becomes apparent; they are living off the funds of the new converts.

People were selling their possessions, and giving to those in need. (Acts 2:45) As the Disciples had little or nothing, they needed the most!

Ever research First Century Economics? Not much is known, of course, but it seems that landowners tended to live in towns, and have managers work the tracts of agricultural land in the country. The landowners may have houses both in the country and the city. If one did not read Jesus’ penchant for the poor, in reading Acts it would seem that Christianity attracted the rich!

Acts 4:33 says the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of Jesus. Is it just coincidence that the very next sentence notes that all who possessed land and house(s) sold them and brought to the proceeds to the apostles’ feet? Barnabas is mentioned as having done so. (Acts 4:37) And, obviously, our very famous couple, Ananias and Sapphira. They provided a portion of the sale of their land, but lied about giving all of it. God killed them. Great fear spread through the church. (Acts 5:11)

One could apostatize, preach against Paul, and cause division in the church, and be forgiven. But lie about money? That was a capital offense, causing fear among the constituents. Proponents of this argument might need to face the fact that the reason the disciples and church was persecuted, and the reason what they said would not matter, is that it was a wealthy competitor to other religions.

Now for our examples:

James the Disciple Killed by Herod for reasons unknown. Acts 12:1 says Herod was “harassing the church” and killed James with a sword. We can speculate that James was given a chance to recant and save his life, but that is pure guesswork. Not in the text, not in the history.

This argument is supposed to validate the physical resurrection. How strong is it to be based on pure opinion? Further, Stephen’s death was exemplified as being a martyr’s. (Acts 7:59) If the author of Acts felt that James’ death was as well, would it have received more than a mention?

More importantly, it was not recorded that Herod couldn’t get James to break, so he went after Peter. He went after Peter for political reasons—because it would please the Jews. Herod wanted a public trial! Why hold a public trial, if James had held true to a physical resurrection? That would hurt Herod’s position. More likely Herod was to put on a “show” trial, and then execute Peter, without Peter even having a chance to say anything at all.

We can opine that James could have saved his life by recanting, but it is presuming the very argument the proponent is trying to make.

Per chance the next one will fair better.

James the Just The only named individual we obtain our information from an extra-Christian source, Josephus. Here, though, it would seem that James was killed for political reasons, and, again, had nothing to do with what he could, or would not say.

If you read the passage, without the identifier that James was the brother of Christ, there is nothing here to indicate James was a Christian, no Christian activity for which he would have been accused, nothing specific as to why he was even targeted. Without that identifier, we would not even be looking at this section!

Ananus, a Sadducee, decided to flex his political muscle, assembled a Sanhedrin without consulting the Pharisees, formed an accusation against James, and had him stoned. The Pharisees, upset over this breach of their law, have Ananus deposed.

There is nothing here about James being questioned, what James could or would have said, or even if James had said, “It was all a hoax” that Ananus would have let up. James was merely a safe pawn of a rival belief, which Ananus used to show he was boss by killing him.

Just like the other James, the only way to claim he voluntarily did not “die for a lie” is to read it into the story. Make it up.

Peter Really the best shot for martyrdom. Whoever wrote 2 Peter wanted to tie it into Peter himself, and writes as if it was prepared within a short time period prior to his death. (2 Peter 1:14) This demonstrates knowledge of his death, and a connection to bolster the validity of the book.

Whoever wrote John 21:18 presumes his audience has knowledge of the fact not only that Peter is dead, but how he died. (While it certainly could be read as crucifixion, it is not exactly clear.) Again, indication of general knowledge of Peter’s death

1 Clement 5:4 designates Peter as a martyr. Unfortunately, none of these accounts tell when, where, or the circumstances of Peter’s death. Yet again, we are left with speculation as to the ability of Peter to avoid death by virtue of any claim about the physical resurrection of Christ.

The problem with 1 Clement is that the author only lists Peter and Paul as martyrs. No James the Disciple. No James the Just. No Philip. No Simon. No Thaddaeus. After listing Paul, the next biggest names he can come up with are Danaids and Dircae. You remember them, of course, from….from…..well, no we don’t remember them.

Even placing 1 Clement as early as 95 CE, there should be more of these disciples well known for being martyrs. Yet strange silence.

The most famous of all—Peter—and as of the end of the First Century, we have no information as to how he died. More speculation.

And that is it for information within the Disciple’s lifetime. After this, it becomes information from someone who heard it from someone else. Dangerously introducing a high likelihood of myth making, and lack of reliability.

Bartholomew Those that have read the Gospel of Mark, with the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, know he is one of the Disciples. If one only read the Gospel of John, one would ask, “Who?” But, Mark, Matthew and Luke do not record a Nathaniel as a Disciple, but the Gospel of John does.

As always, the resolution proposed is that Bartholomew had two names, and the Gospel of John only knew him by Nathaniel. As that may be, the last individual record the Bible gives of Bartholomew is prior to the Pentecost. (Acts 1:13) Nothing is stated as to how he died.

Nothing in the Second Century. Nothing in the Third Century. Not until the very beginning of the Fourth Century do we hear the tale of Bartholomew’s ministry and death. Not until Eusebius records that Pantaeus heard from other converts that Bartholomew had preached in India. Sounds a bit like “I heard it from a friend, who heard it from a friend, who heard a rumor about it.”

Even then, there ARE conflicting legends, as to his name, how he died, and where he preached. Since one legend claims he was flayed alive, he can be depicted as holding his own skin. Yuck.

These legends are too removed in time from the events to be of any value. If Christians today can see the usefulness of having a disciple die a horrible death in support of Christianity, it should be no surprise that others thought of it as well.

In reviewing these claims of how the Disciples would not die for a lie, we begin to see that the tales of how they did die did not emerge until more than 100 years after they lived. Far too long a time to develop a legend to be of any use. Of course I am assured this is not legend, but “Church Tradition.” What I see is a shifting of methodology: when it is convenient to be too late, it is considered invalid information, when convenient, it is “tradition.”

Don’t believe me? Look at the developing legend of Jesus. With Paul we start on bare-bone facts. A Jew that was betrayed, crucified, buried and resurrected. No ministry, no miracles, no sermons, no parables, no quotes of any kind (The Eucharist comes directly from Christ.) Mark begins to flesh out the tale, giving us one year of Jesus’ ministry. Matthew and Luke add even more, giving us birth narratives, resurrection stories and more sayings. The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, and Gospel of Thomas give us even more history and statements of Jesus. As time develops, we get more and more and more fantastic stories, and even of Letters back and forth between Jesus and a king!

The Christian often rejects anything dated after 100 CE as being “too late.” Too much time for legend to be written. No verification, since those that would have seen it are dead.

But when it comes to the disciples’ death, faced with the lack of information, the same Christian will claim that traditions would have been valid, even though they were not recorded for 200 years!

A bias is showing, here.

When faced with the question, “Would the Disciples die for a lie?” I reply, “When did they die, how did they die, and what were the circumstances of their death?” Upon review, we see that it is a guess, pure opinion that they had a chance to recant and save their lives.

History does not record it. The Bible does not record it. The church does not record it until so long after, it cannot be considered reliable. The proponent of this argument, through all the claims, and statements and cute catch phrases, is really saying, “I guess they wouldn’t die for a lie, but I have no facts to demonstrate otherwise.”


Anonymous said...

I want to try the argument on peopel that Joseph Smith was also a martyr and see what kind of reaction they have. (No real bearing on the general truth of Christianity though, so I will keep this short.)

As to the dependence on church tradition most people show here, the Protestant did not get as far away from the Catholics as they claimed, eh?

Most Christians seem perfectly happy to continue believing without doing much research into their faith and the origins of it.

I hope you ladies and gentleman enjoy writing for the sake of writing.

Kaffinator said...

Hi Kraryal,

> I want to try the argument on [people] that Joseph Smith was also a martyr and see what kind of reaction they have.

Joseph Smith was killed by a vigilante mob. His beliefs may have been in view, but more likely the mob was inflamed by the recent revelation of Joseph's polygamous lifestyle in "The Nauvoo Expositor", a newspaper that published exactly one issue before Joseph ordered its press destroyed. Joseph's "above the law" attitude was also a big factor—at the time of his death he was being held in Carthage on the charge of treason for having activated his own private militia. The mob was afraid he would once again rely on technical legal maneuvers to escape full prosecution and, regretfully, took matters into their own hands. But even as they did, Joseph once again tried unsuccessfully to signal his militia back in Nauvoo to bail him out, and having smuggled a gun into the jail, fired upon his attackers as they stormed the room.

There are almost no points of contact between this sort of "martyrdom" and the one we have recorded concerning Stephen in Acts 7, as well as in literally hundreds of other cases amongst early Christians.

> As to the dependence on church tradition most people show here, the Protestant did not get as far away from the Catholics as they claimed, eh?

Non-Catholic Christians agree that there is nothing wrong with tradition insofar as it is not elevated above scripture.

> Most Christians seem perfectly happy to continue believing without doing much research into their faith and the origins of it.

Nonsense. The origins of the Christian faith are recorded in the Bible which we read all the time.

Anonymous said...

It is obvious that one can speculate the differant possibilities that may or may not have taken place. It's also obvious you are a lawyer. I think it boils down to our position on this subject. It's clear that a skeptic will search for any scenerio that will enforce their position, while the faithful do not try and read between the lines, taking it more at face value. That's why it's called faith!

Dagoods, Did Jesus die for a lie? Or was He just confused as to who He was? He could of recanted and Pilot most likely would of let Him go free. How do you reconcile this? I am interested in your thoughts on this subject.

Sam Harper said...


Very nicely articulated. Thanks.

Probably my biggest disagreement with you concerns Paul and the nature of his "vision." You seem to take it to be the same sort of thing as a Mary apparition. If I read Acts by itself, I would might get the same impression. But there are a couple of problem with that.

First, as you pointed out, nobody has ever been led to believe in Mary's resurrection because of an apparition. Why, then, did Paul believe in Jesus' resurrection because of an apparition? It seems to me Paul's experience was not the same as a Mary apparition.

Second, I think it's evident in Paul's writings that he believed in physical resurrection. Look at Romans 8:11, for example: "But if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who indwells you." I wrote a series of blogs a while back on resurrection that included Paul, and they are here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. I don't think Paul would've used the word "resurrection" in reference to Jesus if he did not think Jesus was physically raised from the dead. In lumping his experience with that of the other apostles, no, I don't think he was saying their experience was non-physical just like his; rather, he's saying his experience was physical just like their's.

The other thing concerns your focus on whether the apostles had an opportunity to recant. I think I said something about this in our other discussion. It's not necessary for the "die for a lie" argument to work for the disciples to have had an opportunity to recant when face with immediate death. All that's necessary is that they had a reasonable expectation that their lives were in danger. Unless you just deny that there were early persecutions or that Christians (including leaders such as Stephen and James) were killed because of being Christians, the apostles were obviously willing to die for their beliefs. They knew they put their lives in danger, and continued to lead the Christian movement anyway.

I suspect the major difference between you and me is our general degree of skepticism. I think your skepticism regarding Peter, for example, is unwarranted. While I can grant the possibility that Peter was not martyred, that possibility is so remote that it's not even worth considering. I think the evidence concerning him is compelling.

DagoodS said...

Steve, thank you for the compliment. I am glad my profession shows in my writing. I agree that all we can do is speculate about the different possibilities. I would be just as incorrect to state that, in the absence of any evidence, it is impossible they were given the chance to recant.

Simply put, we do not know. Therefore this argument is completely unsupported, and should be acknowledged as such.

It is also true regarding the difference between a skeptic and the faithful. The funny thing is, many Christians are skeptical about the appearances of Mary I referred to, but are NOT skeptical about the appearance as recounted by Paul. Why don’t the Christians take those at “face value?” Or they are skeptical of Muslim claims of miracles. Curiously, they would hope I am just as skeptical.

Christians only become uncomfortable when I start to look at their own claims with the same skepticism they reserve for claims of other religions. At that point, I am informed I must turn of my skepticism and resort to faith.

Apparently God cannot convince a skeptic.

“Did Jesus die for a lie?” I would presume most Christians would respond with a hearty, “Yes,” wouldn’t they? If he was convicted for Jewish blaspheme—that would not have been true. If convicted for treason against Rome—that would not have been true. If convicted simply for political nicety—that would not have been true.

What, exactly, would you contend that Jesus could have recanted? If He said, “No, I am not a God” or said, “I am a God” it was too late, the Jewish leaders want him dead. Pilate may not want him dead, but kills him to calm an unruly crowd.

As krayral pointed out with Joseph Smith—a wiped up mob scene, in which a crowd is determined to kill someone means that person will die regardless of what they say.

Can you demonstrate what Jesus specifically could have said to Pilate that would have resulted in his release?

As to Jesus being confused as to who he was, I have no idea. I have yet to see a methodology which can practically be used to derive fact from fiction in the Christian accounts of Jesus’ life. We don’t know when he was born, what he did, what he said, nor even when he died, let alone start talking about his perception of himself. But that is for another time, and not really a part of this blog.


Glad you liked it.

As to Paul: Read what he said happened. (Galatians) Read what the author of Acts says happened. Paul repeatedly gets information directly from God. Paul believes that people can have an experience, either in body or out of body, in which they are caught up into the third Heaven, and hear things that are not utterable. (2 Cor. 12:1)

If you take Acts as history, Paul himself says he had visions.

Can you explain to me the difference in visions between a girl claiming she saw the Virgin Mary appear to her in the flesh, and speak, as compared to what Paul is claiming happened to him? What is the difference in the vision? I am not saying that people believe Mary was physically resurrected. I am saying it is the exact same type of vision.

When, according to Paul, did Jesus physically appear to him? When according to Acts, did Jesus physically appear to him? Best read the verses. Did Paul ever refer to Jesus appearing in a Vision to him?

And even granting you a physical appearance, we are left with the problem of how did Paul die and what were the circumstances. Now 1 Clement conflicts with Church tradition, and a new problem is introduced.

I would agree that Peter was a martyr. (By the way, “martyr” may not have meant death in the First Century. Still looking into that one…) But what are the circumstances of his death? Did he have the possibility of avoiding death by removing himself from Christianity?

And when did they put their lives in danger?

Attempting to put together a chronology of the initial stages of Christianity can be frustrating. What we need to see is:

1) When did the Christian movement start?
2) When did the persecutions start?
3) Where did the persecutions start?
4) What did the persecutions consist of?
5) Was there a belief the persecutions would stop?
6) Did the benefits outweigh the possibility of persecution?

I could go through and demonstrate that by the time deadly persecutions started (at best Nero 64 CE) it would be too late to pull back.

Yes, we do come from it at different angles. I do not take Acts as history. There is no record of any persecution of a selection of Jews by any historian of the time, no record of a rival religion, and the only persons that were fighting were among the Jewish leaders, and with the Romans. The dating in Acts is… problematic. (Which Herod killed James?)

Christianity was so well known and so persecuted that Pliny the Younger did not know anything about it. Does that make sense?

But even if you grant Acts as history, you are perpetually left with the same problem—any claim that the Disciples could have recanted and avoided persecution is speculation.

Sam Harper said...


I agree that all we can do is speculate about the different possibilities....Simply put, we do not know. Therefore this argument is completely unsupported, and should be acknowledged as such.

It doesn't follow that if we don't know something for certain and have to speculate that our speculations are therefore "completely unsupported." Two possibility may both present themselves while one possibility is more likely than the other.

The funny thing is, many Christians are skeptical about the appearances of Mary I referred to, but are NOT skeptical about the appearance as recounted by Paul. Why don’t the Christians take those at “face value?” Or they are skeptical of Muslim claims of miracles.

Christians, atheists, Muslims, and everybody are all skeptical when they hear stories that are inconsistent with their present worldview. This is just a banal observation. You don't believe there's a God, so of course I fully expect you to be skeptical of any claim that God raised Jesus from the dead. I'm no more inconsistent in being skeptical of Muslim claims than you are in being skeptical of Christian claims. We are both skeptical because the respective claims are inconsistent with our present worldview.

You rightly point out that Paul received revelations. But the issue is the appearance of Jesus. Did he anywhere claim that Jesus appeared to him during one of his revelations? No. So to answer that question we have to look at how Paul understood resurrection. And as I said before, we have to look at why Jesus' appearance caused Paul to believe he had been raised from the dead. You especially need to answer that since you insist on comparing Jesus' appearance to Paul with Mary apparitions which never result in people thinking Mary is raised from the dead.

And even granting you a physical appearance, we are left with the problem of how did Paul die and what were the circumstances.

I've already argued in our previous discussion that we don't need Paul's death to use the "die for a lie" argument. I showed that Paul was quite willing to risk his life over and over again. His willingness is enough to establish the point.

I could go through and demonstrate that by the time deadly persecutions started (at best Nero 64 CE) it would be too late to pull back.

So you are actually denying that any Christians were killed for their faith before 64 CE?

I do not take Acts as history.

Then you can't rely on Acts to argue that Paul's experience was like a Mary apparition.

any claim that the Disciples could have recanted and avoided persecution is speculation.

But it's not baseless speculation. Look at the official persecutions of the second and third centuries. Look at how Pliny the Younger handled Christians. In all the evidence we have, Christians were usually given an opportunity to recant.

But as I've said a couple of times already, it's not necessary that they had an opportunity to recant to make the "die for a lie" argument work. It's enough that they knowingly put themselves in danger. After seeing Jesus killed, Stephen killed, both James's killed, and the things Paul went through as well as the other apostles who had not yet died, surely the apostles knew they put their lives in danger.

Anonymous said...

Atheists' beliefs seem to be pointed in every direction, just like Christians' are. Some atheists believe that Jesus existed, and some do not. Some actually doubt that Paul existed. Others think that the Aposltes were perpetuating a lie, while others think that their beliefs were genuine but wrong. How can you expect people to leave the maze of beliefs that Christianity has become and take atheists seriously when atheists are trapped in their own maze?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
DagoodS said...

ephphatha, I answered some of your questions in a new blog, particularly about Paul and visions. If you take Acts as history, then the unequivocal answer is “Yes, Paul did claim to get his revelations through visions.”

Sure Paul was willing. After seeing a light and hearing a voice. NOT a physical Jesus. We are dangerously slipping into ground that you efficiently covered before. It is not a claim that it is TRUE, just the extent of the belief. Many, many people die for visions, or beliefs or claims that turn out to be false. “Die for a Lie” (as you have correctly stated) is NOT a claim, “they died, so it must be true.” It is a claim, “they died so they must have BELIEVED it.” The claim is that a physical resurrection would be so fantastic, that a belief is such is supportive of its occurrence.

A belief in a vision is not supportive of a physical resurrection.

I have no idea as to when Christians were persecuted. The first extra-Christian record we have is not until 64 CE. Ephphatha, that is why I asked all those questions about persecution in my last comment. There are not easy answers, and a troublesome lack of records.

Acts (imo) follows Josephus, and could not be completed in its final form until 94 CE. By this time, there is indication of persecution of Christians under Domitian. But the Gospel writers had a habit of importing current methods into the past. Like using a round rock for the tomb, when square rocks were used prior to 70 CE. Or placing the Pharisees as the dominant force when it was the Sadducees in charge.

My concern is that the author implicitly felt that since there was current persecution, there was always persecution.

We simply do not know.

Yes, please look at Pliny theYounger. Even following the Domitian persecution, Pliny had no clue whether an accused Christian should be allowed to recant or not! Trajan replies that there is no set standard by which Christians should be treated, but says if they demonstrate worship to other Gods, they should be let go.

Pliny notes that many of these had been Christians, but had since stopped believing it. (How is that for “Die for a Lie”?) Yes, Pliny provides them with a chance to recant. But Pliny is careful to note that after interrogating them, it was not a political association. Tacitus did NOT indicate a chance to recant.

Just because a Roman emperor does something, does not mean a previous emperor did as well. It is amusing that Pliny found them stubborn and inflexibly obstinate. Something we still see today. (NOT with you, ephphatha, might I add.)

How did Peter knowingly put himself in danger? After viewing Stephen, Jesus, James and James, it was obvious to avoid involvement with Jewish religious authorities. So what do they do?

Spread Christianity in areas in which the Jewish leaders had no authority—Samaria, the gentiles and Jews outside Judea.

Where, again, was Peter killed, according to tradition, ephphatha? It was only in Rome he had to fear for his life, not in Jerusalem.

DagoodS said...

John, you are right, of course, that in the area of Biblical study, atheist’s beliefs point in every direction, just like Christians. And just like Mormons, and Muslims, and Deists, and Agnostics, and about every flavor of theism imaginable.

Ever wonder what the reason for that is? It is due to a lack of records, lack of historical verification, and claims of everything from inerrant history to outright fabrication.

It comes from humans attempting to understand what other humans wrote. Kinda makes you wonder if there is a God involved at all, doesn’t it?

Anonymous said...

Dagoods, Your welcome! I have to say you may very well be the most honest lawyer in the profession! Although you are extreemly proficient at raising reasonable doubt, you do it with a profound search for the truth. I only pray that some day you will De-deconvert, and fight for Jesus once more. I would have liked to hear your arguments!

While it's true we cannot know for certain who actually were killed for their beliefs, or if any recanted or not, I believe Acts chapter 4 and chapter 6 show us that they were not afraid of the risks that preaching Jesus entailed. They actually praised God for it! It seems to me they looked for persecution. It obviously increased their faith.

As for Mary, I take it for face value when, where and why she is mentioned in the Bible. I am certainly not as well versed Biblically as you, but I don't see a grilled cheese verse in the sciptures. As for Paul seeing a physical Jesus, I don't know, I'm not sure I care! It's not important to me.

Christians only become uncomfortable when I start to look at their own claims with the same skepticism they reserve for claims of other religions. At that point, I am informed I must turn of my skepticism and resort to faith.

Dagoods, you are a champion of reason. This is apparent in your approach to this website. However, I believe reason is not always reasonable. Our ability to reason is only accurate if the information we use for our conclusions is the truth. And we both agree that our own nature causes us to look in differant directions for that truth. Have you ever argued a case that you thought was rock solid, only to end up loosing? Or maybe you, or a colleage have handled a case that you knew was weak, but ended up victorious? Maybe I'm not explaining myself very well, but that's how I view the subject of God. Sometimes what we think makes perfect sense ends up to be false, and what looks to be false is true. (I like to remember the crop circles at this point.) In the end this is why I rely on faith!

Apparently God cannot convince a skeptic.

Perhaps not! At least without force!

What, exactly, would you contend that Jesus could have recanted? If He said, “No, I am not a God” or said, “I am a God” it was too late, the Jewish leaders want him dead. Pilate may not want him dead, but kills him to calm an unruly crowd.

Too late? Possibly! But if it was, why ask him anymore questions? What's important to me is the Bible records him as remaining faithful throughout the whole process.

Can you demonstrate what Jesus specifically could have said to Pilate that would have resulted in his release?

I'll try!

Pilot: "Jesus last chance here! What do you say for your actions?"

Jesus: "Look here Pilot. I don't want to die, and you don't seem to think I deserve to die. Your wife even says to not get involved. I'll just say that I have been drinking a lot of wine the past few years and lost control of reality. I'm sick in the head. First I will make a public apology and explain my situation, then I will just leave town and never come back."

Pilot: "You do understand that you still may need a whippin. I may not have a choice."

Jesus: "Cool!"

DagoodS said...

Steve, I highly recommend research on Pilate’s interaction with the Jews. All we have is from Josephus, but very informative. Do you know why he was called back in 36 CE? Or the previous incident where he gave in to a Jewish mob’s demands in order to keep the peace?

Unfortunately, the Gospel accounts (written, in my opinion, post 70 CE) are very pro-Roman. Thus painting a picture of a forgiving, kind and gentle Pilate as juxtaposed against the harsh, unrelenting, power hungry Jewish leaders.

According to the portrayal of Josephus, Pilate would not have even bothered with interrogating this individual at all, and there is no record, anywhere, of the practice of releasing a prisoner. No Jewish history. No Roman History.

Be that as it may, in taking on this argument, I must defer to the Christian belief that the Gospels and Acts are historical.

In answer to your question, yes I most certainly have taken cases that I should have won, and did not, and should have lost, yet won. That is because in America we have a jury system, and by integrating people, we end up with human error. That doesn’t mean we don’t recognize which side should have won.

As I have said elsewhere, if I was defending Christianity, as a whole, in a trial, I would recommend settlement, because I think it presents a losing case. Could a jury find for it? Sure. But 99 out of 100 would not. If one is relying on that 1 out of 100 chance, then so be it.

I read the events of Acts as to the persecution of the first believers. (Admittedly, I do not think Acts is historical, but in this argument, I must assume it is.) Have you noticed how people are convinced, “It won’t happen to me”? Look about you at all of the people that smoke.

Every person here knows that smoking dramatically increases the chances of lung disease, cancer, and shortens one’s life. One would be a fool to voluntarily imbibe in the habit. Why do they? “Because it won’t happen to me.” I see clients that do the stupidest things, get caught, and are charged with a crime. Something that will take them away from their family, their friends, and cause them problems for the rest of their life. Why would they ever do something so foolish? When it comes to getting caught, “It won’t happen to me.”

Although the early leaders of the church could see persecution. Could see what was happening, they choose to stay in Jerusalem. (Acts 8:1) Why? Now that the Pentecost had happened, there was no mandate to stay in Jerusalem. They could have spread the church from Damascus, Ephesus, Rome, or Samaria.

They stayed because they felt they were safe. Certainly no Christian will argue that the leaders voluntarily desired to be killed! There is no gain to the church in that.

If the leaders felt they would be killed, and there was no mandate that the church must spring from Jerusalem, why stay? In the context of this argument, (“Die for a Lie”) we are perpetually left with the questions—when did the die and what were the circumstances.

If we are lucky, the “Gospel of Lazarus” will be found within our lifetime, dated to 50 CE, and answer these questions. Until then, we must wrestle, speculate, and postulate, all with the background understanding of how little knowledge we actually have.

Steven Carr said...

Paul is clear that the earliest Christians were persecuted on the issue of circumcision (and perhaps the Law in general), not resurrection.

See Galatians 6:12 where Paul says Christians leaders would compromise their beliefs to avoid being persecuted for the corss (NB not resurrection) of Christ.

I don't know one single person who was killed for preaching a resurrection. (Even Stephen in Acts never says a resurrected Jesus walked the earth. Apparently he was killed for preaching the controversial view that somebody died and went to Heaven)

Later Christians , faced with death or recanting, would often find an alternative.

Why die for a lie, when you can be free for a fee? They would often bribe their accusors. It was the lesser of two evils.

Or sometimes Christians would refuse to offer sacrifice for the Emperor and get one of their pagan slaves to do it on behalf of their household.

Robin Lane Fox's 'Pagans and Christians' is good on the subject.

SocietyVs said...

I took a short over-view of the subject you wrote - it's vague and needed to be much longer I am thinking to cover all aspects - but it is well thought-out.

My main knock is the martyrdom thing - which I find somewhat ridiculous. If I read correctly (and I may not be) that Peter and James never died because of their faith but because of political reasons. I would love to agree but this idea seems a lot like BS.

They were called 'Christians' in either case and were killed because they professed this faith (had they not been Christians - they would have not been scapegoats for Nero or Herod). But one has to wonder why even kill a Christian? What's the motive? Oh we have been given some 'reasons' (political) but why choose those 'Christians' for death exactly? Needless to say, they were killed for their belief system (ie: the messiah) which differentiated them.

As for Applebey, Jones, and Koresh - all of which has sizeable followings and people that died with/for them. They don't even resemble martyrdom in the least (maybe Koresh but that's a stretch in honesty).

2 of those groups committed willing suicide and were not 'killed'/persecuted so in that sense they are not martyrs. Koresh's followers were killed by the USA gov't (this much we know is true) - but not on the basis of their belief system or because they were 'Branch Dividians' (which still exists to this day). They were attacked for the amount of weaponry they had within their house (ie: illegal guns).

Now one could say these people got a following and were deranged - I might agree (namely on Jones and Applebey). But these cases (and Joseph Smith) also vary greatly from what happened to 1st Century Christians and to compare the two is a betrayel in honesty.

Those 1st century Christians were killed for their belief system by the approval of the gov't and were singled out on the basis of their 'belief system'...which is not the case with Appleby (and I'll throw in Jones and Koresh). Did those 1st century people want to 'die'? No. They were literally 'sheep for the slaughter' in that sense. Whereas these other 3 durango's chose death willingly! None of these 20th cenury icons were actually persecuted by the govt's and held strongly to delusions of grandeur - which in many sense does not mimic a community of 1st century Christians who did not hold strong apocalyptic ideals of that sort. I think they are miles apart in many senses.

DagoodS said...

Jim Jordan wrote a response.

Thanks, Jim Jordan, for providing a reasoned response to my (ancient, now) blog entry. There are three things to keep in mind.

First, we must not confuse martyrdom and the argument of “Die for a Lie.” I see this on both sides of the fence (particularly when skeptics mention Muslims flying planes into buildings.) We all agree there are martyrs. We all agree that, regardless of the truth of what they have been told, people are willing to die as a result of the depth of their belief in what they have been informed.

There are Christian martyrs today. They are dying for believing what someone else has told them. We are not claiming that Christian martyrs of today saw a physically resurrected Jesus—they believe others who told them of a physically resurrected Jesus.

In the same way, we must be careful to not confuse the same martyrs of the first Century, C.E. I agree that there were Christian martyrs, who were killed simply for being Christians during that period. There were also pagans who were killed simply for being pagans during that time as well. Does that make pagan belief just as likely as Christian belief? Of course not!

The only way for the “Die for a Lie” argument to have any forcefulness is to claim that those who actually saw a physically resurrected Jesus were the ones that were dying. Claiming that those who heard of a physically resurrected Jesus were dying for that belief make it just as likely as any other belief that people are willing to die for.

We must be careful not to confuse those two very different groups. “Die for a Lie” needs to focus solely on eyewitnesses. To reduce it to all 1st Century Christian martyrs is to dilute the very teeth of the argument! It makes it as forceful as the claim that Muslims die for lie, so Islam must be correct!

Second, we must be specific as to how these eyewitnesses died. As I pointed out in my blog, this is not 1) just an area where history is silent, but the Bible states an event occurred (James the Lesser) or 2) that history tells of their death, but the Bible is silent (James the Just)—this is a mixed bag, in which we have a few examples, but the vast predominance would have BOTH history and the Bible silent.

Is that the best this argument can come up with? That “perhaps” they refused to die for a lie? That history is silent, so we can “fill-in-the-blanks” with whatever premise we need, in order to support our argument? Isn’t this presuming the conclusion in the argument?

Thirdly and really the key to the whole situation, is that we must focus on the reason the person died. If I was a spurned lover, so I threw a bomb into a Church, what does it matter whether the person in the Third Row, Second Seat had seen or had not seen a physically resurrected Jesus? What does it matter whether they knew it was a lie? They died. They were a Christian. They are a martyr. But they had no opportunity to choose whether to die for a lie or not.

Keeping that in mind, let’s go through some of your statements in your blog.

Jim Jordan: My response to that is that the book of Acts was written by Luke as an explanation of the apostle Paul.

O.K. So Luke was not writing about the martyrs that were refusing to die for a lie. How does that support this claim any? We are looking for examples of “die for a lie” in either the Bible or Christian writings or historical documents. If you are saying that Acts of the Apostles, because of its emphasis, does not provide us with any examples of people refusing to die for a lie, or eyewitnesses willing to die for the truth, I have no qualm with that.

Saying these things are not recorded doesn’t seem to support the argument they happened, though. (And I note that later you bring in James the Lesser, so apparently the author was recording something.)

More: John's whereabouts are well-documented as he wrote his gospel later as well as his letters and the Revelation.

Well, I think a great many (probably the majority) of Biblical scholars would disagree with John (presumably son of Zebedee) being the author of the Gospels, the letters and Revelation, that is irrelevant.

The question is “How did John die?” If you hold to the tradition of old age, I am uncertain as to how that possibly supports “Die for a lie.” He certainly wasn’t offered the opportunity.

More: Here I should restate what the argument "would not die for a lie" really means. The disciples who walked with Jesus and the other followers would have had seen with their own eyes the truth about Jesus.

Why are you “re-stating” the argument of “would not die for a lie?” The sole focus of my blog entry was on the eyewitnesses to the physically resurrected Jesus. I am not talking about witnesses to his birth, his childhood, his baptism, his calling of the disciples, his ministry, his journeys, his miracles, his capture, trial, death or burial. The whole key and force to the idea behind this argument is that Jesus was physically resurrected and people saw it.

The strength of their testimony to the physical resurrection is that they would go to extra-ordinary lengths based upon their belief in what they saw, even to the point of death. Again, people die all the time as martyrs for things they believe may happen, or things they have heard of. I listed examples in my blog entry.

To “re-state” that “die for a lie” is about belief in a traveling rabbi who wanted the disciples to press on, in the hopes of an eventual Kingdom, while interesting, was not the focus of my blog. (Further, by re-stating it, it appears to be a retreat from a physical resurrection claim as being too hard. That it is easier to prove that Jesus lived, so that would be the new focus of our attention.)

I don’t know why you wanted to “re-state” the argument, but if this is what you are now claiming, it was not what I was addressing in my blog entry.

More: The books of Acts and Romans give details about an expulsion by the emperor Claudius of Jewish Christians from Rome in the early 50s AD, less than 20 years after Jesus' resurrection.

Actually, it was an expulsion of Jews, not Christians. However, I do agree that the Romans would be unable to distinguish between the various sects of Judaism, such as Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, or Christians, so it is very likely that many Jews who were also Christians, living in Rome, were kicked out as well.

This only gives further support to my premise, and weakens the claim “wouldn’t die for a lie.” Here we have a persecution. In which a group of people, including but not exclusively Christians, are persecuted. And they are being persecuted for who they are—NOT for what they believe!

Soldier: O.K., Caesar has ordered you out.
Jewish Christian: But I am willing to recant my belief that I saw a physically resurrected Jesus!

Are you seriously saying that the Soldier’s next words would be, “Oh! I didn’t know that! In that case you are free to stay.” OR would the soldier say, “I don’t care about your particular Jewish in-fighting as to who believes what. Caesar has ordered you out—OUT YOU GO!”

This is a great example of how, even a person who claimed to see a physically resurrected Jesus, would not make a single bit of difference if they recanted that testimony or not. (And I would further note that no one would know if they had — they would still be out!)

More: Next we find extra-biblical data that Nero persecutedthe Christians as scapegoats about AD 64, 31 years after. The Christian church had already become a force that the most powerful ruler in the world had to deal with, and he dealt with them harshly. He even killed thousands of them. The point I'm, getting at here is that we have this hard fact, thousands of Christians are dying for their faith…

Tacitus says “huge numbers” which is a bit gray as to how many. Even given that this is “thousands”—again I am not disagreeing that there were Christian martyrs. Would you agree that there are Muslim martyrs? Does this make Islam correct? Of course not! It is witnesses, witnesses that we need—not martyrs, to give this argument teeth.

More: …[all most of them had to do was recant, declare Nero God and deny Christ] just 30 years after Jesus walked the earth.

And here is where the wheels fall off the bus. Do you have a source for this claim? Remember (as you have just stated yourself) Nero was blaming the Christians for the fire. Not for failing to worship Nero. The problem with this allegation, was that if all Nero had to do to kill them was to declare they were not worshipping him as a god--he would not have had to use the excuse of the fire to accuse them!

Ya can’t have it both ways—did Nero use them as a scapegoat for the fire? Or did Nero kill them for failing to worship him as a god?

If we read Pliny the Younger, who wrote the Emperor in early Second Century, HE is completely unfamiliar with Christianity, and has to question Trajan as to whether recanting would absolve them of any crime associated with Christianity:

…whether pardon is to be granted for repentance, or, if a man has once been a Christian, it does him no good to have ceased to be one;…

This is why I would like a source for this claim. We have a writing within decades of this time, which indicates that it is completely unknown as to whether recanting would qualify, and your assertion that all they had to do was recant.


(And I should note that this has the same problem as the expulsion. Nero sentenced them to death for arson. Whether they believed the moon was made of cheese, or Jesus was physically resurrected or not wouldn’t make a difference.)

More: The idea that none of these folks were eyewitnesses is a stretch. Short of new forensic or documentary evidence, the debate ends there in a draw.

Whoa. This is a Christian claim that eyewitnesses wouldn’t die for a lie. It is their obligation to present witnesses. Are we now reduced to say it is possible there were some witnesses that lived in Rome on 64 C.E. And again, even if there were eyewitness—would what they said when accused as a scapegoat for causing the fire made a bit of difference?

Sure, it ends in a draw. If we don’t want to look at any of the evidence. 1 Clement is written, in Rome about 95 C.E. Mentions Paul (who is traditionally considered to have died in Nero’s persecution) and Peter as a martyrs. No other eyewitness. No James the lesser, no James the Just. 1 & 2 Peter were written post 64 CE—yet no mention of this Nero persecution.

How come all the Christian writings, written during this period fail to mention Nero’s persecution or accusations? Wouldn’t one write of it? Wouldn’t one mention a martyr during it? How is it that we have the Church in Rome prior to the expulsion, the church in Rome prior to Nero, and the Church in Rome after…steadily moving along as if there was not a blip on the radar?

If we ignore these problems, and do not try to address them, it makes it easier to have a “draw.”

Is this really the best we have for this argument for Christianity? “It is possible there was an eyewitness in Rome, and it is possible that they could have recanted to avoid the charge of Arson, and it is possible that they did not.”

Isn’t this an argument from silence; an argument that it “coulda; woulda; shoulda”?

Do you consider this argument a “draw”? That it is equally possible no eyewitnesses were ever offered the opportunity to recant?

I guess what is so disappointing, is this argument could have so much strength. I see it so often as the Christian proudly proclaims it as a force-to-be-reckoned with. Yet when I start to investigate and wrestle with it, it comes down to a meek, “Well…it is possible, right? It coulda happened, true?”

More: Dagood doesn't address the rapid growth of this "opt-in" church

Because the growth of the church, rapid or otherwise, has nothing to do with the argument of “die for a lie.” The only persons we can focus on are those who it is claimed to be eyewitnesses to Jesus’ physical resurrection. Say 516. Whether the church grew to 1000 or 10,000 or 100,000 within 1, 25 or 250 years makes no difference. We are still only concentrating on those 516 people. As pointed out time and time again, belief in what others claim, no matter the number, is not the thing that gives this argument any forcefulness. It is belief in what specific people saw.

(On a side note, the study of the early church is fascinating. The “explosion” theory of the growth of the church is only supported by Christian documents. Archeology, and contemporary historians do not demonstrate any such “explosion.” But that is not important to my blog entry.)

More: However, if we look at many verified accounts of early Christian martyrs, we see this very situation repeated over and over.

I am not LOOKING at “martyrs.” I am LOOKING at Witnesses! And what “verified accounts” other than those referenced in my blog entry?

More: The crime of the early church was that they called Jesus Lord, a word reserved for the emperor.

Source? (And Pliny the Younger is too late for your eyewitnesses.)

More: I see this as a serious obstacle to saying that the eyewitness Christians did not die for their faith. Certainly, they were grabbed and condemned to die, but on what grounds?

Exactly my point—on what grounds? What “eyewitnesses” and what grounds? Were they given a chance to recant and would that have made any difference?

More: We have this fact that Christians were killed for the charge of calling Jesus "Kurios" within 30 years of Jesus' death.

Source? Remember, you have just stated that Nero was using them as a scapegoat for the fire, which is completely contrary to this claim. If that is all Nero needed, he would not have had to blame them for the fire! Again, can’t have it both ways.

More: Again, the problem with the likely charge against John's brother James is blasphemy hurts his argument. In fact, Dagood here makes the assumption that Herod gets angry at James [as if they were unaware that decrying "Jesus is Lord" wouldn't anger Herod] and simply sicks his dogs on him. The ancient world wasn't that primitive. Even if the charges were trumped up, there would have been charges, and most likely the charge was blasphemy. I believe that it is logical that James died because he refused to deny Christ.

I am uncertain how this even remotely helps your argument. Hurts it terribly. You are saying that Herod falsified charges against James the lesser? How would recanting help James the lesser in any way from disputing charges that are false? Doesn’t this support my claim that “wouldn’t die for a lie” is unsupported in the few eyewitness death accounts we have?

You DO realize there is no recanting from “blasphemy,” right? If you are going to speculate a falsified charge, best stay away from blasphemy.

I think there are other problems, such as a political leader being concerned about a religious problem or needing a religious reason to order a death sentence (remember John the Baptist). And the fact that Herod immediately arrested Peter out of a concern for popularity, not religion.

And, I would note you assume your conclusion. The verses are silent as to why James died. I could equally argue that Herod killed him for betting on the wrong horse. Is that a “draw,” too?

Jim Jordan, this claim of Christianity that the physical resurrection of Jesus must be true, because eyewitnesses would not die for a lie needs to be shored up better than the timid “it is possible.” OR Christians would need to be more forthright that this is not the strong argument it is claimed to be, and is in the realm of speculation, rather than fact.

With what has been presented here, do you think you could convince a neutral person that an eyewitness to the physical resurrection was presented with an opportunity to recant, in the face of death, and chose to not?

All I see is supposition and presuming the very claim that is attempted to be bolstered. Sorry.