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April 01, 2013

Comments

I guess the Mormon faith is true because Joseph Smith wouldn't have died for a lie.

1) Why would we expect non-Christian sources to list any deaths of relatively unknown persons? The only people recording deaths where those related to the deceased. We understand there was no “Jerusalem News” with an obituary section.

2) What would the age expectancy be for the apostles? Not knowing their age at a particular point…say 30 CE…makes this extremely difficult to determine. Further, the mortality rate would make it likely they (presuming they were similar age as Jesus) would not live much beyond 60 CE as it was.

3) We see mythical and legendary development within the traditions surrounding the apostles’ death. 1 Clement does not list a martyr’s death for Peter or Paul, but by late Second Century, there are long, intricate tales surrounding their deaths. James, the brother of Jesus, has his story develop from probable stoning (with no Christian overtones) to being thrown off the temple roof and stoning (with Gnostic overtones) to being thrown off the roof, stoned and clubbed (with Christian overtones.)

Acts of Apostles only lists James, son of Zebedee’s death, and his death is only used to introduce an element of danger to Peter’s tale regarding escaping prison. (Despite the author developing a martyr tale for Stephen—not listed as an eyewitness.)

@bill,

That's not a bad point except that Joseph Smith didn't die for his faith, but rather over an internal dispute. It would be the same as if Thomas and John got into an argument and Thomas rounded up a gang of disgruntled followers and murdered John.

So, Joseph Smith didn't die for the truth of his faith but rather over a power struggle.

The Pharisees, at least, were vexed enough about Christians that they sent Saul to hunt them down and kill them. Had, say, Thomas denied that Jesus was raised and lived a long life, that would have been powerful propaganda against this vexatious sect. The fact that no such defections are recorded is significant.

"Internal dispute" makes it all sound so trivial.

According to Wikipedia, the events leading up to Smith's death started with the Nauvoo Expositor newspaper publishing an article saying that "Smith had once been a true prophet, but had fallen by advocating polygamy, exaltation and other controversial doctrines." They also didn't like that Smith tried to "marry" their wives (at the time a core Mormon doctrine). That sure sounds like they were challenging Smith's faith.

By the way, he spent three days in jail before he was eventually killed by a mob - plenty of time to back down and renounce his faith but he never did.


Was he being persecuted for Mormonism or for his particular flavor of it? (I should add that many denominations have persecuted each other for the differences in doctrine).

Was he persecuted for the core of his faith? In other words, was he asked to recant his faith in the tenants of Mormonism?

Nope.

WisdomLover,

1) Actually, the High Priest was a Sadducee, and it is curious why he would work with a Pharisee to peruse Christianity (especially when there were far worse troubling sects like the Essenes, the Qumran community, the Herodians, the Galileans and…most importantly…the Romans.) Indeed the only source for concerted Jewish persecution of Christians is Acts—there is no record in any non-Christian source. This raises a question of Acts’ historicity regarding the same.

2) Today we see many individuals “defecting” from Scientology, writing long articles against the same. They are branded “heretics” by Scientologists, and the religion continues. Why would it be any different for a Thomas in the First Century? Indeed Matthew records many did not believe after seeing the resurrected Jesus and this did not seem to be a deterrent.

3) Actually one of our earliest non-Christian sources regarding persecution—Pliny the Youger (113-115 CE)--does record defections: “Others named by the informer declared that they were Christians, but then denied it, asserting that they had been but had ceased to be, some three years before, others many years, some as much as twenty-five years.” (Of course, please read the entire letter for context.)

There are other resurrection stories in history, but they are generally considered to be myths. There is no real evidence for them. The evidence for Jesus's resurrection is very different and the persecution of the early believers plays a large role in the evidence.

The evidence of first century persecution of early believers is consistent between the Book of Acts, the writings of Paul and several sources from secular history - such as Pliny the Younger and Tacitus. There is no question early believers were persecuted for their beliefs. Believers were taught to expect persecution because the disciples and early church experienced it from the very beginning.

The fact Paul experienced repeated beatings, persecutions and arrests can only be explained by the fact he saw the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus. Seeing the risen Christ had the same effect on James, Peter, Mark and many others who knew Christ personally.

This evidence is unique in human history. You cannot find any other example of a group of friends who were willing to suffer and die because they would not stop talking about their friend who rose from the dead.

Look for me on Twitter.

Saul was a Pharisee. You may be right about the Sadducees also being interested in quashing the new sect. That just makes my point stronger that the defection of Thomas or one of the other twelve would have been a major propaganda coup. There would not be silence about it.

The Scientologist defectors are noted, in time to come, the record about Scientology defectors will not be empty.

Matthew does not record that some of Jesus followers did not believe after seeing the risen Lord. He records that some were doubtful. This is different. Thomas, speaking of apostles, was one of those doubters. He was also a believer.

Pliny does not record the defection of eyewitnesses, but of later Christians. These are Christians that denied Christ at the same time that Pliny himself lived...too late to be eye witnesses.

Bill, Joseph Smith wasn't in jail for his faith, he was in jail for destroying the town's printing press. Renouncing his faith would have had no effect on his jail time.

WisdomLover,

Why would the Sadducee’s care about some new sect? They (as well as the Pharisees) had trouble enough of their own! The Sadducees retained political power, but were not popular. And every time the Roman’s changed the Judean governor, the old high priest was removed and a new high priest installed. Meanwhile the Pharisees would gladly take over the High priest position, but did not have the political clout.

Then they had the Samaritans who contented with their position. Not to mention the Essenes who depicted the Sadducees as doctrinally incorrect. And numerous other Jewish sects (the Herodians, the Qumran community, etc.) who likewise would love to wrestle the High Priest position from the Sadducees.

On top of this, there was the governmental differences between Judea, Galilee and Perea, not to mention the continuous troublesome Galilean rebels. And all simmering under Roman rule, with its taxes, armies and presence. While jostling to maintain monotheism in the face of polytheism and Hellenistic Judaism.

And along comes some new offshoot claiming a crucified criminal was actually the Messiah, and if everyone is a little patient, will eventually come back and (just like all the other on-going Messiah claims) rescue the Jews? An offshoot that 1) could not even agree amongst itself whether one had to follow Hebrew practices or not and 2) fairly quickly modified to converting gentiles—something Jews had little interest in?

Why would the Jewish leaders care? Yes, I understand we look back in history with 20-20 hindsight and recognize Christianity as becoming a major religion—but at the time, who would notice? They had their hands far too full to bother with yet-another-Messiah-will-save-us scheme.

What was Christianity threatening to them? Christians weren’t asking to become politically involved (either in the priesthood or governmental positions.) Christians weren’t taking honor, power or finances from them. (As pointed out, Christians in Jerusalem maintain Judaic practices!)

Most people “debunk” other beliefs, NOT by pointing out the problems, but in maintaining their own. How many people reading this blog have even read the Qur’an? Let alone, taken the time to go through it to prove inaccuracies? How many have read the Book of Mormon? And Science and Health with Key to Scriptures? Again, let alone go through them to prove inaccuracies?

Yet the same people are certain these writings are not divine; that Islam, Mormonism and Christian Science is incorrect. Why? NOT because they have debunked the beliefs—because their own belief—Creedal Christianity—necessarily excludes the others from being correct.

In the same way, why would the Sadducees or Pharisees or Essenes or Herodians or Samaritans bother debunking Christianity? (Nuts, we can’t even find where they attempted to debunk each other much beyond “The other side is wrong!”) They knew Christianity was wrong, because their own belief was right.

No…the only source we have for organized Jewish persecution against Christianity is Christian writings themselves exhibiting a martyr complex for polemic reasons. There are reasons Acts of the Apostles paints the Judeans as being against Christianity time and time and time again, whereas the Romans were painted as accepting and supporting Christianity time and time and time again.

But if we step back and review the actual history, we understand why there would never be a reason for Jewish persecution of Christianity, and there would not be any reason (nor any means) for Jewish leaders to record conflicts in Christian claims.

I do agree the accounts with Pliny the Younger are later, and would not likely include eyewitnesses. I was just pointing out one of the earliest accounts we have of actual Christian persecution did indicate people recanting. For the Tacitus (and Suetonius) account, recanting would have been irrelevant—they were not being accused of Christianity. In Pliny, were recanting WOULD avoid persecution…some Christians did.

Well, again, Saul was hunting down and killing Christians, so the Jews did bother whether it seems to you that they should have or not.

WisdomLover,

Yes, I quite agree Paul persecuted the Church. Galatians 1. However, he does not claim to: 1) be part of any organized or sanctioned effort, nor 2) to have killed anyone. It is unclear what exactly the extent of his persecution.

Further, his history of Galatians 1 & 2 is very difficult to chronologically line up with Acts’ claim—demonstrating less historical reliability in Acts. (For example. Acts claims Saul/Paul was persecuting the church in Jerusalem, yet in Galatians, Paul claims the Judeans would not recognize him.)

More importantly, Paul is NOT helpful when it comes to any claim regarding what Christians were proclaiming, and would best be avoided by Christians in attempting to support it. (For reasons beyond the scope of this blog entry.)

Once again, it is not that simple.

Joseph Smith destroyed the printing press because the folks behind the newspaper were challenging key points of Mormon doctrine. He was jailed awaiting trial and had not actually been sentenced yet so his sentence most likely would have depended on what he said at the trial. The mob that killed him were those behind the printing press (who disagreed with his theology) and aided by the militia who didn't defend him (they were non-Mormons who definitely didn't like Smith's religion and wanted the Mormons out of Illinois).

The real difference between Smith and early Christian martyrs is that he aggressively defended himself. He actually had a gun in the jail and shot four of the mob but it wasn't enough in the end.

The one thing that I think you and I would agree on is that Joseph Smith definitely was in a position to know whether his religion was true or false.

J. says that the difference between us dying for our beliefs today and the apostles dying for their beliefs back then is that they were eye-witnesses and we were not, so they were dying for what they claimed to actually see themselves.

I think that argument needs more, though. After all, people do sometimes believe things, but the reasons the give for why the believe are not actually what caused them to believe. It could be that lots of people claimed to see Jesus who didn't actually see him. If it turned out they were lying about having seen the risen Jesus themselves, that wouldn't mean they didn't actually believe Jesus was raised from the dead. They may have believed on the testimony of somebody else who claimed to see the risen Jesus. It's possible that Peter was the only one who saw Jesus and that after convincing the other apostles that Jesus had risen from the dead and appeared to him, some of them also began to claim Jesus had appeared to them as well. If those apostles later one died for their beliefs, it wouldn't follow that they actually saw Jesus.

J. also points out that while we have several accounts of the apostles dying as martyrs, we have no account of any of them recanting. I do think that gives us at least prima facie reason to believe they died as martyrs, but there are two other things to consider (one of which Dagoods brought up to me a few years ago).

First, if they did recant at the last minute, should we expect to know it? Well, I don't see how we possibly could. Since we don't have any records from the executors or judges themselves, the only way we could know it is if there were other witnesses around. It's not likely that believing Christians who wrote about these martyrdoms to encourage other Christians would admit that the apostles recanted at the last minute. Since there's no reason to expect that we would know about any last minute recantations had they happened, the fact that we don't have any record of any recantations doesn't carry much weight.

Second, as Dagoods pointed out to me a long time ago, we don't know for sure that the apostles had an opportunity to recant. We can only guess, based on the fact that Jesus had a trial and that Jesus ben Ananias also had a trial, that the apostles might've also had a trial, and if so, then they could've recanted. On the other hand, according to acts, Stephen was stoned without a trial, and according to Josephus, James, the brother of Jesus, was killed without a trial.

As I argued on my blog a long time ago, we don't need to know that the apostles died for their beliefs to have confidence in their sincerity. All we need to know is that the apostles knew the risks. And we have abundant evidence that they did. Jesus was killed for claiming to be the king of the Jews, so they had to have known that by keeping the movement alive, they were putting their own lives at risk. I think it's clear that the apostles were at least willing to die for their beliefs. Paul talked about his life being in danger multiple times for the gospel. He was even stoned once. It seems like the only way around that is to accuse Paul of bald faced lying, but that strikes me as a desperate move to avoid the force of the argument.

DagoodS, even skeptical NT scholars agree that the creedal passage in 1 Cor 15 3-7 was being taught as early as 6 mos. after the resurrection. So the teachings were not developed later and were core to the reason they were of such a bother to the Sanhedrin. What Jesus taught interfered with their power and their financial intake (see the turning over of the money lenders tables). It's always a good rule to follow the money.

And as to your statement "But if we step back and review the actual history, we understand why there would never be a reason for Jewish persecution of Christianity, and there would not be any reason (nor any means) for Jewish leaders to record conflicts in Christian claims." If that were true, the crucifixion would never have happened and we have non-Christian sources for that.

Luke is regarded as a first rate historian even to skeptics who have tested him so Acts can be relied upon historically. Professor of classics at Auckland University, E.M. Blaiklock, wrote: "For accuracy of detail, and for evocation of atmosphere, Luke stands, in fact, with Thucydides. The Acts of the Apostles is not shoddy product of pious imagining, but a trustworthy record...it was the spadework of archaeology which first revealed the truth." Archaeologist Sir William Ramsay wrote that "Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy...he should be placed along with the very greatest of historians." You cannot categorically reject a writing based on the writer's beliefs - otherwise we would have to reject all historical writings as being biased either for or against a particular figure. Their claims must be examined, but you cannot approach it with that kind of priori.

You also said that Paul was unknown by the Judean church. This is true that Paul wouldn't be known by sight "I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ". This isn't at first understood by us in our instant media age where a photograph is available to all for identification but he was known by name.

Paul claims in Galatians, in the very passage where he said that the Judeans still did not know him by sight, that they did know that the one who was persecuting them (Who? The very Judeans who did not know him by sight!) had become a Christian.

For from conflicting with the idea that Paul was persecuting Christians in Jerusalem, the Galatians passage reinforces that idea.

How could the church in Jerusalem not know Paul by sight when he had, so recently, been persecuting them?

Well, it's not like they had Televisions so that they could all see and be aware of who this terrifying Saul of Tarsus guy was.

Dagoods,

1) Actually, the High Priest was a Sadducee, and it is curious why he would work with a Pharisee to peruse Christianity (especially when there were far worse troubling sects like the Essenes, the Qumran community, the Herodians, the Galileans and…most importantly…the Romans.) Indeed the only source for concerted Jewish persecution of Christians is Acts—there is no record in any non-Christian source. This raises a question of Acts’ historicity regarding the same.

I don't see any difficulty in supposing a Sadducee would work with a Pharisee. The two sects were nor mortal enemies, and in this case, they both had a great deal of incentive. The reason John gives for why there was a conspiracy to kill Jesus was because Jesus "is performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, all men will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation" (John 11:47-48). That makes a lot of since historically. The Romans were very interested in maintaining the Pax Romana, and they crushed any movement that threatened it. The Jews eventually DID lose their place and nation because of revolutionary movements. So the Sadducees and Pharisees had a common cause.

Why would the Sadducee’s care about some new sect?

Why would the Jewish leaders care?

What was Christianity threatening to them?

I dont' think the Sadducees would've been directly threatened by Christianity. What they were threatened by was Roman oppression, and revolutionary movements tended to attract Roman military power. The Jews were hanging out to their religious liberties by a thread, and the prefects that governed Judea were constantly antagonizing them and threatening them. The Jewish leaders (especially the Saducees) would've had a great deal of incentive to stop any messianic or revolutionary movement before the Romans stepped in. It would've been better for them if they could deal with these problems themselves rather than have Rome come in and lay down the law.

I don't think it much matters why the Sadducees would have cared. The fact is that they did.

Bill,

Let’s assume Joseph Smith died for his faith.

I guess the Mormon faith is true because Joseph Smith wouldn't have died for a lie.

I don’t know how you get this from that. Just as the Heaven’s Gate crew killed themselves trying to reach a spaceship, all we can say about this is that they most likely believed what they died for. What couldn’t be said of Joseph Smith, under our assumption, is that he died for what he knew was a lie.

For example, a man loses his family’s savings at the casino. He determines his life is not worth living. Later that night, he kills himself. That doesn’t prove that “his life was not worth living”. But it does point to the idea that he believed it.

People typically don’t die for lies. That’s it.

Quick fix on the above:

People typically don't die for what they know to be lies.

On the whole Joseph Smith thread, I guess we also don't know what opportunity Smith was given to save his own life by recanting. Maybe, on the night when he was killed, Smith still thought he could hold on. Next think you know, he's dead. A person might die for a lie because they miscalculate their chances of brazening it through.

Now, you might imagine that one of the disciples might have died for a known lie in just that way.

It seems less likely that 11 suffered that fate.

The whole Mormon religion makes me less certain of the historical arguments for Christianity. The only reason we know Joseph Smith wasn't martyred and that the 11 witnesses didn't actually see the golden plates is because we have a lot more information about early Morminism than we do about early Christianity. Imagine if all we had was one source telling us that Joseph Smith was killed by a mob, and imagine if all we had was that statement at the beginning of the Book of Mormon saying all those people signed a document saying they saw the golden plates. If that were the case, then we'd have really good reason to think those plates actually existed. We'd assume Joseph Smith died as a martyr, defending the existence of those plates, and that all those people who signed that document actually saw those plates. But it's only because we have additional information that we know nobody saw those plates and Joseph Smith was not martyred.

That additional disconfirming information, Sam, in the case of Christianity, would have been maintained and propagated by the critics of Christianity. Wouldn't it?

Not necessarily, Wisdomlover. After all, the writings of Celsus haven't survived to this day. We know Christianity had its critics, but almost all of the information we have about what its critics were saying comes from Christian sources.

The fact that a criticism is preserved through the words of a person whose view is being criticized doesn't necessarily show that there is a problem.

Clesus is indeed preserved through Origen.

Is there reason to think that Origen watered down Celsus' criticisms?

Origen was attempting a point-by-point answer to Celsus. Today, we certainly cannot tell whether Origen toned down Celsus. But Origen's contemporaries, who were more hostile to Origen than to Celsus, would have known. It seems unlikely, though not impossible of course, that Origen would have toned down Celsus.

WL, you're missing my point. You suggested that any additional information that might've undermined the evidence we have for Christianity would've been preserved by Christianity's critics. My answer is that in spite of the fact that Christianity had critics who were making arguments, none of their writings were maintained or propagated by them. So it's not true that if there had been additional information about Christianity that might undermined Christianity the way additional information about Mormonism undermines Morminism, that we should expect that it would be preserved and handed down by the critics of Christianity.

Sam,

The whole Mormon religion makes me less certain of the historical arguments for Christianity.

It seems you’re saying, “If we had evidence that Christianity wasn’t true (from early critics or otherwise) we’d have evidence that Christianity wasn’t true.

This doesn’t seem to say a whole lot.

It also seems you’re saying, “If we had evidence that Mormonism was true (even though we don’t) then we could treat the evidence for Mormonism the same way we treat the evidence for Christianity.”

This doesn’t seem to say a whole lot either.

Sam, what am I missing here?

No, you're misunderstanding me, KWM. Lemme see if I can explain myself a little more clearly.

Given the evidence we actually have about early Christianity, it appears to be pretty solid. For example, we have a very early oral tradition quoted by Paul saying that Peter, James, and all the apostles saw Jesus alive after he had died. And Paul actually knew Peter and James personally. So, as Pinchas Lapide said, this is as good as eye-witness testimony from the apostles themselves. And we also have later accounts of most of the apostles dying as martyrs, which indicates they actually believed what they were saying, and it wasn't just a hoax. So apparently, they really DID see Jesus alive after he had died.

That all seems persuasive at first glance.

But now consider Mormonism. Suppose we had far less information about Mormonism than we actually do. Suppose we had a written statement signed by 11 people saying they saw the golden plates the BOM was translated from. And let's say we have a short notice in a news paper saying that Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism who claimed that it all started with these golden plates, was killed by a mob (without a lot of detail).

Just based on that, wouldn't we have just as strong a case that the golden plates really existed as we would that Jesus was raised from the dead? It seems to me that we would.

But in reality, we have far more information about early Mormonism than we do about early Christianity. We have statements from the signers of that document saying they only saw visions of the plates, or they felt something under a blanket but didn't actually see anything. And knowing the details surrounding Joseph Smith's death, we know it had nothing to do with his supposed belief that Moroni had given him the golden plates from which he translated the Book of Mormon. So even though he was the founder of Mormonism and claimed to have translated the Book of Mormon from golden plates, he was not killed for that reason. His death was not a martyrdom.

To me, this makes the evidence for Christianity not as persuasive as it might otherwise be because it could be that the only reason the evidence for Christianity looks as strong as it does is because there's a lot we do not know. There's a lot of detail that hasn't been preserved that, if it were preserved might completely overturn the case for Christianity. What Mormonism shows is that it isn't that hard to pull off a hoax.

Sam-

"My answer is that in spite of the fact that Christianity had critics who were making arguments, none of their writings were maintained or propagated by them."

Well, I guess it's a question of how cogent the objections are. I suppose that every view has its critics, no matter how lame they might be.

Some critics are so lame that they don't even get a hearing in any serious forum. I wouldn't expect the views of such critics to be preserved.

Other critics might also provide some weak objection, that is easily answered, but not a complete embarrassment to the critic. Such critics probably won't be preserved either except possibly in the answers given to them by sharper intellects.

In the case of Celsus, I think that's what we've got.

It could be that that's all there was.

Anyone with credible evidence that Thomas confessed that "Well, yeah, shucks, we did steal the body" would be well beyond that, and you'd expect those sorts of criticisms to survive on their own (and to have taken down Christianity).

Expressing doubt about the Virgin birth? And making up some salacious yarn from nothing nearly 2 centuries after the fact? Not so much.

Now, setting to one side those, rather meager, criticisms that Christians have answered (and preserved through their answers), what evidence do we have that there were any other early criticisms of greater weight?

I'm not convinced that if there had been good evidence against Christianity that it necessarily would've been preserved.

But I am convinced that even if there had been good arguments against Christianity (or at least arguments as strong as the arguments against Mormonism), that Christianity would not have been taken down. After all, Mormonism hasn't been taken down, and we even have The Book of Abraham! It's hard to imagine a more solid proof against a religion. Religions are remarkably resilient in the face of criticism.


The day is young on Mormonism. Religions do go down., and they go down for every kind of reason...including rational criticism.

You noting the fact that religions have great resilience just shows that you are spoiled by being a member of one of the world's five great religions. That resilience is rare among religions, not common.

Part of the argument for Christianity as opposed to, say, the worship of Poseidon, is the very fact that it is so much more resilient. When you make a short list of religions that might be true, it has to include Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism. Any other religion is going to need special permission to even be considered.

You noting the fact that religions have great resilience just shows that you are spoiled by being a member of one of the world's five great religions. That resilience is rare among religions, not common.

You have a good point.

Suppose we had a written statement signed by 11 people saying they saw the golden plates the BOM was translated from. And let's say we have a short notice in a news paper saying that Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism who claimed that it all started with these golden plates, was killed by a mob
Let's take it a step further. Let's even suppose that Smith was killed for his belief that the golden plates were revealed to him bu Moroni.

There's still a problem with Mormonism that Christianity does not suffer. The disciples were killed because they believed that their close friend Jesus was raised from the dead.

Joseph Smith was, by our supposition, killed because someone he wouldn't have known from Adam showed him some golden plates.

To put it a little differently, Mormonism has a problem even if we assume Smith saw what he claimed to have seen. Smith does not really know what the source is. Christianity does not suffer from that problem. It's the difference between carrying on an internet chat with a known friend and carrying on an internet chat with a complete stranger, albeit a very charismatic one.

"the golden plates were revealed to him bu Moroni."

"bu?"

Sorry. The word "bu" is Reformed Egyptian for the English word "by". I was wearing my magic glasses when I typed the last post.

I’ll try a different approach.

The blog video compares the traditions of apostles’ martyr deaths with the silence of alternative historical statements within the First Century. This is an Argument of Silence—which is fine—but we must make sure we are clear regarding the weight of such arguments.

The more likely the medium would be to report the claim, if the medium is silent, the argument has greater weight. A few examples to illustrate:

Imagine I claimed Tiger Woods shot three holes-in-one at last month’s tournament. And you reply, “No he didn’t—I read through my entire Cosmopolitan magazine, and it didn’t mention him doing so.” This Argument from Silence has little weight, as the medium Cosmopolitan does not report on golfing. Now imagine I make the same claim, and you reply “No he didn’t—I read through Golf Digest and it never mentions it.” This Argument from Silence has great weight as such a feat is very likely to be reported by Golf Digest. Now imagine I claim I shot a hole-in-one at my local golf course and you reply, “No you didn’t, Golf Digest didn’t report it.” Here the Argument from Silence has little weight—even though Golf Digest does report regarding golf it does not report every single hole-in-one shot by every duffer such as myself.

Which takes me back to my original question—what medium is “silent” regarding the disciples’ death giving this Argument from Silence any weight? Is there a First Century Jerusalem Journal or Galilean Gazette we can review the obituary section to determine when these individuals died? Nope. Is there some First Century writing where certain Judean sects articulated doctrinal differences and conflicting reports against other Judean sects? Not that I am aware.

If we had some document “Against Jewish Heresies” written by a Sadducee in the First Century, wherein the writer articulated the errors of the Pharisees, and the errors of the Essenes, and the errors of this sect and that sect…and Christianity was not mentioned, this would lend some weight to the Argument from Silence. But do we have that? What medium is silent where we would expect such deaths to be listed? [Careful, this one is about to bite the Christian martyr claim right in the hind-end!]

We don’t see claims against Christianity framed until the Second Century and even then, only through the responses of the Christian, such as Origen and Celsus (as pointed out) or Justin Martyr vs Trypho or Tertullian’s defense. And it was not until the Second Century the martyrdom legends were developed.

But first, let’s look when the claims of martyr deaths are first documented from the Christian perspective:

1) 1 Clement. Dating uncertain, but traditionally dated to 90’s CE. Clement indicates numerous troubles for Peter, and upon Peter’s bearing witness, Peter dies. Clement precisely notes seven imprisonments, exile and stoning for Paul, and upon Paul’s bearing witness, Paul dies. Notice what 1 Clement does NOT state. He does not give the when, where, why or how of either Peter’s or Paul’s death. Indeed, it must be extrapolated and argued to even claim Clement meant martyrdom for their deaths, as he does not explicitly state so. (Why be so precise as to seven imprisonments, but not precise as to a martyr’s death by beheading for Paul?)

Worse (here is where the Argument from Silence hurts the Christian’s claims), 1 Clement goes on to list other persecuted Christians from the First Century. Does he list James, the brother of Jesus? Nope. James, son of Zebedee? Nope. Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Nathaniel, Levi? Nope, Nope, Nope. The next two names Clement comes up with are…Danaids and Dircae.

Remember, the Argument of Silence holds more weight if the medium is likely to include the claim, but does not. Here Clement is specifically listing persecuted Christians; the list includes Peter, Paul, Danaids and Dircae. Not any of the other 10 disciples or James, brother of Jesus. If one desires to utilize the Argument from Silence within this claim, to be consistent 1 Clement must be troubling in his silence. If not even the Christians are claiming within the First Century that these 10 disciples were martyrs—why would we expect non-Christians to address their deaths?

2) Josephus. Dating 90’s CE. Writes on James, Jesus’ brother death (presuming not an interpolation, of course). No Christian elements whatsoever—James is killed as a political pawn.

3) Acts of Apostles. Dating 90-100 CE. Indicates James, son of Zebedee is beheaded by King Herod. No details regarding the crime accused. Again, the Argument from Silence is not helpful, as Luke was more than willing to explain the events surrounding Stephen’s death as a martyr, but merely writes James’ death as a story element to introduce danger for Peter, much like the Red Shirts of Star Trek.

And that is it—that is the entirety of Christian martyr deaths (for eyewitnesses) accounted in the First Century. Again—what writing would list alternative histories; what medium is silent?

Now, in the Second Century, the legends grow surrounding the apostle’s deaths. Acts of Peter (150 -200 CE) tells us the how and why of Peter’s martyrdom for the first time. Acts of Paul (150 – 200 CE) provides us Paul’s martyrdom for the first time.

The legend of James, Jesus’ brother grows through 2nd Apocalypse of James and Clement of Alexandria, culminating in Heggesippus’ (165 – 175 CE) account where we finally have it recorded as an orthodox Christian martyrdom.

And we only get the martyrdoms of the other disciples in Hippolytus (late 2nd Century/Early 3rd) and repeated in Tertullian. If the martyrdom legends did not develop until the latter Second Century—why would we expect anything but silence in the First?

This Argument from Silence is extremely weak. There are no documents we would expect First Century writers to reply to Second Century claims. By the Second Century, there would be no way to verify or discount any claimed deaths.

Sam,

Always a pleasure to discuss with you. If Sadducees and Pharisees were intent on suppressing revolutionary claims—why did they do such a terrible job of it?

First, we would need to determine what Christianity was claiming was so revolutionary. That Messiah was coming to restore his kingdom? That is standard Jewish fare—EVERY Jewish sect was already claiming that. Was Christianity demanding its followers abandon Jewish practices? No—only the Gentile converts that Jewish leaders wouldn’t have cared about anyway. Was Christianity demanding the overthrow of Roman government? Nope—they were advocating following the government.

Perhaps it could be argued Christianity would be viewed as a new superstition embracing monotheism, but would the Jewish leaders believe the Roman leaders would make such a distinction (as compared to all the other distinctive Jewish sects) and therefore pre-persecute the Christians to avoid Roman persecution of the Christians?

Second, why bother with the upstart Christianity, when the Sadducees already had real problems with the Galileans? (Not to mention the Pharisees with popular support, the Qumran community desiring to overthrow the Sadducees, the Samaritan troublemakers, and the Essene nuisance.) Why bother with the Christian gnat when being bitten by the Galilean pit-bull, who is being encouraged by the other sects?

Third, as it turned out, the people wanted to revolt anyway, so they were going to follow whoever led them into revolt. There were far more likely candidates than a religion converting gentiles throughout the Roman empire.

Dagoods,

If Sadducees and Pharisees were intent on suppressing revolutionary claims—why did they do such a terrible job of it?

Why do you think they did a terrible job of it? Why do you think they could've done better?

It looks like you answered at least one of your own questions. On the one hand, you asked why the Sadducees and Pharisees did such a terrible job suppressing revolutionary movements if that was really their intent, but then later on, you asked why they would bother with Christianity when they had the Galilieans, Samaritans, and Essenes to worry about, as if you acknowledge they couldn't have done it all. I don't see any of this as a problem. I don't imagine the Jewish leadership was all-powerful, and like most leaders, they had to pick their battles. While the Essenes (I'm assuming they're the same group as the Qumran community) lived off by themselves for the most part, Christians lived right there in the cities (including Jerusalem), and in the early days even attended synagogue. So even if the Essenes were a bigger threat (and I'm not convinced they were), the Christians were right there in their faces.

I agree with you that it was pretty standard that a messiah was coming. But that's very different than saying some particular person, like Jesus, IS the messiah and has ALREADY come. Christians weren't just saying, "We're waiting for the messiah" like most other Jewish sects. They were saying, "Jesus is the messiah." And they weren't just another sect that happened to interpret the Tanach a little differently. Their movement was centered around the notion that Jesus was king, and they aggressively spread that message. Granted, Christianity would not have seemed as dangerous after the crucifixion as it would have while Jesus was still around, but surely claiming that some particular person was king, and that he was coming soon to establish his kingdom would not have been something that could safely be ignored.

Granted, Christians weren't trying to overthrow the Roman government, but do you expect Romans to understand the finer points of Christian doctrine--to make a distinction between a king whose kingdom is "not of this world" and a king who kingdom is of this world?Would they have clearly seen that distinction when most Jews who were waiting for a messiah did not?

Besides whatever political motivation the Jewish leaders might've had to suppress Christianity, they may have also had theological motives. That raises the question of why they would consider Christianity more heretical than other Jewish sects. Well, they may not have. It's just that Christians continued to attend synagogue, and they didn't keep their religious beliefs to themselves. They tried to win converts. And they weren't just winning converts from among the gentiles.

If I'm understanding your argument right, you're arguing that there were no Jewish persecutions of Christians between 30 and 70 because (1) you can't think of a motive for why there would be, and (2) because there are no non-Christian sources that talk about them. You say that the only evidence of Jewish persecution against Christians is in Acts, but that's not true. There is also evidence in the gospels, Paul's letters, and 1 Peter. Why think these were just made up? What non-Christian source would you expect to find a record of these persecutions if they happened? Isn't this the same fallacious argument from silence that you accuse J. Wallace of making?

We have plenty of evidence that Christians were persecuted in the first century. The persecutions may not have been official or systematic, but they happened. Even if we couldn't come up with a motive that made sense to us, that would be no reason to doubt that they happened. The fact that they happened ought to give us a reason to look for a motive. Personally, I can't relate with wanting to physically harm somebody because of a difference in religious views, but lots of people in history have felt differently, so my inability to relate doesn't count for anything. Neither does yours.

Taken from Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics by William Lane Craig

P 282 “…apparently neither James nor any of Jesus’ younger brothers believed in Jesus during his lifetime (See Mark 3:21, 31-3; John 7:1-10)

P 283 “Finally, in Acts 21:18 James is the sole head of the Jerusalem church and the council of elders. We hear no more about James in the NT: but from Josephus, the Jewish historian, we learn that James was stoned to death illegally by the Sanhedrin sometime after A.D. 60 for his faith in Christ. “ see Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews20.200

“Now, how is this to be explained? On the one hand, it seems certain that Jesus’ brothers did not believe in him during his lifetime. What would it take to make you believe that your brother is the Lord, so that you would die for this belief as James did? Can there be any doubt that the reason for this remarkable transformation is to be found in the face that “then he appeared to James”? Even the skeptical NT critic Hans Grass admits that the conversion of James is one of the surest proofs of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” see Hans Grass, Ostergeschehen und OsterberichteI, 4t ed. (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1974), p. 80

Concerning J. Wallace's argument from silence, I'm not sure he was making the fallacious argument you accuse him of. He wasn't arguing simply that because nobody doubted the apostles were martyred that they therefore were.

Imagine these two scenarios:

1. Some sources say the apostles were martyred, and some say they weren't.

2. All of our sources say the apostles were martyred.

Under which scenario would the martyrdom of the apostles be more likely? Well, clearly, it would be under scenario 2. If there had been alternative accounts, that would have lowered the probability that they were martyred.

So J. is just saying there are no alternative accounts that would lower the likelihood of martyrdoms. He's not saying the lack of alternative accounts, by itself, is evidence of martyrdoms.

At least that's how I understand him.

Sam,

I don’t think the Jewish leaders did much of anything to suppress revolution. Therefore, I am unconcerned with how they would do it “better.” The Sadducees were in a terrible catch-22, as the Roman influence both established their preeminence in the Priesthood, BUT equally removed them from power at whim. They both needed and despised this position. As you quite accurately state, they needed to pick their battles.

The Pharisees were popular with the people, but had no power. They couldn’t become priests but through revolution. It is debated (like all biblical issues), whether the Qumran community was Essene, although last I heard, scholars were not treating them the same and leaving the Qumran community in its own sect. Clearly they desired at least a religious revolution.

I’m not sure why we would say the Christians were “in their face.” How many Christians were in Jerusalem? Acts records what…120 initiall? In a city of at least 100,000? And even the Pentecost 3000 converts were of the Diaspora, at a time the city swelled (according to Josephus) to 4 million? (Yes, probably exaggerated, but even 3,000 in a city of 1 million is not very noticeable.) Sure, they continued to attend the synagogue—this isn’t a local church, this place is huge with most of the men in the city in attendance.

A city of Herodians, Pharisees, Samaritans, Sadducees, and countless other Messianic cults all eager to debate and discuss the correctness of their own doctrine. And 120 would be “in their face”? I doubt it.

I agree the Romans would not make the distinction between a Christian spiritual kingdom and a claim for an earthly one, and would equally suppress either proposition—yet why would the Jewish leaders do the Roman work for them?

As for my position regarding organized Jewish persecution from 30 – 70 CE…I fear, at times, Christians (not you) approach this topic as if one had only three (3) choices of beliefs in 1st Century Palestine—Jew, Christian or Roman. And that every single Jew believed the same, would have hated the Christians for the same reasons and immediately began doing everything because “Jews hated Christians.” A very, very simplistic black-and-white view of history. I find most Christians do not have a clue as to the various Jewish sects, the sects dislike for each other, and how little Christianity would have meant to these sects.

I attempt to get Christians thinking behind the “why?” as in “WHY would a particular Jewish sect persecute Christianity? Why would it bother?” As you know by my many discussions, I am very rarely successful.

Acts demonstrates a strong polemic to place blame on Jews. In reading through Acts, over and over one is struck by how the Jews are always the ones attacking the Christians, and the Romans are portrayed as the good guys. At the time Acts was written, this would have been politically expedient. A good example is how Luke modifies Paul’s escape from sectarian authorities in Damascus (2 Cor. 11:32) to the Jews attempting to kill Paul in Damascus (Acts 9:23)

Only Acts indicates organized persecution by principality. Yes, Paul refers to persecuting individually (and being persecuted) as well as the Gospels and 1 Peter, but nothing along the scales of concerted persecution. I am currently reading “Myths of Persecution” and it supports that Christianity perceived itself as persecuted when, in fact, we cannot demonstrate it historically.

I do think your approach of “willing to die” is better than claiming actually dying. Unfortunately, regardless of the persecution (and there probably was some), people are willing to sustain it for a variety of reasons: 1) they don’t think it will happen to them and 2) the benefits outweigh the possibility.

As for J. Warner Wallace’s argument—I want to be clear I do NOT think Argument from Silence is fallacious. I think it goes to weight, depending on the source; as I put forth in my previous examples. However, I suggest you re-watch the video. (I did.) He specifically uses the term “silence” or “silent” AND specifically demands a First Century document outlining the disciple’s death. Again, I have yet to see what is purported to be such a document that is silent. And he is saying the lack of alternative accounts is evidence for martyrdom. If I am incorrect, I would implore him to explain his position, and I will happily recant any misstatements I made regarding his position.

Finally, as rather than talk about two possible alternatives of what we could have, shouldn’t we (including J. Warner Wallace) talk about what we actually DO have? Which is:

1. A 90’s document listing four (4) persecuted individuals, including Paul and Peter (but no other disciples) that does NOT explicitly list Paul’s and Peter’s deaths as martyrs. No information surrounding their deaths whatsoever. Again, the Argument from Silence is more harmful then helpful to the Christians’ cause here.

2. A 90’s document listing James’ death as a political pawn with no Christian tie-in whatsoever.

3. A 90’s document listing James, son of Zebedee’s death, with no reasoning other than “general Christianity.” (And quite a bit more I won’t go into here.)

4. The only documents listing deaths of people being histories (which generally recorded notable persons only) and ossuaries (a hit-and-miss-prospect at best.)

5. Later, second century documents wherein the legends, events and martyrdoms of the Disciples grows, and we can see the legendary nature of the stories grow from document to document.

Does the fact it is only much later we see the martyrdom stories grow into legends make them less likely to have actually occurred? Or is this countered by the fact we have no obituaries in a culture that didn’t use obituaries!

I don't think you can determine whether a group of people are "in your face" just by looking at their numbers. In a church where everybody pretty much agrees, all it takes is one or two people to go against the grain to be noticed. Jehovah's Witnesses are a small minority in Austin TX, but everybody knows about them because they go door to door. The Christians were evangelistic, but I don't know if the Essenes were or not. I do know that Christians lived in the cities and attended synagogues whereas the Essenes did neither (or at least most of them didn't).

Yeah, I realize there's debate about whether the Essenes are the same people as the Qumran sect. Although I think they're the same group of people, it's not that important to our discussion.

Christianity was treated differently than other sects of Judaism for some reason. It still is. It's not even considered a sect within Judaism anymore and hasn't been since shortly after the Jewish war. And Jews of all stripes even today are pretty strongly opposed to the idea that Jesus is the messiah. I don't know why they are up in arms over that point more so than other theological issues, but they are.

I think there is good evidence that Christians were persecuted by Jews in the first century, and I already explained why. The difficulty in speculating about their motivations doesn't undermine the evidence, but I don't think it's all that difficult to speculate about the motivations.

As for why the Jews would want to do the Roman's work for them, I've already explained that. It's because the Jewish leaders would not have wanted a lot of Roman intervention. The Romans didn't always make tidy distinction between the good Jews and the bad Jews. They looked at them collectively. Plus, as you pointed out, the Romans could replace the Jewish leaders on a whim. If the Jewish leaders could not keep their own people under control, that would just give the Romans a reason to replace the current leadership in Jerusalem.

As I said, I don't think the persecutions against Christians were official or systematic. If they were, then more disciples would've been killed at an earlier date. But I think there was enough persecution to establish the point that being a Christian leader, especially in Jerusalem, was dangerous, and they knew it.

I don't think this is a knock down drag out argument because, as you pointed out, you have to weigh that against the benefits and the fact that people may simply think, "It won't happen to me." There is room for argument there.

I was giving Jim the benefit of the doubt in my last post. I admit it does appear he's making a stronger argument than I took him to be making, and I agree it's not as strong as he's making it out to be. I pointed that out earlier in these comments, too. I would like him to clarify his argument, though.

I'm not sure what your point is in your discussion of the sources for martyrdoms. Are you making an argument from silence against some of those martyrdoms, or are you just trying to point out an inconsistency on the part of Jim Wallace and other apologists who make arguments like him?

There's a lot of relevant evidence that I haven't seen discussed in this thread. Last year, I wrote a series of articles on the death of the apostles. See here. The series focuses on evidence from the writings of the apostles and their contemporaries. Though DagoodS keeps referring to whether First Clement is explicit on this subject, we don't need explicit references. Probabilities are sufficient, even if they don't meet DagoodS' standard of explicitness. My series linked above addresses First Clement and a lot of other early sources. The evidence is better than DagoodS suggests. I recommend that people read documents like First Clement for themselves, to see how accurately DagoodS is representing the sources. Are the demands he's making on these documents reasonable? I don't think so. And there are a lot of relevant sources he doesn't mention.

Regarding early opposition to Christianity, it should be noted that there were individual and organized efforts against Christians from the time of Jesus' ministry onward. That's why Jesus was executed, the disciples were fearing persecution after Jesus was killed, etc. Matthew refers to Jewish argumentation against Christianity that was widespread and existed "to this day" (Matthew 28:15), suggesting that it was a continuous effort. Justin Martyr makes similar comments in his response to Judaism several decades later (e.g., Dialogue With Trypho, 108). Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, Eusebius, and other sources give us a vast amount of information about the arguments being used against Christianity in the earliest centuries. Keep in mind that heretical sources are relevant here as well. Individuals and groups that accepted the authority of one apostle, but denied the authority of another, would have had an interest in preserving information that would reflect poorly on the apostle(s) they opposed. Jewish and pagan opponents of Christianity aren't the only relevant sources here. Thus, the silence J. Warner Wallace appeals to is all the more significant.

"...there were individual and organized efforts against Christians from the time of Jesus' ministry onward. That's why Jesus was executed"

Beautiful.

Thanks Jason.

To expand on what I said above, let's take a look at some of DagoodS' claims about First Clement:

"Notice what 1 Clement does NOT state. He does not give the when, where, why or how of either Peter’s or Paul’s death. Indeed, it must be extrapolated and argued to even claim Clement meant martyrdom for their deaths, as he does not explicitly state so. (Why be so precise as to seven imprisonments, but not precise as to a martyr’s death by beheading for Paul?) Worse (here is where the Argument from Silence hurts the Christian’s claims), 1 Clement goes on to list other persecuted Christians from the First Century. Does he list James, the brother of Jesus? Nope. James, son of Zebedee? Nope. Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Nathaniel, Levi? Nope, Nope, Nope. The next two names Clement comes up with are…Danaids and Dircae. Remember, the Argument of Silence holds more weight if the medium is likely to include the claim, but does not. Here Clement is specifically listing persecuted Christians; the list includes Peter, Paul, Danaids and Dircae. Not any of the other 10 disciples or James, brother of Jesus. If one desires to utilize the Argument from Silence within this claim, to be consistent 1 Clement must be troubling in his silence. If not even the Christians are claiming within the First Century that these 10 disciples were martyrs—why would we expect non-Christians to address their deaths?"

I suggest that people read First Clement for themselves, especially sections 4 through 6. Clement is addressing thousands of years of history in a short space, from Cain and Abel to the persecutions of Clement's day. He mentions Peter and Paul as two apostolic examples. To demand that Clement also mention the other apostles is absurd. When you're addressing thousands of years of history in a short space, giving two examples of apostolic suffering is enough. And just as some of his comments about Peter and Paul are more vague than we'd like, he's also vague in some of his comments about other figures, including people discussed in depth in the Old Testament. Look at Clement's vague comments on Jacob and David, for instance. Just as Clement only mentions a couple of apostles as examples, he also leaves out many Old Testament figures and individuals from later generations. He's highly selective when addressing those other groups as well, not just when addressing the apostles. Since Clement's audience already knew so many of the details, why would he have to repeat everything they already knew? All Clement needed to do was stir their memories (see the opening of section 7 of his letter) and selectively mention a handful of relevant details. To demand the additional details DagoodS asks for above is unreasonable.

And objecting to the silence of Clement is even more ridiculous when other documents from about the same timeframe do mention the deaths of other apostles. (That includes multiple sources DagoodS doesn't even mention, as I document in my series linked above.) J. Warner Wallace appealed to a general silence, not just the silence of one source or a small handful of sources. Since several other early sources, not just First Clement, give us information on the suffering and death of the apostles, there isn't much significance in objecting that Clement only mentions two of the apostles.

Sam,

Regarding the Argument from Silence…

Again, I think Arguments from Silence are acceptable (of course I would like people to be consistent when employing ALL arguments, including Arguments from Silence) however, such arguments are always weighted. You (because of your bias, life experience, and knowledge) may give greater or less weight to such arguments than I (because of my bias, life experience or knowledge) or someone else. We utilize them in trials all the time, “If this was so important to you, why didn’t you mention it in this e-mail?” Some jurors give it more weight than other. Our variety makes life’s interactions interesting.

I am raising two (2) points regarding J. Warner Wallace and Arguments from Silence:

1) J. Warner Wallace claims the “silence” regarding apostles living long lives and dying any other way than martyrdom has evidential value. I am questioning what medium would ever record ANY deaths of relatively unknown persons, let alone the reasoning behind them. This argument could be assessed if J. Warner Wallace presents us with a medium where he expects to see such deaths listed.

Simply put, J. Warner Wallace appears to be claiming the disciples’ deaths were not listed in obituaries, yet the genre of obituary did not exist in First Century Palestine. The Argument from Silence is extremely weak, as we would not expect the (non-existent) medium to provide the information. Thus explaining its silence.

If anyone wants to tell me what medium we would expect to see such deaths listed, I would be happy to review it.

2) I do think we can use the Argument from Silence when reviewing 1 Clement to make two points: a) the deaths of Peter and Paul were not considered martyrdom, and b) no other apostles were known as martyrs. Again, the weight of this Argument from silence will differ between individuals and even between the two points. Since Jason Engwer brought it up, we may as well go through it as an exercise.

First, we must review the writing’s intent to see what we would expect to see, but do not. If I claim the church allowed divorce, for example, because 1 Clement was silent regarding divorce, we would need to review 1 Clement’s intent in writing—was he addressing marriage/divorce? Was he addressing a specific list of problems? Was this an issue at the time? Did every other writing from 1 Clement address divorce?

I would think (hopefully) most would consider the Argument from Silence claiming 1 Clement allows divorce as extremely, extremely weak, since it is not apparent in the intent, marriage/divorce is not being addressed, even specific problems are not being addressed, 1 Clement refers to Paul’s previous writings being authoritative to the Corinthians (that DID address divorce), etc. Indeed the Argument from Silence is so weak as to be non-existent.

We would not expect “divorce” to be addressed in 1 Clement, so its silence is unremarkable.

So what was the author’s intent? I agree whole-heartedly with Jason Engwer—please read 1 Clement! (In fact, please read every writing we listed!) 1 Clement is addressing a recent schism in the Corinthian church, extolling them to resolve their differences, and get back to the teachings established by previous church leaders. “Get back to your roots” as it were.

Clement goes through examples of strife amongst individuals (Cain vs. Abel, Jacob vs. Esau, Aaron & Miriam, Dathan & Abiram) and persons persecuted (Joseph, Moses, David) After listing these Tanakh incidents, Clement says, “Let’s turn to something more recent” listing Peter, Paul, Danaids & Dircae.

a) When referring to Peter, Clement notes Peter went through “numerous labors” and then died. Referring to Paul, Clement is specific to the number of imprisonments—seven (not six, not eight, not just “imprisonments”), being stoned (but not killed), exiled and hounded. But then Clement writes that Paul died. Nothing about being beheaded. Nothing about Peter being crucified. Nothing about being martyred.

If you will forgive a poor analogy, this would be like claiming 1 Clement would write about Martin Luther King, Jr., being stabbed, arrested three times, imprisoned twice and stoned, but finishing off with “and then he died.”

Why would Clement go to so much trouble writing the particulars of Paul’s strife and overlook the granddaddy of them all—his martyrdom! Likewise with Peter. Additionally (in support of the writing’s intent), in 1 Clement 45:4 the author notes righteous men were persecuted, imprisoned, stoned and killed. (Certainly the medium is appropriate for listing martyrdom!) And the author goes on to use the examples of….Daniel, Anania, Azarias and Misael! Not Peter. Not Paul. Not any of the other disciples or leaders of the church.

Remember, the author is aware of church leaders, wants the recipients to return to the founder’s doctrines, and is listing persecutions. The author is using examples of persecution. Yet despite this intent, skips the disciples’ alleged martyrdoms?

Additionally, in 1 Clement 42 – 44 Clement argues for continuation of doctrine from the Jesus --> Apostles --> Bishops & Deacons --> others appointed. He notes the reason for doing so is for when the Apostles, Bishops & Deacons “fall asleep”—i.e. die. 44:2. 1 Clement is written in light of Apostles already being dead, yet nothing is said regarding their martyrdom!

In re-reviewing 1 Clement, we may actually have the document J. Warner Wallace is looking for…in 1 Clement! It lists Apostles as having died yet does not list them as having died in martyrdom.

b) What about not listing the other disciples? How strong is this Argument from Silence? In one light, Jason Engwer is correct—it would be “absurd” to expect 1 Clement to list every single persecuted Jew and Christian from the beginning of time to the date of writing. And to then argue, from silence, that Jeremiah must not have been persecuted since he wasn’t listed would equally be absurd.

But let’s look at the number of examples 1 Clement does use. From the Tanakh, he mentions Cain, Abel, Jacob, Esau, Joseph, Pharaoh, Moses, Aaron, Miriam, Dathan, Abiram, David, Noah, Jonah, Abraham, Lot, Lot’s wife, Rahab, Joshua, Daniel, Anania, Azarias, Misael, Elijah, Elisha, Ezekiel, and Job. This author appears very comfortable using numerous and varied examples to make a point.

In looking at more recent times, the author uses four: Peter, Paul, Danaids, and Dircae. In weighing our Argument from Silence, I would indicate:

1) The author has no problem listing numerous examples;
2) Perhaps if only Peter and Paul were listed, one could argue the author was being brief, (despite the author having no problem listing numerous Tanakh examples and no concern about being “brief.”) but the author goes on to list two more.
3) The author is extolling church leadership.

In light of those points, it seems remarkable the author would utilize Danaids and Dircae instead of…say…James, the brother of Jesus who was allegedly martyred while being a Christian leader of the church!

These Arguments from Silence must be weighed. If some Christians, wedded to the tradition of martyrdom, find little weight in the argument…I am not particularly shocked.

DagoodS wrote:

"But then Clement writes that Paul died. Nothing about being beheaded. Nothing about Peter being crucified. Nothing about being martyred. If you will forgive a poor analogy, this would be like claiming 1 Clement would write about Martin Luther King, Jr., being stabbed, arrested three times, imprisoned twice and stoned, but finishing off with 'and then he died.'"

The series of posts I linked earlier argues that Clement does refer to the martyrdom of Peter and Paul. You're not interacting with those arguments.

Clement doesn't just say "and then he died" or some equivalent. Rather, he refers to the circumstances surrounding the death of Peter and Paul, and he mentions persecution unto death and giving testimony before the rulers, for example.

You write:

"Additionally (in support of the writing’s intent), in 1 Clement 45:4 the author notes righteous men were persecuted, imprisoned, stoned and killed. (Certainly the medium is appropriate for listing martyrdom!) And the author goes on to use the examples of….Daniel, Anania, Azarias and Misael! Not Peter. Not Paul. Not any of the other disciples or leaders of the church."

Daniel and his companions were persecuted without being martyred. Thus, section 45 of First Clement isn't naming martyrs. Rather, it's addressing persecution in general. If Clement names non-martyrs as illustrations, then it makes no sense to claim that the apostles should have been named if Clement viewed them as martyrs. He knew of some martyrs by name, such as the ones discussed in the Old Testament. Earlier, in section 4, he had cited Abel by name, for example. Yet, he doesn't name Abel or those other martyrs in section 45. Your reading of the passage is demonstrably wrong.

Besides, even if Clement had been wanting to name martyrs in section 45, instead of naming victims of persecution in general, how would his choice to focus on non-apostles prove that he must not have viewed the apostles as martyrs? You can view the apostles as martyrs, yet sometimes cite other examples of martyrdom when addressing the topic. Jesus suffered and died as a martyr, and he's of more importance than the apostles in Christianity. Yet, Christians frequently discuss suffering or martyrdom without mentioning Jesus as an example. Sometimes we cite Jesus, and sometimes we cite other individuals. Your suggestion that Clement needs to keep citing the apostles, and needs to cite a larger number of them, is ridiculous. Your objections are tendentious and contrived.

You write:

"He notes the reason for doing so is for when the Apostles, Bishops & Deacons 'fall asleep'—i.e. die. 44:2. 1 Clement is written in light of Apostles already being dead, yet nothing is said regarding their martyrdom!"

Whether they died as martyrs isn't being addressed. Clement is addressing the need for succession and how it should occur. A discussion of the martyrdom of the apostles wouldn't be needed. You're expecting Clement to discuss the martyrdom of the apostles just because it's tangentially relevant. There are many contexts in which modern Christians discuss the death of pastors, how church leaders should be appointed to replace others who have gone before them, etc. without discussing the martyrdom of the apostles. Do you conclude that they must not believe in the apostles' martyrdom?

You write:

"In light of those points, it seems remarkable the author would utilize Danaids and Dircae instead of…say…James, the brother of Jesus who was allegedly martyred while being a Christian leader of the church!"

He had already cited two examples of apostolic suffering and martyrdom. He goes on, in section 6, to discuss "a vast multitude" and to cite some female examples. If he's interested in giving diverse examples, then citing a multitude and some women would make more sense than citing more apostles. Just as he leaves out James, he also leaves out Abraham, John the Baptist, Jesus, Stephen, etc. Should we conclude that he didn't think any of them suffered? Since your position is that Clement is only saying that Peter and Paul suffered, not that they were martyred, then does the absence of James and some of the other apostles prove that Clement didn't think they even suffered? That's ludicrous. Your reading of Clement proves too much. You're contriving objections in an attempt to avoid the most natural reading of the text.

And you still aren't addressing most of the earliest sources on the death of the apostles. Again, see my series on the subject here. You're ignoring most of the evidence and distorting the sources you do address.

Jason Engwer,

I did not mean to slight you by only addressing a few of your statements—I entered this discussion primarily searching for the medium J. Warner Wallace was referring to regarding the silence as to the Disciples death. These types of discussions reach a point of diminishing returns; let’s face it—at this point those who hold to the disciples’ martyrdom will eagerly adhere to anything you say and those not convinced already see the weaknesses in your argument.

The Gospel references to Peter’s death (John 21) as well as James & John (sons of Zebedee) are opaque at best. I understand the arguments being made regarding these prophecies addressing their martyrdoms, I understand the difficulties, and I am not that interested in going through it. Again.

The only other First century documents we have are Acts of the Apostles, 1 Clement and Josephus. The other “early” accounts (even dating by the most conservative biblical scholar) are Second Century. As J. Warner Wallace explicitly limited this discussion to 1st Century, so did I.

And hey…this way you get the last word, right? *grin* This always seems important to certain internet debaters.

DagoodS wrote:

"These types of discussions reach a point of diminishing returns; let’s face it—at this point those who hold to the disciples’ martyrdom will eagerly adhere to anything you say and those not convinced already see the weaknesses in your argument."

Why are we supposed to believe that? I don't know just what you're suggesting about the character of those who would agree with my arguments, since your comments above are so vague. But a person doesn't need to be a conservative Christian or believe in the martyrdom of the apostles prior to considering the evidence, for example, in order to reach conclusions like mine. Bart Ehrman, for instance, agrees with me that Peter and Paul died as martyrs and that there's evidence of it in first-century sources. See the fifty-seventh and fifty-eighth minutes of the second hour of the video of Ehrman's 2008 debate with Michael Licona found here. Even somebody as anti-Christian as Ehrman will acknowledge some of the points I've made. He wouldn't "eagerly adhere to anything I say", but he agrees with some of my positions and rejects some of yours.

You write:

"The Gospel references to Peter’s death (John 21) as well as James & John (sons of Zebedee) are opaque at best."

I've argued for my view of those passages, and you've offered no counterargument.

You write:

"The only other First century documents we have are Acts of the Apostles, 1 Clement and Josephus."

No, 2 Timothy is relevant as well.

You write:

"As J. Warner Wallace explicitly limited this discussion to 1st Century, so did I."

He limited some of his claims to first-century sources, but not all of his claims.

Given that some of the apostles lived until the late first century, with John apparently dying either just before or just after the turn of the century, eyewitnesses and contemporaries of the apostles would have lived well into the second century. We can limit ourselves to first-century sources for the sake of argument or for some other purpose, but that's a limitation that doesn't have much evidential significance. The second-century sources I cited in my series on the death of the apostles were eyewitnesses or contemporaries of the apostles. Even if they don't fall into some of the limitations Wallace placed on his argument, they're still relevant in the larger context of the evidence in its totality.

Furthermore, you've repeatedly cited later sources when discussing how the martyrdom accounts developed over time. In an earlier post, you said:

"Acts of Paul (150 – 200 CE) provides us Paul’s martyrdom for the first time."

So, when I cite an earlier source on Paul's martyrdom, like Ignatius, it's insufficient for you to respond by saying that J. Warner Wallace limited his claims to the first century. You didn't limit your claims to the first century.

Furthermore, your summary of the martyrdom evidence earlier in this thread didn't even mention the material in Matthew, Mark, John, 2 Timothy, Ignatius, Papias, etc. You can't claim that you were only including sources that you accept as referring to the martyrdom of the apostles. You included First Clement in your summary, even though you deny that First Clement refers to any apostolic martyrdoms. So, why did you leave out so many other sources that people often cite? Your summary of the evidence was highly incomplete and very misleading.

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