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March 31, 2010


An atheist came to my blog one time and gave me a different challenge to the "die for a lie" argument. He asked me for evidence that the apostles really did die for their beliefs. He wanted to know if it really was a martyrdom, or if they died in some other way. And if it was a martyrdom, did they really have the opportunity to recant?

If we didn't have that much historical information about the circumstances surrounding the death of Joseph Smith, we might very well say that he also died for his belief, proving that he was not just a con artist. That would prove he really thought he met an angel who gave him gold plates and that God really did help him translate those plates. And while we might be able to dismiss the visit from the angel, God, and Jesus as having been hallucinations or visitations from demons, we couldn't dismiss the existence of the golden plates quite so easily.

But Joseph Smith wasn't martyred for his beliefs, and he apparently had no opportunity to recant even if he WAS being martyred for his beliefs. A person might say that if we just knew more about the circumstances surrounding the death of the apostles, it might refute the whole "die for a lie" argument.

Here is the discussion I had with the atheist fellow who came to my blog in case anybody is interested.

Accounts I'm aware of are sketchy. Can somebody show me solid evidence even one these things occurred?

The argument also relies on knowing what the martyr was offered to recant. It relies on knowing the captor had anything to gain by following through on his offer. It relies on whether the captive believed the offer. Who, today, takes political prisoners and then deals with them honestly? Even knowing these things, the argument relies on knowing the martyr didn't not believe some greater good was served by dying for the lie. Please include info on these things too.

Good luck.


RonH, we covered a lot of those issues in the comment section of the blog I linked to. But it's not even necessary to show that the disciples died by martyrdoms or that they had the opportunity to recant to make the die for a lie argument work. All that's necessary is that they knew they put themselves in danger by preaching the gospel. That alone is enough to establish that they really believed what they claimed.

OK now it's not necessary to show they died martyrdoms. Fine. Let's grant, for the sake of discussion, only that they preached and that we know what they preached. Maybe they:

0) believed precisely what they preached but were mistaken
1) believed but misunderestimated the risk
2) didn't believe but were risk takers
3) believed precisely and correctly what they preached (your option)
4) believed (in) something served by what they preached
5) didn't believe but accrued sufficient personal benefit to balance their personal risk

Plenty of reason to doubt the argument whatever it purports to prove let alone what it actually does purport to prove.


The argument is only meant to establish that they believed what they were preaching, so 0-4 are all consistent possibilities under the die for a lie argument. They are no reason to doubt it. The only real reason to doubt the argument that you raised is 5, and that is worth talking about.

2 and 5, that is. I didn't read carefully. 2 & 5 appear to be the same thing, or close enough.


Won't you let 2 in as well then? And let me modify it: they might be attracted by risk or other things. Fame can label a whole class of attractions. There might be other classes I'm not thinking of.

I doubt that all members of the Christian terrorist group Hutaree believe all that the group puts out. I think some of these people are mainly there because they are pumped up by the experiences. Risk and notoriety for example.

Ditto for 911 truthers.



I'm catching up on the comments at your site and see you refer to Josephus. I'll put a passage from him below. Longer than it needs to be but fun to read.

The passage doesn't mean everything he says is false. No doubt many things he says can be confirmed. It's just that nothing he says should be considered evidence. He's a reliable source of things that need checking.

But still in that valley which encompasses the city on the north side there is a certain place called Baaras, which produces a root of the same name with itself its color is like to that of flame, and towards the evenings it sends out a certain ray like lightning. It is not easily taken by such as would do it, but recedes from their hands, nor will yield itself to be taken quietly, until either the urine of a woman, or her menstrual blood, be poured upon it; nay, even then it is certain death to those that touch it, unless any one take and hang the root itself down from his hand, and so carry it away. It may also be taken another way, without danger, which is this: they dig a trench quite round about it, till the hidden part of the root be very small, they then tie a dog to it, and when the dog tries hard to follow him that tied him, this root is easily plucked up, but the dog dies immediately, as if it were instead of the man that would take the plant away; nor after this need any one be afraid of taking it into their hands. Yet, after all this pains in getting, it is only valuable on account of one virtue it hath, that if it be only brought to sick persons, it quickly drives away those called demons, which are no other than the spirits of the wicked, that enter into men that are alive and kill them, unless they can obtain some help against them. Here are also fountains of hot water, that flow out of this place, which have a very different taste one from the other; for some of them are bitter, and others of them are plainly sweet. Here are also many eruptions of cold waters, and this not only in the places that lie lower, and have their fountains near one another, but, what is still more wonderful, here is to be seen a certain cave hard by, whose cavity is not deep, but it is covered over by a rock that is prominent; above this rock there stand up two [hills or] breasts, as it were, but a little distant one from another, the one of which sends out a fountain that is very cold, and the other sends out one that is very hot; which waters, when they are mingled together, compose a most pleasant bath; they are medicinal indeed for other maladies, but especially good for strengthening the nerves. This place has in it also mines of sulfur and alum.

I may be inclined to be especially hard on him right now. My dog has just been in the hospital. Chewing gum has xylitol in it and that's poison for dogs.


Ron, I'm so sorry to hear about your dog.

>>And let me modify it: they might be attracted by risk or other things.

Possibly, but that doesn't really fit the way they acted before the resurrection. They were not the reckless type before that.

Thanks Amy,

We have to wait till Friday when her liver numbers get checked again but so far Simone has shown no symptoms. But we already grieve for about $800.

You know these guys better than I do so I expect you have good reasons for saying they weren't reckless. How long was it from the time Jesus began to make enemies until Good Friday?


Hi, RonH.

On 1) -that they “believed but underestimated the risk” - I don’t think that works because imprisonment, beatings, punishments, and executions were going on at the time, not to mention the persecution they already endured. One with just a tiny bit of sense would say, “whoa, this is dangerous.”

KWM, Amy,
You two need to work this out.

You don't have to prove that the apostles were killed for an offered a chance to recant of their preaching that Jesus rose from the dead.

We know Peter and John were beaten and threated for preaching that. Then Stephen and James were killed. The apostles knew the risks and kept on preaching. Whether or not they were offered a last chance at changing their minds really doesn't weaken the case.

Ron, the disciples deserted Jesus before the crucifixion in order to save their lives (following Jesus was not worth the risk). When questioned, Peter denied he even knew Him.

After the resurrection, they acted quite differently. Risk no longer stopped them.

Also, let me clarify. The disciples knew the risks prior to being martyred. In other words, martyrdom did not sneak up on them.

This is wildly off subject, so please forgive me. Could anyone here tell me if ideas, and math, have the same ongological value (is that the right term?)

Im having a discussion on wether mathmatics can exist apart from human minds, and my mind is frozen

So how would the idea that the apostles were "holy liars"? I have read that this is one explanation of Joseph Smith's claims, especially at first when he was being beat up and ostracized for claiming to have the gold plates and seeing visions and such. A holy liar is someone who knows they have not had elaborate visions but tell people because these elaborate stories seem to bring people closer to god. So the apostles would not be lying out of malice but out of a desire to do good. Probably based on some powerful religious experience.

Hi Tops,

Problem is, if the early apostolic preaching of the resurrection (Acts 2:27ff) constituted lying out of a desire to do good, their unbelieving contemporaries could have easily produced a body, thereby exposing the lie.

Worse yet, there wasn't just one or a few supposed witnesses (like Joseph Smith) since this thing wasn't done "in a corner" (Acts 26:26); but hundreds of people saw the resurrected Christ (1 Cor. 15:6).

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