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April 01, 2013

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I want to expand on something I said above. While we don't have to limit ourselves to J. Warner Wallace's arguments when considering the issue of the apostles' martyrdom, I think there have been some misinterpretations of what he said. As I mentioned earlier, he didn't limit all of his comments to first-century sources. And even his references to first-century sources are somewhat ambiguous, since he could be including what later sources imply about the nature of the first-century evidence (e.g., a second-century source could claim to derive its information from a first-century source, so that the second-century source would be taken as a reflection of first-century testimony). Wallace does refer to non-Christian sources, but he doesn't seem to be limiting his appeal to silence to non-Christians. It's not just a matter of early non-Christian sources not saying that Peter died of natural causes, not saying that Jesus' brother James died of natural causes, etc. Rather, it's a matter of sources in general, both Christian and non-Christian, not saying such things. There are many early sources – the New Testament documents, the patristic literature, the heretical literature, the apocryphal literature, Josephus, etc. – that could have conveyed such information. It would have been easy for a gospel, Paul, Josephus, or some other early source to refer to somebody like Peter or James having died of natural causes. Instead, the death of the apostles is repeatedly described in ways that explicitly or implicitly involve martyrdom. That seems to be what Wallace was getting at, though some of his comments are ambiguous and he may have misspoken at times. Whether that's what Wallace intended or not, it's a good argument.

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