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« Challenge Response: You Can't Say Nothing Comes from Nothing | Main | Fred Sanders on Pagan vs. Biblical Propitiation »

February 21, 2014


Are there not more choices for motivation for an act beyond criminal?

Take for example a religiously motivated suicide bomber. That person is unable to realise, at least in their earthly life, money, sex or power as a result of their action. Their motivation isn't necessarily criminal although we would recognise the act as criminal.

Therefore is it not possible that the disciples, from say a religiously misguided and delusional motivation, could have carried out the theft of the body? That is, a criminal motivation is not the only possible starting motivation required to produce the theft and propagate a falsehood.

I posit this as a firm believer in Jesus and his bodily resurrection and really appreciate the argument you've put forward.

So apparently this guy had the right religion:

Warner's "3 motives" sound strikingly similar to John's 3 mentioned here:

1Jo 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

It is not as clear as J. Warner Wallace would suggest.

1) Financial gain. How did the disciples survive in Jerusalem? Take simple things—food and shelter? Where did the resources come from to allow them all, every disciple and Jesus’ entire family move from Galilee to Jerusalem overnight? (Curiously, how did they live in Jerusalem for 50 days prior to gaining followers?)

Acts discusses people selling property and possessions to provide for each other. Paul was busy collecting an offering to sustain the apostles. Paul mentions staying with Peter in his visit to Jerusalem…did Peter have a house in the city?

Understanding 1st Century economics—sustenance living where the country supplied the food for city-dwellers—would cause one to wonder how the disciples managed to actually live? Especially considering they moved to another country, without the ability to continue their living. (Not much fishing in Jerusalem.)

3) Power. This is a bit of a Catch-22 for the Christian claim. One the one hand, Christian apologists claim Jewish Priests provided coordinated persecution against Christianity. Out of all the possible religious sects causing potential consternation to the Priests—Sadducees vs. Pharisees, Essenes, Qumran community, Samaritans, Hellenized Jews, Galileans, Herodians, etc. –not to mention the Romans, the Priests determined Christianity was the one to focus on?

Yet Christian apologists claim Christian leaders would not be considered powerful? Which was it—were they so feared they were persecuted, or where they so lacking in power no one paid them any attention? Not sure you can have it both ways.

Even without persecution, “power” comes in many forms. Peter went from an unknown Galilean fisherman to the First Pope. A pretty big promotion.

Who says Paul was a respected leader? Other than…Paul? Or pro-Paul documents? J. Warner Wallace consistently falls into the trap of circular augment—using Christian documents to prove the Christian documents are true!

I wonder if it would be difficult for somebody who believes in libertarian free will to be a criminal investigator. After all, under libertarianism, no motive is sufficient to explain why somebody did what they did, and it's always possible that they did it for no reason at all. It's possible that their every motive was to do right, but they did wrong anyway.

I think this is a good post. The only part I'm not sure I agree with was when you said the apostles were not motivated by power. What explanation can you give for why there were false apostles? What could they have been motivated by? Not money since, as you said, there wasn't much money to be gained. Not sexual lust as far as we can tell because Paul never chastising them for promoting sexual sin. Process of elmination leaves us with power.

There must've been some power associated with being an apostle. I don't see how you can really deny that. Granted, they didn't gain political power or influence, but they certainly gained followers. Paul even admitted that he struggled with pride. That's why God gave him a thorn in his side--to keep him humble.


Some how that power thing doesn't ring true either. Paul spoke of the rigors of his work. but in everything commending ourselves, as servants of God, in great endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in riots, in labors, in watchings, in fastings; (2 Cor, 6: 4, 5). John was opposed by Diotrephes. (3 Jn. 9).


>> Peter went from an unknown Galilean fisherman to the First Pope. A pretty big promotion. This, I would wager, is the weak point in your argument. Modern perceptions of the Papacy doesn't jive with first century reality. The first conceptions of the Roman bishop being authoritative doesn't happen until Cyprian in the mid 200's. Peter never wore a miter nor held any position of grandeur. No political influence. No pizazz. A reading of his epistles shows a person in deep concern for the welfare of his flock. Please look for your megalomaniacs elsewhere.

DGFisher, what do you think motivated people to be false apostles if not a desire to have followers and the power that went along with it? There had to be something appealing about being an apostle for people to seek the office, don't you think?

In the OP, “Power” seems to be the catch-all. To my untrained detective eye anyway.

Ralph, no one dies for a lie they know is a lie. It's not human nature. (It took John Dean, what, 2 weeks before turning states evidence, and all he had to lose was his freedom.) Lots of people (suicide bombers, in particular) die for lies, but they are lies that they sincerely believe are truths. Not one of the disciples recanted before undergoing torture and death.


Still not buying into your premise. I guess I have a difficulty with the term "power," as it tends to be misused. I fell the better term is "influence." Power is not related to influence. The janitor with a good idea can trump an executive who realizes a good idea at the moment.

The thought of power is thrown out the window when considering this. The Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took ... water. And washed His disciples feet to make a point of the abject humility of a Christian leader (John 13). In His training of His apostles, He stressed the need to have a servant's heart, not superbia (Mt. 20: 25-28).

As for false apostles, why confuse their need of an ego rush for the mild use of Christian ministry? The only concern about false apostles occurs in 1 Cor. 11: 13, where Paul is countering the works of those who wished to undermine his ministry. Several factions sought to preserve a Judaistic ritual based on Mosaic Law among the Gentilic portion of the young Church. This is not so much imitation to garner power and prestige more than a pursuit of promoting what one group (the Judaizer faction)believed to be true doctrine.

To imagine power shifts and accumulation of authority status is ... well, imagination switched on full volume, with Dan Brown results.

Apostle was not a position one could apply for. The defining qualification for apostleship was having known Jesus. Paul was reluctantly received as an apostle due to his encounter with Jesus on the Damascus road. Either you knew Jesus and his resurrection as a qualifier or didn't. The title apostle was not understood as a power position.

The disciples were able to live for 50 days following the resurrection because, according to Luke there were about 120 followers of Jesus in Jerusalem. Acts 1:15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty).. not all of which would have been itinerant preachers and would have had means to help support the Apostles. Also the Middle Eastern custom of hospitality obligated fellow believers to care for one another. Acts 2:44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. So living in Jerusalem for 50 days following Jesus resurrection would not have been difficult especially when one considers that Jesus remained with the disciples for 40 days following his resurrection and the disciples were only without him 10 days prior to the formal beginning of the church.

Alrighty, let’s try it this way;

1) What was the economic status of the Disciples prior to meeting Jesus? What was it during Jesus ministry? What was it after Jesus ministry? Without knowing those three factors, it is impossible to perform archeological psychology as to their economic motive. I agree, Larry, the Acts account claims other believers supported the Disciples economically. Was this a better economic position than they had prior to following Jesus?

If it was…does this create an economic motive to promulgate the religion?

2) We have all seen people motivated by power even in small group situations. Pastors over churches; cult leaders; David Koresh; Charles Manson; Marshall Applewhite, etc. etc. etc. How much influence did the Disciples have over their social group prior to following Jesus? How much did they have during his ministry? How much after.

Again, without knowing this information, we are performing questionable psychology on long-dead people in a culture we don’t fully understand. What snippets we have in Christian literature, indicate there were power-struggles of authority by people desiring to be in charge. Peter vs. Paul comes readily to mind. If they weren’t motivated by power—why the struggle.

Again, J. Warner Wallace applies a circular argument by using the documents themselves to prove the documents themselves.


If nothing else, I admire the persistence you have in exploring an idea.

Th your key point: >> Was this a better economic position than they had prior to following Jesus?

If it was…does this create an economic motive to promulgate the religion?

And, as a counter, if it did not, how did this religion advance? Does zeal for truth trump "power?"

We have reason to believe there where no economic inducements. Jesus instructed His disciples to avoid gathering possessions in ministry (Mt. 6: 19-21; Mk. 6: 8,9). Paul needed to remind his congregations of their commitment to support their workers and others with gifts of generosity (2 Cor. 9: 6ff). In receiving an unexpected gift from the Philippian congregation, Paul spoke of times of plenty and lean times. (Phil 4: 10-14). No real economic security, no constant paycheck.

>> What snippets we have in Christian literature, indicate there were power-struggles of authority by people desiring to be in charge. Peter vs. Paul comes readily to mind. If they weren’t motivated by power—why the struggle. I recognize no battle between Peter and Paul (over sensationalized claims again). Paul's sudden conversion was supported by Peter. Paul's ministry was advocated by Peter (2 Pet. 3: 15, 16). The disagreement Paul recorded in Gal. 2: 11ff was not a display of power, but a gentle rebuke in light of a correct understanding of Christ's Gospel.

Again, can't we understand the apostolic ministry as a display of concern for souls rather than power grabs? Leave such mindedness in the skulls of story-writers weaving plots around politicos, corporate empires, and generally insecure people.


Of course the religion could have promulgated for altruistic reasons. I would be just as guilty of using too little data to make bold claims. What I am saying is we cannot eliminate economic or power (or honor) simply because the writings self-claims such.

J. Warner Wallace claims, for example, it is a lot easier to determine the heretical movements utilizing these three (3) motives. Which one would apply to the Gnostics? I would suspect most Christians posting on this site would agree Gnosticism was a heresy—so couldn’t they also have believed because of a search for truth?


Altruistic reasons? My goodness, I believe you have possibly found the "fourth motivation." Not wealth. Not sex. Not power. Merely devotion to a cause. This could explain your Gnostic example. It now becomes a thought of whether certain "causes" please God or are an intrusion on divine knowledge.

But pondering altruistic reasons as motivation leads to what I call the "Galahad effect." In T. H. White's Once and Future King, there is a part where Lancelot comments on some of the virtuous knights and declares Galahad "inhuman" in his exercise of chivalrous acts. The most manly of Arthur's knights could not understand what made the "peerless knight" tick. The level of nobleness of heart was incomprehensible.

Perhaps it is wise to view the motivations of the Apostles in the same light. Not where's the money? or where's the power? or where's the good times? Just devotion to the commission given them by Christ (Mt. 28: 16-20).

Similar is the thoughts that compel men to charge into battle for "home and hearth." Consider the cause that leads one to accomplish the difficult.

I'll make this my last word for this post. As usual, it's been a pleasant courteous exchange. A fine day to you.

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