What Makes the Deaths of the Apostles Unique?

“The apostles were willing to die for their faith? So what! Many people, such as Muslim terrorists and Buddhist radicals, were willing to die as well. Does that mean their beliefs are true too?”

One of the most common arguments for the resurrection is the willingness of the apostles to die for their belief in the risen Jesus. This argument is compelling, as I demonstrate in my recent book The Fate of the Apostles. Yet as soon as this argument is put forth, the objector will point to others who have died for their faith, implying that the deaths of the apostles is not unique.

Certainly, many people throughout history have died for their beliefs. As a form of political protest, for example, Buddhist monks have participated in self-immolation.[1] And on September 11, 2001, nineteen radical Muslims hijacked four planes and, killing themselves in the process, attacked and killed thousands of people. Clearly, the willingness to die on their parts shows the sincerity of their beliefs. Muslim radicals believed they were following the commands of the Qur’an and would be rewarded in the afterlife; Buddhist monks believed their sacrifice would save more lives in the future or lead to political freedom. Given these Muslim radicals and Buddhists were just as sincere as the apostles, should their claims be considered as reliable as well?

But this objection misses a key difference between the deaths of the apostles and modern martyrs. Modern martyrs[2] die for what they sincerely believe is true, but their knowledge comes secondhand from others. For instance, Muslim terrorists who attacked the Twin Towers on 9/11 were not eyewitnesses of any miracles by Mohammed. In fact, they were not eyewitnesses of any events of the life of Mohammed. Rather, they lived over thirteen centuries later. No doubt the Muslim radicals acted out of sincere belief, but their convictions were received secondhand at best from others. They did not know Mohammed personally, see him fulfill any prophecy, or witness him doing any miracles such as walking on water, healing the blind, or rising from the dead. There is a massive difference between willingly dying for the sake of the religious ideas accepted from the testimony of others (Muslim radicals) and willingly dying for the proclamation of a faith based upon one’s own eyewitness account (apostles). The deaths of the nineteen terrorists provide no more evidence for the truth of Islam than my death would provide for the truth of Christianity. My martyrdom would show I really believed it, but nothing more.

In contrast to the beliefs of Buddhist monks and Muslim radicals and any other modern martyrs, including Christians, the beliefs of the apostles was not received secondhand, but from personal experience with the risen Jesus (Acts 1:21-22; 1 Cor 15:5-8). They proclaimed what they had seen and heard with their own eyes and ears, not stories received from others (Acts 1:3; 2:22-24). Peter not only claims that he was an eyewitness but that the events took place in public and that his audience had full knowledge of them. The events were not done secretly in a corner. Buddhist monks and Muslim terrorists are certainly willing to suffer and die for a faith they received secondhand, but the apostles were willing to suffer and die for what they had seen with their own eyes.

If Jesus had not risen from the grave and appeared to his apostles, they alone would have known the falsity of his claims. In other words, if the resurrection did not happen, the apostles would have willingly suffered and died for something they knew was false. While people die for what they believe is true, it is a stretch to think all the apostles were willing to suffer and die for a claim they knew was false. The suffering and deaths of the apostles testify to the sincerity of their beliefs that they had seen the risen Jesus.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 15 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog atseanmcdowell.org.


[1]Anthony Boyd, “Buddhist Monk Sets Himself on Fire to Protest against the Slaughter of Cattle in Sri Lanka,” The Daily Mail, May 24, 2013, accessed May 7, 2014,http://www.dailymail.co.uk /news/article-2330398/Buddhist-monk-sets-protest-slaughter-cattle-Sri-Lanka.html.

[2]The term “modern martyrs” refers to those who die in the present age for their beliefs. Technically, Muslim terrorists would not qualify as martyrs since they are actively murdering people rather than being put to death for the proclamation of their faith.

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41 replies
  1. Andy Ryan says:

    Sean, for the deaths to have the significance you want them to have you need the following criteria to be met:
    1) They were killed
    2) They were killed SPECIFICALLY for their belief that Jesus rose from the dead
    3) They had first hand experience of Jesus rising from the dead
    4) They were given the chance to avoid death by recanting but turned it down

    So, which of the martyred apostles fit all five of these criteria, and what evidence do you have to back that up?

    NB, ‘tradition’, amounting to word of mouth, is not great evidence.

    Here’s what Sean says elsewhere:

    “While the evidence of martyrdom is far better for some of the apostles than others, the evidence for Peter is particularly strong. The earliest evidence is found in John 21:18–19, which was written about 30 years after Peter’s death. Bart Ehrman, in his book Peter, Paul, & Mary Magdalene: The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend, agrees that Peter is being told he will die as a martyr. Other evidence for Peter’s martyrdom can be found in early church fathers such as Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Dionysius of Corinth, Irenaeus, Tertullian and more. The early, consistent and unanimous testimony is that Peter died as a martyr.”

    So the VERY earliest evidence for Peter – which Sean admits is as strong as it gets – was written about 30 years after the fact. And the ‘evidence’ amounts to this passage:

    “Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!””

    That’s not particularly conclusive. In fact it’s about as vague as it gets. How are you getting from that to a claim that Peter was killed for claiming he’d seen a resurrected Jesus, and he turned down the chance to recant?

    Reply
    • Richard Jude Woerner says:

      Let’s see.
      Sean, for the deaths to have the significance you want them to have you need the following criteria to be met:
      1) They were killed
      2) They were killed SPECIFICALLY for their belief that Jesus rose from the dead
      3) They had first hand experience of Jesus rising from the dead
      4) They were given the chance to avoid death by recanting but turned it down

      Point one: Hardly the need to have an actual death to prove the article. The thought is “Were the Apostles willing to die for their faith”?

      From Fox’s Book of Martyrs:
      Peter: Among many other saints, the blessed apostle Peter was condemned to death, and crucified, as some do write, at Rome; albeit some others, and not without cause, do doubt thereof. Hegesippus saith that Nero sought matter against Peter to put him to death; which, when the people perceived, they entreated Peter with much ado that he would fly the city. Peter, through their importunity at length persuaded, prepared himself to avoid. But, coming to the gate, he saw the Lord Christ come to meet him, to whom he, worshipping, said, “Lord, whither dost Thou go?” To whom He answered and said, “I am come again to be crucified.” By this, Peter, perceiving his suffering to be understood, returned into the city. Jerome saith that he was crucified, his head being down and his feet upward, himself so requiring, because he was (he said) unworthy to be crucified after the same form and manner as the Lord was.

      Point 2) So they needed to die SPECIFICALLY for their faith? Why did the Romans kill Peter? Because is his faith in Christ. The same for Paul.

      Point 3. What makes you think that the disciples didn;t have eye-witness accounts? But the fact that Peter died without recanting his faith seems to prove he was an eye-witness.
      2Peter 1:16 For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

      John says something rather interesting as well.
      1Jn 1:1-3 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

      So there’s no problem believing what some of the disciples have said concerning their faith and why they were willing to die.

      Point 4. Whether they were given a chance or not matters little, only to you. Does a person on death row have a chance to recant and would that change the outcome of the court’s decision?

      Then you give “some rule” about when a particular writing becomes valid. Interesting. So you are an authority on writings of antiquity that should be written precisely at the time an event had happened? 30 years after the fact. Hardly enough time for legend or fable to be created.

      Becuase the death of Christ and the tomb which He was placed is common knowledge, and if the body was stolen, why wasn’t this written?
      Where’s the body?
      Why is the tomb empty?
      Was wasn’t any of this ever recorded to refute the claims of the disciples?

      Your points fail Andy. Why? You don’t make the rules.This is called special pleading and based upon those that are experts in writings of antiquity, none of you points hold up.

      Try Craig Blomberg or F.F. Bruce or Bruce Metzger.

      Reply
  2. Jason Snead says:

    Great conversation. My years of reading the bible have led me to an important conclusion.
    When a man believes in God and reads His word, something happens……..I noticed this over time. The stories from old to new testament line up amazingly well.
    I also notice certain points to the stories make more sense to me. Lile the bible says, believe in me and I will send the teacher to be with you and remind you.
    As it was with the Apostles.
    Yes, I agree, unless they saw the risen Lord, why else would they be so bold, especially after all becoming instant cowards after Christ’s arrest.
    Put yourself in their shoes. If you lived with Christ for 3 years, saw the miracles, would you have lied and ran away when he was arrested?, probably.
    Most anyone would have.
    but they must have seen him. To be so bold as to not fear death, they wer given a task by the Master, if any of us where to see Him and be given a task, I hope our faith wouldnbe so bold.

    These men saw the risen Crist and chose to obey God instead of man. Something unbelieving man still has trouble understanding to this day.
    “The words of truth and God are foolishness to those that are perishing. ”
    Dont be that guy! Man up, be still and know God. In that quiet moment of meditation, in your mind, ask the Father to speak to your heart. Then shut up and listen…you may not hear anything, do it daily, over time you will feel His presence, guiding your thoughts. That is His voice. The little voice you have been hearing in your thoughts your whole life.
    you will do well to listen to it.

    But.
    But after seeing Christ alive

    Reply
  3. Cindy Jennings says:

    Not only is there extra-biblical references to their deaths but had any of them recanted, it would have been GREAT news to the Jews and those totally hostile to Christianity–almost as good as dragging the dead body of an unrisen Jesus around town.

    For instance, three eye witnesses who “claimed” to have witnessed Joseph Smith receive the golden plates of Mormonism ALL recanted or left the Mormon organization. So how valid was their eye witness testimony? Not very.

    Christianity would have been stopped in its tracks if any of the apostles recanted or changed their testimony. That there is no evidence of any of them doing so suggests they never did. There were plenty of haters around who would have loved to see that happen to use it against the early church. A “conspiracy” of a risen Christ held by so many would have been impossible. Heck, the Republicans couldn’t pull it off for a matter of days when it came to Watergate and once one fell, they all fell. You simply didn’t have that happen to those who claimed to be eyewitnesses to the risen Christ.

    Reply
    • Andy Ryan says:

      “Not only is there extra-biblical references to their deaths”

      Could you give me details, please?

      “So how valid was their eye witness testimony? Not very.”

      And yet Mormonism grew and today has millions of followers.

      “Heck, the Republicans couldn’t pull it off for a matter of days when it came to Watergate”

      Yes, in the 20th century it was much easier to spread the truth around. And even today there are still plenty of people who’ll dismiss the truth when it’s reported about a politician they like, hence Trump and Clinton being the presidential nominees!

      Reply
  4. Kenny Strawn says:

    WARNING: The below paragraph is a paragraph, *NOT* 7 individual sentences. To all who even do so much as think avout refuting it: Either refute that entire paragraph *as* the entire paragraph that it is or your entire response is quote mining, and, therefore, fallacious.

    The assumption that someone must have died *exactly* at the same time as Jesus in order to have either been an eyewitness or a known liar is an example of extreme contemporarism. “If something isn’t written at *exactly* the same time as Jesus, then Jesus must have been made up,” they claim. Is every text (only texts count, never statues) that supports the historicity of Caesar, meanwhile, contemporary with Caesar? What about that which supports the historicity of Alexander the Great? Are there any “contemporary” sources that support the historicity of those two cases? As I examine and conclude in one of my blog posts (http://strawn-04.blogspot.com/2016/05/why-i-am-christian-and-not-atheist.html), no there isn’t. In fact, there are not only much larger time gaps but also much smaller numbers of manuscripts to support both of those cases than there are to support the New Testament.

    Reply
    • Andy Ryan says:

      “Either refute that entire paragraph *as* the entire paragraph that it is or your entire response is quote mining, and, therefore, fallacious.”

      What, we’re not allowed to pick out ANY individual claim made IN the paragraph and refute it? If a paragraph contains fallacious claims and straw man arguments then certainly we can point them out without committing a fallacy ourselves. If you believe that any particular sentence has been misrepresented then you can make your case, but a claim is a claim.

      “Is every text (only texts count, never statues) that supports the historicity of Caesar, meanwhile, contemporary with Caesar?”

      Why wouldn’t statures made during Caesar’s lifetime count as evidence? What’s more, we have words written by Caesar himself and words written by both his friends and his enemies.

      “Are there any “contemporary” sources that support the historicity of those two cases?”

      Not Cicero? We have letters letters he wrote about Caesar during his lifetime. We also have Sallust, supporter of Caesar who wrote about him in Vellum Catalinae. Then there’s Nepos, Catullus, and many others. I just had a look at your blog link and couldn’t see you mentioning any of those people. Is that for a reason or do you just not know about them?

      We also have coins from Caesar’s reign, and many other artefacts. You seem to be saying that some evidence for Caesar isn’t contemporaneous with his life, and so that means we shouldn’t be asking for contemporaneous evidence for Jesus’ life. This ignores that we have a HUGE amount of contemporaneous evidence for Caesar’s life and none at all for the life of Jesus.

      “If something isn’t written at *exactly* the same time as Jesus, then Jesus must have been made up,” they claim.”

      Who claims this? You can’t prove a negative. The question isn’t whether ANY itinerant rabbi by the name of Jesus lived at that time. The question is, what evidence is there to support any of the claims made about his life?

      Reply
      • Kenny Strawn says:

        “What, we’re not allowed to pick out ANY individual claim made IN the paragraph and refute it? If a paragraph contains fallacious claims and straw man arguments then certainly we can point them out without committing a fallacy ourselves. If you believe that any particular sentence has been misrepresented then you can make your case, but a claim is a claim.”

        And if they don’t? Quote mining is quoting something outside the context of the paragraph that it came from. Context means everything when it comes to determining whether something is a fallacy or not — the only way to know whether something is a fallacy at all is to read not just one sentence but *everything* around it.

        “We also have coins from Caesar’s reign, and many other artefacts. You seem to be saying that some evidence for Caesar isn’t contemporaneous with his life, and so that means we shouldn’t be asking for contemporaneous evidence for Jesus’ life. This ignores that we have a HUGE amount of contemporaneous evidence for Caesar’s life and none at all for the life of Jesus”

        The fact that you’re demanding something contemporaneous at all is committing the Nirvana fallacy. Sure, there are artifacts, but have those artifacts been put through the same 14C tests and what not that Biblical artifacts have been put through? Have the coins been tested for 40K and/or 198Au testing, for the record, to see whether or not they’re authentic or frauds? Have the busts been tested for isotopes like 32Si and 26Al that have half-lives long enough to date? It’s hypocrisy to place artifacts pertaining to the Bible — like the Shroud of Turin and the onyx cup in Spain that appears in both Christian and Muslim documents ast the Holy Grail — through such extreme testing as this without also putting artifacts pertaining to the historicity of Caesar and of Alexander the Great through similar testing.

        “Not Cicero? We have letters letters he wrote about Caesar during his lifetime. We also have Sallust, supporter of Caesar who wrote about him in Vellum Catalinae. Then there’s Nepos, Catullus, and many others. I just had a look at your blog link and couldn’t see you mentioning any of those people. Is that for a reason or do you just not know about them?”

        How many manuscripts attributed to Cicero exist, and how many of them are within two centuries of being original? How many manuscripts attributed to Sallust exist, and how many of them are within two centuries of being original? How many manuscripts attributed to Nepos exist, and how many of them are within two centuries of being original? How many manuscripts attributed to Catullus exist, and how many of them are within two centuries of being original? Again, it’s hypocrisy to ask these questions about Biblical manuscripts while at the same time just assuming that manuscripts from these sources are valid.

        “Who claims this? You can’t prove a negative. The question isn’t whether ANY itinerant rabbi by the name of Jesus lived at that time. The question is, what evidence is there to support any of the claims made about his life?”

        You admit that you cannot prove a negative — and “there is no God” is precisely that, a negative. That question that you pose, moreover, is answered by the historical-legal method, which is able to reconstruct the original New Testament to 99.99+% accuracy. Not 100%, but we’re not 100% sure about the reliability of anything else from the ancient world either. If we were, then the science of archaeology would cease to exist.

        Reply
        • Andy Ryan says:

          You’re comparing coins from Caesar’s era to the Turin Shroud? That’s hilarious.

          How many of Cicero’s manuscripts exist? You want an exact count? That’s not a refutation of the fact that we have many contemporaneous accounts of Caesar’s life and none of Jesus’s life. Cicero is just one of many too. Comparing the evidence for Caesar with Jesus is a complete non-starter.

          Reply
          • Kenny Strawn says:

            “You’re comparing coins from Caesar’s era to the Turin Shroud? That’s hilarious”

            Not just the Turin Shroud, but also the Barcelona Grail… and the Pompeii Graffiti… and the Caiaphas Ossuary, and coins from Herod Antipas and Pilate that affirm their existence. Not to mention that you never once even considered the embarrassment criteria in the Gospels, nor did you factor in the 7 undisputed Paul letters. Throwing in the ad lapidem at the end — the ad lapidem that is “that’s hilarious” — does nothing to help your case either.

            “How many of Cicero’s manuscripts exist? You want an exact count? That’s not a refutation of the fact that we have many contemporaneous accounts of Caesar’s life and none of Jesus’s life. Cicero is just one of many too. Comparing the evidence for Caesar with Jesus is a complete non-starter.”

            The question was a two-part question, and it was repeated not only for Cicero but also for the other three that you mentioned: A, how many manuscripts exist, and B, how old are they? Not only have you not given me an exact count, but you also haven’t given me the age of the oldest manuscript so that I can see what Cicero’s time gap is. That alone is proof that you’re a hypocrite, and then we have the fact that you are assuming that these accounts are contemporaneous without even testing them, which is even more incriminating evidence of hypocrisy on your part.

          • Kenny Strawn says:

            Correction to the below reply: should be the San Isidoro Grail in Leon, not the “Barcelona Grail”. The other surrounding content still applies, however.

          • toby says:

            Not to mention that you never once even considered the embarrassment criteria in the Gospels, nor did you factor in the 7 undisputed Paul letters.

            The embarrassment criteria is itself an embarrassment. Who wrote any of the books of the new testament? You don’t know. You just don’t. So how does embarrassment even apply when you can’t even say who wrote them and if they would be embarrassed by it? Your faith is as much in whoever wrote the books being a honest documentarian as what’s in them.

            Paul was the Joseph Smith of this day. He had a vision and we’re supposed to believe it was real? I think he was an opportunist. The first “televangelist” of christianity.

            A, how many manuscripts exist, and B, how old are they? Not only have you not given me an exact count, but you also haven’t given me the age of the oldest manuscript so that I can see what Cicero’s time gap is.
            A) what in your mind makes you equates quantity of copies to truth and accuracy? I could make one document and make a hundred copies on a copier. Does that make what’s in it any more true? Same could be said of a scribe that copied his work 100 times.
            B) How do you feel about the oldest fragment of the new testament being from the early-mid 100s?

          • Andy Ryan says:

            ” Not to mention that you never once even considered the embarrassment criteria in the Gospels”

            You didn’t ask me to! You were quite specific about wanting me to address your paragraph as a whole, so that’s what I did, without bringing in other points.

            “you also haven’t given me the age of the oldest manuscript so that I can see what Cicero’s time gap”

            Kenny, you’ve written a blog on the subject so I’d have thought a) you would have already investigated the evidence against your argument and b) that you’re quite capable yourself of looking up when Cicero lived. I’ll save you ten seconds – he lived at the same time as Caesar. Historians accept as genuine letters Cicero wrote about Caesar while both were still alive. We have no such documents written about Jesus while he was alive.

            So do you want want to argue that Cicero didn’t exist or that all the supposed documents that historians accept as being genuine records of his words are in fact false?

            It’s not that we’re accepting documents written by and about Caesar during his lifetime while rejecting documents written by and about Jesus during HIS lifetime – rather, we HAVE no documents written by and about Jesus during his lifetime.

  5. Kenny Strawn says:

    “The embarrassment criteria is itself an embarrassment. Who wrote any of the books of the new testament? You don’t know. You just don’t. So how does embarrassment even apply when you can’t even say who wrote them and if they would be embarrassed by it? Your faith is as much in whoever wrote the books being a honest documentarian as what’s in them.”

    Faith in a negative is twice as blind as faith in a positive. You’re accusing me of having blind faith in a positive. Do you, meanwhile, go around jumping to the conclusion that “there is no God”? That’s blind faith in a negative. If you have done that in the past, then you’ve refuted your own claim.

    “Paul was the Joseph Smith of this day. He had a vision and we’re supposed to believe it was real? I think he was an opportunist. The first “televangelist” of christianity.”

    This claim is just as if not more of a jump to conclusions than my claims. Paul was born between 5 BC and 5 AD according to scholars — why are you assuming that he didn’t even meet Jesus prior to his conversion? According to both other Gospel accounts and his own, Paul was a Pharisee who moved to Israel during Jesus’ day — who is to say that Paul wasn’t one of the Pharisees that Jesus allegedly called a hypocrite? Who is to say that Paul wasn’t present at Jesus’ Sanhedrin trial? At the temple during the turning of the money tables? Mocking Him on the cross, as his fellow Pharisees did? If you’re not asking any of these questions, then you’re not thinking hard enough.

    “A) what in your mind makes you equates quantity of copies to truth and accuracy? I could make one document and make a hundred copies on a copier. Does that make what’s in it any more true? Same could be said of a scribe that copied his work 100 times.
    B) How do you feel about the oldest fragment of the new testament being from the early-mid 100s?”

    A, why are you denying the very methods that historians and lawyers use to judge whether something is authentic or not? The more copies or portions are available, *the easier it is to reconstruct an original*. Suppose you printed out, let’s say, 100 copies of an autobiography, then buried all of them. Suppose someone digs up those copies 2000 years from now. They determine that they are as old as you are, but by the time they’re dug up, the manuscripts all have holes in them in various locations. Increases in the number of manuscripts *combined* with comparisons between old originals and slightly newer copies to check for differences between allow us to fill in those gaps in manuscripts that result from decay.

    B, the earliest manuscript is from a 90’s mummy mask, not from the early 2nd century as you claim, but suppose the mummy mask teardown turns out to be a non-Biblical source, making the time gap 50 years or so. Compare that to Tacitus and Suetonius, whom most of our details about not only the Caesars but also people like Cicero come from, and you’re in a pickle, why? Because the first manuscripts we have from them are from the Middle Ages! The time gaps of about 100 years in the case of the New Testament may seem significant by modern standards, but it’s on a whole different level when compared to sources that have time gaps in the quadruple digits.

    “Kenny, you’ve written a blog on the subject so I’d have thought a) you would have already investigated the evidence against your argument and b) that you’re quite capable yourself of looking up when Cicero lived. I’ll save you ten seconds – he lived at the same time as Caesar. Historians accept as genuine letters Cicero wrote about Caesar while both were still alive. We have no such documents written about Jesus while he was alive.”

    My question wasn’t about when Cicero lived, my question is how authentic documents attributed to Cicero are. Assuming that they’re authentic without investigating both the number of copies and the age of the oldest copy is begging the question. It’s also begging the question to assume that none of Cicero’s alleged works were forgeries — just because it has Cicero’s name on it doesn’t automatically mean that it’s been written by Cicero. Comparing copies and examining the handwriting of the copies side-by-side is how you differentiate between forgeries and authentic works.

    “It’s not that we’re accepting documents written by and about Caesar during his lifetime while rejecting documents written by and about Jesus during HIS lifetime – rather, we HAVE no documents written by and about Jesus during his lifetime.”

    Again, begging the question. “By and about” — that’s an implication that self-published sources about oneself, seen by many as biased on so many levels, and *especially* biased when written by someone who is narcissistic enough to claim to be divine, are reliable. Why is it that Wikipedia won’t accept self-published sources? Because of exactly that: they’re biased.

    When it comes to whether someone exists or not, however, then I agree, they do have merit, but then again, if you don’t test them *using the exact same methods* used to test alleged Biblical manuscripts to determine whether they’re original or forged, then you cannot differentiate between an original and a forgery. When Cicero allegedly lived means nothing when it comes to the authenticity of his alleged works.

    “So do you want want to argue that Cicero didn’t exist or that all the supposed documents that historians accept as being genuine records of his words are in fact false?”

    Actually I want to argue that they haven’t been tested to determine whether the manuscripts we have that were allegedly written by Cicero are originals or “copies of copies of copies”. THAT is why I asked about the *absolute* age of the oldest manuscripts that we have of Cicero, and guess what? I just looked them up. For Cicero, we have 15 copies — that’s right, 15 vs. 24,000 — and the earliest copies are from AD 400, which makes the time gap 400 years removed. 400 > 100. The earliest Sallust fragments? Even worse: they’re from around AD 900 — 900 years removed — not to mention that we only have 20 copies from this period, and none before it. Same thing for Plutarch: all six manuscripts are medieval, not classical. The fact that you’ve never considered this only proves my point all the more.

    Reply
    • Andy Ryan says:

      “Do you, meanwhile, go around jumping to the conclusion that “there is no God”? That’s blind faith in a negative”

      Who concluded here that there was no God? Atheism just means you lack belief in a God. It’s not a conclusion or statement.

      “It’s also begging the question to assume that none of Cicero’s alleged works were forgeries”

      “The fact that you’ve never considered this only proves my point all the more”

      Kenny, you’re going way off the deep end to reject the validity of Cicero’s works. I’m not aware of any respected historian who denies the existence of Cicero or claims that all the documents we have supposedly written by him were forgeries. Claiming otherwise is the historical equivalent of saying the moon landings were faked. By comparison, you don’t even have any contemporaries of Jesus who wrote about him to defend.

      Reply
      • Kenny Strawn says:

        “Who concluded here that there was no God? Atheism just means you lack belief in a God. It’s not a conclusion or statement”

        Quote mining, begging the question, AND denying what fellow atheists of yours claim all at the same time. Saying that you lack a belief only to go on to claim positively that the transcendent being that I believe in is contradicting oneself.

        Finally, nothing from AD 400 is contemporary either. As I already stated somewhere else in that very post that you replied to (namely, the final paragraph), I went over that time gap, combined with the overall lack of manuscript evidence (only 15 copies in total), details that you are STILL denying.

        Reply
      • Kenny Strawn says:

        Also, again, what about that *hostile* contemporary — that Pharisee by the name of Saul of Tarsus — who in one of his 7 *undisputed* letters (Philippians) claims to be an eyewitness to Jesus’ post-resurrection actions *after* having gone from Pharisee to disciple? Explain that for me.

        Reply
        • Kenny Strawn says:

          To clarify the claim that Paul was a contemporary, he converted in the 30’s AD but was born in 5 AD. That makes Paul only 10 years younger than Jesus, allegedly; moreover, that’s the latest part of an error margin that is also of 10 years.

          Reply
    • toby says:

      Faith in a negative is twice as blind as faith in a positive. . . .
      Talk about quote mining. You picked the word faith out of a paragraph and when out on a tangent while avoiding what the paragraph said. To remind you it was about the unreliability of the embarrassment criteria.

      Reply
      • Kenny Strawn says:

        That entire paragraph was in and of itself a response to a mined quote (“Not to mention that you never once even considered the embarrassment criteria in the Gospels, nor did you factor in the 7 undisputed Paul letters”) that was taken out of the context of its respective paragraph! That’s a plank in your eye. Remove it first, and *then* we’ll talk.

        Reply
    • toby says:

      A, why are you denying the very methods that historians and lawyers use to judge whether something is authentic or not? . . .
      Judges and lawyers have REAL evidence available to them, witnesses and physical evidence, not a document that you have no idea who produced it or how accurate it is. I understand your point about reconstruction of documents, but you avoided my point which is who wrote it? You don’t know so you can make no claims on it’s accuracy. A document is only as reliable as it’s writer and that writer’s motivations. And you don’t know either things.

      the earliest manuscript is from a 90’s mummy mask, not from the early 2nd century as you claim, but suppose the mummy mask teardown turns out to be a non-Biblical source, making the time gap 50 years or so.
      From a CNN article on this (you can also click my name to go to the article):
      “News of the fragment first came to light in 2012 when its existence was (perhaps inadvertently) announced by Daniel Wallace, founder of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts at Dallas Theological Seminary.
      No one saw the text then, and no one has seen it now; though it has been mentioned repeatedly by a select group of people who evidently have been given access to it, its planned date of publication has been consistently pushed back, from an original plan of 2013 to 2015 and now, just this week, all the way to 2017.”

      Research what you assert before asserting it.

      Reply
      • Kenny Strawn says:

        “Judges and lawyers have REAL evidence available to them, witnesses and physical evidence, not a document that you have no idea who produced it or how accurate it is. I understand your point about reconstruction of documents, but you avoided my point which is who wrote it? You don’t know so you can make no claims on it’s accuracy. A document is only as reliable as it’s writer and that writer’s motivations. And you don’t know either things.”

        The fact that you’re blindly asserting that I have no idea who produced the New Testament in spite of the fact that it’s 12,800 times more reliable than Cicero according to the historical-legal method is, again, begging the question. Moreover, historians — you seemed to leave that out of this entire reply while harping on the legal bit.

        Reply
      • Kenny Strawn says:

        “From a CNN article on this (you can also click my name to go to the article):
        “News of the fragment first came to light in 2012 when its existence was (perhaps inadvertently) announced by Daniel Wallace, founder of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts at Dallas Theological Seminary.
        No one saw the text then, and no one has seen it now; though it has been mentioned repeatedly by a select group of people who evidently have been given access to it, its planned date of publication has been consistently pushed back, from an original plan of 2013 to 2015 and now, just this week, all the way to 2017.”

        Research what you assert before asserting it.”

        Not only is this a reply to a mined quote, but it’s also a reference to the biased source that is CNN (ad verecundiam/authority fallacy). Moreover, the article in and of itself uses the ex silentio fallacy (assuming that just because no one has seen it it doesn’t exist) which makes it a false authority. Next!

        Reply
        • Andy Ryan says:

          “Not only is this a reply to a mined quote”

          Kenny, I’m starting to think you’re trolling. Do you know what quote mining actually is? Because I’ve already explained it to you, and you keep acting like any time anyone quotes you at all they’re committing a logical fallacy. Unless you can explain exactly how you’ve been misrepresented when someone quotes you then you don’t have a complaint.

          “I’m quoting your paragraphs as a whole. You’re picking mine apart”
          That’s not what quote mining is. It specifically means quoting someone out of context. You’ve not once shown that Toby or I have misrepresented you or quoted you out of context, or made it seem like you’re arguing something you weren’t.

          Given that you don’t understand this very simple point, it’s pretty rich that you go on to throw out the Latin terms for the various other fallacies you think people are committing. You’re trying to sound smart rather than genuinely attempting to convince anyone or make a decent argument.

          And that’s even aside from the fact that you do exactly the thing you complain about here:
          Toby: “Perhaps because he doesn’t mention it at all?”
          Kenny: “Again, response to a mined quote. Either quote the ENTIRE PARAGRAPH or it’s quote mining.”

          Kenny, you quote a single line from Toby out of a paragraph and then reply to it to berate him for not quoting the whole paragraph. Do I need to spell out the hypocrisy?

          Reply
          • Kenny Strawn says:

            “Kenny, I’m starting to think you’re trolling. Do you know what quote mining actually is? Because I’ve already explained it to you, and you keep acting like any time anyone quotes you at all they’re committing a logical fallacy. Unless you can explain exactly how you’ve been misrepresented when someone quotes you then you don’t have a complaint.”

            Notice how I didn’t leave anything out of that paragraph that I just quoted? Trolling accusation is ad hominem, for starters. Accusing me of not knowing what quote mining actually is — it’s taking a quote *out of its surrounding, emphasis on surrounding, context* as I already told you — only goes to show just how much of a hole you dug yourself.

            ““I’m quoting your paragraphs as a whole. You’re picking mine apart”
            That’s not what quote mining is. It specifically means quoting someone out of context. You’ve not once shown that Toby or I have misrepresented you or quoted you out of context, or made it seem like you’re arguing something you weren’t.”

            You quoted THAT out of its surrounding (emphasis on surrounding) context!

            “Given that you don’t understand this very simple point, it’s pretty rich that you go on to throw out the Latin terms for the various other fallacies you think people are committing. You’re trying to sound smart rather than genuinely attempting to convince anyone or make a decent argument.”

            Ad hominem (and poisoning the well in particular).

          • Kenny Strawn says:

            “Kenny, you quote a single line from Toby out of a paragraph and then reply to it to berate him for not quoting the whole paragraph. Do I need to spell out the hypocrisy?”

            That single line that you mention was a response to a quote of me that only consisted of a single sentence. That’s not out of a paragraph.

          • Kenny Strawn says:

            Forgot to mention that:

            “Given that you don’t understand this very simple point, it’s pretty rich that you go on to throw out the Latin terms for the various other fallacies you think people are committing. You’re trying to sound smart rather than genuinely attempting to convince anyone or make a decent argument.”

            is not only ad hominem but also a slippery slope fallacy applied in an ad hominem manner.

          • Andy Ryan says:

            Me: “Kenny, you quote a single line from Toby out of a paragraph and then reply to it to berate him for not quoting the whole paragraph. Do I need to spell out the hypocrisy?”

            Kenny: “That single line that you mention was a response to a quote of me that only consisted of a single sentence. That’s not out of a paragraph.”

            You lie, Kenny. Here’s the whole paragraph from Toby:

            “Perhaps because he doesn’t mention it at all? If he did, you’d likely be pointing at it and saying, “Look! That’s embarrassing! It must be true because he was embarrassed to be mocking and being wrong about it!”

            You quoted just: “Perhaps because he doesn’t mention it at all?”

            So… you lied.

            I think we’re done here, Kenny.

          • Kenny Strawn says:

            Again, THIS is Toby’s response:

            “This claim is just as if not more of a jump to conclusions than my claims. Paul was born between 5 BC and 5 AD according to scholars — why are you assuming that he didn’t even meet Jesus prior to his conversion?
            Perhaps because he doesn’t mention it at all?

            The response that you pointed to was the response that I made this response to:

            “Perhaps because he doesn’t mention it at all? If he did, you’d likely be pointing at it and saying, “Look! That’s embarrassing! It must be true because he was embarrassed to be mocking and being wrong about it!””

            Again, either quote the ENTIRE PARAGRAPH and respond to it as a whole paragraph without picking it apart or it’s quote mining. (http://crossexamined.org/what-makes-the-deaths-of-the-apostles-unique/#comment-65754)

            Your accusation of lying is entirely hinged on the fact that you are quoting not only the wrong response of mine but also the wrong response of his.

          • toby says:

            I in the same camp as Andy on this. You’re either ignorant of what quote mining is or you’re using it and all your accusations of fallacies as a smoke screen to hide behind so you don’t have to respond with anything substantive.

            Thanks and be well.

          • Kenny Strawn says:

            “I in the same camp as Andy on this. You’re either ignorant of what quote mining is or you’re using it and all your accusations of fallacies as a smoke screen to hide behind so you don’t have to respond with anything substantive.

            Thanks and be well.”

            False dilemma. Quote mining is responding to quotations outside of their surrounding (emphasis on surrounding) contexts, A, and B, if there is no God, then in order to draw the conclusion that I don’t know what quote mining is, one must arbitrarily define it. The “smoke screen” claim regarding the other accusations is a slippery slope (also fallacious) to boot, and that slippery slope is applied in an ad hominem fashion, which makes it doubly fallacious.

            Oh, and if you do so much as even thinking about dissecting that above paragraph and responding to the individual fallacy charges with this same accusation instead of responding to them collectively (because they flow together, if you ask why), then that’s yet *another* quote mining strike against you.

    • toby says:

      This claim is just as if not more of a jump to conclusions than my claims. Paul was born between 5 BC and 5 AD according to scholars — why are you assuming that he didn’t even meet Jesus prior to his conversion?
      Perhaps because he doesn’t mention it at all?

      According to both other Gospel accounts and his own, Paul was a Pharisee who moved to Israel during Jesus’ day — who is to say that Paul wasn’t one of the Pharisees that Jesus allegedly called a hypocrite? Who is to say that Paul wasn’t present at Jesus’ Sanhedrin trial? At the temple during the turning of the money tables? Mocking Him on the cross, as his fellow Pharisees did?
      Perhaps because he doesn’t mention it at all? If he did, you’d likely be pointing at it and saying, “Look! That’s embarrassing! It must be true because he was embarrassed to be mocking and being wrong about it!”

      If you’re not asking any of these questions, then you’re not thinking hard enough.
      If I’m asking those questions then I’m making things up as I go. Is that rational to you? Is making up fictions—unsupportable “what ifs”—a solid way to build a belief system? To me it seems like it’s cushioning your confirmation bias with nice daydreams.

      Reply
      • Kenny Strawn says:

        “Perhaps because he doesn’t mention it at all? If he did, you’d likely be pointing at it and saying, “Look! That’s embarrassing! It must be true because he was embarrassed to be mocking and being wrong about it!””

        Again, either quote the ENTIRE PARAGRAPH and respond to it as a whole paragraph without picking it apart or it’s quote mining.

        Reply
      • Kenny Strawn says:

        “If I’m asking those questions then I’m making things up as I go. Is that rational to you? Is making up fictions—unsupportable “what ifs”—a solid way to build a belief system? To me it seems like it’s cushioning your confirmation bias with nice daydreams.”

        Assuming that there daydreams and ignoring my calculations in my reply to Andy is again begging the question.

        Reply
  6. Andy Ryan says:

    “Quote mining, begging the question, AND denying what fellow atheists of yours claim all at the same time.”

    Kenny, you’re just throwing phrases around now. By “quote mining” you seem to mean simply “quoting”. You quote me too – it’s only quote mining if it’s stripping out context and misrepresenting the intended meaning. You’ve not shown that I’ve done that. You’ve not showing how I’m begging the question either. Neither is it relevant what ‘fellow atheists’ may or may not have done. Show me someone on this thread doing so or you’re tilting at windmills.

    If Saul/Paul was a contemporary of Jesus, how come he reports nothing of Jesus life, at a time when the latter was supposedly creating a stir around Jerusalem and says nothing of any of that or the crucifixion?

    “who in one of his 7 *undisputed* letters (Philippians) claims to be an eyewitness to Jesus’ post-resurrection actions *after* having gone from Pharisee to disciple? Explain that for me”

    A guy sees a bright light and claims to have heard a voice. And then he says that must have been the ghost of Jesus. What’s there to explain there? What exactly is that supposed to prove? Sounds like temporal lobe epilepsy – bright lights, blindness, religious feelings etc. What evidence do you have that Saul was genuinely previously a persecutor of Jesus’ followers? He claims as such in his Epistle – is that it?

    “I went over that time gap, combined with the overall lack of manuscript evidence (only 15 copies in total)”

    A document doesn’t become ‘truer’ or more reliable just because you make more copies of it. As someone else pointed out here, there are millions of copies of Harry Potter around the world – that doesn’t make it more true than my diary, which has no copies of it at all.

    Reply
    • Kenny Strawn says:

      “Kenny, you’re just throwing phrases around now. By “quote mining” you seem to mean simply “quoting”. You quote me too – it’s only quote mining if it’s stripping out context and misrepresenting the intended meaning. You’ve not shown that I’ve done that. You’ve not showing how I’m begging the question either. Neither is it relevant what ‘fellow atheists’ may or may not have done. Show me someone on this thread doing so or you’re tilting at windmills.”

      I’m quoting your paragraphs as a whole. You’re picking mine apart. Picking them apart is quote mining regardless of whether or not you want to admit it, as I explained in my very first comment *and* in that blog post that you are also picking apart in a similarly fallacious manner.

      “And then he says that must have been the ghost of Jesus. What’s there to explain there? What exactly is that supposed to prove? Sounds like temporal lobe epilepsy – bright lights, blindness, religious feelings etc. What evidence do you have that Saul was genuinely previously a persecutor of Jesus’ followers? He claims as such in his Epistle – is that it?”

      What evidence from BEFORE AD 400 do you have to reconstruct Cicero’s original claims?

      “A document doesn’t become ‘truer’ or more reliable just because you make more copies of it. As someone else pointed out here, there are millions of copies of Harry Potter around the world – that doesn’t make it more true than my diary, which has no copies of it at all.”

      It becomes *easier to reconstruct* with accuracy if there are more copies, and you are STILL ignoring the fact that the earliest copy of Cicero is 460 years removed from being an original — far greater than the ~100-year gap for the earliest verifiable Biblical manuscript. Since this is a response to a single sentence out of a paragraph, it’s also a mined quote.

      Reply
    • Kenny Strawn says:

      “You lie, Kenny. Here’s the whole paragraph from Toby:

      “Perhaps because he doesn’t mention it at all? If he did, you’d likely be pointing at it and saying, “Look! That’s embarrassing! It must be true because he was embarrassed to be mocking and being wrong about it!”

      You quoted just: “Perhaps because he doesn’t mention it at all?”

      So… you lied.

      I think we’re done here, Kenny.”

      “This claim is just as if not more of a jump to conclusions than my claims. Paul was born between 5 BC and 5 AD according to scholars — why are you assuming that he didn’t even meet Jesus prior to his conversion?
      Perhaps because he doesn’t mention it at all?”

      TELL ME, HOW IS THIS NOT A SINGLE-SENTENCE RESPONSE?!?!?!

      THAT is out of context. You referred to his second response. I referred to his first. Under absolutely no circumstances is this accusation valid if you are pointing to the wrong response!

      That’s aside from the fact that if God doesn’t exist, then everything is either material or arbitrarily defined; since truth and lies are not material, then to your view, they must be arbitrarily defined. To accuse me of lying without even knowing what truth is is to make an undefined (or arbitrarily defined) accusation.

      Reply

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