The Commitment of the Apostles Confirms the Truth of the Resurrection

The Commitment of the Apostles Confirms the Truth of the Resurrection

Written by J. Warner Wallace |
Saturday, December 16, 2023

There isn’t a single ancient document, letter or piece of evidence indicating any of the Christian eyewitnesses (the apostolic disciples) ever changed their story or surrendered their claims. Given the reasonable expectation of this Roman effort and the evidence from history confirming the trials of Christians, it’s remarkable none of the eyewitnesses ever changed their claims. Our willingness (as non-witnesses later in history) to die for what we believe has no evidential value, but the willingness of the first disciples to die for what they saw with their own eyes is a critical piece of evidence in the case for Christianity.

Many of us, as committed Christians, would rather die than reject our Savior. Around the world today, Christians are executed regularly because they refuse to deny their allegiance to Jesus or the truth claims of Christianity. But their deaths, while heartbreaking and compelling, have no evidential value. Many people are willing to die for what they don’t know is a lie. Martyrdom doesn’t confirm the truth, especially when the martyrs don’t have first-hand access to the claim for which they’re dying. But this wasn’t the case for the disciples of Jesus. They were in a unique position: they knew if the claims about Jesus were true. They were present for the life, ministry, death and alleged resurrection of Jesus. If the claims about Jesus were a lie, the disciples would have known it (in fact they would have been the source of the lie). That’s why their commitment to their testimony was (and is) so compelling. Unlike the rest of us, their willingness to die for their claims has tremendous evidential value. In fact, the commitment of the apostles confirms the truth of the resurrection.

The traditions related to the deaths of the apostles are well known. According to local and regional histories, all of the disciples died for their claims related to the Resurrection:

Andrew was crucified in Patras, Greece.
Bartholomew (aka Nathanael) was flayed to death with a whip in Armenia.
James the Just was thrown from the temple and then beaten to death in Jerusalem.
James the Greater was beheaded in Jerusalem.
John died in exile on the island of Patmos.
Luke was hanged in Greece.
Mark was dragged by horse until he died in Alexandria, Egypt.
Matthew was killed by a sword in Ethiopia.
Matthias was stoned and then beheaded in Jerusalem.
Peter was crucified upside down in Rome.
Philip was crucified in Phrygia.
Thomas was stabbed to death with a spear in India.

As a detective (and a very skeptical one at that), I don’t necessarily accept all these traditions with the same level of certainty. Some are better attested than others; I have far greater confidence in the history related to Peter’s death, for example, than I have in the claims related to Matthias’ death. But I am still confident these men died for their claims, even if I may be uncertain about precisely how they died.

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