by Grant R. Jeffrey (from his book "The Signature of God") Some
atheists have suggested that the disciples, during the decades following
His death, simply invented their accounts of Jesus. These Bible critics
say that the disciples, in an attempt to enhance His authority, then
published the story that Jesus claimed to be God and was resurrected.
Any fair-minded reader should consider the historical evidence. First,
the apostles were continually threatened and pressured to deny their
Lord during their ministry; especially as they faced torture and
martyrdom. However, none of these men who spent time with Jesus chose to
save their lives by denying their faith in Him. Consider this
hypothetical situation: Suppose these men had conspired to form a new
religion based on their imagination. How long would anyone continue to
proclaim something they knew was a lie when faced with lengthy tortures
and an inescapable, painful death? All they had to do to escape
martyrdom was to admit they had concocted a lie and simply deny their
faith and claims about Jesus as God. It defies both common sense and the
evidence of history that anyone, let alone a group of twelve men, would
persist in proclaiming a lie when they could walk away by admitting
that it was a fraud.
Yet, history reveals that not one of these
men, who knew Jesus personally, ever denied their testimony about Him
despite the threat and reality of imminent death. This proves to any
fair-minded observer that these men possessed an absolute unshakable
personal knowledge about the truth of the life, death, and resurrection
of Jesus. Each of the apostles were called upon to pay the ultimate
price to prove their faith in Jesus, affirming with their life's blood
that Jesus was the true Messiah, the Son of God, and the only hope of
salvation for a sinful humanity.
Most of our information about
the deaths of the apostles is derived from early church traditions.
While tradition is unreliable as to small details, it very seldom
contains outright inventions. Eusebius, the most important of the early
church historians wrote his history of the early church in A.D. 325. He
wrote, "The apostles and disciples of the Savior scattered over the
whole world, preached the Gospel everywhere." The Church historian
Schumacher researched the lives of the apostles and recounted the
history of their martyrdoms.
Matthew suffered martyrdom in
Ethiopia, killed by a sword wound.
Mark died in Alexandria,
Egypt, after being dragged by horses through the streets until he was
Luke was hanged in Greece as a result of his tremendous
preaching to the lost.
John faced martyrdom when he was boiled
in a huge basin of boiling oil during a wave of persecution in Rome.
However, he was miraculously delivered from death. John was then
sentenced to the mines on the prison island of Patmos. He wrote his
prophetic Book of Revelation on Patmos. The apostle John was later freed
and returned to serve as Bishop of Edessa in modern Turkey. He died as
an old man, the only apostle to die peacefully.
crucified upside down on an x-shaped cross, according to church
tradition because he told his tormentors that he felt unworthy to die in
the same way that Jesus Christ had died.
James the Just, the
leader of the church in Jerusalem, was thrown over a hundred feet down
from the southeast pinnacle of the Temple when he refused to deny his
faith in Christ. When they discovered that he survived the fall, his
enemies beat James to death with a fuller's club. This was the same
pinnacle where Satan had taken Jesus during the Temptation.
the Greater, a son of Zebedee, was a fisherman by trade when Jesus
called him to a lifetime of ministry. As a strong leader of the church,
James was ultimately beheaded at Jerusalem. The Roman officer who
guarded James watched amazed as James defended his faith at his trial.
Later, the officer walked beside James to the place of execution.
Overcome by conviction, he declared his new faith to the judge and knelt
beside James to accept beheading as a Christian.
also know as Nathanael, was a missionary to Asia. He witnessed to our
Lord in present day Turkey. Bartholomew was martyred for his preaching
in Armenia when he was flayed to death by a whip.
crucified on an x-shaped cross in Patras, Greece. After being whipped
severely by seven soldiers they tied his body to the cross with cords to
prolong his agony. His followers reported that, when he was led toward
the cross, Andrew saluted it in these words: "I have long desired and
expected this happy hour. The cross has been consecrated by the body of
Christ hanging on it." He continued to preach to his tormentors for two
days until he expired.
The apostle Thomas was stabbed with a
spear in India during one of his missionary trips to establish the
church in the subcontinent.
Jude, the brother of Jesus, was
killed with arrows when he refused to deny his faith in Christ.
the apostle chosen to replace the traitor Judas Iscariot, was stoned
and then beheaded.
Barnabas, one of the group of seventy
disciples, wrote the Epistle of Barnabas. He preached throughout Italy
and Cyprus. Barnabas was stoned to death at Salonica.
apostle Paul was tortured and then beheaded by the evil Emperor Nero at
Rome in A.D. 67. Paul endured a lengthy imprisonment which allowed him
to write his many epistles to the churches he had formed throughout the
Roman Empire. These letters, which taught many of the foundational
doctrines of Christianity, form a large portion of the New Testament.
details of the martyrdoms of the disciples and apostles are found in
traditional early church sources. These traditions were recounted in the
writings of the church fathers and the first official church history
written by the historian Eusebius in A.D. 325. Although we can not at
this time verify every detail historically, the universal belief of the
early Christian writers was that each of the apostles had faced
martyrdom faithfully without denying their faith in the resurrection of
Reference: Jeffrey, Grant R., "The Signature of
God", Frontier Research Publications, Inc. (1996), p.254-257
Jeffrey's book "The Signature of God" can be ordered from GRANT R.
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