Tag Archives: Apostles

2,000 year later, Gamaliel is still right.

Shortly after they saw Jesus killed on the cross, the Apostles were still in Jerusalem preaching the Good News.  As usual, they are being beaten and jailed for not watering down their message.

Acts 5:27–42 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them.

This is where Gamaliel comes in and makes an interesting observation.

But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice, and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.

And here we are.  The plan and undertaking was of God, and it still advances despite the continued opposition of man and Satan.  And it will keep accomplishing exactly what God wants it to.

And did you see how they rejoiced at suffering dishonor for the name of Christ, and how they did not cease speaking the whole truth?

Did the Apostles Lie So They Could Die as Martyrs?

Short answer: No.

Medium answer: Read the rest of this post.

Long answer: Read Cold Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace, former homicide detective

As a skeptic, I believed that the story of the Resurrection was either a late distortion (a legend) created by Christians well after the fact, or a conspiratorial lie on the part of the original Apostles. It wasn’t until I started working homicides (and homicidal conspiracies in particular) that I decided an Apostolic conspiracy was unreasonable. I’ve written a chapter in Cold Case Christianity describing the five necessary elements of successful conspiracies, and none of these elements were present for the Apostles. But even more importantly, the Apostles lacked the proper motivation to lie about the Resurrection.

My case work as a homicide detective taught me something important: There are only three motives behind any murder (or any crime, or sin, for that matter). All crimes are motivated by financial greed, sexual lust (relational desire), or the pursuit of power.

If the Apostles committed the crime of fraud on an unsuspecting world, they were motivated by one of these three intentions. Most people will agree that none of the Apostles gained anything financially or sexually from their testimony, but some skeptics have argued the Apostles may have been motivated by the pursuit of power. Didn’t these men become leaders in the Church on the basis of their claims? Couldn’t this pursuit of leadership status have motivated them to lie? Wasn’t it a goal of early martyrs to die for their faith anyway?

The Apostles Knew the Difference Between Ministry and Martyrdom
The Book of Acts and the letters of Paul provide us with a glimpse into the lives of the Apostles. The Apostles were clearly pursued and mistreated, and the New Testament narratives and letters describe their repeated efforts to avoid capture. The Apostles continually evaded capture in an effort to continue their personal ministries as eyewitnesses. The New Testament accounts describe men who were bold enough to maintain their ministry, but clever enough to avoid apprehension for as long as possible.

The Apostles Knew the Difference Between a Consequence and a Goal
These early eyewitnesses were fully aware of the fact that their testimony would put them in jeopardy, but they understood this to be the consequence of their role as eyewitnesses rather than the goal. That’s why they attempted to avoid death as long as possible. While it may be true that later generations of believers wanted to emulate the Apostles through an act of martyrdom, this was not the case for the Apostles themselves.

The Apostles Knew the Difference Between Fame and Infamy
It’s one thing to be famous, but another to be famously despised. Some of us have attained widespread fame based on something noble (like Mother Teresa). Some of us have attained widespread fame because of something sinister (like Jerry Sandusky). The apostles were roundly despised by their Jewish culture as a consequence of their leadership within the fledgling Christian community. If they were lying about their testimony to gain the respect and admiration of the culture they were trying to convert, they were taking the wrong approach. The Apostles only succeeded in gaining the infamy that eventually cost them their lives. This was obvious to them from the onset; they knew their testimony would leave them powerless to stop their own brutal martyrdom.

As I examine the motives and consequences related to the testimony of the Apostles, I still find their martyrdom to be one of the most powerful evidences related to the veracity of their testimony.

Think about it for a minute: Twelve designated eyewitnesses travelled the known world to testify to the Resurrection. Not a single one of them recanted their testimony. Not a single one of them lived longer because of their testimony. Not a single one benefitted financially or relationally. These folks were either crazy or committed, certifiably nuts or certain about their observations.