Saturday, December 5, 2009

Part IV: Who would die for a fraud?

In part III I talked about becoming an Agnostic and in part IV I’ll write about the main idea that convinced me to consider Christianity. This idea surrounds Jesus’ claims about himself and the reaction of the people who followed him.

Jesus made the audacious claim that he is the son of God. These claims drew the ire of the religious establishment in Jerusalem and lead to his crucifixion. His crucifixion became the ultimate test of these claims because if he did not rise from the dead like he said he would then it would have become apparent to his followers that he was either a fraud or delusional. If his death and lack of resurrection proved that he was a fraud then we can expect that his followers would give up and go back to their former lives, and that Jesus Christ would have been forgotten by history, but that is clearly not the case.

In the midst of an incredibly hostile environment, Jesus’ followers rallied. With the might of the Roman Empire and the religious elite of Jerusalem coming down upon them, Jesus’ disciples held to their beliefs. All of Jesus’ 12 disciples but John were executed for proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus, the risen savior. Half of them were crucified, which is one of the most horrific ways to die. These 12 men who had watched Jesus’ ministry followed him everywhere and ate with him. If anyone would have good insight into the claims of Jesus it would have been them. The fact that they endured beatings, torture and execution lends huge credibility to the Bible’s assertion that Jesus rose from the dead and that he is the son of God. If they had lost faith in Jesus then they wouldn’t have died for him.

Suffering for Christian beliefs was not for the apostles alone, members of the early Church suffered for their faith as well. Nero made human torches out of Christians, and having wild animals attack Christians was a part of the bloody spectacle of the Colosseum. The Roman historian Tacitus wrote about the suffering of the Christians and their explosion of activity following Jesus’ crucifixion. In the “Annals” Tacitus writes:
Nero fastened the guilt of starting the blaze and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius 14-37 at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.
Why would this group, who the Romans held to be subversive, risk death for a fraud messiah? The early church withstood the pressure of the Roman Empire and grew. If Jesus would have been a fraud then I believe that Christianity would have died with the man who claimed to be the son of God. Why would all these people suffer for a fake savior?

When I encountered this question that I could not answer I had to seriously consider the claims of Christianity. It was this question that played a major role in pushing me from Agnosticism to Christianity.


  1. Who would die for a fraud?


    That's often what happened to them.

  2. ' All of Jesus’ 12 disciples but John were executed for proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus, the risen savior.'


    Try again, but this time use facts.

    They are always more convincing than legends, lies and myths.

    1. Did they die via persecution or not? Your comments are contradicting each other. According to early church historians:

      --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 dead.
      --Luke was hanged by idolatrous priests on an olive tree in Greece as a result of his tremendous preaching to the lost.
      --John died as an old man, the only apostle to die peacefully.
      --Peter was crucified upside down on an x-shaped cross because he told his tormentors that he felt unworthy to die in the same way that Jesus Christ was crucified.
      --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 Jesus went to during his Temptation.
      --James 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.
      --Bartholomew, 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.
      --Andrew was 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.
      --Thomas was stabbed with a spear (lance) 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.
      --Matthias, 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.

      What is your evidence that this is not true?

      If you say that they willingly died propagating a hoax then why do you think that this is plausible? The idea that someone would not recant a hoax if faced with the threat of death is ridiculous. What could the disciples possibly gain from dying for a hoax. All evidence, which includes the writings of ancient pagan historians like Tacitus, says that the disciples truly believed that Jesus rose from the dead.