Yeah I know… I haven’t written anything in weeks. The reason for that is that I lack motivation as well as inspiration currently. However this article is pretaining to a subject that I wanted to discuss a long time ago. I was either gonna write it now or not write it at all so I’m writing it now.
There is this one argument in favor of Christianity and the resurrection of Jesus, which seems to be quite popular:
I dupe it the ” Wouldn’t die for a lie” argument. What it argues is that the followers of Jesus in his day were in a unique position to know whether the resurrection indeed happened or not and they believed in it so strongly that they were willing to die for their beliefs. These disciples died gruesome martyr deaths as a result of their conviction.
Now, there are many stabs at the game I could take. One of which would be disputing, that their martyrdom is actually sufficiently established by history. While I do not think that this is actually the case, I want to take a different, more difficult and hopefully more fun approach:
I will concede, though I don’t think this is established, that the disciples did in fact die gruesome deaths that they were martyred as a result of professing Jesus resurrection.
I still don’t think the argument succeeds and here’s why:
I think there are at least 2 assumptions within the argument which aren’t spelled out and which would need to be established:
The first assumption is that the disciples only possible motivation for allowing themselves to be martyred was the bodily resurrection of Christ.
See I’m perfectly willing to accept, that they were martyred. What I cannot accept or at least not accept without a supporting argument is that the motivation for their martyrdom and the only possible explanation was the resurrection.
Let’s look for instance at another motivation which I take to be possible:
Maybe they were sacrificing themselves for their loved ones. Who knows maybe the disciples had children or a wife or whatever and out of love for them they were willing to die for them. Many people are willing to die for their children, why isn’t that a possibility in this case.
Now another apologist might respond with the following:
“Sure Rene, parents die for their children husbands die for their wives. But where is the connection? What plausible scenario do you have, under which there’s a connection with their martyrdom and the martyrs loved ones?”
So allow me to present a scenario:
Right after the events that led to Jesus death and supposed resurrection, the disciples started their church and they started to preach the Christian message. Why would they do that if it didn’t actually happen? Simple: Monetary reasons. The disciples were fishermen and peasants and didn’t make much money presumably. Now, if you start a religion and find adherents to it, then you can make more money and provide a better life for your loved ones. It’s evidently true, that the idea of a man being the son of God and coming back from the dead sells well. After all Christianity is still the dominant religion in the world. So what if the disciples just made it all up, in order to make money off of the people who would come to believe it? Later then, they reached a point where they were knee deep into the story. After all preaching is a full time job. They became financially dependent on their activity and they needed to financially secure their family. The only way to do that, was to continue. If the family is to survive and thrive they needed to continue preaching, even at the risk of their own death. For that they were martyred later.
This is just one scenario which I take to be a possible natural alternative to the resurrection. There might be other explanations but this is one of them.
There is a second assumption though within the argument:
There is the assumption that they were under the impression that had they stopped their preaching and had they recanted their statements that Jesus rose from the dead, they would’ve been spared their fates.
See if they had thought that they were going to be tortured and killed anyways regardless of whether they stopped preaching the gospel or not then they had no motivation at all to stop their activities.
For this argument to succeed the disciples must’ve believed that they actually had the opportunity to escape their fate. But maybe in their mind the damage had already been done. The world and especially the ancient world doesn’t work that way, that once you recant and admit that you lied you can get off scot free especially not after causing so much drama for the state. I mean just imagine the dialogue:
Persecutor: So did Jesus rise from the dead or not?
Disciple: Fine I admit it, he didn’t. We made it all up.
P: Oh in that case you can go. Never mind all the trouble you caused. Have a good one buddy.
D: Thanks, I’ll be on my way then. Gotta bake some cookies for the family. You too!
That is not how it works. When you cause trouble for the state, then it won’t just be forgiven. You will be punished whether you now admit to the lie or not is irrelevant and it’s not implausible to think, that the disciples knew that too.
Hell, maybe they even did recant, though History is silent about it but it just didn’t matter anymore. Maybe they were killed regardless of it.
There is tons more that could be said about this argument and maybe one day I will return to it but I want to end this with one final point:
Believe it or not but there are people out there to whom belief matters more than truth. There are people who will intentionally lie to you, in order to make you hold a false belief which they know to be false but they still think it’s virtuous that you believe it. One famous example are of course the Professional Creationists:
They know that they’re lying to children, they just don’t care. It’s so important to them, that they believe in Creation that they have no problems with it. Some of them know that they are wrong in their worldview but they believe it anyways.
It could be the case that the disciples intentionally lied, because other people believing it mattered more to them than the truth. Likewise if we look at some people today, maybe they even deceived themselves into believing it happened. Maybe they preached the story for so long, that they actually started to buy into it. Convinced as many people can be, conviction in and of itself is not evidence of whether the proposition believed in is actually true.
Goodbye from yours truly,
Rene von Boenninghausen @Renevelation