Martyrdom does not establish truth

Martyrdom does not establish truth August 15, 2008

I was on the sidewalk in a college town with a group of friends, passing out tracts, talking to people about Jesus and giving away free sodas. A student had just said, “I just don’t think Christianity is true. What proof is there?”

“Well there’s the Bible, of course,” I replied, “But one of the most powerful testimonies to the truth of Christianity is that early Christians were willing to die horrible deaths and undergo torture for their beliefs. Why would they be willing to do that if their beliefs were not true?”

I used that argument quite a bit. It seemed airtight. Who would submit to a horrible death for something that wasn’t true?

But it’s a bad argument, as Robert Green Ingersoll shows:

All the martyrs in the history of the world are not sufficient to establish the correctness of an opinion. Martyrdom, as a rule, establishes the sincerity of the martyr — never the correctness of his thought. Things are true or false in themselves. Truth cannot be affected by opinions; it cannot be changed, established, or affected by martyrdom. An error cannot be believed sincerely enough to make it a truth. (source)

The willingness of someone to die for a belief is not proof of its truth. For example, terrorists who blow themselves up or die in battle do not establish the truth of their beliefs. And believers of all religions have been martyred: Stephen and Paul for Christianity; Sumayyah bint Khabbab and Husayn ibn Ali for Islam; Guru Arjan Dev Ji for Sikhism; Siyyid`Alí Muḥammad for Bahá’í; the list could go on endlessly.

Does this make all religions true? Of course not. It shows that all martyrs are devoted enough to their religion to die for it.

So it is a useless argument. It can be used as evidence for all religions, and thus it supports none of them.

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  • Brent

    But the early Christian disciples died for what they claimed to have seen–a resurrected Jesus. That’s a bit different than dying for a belief or opinion. Just under a dozen people were all killed for the same reason. Either they made some insane vow together, they had a mass hallucination, or they actually saw Jesus alive again. Is there another reasonable explanation I should consider?

    I realize, however, that this is not ‘proof’. As a Christian, I’m irritated by other Christians who claim something as a proof of their faith. All any of us have (Christian, atheist, or whatever) are the things we observe or experience and our conclusions about them. Hopefully, we strive to be intelligent and respectful about it.

  • @Brent: Thanks for your comment. I don’t see the difference between people dying for what they claimed to see or claimed to believe. They’re all sincere enough to die for their beliefs.

    Your premise is based on the assertion that the Bible is a reliable guide to what really happened. I don’t believe that, though I once did, and have no reason to think it is. It’s full of mythic miracles without a bit of evidence. We know these stories were written many decades (at least) after the events happened. There are no contemporary writings in Jesus time of anyone claiming they saw him or did any miracles.

    For all we know, the apostles were never martyred. But if they were, that doesn’t make Christianity true. It just means they really believed in the teachings of Jesus. My point is, ho hum, so did all the other martyrs in all the other religions.

    Every religion thinks theirs is an exception to this.

  • Reminds me of the Terry Pratchett moment from “Mort”. Mort shows up to collect the soul of an executed criminal, whose shade is reading a ghostly bit of paper:

    “I was per-se-cu-ted for my be-liefs”

    “What beliefs were those, exactly?” replies Mort.

    “All dwarfs needed a damn good kicking, in my opinion.”

    All one needs to know is that if you believe god will stop your fall and step off a cliff, then you are quite likely to die for your beliefs. But that makes them no more correct.

  • I think you have misunderstood the argument as it is used by some Christians. The only thing the argument was intended by most to prove was that the apostles sincerely believed what they died for. That, coupled with the fact that they were in a position to know about Jesus, is evidence.

    The more important thing to explain is why a group of first-century Jews was willing to give up their deeply held beliefs and embrace Christianity in the first place. It’s not just their deaths that beg for explanation; it’s their lives as well.


  • Brent –

    “But the early Christian disciples died for what they claimed to have seen–a resurrected Jesus.”

    OK, but did those early Christian disciples who supposedly witnessed the ressurection even exist? If they didn’t, then nobody died for anything.

  • If martyrdom proved a religion was true then we’d all be Muslims. Nothing like a good suicide bombing to make you feel the love of god.

  • Jonboy

    @ Daniel Florian

    First of all, sincere thanks for keeping your site so civil. Tempers tend to flare hot on the internet, and it’s nice to have a well-intentioned, level-headed person running things.

    I have a question for you. Do you think the gospels (and Acts), Josephus’ Antiquities, etc. are forged, inaccurate, wrongly attributed, or written too long after the fact to be reliable? The textual history attached to many of these documents is well within normal standards for determining authorship with a fair degree of certainty. Consider the identification of Shakespeare’s plays.

    Interested to hear what you think. The textual history of the Bible has always seemed pretty solid to me, although it gets an awfully bad rap nowadays.

  • @Jonboy: That’s a hard question to answer concisely. I would point you to Ehrman’s “Misquoting Jesus” for the stance I take on biblical reliability. But to sum it up quickly, I think the Gospels and Acts are not forgeries, but were not written by eyewitnesses. They are too late. Mark, Matthew, and John do not claim to be written by eyewitnesses — the names on them were added to the manuscript name, as the manuscripts are not signed. And of course Luke doesn’t claim to be an eyewitness, but admits it is a compilation which was based on Mark, like Matthew.

    We know there are a number of manuscript additions (Mark 16, and John’s story of the adultery are two that come to mind) that are in our bibles now and should not be in there at all.

    And of course we don’t have anything near the original manuscripts, so it’s hard to know what was modified early, which is when they would have been modified the most as the myths were taking shape.

    Josephus is not a forgery. There is one passage that scholars think is a manuscript insertion/change, but he probably did say something about Jesus. But that’s not actual evidence of anything other than Jesus probably existed. He’s just reporting that some people followed Jesus. He didn’t see miracles or anything.

  • @JK: I don’t think I’ve misunderstood the argument — I’ve read it many times in apologetics books, have heard many people use it, and have used it myself.

    What would the point be in proving the sincerity of the martyrs? Does anyone believe that martyrs are not serious about their beliefs? Of course they are, otherwise they wouldn’t be martyrs! If that was the point of that argument, it would never be used at all, because nobody’s disagreeing.

    Regarding explaining why some first-century Jews would be willing to leave Judaism and start a new sect, I suppose you could ask that about every single religious and ideological offshoot in history. It happens all the time. Why did so many people leave Christianity to start their own sects, from Mormonism to Jehovah’s Witnesses to Seventh-Day Adventism? Every religion has many sects that shoot off. And these people devote their lives, their incomes, and their families to the cause. Do their lives have to be explained as well?

  • Bob

    Daniel –

    “What would the point be in proving the sincerity of the martyrs? Does anyone believe that martyrs are not serious about their beliefs?”

    I’ve always heard this argument used to prove that the Apostles didn’t ‘fake’ the resurrection. If Peter was going to be jailed or even killed for his faith and he knew that Jesus’ body was buried in Mary Magdeline’s root cellar, wouldn’t he ‘fess up’?

  • EKM

    There is no historical record of the deaths of any of the apostles. The accounts of their martyrdom are folklore, although they are plausible.

  • @Jonboy:

    In the case of Shakespeare there is a clearly-delineated coverup by the people who cannot stomach the idea of being members of the Royal Bacon Company.

  • Mark Andrew Hamilton

    I must agree with Brent here. If I tell somebody I am God and then they go and die for that belief, that in no way provides evidence that I am God. But if I died and then rose again, and people were there either to see that I did so or I didn’t, and they died for that belief, then there’s incredibly strong evidence for its truth. Muslims die for their belief that they heard from somebody else. Christian martyrs do that today as well, and, as far as I can see, that’s not evidence. But contemporaneous martyrs are a different story. If it had been a sham why would they have traveled to so many places and, most especially, died for their beliefs?

    Blessings on everybody.

  • Mark Andrew Hamilton

    My other question is why would even one person die for something that they know not to be true? Granted, it is traditional that ten of the apostles died, but let’s say only five of them did. Would that make those five deaths less effective evidence or less proof, or even if only one of them died? Suffice it to say that so much tradition relates to this, at least one, and probably many, many more, if not all ten, actually did die for their beliefs in the resurrected Jesus.

    Blessings on everybody.

  • bipolar2

    . . . let’s see that must mean no “real” martyrs in islam, judaism . . . buddhism? It’s all fiction.
    Try read Michel Onfray. The Atheist Manifesto. Jesus is a literary construct.

    ** Those not with us are against us. (Luke 11:23 NIV) **

    It was Apollo on his temple at Delphi who advised “gnothi seauton”, know yourself. He also said “nothing in excess.” Two admonition xians never have learned to follow. Socrates, according to Plato, claimed “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Xianity, once examined, isn’t worth believing or living.

    Xian intolerance and self-righteousness were traits noted with distaste by Romans two thousand years ago. (See R. Wilken. The christians as the romans saw them. Yale Pr. 1984)

    The new religion appealed to poor, uneducated, displaced people pushed into swarming slums in the eastern roman empire. With Jerusalem destroyed and the province of Palestine subjugated in 70 CE, thousands of anti-roman jews escaped into Antioch, Ephesus, Corinth, Alexandria, and Rome where there were already jewish enclaves.

    Cults of Jesus appealed to marginalized jews and pagan malcontents who wanted a world cleansed of roman occupation, who hoped for a religious military leader, who wanted revenge.

    First among them appears Paul of Tarsus, an apostate hellenized jew, whose letters to xian cells are considered “holy writ” even today. Paul fashioned a mythical being of cosmic proportions. Christ would return from an otherworldly reality to purify his believers, destroy the roman empire, and bring about a magical end of the world.

    In short, Paul and his fellow revenge seekers created a god sharing their nihilistic values. He and the primitive church had a perverse self-understanding:

    27 God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things, and the things that are not, to nullify the things that are. . . .” 1Cor1:27-28 NIV

    Xianity still appeals to those who believe themselves mistreated. To those in whom resentment surges. To those who must blame others. To those who must punish their guilty selves. Xianity is practical nihilism.

    Directed inward, hatred of self. Directed outward, hatred of others and the world.

    Xianity is also highly addictive nihilism. The ‘New Testament’ is pure christo-myth.

    bipolar2 © 2008

  • B-Girl

    An important thing to remember, the bible is just a book, written by people. It alone cannot be proof of its own truth. Just because the bible says that somebody witnessed something with their own eyes, does not mean it happened. I could write a book saying the FSM came to me and touched me with his noodley appendage. Would my writing that make it the truth 2000 years from now? I tried to be a christian when I was a young child, because I thought I was supposed to be one, even though my family did not attend church. I tried to believe and pray, but it never felt right. By the end of 2nd grade, I started leaving the “under god” line out when we said the Pledge of Allegiance in school, though I don’t think I used the term atheist or agnostic to describe myself until high school.

    • Quote: “I could write a book saying the FSM came to me and touched me with his noodley appendage. Would my writing that make it the truth 2000 years from now?”

      No, but if that “touch” was affirmed by hundreds of eyewitnesses, and if people who would be in a position to know better were willing to die, by the thousands, because they knew your claim was positively true, then you might actually be making a truthful claim. Couple that with the appearance of the Spaghetti Monster being predicted and precisely fulfilling hundreds of prophesies written hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of years before you were born, and you might really be on to something. But, if you added to that evidence a Flying Spaghetti Monster that demonstrated the ability to be victorious over man’s most feared enemy. . . death, you would almost certainly earn at least the right to be seriously considered, not dismissed without real study and thoughtful inquiry.

  • mark

    First off, people should read up on some of the scholarship around the Nag Hammadi findings. They give a broader perspective on the variety of religious texts surrounding the figure of Jesus. Elaine Pagels has done some very good work explaining this in her books “The Gnostic Gospels” and “Beyond Belief”. Another interesting read I have on my shelves is “The Lost Gospel: The Book of Q and Christian Origins” by Burton L. Mack. Among other things it has a chronological cross-referencing of early Christian sayings and their consistent phrases/teachings versus anomalous ones. This also shows the way the Christ narrative progressed and evolved over the few centuries after the dated crucifixion of Christ. Apparently, some of the more miraculous claims came later, if memory serves.

    Regardless, as has already been stated, none of the existent primary documents available can be directly attributed to the original disciples, as they are dated too far after the time that Jesus was said to have walked the earth. Instead, they can be attributed to particular lineages of the disciples and in the case of the gnostic writings, to various gnostic groups such as the Valentinians.

    Additionally, considering the nature of spiritual teachings at the time and oral teaching, it is very likely that philosophers and religious leaders of the time used mythos to convey “secret” teachings of an introspective and psychological nature as well as to demonstrate larger natural patterns in the world which were considered divine. So, even if there was a figure named Jesus who lived around the said time, there is no guarantee that those teachings are literally true. And, i would like to argue that if they are not literal historical events, they are more significant in their meaning than if they were. At least that’s my perspective.

  • Horus. If you don’t know who Horus was, go look it up. Horus was invented 1000 years before there was the myth of Jesus.

    Horus did EVERYTHING Jesus did – virgin birth, star in the sky, wise men, lost until 30, crucified, rose again. I mean, the WHOLE thing. 1000 years before Jesus.

    Is it easier to believe that someone imagined Jesus, and then gave him these mighty powers that were attributed to another god 1000 years ago? Or that one tiny being in one tiny corner of the galaxy was the son of god, and that we all go to hell if we don’t believe in him?

    • Except that not one, single credible scholar believes the Horus story is substantially similar to the story of Christ. These are interpolations and superimpositions onto the story by a minority of atheists who are too sloppy to consider actual evidence that is far more helpful to their cause.

      • LRA

        Jeff- that is total BS and you know it. Resurrection cults were a huge part of Mesopotamian religions– Egytptians, Semitic peoples, and Greeks had them. Do yourself a favor and google it.

        Your religion is not special. It didn’t pop into existence fully formed. It evolved from other religions. Vorjack just posted an interesting article on God’s wife– Ashera. The archaeological evidence is against you. Your book is mythos.

        • Since I have an actual education in the field I didn’t need to “Google it.” You are simply incorrect if you are inferring that such predecessors were substantially similar. What few similarities exist are too common to be sociologically meaningful as historical precedents. For example if I record that my children have green eyes that is true whether or not you can point out that generations of their ancestors also did.

          As regards the Horus story, I stand by my previous statement, and here’s what I found when I “Googled” it, as you suggested.

          • rodneyAnonymous

            What does a theological education make you an expert on?

            • I have claimed no expertise, although I am well-versed in a number of subjects, and familiar enough to converse about several others. In what area do you consider yourself an expert?

              To you question, my degree concentration was in comparative religions, and I have studied (both during and after) most of the seminal and pertinent works, and much of the history surrounding the formation and offshoots of the major religions of the world. My study is ongoing and also includes a fairly good grasp of scientific and historical apologetics.

              I’ve read most of the books on the reading list for this blog. I lecture in colleges, universities, schools of theology and churches, and I’ve held my own in more than a few debates over the past 30 years.

              I suspect that, along with $4.50, this will all get me coffee at a Starbucks. I don’t have a Ph.D., or any university (or higher) level training in science, but I have read books such as “Mankind Evolving,” by Dobzhansky and works by Stephen J. Gould, etc. I am a lifelong learner.

              I assume that the purpose of your question is to denigrate such learning, however you seem to value it if it leads someone to the same erroneous conclusions you have made. So, by your standards, I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t, if I don’t conclude that belief in god is a useless construct.

              I suggest to you that that’s a horrifyingly impoverished, and intellectually bereft approach.

            • rodneyAnonymous

              I don’t think I have expertise in anything. I have no post-graduate degrees. I am not qualified to argue about biology with a biologist or archaeology with an archaeologist. A doctorate in theology would leave my qualification to do these things unchanged. Expertise of religion is not relevant.

              There are people who say “There’s a reason it’s called faith!”, people who know it’s irrational — smart people, educated people — who believe anyway. Then there’s people who try to make belief in God logical, claim it’s rational, try to paint it as reason… that is despicable.

            • Rodney,

              Those people are simply wrong. Belief in God is faith grounded in evidence. Christianity is based on an historically verifiable event, which is the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Evidence doesn’t take us all the way, because we still have to vote, as members of a jury of one, whether we will accept where the evidence is leading. Also because God leaves us with the option of rejecting Him, which few rational people would do if the evidence was airtight and indisputable, He doesn’t make it patently unavoidable. He loves to be freely chosen and will not force Himself on anyone.

              Thanks for calling me despicable. I won’t need any help on that definition.

            • Rodney,

              Why do you kick against the goads? You can’t shut up the deep inner witness with all of this posturing and venom. He still died for you. . . probably would have done it if you were the only one who needed it. . .loves you that much.

              As offensive as I guess you try to be, I hurt for you, but I’m never offended. I am so imperfect, full of pride, sin and just plain meanness sometimes, but He takes me just like that. He made you. He died for you. He has every right to snuff us out, or let us live. We either accept Him and love Him back, or we are ungrateful and disobedient, but we don’t have a third option.

              We don’t get to say, “No you can’t punish me. That wouldn’t be fair, since I didn’t believe in You.” He’s left enough inner witness of Himself in you, me, and others, so that we truly know better, and He will do what’s correct, right and just.

              The arguments on this forum won’t stand up as evidence in His court, because He knows what’s deep inside each of us. The Scripture reads, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” Even the infinity of space helps us comprehend, with our finite minds, a God who is infinite, with no beginning and no end.

          • Roger

            You do realize the link you provided is a wee bit biased, what with the “Accept Jesus” up in the header.

            • rodneyAnonymous

              The main page defines “apologist”.

            • I didn’t see it, so I’ll give you the definition.

              From the Greek (transliterated) Aplogia – An Apologist is one who gives a rational defense of their faith.

              Is that about what you thought?

            • rodneyAnonymous

              Yes, my mistake, it defines “apologetics”, not “apologist”. Right after a Bible verse. You don’t understand why that is significant; all sources are equally biased one way or the other, right?

            • rodneyAnonymous

              Just out of curiosity, did you know evolution is fact? Humans definitely evolved from man-like primates, all life on earth definitely shares common descent, etc. The only question is exactly how, though we do have a pretty good idea.

            • And?

            • If I stipulated to that, which I do not, it would have bearing how, in your world?

            • rodneyAnonymous

              It better explains your worldview, thank you.

              For the record, biological evolution is certain as gravity, certain as the earth revolving around the sun, certain as water containing two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. There is corroborating evidence from many disciplines, including biology, paleontology, geology, chemistry, embryology, and comparative anatomy. There is no disagreement in the scientific community. There are no competing theories.

              Keep in mind that “theory” is the gold-standard of certainty in science; there is no official label for something more certain. “Law” is an informal adjective and is rarely used by actual scientists. A hypothesis is a guess. A theory is a well-tested hypothesis. No doubt implied. If you drop an apple, it falls toward the center of the earth, which is a fact; this falling behavior is explained and predicted by the theory of gravitation. Theories explain facts. Evolution is both a fact (in the sense of what happened) and a theory (as in the modern synthesis of ideas of exactly how it happened).

        • QUOTE: “The archaeological evidence is against you. Your book is mythos.”

          “It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference. Scores of archaeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or exact detail historical statements in the Bible. And, by the same token, proper evaluation of Biblical description has often led to amazing discoveries.” – Dr. Nelson Glueck

          “The reader may rest assured that nothing has been found [by archaeologists] to disturb a reasonable faith, and nothing has been discovered which can disprove a single theological doctrine. We no longer trouble ourselves with attempts to ‘harmonize’ religion and science, or to ‘prove’ the Bible. The Bible can stand for itself.” – Dr. William F. Albright, eminent archeologist who confirmed the authenticity of the Dead Sea Scrolls following their discovery

          “There can be no doubt that archaeology has confirmed the substantial historicity of Old Testament tradition.” – Dr. William F. Albright, Archaeology and the Religions of Israel. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1956, p. 176.

          “The excessive skepticism of many liberal theologians stems not from a careful evaluation of the available data, but from an enormous predisposition against the supernatural.” – Professor Millar Burrows (Professor of Archaeology at Yale University)

          Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of facts trustworthy; he is possessed of the true historic sense…In short this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.” – Sir William Ramsey (archaeologist)

          Come on. Let’s not make this like shooting fish in a barrel.

          • rodneyAnonymous

            Dr. Nelson Glueck – rabbi

            Dr. William F. Albright – Biblical scholar, founder of the Biblical archaeology movement

            Millar Burrows – degree in divinity, professor of Biblical literature

            Sir William Ramsey – chemist, good source for chemistry, not sure where “archaeologist” came from, not an authority on whether Luke is a credible historian

            Fish in a barrel? You’re shooting with a grenade launcher.

            • rodneyAnonymous

              I’d be interested to learn whether any evidence that supports the story told in the Bible has been found by someone who wasn’t looking for evidence that supports the story told in the Bible.

            • I’m pretty sure that most people who develop an interest in the archeology of Palestine do so for a reason, and most of the world is Jewish or Christian, so you’re discounting a lot of scholarship there. All of these gentlemen were imminently well-qualified scholars and archeologists. I’m not sure what you’re looking for. I take that back. Like me, you’re mainly looking to dominate with your viewpoint and annihilate competing ones.

              The difference is that I consider the scholarship of naturalists, agnostics and atheists to not be corrupt merely on the basis of their non-belief, but I think you may not be affording theists the same courtesy.

            • rodneyAnonymous

              The difference is


            • rodneyAnonymous

              Then find a neutral source :)

            • rodneyAnonymous

              …unless “doesn’t agree with me” equals “biased”, in which case you’re unlikely to find a source that is neutral and unbiased.

            • Sorry, not familiar with ORLY. Is it an acronym? Can you enlighten me? I’ve already given you sources that are neutral. What I believe about God, or whether I believe there is a god shouldn’t color my science. The evidence is what it is.

              Do you also question the ability of a brain surgeon who is a Theist? Where do you draw the line? I suspect you are fairly arbitrary, but I’m just curious if you would admit to that.

            • rodneyAnonymous

              No, but I would question a theologian’s expertise on brain surgery.

              No doubt you will find this answer unrelated to be beside the point.

            • rodneyAnonymous

              erm, unrelated

            • Quote:

              “…unless “doesn’t agree with me” equals “biased”, in which case you’re unlikely to find a source that is neutral and unbiased.”

              Honestly, help me see how you can say that and not apply it to yourself. Am I missing some nuance of tone where this is just self-deprecating humor on your part?

              When the pertinent experts in a particular field are Xian, or believers in general, are they immediately discounted and marginalized for you? When you narrow your list of authorities to less than 10% of the world’s population, your sample may be too small to arrive at any meaningful real truth.

              Rice University sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund released a survey in June of 2005 that declared that two-thirds of all scientists believe in god. This, by the way, was not what she had expected to find, but I don’t mistrust her findings because of her alleged bias. I guess you do though?

              Therefore, since you have no real interest in a fair hearing for the evidence, you cannot be convinced. Your mind is closed, and worse still, so is your heart. Yet God not only exists, He’s not even sick, or the least bit weak. He’s almighty, all-powerful and all-loving.

              You apparently esteem free thought, but it’s not free to roam far outside of your jurisdiction, or what you deem “acceptable” is it?

            • rodneyAnonymous

              I don’t mistrust her findings because of her alleged bias.

              Nope, I mistrust it because it disagrees with the other half-dozen or so surveys of this sort that I have seen, and also because this study was funded by the Templeton Foundation. These sources do make a very good show of being reputable, though; I can’t blame you for not being able to tell the difference.

              Looking into it a bit more. “Two-thirds of all scientists believe in god”? Hah. Same survey:

              When asked whether they believed in God, nearly 34% answered “I do not believe in God” and about 30% answering “I do not know if there is a God and there is no way to find out.”

              Another misleading part of that claim (36% is huge! even if you discount the 30% that claimed agnosticism) is that religion is most popular among mathematicians, and least popular among biologists.

              Scientists whose discipline is some facet of how reality works are least likely to believe in a god. There are some that know it doesn’t make sense but do anyway. But they are wrong, I guess, eh?

    • Okay, let’s see.

      Re: Horus Story

      Virgin Birth – Nope, it’s not any part of the original myth (i.e. B.C.)
      Star in the sky – ditto
      Wise men – Sorry that one’s false as well
      Lost until 30 – Neither one, so far as I can tell. Jesus began His public ministry at 30, but He was never lost.
      Crucified – Just Jesus
      Rose Again – A swing and a miss.

      Sorry, but you’ve taken the word of a source that is not credible.

      • Daniel Florien

        And you think the virgin birth was originally part of the Jesus myth? It’s not in any of the early sources either!

        • Daniel,

          No, I do not, but I was responding to someone who does. And you are technically incorrect. It was not prophesied per se’, but it is in the gospel narrative.

          • Daniel Florien

            Not the early gospels — only Luke.

            • And in Matthew 1:18-20. Admittedly that’s only two of the four, so it wouldn’t pass muster with the Jesus Seminar folks, but I’m fairly certain she was a virgin.

              I guess I have ignorant Christians to thank for even the simplest statements having to be defended on my part.

              I’m trying hard not to get “off topic” on this thread. As you well know I’m bad about that. I should have not taken the Horus bait to begin with, so I asked for it. When will I learn?

      • Quote:

        “Scientists whose discipline is some facet of how reality works are least likely to believe in a god. There are some that know it doesn’t make sense but do anyway. But they are wrong, I guess, eh?”

        Actually it can be argued that there is no more precise, exacting, more “real” science than mathematics. Most of the rest can be nothing much more than supposition and conjecture, a strong and useful hypothesis. In fact we know of several theories (which I’ve previously pointed to) that have been scrapped just in our relatively short life times. As I’ve also stated, I am an evolutionist as far as it goes, but it just doesn’t go far enough, in my opinion, to explain the myriad convincing evidences I find for God.

    • As is germane to this discussion it is not easy to believe that someone imagined Jesus because thousands of people were indeed martyred, in many cases for their steadfast belief that, after spending substantial blocks of time with Him, He was 1) The perfect, sinless Son of God and Messiah, and 2) Resurrected from the dead.

      I know of no other time in history where such a significant number of people would all be deceived while resting their faith on empirical evidence such as being eyewitnesses to a resurrection, and empty tomb, miracles and hundreds of prophecies that were fulfilled in minute detail. Certainly, many religions have been founded on a myth, but not when empirical evidence could have been easily marshaled to prove the founders wrong.

      There was simply not enough time between the events and the establishment of this huge, prevailing and pervasive church for a myth to take hold with such overwhelming influence and power.

  • Mark

    It’s just a god damned myth! Quit discussing it like it like any of it actually happened. Cheese and rice cotton hill.

  • Adam

    Martyrs die for their belief! Muslims, Jews, millitants or whoever. They all die for what the believe is right. No martyr dies for what they know to be false. No young man joins the army to fight for a country they believe is in war over the wrong issues. Which brings us back to the desciples. Did they die for what they knew was right or did they die what they knew was wrong? They didn’t die for a belief! They died for what they knew to be a fact! So did they die for a lie or for the truth?

    • rodneyAnonymous

      They died for what they knew to be a fact!

      They died for what they believed to be a fact.

    • Adam,

      You wrote, “Martyrs die for their belief! Muslims, Jews, millitants or whoever. They all die for what the believe is right. No martyr dies for what they know to be false.”

      But that is the crucial difference that you have failed to deal with. I AGREE with you, yet those who were alive to witness the resurrection and subsequent appearances of Jesus were among the thousands who died for it, and if it was a lie they knew it. Hence another convincing piece of evidence suggesting Jesus is who He says He is. First century Christians would have been dying for what they knew was a lie. . .unless we upend the paradigm and admit they were possibly dying for what they knew was concretely, absolutely true.

    • Adam,

      Whoops. My bad. I see you are making substantially the same argument I am.

  • cypressgreen

    @ Adam
    “” Martyrs die for their belief!…They didn’t die for a belief!…
    They died for what they knew to be a fact! “”

    So which is it?

  • To me the distinction (which is not the least bit subtle) is that people in 1st century Palestine were willing to die for a lie, knowing it was a lie, if indeed Jesus was not risen. We’re not just talking the Apostles here any way. Other credible historical sources note the fact that Christians were put to death for their belief in a risen Christ. In fact in many cases all that would have been necessary to avoid the penalty would be a recanting of the belief.

    This has always been one of the strongest arguments supporting at least the genuine nature of the primary catalyst for the development of Xianity, i.e. the resurrection of Jesus.

    • Roger

      Just because people were willing to die for a belief is in no way confirmation of the veracity of that claim. These other credible historical sources do not point to a resurrection, but to the belief of the followers in the resurrection, which itself is not substantiated in any historical texts or sources.

      • Well Roger that’s just not so, and besides that, if these people who would have been in a position to know with certainty whether it was a lie, were willing to die for it, most of the rational thinking world would think that constitutes some pretty serious evidence.

        Now, to be sure, you must couple that with a trust (faith). . . a kind of willingness to take God at His Word, but if evidence of that quality is insufficient for you, you need to at least be honest with yourself and admit your mind is closed, regardless of and in spite any evidence, past or future.

  • Rodney,

    Yes, I understand your world view. I didn’t need the primer, but I guess I appreciate it. It just seems to be the height of hubris that you think that anyone who disagrees with you is, therefore wrong. I’m in substantial agreement with you on evolution but I don’t think that. I have listened thoughtfully to myriad sides and have come to the tentative conclusion that all of them are wrong on some things, but, and I guess we may be different here, I don’t feel as if I know who is wrong on which points.

    Maybe I’ve lived longer (I don’t know your age) but I’ve been around long enough to see consensus in the scientific community change at least a dozen times on some fairly major issues. When I was a child in the sixties, for example, we were very concerned about the threat of another ice age, i.e. global cooling. I remember it distinctly. We thought that would be “man made” too, as the various pollutants would block the suns heat from the earth. This was not just a few quacks, but a plurality of scientists from around the world.

    I guess you’re also aware that there are now some serious challenges to Einstein’s theory of relativity. Who knows how much longer that will be the majority opinion?

    I’m definitely not as full-blown on evolution as you are, because I think a “Common Designer” framework is a plausible explanation for much of the observable phenomenon and certainly for the fossil record, but I subscribe to descent with modification and survival of the fittest. I also fail to see how they do any harm to sacred Scripture.

    • rodneyAnonymous

      I’m definitely not as full-blown on gravity as you are, because I think an “Intelligent Falling” framework is a plausible explanation for much of the observable phenomena.

      • I’m chuckling here, but you do understand the difference right? One model actually does justice to the evidence and fits the scientific model and criteria, while the other is a cute but ineffective stab at ridiculing my well-reasoned position.

        I’m just being honest about what I believe, and why the evidence has led me to these (admittedly temporary and tenuous) conclusions. I don’t ridicule you and say, “Wow I can’t see where you get that, are you stupid or somethin’?”, even though since I’m so familiar with the arguments of Creationists I could probably effectively argue their position as well, or better than you can your own. But do I stoop to ridicule? Well, sometimes if poked hard enough with your sharp verbal stick.

        • rodneyAnonymous

          I am quite serious. Perhaps it is not I who fails to see the difference.

          • Then I’m not sure how to diagnose you. It’s not low IQ is it? I should think not. You have basically good syntax and a reasonably large and useful vocabulary. It could be as simple as a stubborn streak. That’s sometimes hereditary. Are either of your parents “know-it-alls?”

            • Francesc

              Considering a magical being as a “plausible explanation” is, however, contagious.
              Did your priest believed in an imaginary friend?

  • AnonyMouse

    People may have died for Jesus, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that they died for a Jesus who was born of a virgin, died, and was resurrected. They could have died for a political revolutionary who was executed for his “dangerous” ideas. It would not be for the first time – philosophers and their followers have often been considered a threat to established society.

    • Well that would be a convenient out, but the crux is still the resurrection. If Christians would just admit that they had not witnessed Him alive, nor seen His empty tomb, they could still subscribe to His revolutionary ideas without being martyred. The state appears to have been interested in stifling a god rival to the state, not a political dissident. If we know anything of political, social history in first century Rome, Jerusalem, et al, we know that.

  • JS Jones


    Where is it written or how is it established by fact that the exact circumstances of the Apostles’ deaths were all because they were specifically preaching the truth of the ressurrection? As many have established, there’s is precious little evidence that these men were actually killed by anyone. Asserting that they were killed because they failed to renounce the truth of a specific event which they witnessed and wrote down is a pretty big stretch.

    • If you read my posts I am not positing the Apostles in this mix at all, even though it can be reasonably assumed that if the leaders of the movement had caved, then the rest of the followers would have been at least somewhat more reluctant. It is a well-known historical truth that a) Jersualem was where over 500 eye witnesses resided. It is also firmly established that b) the god claims were what infuriated some of the powerful Jews and what made the state acquiesce to their badgering. There is substantial credible evidence that c) many of these people were martyred. After all, who would you go after first – the ones who say, “What a lovely story,” or the ones who claim to be eye witnesses to the establishment of that tale?

  • JS Jones

    Sorry, still a stretch. You know, I’ve never heard many Christians come up with a good explanation as to why the 500 alleged witnessess are mentioned only in the Bible. Not a single one of these 500 thought it worthwhile to pen an account of seeing a man who everyone knew was dead. Which of course brings up the point of why 500 people would actually know what Jesus looked like since there were no photographs or anything.
    Then of course, one would have to ask, why is it that Jews living in that city at that time (even the Pharisees who awaited a saviour) continued to believe that there was no resurrection. Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard the whole liberate them from the romans thing. But that’s kind of lame. Surely somebody rising from the dead is far more significant than whether or not you THOUGHT that this same person was supposed to liberate Israel.
    Then of course, there’s the question of why ancient Israelites interpreted a prophecy to predict liberation, and we do not, and somehow they are the ones who are wrong, and not us.

    Alot in there, but basically.. What gives a Christian the right to interpret events in a way that is contradictory to the way some people present in that city in that time did.

    After all, they were there, and modern day Christians were not. Surely Christians do not think that they have more accurate evidence to believe than an early 1st century occupant of Jerusalem?