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Basic Worldview:
104 Why Christianity?


The Sufferings of Eyewitnesses

Judaism and Christianity Introduction and History
History of Judaism Continued
Scholarly Objections and Historicity of Daniel (P. 1)
Historicity of Daniel (P. 2) & Judeo-Christian Syncretism
A Few Words on Gnosticism
Christianity - A Sect of Judaism (P. 1)
Christianity - A Sect of Judaism (P. 2) & Prophecy in Judaism
Is Jesus the Jewish Messiah? (P. 1)
Is Jesus the Jewish Messiah? (P. 2)
List of Messianic Qualifications & the Resurrection of Jesus (P. 1)
The Resurrection of Jesus (Part 2)
Study Conclusions and Overall Comparisons

Additional Material
The Sufferings of Eyewitnesses
Comparison of Mystical Religions to Judeo-Christianity
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 1)
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 2)
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 3)
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 4)
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 5)
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 6)

Introduction
| Section 1 | Section 2 | Section 3




A quick quote from the Columbia Encyclopedia sums up what we will find in this section.

"Christianity - For 250 years it was a martyrs' church; the persecutions were fueled by the refusal of Christians to worship the state and the Roman emperor." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

Simply put, for the first two and a half centuries of Christianity, to testify of Jesus Christ meant accepting a death sentence. And while for many that death sentence was not enforced, for many others, including the eyewitnesses of Jesus' resurrection, it was. And still, for those put to death and those not put to death, their lives were filled with various forms of persecution, including excommunication, forced exile, confiscation of property, imprisonment, and attempted murder just to name a few.

The willingness of the eyewitnesses of Jesus' resurrection to suffer such things demonstrates their strong conviction concerning the truth of the resurrection. Thus, any historical conclusion about the events of that famous Sunday morning in which Jesus is reported to have risen from the dead would have to include a cause sufficient to produce this kind of enduring belief in the eyewitnesses.

Among the eyewitnesses of the resurrected Jesus we find an assortment of individuals some of who were among the original apostles. We also find in this group Matthias (who replaced Judas), Paul, and Jesus' half-brother James.

The following New Testament passages list who was considered to have witnessed the resurrected Jesus first-hand. We should also note that the New Testament upholds that there were over 500 witnesses of the resurrected Jesus, as can be seen in the passage below.

1 Corinthians 15:3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: 5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: 6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. 7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.

Here in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul states that not only the original 12 apostles were eyewitnesses of the resurrected Jesus, but also all other apostles as well.

Acts 14:14 Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out…

Since Acts 14 lists Barnabas as an apostle, we can conclude that he was among those considered by the early Church to have witnessed the resurrected Jesus. However, it is also worthy of note that Paul also listed James, Jesus' brother, as an eyewitness. And from Acts 1 below we know that Matthias, who was made the replacement for Judas Iscariot, was also considered to have seen the resurrected Jesus first-hand. Additionally, from this same passage in Acts 1, we know that a man named Joseph (or Barsabas) was also a witness of the resurrected Jesus.

Acts 1:21 Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection. 23 And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, 25 That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. 26 And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

The New Testament also records in Acts 7:51-60 that Stephen, (appointed as one of the original 7 deacons in Acts 6:3-6) was both an eyewitness of the resurrected Jesus and martyred for his testimony to that event.

Acts 7:55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, 56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. 57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, 58 And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. 59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.

So, apart from the 500 eyewitnesses, the list of specific men who are counted as eyewitnesses includes all 12 of the original apostles (except for Judas Iscariot), Matthias who replaced Judas, Joseph called Barsabas (who was not chosen to replace Judas), James the brother of Jesus, Paul, Barnabas, and Stephen.


John the Apostle

Of all the original 12 apostles, after Judas was replaced by Matthias, John is the only one who is believed to have died a natural death instead of being martyred.

"John, Saint - He is mentioned occasionally in the Acts of the Apostles, and Paul refers to him in Galatians. According to 2d-century authorities John died at an advanced age at Ephesus (c.A.D. 100)." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"John The Apostle, Saint - John's subsequent history is obscure and passes into the uncertain mists of legend. At the end of the 2nd century, Polycrates, bishop of Ephesus, claims that John's tomb is at Ephesus, identifies him with the beloved disciple, and adds that he "was a priest, wearing the sacerdotal plate, both martyr and teacher." That John died in Ephesus is also stated by Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon c. AD 180, who says John wrote his Gospel and letters at Ephesus and Revelation at Patmos." - Britannica.com

As the quotes above demonstrate, John's death in Ephesus from natural causes or perhaps old age is attested to by two second-century sources, including Polycrates the bishop of Ephesus and Irenaeus, whose teacher Polycarp had been taught by John himself. Yet despite the fact that John was not put to death for his testimony, he did endure persecution, excommunication, and suffering including exile on the Island of Patmos for a time as well as enduring the murder of his brother James. John's exile on Patmos is likewise attested in the historical record by Irenaeus as well as the book of Revelation (Revelation 1:9). And finally, the fact that John was not put to death in no way diminishes his willingness to die. He simply did not arrive at the opportunity to die for his testimony.


The Apostle James

The Apostle James, John's brother, was also persecuted and martyred for his testimony of Jesus' resurrection. As the 2 following entries below demonstrate, he was beheaded by Herod Agrippa I.

"James, Saint (St. James the Greater) - d. c. A.D. 43, in the Bible, one of the Twelve Apostles, called St. James the Greater. He was the son of Zebedee and the brother of St. John; these brothers were the Boanerges, or Sons of Thunder. St. James was killed by Herod Agrippa I." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"James, Saint - James was beheaded by order of King Herod Agrippa I of Judaea; according to Spanish tradition, his body was taken to Santiago de Compostela, where his shrine attracts pilgrims from all over the world." - Britannica.com


The Apostle Peter

The persecutions and violent death suffered by the Apostle Peter are a matter of the established historical record.

"Peter, Saint - A few facts of St. Peter's life are known from 2d-century sources. He apparently left Antioch for Rome c. A.D. 55; there he died, head of the local church, a martyr under Nero. According to traditional accounts he was crucified with his head downward. From earliest times the Vatican hill has been pointed out as the place of his martyrdom." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

Encyclopedia Britannica attests to two early sources describing the crucifixion of Peter.

"Words of John 21:18, 19 clearly allude to the death of Peter and are cast into the literary form of prophecy. The author of this chapter is aware of a tradition concerning the martyrdom of Peter when the Apostle was an old man. And there is a possible reference here to crucifixion as the manner of his death. But as to when or where the death took place there is not so much as a hint." - Britannica.com

Although Britannica discounts legitimate prophecy out of hand, it instead lists John 21:18-19 as an early record attesting to the crucifixion of Peter. Here is that passage from John 21.

John 21:17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. 18 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. 19 This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.

In this passage, which is itself a part of the historical documentation regarding the events of that time, it is said that Peter's death was by crucifixion when he was old. The phrase "thou shalt stretch forth thy hands" is said to "signify what death" Peter would suffer. The idea of a death involving arms outstretched was taken as a reference to crucifixion.

Britannica goes on to say the following.

"The strongest evidence to support the thesis that Peter was martyred in Rome is to be found in the Letter to the Corinthians (c. AD 96; 5:1-6:4) of Clement of Rome: 'Peter, who by reason of wicked jealousy, not only once or twice but frequently endured suffering and thus, bearing his witness, went to the glorious place which he merited (5:4)…To these men [Peter and Paul] who lived such holy lives there was joined a great multitude of the elect who by reason of rivalry were victims of many outrages and tortures and who became outstanding examples among us (6:1).' These sources, plus the suggestions and implications of later works, combine to lead many scholars to accept Rome as the location of the martyrdom and the reign of Nero as the time." - Britannica.com

The above segment from Britannica asserts two items worthy of note. First, Britannica asserts that evidence for the martyrdom of Peter can be found in the writings of Clement, which we will look at momentarily. Second, Britannica's quotation of Clement affirms that not only Peter but Paul and many other early Christians "frequently endured sufferings" for their testimony about Jesus, including "outrages and tortures."

Below we have placed a quote from the same Letter from Clement referred to by Britannica affirming not only the martyrdom of Peter, but of Paul also as well as the other persecutions and sufferings these 2 men and many other Christians endured.

"But not to dwell upon ancient examples, let us come to the most recent spiritual heroes.(11) Let us take the noble examples furnished in our own generation. Through envy and jealousy, the greatest and most righteous pillars[of the Church](3) have been persecuted and put to death.(12) Let us set before our eyes the illustrious(13) apostles. Peter, through unrighteous envy, endured not one or two, but numerous labours and when he had at length suffered martyrdom, departed to the place of glory due to him. Owing to envy, Paul also obtained the reward of patient endurance, after being seven times thrown into captivity,(14) compelled(15) to flee, and stoned. After preaching both in the east and west, he gained the illustrious reputation due to his faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world, and come to the extreme limit of the west,(16) and suffered martyrdom under the prefects.(17) Thus was he removed from the world, and went into the holy place, having proved himself a striking example of patience." - The First Epistle Of Clement To The Corinthians, Chap. V.


The Apostle Paul

The persecutions and violent death suffered by the Apostle Paul are also a matter of the established historical record.

"Paul, the Apostle, Saint - The journey to Rome began in late autumn, but a shipwreck delayed the travelers for three months at Malta, so that they arrived in Rome in the spring of AD 60. There Paul was kept under house arrest for two years awaiting trial. At this point the narrative of Acts closes, and it is left to the reader to guess what happened. As long as the Pastoral Letters were accepted as genuine, their evidence demanded the hypothesis of acquittal, further work in Greece, Asia Minor, and even Crete, before a second arrest, return to Rome, and sentence to death. Now that these letters are recognized to be pseudonymous, there is no reason to suppose that Paul was acquitted at all." - Britannica.com

Britannica is sure to include the debate over the authorship of certain epistles and the relationship of that question to whether or not Paul was acquitted during his first trial and had to be later arrested a second time. (Note: The authors of this article do not agree with Britannica's assessment that Paul is not the author of the epistles bearing his name.) However, Britannica does not extend that uncertainty to Paul's death sentence from Rome. The only question that Britannica records regarding the death sentence from Rome is whether or not Paul received this sentence during his first or a possible second arrest and trial.

"Paul, Saint - Paul was imprisoned (A.D. 60) in Rome but was allowed to conduct his ministry among the Roman Christians and Jews who visited him. Of his final fate tradition says that he was beheaded south of the city, near the Ostian Way, probably during the persecution of Nero. A lesser tradition claims that Paul was released after his first imprisonment and that he went East again, and perhaps also to Spain, before his martyrdom. Some scholars believe that Paul was executed after his initial imprisonment, probably A.D. 62." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

While Columbia Encyclopedia includes two separate accounts of Paul's martyrdom, the only question is when, not "if," Paul was martyred. There seems to be no question that Paul was beheaded in Rome for his testimony of Jesus.

Paul's martyrdom is also attested to by a first-century source, The First Epistle Of Clement To The Corinthians, written in around 96 A.D. As we saw earlier, Peter's martyrdom is also attested to in this work.

"But not to dwell upon ancient examples, let us come to the most recent spiritual heroes.(11) Let us take the noble examples furnished in our own generation. Through envy and jealousy, the greatest and most righteous pillars[of the Church](3) have been persecuted and put to death.(12) Let us set before our eyes the illustrious(13) apostles. Peter, through unrighteous envy, endured not one or two, but numerous labours and when he had at length suffered martyrdom, departed to the place of glory due to him. Owing to envy, Paul also obtained the reward of patient endurance, after being seven times thrown into captivity,(14) compelled(15) to flee, and stoned. After preaching both in the east and west, he gained the illustrious reputation due to his faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world, and come to the extreme limit of the west,(16) and suffered martyrdom under the prefects.(17) Thus was he removed from the world, and went into the holy place, having proved himself a striking example of patience." - The First Epistle Of Clement To The Corinthians, Chap. V.

Also worthy of note is that Clement attests to not only Paul's martyrdom under Roman authorities but to Paul's previous persecutions in which he was thrown repeatedly into prison, forced to flee for his life, and even survived a stoning.


The Apostle Andrew

The information contained in the historical record concerning the Apostle Andrew indicates that he, too, was martyred for his testimony of Jesus.

"Andrew, Saint - in the New Testament, one of the Twelve Apostles, brother of Peter. According to tradition he was a missionary in Asia Minor, Macedonia, and S Russia. According to the apocryphal Acts of Andrew, he was martyred at Patras in Greece. He is said to have died on an X-shaped cross (St. Andrew's cross). He is patron saint of Russia and Scotland. Feast: Nov. 30." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Andrew, Saint - A 4th-century account reports his death by crucifixion, and late medieval accretions describe the cross as X-shaped. He is iconographically represented with an X-shaped cross (like that depicted on the Scottish flag)." - Britannica.com


The Apostle Philip

The information contained in the historical record concerning the Apostle Philip also indicates that he was martyred.

"Philip The Apostle, Saint - He died of natural causes according to one tradition but, according to another, of crucifixion, accounting for his other medieval symbol of a tall cross." - Britannica.com

While Britannica records two separate accounts of Philip's death, one from natural causes and the other from crucifixion, the Columbia Encyclopedia only lists the martyrdom account.

"Philip, Saint, one of the Twelve Apostles - one of the Twelve Apostles. Like Peter and Andrew, he came from Bethsaida in Galilee. He is mentioned several times in the New Testament (Mat. 10.3; John 1.43-51; 6.5,7; 12.21,22; 14.8,9; Acts 1.13). Philip is said to have been martyred at Hierapolis of Phrygia." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.


The Apostle Bartholomew

The Columbia Encyclopedia and Britannica both record that the Apostle Bartholomew died by flaying, which means that he was skinned alive. Britannica also records that in addition to being skinned alive, Bartholomew was also beheaded.

"Bartholomew, Saint - in the New Testament, one of the Twelve Apostles, usually identified with Nathanael. Nathanael is a given name, Bartholomew an Aramaic patronymic meaning 'son of Talmai.' Tradition makes N India his missionary field and Armenia the place of his martyrdom by flaying." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Bartholomew, Saint - The apostle is said to have been martyred by flaying and beheading at the command of the Armenian king Astyages." - Britannica.com


The Apostle Matthew

Information contained in the historical record concerning the Apostle Matthew indicates that he was also martyred.

"Matthew (the Evangelist), Saint - Legend differs as to the scene of his missions and as to whether he died a natural or a martyr's death." - Britannica.com

While Britannica states that there are conflicting reports concerning the death of Matthew, Columbia Encyclopedia simply records that Matthew is said to have died a martyr.

"Matthew, Saint - Matthew is said to have died a martyr." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.


The Apostle Matthias

The Apostle Matthias, who replaced Judas Iscariot, was also martyred according to the information in the historic record. The possible form of his martyrdom may have been either crucifixion or being chopped apart.

"Matthias, Saint - in the Bible, apostle chosen by lot to fill the place of Judas Iscariot. He is said in ancient tradition to have died a martyr at Colchis." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Matthias, Saint - Greek tradition states that he Christianized Cappadocia, a mountainous district now in central Turkey, later journeying to the region about the Caspian Sea, where he was martyred by crucifixion and, according to other legends, chopped apart." - Britannica.com


The Apostle Jude (Thaddaeus)

The information contained in the historical record concerning the Apostle Jude indicates that he was also martyred.

"Jude, Saint - or Saint Judas [Jude is an English form to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot], in the New Testament, one of the Twelve Apostles, also called Thaddaeus. He is thought to have been the son or brother of St. James the Less. It is doubtful that he was the Judas called the brother of Jesus or the traditional author of the Letter of St. Jude. In some passages in the New Testament he is called Judas. According to Western tradition he suffered martyrdom in Persia with St. Simon." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Judas Saint - Legends first appearing in the 4th century credit Simon and Judas with missionary work and martyrdom in Persia (noted in the apocryphal Passion of Simon and Jude)." - Britannica.com


The Apostle Simon

The information contained in the historical record concerning the Apostle Simon indicates that he was also martyred.

"Simon the Apostle, Saint - Nothing further is known about him from the New Testament. He supposedly preached the Gospel in Egypt and then joined the apostle St. Judas (Thaddaeus) in Persia, where, according to the apocryphal Acts of Simon and Judas, he was martyred by being cut in half with a saw, one of his chief iconographic symbols (another being a book). According to St. Basil the Great, the 4th-century Cappadocian Father, Simon died peacefully at Edessa." - Britannica.com


James the Brother of Jesus

James, the half-brother of Jesus (through Jesus' mother Mary), is also reported to have become a leader in the early church and to have been killed for his testimony of the resurrected Jesus.

"James, Saint - This popularity is evident in the Jews' anger when priestly authorities had James put to death, reputedly either by stoning (after Flavius Josephus, historian of the Jews) or by being thrown from a Temple tower (after the early Christian writer St. Hegesippus)." - Britannica.com

While Britannica is sure to include both of the available accounts of how James was martyred, there is certainty that he was, in fact, martyred. The Columbia Encyclopedia confirms the account of the Jewish historian Josephus.

"James, Saint (the "brother" of Jesus) - The Jewish historian Josephus records that James was stoned to death at the instigation of the priests c.A.D. 62." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.


Stephen

Stephen (appointed as one of the original 7 deacons in Acts 6:3-6) is recorded as an eyewitness of the resurrected Jesus and as a martyr for his testimony to that event. Stephen was stoned to death for his testimony.

"Stephen, Saint - Christian deacon in Jerusalem; the first Christian martyr, whose apology before the Sanhedrin (Acts 7) points to a distinct strand of belief in primitive Christianity. His defense enraged his hearers, and he was taken out of the city and stoned to death." - Britannica.com

"Stephen, Saint, Christian martyr - d. A.D. 36?, first Christian martyr, stoned at Jerusalem. He was one of the seven deacons. Accused of blasphemy, he was brought before the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. His speech defending his beliefs further enraged his accusers, who were Hellenistic Jews, and he was taken out and stoned to death." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.


The Apostle Barnabas

The information contained in the historical record concerning the Apostle Barnabas indicates that he was also martyred.

"Barnabas, Saint - He is said to have been martyred in Cyprus." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Barnabas, Saint - Nothing is known for certain about the time or circumstances of his death. Barnabas' alleged martyrdom and burial in Cyprus are described in the apocryphal Journeys and Martyrdom of Barnabas, a 5th-century forgery." - Britannica.com


Conclusion

As we can see, not only were these specific eyewitnesses martyred for the belief that Jesus' actually rose from the dead, but many other eyewitness and Christians died for their belief in this as well. The willingness of the eyewitnesses of Jesus' resurrection to suffer such things demonstrates their strong conviction concerning the truth of the resurrection. Thus, any historical conclusion about the events of that famous Sunday morning in which Jesus is reported to have risen from the dead would have to include a cause sufficient to produce this kind of enduring belief in the eyewitnesses. The most reasonable explanation for why so many men would be willing to suffer such things is that they did not steal the body and knowingly lie about it, but instead they had, in fact, witnessed the resurrected Jesus Christ and were so assured of that experience that they were willing to suffer and die for it.


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