Some have claimed that a broad conspiracy theory took place, in which the disciples stole and hid the body of Jesus in order to tell the world that he had risen from the dead. There’s a simple problem with this, however. Matthew 28:13 refutes the “stolen body” conspiracy theory, by declaring that the soldiers were paid to say the body was taken.
The disciples were willing to die to maintain the resurrection story, and in fact, almost all did. A person might die for a lie as long as they thought it was the truth, but no sane person would die for a lie they made up. If the stories of the resurrection were lies, the disciples would be the most likely to know. The disciples were not insane, judging from their writings. Their approach and persuasion are not that of raving insanity, but of reasonable men. Therefore the disciples were utterly convinced that they had seen the risen Christ.
Beyond this, the disciples had nothing to gain from making up a fictional resurrection account. The disciples were signing their own death warrants by continuing to follow and talk about a executed criminal. The establishment had already proven that they would kill to maintain their power. They even plotted to kill Lazarus previously, as John tells us. (John 12:10) So there was nothing for the disciples to gain by making up this story, except suffering and death. They were poor until the day they died. They were beaten multiple times. They were persecuted mercilessly. Their lives were painful, but they continued to talk about Jesus. Therefore, it is illogical that the story was made up.
Not only did they have nothing to gain, but they had everyting to lose. Emperor Nero was as nutty as a peanut farm. He was responsible for burning a huge section of Rome. Rather than take the fall, he blamed it on the Christians. This sparked a terrible round of persecutions, tortures, and deaths. Most of the disciples (all except John) fell prey to the Neronic persecutions, and were ultimately martyred.
When faced with the option, “stick to the story and be executed, or say you made it up and live.” All the apostles, and many other eye witnesses chose death. They died in horrendous ways.
Here’s a list of the people who gave their lives to prove the story of Jesus was true, most of which were eyewitnesses of jesus. This list is only the ones we have recorded, there were doubtless, many more.
According to Acts
James, son of Zebedee (executed by sword), Saint Stephen (stoning)
According to Flavius Josephus
James the Just (stoning)
According to Christian History
Peter, first attested by Tertullian about AD 200,
Paul, first attested by Ignatius probably about AD 110,
Mark the Evangelist,
Philip the Apostle -
Andrew the Apostle,
Jude the Apostle,
Bartholomew the Apostle -
Thomas the Apostle,
Simon the Zealot.
Perpetua and Felicity,
Ptolemaeus and Lucius,
Pothinus, bishop of Lyon, with
Blandina and several others, the “Martyrs of Lyon and Vienne”
Marcellinus and Peter,
Forty Martyrs of Sebaste,
Ignatius of Antioch,
Saint PancrasSaint Afra,
Saint George, Januarius,
Vincent of Saragossa, Saint Behram, Saint Lucy,
Lawrence of Rome,
Catherine of Alexandria,
This list proves how many people were completely convinced that Jesus was from God. Notice that many of the people on the list above were eye-witnesses of Jesus. How in the world could they give up their lives, if they had made the story up? The logical answer is that these people were so deeply convicted that the story of Jesus was true, they were willing to be tortured and killed. Taking A more broad stance we could ask, "Couldn't The Disciples Have Made Up The Whole Story Of Jesus?"
I read a great quote on this subject recently. It went something like, “this debate is only happening online. There are no serious NT scholars that give this theory any time.” Although I don’t think this is entirely true, and it is beginning to spill out into somewhat scholarly circles, most of the arguments are being made by bloggers, and non-scholars.
I don’t mean this to be rude. I just mean to say that there is a level of respect that we should have for those that have devoted decades to the study of antiquities, as opposed to someone that pulls tidbits from Wikipedia and cobbles their own version of what happened together to try to bolster the sales of their self-published books.
The silliness of the Christ Myth propaganda is this. It implies that we should use a different method to determine if Jesus was historically real, than any other historical figure. If the Mythicists (as they are called) had their way, they would have us use the historical method for all other established historical figures, except Jesus. I insist that we use the same Scholarly Historical approach in examining the historicity of Christ as we do to examine the historicity of Julias Ceasar, or Gangus Khan, or your great great Grandfather. By that tried-and-true method Jesus historically existed. Using the scholarly approach that gives us historical confidence that all the other ancient history is true- Jesus historically existed. If you feel the need to make an isolated historical approach for Jesus – that’s fine. Just don’t try to pass it off as THE historical method.
For those of you that can see the connections, I’d like you to read this ancient quote. I believe it’s talking about this very issue (and others of course).
“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”
Please be intellectually fair. Please have the decency to actually read the source material. Please don’t deny that you believe in Christ if you’ve never read his story. There are so many people that want to deceive you with bad historical methodology.