Why would the apostles lie?

I read one response to this question on your site and found it to be very unconvincing. I sensed as I read it , that even you atheists were not really convinced of the power of your arguments. To compare lying to save the lives of loved ones (in war time for example) with lying about a hoax when all you have to do is admit it is a hoax, is ridiculous. You said they wanted people to believe Jesus rose from the dead without explaining why or how this advantaged anyone who chose to believe it. People were persecuted and murdered for this belief. Why would an apostle who knew the whole story was a lie ,place his family and friends in mortal danger by trying to convince them it was true?
Atheist Answer: 

This is what I get for taking the road less travelled.

The original question is here. As I began to say at the end of it, you have to assume certain premises before this discussion is even relevant:

- Jesus and the apostles actually existed and knew each other.

- Jesus was indeed crucified or otherwise publicly executed, or at least shown to be dead.

- The apostles genuinely knew whether the resurrection had happened.

- At least some of those original apostles were really martyred for saying Jesus was resurrected.

Available extra-Biblical circumstantial evidence for any of the above is sparse and contested to the point where many non-Christians hearing this question will demand more before even considering it. To see what I mean, follow the link in the other question to the forum where it first came up.

Confident that the evidence angle is thoroughly covered for the time being, I thought I'd examine whether the conclusion is valid even if one accepts the premises. I still don't think it is, because there are circumstances in which the apostles reasonably would lie and die for it. Even if my argument falls flat on its face, though, it's hardly the last remaining line of defense against this apologetic chestnut.

You say I didn't explain how Christianity benefited the first Christians. Are you implying that there is no earthly benefit to being a Christian if Christians are few and persecuted? Fine, if a Christian thinks so then I won't argue, but these particular Christians had a plan. They saw ahead to a time when other people, and the people in charge, and the entire society around them would be Christian too. Then it would be wonderful to be a Christian. Life would be so much better than when nobody was, because Jesus's teachings would help them all to live in harmony.

A Christian's loved ones shouldn't be limited to his or her family and friends. Jesus' message was supposedly to love everyone, even one's enemies. If the apostles had abandoned their story even to protect their own families and friends, it would have been selfish compared to their ultimate earthly goal: spread Jesus' teachings to the four corners, make everyone a Christian and, possibly well after they were all gone, bring about a new age of peace and happiness. It was a gift to the whole world.

If people will give their lives for a cause, as they regularly do, then it only takes the right cause to bring them to give others' lives as well. Christianity, whether or not it was based on a real resurrection, was such a cause as the widespread martyrdom shows. Even for the long-term earthly goals alone, Christianity's founders would have thought it was worth all the horrendous sacrifice.

One more time, that's if any of this happened at all.

- SmartLX


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iens's comment

(The following was a new question by iens. I've converted it into a comment here since we're still on the same subject. I encourage people to favour comments over questions because formatting actually works in comments. - SmartLX)

Wow! And atheists accuse Christians of believing in fairy tales! Let me get your answer to my question "Why would the apostles lie?" straight. According to you, a group of poor, illiterate, humble fishermen, after witnessing the bloody death of the man they had followed and adored decided to concoct a "plan." They decided to make up a story, a lie, and tell all of their friends and anyone else willing to listen that Jesus rose from the dead. This would mean a life of hardship, physical and verbal abuse and then a violent death...but.. these boys were thinking long term. As they wandered about the dusty roads of Jerusalem dodging stones, they were thinking hundreds of years ahead. Lets tell this lie so one day, millions of people will become christians and be nice to each other. Are you serious? By the way, if the apostles were so willing to spread lies about Jesus after his death, why were they cowering in a hiding place days after he was killed? What transpired in the week following which caused these timid, frightened , broken men to become courageous, confident proclaimers of Jesus' resurrection? As for your opening speil on the doubts about the actual existence of Jesus and the Apostles, if you want to be taken seriously, surely the notion that these people never existed has been consigned to the bin for "the last desperate roll of the dice propositions." If any other idea in the scientific world for example, had as much support from the science fraternity as the belief in the existence of Jesus and the apostles did in historians' circles it would be used as proof of the truth of that theory. Using your logic I could claim that the theory of evolution is false because there is a small fringe group who still believe in creationism. Both secular and religious historians have no doubt about Jesus being a real person who walked the earth by all the criteria used to verify historicity. Anyway, back to your fairy tale. You are meant to provider rational responses aren't you. Will you now try to give one?

Pete Apostlethwaite

I never thought I'd be the one defending the apostles against a Christian, but that's the way this cookie is crumbling.

Iens, "Are you serious?" is not a refutation. It's ridicule, which is not the same thing. It's not even good ridicule, because you're painting events in a way neither of us thinks is likely.

The apostles were poor, sure, and they made a point of being humble, but if they were illiterate they didn't stay that way. At least four of them eventually wrote Gospels (if indeed it was them). They had brains, they had a purpose and they had one heck of a leader to inspire them.

If the apostles had any doubts whatsoever about Jesus' ability to resist arrest and prosecution, or any inkling of his willingness to submit to it, they wouldn't have waited for his capture to plan for the future. Jesus, knowing as he must have that the soldiers would one day come for this upstart Messiah, would have planned with the apostles, or at least tried to prepare them for his absence.

The apostles never intended to actively and immediately offer their lives like Jesus did (except maybe Peter when he cut off the soldier's ear in Gethsemane). They might have accepted that their actions would one day get them killed by someone or other, but they did each try to live as long as they could without compromising their message. The period immediately after Jesus' death was a particularly dangerous time when even their own disillusioned followers might have come for them, so I don't blame them for hiding.

To re-emerge and survive in the public eye they needed a positive message, a new rallying cry. If they came up with the story in their desperation, or they had it ready in advance, or even if it really happened, the Resurrection was that message. The other followers, bitterly disappointed by Jesus' death, would have been desperate for a way to bring back the hope he represented. Suddenly the Messiah was back, in (Holy) spirit, and the Romans could never catch him again. Brilliant.

If you don't buy the idea that the apostles simply wanted to make the world a better place, there are other motivations we could look at. Take the simple idea of a legacy: their names went down in history along with that of Jesus. People endanger themselves to get famous all the time. I'm trying to assume the very best intentions, but I might not be so trusting. Can you really think of no other earthly reason for these penniless nomads to want to be part of a lasting legend?

The apostles did pretty well in the end: not counting Judas, the first death of an apostle was eleven whole years after the Crucifixion. (It was James.) Others held on for thirty or forty years. They had to, to write the Gospels. That was a good, long life in those days. It wasn't all suffering and persecution. It would seem that some of the general benefits of the spread of Christianity trickled down to some of them while they were still alive, which would have been gratifying.

As I must regularly say, the evidence for either your or my version of this story is barely there, if that. It's true that those who think Jesus didn't exist at all are in the minority, but there's a dearth of support for any of the actual events in his life. There's no legal record of his trial, for instance, and no physical evidence or location for his tomb. (Christians were the first to rip James Cameron a new one when he thought he'd found it.) Same goes for any given apostle.

That said, I think I've reasonably justified the apostles' supposed behaviour in a scenario where Jesus stayed dead. (Any third opinion on this is welcome.) If I'm completely off track, then it's the fault of my own lack of imagination and someone with a better understanding of human nature may improve on my ideas. To insist that it happened one way and that any other way is ridiculous or impossible, without citing evidence one way or the other, is to invite unlimited attempts by all comers to imagine alternatives. And that's before you take into account that your way involves magic.

why would the apostles lie?


Jesus' apostles (disciples) did not write the gospels.Some of the gospel writers spoke to the disciples as eyewitnesses but they did not write anything. Hence,the humble, illiterate fishermen line.

I know.

Thanks, I'm aware of that. There is a persistent belief nonetheless that at least some of the Gospels, like John's, were written by the apostles themselves. That's the traditional view of all Gospels, and how well it has survived depends on which one you're talking about.

The apostles' lifespans, however, are the subject of considerably less debate. If they lived, then some lived for a long time and had ample opportunity to educate themselves.

That is not true. Matthew

That is not true. Matthew and John were both apostles of Jesus. Mark collected his account like a reporter from Peter.


If you say so.

If you say so, then fine, I stand corrected: Mark's account isn't first-hand even if you believe the others are.