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Bending To The Truth

Disciples Of Jesus

Taking A Byte Out Of Lies

Speaking out about Jesus meant the disciples risked being tortured, even killed. Why didn't they keep silent? Something had to change these men in a way that was not natural. Most people would protect themselves from death. People would Hide or run from those who wish them harm. What was it about these men, and many more, that made them different from others of their time? First let's look at the men who were called by Jesus to be his disciples.

Each of the 12 apostles left families and careers, often traveling alone to distant countries, declaring that Jesus died and came back to life. For proclaiming Jesus' resurrection, they were beaten, imprisoned, and all but one were killed in torturous ways.



  1. 1.Andrew - crucified
  2. 2.Bartholomew - beaten then crucified
  3. 3.James, son of Alphaeus - stoned to death
  4. 4.James, son of Zebedee - beheaded
  5. 5.John - exiled for his faith; died of old age
  6. 6.Judas (not Iscariot) - stoned to death
  7. 7.Matthew - speared to death
  8. 8.Peter - crucifed upside down
  9. 9.Philip - crucified
  10. 10.Simon - crucified
  11. 11.Thomas - speared to death
  12. 12.Matthias - stoned to death

(source: Fox's Book of Martyrs)

Did they have any basis for declaring this? Yes. It is undisputed that after the crucifixion of Jesus, the tomb was empty three days later, just as Jesus' predicted. The controversy focuses on what became of Jesus' body? Some say that Jesus' disciples stole his body and concocted a story that he rose from the dead. However, if the disciples made it all up, each of them allowed himself to be executed -- for what they knew to be a lie. It doesn't make sense. Would you die for something you knew was a lie?

What does make sense are the historical facts. Jesus had been humiliated, beaten, whipped, nailed to a cross, where he died on display before the public. A spear was thrust into his side just to make sure he was dead. He was buried in a stone tomb, with Roman soldiers to guard the tomb, assigned by the religious establishment who feared an attempt to steal the body. But on the third day, the guards had fled, the tomb was open, and the only remaining evidence were the burial clothes inside the tomb, laying there empty.

Starting that day, the disciples said they saw Jesus physically alive multiple times. So had hundreds of others. They had lengthy conversations with him and ate with him -- all after witnessing his death by beating, crucifixion and spearing. When ordered not to speak about Jesus' resurrection, they responded, "We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard!"

These disciples risked their lives to speak out about what they had no doubts about -- that Jesus had risen from the dead, proving that he was everything he claimed to be...the Son of God.

What Skeptical Scholars Admit:

On June 26, 2000, ABC aired a documentary called The Search for Jesus. The network's leading news anchor, Peter Jennings, interviewed liberal and conservative scholars of early Christianity about what we can know historically concerning Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. The series ended with a striking statement by New Testament scholar Paula Fredriksen, who is not a Christian herself.

Commenting on the post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus, Fredriksen said:

I know in their own terms what they saw was the raised Jesus. That's what they say, and then all the historic evidence we have afterwards attest to their conviction that that's what they saw. I'm not saying that they really did see the raised Jesus. I wasn't there. I don't know what they saw. But I do know that as a historian that they must have seen something.

She's admitting, in other words, that the best available historical evidence confirms that followers of Jesus like Mary Magdalene, his brother James, Peter and his other disciples, and even an enemy (Paul) were absolutely convinced that the crucified man Jesus appeared to them alive, raised from the dead.

Fredriksen is not alone in supposing that these followers must have seen something. Virtually every Bible scholar across the Western world, regardless of religious background, agrees that Jesus' earliest followers believed he appeared to them alive. This is what launched the world's largest religion. As a result of these appearances, Jewish fishermen began proclaiming to crowds in Jerusalem that "God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it" (Acts 2:32). Two thousand years later, the message of Jesus' death and reserection is still the heart of a great Faith in God.

What do you think? You will hopefully never be executed for believing in Jesus like the first disciples were, but you can become just as sure of the truth of his resurrection, and understand why it mattered so much to these twelve men. Click here to learn more about Jesus and the facts supporting his resurrection: What Is The Big Deal About Jesus?.

Paula Fredriksen

A Professor at Boston University, since 2009 and has been a Distinguished Visiting Professor of Comparative Religion at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, she also holds two honorary doctorates in theology and religious studies. She has published widely on the social and intellectual history of ancient Christianity, and on pagan-Jewish-Christian relations in the Roman Empire. Her latest study, Paul: The Pagans' Apostle (2017), places Paul's Jewish messianic message to gentiles within the wider world of ancient Mediterranean culture.

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The Search For Jesus Part-7

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