The Core Facts: A New Boldness

A wise mind would go find some wisdom over at Proverbial Thought!

To keep up to date, do not forget to go back and read the first two Core Facts that show why Christianity is based on truth and reason: Jesus’ death on the cross and the despair of the Disciples. I give my usual reminder that this is not meant to be an exhaustive study of the arguments, but these posts are primers to get you thinking. If you are interested in a more in-depth look at these points, look up my wonderful youth pastor, Jesse Bollinger, at Fervent Youth.

Now for the third of The Four Core Facts:

The Change in the Disciples’ Willingness to Die

I feel I must first verify for everyone that there were indeed more than 11 or 12 Disciples as evidenced by Jesus appointing 72 to go on a short-term mission (Luke 10) and 120 meeting in “the upper room” between Jesus’ ascension and Pentecost (Acts 1:15). You see, the Twelve Disciples were Jesus’ inner circle, His closest friends entrusted with leading the fledgling Church after His ascension.

And now, we should start with the obvious: Why were the Disciples willing to die?

They firmly believed they had seen the Risen Lord.

Jesus was not just another man. He made the impossible claim that He is God (John 10:30). Jesus backed up this claim through various miracles …

… the ultimate miracle being that He was beaten, crucified, died, and buried, and rose back to life.

The Disciples were convinced they saw Jesus risen from the dead, and that gave them the confidence they needed to willingly face death for the sake of the Gospel.

This change is more than just a willingness to die. This needs to be understood.

People of many beliefs are willing to die for what they believe. That cannot be denied. September 11, 2001 is enough evidence for Americans, and many nations around the world see evidence of this deadly devotion many times a year if not every day.

There are a couple of differences with they young Church. The Disciples had a passion to share the news that Jesus had risen from the dead. They taught a radical message that required change in all who believe.

Just like the Western world today, people in the Roman Empire had an understanding that you could believe anything you wanted, just do not try to tell anyone they are believing wrongly. If you did, you were clearly wrong and must be stopped.

The Disciples started a new revolution of love for all people, no matter how old or young, rich or poor, color, nationality, or societal stance. But it was also a revolution of needing to change yourself: your habits, your thoughts, and especially your beliefs; in other words, that everyone was essentially wrong.

They knew the consequences: Deny your teachings or risk imprisonment, torture, and even death.

This means the Disciples went from a group of cowards who ran away from punishment to not shying away from the threat of suffering and death.

As I said two weeks ago in my fourth point, it would have been easy to stop the early Church from growing beyond several dozen or several thousand people.

If the Disciples had stolen Jesus’ body, most if not all of them would have cracked under torture and the threat of death and admitted to the removal of the body (which Jews would not do, because touching a dead body made you ceremonially unclean … very non-kosher).

If the Disciples had suffered from mass hallucination, all the authorities would have had to do is open the tomb and show them the body and snap them back to reality … or at least stop new converts rather handily.

If the Jewish and/or Roman authorities had stolen the body … THEY COULD HAVE PRODUCED THE BODY!

Did you notice a trend?

The Disciples becoming so bold in the face of the most powerful forces in the known world is not a trivial matter.

The crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth can not be credibly denied.

The Disciples despairing after Jesus was led away is and understandable truth.

The change in the Disciples to endure pain and death for a belief that Jesus was who He said He was and had risen from the dead only helps to prove that Jesus really is the risen Son of God.

It also helps explain the fourth of the Four Core Facts: The Conversion of Saul/Paul

Are there any other thoughts? Is there anything to add?

  1. Too bad these facts are overlooked by so many. Great post.

  2. Why is one of the Core Facts the Disciples’ willingness to die if…its not just that they were willing to die?

    You’ve brought up a good point but failed to explain it fully. I would have been interested to read if Jesus had any traits consistent with that of a personality cult.

    After all, it took many years before the writings of the new testament were completed. Probably around 70 years conservatively in fact. And, people didn’t live that long in the first century. Most of the first-hand witnesses of Jesus would have been dead 50 years before people were done writing the new Testament. So, it is entirely likely that the majority of NT books are second, or even third (or greater) accounts as opposed to eyewitness accounts. It was even common in those days to write under the name of their leader. So, Mark wasn’t necessarily written by Mark, for example. In fact, that tradition (attributing Mark to Mark) didn’t start until well into the 2nd Century.

    Anyway, back to the original point…is it really that impossible that Jesus created a personality cult? He rallied just enough people to follow him…who squabbled among themselves and stayed largely static for the next couple centuries. Then, Christianity got the boost of the millennia: It was made the official religion of the largest empire the world had ever known. That tends to spur an idea along!

    You can read what a PhD in New Testament and Early Christianity studies has to say here:

    And if we’re going to go down the road of legitimacy based on outcomes, we should really start considering Islam. It’s done pretty well for itself (complete with people, convinced Mohammed was a messenger of God, killing themselves or otherwise allowing themselves to be killed).

    • First of all, thank you, Andrew, for your patience in waiting for my reply. It has been busy around here!

      To answer your first point, as I explained at the beginning of this post people are willing to die for a lot of things. What many of us fail to realize is that being willing to die included being willing to suffer, because First Century Christians would have known that a quick death probably would not have come for them. Between crucifixion (the worst punishment), being boiled in in oil and/or water, or being fed to beasts in an arena; and stoning, beheading, or thrown from a height, which these last few are relatively quick, the odds of a quick death were low. Someone willing to die would also have to be willing to suffer!

      Jesus was definitely a great personality. Personality cults have followers who strive to be like the leading personality. In that sense, there are great similarities. However, if Jesus truly is God come to Earth, then there is no other personality worth emulating! Many passages, including the books of Ephesians and Philippians, discuss this.

      In terms of when the New Testament was written, it is logical to assume, using generally accepted rules, that the Gospels and most of the rest of the NT were written within 40 years of the Crucifixion. This is because nowhere in the New Testament is the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple even mentioned. If the authors, especially Luke, were so keen on marking historical events and persons, why would there be no mention of this? (Such as, “(This was before the Temple was destroyed)”, as was done in Luke 1, for example, by listing who was ruling Judea)

      The Apostles or their followers could easily have still been alive if this is true. For starters, the average lifespan may have been somewhere between 25-50 years (depending on the area a person was living), but this statistic tends to include the higher infant mortality rates. If 1000 one-year-olds die for every three 75-year-olds, that would signifcantly alter the final stat. (This is one reason why Western life expectancy is higher than most other nations) Further, because Jews had healthy diets mixed with regular hand-washing (which was not common in the West until only a few hundred years ago), they tended to live longer than the average non-Jew.

      Even if the Gospels were second- or third-hand accounts (though most believe them to be first- (Matthew, John) or second-hand (Mark, Luke)), these would have been stories shared thousands of times by those who were with Jesus. Seeing as this was a culture that memorized hundreds of pages worth of writings through recitation and near-meticulous accuracy, it is not hard to fathom these writings to be accurate in such a relatively short span of time. It must also be remembered that John is said to have lived to about the age of 90, so he would have most likely been alive when the other three Gospels were written. Also, he trained Polycarp who trained Irenaeus. Both of these men would have therefore been able to confirm with confidence who wrote which Gospel, hence seeing in increase in proliferation of references to Mark (probably Peter’s most trusted disciple) writing Mark.

      With Islam, it must be remembered that most of its early growth came out of conquering an area. That did not happen with Christianity for several hundred years, in other words the opposite of Islam.

      Having been to a couple Islamic nations and knowing others who have been to or lived in Islamic nations, many if not most (more than 50%) of Muslims throughout Africa and Western Asia are Muslim because the government says they have to be (local through national government). I think that since Rome (Roman Catholicism) became more limited in governing power during the time of the Reformation and afterward was good for the Church overall. That ended or began the end of State sanctioned (forced) belief, and we are able to see easier who are true believers.

      It is better to have a choice than to be forced. When forced, something good may not be as sweet. That should be easily agreed on.

  3. [Deleted per commenter’s wishes]

    • I understand the issue, Andrew! When I have more time, I will give a proper response later! As requested, the other comments are deleted.

      I look forward to our discussion!

  4. Thanks, Dan! I’m looking forward to it as well. Have a great day!

  1. August 28th, 2012
  2. September 4th, 2012
  3. September 9th, 2012
  4. October 2nd, 2012
  5. October 25th, 2017

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