I was challenged recently to provide historical evidence of the martyrdom of the apostles. I was slightly discouraged to find that extra biblical sources are scarce. It seems agreed upon by scholars that Peter, Paul, and James suffered persecution for their faith. But is there reasons to believe that the other apostles had similar fates beyond just church tradition? The reliability of the Gospels seems to hinge somewhat on the persecution of early Christians. But is it possible that persecution is exaggerated or outright fabricated by the church?
@Neil_Hass Great question Below is an article on this topic from cold case Christianity that I believe you will find helpful.
In addition to the historical evidence, you must remember that it was around the time of Christ that the imperial cult arose and the Roman emperor began to be revered as a kind of deity (an anti-Christ). Look at any totalitarian government whose leader is given god-like veneration and you will find people who persecute Christians. These type of governments use nationalism / leader-worship to manipulate the people and therefore see the belief in a God who is bigger than the government as a threat to their rule. We see that from OT times (Pharaoh/Nebuchadnezzar) right through down to modern history.
So it is unsurprising that Rome would have persecuted Christians.
Is it possible that some accounts of persecution are either mistaken or fabricated? Sure. But that does not negate the overwhelming evidence for persecution and the fact that it is a rational result of the colliding of Roman imperialism and Christian devotion to Christ.
The evidence for the early persecution of Christians is robust, including the 1st Century Biblical record, the 1st and 2nd Century Christian non-Biblical record, and the accounts of ancient 1st and 2nd pagan historians and writers. Like any cumulative case, the strength of this evidence is compounded by the diversity of the sources. Is the early persecution of Christians simply a myth created by Christians to advance the cause of Christianity? Those who propose such a theory must account for the following:
The records of persecution originate over the entire course of Christian history, from New Testament era to the 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation of Christian believers
- The records of persecution originate in geographically diverse locations
- The records of persecution originate in culturally diverse Christian communities
- The records of persecution originate from both Biblical and non-Biblical authors
- The records of persecution originate from both Christian and non-Christian authors
- The records of persecution were unopposed by ancient objectors
Thank you SeanO! I should have thought to check cold case christianity myself!
@Neil_Hass Sure thing Christ be with you as you share His love and truth with others!
Thanks so much for this …
@Andrea Sure thing Christ be with you.