The Apostle Martyrdoms.


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The Apostle Martyrdoms


By Abdullah Smith




How do we know the apostles were martyred? The New Testament does not tell us how the apostles died. The Church historian Eusebius of Caesarea records that the apostles were martyred in different parts of the world, these early Church traditions are based on legends. Scholars acknowledge that Eusebius was a propagandist who presented fables as facts, he promoted lying and deceit.


The martyrdom accounts are conflicting. The following website exposes the contradictory legends on false traditions:

  Andrew: Martyrdom by crucifixion (bound, not nailed, to a cross).

  Bartholomew (Often identified with Nathaniel in the New Testament): Martyrdom by being either 1. Beheaded, or 2. Flayed alive and crucified, head downward.

  James the Greater: Martyrdom by being beheaded1 or stabbed2 with a sword.

  James the Lesser: Martyrdom by being thrown from a pinnacle of the Temple at Jerusalem , then stoned and beaten with clubs.2

  John: Died of old age.1

  Jude (Often identified with Thaddeus in the New Testament): Martyrdom by being beaten to death with a club.2

  Judas: Suicide.1

  Matthew: Martyrdom by being burned, stoned, or beheaded.1

  Peter: Martyrdom by crucifixion at Rome with his head downwards.1

  Philip: Martyrdom.2

  Simon: Martyrdom by crucifixion.1 or being sawn in half.2

  Thomas: Martyrdom by being stabbed with a spear.2  (Source)


Strangely, the earliest accounts date from the 3rd century, they are preserved by Origen of Alexandria (d. 250), and he recorded the same traditions that were later transmitted to Eusebius of Caesarea (d. 340).

The tradition of apostles' martyrdom goes back at least to the beginning of the third century. In his third commentary on Genesis, Origen of Alexandria (ca. 185-254) writes that the apostles divided up the work of evangelizing the world between them—Peter, for example, took Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, and Bithynia, and at "the last came to Rome, and was crucified head-downwards; for he requested that he might suffer thus." According to Origen, other apostles went elsewhere; Thomas was assigned Parthia (today's India), and John was given "Asia."

Scholars debate as to where Origen picked up his information—some argue that he drew from the roughly contemporary Acts of Thomas, an apocryphal book relating Thomas' adventures as a missionary in India. That book states that Jesus' original 11 disciples "divided the countries among them, in order that each one of them might preach in the region which fell to him and in the place to which his Lord sent him."

But there are other sources to consider as well. Eusebius (ca 260-341) wrote perhaps the most complete history of the apostles, though he merely quoted other bishops for his authority. Acts 12: 2 tells us, for example, that Herod Agrippa had James, the brother of John, executed. To this, Eusebius adds the story told by the bishop Clement of Alexandria (d. ca. 215)—Origen's mentor—that "the person who led James to the judgment-seat was moved when he saw him bear witness, and confessed that he himself was also a Christian."

Or take the death of Philip, which bishop Polycrates of Ephesus (130-196)—again via Eusebius—wrote that Philip "has fallen asleep in Hierapolis, [as have] also his two daughters who grew old in virginity." It's debatable whether Polycrates actually meant Philip was martyred, since he also mentions that the apostle John "has fallen asleep at Ephesus." (Tradition has it that John died peacefully in his old age, after being returned from his exile in the island of Patmos.) (online Source)

The website concludes the “reliability” of these traditions because they were based on oral traditions!

Are these sources reliable? Can Christians stand on the testimony of these early church fathers to make the case for these martyrdoms? We can, if we accept that in the first couple centuries of the church, much of the Christian story was passed on by word-of-mouth, and bishops of the church would guard these stories zealously—especially with heretical sects threatening the church.


This is ridiculous, a desperate attempt by Christians to solve the dilemma. The process of oral tradition was unstable, open to mythical embellishment:


“…This literature was oral before it was written and began with the memories of those who knew Jesus personally. Their memories and teachings were passed on as oral traditions for some forty years or so before achieving written form for the first time in a self-conscious literary work, so far as we know, in the Gospel of Mark, within a few years of 70 A.D….But oral tradition is by definition unstable, notoriously open to mythical, legendary, and fictional embellishments….


The career of any remarkable person is remembered in oral tradition precisely by being mythicised, connected with certain almost universally known patterns. (Randel Helms, Gospel Fictions, p. 10, 12)


Oral traditions are unreliable. They are not able to be tested against each other, they cannot be proven from history, they can easily become distorted as they are passed along. Common sense should tell us that a thing written is more reliable than a thing spoken.  [1]


Furthermore, the early Church fathers were not honest, they promoted deception. Eusebius of Caesarea (d. 340 CE) is reported to have said: 'It is an act of virtue to deceive and lie, when by such means the interests of the church might be promoted 1.  Jerome, the 4th century Latin scholar also said: “Great is the force of deceit! provided it is not excited by a treacherous intention” 2


Here is what the renowned scholar Lloyd Graham says about the Church fathers: “most ignorant men”


“…All evidence of source destroyed, the Christian Fathers could not substitute their own absurdities. And to substantiate them they altered words and inserted verses that did not exist in the original texts. Celsus, a witness to this falsification, said of the revisionists, “Some of them, as it were in a drunken state producing self-induced visions, remodel their Gospel from its first written form, and reform it so that they may be able to refute the objections brought against it”. On this same subject Massey wrote thus: “They made dumb all pagan testimony against the unparaled imposture then being perfected in Rome. They had almost reduced the first four centuries to silence on all matters of the most vital importance for any proper understanding of the true origins of Christian superstition….It is well known the Christian Fathers were notorious forgers: even the Catholics admit that. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “In all these departments forgery and interpolation as well as ignorance had wrought mischief on a great scale”. (Lloyd Graham, Deceptions and Myths of the Bible, p. 445)


Regarding the martyrdom of James in Acts 12, the Jewish historian Josephus says nothing. In fact, the Roman and Jewish historians do not mention the apostles’ martyrdoms at all!  There is no historical evidence to prove the apostles were martyred, the Church does not realize this. Even scholars are testifying that the “apostles of Christ” were very few.


In the late 2nd century, the Greek philosopher Celsus wrote:


"For in order to remind others, that by seeing a few engaged in a struggle for their religion, they also might be better fitted to despise death, some, on special occasions, and these individuals who can be easily numbered, have endured death for the sake of Christianity. [2] 


Most of the early martyrs of Christianity were Unitarians. The later Trinitarians were not killed as martyrs, but as criminals, drunkards, and fornicators etc.


"... As for the fifth century, Salvianus, a priestly historian, had this to say: "Besides a very few who avoid evil, what is almost the whole body of Christians but a sink of iniquity? How many in the church will you find that are not drunkards, or adulterers, or fornicators, or gamblers, or robbers, or murderers--- or altogether? And we are told Christianity uplifted the race, rid the world of pagan sin and paved the way for true civilization. This too is Catholic scholarship. (Lloyd Graham, Deceptions and Myths of the Bible, p. 455)





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