Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Why didn’t Luke mention the deaths of Paul, Peter and James in the book of Acts?

J. Warner Wallace makes the case for an early date for Luke’s gospel.

Excerpt:

I make a much more elaborate and cumulative case for the early dating of the gospels in Cold Case Christianity, but a portion of this case revolves around Luke’s omission of three important deaths in the Book of Acts: the deaths of Paul, Peter and James. A recent listener to the Stand to Reason “Please Convince Me” Podcast recently wrote: “Firstly, perhaps such historical events were simply beyond the scope of the author of Acts? It has been suggested that the author may have been aware of the aforementioned events, but he chose instead to end his account thematically with the Gospel finally reaching the heart of Gentile civilization, Rome… Is it really viable to suggest that these possibilities are less reasonable than the early dating hypothesis?” One of the evidences in the Book of Acts that makes the omission of Paul, Peter and James’ death so powerful is the inclusion of two other deaths in the narrative: the deaths of Stephen and James, the brother of John:

Acts 7:58-60
When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of da young man named Saul. They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep.

Acts 12:1-2
Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church in order to mistreat them. And he had James the brother of John put to death with a sword.

As important as Stephen and James, the brother of John, were to the early Church, it can hardly be argued that Paul, Peter and James, the three most important Christian leaders of the first century and the primary characters of the Book of Acts narrative, would not be considered important enough to describe their deaths. Is it possible (viable) that Luke “may have been aware of the aforementioned events, but chose instead to end his account thematically with the Gospel finally reaching the heart of Gentile civilization, Rome?” Of course it’s possible, because anything and everything is possible. But it’s not reasonable.

I am one of those people who thinks that all three synoptic gospels should be dated prior to 65 A.D. and this is one of my main reasons for thinking so. I might be willing to concede later dates in a debate situation, but I think that the synoptic gospels were written from 40 to 65 AD.

By the way, if you haven’t got your copy of Cold Case Christianity, what are you waiting for? The thing is getting rave reviews from everyone!

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Were the earliest Christians willing to die for their beliefs about Jesus?

From Jonathan M., writing at the Cross Examined blog.

Excerpt:

The Martyrdom of Jesus’ Brother James

According to John 7, “After this, Jesus went around Galilee, purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life. But when the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was near, Jesus’ brothers said to him, ‘You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.’ For even his own brothers did not believe in him.” Thus, there is good evidence to believe that neither James (Jesus’ half brother) nor any of Jesus’ younger siblings believed his message, nor his personal self-claims, during his life. This is further supported by Mark 3:20-21 – “Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’”

It seems absurd that the early church would invent fictitious stories about the unbelief of Jesus’ own family had they been faithful followers all along. For a Jewish rabbi to be lacking the support of his own family undermined his perceived credibility. Yet it can be confidently established that James and his brothers later became active Christians following Jesus’ execution and subsequent resurrection, even being martyred for their confession. According to Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 20:9:1,

“And now Caesar, upon hearing the death of Festus, sent Albinus into Judea, as procurator. But the king deprived Joseph of the high priesthood, and bestowed the succession to that dignity on the son of Ananus, who was also himself called Ananus. Now the report goes that this eldest Ananus proved a most fortunate man; for he had five sons who had all performed the office of a high priest to God, and who had himself enjoyed that dignity a long time formerly, which had never happened to any other of our high priests. But this younger Ananus, who, as we have told you already, took the high priesthood, was a bold man in his temper, and very insolent; he was also of the sect of the Sadducees, who are very rigid in judging offenders, above all the rest of the Jews, as we have already observed; when, therefore, Ananus was of this disposition, he thought he had now a proper opportunity [to exercise his authority]. Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned: but as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done; they also sent to the king [Agrippa], desiring him to send to Ananus that he should act so no more, for that what he had already done was not to be justified; nay, some of them went also to meet Albinus, as he was upon his journey from Alexandria, and informed him that it was not lawful for Ananus to assemble a sanhedrin without his consent. Whereupon Albinus complied with what they said, and wrote in anger to Ananus, and threatened that he would bring him to punishment for what he had done; on which king Agrippa took the high priesthood from him, when he had ruled but three months, and made Jesus, the son of Damneus, high priest.” [emphasis added]

Some skeptics have claimed that the James mentioned in this passage is actually the brother of Jesus, the son of Damneus (a high priest who is mentioned towards the end of this passage). The title of “Christ”, we are told, is to be expected because Josephus would consider any high priest to be a “Christ”. The problem with this argument is that Josephus does not call any priest elsewhere in his writings a “Christ”. Jesus ben Damneus was not a high priest at the time of James’ trial but only became one at the time of his later mention. Thus, there is no basis for thinking that Jesus ben Damneus would have been called “Christ”. Moreover, when Josephus tells us of a character’s parentage, he always does it the first time the character is introduced (not in subsequent references). This means that Josephus’ later mention of Jesus ben Damneus has to be the first time the character is introduced. The passage is also thought by Origen to be speaking of Jesus of Nazareth.

Jonathan has also posted two other reliable martyrdom accounts for Paul and Peter.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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