NCApologist wrote: Good morning William:Yes, there is evidence of the martyrdom of the Apostles.There is a book called Fox's Book of Matyr'sLuke's Book of Acts, which many liberal scholars acknowledge is a wonderful work of dedicated historian mentions the death of Stephen and James.Josephus mentions the death of James, the brother of Jesus.Tacitus writes ~100AD: Nero fastened the guilt [of starting the blaze] and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius [14-37] at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. There is very little dispute over the deaths of the Apostles. I am yet to hear anyone debate Craig on this point. Historians almost universally agree that the earliest church members were treated cruelly by the Roman Empire.Some debate exists on Paul. The most popular story has his death coming in Rome ~67AD, other stories exist of him being set free and making it to Spain to help spread the Gospel. I hope this helps
NCApologist wrote: Good morning William:Nero did not execute Christians because of a fear political take over. What political power of this new sect? There is zero evidence of any political take over by the apostles and early church.In 30+ years this band of new believers was not threatening a political take over of the Roman Empire.Nothing in Paul's documents or again, in the book of Acts even hints at a desire for politcial power by the early church.Paul already had political power as a member of the Sanhedrin. Why would he give that up and join a group of rag-tag freaks.Same can be said for Joseph of Arimethea giving up his tomb.Stephens death is probably 2-4 years after the death of Christ. Why was he executed? For his faith in Jesus Christ.Same for James the brother of Jesus.So this takes us back to the question "Why did the early Christians die?" For their faith in Jesus Christ.No other hypotesis is even close.You mentioned the following:Perhaps they new that NEro was such a pernicious fellow that even if they recanted he would not spare their lives? Perhaps recanting would have put them in equal peril with the Christians?Given the situation recant or not, you would recant. You would roll the dice and take your chances that Nero would change is heart. A person going to the gallows would clearly recant...........unless what they preached was true! Then there would be no reason to recant.And there is no evidence of people recanting. Extra biblical sources seem to say the complete opposite.The last bit of evidence is the emergence of a new religion in the face of extreme persecution. If the apostle were creating a new belief system on social and political status, Chrisitanity would've died off in the second century. It didn't. Why? Because it's belief system was founded on the teachings that any person could come into a relationship with the God of the universe.Regardless of the death of the apostles, let's say none of them were killed. We still have an empty tomb, a new religion, 4 individual documents, no conflicting stories, eyewitness accounts and the transformed lives of Paul and James.