Apostles and Martyrdom

Today, the Anglican Church remembers St Matthias, the apostle who replaced Judas Iscariot in the Book of Acts.

St Matthias, St Jude, St James the Lesser, St Simon, are the lesser known apostles in that we don't know much about them from Scripture. Yet, other than John, I'm given the impression that all the apostles were martyred.

Is the tradition of their martyrdom nothing more than pious legend?

I believe some, if not most scholars accept the historicity of Peter's martyrdom because of a long standing tradition of his execution in Rome and it is implied in John 21:19.

John the Apostle is assumed to have lived a long age because he is equated to John of Patmos, by church tradition.

Any help would be appreciated, I always wondered where their martyrdom stories come from.

Comments

  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    This is not an answer, because I don't know. But I'm guessing that "tradition" = references in the church fathers, and possibly early liturgies. And there might be a few pseudepigrapha floating around, though I can't recall any dealing with these martyrdoms, offhand.
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    Of eyewitness accounts we have none. My first stop, if this were my interest, would be the Protoevangelium (of James), after a brief tour through the Apostolic Fathers of course. Then Iraneus, but who knows how much of his stuff is pious legend. Probably most that's more than 100 years before his time.
  • HedgehogHedgehog Shipmate
    St Matthias, St Jude, St James the Lesser, St Simon, are the lesser known apostles in that we don't know much about them from Scripture. Yet, other than John, I'm given the impression that all the apostles were martyred.

    Is the tradition of their martyrdom nothing more than pious legend?
    You might find guidance through the online Catholic Encyclopedia. For example, with respect to Matthias the available information outside of Acts is "vague and contradictory" with one source saying he was crucified, while another says he was stoned and beheaded. You can find discussions of James the Less, Simon and, too a much lesser extent, Jude. That last link is actually to a discussion of the "Epistle of Saint Jude"...there does not seem to be a separate entry for the life of Jude.

    At least part of the problem is that over the centuries tales of the less documented saints seem to have been mingled, with events from one tagged to the life of another, because of a confusion of names. Reliable information is scarce.
  • TelfordTelford Shipmate
    I would be very surprised if most of the apostles were not martyred.
  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    Telford wrote: »
    I would be very surprised if most of the apostles were not martyred.

    Given Rome's distaste for any leader other than themselves, your point is well-taken. However, given that being martyred became honorific in early Christianity, the notion that martyrdom of the apostles might be legendary in some cases is equally plausible. The thing that seems most plausible to me is that John lived a long life and died of natural causes, as such a story served no one's interest if it were not true. As always, YMMV.
  • tclune wrote: »
    Telford wrote: »
    I would be very surprised if most of the apostles were not martyred.

    Given Rome's distaste for any leader other than themselves, your point is well-taken. However, given that being martyred became honorific in early Christianity, the notion that martyrdom of the apostles might be legendary in some cases is equally plausible. The thing that seems most plausible to me is that John lived a long life and died of natural causes, as such a story served no one's interest if it were not true. As always, YMMV.

    Candida Moss in her book https://www.amazon.ca/Myth-Persecution-Christians-Invented-Martyrdom/dp/0062104551 makes the claim that early Christians exaggerated the martyrdom stories to promote their faith.

    The majority view within historical scholarship is that before Diocletian in the 3rd century, persecution of Christians in the empire was sporadic and there were periods of relative peace and toleration. We do not know much about the first century, but for its earliest period, scholars theorized that Christianity was treated as a sect within Judaism, and thus exempt from participating in the imperial cult.

    If the disciples conceivably were martyred in the 60s and 70s, that could tie in presumably with the break with Judaism and thus the exemption from participating in the imperial cult would have ended. Because John's Revelation mentions furiously the imperial cult in chapter 12, it seems probable that at least by the years 90-100, Christians were expected to participate in the imperial cult and thus their refusal to do so would have precipitated their persecution.

    All this I suspect is conjecture based on what little evidence there is. Legends themselves may be suspect as historical evidence, but they might have a kernel of truth once you dig through.
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    The majority view within historical scholarship is that before Diocletian in the 3rd century, persecution of Christians in the empire was sporadic and there were periods of relative peace and toleration. We do not know much about the first century, but for its earliest period, scholars theorized that Christianity was treated as a sect within Judaism, and thus exempt from participating in the imperial cult.

    But we have stories of martyrdom that were set to papyrus long before the 3rd century, so they're not a product of projecting backwards the concerns (and if you insist fictions) of the day.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    I think part of the suggestion is that where nothing was known about what happened to a saint there may well be cases where,

    a. attaching martyrdom to his (or her) memory was good for their saintly status and credibility; and

    b. if one could think up an edifying, memorable and preferably unusually bloodthirsty martyrdom story, it was convenient to find a saint to attach the story to - in which case an original apostle which nobody knew much about would be a good one to choose.

  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    Enoch wrote: »
    I think part of the suggestion is that where nothing was known about what happened to a saint there may well be cases where,

    a. attaching martyrdom to his (or her) memory was good for their saintly status and credibility; and

    b. if one could think up an edifying, memorable and preferably unusually bloodthirsty martyrdom story, it was convenient to find a saint to attach the story to - in which case an original apostle which nobody knew much about would be a good one to choose.

    That explains martyrdom stories from the age of martyrdom. Not martyrdom stories from the 2nd century about 2nd century folk. I'm thinking particularly of Iranaeus of Antioch.
  • CrœsosCrœsos Shipmate
    The majority view within historical scholarship is that before Diocletian in the 3rd century, persecution of Christians in the empire was sporadic and there were periods of relative peace and toleration.

    "Sporadic" is usually taken to mean ignoring Christians until they become a problem, at which point you execute the local bishop (and maybe a few other prominent coreligionists) and call it a day. I can believe that the apostles had a higher-than-average rate of being executed than your typical Christian but all but one (or two, depending on how you count Judas Iscariot) being martyred strains credulity. Did not one of them fall off a ladder drown in a boating accident?

    We've got one Biblical account of an apostle's martyrdom (one of the Jameses), two different accounts of the non-martyred death of the apostle Judas Iscariot, and an extra-Biblical (though contemporary) account of the martyrdom/execution of "James, the brother of Jesus" (scroll down to chapter 9), who may or may not be the other of the Jameses. Everything else seems to be much later.
  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    Missionaries tend to be annoying, at least to certain authorities. And that's at the core of what an apostle was...
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    mousethief wrote: »
    Enoch wrote: »
    I think part of the suggestion is that where nothing was known about what happened to a saint there may well be cases where,

    a. attaching martyrdom to his (or her) memory was good for their saintly status and credibility; and

    b. if one could think up an edifying, memorable and preferably unusually bloodthirsty martyrdom story, it was convenient to find a saint to attach the story to - in which case an original apostle which nobody knew much about would be a good one to choose.

    That explains martyrdom stories from the age of martyrdom. Not martyrdom stories from the 2nd century about 2nd century folk. I'm thinking particularly of Iranaeus of Antioch.
    @mousethief I'm saying this of all martyrdom accounts. The fact that something early is not in scripture does not make it untrue. There is quite a lot of material from the sub and post apostolic period that may not be 'authoritative' but has a strong element of credibility. This is particularly so if the martyrdom is part of a whole story of a saint's life and the complete account hangs together.

    What I am saying, though, is that there is a difference between stuff that looks as though it could be historically fairly credible - particularly if it appears to be contemporary or almost so - and stuff that doesn't appear to be vouched for until later, and was designed to fill in the gaps, or was a good story looking for someone to hang it on.

    For example, I wouldn't class the Golden Legend as authority for anything. It is as good as valueless for anything except possibly things that happened in the era when it was compiled. Anything else in it is more likely not to be true unless vouched for by an early record.

  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    Trying to tie your response to what I said. Not making it.
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