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History of the Apostles

QUESTION: Is there non-biblical history of the apostles?


Is there non-biblical history of the apostles? The answer to this question is that yes, there are other books and documents that point to evidence that the apostles did indeed exist. Much of our early history comes from books and writings by a variety of people from various backgrounds and education. Our present-day church doctrine is mainly taken from these early writings. But actual scientific evidence that the apostles existed and that the accounts of these 12 happened exactly as it is written in the Bible is much more difficult and is still being debated by some scholars today. There are many books out there on the subject of the apostles but it is difficult to tell where the author got his information..

The history of the apostles does start in the books of the Bible. The genealogies of the original 12 disciples of Jesus were most important to the scholars of the day. We have many other documents that were supposedly written about the same time as the Bible, but were not included in our modern day Bible. Some of these are 'Acts' of Paul, the 'Shepherd of Hermas,' 'Revelation of Peter,' 'Epistle of Barnabas,' 'Teachings of the Apostles,' and 'Revelation of John.'

Documents of very early church history give us further evidence that these apostles did exist. One of the earliest of these are the writings of Eusebius, 'The History of the Church,' (to A.D. 324). These were written in ca A.D. 325 and include perhaps the most complete history of the apostles. But some say the information he quoted came from bishops he talked to. For example, Acts 12:2 tells us that Herod Agrippa had James executed. Eusebius adds a story he was told by the bishop Clement of Alexandria (215) 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. Many ask if these sources are reliable. 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. The bishops of the church would guard these stories carefully. You also have to understand that Christians were being put to death. That makes these stories more likely to have been true.

Another famous and well read church historian is Schumacher. He researched the lives of the apostles and recounted the history of their martyrdoms. This is another interesting area that would be well to investigate.

While we don't know every detail historically, the universal belief of the early Christian writers was that each of the apostles faced martyrdom faithfully without denying their faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This reference is made in a book by Jeffrey Grant, 'The Signature of God.'

A book written by C. Bernard Ruffin entitled 'The Twelve' lists sources of early records of the apostles. He listed the following sources. He said other writers from the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th centuries give us more information that the apostles did exist. One of these was written by Papias (A.D. 60-135). He was the bishop of Hierapolis, in what is now Turkey. He was a disciple of John. St. Clement of Rome (d. 101) was a disciple of Peter and Paul and served as pope between A.D. 91-101. Another writer was Iranaeus (A.D. 120-202) the bishop of Lyon (in what is now France). Other reliable writings belong to Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 153-217). He was an eminent Greek theologian and hymnist. Others were Hippolytus (A.D. 170-236), an author of a number of theological works; Tertullian (A.D. 145-221, a Latin-speaking African theologian, Origen (A.D. 185-254), an Egyptian teacher and theologian and St. Jerome (342-420), an Italian scholar and translator. These writings include bits and pieces about the apostles and are what many of our churches have used, along with the Bible, as a basis for their individual histories.

Another source about Eusebius and the Early Church quoted the writings of Clement in the document 'Outlines Box VI.' He writes about Peter, James, and John. He states that James the Righteous was chosen as Bishop of Jerusalem. Few other writers refer to this, but church history still includes them.

A book written by Otto Hophan called 'The Apostles' talks about some of the difficulties encountered in writing a book about these men. He states that the biggest problem lies in the lack of reliable source material. He says the apostles preached Christ, not themselves, therefore what is written is mostly in connection with Christ. Information from tradition concerning the apostles lives and destinies is scarce. The book does however try to combine all the various writings into an accurate account of these men's dynamic personalities.

Another book by Grant R. Jeffrey taken from 'The Signature of God' argues that historical evidence shows the apostles were continually threatened and pressured to deny their Lord during their ministry. None of these men who spent time with Jesus chose to save their lives by denying their faith in Him. If the stories in the Bible about Jesus were made up, why would these men continue to proclaim something they knew was a lie when faced with lengthy tortures and a horrible, painful death? It defies both common sense and the evidence of history that anyone, let alone a group of twelve men, would persist in proclaiming a lie when they could walk away by admitting that it was a fraud. But history does show that most of these men were horribly tortured and killed. The author of this book also points out that while oral tradition in history may be unreliable as to small details, it seldom contains outright inventions.

There have been several other authors over the years who have written about the apostles. Every day someone new takes up the quest to write about them. The apostles are a basis of most of our religions and so much trust is put in their existence. Why have these stories and accounts lasted so many years? Is there truth in time?

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What do you think?
We have all sinned and deserve God’s judgment. God, the Father, sent His only Son to satisfy that judgment for those who believe in Him. Jesus, the creator and eternal Son of God, who lived a sinless life, loves us so much that He died for our sins, taking the punishment that we deserve, was buried, and rose from the dead according to the Bible. If you truly believe and trust this in your heart, receiving Jesus alone as your Savior, declaring, "Jesus is Lord," you will be saved from judgment and spend eternity with God in heaven.

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