My friend Justin Taylor links today to a fascinating resource by C. Michael Patton on the deaths of the Apostles as “evidence” for the historical veracity of the resurrection of Jesus. I don’t agree with all of Patton’s “probability ratings” about the means of death because I have a (take your pick) “higher” or “more naive” view of early church sayings and tend to trust the oral traditions to a greater degree, but, even so, I love this resource.
The apostles in the gospel accounts are so similar to what we’ve all experienced about human nature. Some of them brash and arrogant. Some of them weak and cringing. All are misguided and wrong at some point or the other.
But they are also very, very different from what we know about human nature. The winners write the history, don’t they? The apostles are received as authoritative, but they don’t portray themselves, or have themselves portrayed, as heroic.
How different from the standard biography of a presidential cabinet member or aide in our day whose books could all, in the words of one wag, bear the same title: If Only They’d Listened to Me. That’s, arguably, as much or even more the case within “the ministry.”
Any of the apostles could have become a national hero (indeed an international hero), if only he’d said, “We never really saw him alive.” But they wouldn’t do it, even as the axe was coming down on the neck or the oil was being splattered on the skin or the spike was piercing into the skin.
This Easter consider the empty tomb, but also consider twelve tombs that aren’t empty yet, and listen to the words they still speak.