Did They Have a Reason to Lie?
by Rob Vandeweghe 12/21/2007 / Christian Apologetics
Would the authors of the gospels and letters in the New Testament have a motive to fabricate their account? Did they have any personal gain from writing? Obviously, if a motive can be established for inventing the testimonies, the trustworthiness of the document becomes more questionable. Conversely, if the authors had nothing to gain, or even something to lose, the document's credibility is increased.
So what happened to John Mark, Matthew, Luke, John, and Paul after writing their gospels and letters? Although there is only limited historical record about what happened to these men after completing their writings, one can with certainty state that none of them retired wealthy from the proceedings of any of their books. Contrary to that, the historical record shows that the early Christian church and their leaders went through centuries of persecution, and the apostles spent their days traveling in poverty proclaiming their message.
More specifically, after completing his gospel and the death of Peter in Rome (66-67 AD), tradition claims that John Mark went to Alexandria in Egypt where he was martyred in 68 AD. According to the research of Dr. William Steuart McBirnie: "In the year 68 AD Easter fell on the same day as the Serapis festival. The furious mob had gathered in the Serapion and then descended on the Christians while they were celebrating Easter at Baucalis. St, Mark was seized, dragged with a rope around his neck in the streets and then incarcerated for the night. In the following morning the same ordeal was repeated until he gave up the ghost." Other sources confirm this account as well as his burial site.
What happened to Matthew, the tax collector, is subject to multiple conflicting traditions. His name is linked to various travels throughout Greece and Asia, but most agree on Asian Ethiopia, Persia, Macedonia, and Syria. All but one of these traditions claim an untimely death as a martyr for Christ. Unfortunately, none of these traditions are supported by convincing objective evidence.
According to Catholic tradition, Luke was martyred or died a natural death and was buried in Greece. In 356-357 AD his relics were taken to Constantinople. Later his head was supposedly taken to Rome where it is kept in St. Peter's Basilica.
Before writing his gospel at an advanced age, John moved to Ephesus in Asia Minor shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem. At this strategic location he had a special relationship with other churches in the area, as we know through his letters to the seven churches in the book of Revelation as well as through references in writings of the early church. After a period of exile to the island of Patmos, he is believed to have died of old age, around 100 AD, in Ephesus, where he was buried. The ruins at the Basilica of St. John are claimed to mark the site of the tomb.
As for Paul, some claim that after his imprisonment as described at the end of the Book of Acts, he visited Spain for a period of at least two years. Subsequently, he returned to Rome where during Nero's persecution in 66/67 AD (about the same time as Peter) he was beheaded.
So no lucrative book deals for these writers, no lofty retirement on the French Riviera. The testimony of these men did not end with the completions of their gospels and letters. Their subsequent lives continued to proclaim the message. They lived in poverty, under the continuous threat of persecution, and at the end, most of them paid the ultimate price of an early death by martyrdom. What earthly motive could any of them have ever had for fabrication or even making the smallest change to the truth in their testimonies? They were writing for their Lord; they were writing to built treasures in heaven. Lying, exaggerating, spinning the truth, becoming famous, or gaining any wealth, was not on their agenda.
Rob VandeWeghe is a skeptic turned Christian by studying the evidence for Christianity. More articles like this by Rob are available at www.WindmillMinistries.org