Did Jesus’s Disciples Conspire to Lie about Him? Part 1

Post Author: Bill Pratt

In a previous post we laid out the requirements for successfully pulling off a conspiracy:

  1. small number of conspirators
  2. thorough and immediate communication
  3. short time span
  4. significant relational connections
  5. little or no pressure.

Former cold case detective J. Warner Wallace, after sharing these requirements, investigates whether the disciples of Jesus could have conspired to lie about his death and resurrection and never be found out. Here is Wallace, from his book Cold-Case Christianity:

The number of conspirators required to successfully accomplish the Christian conspiracy would have been staggering. The book of Acts tells us that there were as many as 120 eyewitnesses in the upper room following Jesus’s ascension (Acts 1: 15). Let’s assume for a minute that this number is a gross exaggeration; let’s work with a much smaller number to illustrate our point. Let’s limit our discussion to the twelve apostles (adding Matthias as Judas’s replacement). This number is already prohibitively large from a conspiratorial perspective, because none of the other characteristics of successful conspiracies existed for the twelve apostles.

The apostles had little or no effective way to communicate with one another in a quick or thorough manner. Following their dispersion from Jerusalem, the twelve disciples were scattered across the Roman Empire and, according to the most ancient accounts, were ultimately interrogated and martyred far from one another. Methods of communication in the first century were painfully slow . . . .

From Peter in Rome, to James in Jerusalem, to Thomas in Mylapore, the apostles appear to have been ultimately interrogated in locations that prevented them from communicating with one another in a timely manner. They had no idea if any of their co-conspirators had already “given up the lie” and saved themselves by simply confessing that Jesus was never resurrected. While skeptics sometimes claim that these recorded locations of martyrdom are unreliable because they are part of a biased Christian account, there isn’t a single non-Christian record that contradicts the claims of martyrdom offered by the local communities and historians.

We will continue with Wallace’s analysis in part 2.

  • No, they didn’t conspire. The only people I ever hear raising this idea is Christians eager to shoot it down. Legend and oral history are better explanations for why the gospels say what they say.

  • Kenneth Van Antwerp

    In our Bible Study group this morning someone brought up the subject, that James, Jesus’ brother, conspired with others, to have Jesus killed. I can’t every recall seeing mentioned. Is that right.

  • Never heard of that. I think you’re friend is confused.

  • barry

    In Acts 21:18-24, for whatever reason, thousands of Jewish Christians believe the rumor that Paul, when traveling abroad and preaching to diaspora Jews, relaxed Mosaic law for Jews outside of Jerusalem. James’s presumption that the rumor was false (v. 24) binds today’s bible-believing conservatives to agree that the rumor was false.

    Apparently, therefore information about apostles not only could and DID spread like wildfire throughout the first-century church, but was also trusted as truth by the members of those churches.

    Hence, the notion that the first century was some magical place that somehow had better checks on unfounded rumors, than we do today with our far better research capabilities, is perfectly absurd.