According to Peter Kreeft, there are only five possible theories about the alleged resurrection of Jesus:
The Conspiracy Theory (hereafter: TCT) is one of those five theories.
Kreeft raises seven objections against TCT. Objection #1 FAILS, because it makes various historical assumptions about the twelve apostles without providing any historical evidence for those assumptions.
OUR IGNORANCE ABOUT THE TWELVE
In Part 5 of this series, I presented a number of points from A Marginal Jew, Volume III, by John Meier, points that support my claim that we know very little about the Twelve. The following is a summary of the key points covered in my previous post:
In the opening pages of Chapter 27, John Meier indicates that we have very little knowledge about “the Twelve”:
With the exception of very few of them, the lives of the Twelve, however full and exciting they may have been in the 1st century, have been lost to our ken forever. (AMJ3, p.198)
Based on discussion by Meier on our historical knowledge about individuals who were part of the Twelve, we arrived at these conclusions:
- We know NOTHING about Bartholomew.
- We know almost nothing about Jude of James.
- We are completely ignorant about Thaddeus.
- James of Alphaeus is a member of the Twelve about whom we have ZERO knowledge.
- We know NOTHING about Matthew.
- We know VERY LITTLE about Philip.
- There is a little bit of information about Andrew during the ministry of Jesus, and there is NO INFORMATION about Andrew after the crucifixion and alleged resurrection of Jesus.
In short, there is very little that is known about the above seven individuals who constitute HALF of the fourteen people who have been part of “the Twelve”.
I will now continue to consider Meier’s evaluation of the historical data concerning the remaining seven individuals out of the fourteen people who constituted the Twelve.
The first three Gospels provide no information about Thomas:
…in the Synoptics [Matthew, Mark, and Luke], he [Thomas] appears nowhere outside the lists of the Twelve, while he receives some prominence in John’s Gospel. (AMJ3, p.204)
Although Thomas has some prominence in the Fourth Gospel, the information about Thomas in that Gospel is very dubious:
…all the passages in the Fourth Gospel involving Thomas look suspiciously like theological vehicles of the evangelist. …Thus, all of Thomas’ appearances in John’s Gospel are largely molded if not totally created by the evangelist. (AMJ3, p.204)
In the end, if we discount Johannine theology and later gnosticizing legends, we know next to nothing about the historical Thomas… (AMJ3, p.204)
Although Meier does not mention this, there is only ONE reference to Thomas in Acts, and that is merely the mention of his name in a list of the Twelve (Acts 1:13). So there is no information about what Thomas said or he did in the months and years after the alleged resurrection of Jesus.
We know almost nothing about Thomas.
SIMON THE CANANEAN
…Simon the Cananean appears nowhere outside the lists of the Twelve…(AMJ3, p.205)
We know almost nothing about Simon the Cananean.
Down through the ages, Judas has been a magnet for the artistic imagination of Christians. Literature and the pictorial arts have expanded his story and personality to such huge proportions that it is difficult to remind even critical readers that we know only two basic facts about him: (1) Jesus chose him as one of the Twelve, and (2) he handed over Jesus to the Jerusalem authorities, thus precipitating Jesus’ execution. (AMJ3, p.208)
We know very little about Judas Iscariot.
The ONLY mention of Matthias in the NT is at the end of Chapter 1 of Acts (1:21-26), and Matthias doesn’t say anything. What we learn is that Matthias was selected to be one of the Twelve, as the replacement for Judas Iscariot.
We know virtually nothing about Matthias.
Now we know that our ignorance about the Twelve includes Thomas, Simon the Cananean, Judas Iscariot, and Matthias:
- We know almost nothing about Thomas.
- We know almost nothing about Simon the Cananean.
- We know very little about Judas Iscariot.
- We know virtually nothing about Matthias.
That bring us to ELEVEN apostles out of the total of fourteen who were members of “the Twelve”. Given that we know either nothing or very little about ELEVEN out of fourteen apostles, there is simply no way that Peter Kreeft, or any other Christian apologist could REFUTE the Conspiracy Theory, as I have defined it.
TCT asserts that MOST of the apostles met together soon after Jesus’ crucifixion and agreed with each other to preach the lie that they had all physically seen the risen Jesus after Jesus was crucified. In order for Objection #1 to show that it is NOT the case that MOST of the apostles met together and made this agreement, Kreeft would have to establish some historical claims about the character and actions of at least EIGHT apostles, including actions that took place in the months and years following the crucifixion of Jesus.
Specifically, Kreeft would need to show that at least EIGHT apostles continued for years to preach that they had physically seen the risen Jesus AND that for years those EIGHT apostles faced frequent serious attempts at bribery and frequent serious threats of imprisonment, torture, or death, where the bribe was conditioned specifically on them renouncing the claim to have physically seen the risen Jesus, and where the threats would clearly disappear if they renounced the claim to have physically seen the risen Jesus. Although there were probably fourteen individuals who were part of the Twelve, at any given point in time there were only twelve who were active members, so a meeting of MOST of the twelve implies that at least SEVEN of the apostles met and agreed to lie about the resurrection appearances of Jesus, according to TCT.
In order to use Objection #1 to eliminate this possibility that SEVEN (or more) of the apostles met to conspire to lie about physical resurrection appearances of Jesus by pointing to the continued preaching of the apostles in the face of frequent and serious attempts at bribery and threats of imprisonment, torture, or death, Kreeft must show that at least EIGHT of the fourteen apostles were NOT involved in such a conspiracy, and he must do so on the basis of them continuing to preach about the resurrection for years in the face of frequent serious attempts at bribery and frequent serious threats of imprisonment, torture, or death. That would leave only SIX (or fewer) apostles, out of the fourteen, who might have participated in a conspiracy. Therefore, in order to REFUTE TCT by means of Objection #1, Kreeft must make and establish some significant historical claims about the character, experiences, and activities of at least EIGHT apostles.
Kreeft would need to show that at least EIGHT apostles continued for years to preach that they had physically seen the risen Jesus AND that during those years those EIGHT apostles faced frequent serious attempts at bribery and frequent serious threats of imprisonment, torture, or death AND that those bribery attempts were specifically focused on getting the apostles to recant their claim to have physically seen the risen Jesus AND that those threats were specifically focused on getting the apostles to recant their claim to have physically seen the risen Jesus. But we are ignorant about the character and activities of ELEVEN out of the fourteen apostles, so it is impossible for Kreeft or any other Christian apologist to make and establish significant historical claims that would be sufficient to rule out TCT on the basis of Objection #1.
PETER, JAMES, and JOHN
In the end, of all the members of the Twelve, only Peter and, to a lesser degree, the sons of Zebedee [James and John] emerge from the shadow of the group to stand on their own as knowable individuals. (AMJ3, p.199)
The BEST CASE SCENARIO for Kreeft is that he could establish various significant historical claims about just THREE of the apostles: Peter, James, and John. It is (in theory) possible for Kreeft or some other apologist, to show that Peter, James, and John were NOT participants in a conspiracy to lie about physically seeing the risen Jesus. But that still leaves open the possibility that SEVEN or more of the other apostles did conspire to lie about physically seeing the risen Jesus, and thus the BEST CASE SCENARIO for Kreeft would still FAIL to refute TCT.