What Happened to those Apostles?

After Acts (Moody Publishers) is a new book from Bryan Litfin on the lives and legends of the apostles. I’ve just had enough time to browse through it and so far I like what I see. Among those you would expect to see he also includes chapters on Mark, Luke, and Mary. He says he “considered them too important to omit in a book like this.” (p. 14) Of course he couldn’t cover them all and so you won’t find anything on replacement disciple Matthias, Barnabas, Timothy, Titus, Philemon or Jude. These names, he says, “were neither apostles nor prominent biblical personalities.” (p. 15) At the end of each chapter Litfin includes a report card grading the evidence for some of the traditions that have come down to us. For example, here’s the report on Peter:

Traveled widely on evangelistic missions: A

Ministered in Rome and provided leadership for the Christians: A

First arrived in Rome during the reign of Claudius (40s): B

Died by crucifixion in Nero’s circus or surrounding gardens: A-

Was crucified upside down: B

Was buried in a grave now located beneath the altar of St. Peter’s Basilica: A-

Has had his bones recovered from inside the graffiti wall: B-

Considered himself the preeminent authority figure of the Roman church: C-

Litfin says that he favors early evidence over latter traditions. “One of my operating assumptions in the present book is that if an assertion about an apostle doesn’t have any early evidence to back it up, it probably didn’t happen. My historical decisions will revolve around finding early attestation from multiple reliable sources.” (p. 22. Emphasis his.) This is reflected most clearly in his estimation of Mary. Here’s her report card:

Was cared for by John during her later life: A-

Was revered by the early church: A

Went to Ephesus with John: D

Dwelt in the “House of the Virgin” in Ephesus: F

Died in the Jerusalem area: B+

Maintained perpetual virginity: D-

Was bodily assumed into heaven: F

I’ve enjoyed Litfin’s other books (e.g., Getting to Know the Church Fathers, (Brazos Press) and Early Christian Martyr Stories, (Baker Academic) and expect the same from this volume. After Acts is a paperback with 193 pages and sells for $14.99.

BRYAN LITFIN grew up in Dallas, TX; Oxford, England; and Memphis, TN. He earned a degree in print journalism from the University of Tennessee, a master’s degree in historical theology at Dallas Seminary, and a Ph.D. in the field of ancient church history at the University of Virginia. He now serves as Professor of Theology at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, IL.

After Acts

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About Louis

I am a 1997 graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
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