Why were the gospels written in Greek, when the apostles were Jewish? Also I know there is some proof of writings outside of the gospels but why are there no writings during the times that Jesus was alive? He did many amazing things, so why did no one else document any of these events right when they happened?  Also, I can’t seem to find much evidences of the death of Jesus’ disciples and how they died except for writings that come way after they died. One of the cases that we make as Christians is that everything the disciples are saying is true otherwise they wouldn’t have died for their faith but I can’t find records of their deaths.


These are good questions.

First of all, the native language of Jesus, and the language we can presume that he spoke to his hearers was Aramaic.  There are some who believe that Matthew, whose gospel was particularly designed for Jewish readers, may have had an original version in Aramaic.  In fact, some of the early church fathers and Eusebius report this.  I am not sure if it is true but it may be.  In any case, an ancient Aramaic version of Matthew has not come down to us.  It would appear that most likely none of the other New Testament books had Aramaic original versions.

Why is that?  This is because by as early as AD 50 the vast majority of Christians were Greek-speaking, not Aramaic-speaking.  If one of these books had been written in AD 40, then it is likely that they may have had an original Aramaic version, but this is not the case.  It has been argued by scholars that the earliest written book of the New Testament is either Galatians or 1 Thessalonians, around AD 50.  Both of these books were definitely written to primarily Greek speakers, so naturally they were in Greek.  Mark may have been written in the 40s, but more likely it was in the 50s, so it is not at all surprising that it was written in Greek

I am not sure what you are looking for with regard to writings when Jesus was alive.  What would you hope to have written?  I am sure that we have some Romans and Greek writings from the time between about 6 BC and about AD 30 when Jesus lived.  What would you hope for?  The spread of the church was sustained by oral tradition for nearly a generation, but as the church spread and grew, the apostles felt some need to write things down.   Here is the fact:  We have VERY little from the ancient world written down.  For example, we know essentially nothing about what happened in Egypt from 6 BC to AD 30, and Egypt was a much more important part of the Roman Empire than Judea.  Very likely some people wrote down some things about Jesus during his life, but we have lost more than 99.9% of all that was written in ancient times.  Two thousand years from now, it is not likely that any of the letters you or I wrote during our lifetimes will still be around.  There is no reason to expect that we would have a contemporary record of what Jesus was doing because this was happening on a relatively small scale in a relatively obscure part of the Roman Empire.  It was only when Christianity began to influence hundreds of thousands, in pockets scattered across the Roman Empire that we begin to have contemporary documents about this.  This is exactly what one would reasonable expect.

About the time, means and place of the death of the apostles, we have fairly limited information. Eusebius, a Christian historian, recorded the tradition of the means and location of the death of all of the apostles in his book Ecclesiastical History, but this was written around AD 331, so the information is quite unreliable.   We have rather strong testimony from the second century which supports the belief that Peter and Paul were killed in Rome in the 60s AD, probably by crucifixion and that John died in Ephesus, probably of natural causes near the end of the 90s.   Also, we know that the apostle James was killed by Herod Antipas in AD 44 and, from Josephus, we know that James, the brother of Jesus, was martyred by stoning in Jerusalem in about AD 62-63.  Information about the other apostles is very sketchy.  Like I already said, the amount of information we have from the ancient world and about the early church we have from outside the New Testament is extremely limited.  As I already explained, this is not surprising, as we have so little precise information from the ancient world.

By the way, a friend of mine has done a LOT of research on what happened to the other apostles and where they died.  I am cc’ing him so that he can perhaps send you some of the material he has on this topic.  For most of the apostles, we have traditions and suggestions, some of which may well be true, but we cannot be sure about such things.

John Oakes

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