When I attempt, as a non-Christian, to evaluate the historicity of various historical claims in the New Testament, I come across various things that come across to me as obvious falsifications and propaganda. Examples:
- The story of Ananias and Sapphira reads to me as a propagandized version of what was actually a double murder by a scary, violent religious cult.
- The claim of Jesus's birth at Bethlehem seems an obvious fabrication.
Believers sometimes argue to the contrary that "liars don't make good martyrs." So for example, if skeptics suggest that the miraculous disappearance of Jesus from his tomb may have been the result of fraud by Jesus's followers, a believer might argue that it doesn't make sense for his followers to have concocted this fraud, but then died for their faith.
Can anyone clarify the chronological plausibility of this argument? There was an apostolic period, and there was a period when Christians were being thrown to the lions. But was there enough of a generational overlap between these two periods to make the liars/martyrs argument valid? It seems likely to me that there was essentially a full generation of early Christians that was born after the crucifixion, participated in the myth-making and theology-making of the early church, was not continually afraid of persecution, and intentionally or unintentionally molded their oral retelling of the events of their parents' generation to suit their own purposes in building a new religious cult.