Apostles as conmen?

I was reflecting on what i have learned so far on my journey and i recalled when searching for answers i came across alot of comments about those that those who preached (the apostles) the word were merely conmen who just wanted to meet their own nefarious goals.

So my question is when did these (what i can only presume to be antitheist in nature) views come into play or have they always been there and if possible to know when did such views gain traction?

Paul was loved, I seem to recall. And I think Christianity grew quite a bit too, didn’t it? ; - )

You’ve been frequenting too many dark places?

We understand from the NT that the powers that be wanted to label the resurrection as a conspiracy, so right early is your answer.

What were these nefarious goals and how well were they achieved?

Thats just the thing, they say nefarious goals but they never elaborate. So far i can only recall of hearing two possibilities from those with such views of the apostles, one being to control the masses and the other to swindle others out of their money. I just find it hard to beleive that the appstles would set up an entire beleif system just to do those two things when there are less complex means of doing the same thing.

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Probably, as of recent ive been trying to stick with more positive places, without bias of course.

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Could you provide some verses? Also why does it seem these veiws have gained popularity (in your opinion) in the modern age?

Of course, sadly not everyone sees that progress.

The latter part of Acts 20 speaks well to that, and that he was not a conman but a tent maker (or the first tentmaker ; - ).

As a nonbeliever, I tend to think it’s just as much conjecture to assume they were con men as it is to assume they facilitated miracles and all that jazz like the texts say.

I guess Paul is the only actual apostle I can form an opinion about… based only on my impression of what I’ve read by him (the rest of the apostles are kind of “legendary,” and AFAIK, none of the others is believed to have genuinely authored a book in the NT). In Acts it says something about people waiting in the streets for Peter’s shadow to pass over them. If that’s true, I suppose we have to hope that Peter was responsible with all that power.

Paul strikes me as someone who buys into what he’s saying, imho. It doesn’t seem evident that he was a con man of any sort.

That’s not to say he was above reproach or anything. Who knows? We’re working with heavily modified, two thousand year old texts here.We can only make guesses.

Nietzsche made a fairly negative appraisal of Paul in his Antichrist. He thought he was a smug little chaste man who enjoyed having power over his flock. But there is still quite some distance between THAT and “con man.” I’m sure even Nietzsche thought Paul was sincere… perhaps just not honest with himself about his own motivations.

The priests and Pharisees would certainly promote a conspiracy theory. (I don’t think you can get any earlier. ; - ):

Charles Colson, one of the key players in the Watergate conspiracy (and founder of Prison Fellowship) explains in his book Born Again that it could not have been a conspiracy, because they would have been looking after their own skins and would not have submitted to being imprisoned, tortured or killed as Christians did. Even the one he was involved in fell apart quickly with only a small number of people – larger numbers would have been even less able to maintain it, and they were the most powerful men in Washington. (That’s also an argument against the conspiracism nonsense we see today, like 9/11 trutherism, flat-earthism, NWO, antivaxxers, the 2020 Big Lie and all the rest.)


In my opinion they haven’t any more than in past centuries. (But then, I’m pretty provincial in lots of ways. ; - )

I’ve never heard of these nefarious apostolic goals. But they must be true because someone said it on the net somewhere.

If Jesus was not God incarnate, He was the greatest social visionary of all time, and if He created His own myth, fed entirely by His mother formatively, then with the apostles, it was done for the very best of goals which were minimally achieved within 300 years.

I think if they were conmen, they were the worst possible type — incompetent.
Everything they believed and did helped them get themselves and their followers killed or ostracized. They worshiped some dead guy, who had preached clean living and claimed to be God. They claimed he wasn’t dead, but that he was physically in heaven, so there was no evidence, except no one could produce a body. The dead guy’s big promises were forgiveness of sins, unity with himself through his spirit which would allow some kind of access to God the Father (which was all extremely confusing), and suffering. The suffering ends, when life ends. Access to all this is through belief in the dead guy and his claim to forgive sin and give eternal life. And there is a lot of love stuff.
Adherents were told to bring home the proceedings of the sale of their positions to share with the rest of the group, to work hard to support the group, to live quiet lives, to follow quite a few rules like doing honest work, refusing favoritism, caring for the poor, and singing hymns in worship. Get a spiritual bath. Participate in a ritual others saw as canibalism.
Some rules were absurdly counter-cultural: husbands love your wives and children. Some were dangerously counter-cultural: you don’t even get to fake-worship caesar, even if it gets you tortured or killed.
No, you don’t get to overthrow the oppressive government. No, you don’t get to expect wealth. Don’t even think of a private jet or property in Malibu. And the Apostles didn’t get those things, either.

Early first century anybody could have no idea what would come later, when the church received political backing. And evaluating THAT move is extremely complicated.

There are many compilations of the writings of the early church fathers. They might not have been the Apostles themselves, but they’re about as close as we can get. If you are interested in looking into it further, there are some very good free collections available online:


is from


and another biggie is Monergism.org. Monergism has links to multiple forms of media, not only e-books.

Here are search results related to “early church”:

Their nearly overwhelming main page:

You might want to scroll down to “Questions Skeptics Ask” (Sorry it includes the word “apologetics”. It’s come to mean something very different from what it used to .)


Matthew 28 gives the traditional “con” version but it makes little sense. The disciples changed from frightened men huddled in a room to outspoken evangelists. Something changed them and it is unlikely to be just pulling up their proverbial bootlaces. They clearly believed what they reported. Thomas is the witness against fraud and whimsical lying. Thomas would not accept the fraudulent claim.
Basically the continued existence of Christianity is the main witness against deception. History shows that movements whose leaders die off usually die off with them. Not only did Jesus die (and was raised) but the disciples are long gone, even Paul. There must be more than just blind faith driving Christianity, or deception.


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Especially when it took a couple of generations to safely do that.

This White Horse Inn podcast episode might be of interest to you. It isn’t precisely in answer to your OP question, but it does address the question toward the end. I’ve been listening to White Horse Inn for many years, and have really appreciated the serious reformation theology teaching they do.

I listened to this episode while I was working in the yard. I hadn’t noticed that it’s part two of a pair, but it worked well on it’s own.
I think you’ll have to sign up for a free account to get to it soon. If for some reason you can’t get to it, or the transcript and you want to listen or read, DM me. We’ll figure something out.

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I did and alot of questions regarding genocide and slavery were good, but i am still not sure about God commanding isreal to do those things. I mean did he speak to whom ever was ruling at the time, was it just somone of their rocker that claimed God spoke to them? Honestly it actually made me ask more questions in regard to what the texts say.

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I’m glad there was something useful.
And depending on who you ask around here and elsewhere, I think you will get vastly different answers about how to understand the OT as a body of texts, as well as how to interpret those texts. I think you’re already well aware of that!

Honestly, I am not used to being confronted with so many different views that are taken seriously, rather than dismissed outright. I find it both refreshing and confounding at the same time. Which I think is normal in learning. Well, the “refreshing” is not always a normal component. Often learning is just confounding for a while, sometimes a long while. But that’s normal.

I just looked over the article you mentioned, and yeah. It’s a hard text with an explanation that probably doesn’t get a lot of endorsement among Christians with different backgrounds from mine. Even if we look at the text as part of the filled in backstory of Israel, it does tell us something about Israel’s understanding of God and God’s relationship with and authority over not only the nations around Israel but also Israel itself. (of course there are others around here, who will see it differently)

I found the end of the article on genocide probably most helpful. It’s not somethng for Christians to participate in. Period. Likewise the very beginning of the next article on slavery points out that if the form of slavery practiced in the U.S. had been uncovered in OT times, it would have been treated as a capital offense.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’ll repeat yet again, that it’s normal to have doubt, and that having everything all figured out into a unified whole is not as common as we are sometimes led to believe. I have found that after you get used to the idea of having all the pieces in place, you find out that one or two came from a different puzzle. So, we keep plugging away.

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