5. How Did The Twelve Apostles Die?
When And How Did The Twelve Apostles Die?
Summary: The Bible only mentions the deaths of two apostles, James who was put to death by Herod Agrippa I and Judas Iscariot who committed suicide shortly after the death of Christ. The details of the deaths of three of the apostles (John, the Beloved, Bartholomew and Simon the Canaanite) are not very well known at all, either by tradition or early historians. The deaths of the other 10 apostles are known by tradition or the writings of early Christian historians. According to traditions and the Bible, eight of the Apostles died as Martyrs. At least two of the Apostles, Peter and Andrew were crucified.
Simon surnamed Peter: (crucified upside down)— died 33-34 years after the death of Christ. According to Smith’s Bible Dictionary, there is “satisfactory evidence that he and Paul were the founders of the church at Rome and died in that city. Recognized as the head of the original Christian community in Jerusalem (Israel), he left the city when King (Herod Agrippa I) started to persecute all Christians in Jerusalem and ordered the beheading of the Apostle James (the Great). After escaping from Jerusalem, Peter preached in Judea (originally Palestine) and in Antioch (Syria) where he is historically considered as the first patriarch (bishop) of the Orthodox Church. After staying in Antioch for some time, Peter went to Rome and converted thousands to Christianity. The emperor at the time, Nero, did not like the idea of Romans becoming Christians and used the new members of the group for his amusement (e.g., feeding them to lions or wild dogs, and then burning them at the stake in Rome’s coliseum—yes, the tourist spot– if they do not renounce their faith). Peter was one of the most prominent victims of this persecution. He was captured and crucified upside-down at his own request, because he said he was not worthy to be crucified the same way as our Lord. His body lies below the altar of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican City, in Rome.
James (the Great): (beheaded)—the son of Zebedee, the brother of the Apostle John. He was captured and condemned to die by Herod the Agrippa 1 to please Jewish leaders who were furious at the rapid growth of the Church. James was put to death by Herod Agrippa I shortly before the day of the Passover, in the year 44 or about 11 years after the death of Christ. From Acts 12: 1-2.
John: (thrown into boiling oil, but survived)—For most of his labors, John was with Peter in Jerusalem up until the persecution of Herod Agrippa I. During this period, scholars agree that John escaped and preached for some time in Asia Minor (an area around Turkey). Years later, scholars have traced that he went to Rome where it was believed he was persecuted by other Christians and was thrown into a cauldron of boiling oil—he miraculously survived. The Roman emperor at the time, Dominitian, decided after the incident to banish John to the island of Patmos (in Greece). When Dominitian died, John went back to Ephesus (in Turkey) where he spent the rest of his days. He died a very old man, the only Apostle to do so.
Andrew: (crucified upside down on an X-shaped cross)—Preached in Georgia (Russia), Istanbul (Turkey), Macedonia, and finally Greece. There in Patros, Greece, Governor Aegiatis was angered by the apostle’s preaching and the conversion of his own family to Christianity. He ordered Andrew to renounce his faith in front of a tribunal. When Andrew resisted, the governor ordered that Andrew be crucified. He was tied upside down to an X-shaped cross with thick, tight ropes but Andrew kept preaching to spectators. He was able to convince many to accept Christianity just before he died after suffering for three days. Parts of his remains are in Constantinople (Turkey), Scotland (England), but his skull is kept in Patras to this day.
Phillip (crucified)—Preached in Greece, Syria, and Turkey (in the cities of Galatia, Phrygia, and Hierapolis). Philip partnered with Bartholomew in his missions. According to sources “Through his miraculous healing and preaching, Philip converted the wife of the Preconsul of the city” of Hierapolis. This event angered the Preconsul and ordered that both Philip and Bartholomew be tortured and crucified upside down. While on the cross, Philip continued to preach and he was able to convince the crowd and the Preconsul to release Bartholomew, while insisting that he (Philip) remained crucified. Bartholomew was released but Philip died on the cross and was later buried somewhere within the city.
Bartholomew: (skinned alive and beheaded)—Preached the Gospel in Mesopotamia (Iraq), Persia (Iran), Turkey, Armenia, and India. He was skinned alive and beheaded at Derbent (Azerbaijan, near Russia) on the Caspian Sea by order of a local king after a majority of the people of Derbent converted to Christianity. Some of Bartholomew’s skin and bones are still kept in The Basilica of St. Bartholomew in Rome, a part of his skull is in Frankfurt, Germany and an arm is venerated at the Canterbury Cathedral in England.
Matthew: (burned-to-death?)—He must have lived many years as an apostle since he was the author of the Gospel of Matthew which was written at least twenty years after the death of Christ. Christian tradition says he preached in Ethiopia (in Africa), Judea (Israel today), Macedonia, Syria, and Parthia (northeast Iran). Bible scholars have different versions of how he died. Some say he was either killed with a sword in Parthia or died a natural death in Ethiopia.
Thomas: (impaled by a spear)—Called by most Christians the “Doubting Thomas” for disbelieving the Lord’s Resurrection. But after his doubts were erased by touching Jesus’ wounds, he became a fearless preacher of the Gospel and builder of churches. He was one of the first Apostles who preached outside the boundaries of the vast Roman Empire (out of Europe). He preached in Babylon (present-day Iraq) and established its first Christian church. Then he went to Persia (Iran) and traveled as far as China and India. He was martyred in Mylapore, India when a local king named Masdai condemned Thomas to death. The Apostle angered the Brahmins (high-ranked priests/scholars who served as the king’s advisers) who thought Christianity disrespected India’s Caste System. Thomas was brought to a nearby mountain and was stabbed to death with a spear. He is believed to be buried around the suburb of Madras, in India. The earlier traditions, as believed in the fourth century, say he preached in Parthia or Persia and was finally buried at Edessa.
James Alpheus (the Lesser): (stoned and clubbed-to-death)—We know he lived at least five years after the death of Christ because of mentions in the Bible. Believed to have preached in Damascus (Syria) and is acknowledged as the first bishop of the Christians in Jerusalem (Israel). Historians say he was sentenced to be stoned to death by the Jews for challenging Jewish Laws and for convincing some of the members of the Jewish community to convert to Christianity. James died when during the stoning, one person from the crowd approached him and bashed his head with a fullers club (a piece of wood used for bashing-washing clothes). He was buried on the spot where he died, somewhere in Jerusalem.
Simon (the Canaanite): (sawed or axed-to-death?)—Before becoming an apostle, Simon was a member of the “Zealots”, a political movement rebelling against the Roman occupation of Jerusalem. Identified by some as the second Bishop of Jerusalem after James the Lesser (who was beheaded). He’s also believed to have preached in the Middle East, North Africa, Egypt, Mauritania, and even Britain. His martyrdom is being debated by scholars and historians who claim Simon might have been crucified by the Romans in Lincolnshire, Britain, crucified in Samaria (Israel) after a failed revolt or sawed-to-death in Suanir, Persia with Jude Thaddeus.
Jude (Thaddeus): (sawed or axed to death?)—He was a partner of Simon the Zealot and together they preached and converted non-believers in Judea (Israel), Persia (Iran), Samaria (Israel), Idumaea (near Jordan), Syria, Mesopotamia (Iran) and Libya. It is also widely believed that Jude traveled and preached in Beirut, Lebanon. He also helped Bartholomew in bringing Christianity to Armenia. The cause of his death is unclear because of the existence of two versions: (1) He was crucified in Edessa, Turkey; (2) He was clubbed to death and his body was either sawed or axed in pieces after (together with Simon the Zealot). Some sources say he was buried either in Northern Persia or the most accepted version is that his remains are buried in a crypt at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Judas Iscariot: (suicide, death by hanging)—Best known as the apostle who betrayed the Lord by divulging His location, leading to His arrest and persecution. He received 30 pieces of silver from Jewish priests for the information he gave. Shortly after the death of Christ Judas killed himself. According to the Bible, he hanged himself, (Matthew 27:5) at Aceldama, on the southern slope of the valley of Hinnom, near Jerusalem, and in the act he fell down a precipice and was dashed into pieces.
Note: There were twelve apostles chosen by Jesus. Eleven are named in Acts 1:13, “Peter and John, and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. “Judas Iscariot, one of the original twelve, the one who betrayed Jesus, is not named in that list. That’s the original twelve. Then add Matthias who replaced Judas Iscariot to become one of the twelve apostles of the Lamb (Acts 1:26). “And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Revelation 21:14). When we include both Judas and Matthias the total is now thirteen.
We are also told that Paul was one of Jesus’ apostles (Eph 1:1) “Paul, an apostle (G652) of Jesus Christ by the will of God…” (Ref: Acts 9:3-6, 15-16)
We know additional apostles besides these men exist because Christ, after His ascension, appointed “some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers . . . until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13).