Most people know that Jesus had a group of disciples traveling with him during his ministry. However, most are unaware of how these followers eventually died. Perhaps we will discover that how the 12 disciples died validates Christianity.
The style and manner of the twelve apostles’ deaths really helps us gain insight and perspective. These death accounts provide us a glimpse into the state of the times and the people under Rome. How the 12 disciples died also indicates the powerful and unwavering loyalty they had for Jesus Christ.
These death accounts are accumulated from a wide spectrum of sources. Reports of how the 12 disciples died come from sources like the New Testament, apocryphal texts, as well as various legends and stories. This eclectic range of references provides more credibility for the historical accuracy of these accounts. After all, the more sources you have from differing origins, the more persuasive the evidence is.
Don’t believe Jesus Christ was a historical figure? Read about 9 extra-Biblical sources supporting Jesus Christ.
How the 12 Disciples Died
1) How Apostle Simon Peter died: Crucified upside down
Originally called Peter but later renamed, Simon would be eventually appointed by Jesus Christ as the head disciple. Previously a fisherman in Bethsaida, he became a “fisher of men” after being the first apostle chosen by Jesus. Apostle Simon Peter was eventually sentenced to death by Rome under the emperor Nero.
Simon died between 33-34 years after the death of Jesus, around 66 AD. According to the records, Simon Peter died from upside down crucifixion. Simon Peter allegedly asked to be crucified upside down so that his death would not detract from Christ’s ultimate sacrifice.
2) How Apostle James the Greater died: Beheaded
The Apostle James, also known as James the Greater, was the son Zebedee. He is one of three different James referenced in the New Testament. Additionally, James the Greater is commonly confused with James the brother of Jesus.
James was arrested under the newly appointed governor of Judea, Herod Agrippa. James was turned in by an anonymous accuser and taken to the place of execution.
According to Acts 12:1-19, James was “killed by the sword” in a beheading around 44 AD or 11 years after the death of Jesus. His unnamed accuser was beheaded with him as well, after a change of heart lead him to immediately convert to Christianity.
3) How Apostle John died: Old age
John’s death account is unique for the fact that he was the only original disciple who didn’t die a violent death. Rather, in around 100 AD he passed away in Patmos from old age.
4) How Apostle Simon died: Crucifixion
Apostle Simon was also known as Simon the Canaanite or the Zealot. His ministry was mainly in Mauritania on the west coast of Africa. He later went to England where he was crucified in 74 AD.
5) How Apostle Judas Iscariot died: Suicide by hanging
Judas Iscariot is the infamous disciple who eventually would betray Jesus Christ. Iscariot would turn Jesus over to the high priests for a mere 30 pieces of silver.
According to Matthew 27:3-6, Judas felt immediate remorse after his act of betrayal. So much so that he went off alone and hung himself in Aceldama near Jerusalem.
6) How Apostle Jude / Judas died: Crucifixion
The Apostle Jude, or Thaddaeus, was also known as Judas and commonly referred to as Lebbaeus. Judas ministered in Armenia, Syria and Persia. According to several accounts and stories, he was crucified in Edessa in 72 AD.
7) How Apostle Matthew died: Stabbed
Formerly a tax collector, we know that the Apostle Matthew lived a long time after the death of Christ. Matthew was the author of the New Testament book Matthew, which was written at least 20 years after the death of Christ.
Matthew’s ministry was primarily to the Persians, Parthians and the Medes. According to legend, Matthew died in Ethiopia after being stabbed in the back by a soldier of King Hertacus. Apparently the murder was due to criticisms Matthew had for the King’s morals.
8) How Apostle Thomas died: Speared
The Apostle Thomas is often known as “doubting Thomas”. His ministry mainly consisted of preaching to the people of Greece and India. Thomas would eventually die by lancing, or by being speared after angering local religious authorities.
9) How Apostle Bartholomew died: Crucified or beheaded
The ministry of Bartholomew is said to have been mainly in India. There are actually a couple different death accounts for the Apostle Bartholomew. One account claims that Bartholomew was crucified, while another describes a brutal death involving him being skinned alive and then beheaded. Either way, the death of Bartholomew was most certainly violent.
10) How Apostle Phillip died: Crucified
The Apostle Phillip lead his ministry mainly throughout Asia. However later, Phillip made his way to Egypt and continued preaching to city of Phrygia. Phillip would eventually die in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis, where he was scourged and thrown in prison. He would later die by crucifixion in 54 AD.
11) How Apostle Andrew died: Crucified
The Apostle Andrew was the brother of Peter, who were both simultaneously recruited by Jesus in Bethsaida. Different traditions claimed that the Andrew preached in Scythia, Greece, Asia Minor and Thrace. According to Dorman Newman, a 15th Century religion historian, Andrew went to western Greece in 69 AD.
Andrew would later suffer a gruesome and heinous death at the hands of Roman proconsul Aegeates. He was initially scourged, and then later tied to a cross rather than nailed, so he would suffer longer before dying. Legend has it that Andrew lived for two days after, where he continued to preach the Gospel to an onlooker.
12) How Apostle James the Less died: Stoned and clubbed
The Apostle James was also known as James the Less, and was the son of Alphaeu. James the Less is known as one of the longest lived apostles behind John. When James was the age of 94, he was beaten and stoned to death by a group of prosecutors, later being dealt the finishing blow by a club to the head.
Conclusion: How the 12 Disciples Died Validates Christianity
How the 12 disciples died is truly a testament to the validity of Christianity. The manner in which these apostles were put to death, contains significant implications for both captor and captive.
On the side of the captor, they specifically chose gruesome and cruel punishments for these defectors. On one hand, these kings chose the most painful and inhumane methods of death, in order to send a clear and concise message that Christianity would not be tolerated. Additionally, these excruciatingly painful methods were also a means to persuade the disciples to detract from their faith and denounce Jesus Christ.
We also gain significant insight on the side of the disciples as well. If these death accounts are historically accurate, then we must assume theses twelve had fervor and zeal for Christ. So much so that they were put to death; inhumanely and violently. Fervor and zeal for something are typically not based off whimsical or capricious beliefs. These character traits implicate a deep and unwavering faith to the doctrine of Christianity.
Charles W. Colson, former chief adviser to President Nixon during 1969 and 1973, explains the powerful implications these death accounts had on the resurrection story of Jesus Christ when he stated:
“I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren’t true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world-and they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks. You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.”