Apart from James, son of Zebedee (brother of John), and Judas
Iscariot, the Bible does not tell us how any of the disciples
Acts 12:1-2 says that James was put to death by sword by the order
Matthew 27:5 says that Judas threw down the silver in the Temple
and went and hanged himself. The priests took the blood money and
bought the potter's field, which they called the field of blood.
Acts 1:18 has a different story, that Judas bought a field with the
reward of iniquity, and fell headlong, bursting asunder and all his
bowels gushed out. Because of this, the field was called the field
of blood. In other words, neither Matthew nor Luke knew how Judas
Iscariot died, but Matthew seems to have got his story from the
Book of Zechariah.
Various traditions have grown up around the supposed deaths of
other disciples, but there is no evidence that supports those
traditions. Here are some of these:
Peter - widely believed to have been either beheaded or crucified
(upside down) in Rome.
Matthew - arrested in Ethiopia and there nailed to the ground with
short spears and beheaded.
John - John faced martyrdom when he was boiled in a huge basin of
boiling oil during a wave of persecution in Rome. However, he was
miraculously delivered from death. John was then sentenced to the
mines on the prison island of Patmos. He wrote his prophetic Book
of Revelation on Patmos. The Apostle John was later freed and
returned to what is now modern-day Turkey. He died as an old man,
the only apostle to die peacefully.
James, the brother of Jesus (not officially an apostle) - thrown
over a hundred feet down from the southeast pinnacle of the Temple
when he refused to deny his faith in Christ. When they discovered
that he survived the fall, his enemies beat him to death with a
club. This was the same pinnacle where Satan had taken Jesus during
Bartholomew, also know as Nathanael - a missionary to Asia, he
witnessed in present-day Turkey and was martyred for his preaching
in Armenia, when he was flayed to death by a whip.
Andrew - was crucified on an x-shaped cross in Greece.
Thomas - stabbed with a spear in India during one of his missionary
trips to establish the church there.
Matthias (the apostle chosen to replace the traitor Judas Iscariot)
- stoned and then beheaded.
Paul - tortured and then beheaded by the evil Emperor Nero at Rome
in A.D. 67.
There are traditions regarding the other apostles as well, but none
with any reliable historical or traditional support.
St. James (son of Zebedee) was beheaded by King Herod in
St. Philip was crucified.
St. James the Less (son of Aphaeus) was thrown from the pinnacle of
the temple at Jerusalem and dispatched with a club where he fell,
or crucified or stoned.
St. Simon was crucified.
St. Jude was "cruelly put to death" by the Magi of Persia, or
It is not so important how the apostles died. What is important is
the fact that they were all willing to die for their faith. If
Jesus had not been resurrected, the disciples would have known. No
one will die for something he knows is a lie. The fact that all of
the apostles were willing to die horrible deaths, refusing to
renounce their faith in Christ - is tremendous evidence that they
had truly witnessed the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
We do not know how any of the disciples died. Even Judas, the only
disciple whose death is mentioned in the Bible seems to have died
in two quite different ways:
- In Matthew's Gospel, Judas returned the money to the priests
and then hanged himself. They bought a piece of land for the burial
- In Acts of the Apostles, Judas did not return the money, bought
himself some land with the money, but fell down headlong and
Many traditions grew up in the second and third centuries about the
glorious and noble deaths of the disciples, but none seems to be
based on fact. If even the biblical record, written within a
hundred years of the supposed event, contains contradictions about
the death of Judas, then these traditions should be considered as
no more than pious preachings, designed to enhance the status of
Roman Catholics believe they were all martyred excepted for John
who died a natural death.