The Martyrs and How They Died


I also highly recommend the movies: PETER & PAUL & POLYCARP. 


(This information taken from various ministry sites)  

Question: "Does the Bible record the death of the apostles? How did each of the apostles die?" 

Answer: The only apostle whose death the Bible records is James (Acts 12:2). King Herod had James “put to death with the sword,” likely a reference to beheading. The circumstances of the deaths of the other apostles are related through church tradition, so we should not put too much weight on any of the other accounts. 

The most commonly accepted church tradition in regard to the death of an apostle is that the apostle Peter was crucified upside-down in Rome in fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy (John 21:18). The following are the most popular “traditions” concerning the deaths of the other apostles: 

Matthew suffered martyrdom in Ethiopia, killed by a sword wound. 

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), was the leader of the church in Jerusalem. He was thrown from the southeast pinnacle of the temple (over a hundred feet down) when he refused to deny his faith in Christ. When they discovered that he survived the fall, his enemies beat James to death with a club. This is thought to be the same pinnacle where Satan had taken Jesus during the temptation. 

Bartholomew, also known as Nathanael, was a missionary to Asia. He witnessed in present-day Turkey and was martyred for his preaching in Armenia, being flayed to death by a whip. 

Andrew was crucified on an x-shaped cross in Greece. After being whipped severely by seven soldiers, they tied his body to the cross with cords to prolong his agony. His followers reported that when he was led toward the cross, Andrew saluted it in these words: “I have long desired and expected this happy hour. The cross has been consecrated by the body of Christ hanging on it.” He continued to preach to his tormentors for two days until he died. 

The apostle Thomas was 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, was stoned and then beheaded. 

The apostle Paul was tortured and then beheaded by the evil Emperor Nero in Rome in A.D. 67. There are traditions regarding the other apostles as well, but none with any reliable historical or traditional support. 

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 it. People will not die for something they know to be 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. 

Recommended Resource: Foxe's Book of Martyrs by John Foxe 


The above was taken from  


How the Apostles Died 

The Bible does not expressly give details about the ways in which the apostles died. We must rely on early church historians and secular historians as well but thankfully both seem to be in agreement and both are reliable. Because of this, we have no reason to disbelieve these accounts as the vast majority of them agree on the method of the apostles’ deaths.[1] We must understand that they were first called disciples which are what every believer is called. Jesus later commissioned them and sent them out to proclaim the gospel. The word apostle means “one sent” and so we can see that disciples and apostles are not the same thing. Every apostle was a disciple but not every disciple is an apostle. Today, anyone who has trusted in Christ is a disciple but the days of apostleship is over and ended with the conclusion of the New Testament. The church, “having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone” cannot have other apostles any more than it can have another cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20) because “no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corintians 3:11). In order for there to be other apostles, we would have to tear down the building again and add to the foundation. 

It is believed that most of the apostles died in the middle or late 1st century. We will now examine the historical evidence of how these men died. We begin with perhaps the most well-known of Jesus’ apostles, and that would be Peter. 

How the Apostle Peter Died 

The knowledge of Peter’s death is widespread among secular and church historians. He was crucified but he thought himself unworthy of the same type of death that Jesus suffered and so asked to be hung upside down which was done in Rome. Jesus saw this coming when He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” (John 21:18-19). Any time that Jesus said “truly, truly” or “verily, verily” He was putting great emphasis on a truth and Jesus must have known, with certainty, how Peter would die and that they “will stretch out your hands” and “carry you where you do not want to go” clearly implied crucifixion. 

How the Apostle Andrew Died 

Once again, most historians agree that Andrew was also crucified but he was crucified on an x-shaped cross in Greece.[1] The fact that he was in Greece may mean that he was participating in the Great Commission and taking the gospel to the whole world…at least the known world. This must have meant that he was tilted to one side or the other and was not crucified vertically or horizontally. It is believed that while he hung on that cross and was dying, he called to the crowds and taught them about Jesus Christ and how they might be saved, thus he was sharing the gospel up until the very time of his death on the x-shaped cross…being loyal to the very end. 

How the Apostle Matthew Died 

Matthew, like most of the apostles late in their lives, became a missionary and was arrested in Ethiopia. It was there that he was staked or impaled to the earth by spears and then beheaded. Not much beyond this is known since Matthew was in such a remote place in Africa and went where few historian or Christians ventured to go. 

How the Apostle Bartholomew or Nathaniel Died 

Bartholomew is also known as Nathaniel and there is scarce little known about how he died but it appears that since he was martyred in Armenia, he too must have been involved in the Great Commission and taking the good news into that part of the world. Apparently, he became a missionary to Asia Minor. Sadly, most agree that he was basically flayed to death by whip, where he was literally torn to shreds. How agonizing that must have been. 

How the Apostle Thomas Died 

Again, not very much is known about the method of Thomas’ execution but that maybe due to the fact that he was a missionary in India and was establishing a church there when he was stabbed with a spear and died from the wound. There are so few historical facts that are available beyond this account that we cannot add much to this and do so with absolute certainty. 

How the Apostle Philip Died 

According to most historians, Philip’s death was exceedingly cruel.[1] He was impaled by iron hooks in his ankles and hung upside down to die. Precious little else is known about the process but it is enough to know how he died. 

How the Apostle James (son of Zebedee) Died 

The apostle James is not the same James as Jesus brother so we need to establish that fact. James was far from any reliable historical writers or church historians but it is thought that he was beheaded by King Herod near Palestine and not far from where he was a local missionary to the Jews in Judea. 


How the Apostle Jude Died 

The apostle Jude, who wrote the next to the last book in the New Testament by the same name, went all the way to Persia and it was there that he was crucified by the Magi. It is unlikely that the Magi mentioned in the New Testament who were searching for the child King, Jesus, and the ones who crucified Jude were one and the same. There were many Magi in Persia and so the chances that it would be the same ones who sought Jesus were the same ones who crucified Jude is highly unlikely. Apparently Jude was in Persia on a missionary trip. 

How the Apostle Matthias Died 

Matthias was the apostle that was selected to replace Judas who hung himself. Acts 1:20-26 reveals how this was done, and some scholars say it may have fulfilled a prophecy in Psalm 69:25 and Psalm 109:8. Regardless of whether the prophecy was about Matthias, he was apparently stoned and then beheaded late in the 1st century. 

How the Apostle John Died 

This is the disciple whom Jesus loved and was the only one that died a natural death…that is by old age and not martyred. However he was imprisoned on the island of Patmos where he wrote the Book of Revelation. He was later freed and went to Turkey, perhaps on a mission to establish churches there. This is the apostle that is mentioned in John 21:20-23, “Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, ‘Lord, who is the one who betrays You?’ Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, ‘But Lord, what about this man?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.’  Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?” 

How the Apostle James the Less Died 

This is the most inconspicuous of all the apostles and he is called James the Less to distinguish him from the other apostle named James and the James who was Jesus half-brother. James the Less was martyred in a fashion similar to James, the half-brother of Jesus, who was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple and then beaten to death. 

How the Apostle Simon Died 

The apostle Simon is not Simon Peter (Andrew’s brother) but Simon the Zealot. Once again, very little is known about him inside or outside of the Bible. All that is known about his death is that he was also was crucified. 

Judas the Betrayer 

It is not fair to call Judas Iscariot an apostle since he was never truly converted or commissioned by Jesus. It may not even be accurate to call him a disciple because he truly did not follow Christ Who said that “whoever would be my disciple must follow after me” (Matthew 16:24). Even so, I thought he should be mentioned. The Bible says that he betrayed Jesus and then being consumed with worldly guilt went out to hang himself (Matthew 27:3-8). 

How James, the Brother of Jesus Died 

I realize that the brother of Jesus, James, was not an apostle but he was one of the early church leaders and the account of his death is horrific. He died early in the church history while the New Testament was still being compiled. He was believed to have been thrown some 100 feet off a wall. This was done to him after he repeatedly refused to deny his faith in Jesus. After the fall, he was somehow still alive and when they discovered this, his enemies circled him and beat him to death with clubs. 

The Apostle Paul 

I included Paul among the apostles since he was perhaps the greatest apostle and evangelist the world has ever known and most certainly deserves to be included among the apostles. Second Timothy was the last letter ever written by Paul and in it he knew that the time of his death drew near as he wrote to Timothy “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” You can hear the passion and love of Paul in his last words to Timothy. 

He wrote from prison, knowing that his execution was near. Probably Christ Himself must have told him and he was preparing Timothy to take over for him. Listen to the heartbreaking last words of Paul as he awaited his execution in 2 Timothy 4:16-18: “At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”  How heartbreaking. Paul was abandoned by everyone as his execution neared…all that is except His cherished Lord. Paul was not ashamed how he lived his life as his death neared. Most historians, both secular and church, say that he was beheaded. His last thoughts must have been of His beloved Lord knowing that since He rescued him from eternal death by saving him, He would rescue him after his physical death and would be with the Lord forever. 


How will you die…in your sins? I pray not. If you step out of this life without Christ, then you have sealed your own fate and eternally separated yourself from God. Repent today, confess your sins, see your need for a Savior and put your trust in Jesus Christ and you too will be part of that which is being built today by God and which has as its foundation, the saints of God, the apostles and the Chief Cornerstone, Jesus Christ. There is coming a day when no man or woman can be joined together with Christ so why not decide this very hour for when He comes it will be too late. 

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Jesus’ death on the cross, as described in the New Testament, has become one of the most famous events. But what happened to the 12 disciples who were his closest followers? Not as much information has survived about their fates, but here is what’s available from various sources, including the New Testament itself, apocryphal texts, early Christian historians, legends and lore. 

• Simon, AKA Peter: Simon-Peter, who was appointed by Jesus the leader of the new sect, is viewed by Roman Catholics as the first pope, was eventually martyred in Rome during the reign of the emperor Nero. As the story goes, Peter asked to be crucified upside down, so that his death would not be the equal of Jesus and the Romans supposedly obliged. 

• Andrew: According to 15th Century religious historian Dorman Newman, Andrew—the brother of Peter—went to Patras in western Greece in 69 AD, where the Roman proconsul Aegeates debated religion with him. Aegeates tried to convince Andrew to forsake Christianity, so that he would not have to torture and execute him. But when that didn’t work, apparently he decided to give Andrew the full treatment. Andrew was scourged, and then tied rather than nailed to a cross, so that he would suffer for a longer time before dying. Andrew lived for two days, during which he preached to passersby. 

• James (son of Zebedee, AKA James the Greater): Acts 12:1-19 says that James was killed with a sword. The newly-appointed governor of Judea, Herod Agrippa, decided to ingratiate himself with the Romans by persecuting leaders of the new sect. After James was arrested and led to place of execution, his unnamed accuser was moved by his courage. He not only repented and converted on the spot, but asked to be executed alongside James. The Roman executioners obliged, and both men were beheaded simultaneously. 

• John: John was the only one of the original disciples not to die a violent death. Instead, he passed away peacefully in Patmos in his old age, sometime around 100 AD. 

• Philip: Philip, the first of Jesus’ disciples, became a missionary in Asia. Eventually, he traveled to the Egyptian city of Heliopolis, where he was scourged, thrown into prison, and crucified in 54 AD. 

• Bartholomew: Bartholomew supposedly preached in several countries, including India, where he translated the Gospel of Matthew for believers. In one account, “impatient idolaters” beat Bartholomew and then crucified him, while in another, he was skinned alive and then beheaded. 

• Thomas: Apparently Thomas preached the gospel in Greece and India, where he angered local religious authorities, who martyred him by running him through with a spear. 

• Matthew: According to legend, the former tax collector turned missionary was martyred in Ethiopia, where he was supposedly stabbed in the back by an swordsman sent by King Hertacus, after he criticized the king’s morals. 

• James (son of Alphaeus, AKA James the Less): According to Foxe, James, who was elected by his fellow believers to head the churches of Jerusalem, was one of the longest-lived apostles, perhaps exceeded only by John. At the age of 94, he was beaten and stoned by persecutors, and then killed him by hitting him in the head with a club. 

• Thaddaeus, AKA Lebbaeus, Judas or Jude: According to several stories, he was crucified at Edessa (the name of cities in both Turkey and Greece) in 72 AD. 

• Simon the Canaanite AKA the Zealot: Simon preached in Mauritania on the west coast of Africa, and then went to England, where he was crucified in 74 AD. 

• Judas Iscariot: According to Matthew 27:3-6, the treacherous apostle quickly felt remorse over his betrayal of Jesus and went to the Temple to recant. When the high priests ignored his plea, he threw down the 30 pieces of silver that he had been paid, and went off and hanged himself.  But Acts 1:15-20, gives a different and even grislier version of Judas’ demise. He says that Judas used the blood money to purchase a piece of land and then fell headlong from a high place there, so that “he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.” Jerusalem residents subsequently named the place Aceldama, which means “the field of blood.” 



Many wonder how the 12 apostles died, but The New Testament tells of the fate of only two of the apostles: Judas, who betrayed Jesus and then went out and hanged himself, and James the son of Zebedee, who was executed by Herod about 44 AD (Acts 12:2). Read how each of the apostles spread out to minister and evangilize and how many of the apostles died for their faith. 

Into All the World 
Reports and legends abound and they are not always reliable, but it is safe to say that the apostles went far and wide as heralds of the message of the risen Christ. An early legend says they cast lots and divided up the world to determine who would go where, so all could hear about Jesus. They suffered greatly for their faith and in most cases met violent deaths on account of their bold witness. 

PETER and PAUL were both martyred in Rome about 66 AD, during the persecution under Emperor Nero. Paul was beheaded. Peter was crucified, upside down at his request, since he did not feel he was worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord. 

ANDREW went to the "land of the man-eaters," in what is now the Soviet Union. Christians there claim him as the first to bring the gospel to their land. He also preached in Asia Minor, modern-day Turkey, and in Greece, where he is said to have been crucified. 

"Doubting" THOMAS was probably most active in the area east of Syria. Tradition has him preaching as far east as India, where the ancient Marthoma Christians revere him as their founder. They claim that he died there when pierced through with the spears of four soldiers. 

PHILIP possibly had a powerful ministry in Carthage in North Africa and then in Asia Minor, where he converted the wife of a Roman proconsul. In retaliation the proconsul had Philip arrested and cruelly put to death. 

MATTHEW the tax collector and writer of a Gospel, ministered in Persia and Ethiopia. Some of the oldest reports say he was not martyred, while others say he was stabbed to death in Ethiopia. 

BARTHOLOMEW had widespread missionary travels attributed to him by tradition: to India with Thomas, back to Armenia, and also to Ethiopia and Southern Arabia. There are various accounts of how he met his death as a martyr for the gospel. 

JAMES the son of Alpheus, is one of at least three James referred to in the New Testament. There is some confusion as to which is which, but this James is reckoned to have ministered in Syria. The Jewish historian Josephus reported that he was stoned and then clubbed to death. 

SIMON THE ZEALOT, so the story goes, ministered in Persia and was killed after refusing to sacrifice to the sun god. 

MATTHIAS was the apostle chosen to replace Judas. Tradition sends him to Syria with Andrew and to death by burning. 

JOHN is the only one of the company generally thought to have died a natural death from old age. He was the leader of the church in the Ephesus area and is said to have taken care of Mary the mother of Jesus in his home. During Domitian's persecution in the middle 90's, he was exiled to the island of Patmos. There he is credited with writing the last book of the New Testament--the Revelation. An early Latin tradition has him escaping unhurt after being cast into boiling oil at Rome. 

For Pete's sake 
The names of Jesus' apostles have become the most common names for males in the Western world. How many do you know named John, Pete, Tom, Andy, Jim, Bart, or Phil? 

At least four of the apostles were fishermen. Can this be part of the reason that one of the earliest and most prominent Christian symbols was the fish? The Greek word for fish, ichthus, formed an acrostic: Iesous Christos Theou Uios Soter, which means "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior."