Death of the Apostles

Here we look at the death of the apostles which is often asked by the question “How did the Apostles die?”. Research shows us that it is not always straightforward to answer the question correctly for the very simple reason that much of the knowledge is gone.

Although much of the lives of some of the Holy Apostles are unknown, we do know that several of the Apostles became martyrs but how did the apostles die?

We know of the original twelve disciples; the men who, during the three years of His ministry, walked with Jesus. In Scripture, we are given an introduction to the twelve when we are told how and when Jesus chose each man.

It follows that throughout the Gospels, many events are given which offer us insight into the apostles and their interaction with Our Lord.

We know more about some than others but do we know how the apostles died?

how did the apostles die?
the 12 Apostles

Go and Make Disciples of All Nations

Jesus’ last words to his disciples were,

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

And this is exactly what they did.

They went to different places in the world, teaching the “Good News.”

We are told some things about their lives after Pentecost but we know little about how the apostles died. Of the twelve, Scripture tells us of the deaths of only two of these men: James and Judas.

To start the list of the death of the Apostles with Judas the Traitor is more because we all know the story. Some might say that Judas was not an apostle, we do add him here because he was one of the original 12 disciples.

Judas, overtaken by guilt and without an understanding of Jesus’ forgiveness, committed suicide. (Matthew 27: 3-5).

Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying,

“I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.”

They said,

“What is that to us? See to it yourself.”

And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself.

The Death of the other Apostles

In answer to the question, How Did the Apostles Die? we’ll go to the other ten original apostles giving what information we have found about how they died.

Saint-Pierre

saint peter

Because Jesus said to Peter, “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven,”

the Catholic Church believes Peter to have been the first pope.

Church tradition tells us that Peter was killed by Emperor Nero in approximately 64 AD.

A second-century apocryphal text called Acts of Peter was the first account claiming Peter was crucified upside down, which was apparently because he didn’t consider himself worthy of dying the same death as Jesus.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus, although somewhat cryptically, tells Peter of this destiny when He says,

“Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (John 21:18)

Peter was martyred on a cross. He requested to be crucified head downward for he believed that he was not worthy to die in the same way as Jesus had died.

Peter was approximately 64 years old when he died.

His apostolic symbol is a cross upside down with crossed keys.

Saint James the Greater

saint james the greater

Saint James the Greater was the first apostle to be martyred for following Jesus. His death is one of the only two apostles’ death that is recorded in Scripture. In Acts 12: 1-2, it is written,

“It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword.”

The Jews wanted to prevent Christianity from spreading and King Herod was eager to acquire popularity with them. He believed that persecuting Christians would help him accomplish this popularity. Scholars generally believe James was killed in Jerusalem in 44 AD.

In the fourth century, Eusebius of Caesarea quoted Clement of Alexandria about James’ death:

“It appears that the guard who brought him into court was so moved when he saw him testify that he confessed that he, too, was a Christian. So they were both taken away together, and on the way, he asked James to forgive him. James thought for a moment, then he said ‘I wish you peace,’ and kissed him. So both were beheaded at the same time.” (Eusebius of Caesarea, Church History)

Saint James was approximately 40 years old when he was martyred.

His apostolic symbol is a sword.

Saint André

saint andrew

Saint André was Peter’s brother and it is believed that he, too, was crucified. An apocryphal book, The Acts of Andrew, tells of Andrew’s death. According to the account given, Andrew, like his brother, did not believe himself worthy to die in the same manner as Jesus and was also crucified. His crucifixion, however, was different in that he was bound, rather than nailed, to an X-shaped cross. He was martyred in the Greek city of Patras in 60 AD.

Sadly, the origin of this account is not dependable. The apocryphal book from which it comes also includes many accounts of miracles performed by Andrew. One, in particular, asserts that he preached non-stop for three days as he hung on the cross.

Andrew died at approximately 50 years old.

His apostolic symbol is an X-shaped cross.

Saint Philippe

saint philip

Because many Christians confused Philip the Apostle with Philip the Evangelist, an accurate account of Philip’s death is not certain. Adding to the uncertainty is the fact that stories are different and it is not clear which story refers to which Philip.

While it is not certain how the apostle, Philip, died, it is believed that he died around 80 AD in the ancient Greek city of Hierapolis. Polycrates of Ephesus.

The Acts of Philip offers the most thorough account of his death.

This account tells that Philip converted the wife of an Official of Ancient Rome. The official became so angry at this that he had both Philip and Bartholomew crucified upside down. While hanging there, Philip preached. The crowd became encouraged by his preaching and asked that he be released. The Official released Bartholomew but not Philip.

One of the symbols of Saint Philip is a basket, because of his part in the feeding of the five thousand.

Saint-Barthélemy

saint bartholomew

There is more than one version of how the Apostle Bartholomew’s died. It is almost certain he was martyred but there are several ways his martyrdom occurred. Saint-Barthélemy was probably martyred—but like many of the apostles, there are several ways it may have happened. The most well-known account is that he was scourged and then beheaded.
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Another account is in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs which claims that in India,

“He was at length cruelly beaten and then crucified by the impatient idolaters.”

The Golden Legend (Lives of the Saints) notes several accounts:

“There be diverse opinions of the manner of his passion. For the blessed Dorotheus saith that he was crucified, and saith also: Bartholomew preached to men of India and delivered to them the gospel after Matthew in their proper tongue. He died in Alban, a city of great Armenia, crucified the head downward.

Saint Theodorus saith that he was flayed, and it is read in many books that he was beheaded only. And this contrariety may be assoiled in this manner, that some say that he was crucified and was taken down ere he died, and for to have greater torment he was flayed and at the last beheaded.”

Saint-Thomas

saint thomas

There is little debate regarding the death of Saint-Thomas. The Acts of Thomas tells us that he was martyred in Mylapore, India, where he was stabbed with spears. Syrian Christian tradition specifies Thomas was martyred in Mylapore on July 3, 72 AD, noting that he was killed with a spear.

An early ecclesiastical calendar entry reads:

“3 July, Saint Thomas who was pierced with a lance in ‘India’.”

There is no further information or tradition regarding his death.

Thomas was approximately 61 years old when he died.

His apostolic symbol is a spear.

Saint Matthieu

saint matthew

Like most of the other apostles, there are a few inconsistent accounts of Saint Matthew’s death. There are several differing accounts of how this apostle died. Clement of Alexandria quotes Heracleon, one of the earliest commentators on the New Testament, as saying that Matthew died naturally:

“But neither will this utterance be found to be spoken universally; for all the saved have confessed with the confession made by the voice, and departed. Of whom are Matthew, Philip, Thomas, Levi, and many others.” (Stromata)

However, most scholars don’t accept Heracleon’s account. Because they are closer to the time when the events actually happened, earlier records are considered to be more dependable. Earlier accounts agree that Saint Matthieu was martyred. Disagreement is in that they do not agree on how or where this occurred. The choices are, burned, beheaded, stoned, or stabbed.

John Foxe’s famous Book of Martyr’s record of Matthew states:

“The scene of his labors was Parthia, and Ethiopia, in which latter country he suffered martyrdom, being slain with a halberd in the city of Nadabah, A.D. 60.”

Saint Jacques le mineur

saint james the lesser

Saint Jacques le mineur was a significant leader in the Church, but James son of Alphaeus (James the lesser), was mentioned only twice in Scripture and is one of the most ambiguous apostles. As with some of the other apostles, there is disagreement in how James son of Alphaeus died.

Tradition tells us that while he was preaching, he was pushed from the peak of a temple, beaten with a club, and then stoned to death. Another tradition, however, claims that he preached in Egypt and was crucified there, in the city of Ostrakine.

Hippolyte, un théologien qui a vécu aux deuxième et troisième siècles, aurait enregistré la mort de Jacques dans Sur les douze apôtres du Christ : . Il mourut en 62 après JC.

Le symbole apostolique de Jacques le Petit est une scie de charpentier et une massue de foulon.

Saint Simon le Zélote

saint simon the zealot

Saint Simon le Zélote is one of the vaguest apostles. Although he was one of the 12 main disciples of Jesus, other than being named in the lists of the apostles, nothing more is told of him in the Gospels. There are many accounts of Simon’s death but since the earliest account did not come until centuries after his death, it is difficult to know which is reliable.

Au cinquième siècle, Moïse de Chorène écrivit que Simon le Zélote avait été martyrisé dans le royaume d'Ibérie.

La légende dorée dit qu'il fut martyrisé en Perse en 65 après JC.

Les chrétiens éthiopiens croient qu'il a été crucifié en Samarie.

Au XVIe siècle, Justus Lipsius prétendait avoir été scié en deux.

La tradition orientale prétend qu'il est mort de vieillesse à Edesse.

Donc, en réalité, on ne sait pas avec certitude comment il est mort.

Saint John

saint john

Saint John is considered to be the only apostle to die of old age. As Jesus was dying, he commended His mother, Mary to His beloved disciple, John. After Mary’s Assumption into Heaven, John went to Ephesus. There he wrote his three epistles. From Ephesus, he was banished to the island of Patmos.

C'est là qu'il a écrit qu'il a écrit le livre de l'Apocalypse. Il est finalement retourné à Éphèse où il est mort de mort naturelle.

Tertullien, un écrivain chrétien de la fin du IIe et du début du IIIe siècle, a écrit qu'avant que les Romains ne bannissent Jean, ils l'avaient emmené dans un colisée et l'avaient plongé dans une cuve d'huile bouillante. Quand il est sorti indemne, tout le Colisée s'est converti au christianisme. C'est pourquoi certaines iconographies montrent Jean dans une cuve d'huile bouillante.

Saint Jude

saint jude

It is customarily believed that Saint Jude was martyred in Syria when on his missionary journey with Simon the Zealot. Since this tradition comes from the account given in Acts of Simon and Jude, it is not considered absolute. In the story of Saint Jude, we read more about his background and life.

En conclusion, comment les apôtres sont-ils morts ?

La question « Comment les apôtres sont-ils morts ? » est comme vous pouvez le lire pas facile de répondre. Les récits de la mort de certains des apôtres sont considérés comme l'histoire de l'Église et ne sont pas débattus. Les récits de la mort d'autres apôtres sont contradictoires, alors la façon dont ces apôtres sont morts peut être discutable. Ce qui n'est pas douteux, c'est l'amour que ces hommes avaient pour Jésus et leur dévouement à prêcher sa parole.

FAQ How Did the Apostles Die?

Was Peter crucified upside down?

Yes, according to Catholic tradition, Saint-Pierre was crucified upside down. The reason for this is that he requested to be crucified in this way, as he felt unworthy to die in the same manner as his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This story is recounted in the apocryphal Acts of Peter, which records that when Peter was brought before Pontius Pilate to be condemned, he requested that he be crucified upside down. Pilate agreed to this request, and so Peter was executed in this way.

Who was the first apostle to die?

The first apostle to die was St. James, who was martyred by King Herod in 44 AD. According to Catholic tradition, he was beheaded with a sword.
Catholics believe that apostles are special witnesses of Christ and that they have a unique role in the Church. In addition to being the first apostle to die, St. James is also recognized as the patron saint of Spain and missionaries.

Who was the last apostle to die?

The last apostle to die was Saint John the Evangelist, who is said to have lived until he was nearly 100 years old. He died peacefully in Ephesus, surrounded by his disciples. Of course, there are some who would argue that Saint Paul was the last apostle to die, as he is believed to have been martyred around the same time as Saint Peter. But regardless of which apostle died last, they, the 12 Apostles, all truly were heroic figures whose legacies continue to inspire us today.

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