Deaths of the Apostles and Disciples of Christ
Most of the deaths of the apostles and disciples of Christ are not documented in detail in the Bible. This article expores historical records of events that provide insight into the sacrifice of early Christian martyrs. Christ warned His disciples that they would be persecuted as His followers because “the world hated Me”, yet before His ascension He promised them the “Comforter” meaning the Holy Spirit.
At the time of His crucifixion, the disciples scattered and went into hiding, perhaps fearing brutal treatment may be in store for them. Of the 12, only James was present as a witness at the cross. After His resurrection, Christ appeared and spoke to the disciples and many others several times. They wouldn’t wait long after His ascension for the gift of the Comforter. At Pentecost, 50 days later, the promise of the Holy Spirit came to the disciples, who were further emboldened as He spoke through them.
The truth they taught, even unto death, has stood the test of time. Jesus was God in the flesh, was crucified for the remission of sin, was raised on the third day, is sitting at the right hand of God, and will come again to judge the world. The disciples held fast to these beliefs and went forth with confidence to preach the Gospel. As a result of professing the Good News, many were condemned to death.
List of Apostles and Disciples of Christ and How They Died
From historical records, here’s how the Christian apostles and other disciples died. Each person is listed in alphabetical order with the method of execution, plus the date of their death and place, if known.
- Andrew, brother of Peter, was crucified in Edessa.
- Bartholomew was beaten and then crucified in India.
- James the Great, older brother of John, was beheaded in 44 A.D. in Judea.
- James the Less was beaten, stoned, and then clubbed to death at age 94 in Jerusalem.
- Jude, brother of James, was crucified in 72 A.D. in Edessa.
- Luke was hanged on an olive tree in Greece.
- Mark was dragged to death in Alexandria.
- Matthew was killed with a weapon that had a blade and spike in 60 A.D. in Nadabah.
- Matthias was stoned and then beheaded in Jerusalem.
- Paul was beheaded with a sword in Rome.
- Peter was crucified head down by request as unworthy to die the same as Christ, in Rome.
- Philip was scourged, imprisoned, and then crucified in 54 A.D. in Heliopolis, Phrygia.
- Simon was crucified in 74 A.D. in Britain.
- Stephen was stoned to death in 34 A.D. in Jerusalem.
- Thomas was thrust through with a spear in India.
According to the period writer Clemens Alexandrinus, as James the Great was lead to his death his accuser was so moved by his courage and faith that he fell at his feet, accepted Christ, and requested a pardon for James or else martyrdom for himself. Both were beheaded.
John, brother of James the Great, was the only apostle who did not suffer a violent death. An attempt was made, however. After he survived boiling in oil without injury, a divine miracle, he was exiled to the Isle of Patmos where the book of Revelation was written.
More About the Apostle Paul and Persecution
Paul, the apostle and previously known as Saul, was an aggressive persecutor of the early church. He was present at the stoning of Stephen where he held the coats of those casting stones. His conversion took place on the road to Damascus where he was headed with papers authorizing removal of Christians to Jerusalem for punishment. Previously his actions resulted in imprisonment or death of the followers of Christ.
Saul’s conversion was met by many church leaders with disbelief because of his reputation for aggressively persecuting Christians. Later known as Paul, his equally aggressive style was used to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles. Paul was especially enlightened, and through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit many of his New Testament writings reveal secrets and mysteries hidden since the foundation of the world. Consider the importance of the love of Christ described in Romans chapter 8.
Verse 38: For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
Verse 39: Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 (KJV)
Paul was given the answer to the ultimate riddle. Israel is God’s chosen people. Because the Jews rejected Jesus Christ as the Messiah, the inheritence promised to His chosen people was extended to the Gentiles, meaning all foreigners, who Paul so aggressively embraced and taught.
The deaths of the apostles and others in the early church provide a reference point for Christians today. Our faith may not be tested by such extreme means, yet we should be encouraged to spread the Gospel and draw others to Christ. Being a witness to others about your faith and the peace and joy found in loving Christ, may be the best gift you ever give a relative, friend, or stranger.