What Happened to the Apostles of Jesus?

 Jesus selected twelve men to be His close followers and nearly constant companions.  These men had the privilege of seeing Jesus perform His miracles and listening to His teachings. Some of these individuals are better known than others. In all Jesus had fourteen Apostles. This includes the original twelve selected by Jesus, as well as the Apostle Paul who Jesus selected to send to the gentiles. Also included in the list of Apostles is the man selected by the Apostles to take the place of Judas after his death. 

Jesus' Apostles
The twelve Apostles are held in very high regard and are mentioned in the Book of Revelation. In the writing by the Apostle John we see that the names of the Apostles will be remembered in the foundation of the new city.

"And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the lamb." - Revelation 21:14

During His lifetime Jesus was obviously the focal point and the Apostles played very much a secondary role. Once Jesus had ascending into heaven the ministry of the early church focused on the efforts and leadership of these same Apostles. These men spread out over the known world to spread the good news and continue the work Jesus had begun. But exactly where did they go, and what eventually became of them? How many died or suffered as a result of their ministry? Unfortunately the Bible only tells us what happened to two of the fourteen Apostles. However, we do have many early church traditions and various manuscripts that provide some insight into the fate of the additional Apostles. 

The first Apostle we will look at is the first to perish. Judas Iscariot was one of the twelve selected by Jesus. Judas would eventually betray Jesus but he was also suspected of dipping into the money pouch the Apostles used for their daily needs. The event recorded happened just after a woman used perfume to adorn Jesus. Judas was upset the perfume had been 'wasted' when it could have been sold for a considerable amount of money which he claimed could have been given to the poor.

"Now he said this, not because he cared about the poor [for he had never cared about them], but because he was a thief; and since he had the money box [serving as treasurer for the twelve disciples], he used to pilfer what was put into it." - John 12:6

 Theft was a minor offence compared to what Judas would latter do. For just thirty pieces of silver Judas betrayed Jesus, allowing Him to be captured by the religious leaders. Once Jesus was condemned to death Judas realized what he had done and after a brief encounter with the high priests, went out and hung himself. 

"When Judas, who had betrayed him saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. "I have sinned," he said, "for I have betrayed innocent blood."

"What is that to us?" they replied. ""that's your responsibility."

So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

(Matthew 27:3-5)

 Within the Gospels there are several men named James mentioned. The Apostle James, son of Zebedee and brother of John, was one of the original twelve. He was the first of the Apostles to die a martyrs death. 

Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church, to do them harm. And he had James the brother of John executed with a sword. When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter as well." - Acts 12:1-3

While King Herod arrested Peter, he was later released. James was executed around the year 44 A.D. James was known to be rash and somewhat aggressive in his faith and it is therefore not surprising he was seized and would tragically become the first of the Apostles to be martyred. Unfortunately he would not be the last.

While Peter escaped execution at the hands of Herod, he was destined to die in much the same manner as his Lord. In 1 Clement we can find the earliest known record of the execution of Peter and Paul. Church tradition tells us Peter was crucified, but insisted on being crucified upside down as he said he was unworthy to die in the same manner as Jesus. Paul, we are told, was beheaded in Rome. Paul would have been crucified as well, but as a citizen of Rome it was illegal for him to be put to death in such a manner. 

"Through jealousy and envy the greatest and most righteous pillars of the church were persecuted and contended unto death. Let us set before our eyes the good apostles. Peter, who because of unrighteous jealousy suffered not one or two but many trials, and having thus given his testimony went to the glorious place which was his due. Through jealousy and strife Paul showed the way to the prize of endurance; seven times he was in bonds, he was exiled, he was stoned, he was herald both in the East and in the West, he gained the noble fame of his faith, he taught righteousness to all the world, and when he had reached the limits of the West he gave his testimony before the rulers, and thus passed from the world and was taken up into the Holy Place, - the greatest example of endurance." (1 Clement 5:1-7)

Some traditions tell us that Peter and Paul died on the same day in Rome. Other traditions say they died on the same date, exactly one year apart. It is believed this took place around 67 A.D.

Unfortunately we do not know as much about some of the other Apostles. We will touch on each of them briefly and give the most common tradition for where they travelled, and how they ultimately met their doom. In many cases there are multiple versions of their stories, so depending on your source material, there may be some discrepancies. For the sake of time and space I will not be attempting to give all of the various possibilities here.

Andrew - would travel extensively preaching the Gospel. It is held he traveled to Russia, Asia minor, modern day Turkey and into Greece. Eventually Andrew would be crucified in Greece.

Thomas - travelled to India and is believed to have been the first to spread the gospel news there. The Mahama Christians claim Thomas as their founder. Thomas would die in India when he was pierced by the spears of four soldiers. 

Phillip would preach the gospel in North Africa and Asia minor. Legend tells that Phillip converted the wife of a Roman Proconsul to Christianity. The Proconsul did not approve and had Phillip arrested and later put to death. 

Matthew -or- Levi - the tax collector - would minister in both Persia and Ethiopia after the Resurrection. It is reported he was stabbed to death in Ethiopia because of his teachings.

Bartholomew -or- Nathanael - travelled to India with Thomas, then on to Southern Arabia. Many scholars believe Bartholomew was the only Apostle with a Royal bloodline. Tradition tells us Bartholomew met one of the most grizzlies of deaths when he was flayed and then beheaded.  

[Flayed - to peel the skin off.]

James, the son of Alpheus - ministered and preached in Syria. He was pushed off the temple were he was preaching but somehow survived the fall. The onlookers began to stone him but James knelt and began praying for them. The group stopped the stoning, but a nearby man stepped forward and struck James in the head with a club, killing him.

Simon the Zealot - the zealots were actually a terrorist group which would at times hide daggers in their cloaks in order to assassinate Roman leaders or sympathizers. These attacks often took place in very public and crowded areas to show the Romans and their supporters were not safe anywhere. It is not known that Simon took part in these types of attacks. It is said he went out and ministered in Persia. When he would not make a sacrifice to the sun god, he was put to death. 

Matthias - was named to replace Judas. It is believed Matthias travelled with Andrew to Syria. Matthias would eventually be martyred when he was burned to death. 

"And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles." - Acts 12: 26

Judas Thaddeus (Jude) - preached in Armenia. Early church tradition tells us he was killed in Beirut, Lebanon around 65 A.D.  

John - the author of the Gospel of John, three epistles and the book of Revelation, was also known as the Apostle that Jesus loved. John is said to have cared for the virgin Mary after the Crucifixion until the time of her death. This was in keeping with the instructions of Jesus while on the cross.

"When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple who he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son?" Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home." - John 19:26-27

John was exiled to the island of Patmos for a time, which is where it is believed he wrote the Book of Revelation. There is a legend that John was thrown into boiling oil while in Rome but escaped unharmed. It is believed John was the only member of the Apostles who did not die a violent death. Tradition holds that John died of old age. 

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