How Did The Apostles Die: Tracing the Fates of Jesus’ Disciples

By Charalampos •  Updated: 04/18/23 •  10 min read

The Twelve Apostles were the primary followers of Jesus Christ during his ministry on earth. They were chosen by Jesus to spread his teachings throughout the world. The apostles were instrumental in the establishment of the early Christian church and played a vital role in the spread of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire.

As with many historical figures, the details of the apostles’ lives and deaths are not always clear. The Bible provides some information about the apostles, but much of what is known about their lives and deaths comes from other sources.

Despite the lack of clear information, there is evidence to suggest that many of the apostles died as martyrs, facing persecution and death for their beliefs.

The Martyrdom And Death of The Apostles

PeterCrusified Upside Down
JamesExecuted by King Herod Agrippa I
JohnDied of Natural Causes in Ephesus
AndrewCrucified on an X-Shaped Cross in Patras, Greece
BartholomewTortured and Then Beheaded in Albanopolis
James the LessStoned by the Jews
JudeMartyred in Beirut
MatthewStabbed to Death With a Spear
PhilipCrucified Upside Down
SimonMurdered in Abkhazia
ThomasStabbed With a Spear in India
MatthiasStoned to Death

1. Peter

We know from the Bible that Peter was a fisherman who became one of Jesus’ closest disciples and a leader of the early Church.

After Jesus’ crucifixion, Peter spread true faith in Roman Empire.

According to the Church tradition, he was martyred in Rome during the reign of Emperor Nero. The pagan government couldn’t accept any other religion except paganism and was persecuting all Christians.
He was crucified upside down at his own request because he didn’t feel worthy to die in the same way as Jesus.

2. James

James, the son of Zebedee, was one more disciple of Jesus. He and his brother John were named the “Sons of Thunder” because of their zealousness and fiery personalities.

James is mentioned as one of the leaders of the Church in Jerusalem, together with Peter and John. (Acts 15:6-11)

The Bible says James was the first of the Apostles who was martyred (Acts 12:2). King Herod Agrippa I executed James by the sword in Jerusalem around 44 A.D.

3. John

John was the brother of James. He is often referred to in the Bible as the “Beloved Disciple” due to his close relationship with Jesus.

John spread the Gospel throughout the Roman Empire and wrote scriptures that became parts of the Bible.

According to the Church tradition, John lived to old age and died of natural causes in Ephesus. He is the only disciple who wasn’t executed and lived his whole life till the end.

4. Andrew

Andrew was the brother of Peter. They both were fishermen who became the disciples of Jesus.

After Jesus’ resurrection, Andrew traveled throughout modern-day Turkey and Greece, preaching the Gospel to the people.

In the end, Andrew was martyred in the city of Patras, Greece. He was crucified on an X-shaped cross. He was seen as a threat to the Roman authorities and was killed by such a brutal form of execution. Now that type of cross is known as Saint Andrew’s cross.

5. Bartholomew

Bartholomew was a resident of Cana in Galilee and was introduced to Jesus by the apostle Philip. After Jesus’ resurrection, Bartholomew preached the gospel in India and Armenia. Some sources tell us that he also preached in Persia, Mesopotamia, and even Ethiopia.

Bartholomew was martyred in Armenia, where he converted King Polymius to Christianity. However, the king’s brother Astyages was angry about this and ordered Bartholomew to be tortured and then beheaded in Albanopolis.

The tradition tells us that Bartholomew was killed in a terrible way: he was tied up and either flayed alive or crucified upside down.

6. James the Less

James the Less was the brother of the Apostle Jude, the son of James, and possibly the brother of the Apostle Matthew.

James became the leader of the Christians in Judea after Peter went to Rome.

The details of his death are unknown. There are several versions of it, for example, some sources tell us that he died in Marmarica because he was stoned by the Jews who didn’t like his teachings, in another version says that he was crucified on a cross when he was in Egyptian city Ostracine.

7. Jude

Jude, also known as Thaddeus, was born in Cana of Galilee. It was the town where Jesus performed His first miracle.

According to tradition, he preached the gospel in Armenia, Syria, and Mesopotamia.

He was martyred in Beirut, in modern-day Lebanon, together with another apostle, Simon the Zealot.
Some sources tell us that he and Simon were both crucified, at the same time others say that they were both beaten to death with clubs or swords.

8. Matthew

Matthew was a tax collector before he became a disciple of Jesus. After the resurrection of Jesus, he preached the gospel throughout Syria and Ethiopia.

Matthew was arrested and brought before the king when he was preaching the Gospel in Ethiopia. The king was angered by his teachings and ordered Matthew to renounce his faith, but he refused.

Because of this Matthew was martyred in Ethiopia, where he was stabbed to death with a spear.

9. Philip

Philip was from the town of Bethsaida, in Galilee. He was a disciple of John the Baptist before he became a disciple of Jesus.

After Jesus’ resurrection, he was preaching the Gospel in the Roman Empire in modern-day Turkey and was eventually martyred in the city of Hierapolis. He was crucified upside down, just like Peter.

10. Simon

Simon, also known as Simon the Zealot was a member of a Jewish sect known as the Zealots before he met Jesus.

Simon preached the gospel in Judea, Abkhazia, Persia, Egypt, and Libya. There are also legends about his visit to England.

The place of his death is disputed, but it’s believed that he was murdered in Abkhazia where he was sawn with a saw.

11. Thomas

Thomas, also known as Doubting was probably a fisherman before he met Jesus.

Thomas preached the Gospel and traveled to India. There he founded churches, baptized people, and performed miracles.

According to tradition, he was stabbed with a spear in India.

12. Matthias

Matthias was chosen to replace Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus. Matthias preached the gospel in modern-day Turkey, Georgia, and Macedonia.

There are two versions of the place where he was killed. Some sources say that he was eventually martyred in the city of Colchis, Georgia.

Other sources tell us that he returned to Judea and was executed in Jerusalem. Matthias was stoned to death by the locals, who were angered by his preaching, but other sources say that he was crucified.

Overall, the apostles suffered greatly for their faith and were willing to die for their beliefs. The details of their martyrdoms have been passed down through tradition, and while some details may be uncertain, their sacrifice and devotion to their faith remain an inspiration to believers today.

Read Also: Why Did Jesus Choose 12 Disciples?

The Historical Accounts of Their Deaths

12 apostles and Jesus

The Biblical Accounts

The Bible only records the deaths of two apostles: James and Judas. James, the son of Zebedee, was killed by Herod Agrippa I with a sword (Acts 12:1-2). Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus, committed suicide by hanging himself (Matthew 27:5).

The Bible does not provide any information on how the other apostles died. However, some scholars believe that the apostle John may have died of old age, as there is no historical record of his martyrdom.

The Early Christian Writings

The early Christian writings provide some historical accounts of the deaths of the apostles. According to tradition, Peter was crucified upside down in Rome during the reign of Emperor Nero.

Paul was beheaded in Rome by the order of Emperor Nero. Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped cross in Greece.

Thomas was speared to death in India. Philip was crucified in Phrygia. Bartholomew was flayed alive and then crucified in Armenia. Matthew was killed by a sword in Ethiopia.

James, the son of Alphaeus, was stoned to death in Jerusalem. Simon the Zealot was crucified in Persia. Matthias, who replaced Judas Iscariot, was stoned to death and then beheaded.

The Apocryphal Texts

The apocryphal texts, which are not considered part of the biblical canon, also provide some accounts of the deaths of the apostles. For example, the Acts of Peter and Paul, which is a second-century text, claims that Peter was crucified upside down and that Paul was beheaded.

The Acts of Thomas, a third-century text, claims that Thomas was speared to death in India.

The Martyrdom of Bartholomew, a fourth-century text, claims that Bartholomew was flayed alive and then crucified in Armenia. However, the accuracy of these accounts is dubious, and they should be viewed with caution.

The Significance of Their Deaths

12 apostles of Jesus

The Impact on Christianity

The deaths of the apostles had a profound impact on the early Christian church. The apostles were the primary witnesses to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and their teachings formed the foundation of the Christian faith.

The apostles’ willingness to suffer and die for their beliefs served as a powerful example of Christian devotion and commitment. Their deaths also helped to solidify the early Christian community, as believers rallied around the memory of the apostles and their teachings.

The apostles’ deaths also had a significant impact on the spread of Christianity. The persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire only served to strengthen the faith of believers, and the stories of the apostles’ martyrdoms spread throughout the empire, inspiring others to embrace Christianity.

The example of the apostles’ faith and sacrifice continues to inspire Christians today, and their legacy lives on through the teachings of the Bible.

The Legacy of the Apostles

The legacy of the apostles is one of faith, devotion, and sacrifice. Their teachings and examples continue to inspire Christians around the world, and their influence can be seen in the many churches, cathedrals, and other religious institutions that bear their names.

The apostles’ writings, including the Gospels and the letters of Paul, remain some of the most important and influential texts in the history of Christianity.

Despite the many challenges and hardships they faced, the apostles remained steadfast in their commitment to spreading the message of Jesus Christ.

Their unwavering faith and dedication to their beliefs continue to serve as an example to Christians today, reminding us of the importance of living a life of service, compassion, and love.

Final Thoughts

The deaths of the apostles are a topic of great interest and debate among scholars and Christians.

Despite the different circumstances of their deaths, all of the apostles remained faithful to Jesus until the end. They were willing to suffer and die for their beliefs, knowing that they would receive a reward in heaven.

Their example continues to inspire Christians today to remain steadfast in their faith, even in the face of persecution and hardship.

As Christians, we can learn much from the lives and deaths of the apostles. We can be encouraged by their faithfulness and their willingness to suffer for Christ.

We can also be challenged to follow their example, by living lives that honor God and by sharing the good news of Jesus with others.


Charalampos is an Orthodox Christian who wants to help others learn about Christianity. His main goal is to help people understand the Bible and how to apply its teachings in their everyday lives. He also enjoys spending time with his family, playing sports, and hiking.

Keep Reading