Here’s a prezi that I added based on the information below.
The 12 apostles were the closest followers of Jesus. He hand picked them from His many disciples. While they often seem confused as to the teachings of Jesus throughout His ministry, after His death, resurrection, and ascension they most of them (with the exception of Judas who did not live to see the resurrection) become the most dedicated men to any cause in history. While the Bible does not tell us what happened to most of the apostles, historians of the first few centuries of Christianity give us some glimpses of how many of them ended up. While this is certainly not the word of God, the traditions surrounding their later life is interesting. Surely so many men would not die for a lie. By giving their lives in devotion to a risen savior, the apostles are great examples for each of us.
First, let’s list the twelve. It can be confusing since many of them go by different names.
Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.
And Simon he surnamed Peter; And James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder: And Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Canaanite, And Judas Iscariot, which also betrayed him: and they went into an house.
Simon, (whom he also named Peter,) and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called Zelotes, And Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor.
Acts 1:13 (Judas Iscariot is dead by this time, and is not named)
And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James.
Now let’s look at what happened to each of them.
Matthew 27:3-8 and Acts 1:18 tells us what became of Judas. He betrayed Jesus, and in his despair he committed suicide. There are those that pretend there is a contradiction in these verses. There is not. The two accounts supplement each other. Judas hanged himself, and some time after his body was either cut down, or the rope or tree branch broke and his body fell to the ground and burst open. Not a very pretty picture, but there it is. More can be found regarding this alleged contradiction in this article.
Acts 12:2 tells us of the end of James, so soon after Christianity had gotten started. He was the first martyr among the apostles. Herod Agrippa had him put to death by the sword. He saw that it pleased the Jews, so he decided to do the same to Peter, but Peter was saved by a miracle. Clemens and Eusebius tell of his death, and when the executioner witnessed the courage and un-recanting spirit of James he was convinced of Christ’s resurrection and was executed along with James. This of course is doubtful, but if true is a bold statement to the steadfast spirit of the apostles.
Andrew might have been martyred in Achaia or Patrae, both of which are places in the western part of Greece. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “It is generally agreed that he was crucified by order of the Roman Governor, Aegeas or Aegeates, at Patrae in Achaia, and that he was bound, not nailed, to the cross, in order to prolong his sufferings. The cross on which he suffered is commonly held to have been the decussate cross, now known as St. Andrew’s, though the evidence for this view seems to be no older than the fourteenth century. His martyrdom took place during the reign of Nero, on 30 November, A.D. 60)”
There is a book entitled “The Martyrdom of Bartholomew,” in which this apostle’s tale is told. Again this is tradition and legend, but it is in keeping with what one would expect from an apostle of our Lord. “And when he had thus spoken, the king was informed that this god Baldad and all the other idols had fallen down, and were broken in pieces. Then the king rent the purple in which he was clothed, and ordered the holy apostle Bartholomew to be beaten with rods; and after having been thus scourged, to be beheaded.”
James the son of Alpheus
According to Foxs’ Book of Martyrs, was beaten, stoned and clubbed to death. In another account, in order to make James deny Christ’s resurrection, men positioned him at the top of the Temple for all to see and hear. James, unwilling to deny what he knew to be true, was cast down from the Temple and finally beaten to death with a fuller’s club to the head.
Made his way to Rome where history tells us that he was crucified upside down, feeling he was unworthy to die in the same way as Jesus. However, it is highly unlikely that such a request would be granted. Some hold that he was crucified on the same day that Paul was beheaded, during the reign of Nero.
It seems that Thomas, having once doubted the risen Lord, was in the end no doubter at all. History tells us he made a brave death as he was thrust through with pine spears, then tortured with red hot plates on his body, and finally burned alive. He would not deny the risen Christ.
Philip evangelized in Phrygia where hostile Jews had him tortured and then crucified upside down. Some sources have him being stoned
The one-time tax collector died at the end of a halberd according to Foxs’ Book of Martyrs. “The scene of his labors was Parthia, and Ethiopia, in which latter country he suffered martyrdom, being slain with a halbred in the city of Nadabah, A.D. 60.”
Historians tell of the many different places that Simon proclaimed the good news of Christ’s resurrection: Egypt, Cyrene, Africa, Mauritania, Britain, Lybia, and Persia. His rest finally came when he verified his testimony and went to be with Christ, being crucified by a governor in Syria. Other sources have him listed as being sawed in half in Suanir, Persia.
According to historians, Judas Thaddeus was preaching the risen Christ to those in Mesopotamia in the midst of pagan priests. He was beaten to death with sticks.
It seems that John alone was spared a violent death. He writes The Revelation of Jesus Christ from exile on Patmos.
Matthias replaced Judas, and worked in Ethiopia. Most traditions show him as being stoned there in Chochis. There are some who have him being executed in Jerusalem by stoning, and then beheaded.
Paul’s missionary trips are well documented. There is a tradition that has him being killed by beheading on the same day that the Apostle Peter was crucified. This seems highly unlikely. It seems likely that Paul was released from his captivity in Rome, but then arrested again and was executed sometime after writing 2 Timothy, but before the end of Nero’s reign in AD 68. Paul would not have been crucified since he was a Roman citizen. For more on the life of Paul visit my chronology page.
I think it is important to stop and think that not only the apostles, but the Christians of the first years of Christianity suffered greatly. The book of Revelation spoke to them directly, and assured them that while persecution would continue, in the end Christianity cannot be defeated because we have put our faith in Jesus and He is able to deliver us, even after death. Their faith continues as a shining beacon to encourage us in our struggles as we find ourselves in a more perverse world every day that is steadily drifting farther from the truth of the word of God.