How Did The 12 Apostles Die? A Bible Study

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

How did the Apostles die? What does history show and/or the Bible reveal how the 12 Apostles died?

How the Apostles Died

The Bible does not expressly give details about the ways in which the apostles died. We must rely on early church historians and secular historians as well but thankfully both seem to be in agreement and both are reliable. Because of this, we have no reason to disbelieve these accounts as the vast majority of them agree on the method of the apostles’ deaths.[1] We must understand that they were first called disciples which are what every believer is called. Jesus later commissioned them and sent them out to proclaim the gospel. The word apostle means “one sent” and so we can see that disciples and apostles are not the same thing. Every apostle was a disciple but not every disciple is an apostle. Today, anyone who has trusted in Christ is a disciple but the days of apostleship is over and ended with the conclusion of the New Testament. The church, “having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone” cannot have other apostles any more than it can have another cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20) because “no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corintians 3:11). In order for there to be other apostles, we would have to tear down the building again and add to the foundation.

It is believed that most of the apostles died in the middle or late 1st century. We will now examine the historical evidence of how these men died. We begin with perhaps the most well-known of Jesus’ apostles, and that would be Peter.

How the Apostle Peter Died

The knowledge of Peter’s death is widespread among secular and church historians. He was crucified but he thought himself unworthy of the same type of death that Jesus suffered and so asked to be hung upside down which was done in Rome. Jesus saw this coming when He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” (John 21:18-19). Any time that Jesus said “truly, truly” or “verily, verily” He was putting great emphasis on a truth and Jesus must have known, with certainty, how Peter would die and that they “will stretch out your hands” and “carry you where you do not want to go” clearly implied crucifixion.

How the Apostle Andrew Died

Once again, most historians agree that Andrew was also crucified but he was crucified on an x-shaped cross in Greece.[1] The fact that he was in Greece may mean that he was participating in the Great Commission and taking the gospel to the whole world…at least the known world. This must have meant that he was tilted to one side or the other and was not crucified vertically or horizontally. It is believed that while he hung on that cross and was dying, he called to the crowds and taught them about Jesus Christ and how they might be saved, thus he was sharing the gospel up until the very time of his death on the x-shaped cross…being loyal to the very end.

How the Apostle Matthew Died

Matthew, like most of the apostles late in their lives, became a missionary and was arrested in Ethiopia. It was there that he was staked or impaled to the earth by spears and then beheaded. Not much beyond this is known since Matthew was in such a remote place in Africa and went where few historian or Christians ventured to go.

How the Apostle Bartholomew or Nathaniel Died

Bartholomew is also known as Nathaniel and there is scarce little known about how he died but it appears that since he was martyred in Armenia, he too must have been involved in the Great Commission and taking the good news into that part of the world. Apparently, he became a missionary to Asia Minor. Sadly, most agree that he was basically flayed to death by whip, where he was literally torn to shreds. How agonizing that must have been.

How the Apostle Thomas Died

Again, not very much is known about the method of Thomas’ execution but that maybe due to the fact that he was a missionary in India and was establishing a church there when he was stabbed with a spear and died from the wound. There are so few historical facts that are available beyond this account that we cannot add much to this and do so with absolute certainty.

How the Apostle Philip Died

According to most historians, Philip’s death was exceedingly cruel.[1] He was impaled by iron hooks in his ankles and hung upside down to die. Precious little else is known about the process but it is enough to know how he died.

How the Apostle James (son of Zebedee) Died

The apostle James is not the same James as Jesus brother so we need to establish that fact. James was far from any reliable historical writers or church historians but it is thought that he was beheaded by King Herod near Palestine and not far from where he was a local missionary to the Jews in Judea.

The Apostle Jude was crucified in Persia.

The Apostle Jude was crucified in Persia.

How the Apostle Jude Died

The apostle Jude, who wrote the next to the last book in the New Testament by the same name, went all the way to Persia and it was there that he was crucified by the Magi. It is unlikely that the Magi mentioned in the New Testament who were searching for the child King, Jesus, and the ones who crucified Jude were one and the same. There were many Magi in Persia and so the chances that it would be the same ones who sought Jesus were the same ones who crucified Jude is highly unlikely. Apparently Jude was in Persia on a missionary trip.

How the Apostle Matthias Died

Matthias was the apostle that was selected to replace Judas who hung himself. Acts 1:20-26 reveals how this was done, and some scholars say it may have fulfilled a prophecy in Psalm 69:25 and Psalm 109:8. Regardless of whether the prophecy was about Matthias, he was apparently stoned and then beheaded late in the 1st century.

How the Apostle John Died

This is the disciple whom Jesus loved and was the only one that died a natural death…that is by old age and not martyred. However he was imprisoned on the island of Patmos where he wrote the Book of Revelation. He was later freed and went to Turkey, perhaps on a mission to establish churches there. This is the apostle that is mentioned in John 21:20-23, “Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, ‘Lord, who is the one who betrays You?’ Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, ‘But Lord, what about this man?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.’  Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?”

How the Apostle James the Less Died

This is the most inconspicuous of all the apostles and he is called James the Less to distinguish him from the other apostle named James and the James who was Jesus half-brother. James the Less was martyred in a fashion similar to James, the half-brother of Jesus, who was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple and then beaten to death.

How the Apostle Simon Died

The apostle Simon is not Simon Peter (Andrew’s brother) but Simon the Zealot. Once again, very little is known about him inside or outside of the Bible. All that is known about his death is that he was also was crucified.

Judas the Betrayer

It is not fair to call Judas Iscariot an apostle since he was never truly converted or commissioned by Jesus. It may not even be accurate to call him a disciple because he truly did not follow Christ Who said that “whoever would be my disciple must follow after me” (Matthew 16:24). Even so, I thought he should be mentioned. The Bible says that he betrayed Jesus and then being consumed with worldly guilt went out to hang himself (Matthew 27:3-8).

How James, the Brother of Jesus Died

I realize that the brother of Jesus, James, was not an apostle but he was one of the early church leaders and the account of his death is horrific. He died early in the church history while the New Testament was still being compiled. He was believed to have been thrown some 100 feet off a wall. This was done to him after he repeatedly refused to deny his faith in Jesus. After the fall, he was somehow still alive and when they discovered this, his enemies circled him and beat him to death with clubs.

The Apostle Paul

I included Paul among the apostles since he was perhaps the greatest apostle and evangelist the world has ever known and most certainly deserves to be included among the apostles. Second Timothy was the last letter ever written by Paul and in it he knew that the time of his death drew near as he wrote to Timothy “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” You can hear the passion and love of Paul in his last words to Timothy.

He wrote from prison, knowing that his execution was near. Probably Christ Himself must have told him and he was preparing Timothy to take over for him. Listen to the heartbreaking last words of Paul as he awaited his execution in 2 Timothy 4:16-18: “At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”  How heartbreaking. Paul was abandoned by everyone as his execution neared…all that is except His cherished Lord. Paul was not ashamed how he lived his life as his death neared. Most historians, both secular and church, say that he was beheaded. His last thoughts must have been of His beloved Lord knowing that since He rescued him from eternal death by saving him, He would rescue him after his physical death and would be with the Lord forever.


How will you die…in your sins? I pray not. If you step out of this life without Christ, then you have sealed your own fate and eternally separated yourself from God. Repent today, confess your sins, see your need for a Savior and put your trust in Jesus Christ and you too will be part of that which is being built today by God and which has as its foundation, the saints of God, the apostles and the Chief Cornerstone, Jesus Christ. There is coming a day when no man or woman can be joined together with Christ so why not decide this very hour for when He comes it will be too late.

Take a look at this related article about the Apostles:

Who were the 12 Disciples or Apostles of Jesus Christ?

Resources: New International Version Bible THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. [1] J.H. MacMahon.  From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 5. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe.  (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent. org/fathers/0524.htm>. Accessed 8/08/2013.

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{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

Nnadozie August 26, 2013 at 10:17 am

Touching story! Indeed we must carry our cross no matter the circumstances we face so we might be with him everlastingly.Jack well done!you have continuously spread the good news without doubt and I tell you,God will bless you a hundred fold.You have constantly reminded us of who we are and our purpose of living,thank you very much and all Glory giving to God almighty for using you


Jack Wellman August 26, 2013 at 6:15 pm

Amen my friend…and this should make me more bold in sharing the gospel and not worry when we are persecuted. I appreciate your words…you seem to be such an encourager brother Nnadozie and I thank God for you my friend.


Stewart August 26, 2013 at 11:24 am

Praise the Lord. Indeed these were brave men of God filled by the Holy Spirit and who were not ashamed to stand for the faith. Thank you Jack. God bless


Jack Wellman August 26, 2013 at 6:16 pm

Good point Steward that we should not be ashamed as these men were not either and it cost them severely in most cases. Thank you so much my friend.


Evang. Ogunleye Sam Ademola September 2, 2013 at 12:25 am

Cruel death! and very touching to my life. I will live my life for Christ, whether I am going to be killed or not.
” Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love and often for each other flows the sympathizing tears… and hope to meet again……”


Sid September 3, 2013 at 7:46 am

The disciples of Jesus were in every way following the footsteps of their master, they lived how Christ wanted them to live, they all left their family, profession, land, property nay they denied themselves to follow him, even the desire for basic needs were dusted away, out of the choice of God or mammon they chose God and there is no middle way between these, either right or left, there next meal was not an assurance, they ate whatever they got by chance and slept where there legs stayed, either in a town or village or desert or forest, renunciation was their first principle of life, abandoning the ‘I’ness and ‘MY’ness turning down all contacts with the external world and directing all strength and energy towards the interior dropping out all the dust that has been accumulating over the years, this was how they lived death did not occur to them, death blossomed it was just an another normal phenomenon to them, if they had lived as the self or the soul then for what consideration is the body then? it is dropped off just like a dead leaf.


Abraham Chacko August 5, 2016 at 1:10 pm

Sad to read thru the tragic deaths of first Christians. Why did they have to die like that? Jesus died for humanity. But they..


Amanda July 17, 2021 at 4:00 pm

Remember that Christianity was an enemy of Rome and also the Orthodox Jews (Sadduceas and Pharisees ). Everywhere they went, was equal to today’s China. Maybe that helps?


Jack Wellman July 17, 2021 at 8:38 pm

Really helpful comments Amanda. Thank you for your insight.


Christopher Yeboah December 14, 2016 at 8:21 pm

Glory to our father who is in heaven. I pray to our lord Jesus Christ that, he shapes us up to be able to imitate him or even all his disciples. They are all truly holy and righteous in Gods eyes. I also pray that God should lead us and build us up within the faith Amen. Peace be with you


Precious October 9, 2018 at 5:52 pm

To God be they glory for giving us second chance, which jesus christ (grace of God). For God has shown us d perfect to live 4 him, which is our faith and paitence in christ jesus. And using his apostles to challenge our faith, and 4 us to be paitent in longsuffering for jesus christ sake, for the life we are living is limited.


Pamela C November 5, 2017 at 5:21 pm

I truly believe that we are living in “end times.” I have been reading the Bible quite a bit lately and hope that more people will come to Jesus and thank God for giving His only begotten Son.

The comments above have truly inspired me. Thank you.


gloria February 21, 2018 at 7:13 am

Our world today has made us blind and deaf unable to tell between reality and fiction. It has always been the devils work to deceive us even before we were conceived. He is working extremely hard and across all corners of the earth But just as the Apostles had Faith and took a bold decision to spread the legacy of our lord Jesus Christ, May the Lord Almight also be our guide and pillar to overcome all odds and fulfil what he assigned us to do on this Earth. Truly earth is not our home but only part of the journey.


Gene Williams June 10, 2018 at 7:01 pm

I need primary sources so I can read it for myself. These could be just late church traditions. This list written this way cannot be defended.


Jack Wellman June 11, 2018 at 9:56 am

I am sorry to disspoint you Mr. or Mrs. Williams, but do the research yourself. Eye witness accounts will not be found, but reports of being witnesses of these things are great secondary sources. Who are you trying to defend this too?


Rich October 30, 2018 at 4:56 pm

I agree with Gene. Instead of asking, “who are you trying to defend this too?” (irrelevant) why not just site your sources as more than just the Bible- which, you say, does not expressly give details about the ways in which the apostles died.


Jack Wellman October 30, 2018 at 5:04 pm

Most of my research came from Eusebius, “History of the Church” 3.39.14–17, but the tradition of apostles’ martyrdom goes back at least to the beginning of the third century. In his third commentary on Genesis, Origen of Alexandria (ca. 185-254) writes that the apostles divided up the work of evangelizing the world between them—Peter, for example, took Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, and Bithynia, and at “the last came to Rome, and was crucified head-downwards; for he requested that he might suffer thus.” According to Origen, other apostles went elsewhere; Thomas was assigned Parthia (today’s India), and John was given “Asia.”


Mathias February 5, 2020 at 11:47 pm

I would say a lot of these were witnessed or knowledge to scholars such a Josephus and few others who wrote down Christian history. Josephus writings are very credible.


Truth is Free June 25, 2018 at 4:24 pm

Great article! I am currently writing a post on this and am using your article for reference. Thank you!


IDOWU JULIUS July 10, 2018 at 6:50 pm

Our lives should be purpose driven like those apostles of old. Your story about these disciples is a clarion call to be heaven bound Christians, not cowardly ,bread and butter one. God will renew your anointing and keep you for the Master.


Eli precious October 9, 2018 at 5:47 pm

To God be they glory for giving us second chance, which jesus christ (grace of God). For God has shown us d perfect to live 4 him, which is our faith and paitence in christ jesus. And using his apostles to challenge our faith, and 4 us to be paitent in longsuffering for jesus christ sake, for the life we are living is limited.


chima uzoma January 17, 2019 at 2:11 pm

I ask for His grace & strength to run this race faithfully in jesus name. That is my ernest desire


Apostle Gift Udeme February 14, 2019 at 1:53 pm

How can l always receive teaching from you?


Jack Wellman February 14, 2019 at 2:07 pm

Hello friend. I have subscribed you to our teaching or newsletter, as you asked. Thank you for the encouragement sir.


Dale Casselman September 8, 2020 at 6:08 pm

Jack, could you add me to your teaching newsletter also.
Thank you.
I just wanna add here that your articles are incredible.
Do you still do the Ask Pastor Jack podcast, as I have not been able to find it.
It was one of my favs..
God bless you brother..


Jack Wellman September 8, 2020 at 6:35 pm

Hello Dale. Thank you for the great encouragment and I did sign you up for our newsletter and you can unsubscribe at any time. May God richly bless you. I no longer do the Ask Pastor Jack podcast, I am afraid. I have some stored but that’s all. Thank you for asking.


Bumble Ho April 21, 2019 at 1:44 pm

In regard to “How the Apostle James (son of Zebedee) Died” – the book of Acts in the Bible recorded how he died and the hand of Herod.


Moses okello May 8, 2019 at 8:04 am

I like the teaching. But make me know the truth about this disciples and their area of teaching thats the country because am realizing that the name of country changes therafter thus bring confusion


LAWRENCE O. ANEFHUA July 13, 2019 at 9:45 am

Although we heard about the death of the Apostles of Jesus Christ but your concise details of each of their death is a seasoned complete sermon for a truly devoted believer to meditate on.
I will be pleased to regularly receive your Bible based teaching.
May your ears hear the welcoming address of our Master: “WELL DONE THOU FAITHFUL SERVANT; ENTER THE REST OF THY LORD” on completion of your kingdom assignment.
More grace, zeal and anointing to end well.


Jack Wellman July 13, 2019 at 10:13 am

Thank you Mr. Anefhua for your gracious words. Oh that we would have that same zeal as the Apostles did. Thank you sir.


John July 13, 2019 at 11:45 am

I read these tragic deaths of such great men of Christ and in their suffering you know that Christ was real and the son of God. I only wish my faith was half as strong.


Baruch August 1, 2019 at 5:09 pm

This is a great thought-provoking piece revealing the timeless courage and unbreakable commitment of the men who represented our LORD Jesus Christ as He ascended into heaven.

What a challenge and motivation to the 21st century Christians who MUST not allow the legacy of these brave soldiers of Christ to die. We must share the love of Christ with and to others through the gospel (Romans 1:16) and leave the world to shine brighter and taste sweeter than we met it (Matt. 5:13-14). It is then our Father in heaven can be glorified and Jesus becomes extremely proud of us.

No wonder Jesus hand-picked these men. He knew the stuff they were made of.

Thanks for sharing.


Jack Wellman August 1, 2019 at 6:13 pm

Well said my friend. May we all be so bold for Christ.


Famurewa Oluwafemi September 3, 2019 at 4:17 am

I really like this , but it not easy to pass through this but Jesus said if we have faith we can do more than his own . may God almighty grant us the holy spirit to face the challenges.


Akash augustin September 14, 2019 at 3:51 pm

I just wanted to know how the desciple of Christ they died, And it really makes me sad, that I m always running after materialistic things.Because I am a coward,I am sorry but it is true. Christ died for me and I saw that how crazzy disciples they were that they didn’t care there lives or death after knowing Christ, and seeing Him resserructed.I m from India and I always have seen my dad going and preaching among the non believers but I always scared and every evening when he returned at home Thank God. But I m different I dont have courage to face the crowd and speak boldly.I dont know whom I m sending this message or if I m gonna reply ever but if you read just pray for me, i dont want anything else then pray.


Jack Wellman September 14, 2019 at 7:02 pm

pryaing now my friend


Julia Likhulungu January 17, 2020 at 5:47 am

I pray God to help me and give strength to stand and be bold like the early Christians. I have seen His greatness


Penioni Koliniwai Ravunawa February 22, 2020 at 4:32 pm

Praise the Lord for the lives of these warriors of Faith and the Gospel that toppled the world.
Great insight. God bless you for researching this well for me.


Jack Wellman February 22, 2020 at 6:36 pm

Thank you for your kind words.


Elizabeth May 10, 2020 at 3:31 pm

I thank Jesus Christ our Saviour, God our Heavenly Father and the Holy Ghost for the Word that guides us in this unsteady days. The writers of the new testament gave as so much rich information about Jesus and what is coming. Matyredom may wait for us too but we will not be alone. He will be with us every step of the way.


Jack Wellman May 10, 2020 at 4:42 pm

Amen. Well said Elizabeth. Thank you for your comment.


Emeka testimony July 22, 2020 at 7:21 am

Am so much encouraged when I finished reading the death of the apostle.
My prayer is that the lord will bless bro jack.the lord will us holy,sanctified,purified till he comes back.


Jack Wellman July 22, 2020 at 9:18 am

Thank you so kindly Emeka.


Bruce Burdick November 9, 2020 at 1:36 am

Jesus said “lay not your treasures up on earth where they can rot and (be ruined by the fungus ) rust.” Did Jesus want us to live as hunter gatherers and not farmers? If we have not lived as hunter gatherers, do we need to “lay down our lives for the sheep of Jesus” to have eternal life with Jesus? Is this God’s Plan to Limit Human Caused Global Warming to 1.5 degrees C? Right now no scientist offers a Plan to Limit Global Warming to 1.5 degrees C, even though at the Paris Climate Talks there was agreement among most nations to try to limit global warming to 1.5 Degrees C.


Anton Tai Ken May 1, 2021 at 5:29 pm

Thanks for your encouraging scriptural messages please keep me updated


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