How did the twelve disciples die?

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The Death of the Twelve Disciples

The Bible lists the names of the twelve disciples in Matthew 10:2–4, Mark 3:16–19 and Luke 6:13–16. However, the New Testament records the death of only two of the apostles – Judas Iscariot and James the son of Zebedee.  Most of what we know about the other apostles’ deaths is derived from old Christian authors and church tradition which can’t be confirmed. One thing is sure that all the disciples suffered greatly for their witness and in most cases met cruel deaths (see also What happened to the 12 disciples after the ascension of Christ?).

1- Simon (Peter)

A second-century apocryphal text called Acts of Peter claimed that Peter was crucified upside down, at his request for he didn’t feel worthy to die as Jesus did. The apostle was murdered in Rome by Emperor Nero around 64 AD, after the Great Fire of Rome.

Jesus predicted Peter’s death when He said to him, “when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go” (John 21:18). And John elaborated, “Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God” (John 21:19).


According to the apocryphal book of Acts of Andrews, this apostle was martyred by crucifixion in the Greek city of Patras around 60 AD. Like his brother Peter, Andrew didn’t consider himself worthy to die in the same manner as Jesus. And so he was tied to a cross which was hung in an X shape instead of a T shape.

3-James Son of Zebedee

We read about his death in the book of Acts: “It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword” (Acts 12:1–2). King Herod wanted to please the Jews by killing him (Acts 12:3). Scholars generally believe he was killed in Jerusalem in 44 AD.

4-John (brother of James Son of Zebedee)

Tertullian, a Christian writer in the second and third centuries, recorded that before the Romans exiled John, they brought him into a coliseum and immersed him in a barrel of boiling oil. When he emerged unharmed, the entire coliseum converted to Christianity. Later, during Domitian’s persecution in the middle ’90s, he was exiled to the island of Patmos. There, he died a natural death as an old man.


The Acts of Philip document gives an account of his martyrdom. It records that he led a proconsul’s wife to the Lord. So, the proconsul, in revenge, killed him.

6- Bartholomew

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs claims that in India, “He was at length cruelly beaten and then crucified by the impatient idolaters.”


The apocryphal Acts of Thomas says this apostle was martyred in Mylapore, India, where he was stabbed with spears. Syrian Christian tradition postulates he was martyred in Mylapore on July 3, 72 AD.

8-Matthew the Tax Collector

In Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, it is recorded about Matthew: “The scene of his labors was Parthia, and Ethiopia, in which latter country he suffered martyrdom, being slain with a halberd in the city of Nadabah, A.D. 60.”

9-James Son of Alphaeus

Hippolytus, a theologian who lived in the second and third centuries, recorded about James’ death: “And James the son of Alphaeus, when preaching in Jerusalem was stoned to death by the Jews, and was buried there beside the temple.”

10- Thaddaeus

Luke replaces the name Thaddeus with “Judas son of James” (Luke 6:16 and Acts 1:13). And  John mentions Thaddeus, calling him “Judas (not Iscariot)” (John 14:22).

According to “The Golden Legend,” when Simon and Jude commanded demons to come out of idols, the religious leaders killed them: “And when the bishops saw this, they ran upon the apostles and hewed them to death anon. And that same hour, which was right fair weather, came so great thunder and lightning that the temple was smitten in three, and the two enchanters were turned into coals by the stroke of thunder. And the king bare the bodies of the apostles into his city, and did do make a church of marvellous greatness in the honour of them.”

11-Simon the Zealot

There are different records of Simon the Zealot’s death. In the fifth century, Moses of Chorene recorded that Simon the Zealot was martyred in the Kingdom of Iberia. “The Golden Legend” says he was martyred in Persia in 65 AD. Also, the Ethiopian Christians claim he was crucified in Samaria. And in the sixteenth century, Justus Lipsius recorded that he was sawed in half.


This is the disciple that replaced Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:12-26), who betrayed Jesus and then hanged himself (Matthew 27:5). One tradition records that he was stoned by cannibals in Aethiopia (Georgia). Another tradition says, he was stoned by Jews in Jerusalem and then beheaded.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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