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The Deaths of the 12 Apostles of Christ

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Question:  Hello, I would like to know how each one of Jesus' disciples died or was killed. Is there a website I can get that from or can you offer me any help in finding out this information?

Response:  Dear Sir, I should point out first that nothing outside the Bible can be taken as reliable, and we know very little about the deaths of the twelve (apart from Judas, of course, and James: Acts 12:2). Even in the cases of the most famous of the three, Paul, Peter, and John, scripture itself does not detail their deaths for us. So no one can tell us dogmatically whether Paul, for example, was executed after his first imprisonment, or died (or was executed) after reaching Spain - apart from what can be gleaned and interpreted from the Bible itself. Scripture does indicate that Peter was to be martyred, but does not tell us where or when or how, etc. (Jn.21:19). We know from Revelation that John was almost certainly the last apostle, although the dating of the book is almost universally incorrect (see the link: from CT 2A, "Chronological and Historical Overview of the Seven Churches"). For the rest, we have only tradition to guide us and, as always, that is a very uncertain guide.

The most extensive and the earliest source for the traditions surrounding the subsequent careers (and deaths) of the disciples/apostles is Eusebius, a.k.a. "the father of Church history", whose Ecclesiastical History was written in the early fourth century. Eusebius made use of the sources available to him at the time (most of which are not now extent) and is the best we have on all of this. There are tidbits to be gleaned from the apostolic fathers and other sources earlier and later than Eusebius, but most of what you will find written on this subject comes straight from his work, so that I would recommend you go straight to that source (even if it is a somewhat late and derivative source), remembering that Eusebius is not canonical and not inspired. You can find his history translated from the Greek into English at the following link:

        http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2501.htm

One other thing to consider: your question is a good one and one which has been asked for centuries. So it is more than likely that where there was no information in the early centuries of the Church, there was a correspondingly great temptation to "make some up". That, after all, is how we have come to have so many apocryphal "gospels" (i.e., people wanting more information about the early life of Jesus, for example; we all want this, but we have to rely on the scriptures alone if we also want to stick to the truth). Coupled with the other temptation of early local churches and sub-groups around the world to wish to cover themselves with apostolic authority, and we have lots of reasons to be skeptical about any and all extra-biblical traditions surrounding the apostles. Let the reader beware.

Hope this is of some help.  You might also have a look at the following links:

The manner of the apostle Peter's death.

Martyrdom and Eternal Rewards

Peter's Apostleship

Matthias and the Numbering of the Twelve Apostles.

Are there apostles in the Church today?

Apostles and Evangelism

The 12 Apostles of the Lamb

Paul is the 12th Apostle

Other Apostles

Yours in whom about whose death and resurrection we know full well, our Lord and

Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob Luginbill


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