Skip to Content

The Ultimate Sacrifice: How Did The Apostles Die?

In this article, we will explore what happened after the book of Acts and see the answer how did the apostles die? So, put on your church history hat on, and let’s learn…

During Jesus’ ministry, he often warned his disciples that they would have to endure hardship for his name’s sake. Jesus had many disciples, but twelve of them were particularly close to him.

After Jesus’ ascension, all but one of them, Judas, the betrayer, became apostles, spreading the gospel and building the church. Many often wonder, though, how the apostles died. I know I certainly have wondered about it!

The Bible only accounts for two deaths, one apostle and one disciple. However, many other historic writings confirm that most were martyred.

The apostles traveled far and wide to preach the gospel to the scattered Jews and the Gentiles worldwide and endured great hardship.

Since only two deaths were recorded in the Bible, other historical documents, including apocryphal books (sometimes of questionable origin) and church legends, must be used to determine the apostles’ ministry and deaths.

Although some of these accounts appear reasonably accurate, some contradictory reports exist. So, we will do our best to look at all the info out there and see what church history has to say.

How Did The Apostles Die

How Did The Apostles Die: Deaths Recorded In The Bible

The Bible contains significantly more information about the apostles’ ministry than their deaths but still only features details of a handful of apostles’ ministries.

The problem was that many of the apostles were active in the furthest corners of the known world at that time, and the accounts of their ministry and deaths are often more a case of church legend and tradition than fact.

The death of only one apostle was recorded in the Bible, that of James, the brother of John.

These two brothers, along with Peter and Andrew, were some of the first disciples called by Jesus. James was also part of what could be called Jesus’ “inner circle.”

He witnessed Jesus raise Jairus’ daughter, witnessed his transfiguration on the mountain, and saw Jesus’ anguish in Gethsemane.

the apostles
The Synaxis of the Twelve Apostles. Russian, 14th century, Moscow Museum via Wikimedia Commons

James was also present when the Holy Spirit was poured out on Pentecost, but little is known about his ministry. It can be derived that James was active in the new church, as King Herod arrested him with other believers and killed James with the sword to gain the favor of the Jews.

One other death which is recorded in the Bible is that of Judas Iscariot, Jesus’ betrayer.

Although not an apostle, Judas was one of the original twelve. After he betrayed Jesus, Judas returned the money he received for the betrayal to the Sanhedrin and committed suicide.

The Sanhedrin then used the money to purchase the potter’s field. This was then used as a burial ground for strangers.

The Death Of The Apostles Not Recorded In The Bible

Most of the apostles’ deaths were not recorded in the Bible. Still, a combination of other historical records, apocryphal books, and traditional church stories provide a reasonably accurate account of their ministry and deaths.

I also tried to find as many images to help show how historically these stories were told. I wasn’t able to find an image for each apostle but I was able to fine quite a bit.

Now, let’s take a look at some of the more well-known ones first.

Simon Peter’s Death

Simon, the brother of Andrew, was also called by Jesus as one of his first disciples and was part of His inner circle. Jesus himself renamed him Peter. He was a significant role player in the early church.

The book of Acts describes how Peter preached the gospel and performed miracles. He also wrote the two epistles, 1 and 2 Peter, in the New Testament.

Simon peters death
Peter from the Martyrdom of the Twelve Apostles, print, Lucas Cranach the Elder (MET, 17.64.1) via Wikimedia Commons

Although his death was not recorded in the Bible, early historians agree that he was crucified in Rome during the reign of Nero.

According to many sources, Peter requested to be crucified upside-down as he considered himself unworthy to die as Jesus did.

John, Brother Of James Death

Another member of Jesus’ “inner circle,” John, is often referred to as Jesus’ beloved disciple in the gospel of John.

During Jesus’ death on the cross, he gave John the responsibility of looking after his mother. John also led the church in Ephesus for some time and wrote the gospel of John, three epistles, and Revelation, the last book in the New Testament.

Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Although the consensus is that John was not a martyr but died of old age, the only apostle to do so, that did not release him from hardship and persecution.

John was imprisoned on Patmos for a long time, where he had a vision and wrote the book of Revelation. Unverifiable church legend states that John was dunked in boiling oil in front of thousands, from which he arose unhurt!

This is what the image above shows.

Andrew, Brother Of Peter’s Deaths

According to historical writings, Andrew was a very active apostle who preached the gospel throughout Asia. Although all accounts indicate that Andrew died on an X-shaped cross, the exact circumstances and place of his death are uncertain.

Some writings suggest that he died in the Greek city of Patras, while other claims it was in Edessa. 

How did andrew die in the bible

All accounts indicate that Andrew was bound to the cross by ropes and not nailed to it like Jesus. Although most artwork depicting his death shows him hanging upright on the X-shaped cross, given the practice Romans had to experiment with crucifixions, he likely hung sideways.

Sources also say it took him several days to die, during which time he continued to preach the gospel.

Paul, Apostle To The Gentiles Death

Although Paul was never one of Jesus’ disciples, the book of Acts gives a full account of his missionary work. Paul also wrote several epistles, making him write 13-14 books in the New Testament.

At the end of Paul’s third missionary journey, he was captured in the temple by Jews and handed over to Roman authorities, who imprisoned him.

For several years Paul kept preaching the gospel while in prison, writing many letters to believers and churches to encourage and warn them.

However, while imprisoned in Rome under the reign of Nero, Paul was finally beheaded.

Deaths Of Other Apostles

Although details are scarce and the reliability of writings is uncertain, the following appear to have been the likely causes of death of the other apostles:

The Apostle Philip’s Death

All indications are that Philip was preaching the gospel in North Africa, where he converted a Roman proconsul’s wife to Christianity. The proconsul was angered by this and had Philip hung by his ankles to die.

Some other traditions state he was crucified.

The Apostle Philip's Death
Martyrdom of Philip the Apostle. Scene from the Menologion of Basil II.

The Apostle Thomas’ Death

Church legend has it that Thomas planted a church in India, where he was killed with a soldier’s spear through the heart.

The Apostle Thomas' Death
Martyrdom of St. Thomas by Peter Paul Rubens, 1636–1638, in the National Gallery Prague

The Apostle James, Son Of Alpheus Death

Often confused with James the Just, Jesus’ brother, James, Son of Alpheus, likely preached the gospel in Egypt, where he was eventually crucified or beaten with a fuller’s club.

The Apostle Bartholomew’s Death

Bartholomew’s death is one of the most shocking. According to historical records in church history, Bartholomew preached the gospel in the people’s native tongue in India, where he was captured, flayed with a whip, and beheaded.

The Apostle Bartholomew's Death
Michelangelo, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Apostle Matthew’s Death

Historical accounts indicate that Matthew was preaching the gospel in Ethiopia and had issues with the local king. He was killed with a halberd, an antique weapon looking like a combination of a battle axe and a spear.

The Apostles Jude And Simon, The Zealot Death

According to tradition, both apostles traveled to Persia (present-day Iran) to preach the Gospel. They were successful in converting many people to Christianity, which angered the local religious and political authorities. Consequently, they were arrested and ultimately executed for their faith.

There are several accounts of how Jude and Simon the Zealot met their deaths. One version states that they were both crucified in Persia. Another suggests that Jude was clubbed to death, while Simon was sawn in half.

Yet another account claims that they were both beheaded. Despite the variations in these stories, it is clear that both apostles were martyred for their unwavering commitment to spreading the gospel of Jesus.


Although he wasn’t one of the original twelve, the other apostles chose Matthias to replace Judas Iscariot. Due to varying accounts of his ministry and death, it is unclear where exactly Matthias was preaching, but most sources agree that he was stoned and beheaded.

Chart Of Apostle’s Death

Here’s a table listing the 12 original apostles (the 12 disciples of Jesus) of the Bible, along with their respective deaths and some background information.

Remember, Judas never became an apostle, but he was one of the original 12 that walked with Jesus.

ApostleMethod of DeathLocation of DeathBackground Information
PeterCrucifixion (upside down)RomeOriginally a fisherman, Peter was one of Jesus’ closest disciples and the leader of the early Christian church.
AndrewCrucifixion on an X-shaped crossPatrasAndrew, Peter’s brother, was also a fisherman and one of Jesus’ first followers.
James the GreaterBeheadingJerusalemThe son of Zebedee, James was part of Jesus’ inner circle and witnessed key events like the Transfiguration.
JohnNatural causesEphesusJohn, James’ brother, wrote the Gospel of John, three epistles, and the book of Revelation.
PhilipHung by his ankles to die or CrusifiedHeliopolisPhilip was instrumental in spreading Christianity in Asia Minor and Phrygia.
BartholomewFlaying and beheadingArmeniaBartholomew was one of the first disciples called by Jesus.
ThomasStabbed with a spearMylapore, IndiaKnown as “Doubting Thomas” due to his initial disbelief in Jesus’ resurrection, he later evangelized in India.
MatthewMartyrdom by halberdEthiopiaA former tax collector, Matthew authored the Gospel of Matthew and preached in Persia and Ethiopia.
James the Less/James, son of AlphaeusMartyrdom by either crucifixion or fuller’s clubJerusalemThe son of Mary and Clopas, James the Less was the leader of the Jerusalem church after Peter.
Jude/ThaddaeusCrucifixion or clubbedBeirutAlso known as Lebbaeus or Judas, he was one of the lesser-known apostles.
Simon the ZealotMartyrdom by sawing or crusifiedPersiaA passionate follower of Jesus, Simon spread the gospel in Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Persia.
Judas IscariotSuicideJerusalemThe infamous disciple who betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, later hanged himself out of remorse.

This table offers an overview of the apostles’ lives, their methods of death, and the locations where they died. As disciples of Jesus Christ, these individuals played a significant role in the early development and spread of Christianity.

Although only one apostle’s death was recorded in the Bible, it is possible to trace the ministry and deaths of the rest with some certainty. For some, however, there are rather conflicting reports.

However, regardless of the way they died, it is clear that they were all persecuted for their faith, and all but John died violent deaths.

I hope you have enjoyed learning about church history and that I was able to answer the question of how did the apostles die in a way that was easy to understand.

I accept the Privacy Policy