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Fates of the Apostles |
What ever happened to the rest of the twelve apostles?

Fates of the Apostles is drawn from Chapter Eight, beginning on page 229, of Volume One, The Veil is Torn of the twelve-volume historical series The Christians: Their First Two Thousand Years. If you would like to order this book please visit

Did Andrew make it to Russia? Did Jude convert a king? The fate of these and most of the others is known only in legend and tradition

Fates of the Apostles - What ever happened to the rest of the twelve apostles?

Fates of the Apostles - What ever happened to the rest of the twelve apostles?

The deaths of four of Jesus’ original twelve apostles can be reasonably well established by church historians. How the others died is the subject of largely unauthenticated ancient stories, some of them quite dramatic.

The first apostle to perish was, of course, Judas Iscariot, who according to all four Gospel accounts betrayed Jesus and then committed suicide. The next was James, the son of Zebedee, whose execution is reported in Luke’s Acts of the Apostles (12:2). He was decapitated at Jerusalem on the orders of Agrippa, client king of the emperor, just before the Feast of the Passover in a.d. 41.

That Peter was crucified at Rome in the mid-sixties is generally accepted as probable, as is the death at Ephesus of the aged John Zebedee, brother of James.

The second-century North African theologian Tertullian relates that John was at one point boiled in oil, but escaped, presumably to die of old age. Much later legend has John never dying at all (as foreseen by Peter in John’s Gospel 21:23), but somehow living on. One picturesque story has him buried, with the ground heav­ing above his grave as he continued to breathe.

The fates of the others appear almost solely in legend and pious tradition. However, some of these stories have gradually gained historical credibility, such as the reports that Thomas founded missions in India and was martyred there in a.d. 72. (See story p. 62)

A considerable tradition surrounds the ministry of Peter’s brother, Andrew. The fourth-century historian Eusebius records that Andrew led a mission to Scythia on the northwest coast of the Black Sea, an endeavor, whether factual or legendary, that eventually made him patron saint of Russia.

But the Greeks, too, preserve a devotion to St. Andrew, whom they call Protocletus (first called) since he was the first of the Twelve recruited. A brief biography published by the Greek Orthodox Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle tells of his founding missions in Bithynia and Pontus on the Black Sea’s south coast, then another at the city of Byzantium at the Bosphorus, which links the Black to the Sea of Marmora, where the great Christian city of Constantinople would one day rise.

Andrew next led a mission to the city of Patras in southern Greece, where his preaching and healing ministry led to the conversion of the brother and wife of the Roman proconsul. The proconsul, furious at this perceived treason in his own family, ordered Andrew crucified. Andrew perished upside down on an X-shaped cross, and Patras soon became a place of Christian pilgrimage. Persuaded he had executed a very holy man, the proconsul committed suicide.

In March 357, the Roman emperor, by now Christian and living in the new imperial capital, Constantinople, the former Byzantium, ordered Andrew’s bones translated (i.e., moved) there. This gave rise to a further story. St. Rule (or St. Regulus), an Irish monk, is warned by an angel to take the remains of St. Andrew to “the ends of the earth,” meaning Scotland. There he moved them to a shrine that would one day be known as St. Andrew’s, and by the twenty-first century would be renowned for one of the most celebrated golf courses in the world.

The tradition was strong enough to have St. Andrew made patron saint of Scotland. His cross, a white “X” lying on its side against a blue background, forms part of the British flag, the Union Jack.

The tradition that the apostle Bartholomew–known in St. John’s Gospel as NathanaelA–also reached India and was martyred there, is regarded by many historians as spurious.

Eusebius records another story, concerning the man Matthew’s Gospel calls Thaddaeus and Luke’s calls Jude. In this tradition, Abgar, king of Edessa on the Persian frontier, who is stricken with an illness, hears of the fame of Jesus and writes him asking for help. Jesus sends a written reply, which Eusebius records,B promising to send one of his disciples to help Abgar.

Following Jesus’ ascension, the apostle Thomas sends Thaddaeus to Edessa where he heals many sick people, one of them King Abgar himself, who becomes Christian. This is said to happen in the year 340 of the old Seleucid calendar, which would be a.d. 30, the approximate date of the Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension.

Thaddaeus, in this tradition, eventually suffers martyrdom in Persia, as do James Alphaeus (often called James the Less) and Simon the Patriot (or Zealot).

Which leaves two of the Twelve unaccounted for.

St. Irenaeus, writing in the second century, provides an account of the post-Resurrection career of Matthew, for whom the first Gospel in the New Testament is named. He says that Matthew became a missionary to the Hebrews. Other ancient writers describe him as a missionary to Syria, Persia, and the lands south of the Caspian. Clement of Alexandria, writing in the late second century, reports that Matthew did not die as a martyr. Other ancient accounts are equally definite that he did, though none provides detail.

Even less is known of the apostle, Philip–not to be confused with the deacon Philip whose missionary work is described in the Acts of the Apostles. According to one ancient tradition, the apostle Philip journeyed to Scythia, on the Black Sea’s north coast, and preached the gospel. At Hierapolis in Asia Minor, according to another account, he banished a serpent or dragon that was being worshiped in the temple of Mars. The creature gave off such a stench the priests of the temple captured Philip and had him crucified. Matthias, the apostle named to replace Judas, thereafter disappears from the records without a trace.

A. The apostle Bartholomew, who appears in St. John’s Gospel as Nathanael, was probably named Nathanael bar-Tholami, (hence Bartholomew) the prefix “bar” meaning “son of.”

B. Nowhere in the New Testament is Jesus Christ recorded as writing anything. However, Eusebius, writing in the fourth century, records Jesus as sending this letter to King Abgar at Edessa on the Euphrates, who had sent messengers asking Jesus to come and cure him: “Happy are you who believed in me. For it is written of me that those who have seen me will not believe in me, and that those who have not seen will believe and live. As to your request I should come to you, I must complete all that I was sent to do here, and on completing it must at once be taken up to the One who sent me. When I have been taken up I will send one of my disciples to cure your disorder and bring life to you and those with you.”

This is the end of the Fates of the Apostles category article drawn from Chapter Eight, beginning on page 229, of Volume One, The Veil is Torn. To continue reading more about Fates of the Apostles from The Christians, Their First Two Thousand Years we suggest experiencing the rest of the book, complete with hundreds of magnificent illustrations, by ordering it at