There are traditions that have been handed down through the centuries, claiming that most of the original 12 Apostles were martyred for their beliefs.
The New Testament of the Bible records events that took place from the birth of Jesus Christ up through the time that Paul and the Apostles were traveling around the Roman Empire and evangelizing Christianity, at great risk to their own personal safety. The New Testament records few if any events after the 60s. Many of the Apostles were still alive at that time.
However, there are writings, outside of the Bible, that have been handed down to us by people who lived during the second, third and fourth centuries of this era, claiming that many of the Apostles were crucified, beheaded and otherwise martyred for their beliefs.
It should be understood that these non-Biblical sources might vary greatly in terms of their accuracy.
It should also be understood that it is clear from the Bible and from non-Biblical sources that many early Christians were persecuted and martyred for their beliefs.
Some examples include the Bible's New Testament book of Acts, which records the martyrdom of the Apostle James the son of Zebedee, and of Stephen, a believer who was killed while evangelizing.
Another example comes from Josephus, a first century Jewish historian, who wrote about another person named James, an early Christian church leader, who was executed because of his beliefs. Josephus wrote in his book called Antiquities of the Jews, book 20 (or book XX), chapter 9:
"Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned ... "
There are other examples. As for the Apostles, below is a summary of various traditions involving the manner of death for the Apostles. For convenience, the Apostles are listed in the same order in which they appear in Leonardo's famous painting, The Last Supper:
There is a non-Biblical document called the "Martyrdom of Bartholomew," which claims that Bartholomew was martyred by King Astyages in Armedia:
"And when he had thus spoken, the king was informed that this god Baldad and all the other idols had fallen down, and were broken in pieces. Then the king rent the purple in which he was clothed, and ordered the holy apostle Bartholomew to be beaten with rods; and after having been thus scourged, to be beheaded." - Martyrdom of Bartholomew.
Bartholomew was one of the Twelve Apostles and is mentioned in the Bible's New Testament, in Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:14; and Acts 1:13.
According to Eusebius, Christian writer who lived during the 4th Century of this era (about 1600 years ago), Bartholomew traveled to India to preach to the people there, leaving behind a copy of the Gospel of Matthew: "Pantaenous is said to have gone among the Indians where a report is that he discovered there the Gospel according to St. Matthew among some who knew Christ; Bartholomew, one of the Apostles had preached to them and had left them the writings of St. Matthew in Hebrew letters."
James son of Alphaeus, according to Foxs' Book of Martyrs, was beaten, stoned and clubbed to death.
Andrew might have been martyred in Achaia or Patrae, both of which are places in the western part of Greece. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, "It is generally agreed that he was crucified by order of the Roman Governor, Aegeas or Aegeates, at Patrae in Achaia, and that he was bound, not nailed, to the cross, in order to prolong his sufferings. The cross on which he suffered is commonly held to have been the decussate cross, now known as St. Andrew's, though the evidence for this view seems to be no older than the fourteenth century. His martyrdom took place during the reign of Nero, on 30 November, A.D. 60); and both the Latin and Greek Churches keep 30 November as his feast."
It is believed that Peter was crucified upside down in Rome during the 60s.
Judas Iscariot was not a martyr. He killed himself after betraying Jesus.
John is believed to have died of natural causes, and he might have been the only Apostle to have done so.
Thomas was killed with a spear, according to Foxs' Book of Martyrs: "Called Didymus, preached the Gospel in Parthia and India, where exciting the rage of the pagan priests, he was martyred by being thrust through with a spear."
The martyrdom of James son of Zebedee is recorded in the New Testament of the Bible, in Acts 12:1-2. He was executed, with a sword, by order of King Herod Agrippa I in the year 44 AD:
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.
We also learn in Acts, chapter 12, that King Herod Agrippa I also imprisoned Peter for a while.
Philip was crucified, according to Foxs' Book of Martyrs: "He labored diligently in Upper Asia, and suffered martyrdom at Heliopolis, in Phrygia. He was scourged, thrown into prison, and afterwards crucified, A.D. 54."
Matthew was killed with a spear, according to Foxs' Book of Martyrs: "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."
Jude was crucified, according to Foxs' Book of Martyrs: "The brother of James, was commonly called Thaddeus. He was crucified at Edessa, A.D. 72."
Simon was crucified, according to Foxs' Book of Martyrs: "Surnamed Zelotes, preached the Gospel in Mauritania, Africa, and even in Britain, in which latter country he was crucified, A.D. 74."
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