The 12 Apostles Deaths Infographic

Updated: 2015/03/26

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There are conflicting legends about the deaths of the twelve apostles, making the historical evidence difficult to interpret. This is partly because early Christians wanted their homes to be known as the final resting place of an apostle.

While this may make finding the truth more of an “adventure”, every Christian should investigate the historical record for themselves.

Who Was Martyred and When?

The martyrdom of some of the apostles is more certain than others. For instance, historians don’t dispute the martyrdom of Peter, Paul, or James. Many of the other accounts have decent historic validity as well, but some raise the eyebrow and prompt agnosticism.

However, when boiled down to their least common denominator, it is feasible to believe that all but one of the apostles suffered a martyr’s death, even if we can’t be sure of the exact details.

[Tweet “It is feasible to believe that all but one of the apostles suffered a martyr’s death, even if we can’t be sure of the exact details. via @credohouse”]

Why Were They Martyred?

Amidst some uncertainty, one thing is clear—the reason given for their deaths was the same. They were killed because they claimed to be eyewitnesses of Christ’s death and resurrection. They all died because of an unwavering, unrelenting claim that Christ rose from the grave. They died for Easter. This article doesn’t cover all the evidence so you might want to check out 14 Evidences for the Resurrection of Jesus and 14 References.

The gruesome death of the apostles, as recorded below, is one of the greatest gifts God ever gave to the Church. It contributes much to Christian apologetics by answering the question “How can you be sure of the resurrection of Christ?”

See: The Resurrection of Jesus by Dr. Gary Habermas the world’s leading expert on the resurrection.

After looking at all the best sources, the most likely scenarios for each apostle’s death are detailed below. At the risk of spoiling some of the “legends”, I’ve graded each account:

  • A = Highest Probability
  • B = High Probability
  • C = Low Probability
  • D = Lowest Probability

Read through the accounts below; make it an Easter tradition. This may sound odd, but I thank God for bringing about the apostles’ deaths. They sealed their testimony in the blood of martyrdom, providing a firm foundation for our faith in the risen Christ.

[Tweet “This may sound odd, but I thank God for bringing about the apostles’ deaths. via @credohouse”]

1. James (Martyred: 44–45 A.D.)

Probability Grade: A – James’ martyrdom, C – executioner’s martyrdom

James, the apostle of the Lord, was the second recorded martyr after Christ’s death (Stephen was the first). His death is recorded in Acts 12:2. Where it says of Herod Agrippa:

He killed James the brother of John with the sword

Both Clement of Alexandria and Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History II.2) report that after seeing the courage and unrecanting spirit of James, the executioner was so convinced of Christ’s resurrection, that he was executed with him.

2. Peter (Martyred: ca. 64 A.D.)

The Apostle Peter Martyred by Crucifixion Upside Down Probability Grade: A

Although Peter denied Christ three times just before the crucifixion, after the resurrection, he was willing to be martyred for his belief. In John 21:18–19 Jesus even told Peter how he would die:

Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

According to Eusebius, Peter thought himself unworthy to be crucified in the same manner as his Master, and asked to be crucified “head downward.”

3. Andrew (Martyred: 70 A.D.)

Probability Grade: B

Andrew, who introduced his brother Peter to Christ, was martyred six years after Peter. After preaching Christ’s resurrection to the Scythians and Thracians, he too was crucified for his faith. As Hippolytus tells us, Andrew was hanged on an olive tree at Patrae, a town in Achaia.

4. Thomas (Martyred: 70 A.D.)

Probability Grade: B – Thomas’ martyrdom, D – the method of execution.

Thomas was known as “doubting Thomas” because of his reluctance to believe the other apostles’ witness of the resurrection. In John 20:25 Thomas states:

“Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

After this, Christ appeared to Thomas and he believed unto death. Thomas sealed his testimony as he was thrust through with pine spears, tormented with red-hot plates, and burned alive.

5. Philip (Martyred: 54 A.D.)

Probability Grade: C

Christ corrected Philip when, in John 14:8–9, he asked:

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

Philip saw the glory of Christ after the resurrection and was undoubtedly amazed at Christ’s response to his request. Philip evangelized in Phrygia, where hostile Jews had him tortured and then crucified.

6. Matthew (Martyred: 60–70 A.D.)

Probability Grade: B

Matthew, the tax collector, desperately wanted the Jews to accept Christ. He wrote The Gospel According to Matthew about ten years before his death. Within its pages one can see the faith for which he spilled his blood. In Matthew 28:20 the resurrected Christ says:

“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

These comforting words likely sustained Matthew when we was beheaded at Nad-Davar:

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7. Nathanael (Bartholomew) (Martyred: 70 A.D.)

Probability Grade: C

Nathanael, whose name means “gift of God”, was truly given as a gift to the Church through his martyrdom. In John 1:49, Nathanael was the first to profess Christ:

Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

He later paid for this profession through a hideous death. Unwilling to recant his proclamation of a risen Christ, he was flayed and then crucified.

8. James the Lesser (Martyred: 63 A.D.)

Probability Grade: B – that he was cast down from the temple, D – that he was being beaten to death with fuller’s club after the fall.

James was the appointed head of the Jerusalem church for many years after Christ’s death. He undoubtedly came in contact with many hostile Jews who in Matthew 27:25 said:

And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!”

To force James to deny Christ’s resurrection, these men positioned him at the top of the Temple in Jerusalem. Unwilling to deny what he knew to be true, James was cast down from the Temple and finally beaten to death with a fuller’s club to the head.

[Tweet “From @credohouse Unwilling to deny what he knew to be true, James was cast down from the Temple and finally beaten to death with a fuller’s club to the head.”]

9. Simon the Zealot (Martyred: 74 A.D.)

Probability Grade: B

Simon was a Jewish zealot who strived to set his people free from Roman oppression. After he saw with his own eyes that Christ had been resurrected, he became a zealot of the Gospel.

Historians tell of the many places Simon proclaimed the good news of Christ’s resurrection: Egypt, Cyrene, Africa, Mauritania, Britain, Lybia, and Persia.

His martyrdom, brought about by a governor in Syria, verified his testimony for Christ.
The Apostle Andrew Martyred

10. Judas Thaddeus (Martyred: 72 A.D.)

Probability Grade: C

In John 14:22, Judas asked Jesus:

Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?”

After he witnessed Christ’s resurrection, Judas knew the answer. He preached the risen Christ in the midst of pagan priests in Mesopotamia. He was eventually beaten to death with sticks, showing to the world that Christ was indeed Lord and God.

11. Matthias (Martyred: 70 A.D.)

Probability Grade: D

Acts 1:26 recorded how Matthias replaced Judas Iscariot (the betrayer of Christ who hanged himself) as the twelfth apostle of Christ:

And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

Matthias is believed to have been one of the seventy Christ sent out during his earthly ministry, as Luke 10:1 records:

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go.

This qualifies him to be an apostle. Matthias, of which the least is known, is said by Eusebius to have preached in Ethiopia. He was later stoned while hanging upon a cross.

12. John (Martyred: 95 A.D.)

Probability Grade: A – that he was not martyred, C – that he was thrown into boiling oil.

John is the only one of the twelve apostles who died a natural death. Although he did not die a martyr’s death, he did live a martyr’s life. He was exiled to the Island of Patmos during the reign of Emperor Domitian for his proclamation of the risen Christ.

It was there that he wrote the last book in the Bible, Revelation. Some traditions say he was thrown into boiling oil before the Latin Gate. While this didn’t kill him, it likely scarred him for life.

13. Paul (Martyred: 67 A.D.)

Probability Grade: A

Paul, was a self confessed persecutor of the Christian faith as he states in Galatians 1:13

For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it.

Paul was brought to repentance as he traveled to Damascus. Ironically, he was on his way to arrest those who held to Jesus’ resurrection. Paul started as the greatest skeptic, but spent the rest of his life proclaiming the Christ he once persecuted.

Writing in 2 Corinthians 11:23–27, defending his ministry, Paul tells of his sufferings for the name of Christ:

Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.

Finally, Paul met his death at the hands of Emperor Nero when he was beheaded in Rome.
The_12_Apostles

Objections & Blind Leaps

People do not die for their own lies, half-truths, or fabrications. The apostles’ deaths increase our confidence in the historicity of the resurrection to the point that disbelief is inexcusable.

[Tweet “From @credohouse People do not die for their own lies, half-truths, or fabrications.”]

Because the apostles died proclaiming to have seen Christ die, rise from the grave, and ascend into heaven, Christ must be who He claimed to be.

However, some may object to my reasoning; you may object. The question that gives rise to the objection is this: Don’t many people die for something they believe?

To be sure, many have died for their beliefs, but dying for something doesn’t make it true. The 9/11 bombers certainly died for their beliefs, but do their deaths validate those beliefs?

[Tweet “From @credohouse There’s a big difference between dying for something you believe based on someone else’s testimony, and dying for something you were an eyewitness to.”]

From a historical standpoint, the difference is night and day. Since they received their beliefs secondhand, the 9/11 bombers could have been deceived. Therefore, their deaths don’t provide support for those beliefs.

For example, if I died for my faith in Christ’s resurrection, that would demonstrate my conviction. However, it wouldn’t actually verify Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Why? Because I didn’t see it. I wasn’t an eyewitness.

However, it would be a different story if I died as a martyr having been an eyewitness to Christ’s resurrection. Why? Because as an eyewitness I’d be dying for a belief I know the truth-value of.

At this point, there are only three options for explaining the apostles’ belief:

  1. They died for something they knew to be a lie.
  2. They were delusional or crazy.
  3. They were right; Christ did rise from the grave.

We’ll examine each of these three possibilities below. However, there are more than three possibilities. Check out some alternative explanations for the resurrection of Christ.

Explanation #1 – The Apostles Died for Something They Knew to Be A Lie

This explanation places the burden of proof upon the proponent and lacks any historical credibility. It would take a greater leap of faith to believe this than the Biblical witness.

[Tweet “From @credohouse Remember, possibility of an alternative does not amount to probability.”]

Explanation #2 – The Apostles Were Delusional or Crazy

Saying the apostles were crazy, suffers the same weakness as the previous objection. There is no historical evidence to support the insanity for even a single apostle, much less all of them. Again, this explanation requires more faith than simply accepting their testimony.

[Tweet “From @credohouse There is no historical evidence to support the insanity for even a single apostle, much less all of them.”]

This is similar to the idea that the apostles stole Christ’s body, but it doesn’t fair any better.

Explanation #3 – The Apostles Were Right

The only viable option is that Christ actually did rise from the grave and is who He claimed to be. The other explanations are leaps into the dark. The motives for these blind leaps are many I’m sure, but let me mention a couple of the most likely.

Blind Leap #1 – A Bias Against the Supernatural

People who deny the evidence for Easter are sometimes motivated by a bias against the supernatural. This bias starts with the assumption, “Christ did not rise from the grave because it’s impossible for people to rise from the grave”. This argument begs the question and therefore has no force.

It may be true that people don’t normally rise from the grave; but lack of personal, empirical evidence doesn’t prove its impossibility.

[Tweet “From @credohouse Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”]

However, I do understand this bias. It’s foolish to uncritically accept stories that fall outside our God-given means of empirically acquiring information. But belief in the resurrection of Christ is in no way an uncritical belief (at least it doesn’t have to be). The evidence compels us to adjust our bias at this point.

[Tweet “From @credohouse It’s foolish to uncritically accept stories that fall outside our God-given means of empirically acquiring information.”]

Blind Leap #2 – Emotional Bias

Many people have an emotional bias against even the idea of God. For some, this comes from their upbringing. They have a commitment to what their parents taught them. They want them to be right, and will do everything in their power to cheer for those beliefs. Why? Because their parent’s beliefs have become their own, and they have a lot invested in them.

[Tweet “If Christ rose from the grave, they, their family, and their religion, are wrong. This can simply be too much.”]

Blind Leap #3 – Jilted Experience

For some, their objection may be caused by a failure (in their judgment) of God to meet their needs. They become apathetic to the evidence for the resurrection of a God who doesn’t meet their needs.

Emotions are a more powerful source for belief than facts. But while emotional objections are understandable, they can’t be sustained. We cannot let emotions rule our thinking. We must look past our experience and traditions to the truth, which can then lead our emotions properly.

Conclusion

In conclusion, listen to the words of Ignatius (a second century church father) as recorded in Ignatius: The Epistle of Ignatius to the Tarsians, III:

“Mindful of him, do ye by all means know that Jesus the Lord was truly born of Mary, being made of a woman; and was as truly crucified. For, says he, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of the Lord Jesus.” 11 And He really suffered, and died, and rose again. For says Paul, “If Christ should become passible, and should be the first to rise again from the dead. 12 And again, In that He died, He died unto sin once: but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God. 13 Otherwise, what advantage would there be in [becoming subject to] bonds, if Christ has not died? what advantage in patience? what advantage in [enduring] stripes? And why such facts as the following: Peter was crucified; Paul and James were slain with the sword; John was banished to Patmos; Stephen was stoned to death by the Jews who killed the Lord? But, [in truth,] none of these sufferings were in vain; for the Lord was really crucified by the ungodly.”

The evidence is there. Do you believe?

BONUS – Discussion Questions:

  1. Why might we be compelled to thank God for the death of the apostles?
  2. If the apostles had recanted their faith in order to save their lives, how might things be different?
  3. It was said that one cannot compare the deaths of the 9/11 hijackers and their religious convictions to that of the apostles. Summarize the difference.
  4. If someone died for a belief in something they saw, this would add credibility to their belief, however extraordinary. Give a modern-day example of some extraordinary claim that would parallel the death of the apostles. It does not have to be real; be creative.
  5. The apostles were God honoring men. While they were sinners in need of God’s mercy, they followed Christ as much as anyone. Why do you think God allowed such suffering in their lives?
  6. Do you think that the apostles imagined that Christians would be reflecting on the gruesome circumstances of their deaths 2,000 years later? Explain.
  7. Read Roman 8:28. Considering the suffering of the apostles. What does this tell you about God’s purpose for suffering? How might it give you hope in your own suffering?

All verse quotations in the article are from the ESV

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C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    53 replies to "What Happened to the Twelve Apostles? How Do Their Deaths Prove Easter?"

    • Wonders for Oyarsa

      I appreciate and understand the argument, but I wonder if you are overstating things. Though I gladly agree that there is no good solid counter-explanation for what happened in early Christianity other than the resurrection, I disagree that it is somehow irrational to disbelieve the resurrection. The skeptic simply need say “I don’t know what happened, but I’m pretty sure its something other than a dead man rising to life”.

      When I honestly examine my own motivations for belief, I do take the resurrection on faith within the teaching and testimony of the Church, and not on the historical evidence. I’m interested in the historical evidence, and I think it goes just as far as it needs to go – enough to show us that there isn’t any particularly good alternative explanation.

      I trust the witness of the apostles. But I can understand someone who might suppose that a person can convince themselves of a lie told to themselves enough times, or that a person might die rather than face the shame of being caught in a lie or thought a coward.

    • C Michael Patton

      I would not necessarily say that it is irrational (if I said that it might have been too much), but it is the least rational of the options. Therefore, it is a greater leap of faith to disbelieve.

    • Sam

      James the Less, pastor of the Jerusalem Church? Not James the Lord’s Brother?

      • Joseph

        Same person, he was the pastor of the Jerusalem Church.

    • Aaron

      I have some questions, Michael. And I ask these honestly, I’m not trying to be antagonistic. I’ve been looking into the historical evidence for the resurrection, which much be the cornerstone of the Christian faith.

      If we assume the Apostles did give their life for their faith, how do we know that they were martyred for their belief in the resurrection? In Stephen’s sermon before he was martyred, he doesn’t even mention the Resurrection. When James is martyred in Acts, it doesn’t say what reason Herod gave for killing him. If the Apostles were not killed for their belief in the resurrection, then their deaths do nothing to confirm the truth of the resurrection.

    • mbaker

      Aaron,

      While I can understand your doubt, think of this:

      Why would either Stephen or James been willing to have been martyred if they didn’t believe the resurrection accounts are true? Like everyone else they could have taken the the convenient route as Michael pointed out. It sure would have been easier on them at the time to agree with the Roman authorities, and the Jewish pharisees, and have themselves been saved for another day.

      I sure wouldn’t have been noble enough to have died for anything else less than the truth of God, had I been required to do the same thing. Would you? This, I believe, is the real question we Christians need to ask ourselves.

      Would we, if it came to that?

      We can go round and round on speculation until the cows come home, but in the end we have to trust that these saints had the actual physical witness of Christ’s resurrection to know their religion was far different than others, even if their reason wasn’t recorded as such.

    • Susan

      Aaron, So great that you are investigating the resurrection! Have you heard of Lee Strobel’s book: The Case for Christ?
      Strobel was a reporter for the Chicago Tribune— and an atheist. He too decided to investigate for himself–the resurrection of Jesus. He put his investigative journalist skills to work and eventually concluded that the resurrection did in fact occur. It is a historical fact, subject to investigation. Take a look at his book. It’s a pleasure to read, and I think it will help you.

    • Kara Kittle

      There is a monument to Thomas in Tamil, India. Many Indian Christians venerate him to this day.

    • bethyada

      In Stephen’s sermon before he was martyred, he doesn’t even mention the Resurrection.

      How so? The context is one of Stephen preaching Jesus before being hauled before the council and high priest. He then gives a background to show how Jesus fits into the history of the Jews. And shortly before his death he says,

      “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

      This is a claim the Jesus is alive, that he is resurrected!

    • Ranger

      Bethyada,
      That’s an important point, because it shows that Stephen associated Jesus with the Son of Man in Daniel 7…something that Jesus claimed about himself during the trial. Here’s the quote from Daniel 7:13-14,

      “I saw in the night visions,
      and behold, with the clouds of heaven
      there came one like a son of man,
      and he came to the Ancient of Days
      and was presented before him.
      And to him was given dominion
      and glory and a kingdom,
      that all peoples, nations, and languages
      should serve him;
      his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
      which shall not pass away,
      and his kingdom one
      that shall not be destroyed.”

      Jews simply wouldn’t have made this claim about another dead “Messiah.” History shows that there were plenty of people who started movements in Second Temple Judaism, claiming to be the Messiah, only to die and have their followers move on in life. For a Jew to continue worshipping Jesus, and claiming that he is the Messianic “Son of Man,” it requires that something radical happened, which the early church claimed, and we still claim, was his resurrection.

    • Aaron

      I forgot about Stephen seeing Christ in heaven. But does that necessarily point to a belief in a physical resurrection? Couldn’t you argue that it could be talking about some sort of spiritual resurrection? Anyway, Stephen was probably a bad example on my part. As far as I know, he was a convert and not an original follower and eyewitness of Jesus.

      I guess my point is that to argue that a person’s martyrdom is support for a physical resurrection you need two things. 1) They must be an actual eyewitness, and not just base their belief on second-hand information. 2) They must have been martyred for their belief in the physical resurrection. It doesn’t support the resurrection claim if a person is killed for, say, teaching that Jesus is the Messiah or Jesus is superior to the pagan gods. Do any of these martyrdom accounts meet these conditions?

    • Mary Jo

      Aaron,

      I will try to answer your valid question.

      I have to wonder why these men, who were certainly associated with Jesus, were killed if the answer is not for proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus. One answer might be that these men were proclaiming Jesus as God, but not as resurrected. However, that option does not seem probable due to the fact that they witnessed or knew that Jesus had died on a cross. These men, who knew through their own experience that Jesus had died on a Roman cross, were now proclaiming him as the eternal, infinite God (a God who cannot die). This does not seem logical. There has to be a reason for them to equate a dead man with the undying God. So though blasphemy would be a consideration, the idea that they were proclaiming the man, Jesus, as God, without the resurrection could not be the reason for their deaths. This theory lacks logical coherency.

      Another reason might be that the apostles hallucinated that they saw Jesus. However, there are numerous problems with this theory. A couple of quick problems with the theory: 1) Paul’s recitation of the post-mortem appearances of Jesus in 1 Corinthians 15:“Then he [Jesus] appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:6); 2) Paul’s conversion after a post-mortem experience with Jesus while considering Paul’s staunch Jewish upbringing and training, especially with regards to his Jewish belief in an end times resurrection of all people; and 3) James’ conversion to belief in Jesus as the risen God, considering that he was Jesus’ half-brother. Also, the reason offered for the hallucination theory is that the disciples had grief-induced hallucinations. There is no record of a grief-induced mass hallucination (such as the disciples’ gathering or the 500 brothers in one place) or any evidence to suggest these can actually happen. To keep things short, I will not go into more detail unless you so desire.

      The only reason ultimately implied for their deaths is what the Scriptures tell us they were proclaiming that angered the Jewish officials. In Acts 2:23-24, 3:15, Peter is proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus. In Acts 4:1-3, we know the priests, Sadducees, and the captain of the temple guard—being greatly annoyed at their message—seized Peter and John for preaching the resurrection and threw them in jail. Later in Acts 4, these same leaders were confused about what to do with the apostles, but knew they did not want Peter and John preaching this message (especially since it was accompanied by a healing miracle). They threaten Peter and John and told them to no longer preach in the name of Jesus. What were they saying in the name of Jesus? It was the resurrection message in Acts 2 & 3. Also, we know the Sadducees would have directly opposed the specific teaching of the resurrection, because the Sadducees denied the resurrection. The teaching of Peter and John would usurp their authority on the issue (again especially when accompanied by a miracle). If the Sadducees lose their theological authority, they could lose their authority over the people.[1] Now we have a motive for getting rid of the apostles related to the resurrection preaching of the apostles. We find out even further on in Acts 5:26 that the main reason the officials did not take the apostles by force because they feared the people; implying they would do so otherwise.

      I hope this was helpful, although I only touched on a very few basic ideas and Scriptures. I know there is much more to be discussed.

      Thanks for your thoughtful question,
      Mary Jo

      [1] Walvoord, John F.; Zuck, Roy B.; Dallas Theological Seminary: The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL : Victor Books, 1983-c1985, S. 2:362

    • Kara Kittle

      Aaron,
      There were over 500 witnesses to his bodily ascension into heaven. A physical man. A man who ate fish with his disciples and a man who walked down the Emmaus Road. Those were events after his death.

      But martyrdom is something else. One does not have to become a martyr for something he saw, it for his belief in something. What we would call martyrs those who made them that way might call them something else. It is interesting that neither the Old Testament, the Gospels, the New Testament, Josephus, the early church, the Koran…none of those call Jesus a martyr. Because he was the subject of the believers’ faith.

      It is quite interesting also that in all these books of the Bible, real kings were also named. In Rome, the emperor was seen as a living god. By mentioning the names of the emperors would have been scandalous at the time if it were to be applied to a false document. The Gospels mention Ceasar Augustus, Herod the Great, Herod Antipas, Agrippa, Phillip the Tetrarch, and others. And it also mentions great ancient ones as well. Darius the Mede, Nebuchadnezzar, and so forth.

      It would be a great story wouldn’t it if we did the same today. Could we write a story saying we have a face to face interview with Barack Obama then tell people it was true when it was not? So you can see this was not something taken lightly or done in jest. And certainly to die for it, journalists aren’t that willing. Think though, those kings were very much more inaccessible than our current leaders are. But would we be able to make up a story including the king’s name? Not likely.

    • Mary Jo

      *I realized after reading my comment that the hallucination theory would explain why the apostles were proclaiming resurrection and not necessarily if they died for proclaiming the resurrection. However, it is good to eliminate possible alternative theories for why they would have been proclaiming resurrection (other than that Jesus was really resurrected from the dead).

      I think the best explanation is the apostles threatened the established authority of the Sanhedrin through the preaching of the resurrection, which gave the apostles a new, real authority directly from God. The Book of Acts is a great place to read on this matter.

      Thanks,
      Mary Jo

    • bethyada

      I guess my point is that to argue that a person’s martyrdom is support for a physical resurrection you need two things. 1) They must be an actual eyewitness, and not just base their belief on second-hand information. 2) They must have been martyred for their belief in the physical resurrection. It doesn’t support the resurrection claim if a person is killed for, say, teaching that Jesus is the Messiah or Jesus is superior to the pagan gods.

      Unless the source of these claims come from their belief in the resurrection.

      The followers of Jesus likely died as a result of their refusal to deny him. This does not necessarily mean they were asked to deny the resurrection. But is clear from Acts and the epistles that their belief in the supremacy of Christ was founded on the resurrection. That is, the resurrection is what convinced them of Christ who they subsequently died for.

      Showing they died for their faith, and that faith was predicated on a literal resurrection to which they were eyewitnesses offers the same evidence.

    • Joseph

      If they only died because of they believed in the resurrection, what does this say about all the others that have died for their faith? Does this prove nothing? That it is somehow hollow?

      If they were only willing to die because they had personal evidence of the resurrection, then their faith is less — not greater — than those who died without that personal evidence.

      I might go as far as to argue they had no faith at all, if they were only willing to die because of personal experience.

      Because the flipside of your argument is that they would not have been willing to die for Christ if they hadn’t seen it with their own eyes. That they were doubting cowards who needed personal experiences to be convinced.

      If only those who had personal experience with slavery fought for the North in the Civil War, we’d still have slavery.

      If only those who have personal encounters with God are willing to die for God, then Onward Christian Soldiers turns into Onward Pentecostal Soldiers.

    • […] What Happened to the Twelve Apostles? How Their Deaths Evidence Easter […]

    • Kara Kittle

      What would make a devout Orthodox Jew suddenly believe in Jesus…losing all respect and standing within the Jewish community…and then willing to die for it? Never once though did they denounce being Jewish, but professed being Jewish believers in Christ. The word Christian being applied years later.

      And why would they as Jews take up writing books and letters constantly professing and confessing faith in Jesus unless it was to them real. What would make any Jewish person stand before such a king as Agrippa or Nero and make this claim knowing full well what it meant to oppose those kings.

    • Scott Ferguson

      Friendly apologetic pointer for the “other side” #213: 🙂

      The Case for Christ? Arrrgghh! 😮

      I read this book at the urging of my wife’s boss with whom I shared an email exchange of views. (I think I recommended Sagan’s Demon Haunted World.) I found it very disappointing. Lee Strobel gave up being a skeptical journalist long before he wrote The Case for Christ. He interviews only those supporting his presumption and the few times he comes up with a really good question he says something , “I decided to put that question aside for now” never to return to it, of course.

      I read it a few years ago and wish I could come up with more specifics. Let me just say that although Christians seem to love this book, for apologetic purposes – that is in approaching skeptics, skip it. I don’t know if there is a better book out there but this book is NOT the deal closer that some seem to think it is.

    • Kara Kittle

      Might I add, the term Pentecost means “Fifty days” it occurred on Shavuot…the Jewish Feast Day that is First Fruits…wow, think about that one. Celebrating Jesus the First born with the First Fruits….interesting. That’s why all those Jews were in Jerusalem that day.

    • […] to to the idea that Jesus was (is) the Christ that they would go on to become martyrs for His cause.2  But others have died for ideas that were wrong, or that Christians consider wrong, such as other […]

    • Luigi Di Serio

      Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
      What a blessing that you wrote this, nothing could be a truer that their deaths are a testimony of the risen Lord.

    • Scott

      Hello and thank you for your info! My question is your reference to Jesus as God incarnate. Are you Buddhist? Jesus and the bible refer often to the One, the Creator, the Father and Jesus is sitting at His right hand as his risen Son. Just wondering. Thank you.

    • […] Michael Patton has spelt out this argument in further detail HERE. 1 people like this post. […]

    • […] Michael Patton: . . . it is very feasible to believe that all but one of the Apostles suffered and died a martyr’s death, even if we can’t be sure of the exact details.Amidst some uncertainty, one thing is clear—the reason given for their death was the same in all accounts. They were killed because they proclaimed to have seen Christ die and then to have seen Him alive. They all died because of an unwavering, unrelenting claim that Christ rose from the grave. They died for Easter. […]

    • […] The original Apostles of Jesus Christ provide convincing evidence that what they preached about Jesus was more than a mere tale or colluded effort to deceive people.  By many accounts, most of the original apostles suffered tremendous hardships in their life after Christ’s resurrection and even until their final moments suffered tremendous pain.  10 of the original 12 apostles met their fate, dying as martyrs, confessing Christ’s lordship to the end (John was banished to the island of Patmos and Judas Iscariot committed suicide after Christ’s death).  Paul (not an “original apostle” but arguably the most influential) also suffered tremendous hardships and was eventually put to death as well (Writings of their demise can be found here). […]

    • Isaac Flores

      I am 32 years old, and i was taught to belive in the bible by reason since i was a kid. I truly belive in Jesus and the Doctrine pass on from him to the apostles. Michael, I am very pleased to read this, most people belive in Jesus now days, because generation ago they were force or killed to belive. to me, that is not beliving(is just like a kid drinking adulter milk). What he offer to humanity is eternal salvatio(life) and he show us the way we should live our life to achieve just that. The Apostles were not only killed for being witness of the resurection, but for preaching the truth about salvatio.

    • Omolade

      Matyrdom rocks !You have helped me finish my crs homework.
      Somebody praise God!

    • […] In all seriousness, check out this article here: What Happened to the Twelve Apostles? How Their Deaths Evidence Easter | Parchment and Pen MarieP Reformed Baptist Church Louisville, KY "I am not worthy of the least of all the […]

    • Carlos saavedra

      Thank you for sharing this information
      May God bless you

    • James

      “Blessed are those that have not seen, yet have believed”

    • edison muyomba

      God bless those who suffer 4 his sake

    • Margaret

      I believe that there were persecuted and that is the part of a true christian john17vs14

    • Mark

      I think people are more likely to die for what they believe to be true rather than what they know to be true. These Apostles died trying fulfill their instruction from Jesus because they believed in his Teachings. But they also knew he had been resurrected. Why would they die for what they already knew to be true when they had been given a job to do by the Son of God?

    • michael patterson

      You made the statement that “They were killed because they proclaimed to have seen Christ die”…… I’m not aware that any of the disciples saw him die except John nor am I aware that any of them claimed to have seen him die.

    • Matthew

      @Michael Patterson yes they did believe in Jesus. They all went from hiding to preaching the Gospel throughout the world. They never once recanted their faith in him.

    • Gary

      What a wonderful summation of the lives of the apostles, what an inspirational reference to their lives. As I read it and having read of their experiences prior I didn’t have any doubt but I have a comment. They lived and died in the first generation of the Christian Church, we will live and die in the final generation. To those living today it is our appointed time — could we be so fortunate? This is His appointed time, the Feast where those who have in their time on earth and to those who now do believe in Christ and in His death for our sins will not just know through faith but will soon see, and experience what those who have passed about 2000 years ago. The apostles were among the first after Christ we will be among the last. The bible is the most interesting and exciting book I have ever read (among many), but it is only so interesting because of the times in which we live what we will see now (during our lives now) will be equivalent to that of the experience the apostles had 2000 years ago — if you believe in Christ you will have a good experience, if not you will have a terrible experience — one will see light, the other darkness. Now God calls upon you and you and you to know and to understand His people, to understand His wrath that He will bring to our generation. As interesting as the first 100 years were to all of us it will be nothing compared to this last 100 years to all of us. Read: Isaiah 41 The Helper of Israel http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+41&version=NIV

    • Andrew

      Thank you very much for your article. What you describe, the “Jesus: Lord, Liar, or Lunatic” reasoning is how I came to understand that the Word is Truth on a rational level (a friend of mine helped me overcome my doubts in this same manner). For myself, someone with a scientific, reasoning mind as most of us have, it was a critical step. I was always a bit frustrated by the idea that some “leap of faith” was required in order to believe. The idea that I had to set aside rational thought in order to believe was impossible for me to overcome and indeed I tried for many years. For a long time I prayed to believe, trying to “will” myself to believe, which got me nowhere. It was only upon understanding that it is fact reasonable and rational to believe that I could progress in my journey.
      Now, this understanding only got me so far. My love of God and knowing that God loves me was not born out of reasoning, but through prayer, being ministered to, and seeking a relationship with Him. It is He that does the work however. The Spirit will break through for those who seek it, according to His will. Thank you again.

    • aurel

      The lord jesus said no one can come true me except the father allowed him to come to me. the appostles didnt find jesus but jesus found them.
      he said to peter follow me and i on will make you a fisher of man.as we can see peter did convert many people to christianity. jesus is love and the only way to know if the appostles are true is to look if they had compassion , love , care for people and you will understand. at that time
      people had their own god and it was a huge decision to believe and other especially when they saw jesus growing up. i will telll yous something. a bible is only a piece of paper. Everyone can read the bible, can say i believe in jesus. believing in jesus without act of love is zero you are decieving yourself. may god bless you all thank you

    • Gary

      hi. We have just gone and seen the movie Son of God. My question is. What happened to Joseph the father when Christ his was crucified. He is not mention much after Jesus birth. Something else, After death where does the soul go? I’m reading the book, A Travel Guide to Heaven, It say the soul go to a place to rest. Most people this is heaven.The way our church believe is there isn’t heaven till the judgement day. Can you tell where this place is. I’m getting older now and think about death a lot more, and now I can see nobody no for sure just what will happen till we die.

    • paul warren

      Mr Patten I do agree with you however I feel FAITH is the reason Jesus died on the cross. It was written & witness by many a women to be stoned was not why not she had broken one of the ten.The point here is she was forgiven before Christ died on the cross. Yes he was making a point that every one sins however she was still pardoned.God had always been forgiving that is why human form was needed to teach.It’s what I would have done with life take two It was either that or flood the earth again.To keep it simple Jesus was here to teach & show god was fair in judgement.The cross to me was a cruel method of execution used at the time.Jesus was not the only one to die this way & Jesus was always going to die to be one with god after his work was done. To teach the people but most of all the 12 to take over.However doubt was his biggest evil he needed to show the 12 who he really was by returning to life. I know the text stats he died on the cross for sins but i am not so sure as faith is needed before repention.The death of Jesus has it changed the world for the better of mankind.We all still sin how do we really know if we are forgiven.The difference is the teachings. Gods plan was simple the teachings needed to be passed on by the 12. People read too much into it. It was always gods plan for Jesus to die when he did so the 12 would have faith.Thomas did not believe.The first thing Jesus did was to show the 11 his wounds.Thomas did not show. Its like this if you were a general & you said there is 12 points we must attack at the same time other wise we will lose the battle. If you had a team of people & one did not agree with you what would do to that person convince him or replace him.To me the most defining point in time was when Jesus showed Thomas his wounds this was the event which set the path to our future.It was so important for Jesus to do this he could not leave until the 12 believe in there hearts in him. God would have foreseen his doubt{ free will}.

    • Hennie

      I totally agree with your argument and there is a specific reason why John10:24-31 is included, because Thomas didn’t believe at first. All he could do after he touched our Saviour, was to say: “My Lord and my God” and then Jesus’ response: “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”

      Surely a testimony to all of us – the resurrection of Jesus Christ that He died for us on the cross and that both His death on the cross and His resurrection has been written down as important to us.

    • Hennie

      Here is the correct verses Joh 20:24-32

      Joh 20:24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.
      Joh 20:25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.
      Joh 20:26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.
      Joh 20:27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.
      Joh 20:28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.
      Joh 20:29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.
      Joh 20:30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:
      Joh 20:31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

    • paul warren

      The key words to support my argument lie with in John 14;23/28 If anyone loves me he will obey my TEACHINGS. It was always about the teachings & these words prove this.It was never about sin.

    • paul warren

      However God’s long term plan was to attack sin through the teachings. To teach and show his people the way of good values in life. We today still hold these values as the law to abide by. I think They were never intended to eliminate sin as we have a free will but to keep sin from escalating to a level of no return hence the flood. I am worried however with all the atrocities going on around the world today that the level of sin is a big worry. if the world was to be punished again with fire I have know doubt we have already been shown how. solar flairs from the sun. If a big solar flair was to hit earth this would send as back to the stone age. People would light fires all around the world to keep warm. Most food sources would be gone in a matter weeks. we would have to learn to live off the land again and It can happen with a blink of an eye and at any time.

    • Lynae

      For me personally, although I believe in the resurrection of Christ, it is not the basis of my faith. I agree with the poster ‘Andrew’ in that my faith was produced through much soul searching and direction of the holy spirit. It was not until I truly opened my mind and considered the words of the bible that God in his wisdom began to reveal the truth of His word to me, slowly feeding me only as much as I could handle at a time. Today my faith is strong and yet I am still not so bold as to believe I have not yet much to learn from Him. The gift of God was that Christ came to reveal the truth to as many as would receive him, the apostles believed because of what they saw and experienced (this was necessary for them to continue to spread Christ’s words), the Bible (living word) was given to us as another way for the holy spirit to help us get to know the ‘truth’ of God. Believers continue to encourage others to seek this ‘truth’ for themselves. It is a collective effort to ‘come to Christ’. It takes many different facets, and just as all the parts of the body must do their job for the body to work efficiently and effectively, all of these pieces come together to lead us and grow us in the ‘truth’ that is God. Our free will lets us decide whether we will provide a fertile soil in which to receive it or a dry soil in which little or nothing can grow. The apostles/martyrs were integral to God’s plan in that they documented Christ’s teachings from a firsthand account (making it trustworthy it was His words) and they lived what they were taught to the point of death. We are given special mention by Christ when He states to Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” God having no limits or barriers knew all those years ago each and every soul that would receive salvation due to the building blocks His amazing and glorious hands put in place for us. Holy! Holy! Holy! and forever Thank you, mighty God.

    • paul warren

      Each to there own Lynae in how we search for Faith. With the 12 it was only a key element in time of the systematic plan god had for the 12 to have faith so they would believe. I only read into the logic of the written text which is written down for all to see. The Teachings played a very big part in God’s plan of phases. Would the 12 have had faith to carry on if they had not have been shown the way. where would that have left us today. God will not change our will so he needs to show us the way like the 12 and it is up to each individual how they perceive that way.

    • valerie

      Paul
      While it is true many were nailed to a cross they did not suffer the brutality that Jesus did. Keep in mind that His ordeal started in the early hours of Friday morning or Thursday night after midnight. He was beaten 39 times with a roman wipe that has 9 tails with a piece of metal at each tip turning the 39 lashes into 281 cuts of torn flesh no one else but the Son of Man could endure that and even then our Savior needed help to carry His own cross. Jesus did not need faith in God – He was God. His darkest moment was not the mocking, or the beatings or even being nailed to the cross. he did not fear His Death when He was praying in the garden the worst part of His death was for that brief instant when the Father turned His face away.
      We are the ones who need faith and without faith we have no hope. You know that saying “Knowing Christ died is history but knowing He died for me that is Salvation. I have been a Christian for a very long time and without my faith and my hope in Christ I would have nothing. At my daughter’s Memorial everyone was crying and sad but I was celebrating because i knew she had made her peace with the Lord and that I would see her again. Romans 5: 3-5 has always been one of my favorite verses because when we have faith in Christ we have HOPE and even the darkest clouds have a silver lining.

      • paul warren

        Valerie, Gee a am not so sure Jesus was god. He is part of God as my son is part of me. I have had a lot of people tell me Jesus was god. So I have been looking at the written facts about this which is all i have to go from. The answer to this question i feel lies within the written text when Jesus was on the cross. He said ,’ FATHER WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME; FORGIVE THEM BECAUSE THEY DO NOT KNOW WHAT THEY DO.’ These are as you know the written words that Jesus said when on the cross . Why would he say these words to pray to the father if he was God. Also God sent Jesus into the desert for 40 days why. I think because his body and mind was half human elements and God wanted Jesus to test the temptation to the evil thoughts from the human element . God already knew that Jesus would resist this temptation but Jesus needed to experience this for himself.

    • paul warren

      Back then it was a very harsh environment to live in .If you went against Roman law you were hasty dealt with. Reading and studying those times some people were starved and brutality beaten before they were finally hung on the cross.. If they suffered more than Jesus i don’t know but we do know this there were others that suffered greatly .We know about Jesus because it was written about but there were many more not written about .It was said the road into Rome was lined with people hanging on the cross. The 12 needed to love god from there hearts and to achieve this they needed to hold faith in there hearts only then were able to receive the holy spirit as the return of Christ for 40 days prepare the way for them.

    • oladehin abiodun

      Father, help me to finish well my race, thanks to those who imputed these great works on net, in the kingdom of God I will see u there. finally, are you preparing for the second coming of Christ? get ready!

    • Timothy L. O'Neil

      I find it quite interesting, that Mary Magdalene was the first human to see the Risen Savior. Jesus selected a woman
      to be the first one to see Him alive again, not one of His buddies. Let’s hear it for the women, who supported Jesus in
      His ministry!

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