As a pastor and theologian with an extensive background in biblical studies, I understand that
the ascending of Jesus did not mark the end of his ministry. The disciples he left behind were
tasked with keeping the ministry going, which they did well, as documented in the Acts of the
Apostles. Though I have done a comprehensive study of the book of Acts of the Apostles, I
noticed that the apostles’ death is not clearly documented. This led me to the question, how
did Jesus’ disciples die?
I created this article to shed light on the lives of Jesus’ disciples during his ministry. Join me in
this exploration and discover how the disciples ultimately died. You will also learn about the
disciples’ lives after the ascension of Jesus and their significant roles in the church. Read on to
find out more!
How did Jesus’ disciples die?
Apostle Simon Peter
Simon Peter was undoubtedly one of the closest and favorite disciples of Jesus. He was among the first disciples Jesus called as he began his ministry. Earning himself the title of Cephas, which translates to “the rock” from Jesus Christ, shows how much he was adored and respected by Jesus Christ. From this rock is where Jesus had prophesied about building his church.
At the time of Jesus’ death, Simon Peter was left behind as the leader of the vast group of disciples who were supposed to continue from where Jesus had left. Simon Peter was up to the task and ensured unity amongst the disciples as the first church was set up. He ended up being the church’s first leader, otherwise known as the Pope, and oversaw the appointment of Apostle Matthias to replace Judas Iscariot. He spoke during the Pentecost when many people gave their lives to Christ. He is also credited with writing Peter’s 1st and 2nd letters.
According to theological history, Peter was forced to leave Jerusalem and go north to preach. He ensured that the first non-Jews got accepted into Christianity. Records from the early church show that Peter settled in Rome, Italy, where he worked as the leader of the Catholic Church. Peter is believed to have died around 64 AD during the reign of Emperor Nero. Since he felt unworthy to die like his master, Jesus Christ, he requested to be crucified upside down. He was put to death for holding on to his faith as a Christian.
Andrew was Peter’s brother among the first disciples of Jesus Christ called to his ministry. While fishing with his brother Peter at the Sea of Galilee, Jesus called them and promised to make them fishers of men. He is regarded as the first disciple that Jesus called and is otherwise referred to as Andrew the Protocletus. The Protolectus loosely translates to the first one to be called.
Although Andrew is not mentioned that much in isolation, he is one of the disciples who played a crucial role in running and spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ far and wide. Some biblical scholars recorded him as a follower of John the Baptist before Jesus began his ministry. He is also widely credited with bringing people to Christ as he brought his brother in John 1:40-42.
Some Christian scholars have recorded Andrew as having gone past Judea to spread the Gospel. He is believed to go further in Europe to places like Kyiv in Ukraine. He also preached in Greece, where one of the governors asked him to stop his teachings. A relentless Andrew disobeyed the governor and continued spreading the Gospel. He was ultimately arrested and sentenced to death. Like his brother Peter, Andrew faced the painful death of crucifixion.
He also requested to be crucified upside down as he saw himself unworthy to be crucified like Jesus Christ.
James, son of Zebedee
James, the son of Zebedee, is also one of the first disciples to join the ministry with his brother John. He is believed to have been one of the disciples in the innermost circle of Jesus Christ. Together with his brother john, Simon Peter, and Andrew, they formed the first batch of disciples that started following Jesus.
As a member of the innermost circle of Jesus Christ, James witnessed some of the great happenings of Jesus Christ firsthand. The raising of Jairus’s daughter, the transfiguration, and the agony of Jesus at the mountain are just some of the remarkable occurrences he witnessed.
Most Christian traditions note his teachings after the death of Jesus were limited to Judea, and he happens to be the only Apostle whose death is documented in the Bible. This occurred around 40 AD and is written in Acts 12:1-2. For being a staunch church member, Herod the king had him put to death with a sword.
Apostle John son of Zebedee
Regarded as the most loved disciple of Jesus Christ, John was a brother to James and was a part of the four disciples who received the calling of Jesus first. He was part of the inner circle of Jesus together with his brother James and Simon Peter. For their zeal in spreading the Gospel at Samaria, Jesus named John and his brother James “the sons of thunder.”
After the ascension of Jesus Christ, John played a vital role in establishing the first church. He also played a crucial role in overseeing the conversion of Apostle Paul. John is credited with writing the Gospel of John, the three epistles of John, and the book of Revelations.
In Revelation 1:9, the apostle john faced exile due to his strong faith. Despite the Bible not directly quoting his death, tradition has it that John was arrested in Ephesus and thrown in a vast basin of boiling oil, but he miraculously escaped death. He was then sentenced to slave labor at the Patmos. This is where he had a vision with Jesus and wrote the book of Revelation.
John was released from slavery and returned to modern-day Turkey, where he died peacefully of old age around 98 AD. He is the only disciple of Jesus recorded to have died peacefully.
Philip the Apostle
Philip the Apostle was one of the disciples of Jesus Christ during his ministry and is recorded as having come from Bethsaida. He answered the call of Jesus to “follow me” and played a crucial role in bringing Nathanael, the disciple to Christ, otherwise referred to as Bartholomew.
Philip is one of the apostles who had previously been a follower of John the Baptist before the ministry of Jesus. Philip was the disciple who calculated the amount it would cost to feed 5000 people in John 6:7. He also asked Jesus to reveal to them the Father during the last supper. After the Lord’s ascension, Philip was a part of those who gathered in Jerusalem to pray, as recorded in Acts 1:13.
Tradition states that after the ascension of Jesus, Philip, Bartholomew, and his sister Mariamne were sent to spread the Gospel in Phrygia, Greece, and Syria. They became a missionary and continued spreading the Gospel. One of the traditions states that Philip was crucified with Bartholomew after converting the wife of the proconsul of Hierapolis. While crucified upside down, Philip preached from the cross, and Bartholomew ended up being released, but Philip insisted on being left at the cross, where he died.
Bartholomew the Apostle
Philip introduced him to Jesus, and his call is recorded in John 1:45-49. This happened after Jesus called Philip, and he brought his friend along. From these accounts to even their ministry, we can assume that Philip and Bartholomew were great friends. When Jesus saw him coming, he labeled Bartholomew a true Israelite who worshipped God.
In John 21:2, Bartholomew was present to see Jesus when he had risen. He was also present during the ascension of Jesus Christ before taking the Gospel to India and Persia. Traditions state that Bartholomew was possibly martyred in two ways: he could have been tied in a sack, dropped into the sea, or crucified.
Thomas the Apostle
Thomas was a part of the 12 disciples of Jesus and also played his role to the latter both during the time of Jesus’s ministry and after he ascended to heaven. Thomas was the disciple ready to die with Jesus in Bethany when death threats started streaming in. He is also famous for doubting the resurrection of Jesus, giving rise to the famous ‘Doubting Thomas’ phrase. He is the disciple who touched Jesus’s nail wounds to confirm that he had risen.
Christian traditions state that after Christ ascended to heaven, Thomas took the Gospel to parts of India and Parthia. While in India, he founded a church and is regarded as the patron of Indian Christians. Traditions have it that Thomas was speared to death in Chennai, India, around 72 AD.
Matthew the Apostle
Matthew was a tax collector before he met Jesus Christ and decided to follow him, and he is also regarded as Levi. When Jesus was having a meal at his house, he said he had come for sinners and those who needed salvation. When he experienced Jesus, he left all his riches and followed him. He is credited with writing the Gospel of Matthew.
He was present during the ascension of Jesus and was part of the group that remained in Jerusalem to profess the name of Christ. Tradition has it that he then took his ministry to Judea, Persia, and Ethiopia. Some traditions claim that he was martyred in Ethiopia by being stabbed with a sword.
James, the son of Alphaeus
He is one of the least mentioned disciples in the Bible but still played his role well as a disciple of Jesus Christ. He is also regarded as ‘James the less .’Traditions have it that James the son of Alphaeus took the Gospel to Persia.
His death is recorded to have happened around 62 AD around Jerusalem. Some Jews stoned him to death and then buried him beside the temple.
Jude was also referred to as Thaddeus and was a member of the 12 original disciples of Jesus. He is also one of the least-mentioned disciples of Jesus. Some scholars have attributed the writings of the book of Jude to him, but some have claimed the author to be Jude, the brother of Jesus.
Tradition records that after the ascension of Jesus, Jude spread the Gospel in many places, including Mesopotamia, Syria, Samaria, and Libya. Around 65 AD in Syria, he suffered martyrdom by being executed with an axe.
Simon the Zealot
As one of the least mentioned disciples of Jesus Christ, little is known about Simon the Zealot. He was a member of the discipleship of Jesus Christ during his ministry on earth. Tradition records Simon the Zealot as taking the Gospel to Egypt before joining Jude in Persia. He was martyred by being cut in half with a saw for refusing to sacrifice to the God of the sun.
Judas Iscariot was the only disciple of Jesus who died before his master. He was the disciple who fulfilled the prophecy of Jesus Christ about being betrayed by one of them. For 30 pieces of silver, Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss on his cheek.
Afterward, Judas was heavy with guilt and ended up hanging himself. The Apostle Matthias eventually replaced him.
They say that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, right? Being raised by Christians significantly impacted my life since I started professing Christ from a young age. My passion for the Christian faith made me pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology. I am a believer and pastor dedicated to spreading the word of God. I have been in the Christian ministry for over a decade and am currently ministering in Life Christian Church. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Please check the About Us Page for more details.