Dear Reader, if you have the time and the desire, I would like to discuss the following with you. Thank you ever so much.
Source: http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2 ... ce-easter/
I am quoting from the PDF:
http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/conten ... ostles.pdf
Copyright, 2009 Reclaiming the Mind Ministries
May be reproduced unaltered for free.
The Death of the Twelve Apostles
How their martyrdom evidences Easter
By C. Michael Patton
with discussion questions
I have an interest in the death of the
Apostles. We all should. Every Christian
should spend some time looking into the
historical records. There are many legends
concerning their deaths which makes the
historical evidence hard to interpret. Many
times the accounts conflict with one another.
Most early Christians wanted their home to be
crowned with the stature of having been the
final resting place of one of the twelve. It is
probably for this reason that there were
Sifting through the wheat and the chaff is not
easy task. The martyrdom of some of the
Apostles is more certain than others.
Historians will have different degrees of
certainty concerning the circumstances of their
deaths. For instance, unbiased historians will
not take issue with the historical credibility of
the martyrdom of Peter, Paul, and James the
Apostle. Many of the other accounts have
decent historic validity as well. Some
accounts, however, raise the eyebrow and
cause us to remain agnostic.
However, when boiled down to their least common denominator, 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
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.
Personally, in my mind, the gruesome death of the Apostles as recorded below was one of the
greatest gifts that God ever gave to the Church. It contributes much to Christian apologetics by
answering the "how do you know?" question concerning the resurrection of Christ.
The following is my attempt to take the best of all the sources and share the most likely scenario
for each Apostle’s death. At the risk of spoiling some of the “legends,” I have given each
account a grade of probability from A (highest probability) to D (lowest probability).
Read through the accounts of their deaths. Use it this Easter. Tell your children. This may sound
odd, but in a very real sense, I thank God for bringing about the Apostles’ deaths, for in their
deaths they sealed their testimony in blood making our faith in the risen Christ built upon a solid
(1) The Apostle James
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 is told that Herod Agrippa killed him with a
sword. Clemens Alexandrinus and Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History II.2) both tell how the
executioner witnessed the courage and un-recanting spirit of James and was then convinced of
Christ resurrection and was executed along with James.
Date of Martyrdom: 44-45 A.D.
Probability rating: A for the death of James, C- for the death of the executioner
(2) The Apostle Peter
Although, just before the crucifixion, Peter denied three times that he even knew Christ, after the
resurrection he did not do so again. Peter, just as Jesus told him in John 21:18-19, was crucified
by Roman executioners because he could not deny his master again. According to Eusebius, he
thought himself unworthy to be crucified as his Master, and, therefore, he asked to be crucified
Date of Martyrdom: ca. 64 A.D.
Probability rating: A
(3) The Apostle Andrew
Andrew, who introduced his brother Peter to Christ, went to join Peter with Christ in eternity six
years after Peter's death. 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.
Date of Martyrdom: 70 A.D.
Probability rating: B
(4) The Apostle Thomas
Thomas is known as "doubting Thomas" because of his reluctance to believe the other Apostles'
witness of the resurrection. After they told him that Christ was alive, he stated "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" (John 20:25). After this, Christ did appear to him and
Thomas believed unto death. Thomas sealed his testimony as he was thrust through with pine
spears, tormented with red-hot plates, and burned alive.
Date of Martyrdom: 70 A.D.
Probability rating: B concerning his martyrdom, D concerning the exact method of execution.
(5) The Apostle Philip
Philip was corrected by Christ when he asked Christ to “show us the Father, then this will be
enough for us” (John 14:8). Christ responded, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have
not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show
us the Father ‘?” (John 14:9). Philip later saw the glory of Christ after the resurrection and
undoubtedly reflected with amazement on Christ's response to his request. Philip evangelized in
Phrygia where hostile Jews had him tortured and then crucified.
Date of Martyrdom: 54 A.D.
Probability rating: C
(6) The Apostle Matthew
Matthew, the tax collector, so desperately wanted the Jews to accept Christ. He wrote The
Gospel According to Matthew about ten years before his death. Because of this, one can see,
contained within his Gospel, the faith for which he spilled his blood. Matthew surely
remembered his resurrected Savior's words, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the
world" (Matt. 28:20), when he professed the resurrected Christ unto his death by beheading at
Date of Martyrdom: 60-70 A.D.
Probability rating: B
(7) The Apostle Nathanael (Bartholomew)
Nathanael, whose name means "gift of God" was truly given as a gift to the Church through his
martyrdom. Nathanael was the first to profess, early in Christ's ministry, that Christ was the Son
of God (John 1:49). He later paid for this profession through a hideous death. Unwilling to recant
of his proclamation of a risen Christ, he was flayed and then crucified.
Date of Martyrdom: 70 A.D.
Probability rating: C
(8) The Apostle James the Lesser
James was appointed to be the head of the Jerusalem church for many years after Christ's death.
In this, he undoubtedly came in contact with many hostile Jews (the same ones who killed Christ
and stated "His [Christ's] blood be on us and our children" (Matt. 27:25). In order to make James
deny Christ's resurrection, these men positioned him at the top of the Temple for all to see and
hear. James, unwilling to deny what he knew to be true, was cast down from the Temple and
finally beaten to death with a fuller's club to the head.
Date of Martyrdom: 63 A.D.
Probability rating: B that he was cast down from the temple, D that he was being beaten to death
with fuller’s club after the fall
(9) The Apostle Simon the Zealot
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 different places that Simon proclaimed the good news of Christ's
resurrection: Egypt, Cyrene, Africa, Mauritania, Britain, Lybia, and Persia. His rest finally came
when he verified his testimony and went to be with Christ, being crucified by a governor in
Date of Martyrdom: 74 A.D.
Probability rating: B
(10) The Apostle Judas Thaddeus
Judas questioned the Lord: "Judas said to him (not Iscariot), Lord, how is it that you will show
yourself to us, and not unto the world?" (John 14:22). After he witnessed Christ's resurrection,
Judas then knew the answer to his question. Preaching the risen Christ to those in Mesopotamia
in the midst of pagan priests, Judas was beaten to death with sticks, showing to the world that
Christ was indeed Lord and God.
Date of Martyrdom: 72 A.D.
Probability rating: C
(11) The Apostle Matthias
Matthias replaced Judas Iscariot (the betrayer of Christ who hanged himself) as the twelfth
Apostle of Christ (Acts 1:26). It is believed by most that Matthias was one of the seventy that
Christ sent out during his earthly ministry (Luke 10:1). 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.
Date of Martyrdom: 70 A.D.
Probability rating: D
(12) The Apostle John
John is the only one of the twelve Apostles to have 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 under the
Emperor Domitian for his proclamation of the risen Christ. It was there that he wrote the last
book in the Bible, Revelation. Some traditions tell us that he was thrown into boiling oil before
the Latin Gate, where he was not killed but undoubtedly scarred for the rest of his life.
Date of Martyrdom: 95 A.D.
Probability rating: A that he was not martyred, C that he was thrown into boiling oil
(13) The Apostle Paul
Paul, himself a persecutor of the Christian faith (Galatians 1:13), was brought to repentance on
his way to Damascus by an appearance of the risen Christ. Ironically, Paul was heading for
Damascus to arrest those who held to Christ's resurrection. Paul was the greatest skeptic there
was until he saw the truth of the resurrection. He then devoted his life to the proclamation of the
living Christ. Writing to the Corinthians, defending his ministry, Paul tells of his sufferings for
the name of Christ: "In labors more abundant, in beatings above measure, in prisons more
frequent, in deaths often. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes minus one. Three times I
was beaten with rods, once was I stoned, three times I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I
have been in the deep; In journeys often, in storms on the water, in danger of robbers, in danger
by mine own countrymen, in danger by the heathen, in danger in the city, in danger in the
wilderness, in the sea, among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in
hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness "(2 Cor. 11:23-27). Finally, Paul met
his death at the hands of the Roman Emperor Nero when he was beheaded in Rome.
Date of Martyrdom: ca. 67 A.D.
Probability rating: A
I believe that the deaths of the Apostles increase the certainty level of the historicity of the
resurrection to a level that is beyond excuse for disbelief. People do not die for their own lies,
half-truths, or fabrications. If the Apostles truly died proclaiming to have seen Christ dead then
alive and ascend into heaven, Christ is who He said He was, God incarnate who came to take
away the sins of the world.
However, some might object to my reasoning. You may object to my reasoning. The question
that gives rise to the objection is this: Don't many people die for something they believe? Does
this mean that if you die for something, it is true? To be sure, many people have died for
something that they believed and this does not make it true. The 9-11 bombers believed
something and died for that belief, but their deaths do no give credence to the validity of their
beliefs in any way. There is a big difference in dying for something that you believe having
received the basis for that belief from someone else and dying for something that you believe
because you witnessed the events that establish the belief.
From a historical stand point, the difference is as great as day and night. The suicide bombers
and others who die for their faith are dying for something that they believe because the have
heard it from someone else. This adds no valid verification to what they believe from an
standpoint of evidence or reason. It would be like me dying for my faith in Christ's resurrection.
All that this would prove is that I truly did believe that Christ rose from the grave, but it would
not verify in any way that He actually did rise from the grave. Why? Because I did not see it. I
was not a first hand witness.
Now if I died a martyr's death saying that I saw Christ die and rise from the grave with my own
eyes that would be a different story. Why? Because it would not verify a belief handed down
from someone else, but a belief in something that I witnessed firsthand. At this point, you have
only three options for explaining the Apostles’ belief: 1) Say that they died for a lie knowing that
it was a lie, 2) that they were delusional or crazy, or 3) that was the truth, Christ did rise from the
To say that they died knowing it was a lie places a great burden of proof upon the proponent of
this view and completely lacks in any historical credibility (no matter how many attempts have
been made to substantiate such). It would take a much greater leap of faith to believe this than to
believe that they were telling the truth and Christ actually rose. Remember, the possibility of an
alternative does not amount to probability.
To opt for number two and say that they were crazy suffers from the same fate as the first. There
is no way to substantiate this. There is absolutely no historical evidence in favor of this supposed
insanity for even a single Apostle, much less all of them. From a historical standpoint, this would
most certainly be a greater leap of faith than to believe that they were telling the truth.
The only option is the last---that Christ did raise from the grave and He is who he said he was.
All others are blind leaps into the dark.
The motives for these blind leaps are many I am sure, but let me mention a couple of the most
People who deny this evidence are sometimes motivated by an anti-supernatural bias. This bias
starts with the assumption that Christ did not rise from the grave because it is impossible for
people to rise from the grave. But this argument is completely unsustainable since it begs the
question. It may be true that people don’t normally rise from the grave, but simply because you
do not have personal empirical evidence of its possibility does not make it impossible
objectively. I do however understand this bias. I think that it is foolish to uncritically and
characteristically accept stories of happenings that fall outside of our God-given means of
empirically acquiring information. But belief in the resurrection of Christ, as I have been
arguing, is not in any way an uncritical belief (at least it does not have to be). The evidence
compels us to adjust our bias at this point.
Another motive that people have for rejecting the evidence is less intellectual and more
emotional. Many people have an emotional bias against the very idea of God. This emotional
bias, practically speaking, comes to us from a variety of avenues. For some, it is their
upbringing. They have a commitment to that which they were taught. We all want mom and dad
to be right and we will do everything in our power to cheer for their beliefs. Why? Because they
become our beliefs and we have a lot invested in them. For many, if Christ rose from the grave,
then they, their family, their religion, and all their friends are wrong. This is sometimes too much
to handle emotionally.
For others, the emotional objection comes from a jilted experience. They have called upon God
to save them from sickness. They have looked for His mercy in their family. They have prayed
for their basic needs and He, in their estimation, has not answered. Therefore, they are apathetic
to the evidence of the resurrection, being guided by their emotional experiences and longings.
Both of these emotional objections to the resurrection are understandable.
I know that emotion unbridled is a much more powerful source for belief than the cold facts of
the intellectual realm. But, at the same time, while the objections are understandable, they should
not be not admissible or sustainable. We cannot let emotions rule our belief system. We must be
ready to look past our experience and our traditions so that we can see the truth. Once we do,
then the truth can take the hand of our emotions and train them properly.
In sum concerning the initial objection, the 9-11 suicide bombers may have sincerely believed
their religion, but their conviction carries no inherent verification. All we know is that they were
sincere in their belief. The disciples, on the other hand, died for something that they claimed to
have witnessed firsthand. This carries no "hearsay" but firsthand testimony. It is a completely
Therefore, the objection, while understandable at first glance, really must be dismissed as an
irrelevant and false comparison. Here are your three options concerning the Apostles:
1. They died for a lie and knew it (unsustainable do to lack of any reasonable motive).
2. They were all delusional and crazy (but this would take more faith than any option since
you would have to explain how they all had the same delusion and craziness—many
being at different places and different times).
3. What they said was true. Christ did rise from the grave and is who He said He was.
To conclude, I want you to listen to the words of Ignatius, a second century church Father who’s
beliefs were sustained by the reasoning of my current argument concerning the Apostles’ deaths.
“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.” (Ignasius: The
Epistle of Ignatius to the Tarsians, III)
Happy Easter—celebrate the resurrection and proclaim the kingdom!
The evidence is there. Do you believe? . . .
1. It was said in the article that we can thank God for the death of the Apostles. Why would
we be compelled to do such a thing?
2. If the Apostles had recanted their faith in order to save their lives, how would things
possibly 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 one were to die for something that they said they saw, this adds credibility to their
testimony, no matter how 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. All of the Apostles were God honoring men. While they were sinners in need of God
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 had any idea that Christians would be referring back to the
gruesome circumstances of their deaths 2000 years later? Explain.
7. Read Romans 8:28
. Considering the suffering of the Apostles, what does this tell you
about God’s purpose for suffering and how does it give you hope in your own suffering?