How Did the Apostles Die?
Let’s take the brothers first. Saints Peter and his older brother Andrew. Both were crucified as old men. Peter was, of course, our first pope, Christ’s Vicar, the head of the visible Church. Andrew was the first called by Christ to be an apostle. He was a disciple of Saint John the Baptist. Andrew was there when John pointed at Jesus on the banks of the River Jordan and said: “Behold the Lamb of God!” Andrew followed Christ after His holy baptism and innocently asked Him where He lived. Jesus innocently answered: “Come and see”. Saint Andrew preached the Faith in Asia Minor (Turkey) and in Scythia, east of Turkey (north of Iran). He also preached in Greece and Macedonia. He was crucified in Achaia at Patras in the year 61. Tied to an X-shaped cross after being scourged, he made the cross his pulpit and preached to the people for two days before he died. Peter was martyred under the Nero persecution in the year 67. Peter, too, was, as His Master, crucified by nails on Vatican hill. His wish to be crucified upside down, out of reverence for Jesus, and out of his profound humility, was granted. Saint Paul, the Apostle, was beheaded outside the walls of Rome on the same day as Peter.
Saints James the Greater and his brother, John, “Sons of Thunder”. James was the first Apostle to be martyred. He was a victim of Herod Agrippa who seized him when he was in Jerusalem in the year 42 and had him beheaded. James preached the Faith in Spain where Our Lady bilocated to encourage him, appearing to him on a pillar, and telling him what a great harvest would later follow his planting of the seed in that land. John, the youngest Apostle, was the only one not martyred. However, in the year 95, he was taken prisoner at Ephesus and sent to trial in Rome. Sentenced to death, he was boiled in oil before the Latin gate. He was miraculously preserved from the burning, yet he did feel the pain. The miracle moved the emperor to nullify the death sentence and to send him into exile to the island of Patmos. He was later freed and died at Ephesus in the year 100 when he was eighty-eight years old. Saint Robert Bellarmine, based on the fact that there are no relics of the Beloved Apostle, assures us that his body was assumed into heaven.
Saints Simon, Jude, and James the Less, brothers, cousins of Our Lord. Simon, the Zealot, preached the Faith in Persia together with his brother, Jude. Saint Simon was crucified at Edessa in the year 67. Saint Jude, likewise, was martyred that same year in Persia. Jude was clubbed to death. He was also named Thaddeus “big hearted” to distinguish him from Judas the traitor. Saint James the Less was martyred in the year 62. He was chosen by Jesus to be the first bishop of Jerusalem and he remained there permanently in order to save a remnant of the Jews. The ancients of the Jews, however, tired of his preaching and they took him to the pinnacle of the temple and told him to renounce Christ before all the people who were gathered below. Having none of that, he rather preached Christ crucified as Savior, and they cast him off from his pulpit. Still living after he hit the ground, a vicious fuller smashed his brains out with a club. Called even by the Jews, “the Just”, Josephus, the Jewish historian and a contemporary, wrote that the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in the year 70 was a punishment, not for the Deicide killing of Christ, but for the killing of James the Just.
Saint Philip. Philip was a disciple of Saint John the Baptist. After John testified that Jesus, the Lamb of God, was the Savior, Jesus found Philip and said to him: “Come, follow me.” And he did. Philip, then, came to Nathanael and said to him: “We have found him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets did write, Jesus the son of Joseph of Nazareth” (John 1:45). Nathanael would be an Apostle, too. His Greek name is Bartholomew. Philip preached the Faith in Greece and he was martyred at Hierapolis in Persia in the year 62. Like Saint Peter, he was crucified upside-down.
Saint Bartholomew (or Nathanael) was introduced to Our Lord by Philip. Upon seeing Bartholomew Jesus said to him: “Behold an Israelite in who there is no guile. Nathanael saith to him: Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered, and said to him: Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. Nathanael answered him, and said: Rabbi, thou art the Son of God, thou art the King of Israel” (John 1:47-49). Bartholomew was a nobleman, his name means “son of Ptolemy. He preached the Faith as far away as India. He returned after that to Asia Minor and was martyred later by being skinned alive in Armenia in the year 72.
Saint Matthew, another Apostle with a Greek name (Gift of God), as also were Andrew, Philip, and Bartholomew, was a publican, a tax collector in Capharnaum, the city of Peter and Andrew. His Hebrew name was Levi. (Peter’s Jewish name was Simon Bar Jona. Jesus changed his name to Cephas in Aramaic, which means “rock.”) Matthew left his custom house immediately after Jesus called him: “Come, follow me.” He wrote the first of the Gospels. He wrote it for the Jews. It is filled with citations from the Old Testament prophecies. Matthew preached the Faith in Africa and was martyred in the year 65 in Ethiopia while offering Mass.
Saint Thomas (also called Didymus, which means “the twin.”) Saint Thomas was not there when Our Lord first appeared to the Apostles after His Resurrection. Thomas doubted; in fact, he went so far as to protest: “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). When Jesus came to His Apostles the second time, Thomas was there. “Then he saith to Thomas: Put in thy finger hither, and see my hands; and bring hither thy hand, and put it into my side; and be not faithless, but believing” Thomas then said to Him “My Lord and My God” (John 20:27). Saint Thomas preached the Faith in Persia and India. He was miraculously transported back to Jerusalem three days after Our Lady died. He asked to see her body. When they opened the tomb for Thomas they all saw that Mary was gone. On the third day, as Jesus, she was risen and assumed into heaven. Saint Thomas was stabbed to death at Mylapore, India, in the year 74. He was the same age as Our Lord.
Saint Matthias, who replaced Judas. Matthias was one of the seventy-two disciples of Our Lord. He was chosen by the Holy Ghost, by lot, to replace Judas and keep the sacrosanct number of twelve for the original Apostolic college. To qualify he had to have been with Jesus from the beginning of His public ministry and been a witness to His Resurrection. He preached the Faith first in Judaea, then Cappadocia, and finally in the northern most regions of Asia Minor near the Caspian Sea. Two traditions come down to us regarding his martyrdom in the year 65. One has it that he was crucified, another that he was hacked to death.