How can I find out more about the people in the Bible?

The Bible leaves out a lot of personal details. Peter was married but did he have any kids? The Bible doesn’t tell us. Were any of the other apostles married? Did they have families? God’s Word is mostly silent on these things. How can we find out more about the lives of the people in the Bible?

The Bible is silent on many personal details because it’s purpose is not historical or biographical but theological. Any details provided are incidental to the truth being communicated. Biographical details always serve the purpose of teaching greater theological truths. God is not interested in satisfying our curiosity about the home life of the Biblical characters. He is communicating that which is necessary for people to come to salvation and for Christian’s to live lives pleasing to Him.

Unfortunately historical details about the people of the Bible are almost impossible to find. Some particulars can be found in the writings of the early church Fathers. Some of these men lived in the first hundred years after the apostles and a couple were personally acquainted with the apostles themselves.

Ancient church historians, like Eusebius, provide additional details about the lives of the apostles. The Works of Josephus provide a generally reliable historical perspective of events in Israel around the time of the beginning of the church. Some church traditions probably give truthful accounts of what happened to the apostles. The best resource is Foxe’s Book of Martyrs which tells of the death of the apostles and other ancient Christians.

Care needs to be taken when looking for more information about the people in the Bible. The things passed down through history and tradition are not necessarily accurate. Because a book talks about the apostles or Biblical people does not mean the book is accurate. Hold loosely to any extra-Biblical facts about Biblical characters.

Be especially suspicious of the books known as the gnostic gospels. Some of them claim to be first hand accounts of the early life of Jesus but they are, at best, questionable sources of information. They were written several generations after Jesus and have the definite agenda of promoting the false teaching of gnosticism.

Be careful of modern “scholarly” books offering to give new information about Jesus or the disciples. Many modern books that talk about Bible history are written by people who have already decided the Bible is not true. The goal of many of these books is not to search out the truth, but to convince the reader of the author’s opinion. Whether they be written by popular fiction authors or by degreed professors, be careful to not confuse propaganda with truth.

In the end, we only have one source that is certain and accurate about Jesus and His followers. That source is the Bible. The biographical details of the people in the Bible are interesting but not vital to rightly understanding the truth of God’s word. Learn more of the history, traditions and culture of Bible times and people that you may better understand the great truths taught in Scriptures.


How did the apostles die?

The Bible briefly records the death of one apostle, 1) James the son of Zebedee and brother of John. Acts 12 tells us that Herod the ruler of the region began to persecute the church. This persecution took place a dozen to fifteen years after Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. During the persecution of the Christians by Herod, he had James beheaded and then imprisoned Peter with the intention of executing him after the passover. All but one of the rest of apostles were killed for preaching the gospel. History gives to us accounts the apostles deaths, and while we believe this history to be generally reliable, we must be careful to not put too much weight on these histories.

The two most widely known apostles, Peter and Paul were both put to death at the command of Nero and are believed to have been killed in Rome. After several imprisonments (which are referred to in the New Testament), 2) Paul was beheaded outside of Rome. 3) Peter was captured by Roman soldiers and crucified. It is said that he requested to be crucified because he was not worthy to be crucified in the same manner as Jesus was.

It is said 4) Phillip was whipped, thrown in prison and then crucified in what is today northern Turkey. 5) Matthew is believed to have preached in northern Iran, near the Caspian Sea, and also in Ethiopia. In Ethiopia Matthew was beheaded. 6) Thaddeus is thought to have been crucified in Turkey. 7) Bartholomew went to India, where it is claimed he translated the gospel of Matthew into Hindi. He was beaten and then crucified by the people.

8) Matthias, the one elected by the apostles to take Judas’ place is believed to have been stoned in Jerusalem and then beheaded. 9) Andrew, Peter’s brother, is said to have preached in western Asia and was crucified in a city in eastern Turkey. Andrews is traditionally described as one in which two ends were stuck in the ground, making an X shape instead of the more typical t-shaped cross. 10) Thomas made his way into India where he was killed by being stabbed with a spear. 11) Simon the Zealot preached in West Africa before heading north into Britain where he was crucified. 12) James the less is believed to have lived in Jerusalem to the age of 94 when he was beaten, stoned and then clubbed to death.

The only apostle to not die a martyrs death was still intensely persecuted for His preaching of the gospel. His failure to be martyred was not the fought of his persecutors. John, the brother of James and son of Zebedee is said to have started a number of churches throughout Asia Minor. He was sent to Rome where he was cast into a large pot of boiling oil. Miraculously he was not injured. Later he was sent into exile on a small island called Patmos. He eventually was able to return to the city of Ephesus, where he died a natural death at about 95 years old.

Was Peter the Leader of the Disciples?

Peter is never identified in the Bible as the leader of the disciples. We have enough clues in the Bible about Peter’s personality to expect he was not going to be bashful or afraid to speak his mind on a matter. Peter was a leading figure among the disciples and the early church. Peter, with James and John, was a part of Jesus’ closest inner circle. Peter did play the role of leader on occasion. One example of Peter taking the leadership after Jesus’ death can be found in Acts 1. The disciples went back to Jerusalem after Jesus returned to heaven. The and over 100 others gathered together in prayer. While the 120 believers were together, Peter stood up and spoke about Judas’ betrayal and told them that they needed to appoint another to be the twelfth apostle in Judas’ place.

We then see Peter acting as the chief spokesman to the people of Jerusalem and the leadership of Israel. In Acts 2-6 Peter is in the forefront of all the events that happened in the first few years of church history. Peter is unmistakeably an important figure in the history of the church. Peter is the one who God chose to send to the house of Cornelius to first preach the gospel to the Gentiles. Peter was one of the two apostles sent to Samaria when Philip preached the gospel among the Samaritans. Peter was imprisoned for his boldness in preaching the gospel. He did great miracles as part of his apostolic ministry. Peter was a leading apostle, but he was not the leader of the apostles.

We know of several occasions in the Bible when Peter was not treated as the chief apostle. When the church in Jerusalem appointed a pastor, they did not pick Peter. They chose the apostle James. When James was beheaded by Herod, the church picked another man. They again passed by Peter to choose James the brother of Jesus. When a great controversy sprang up in the church, Paul sternly and publicly rebuked Peter for his actions in the matter. Later, when a group of elders and apostles met together to discuss the issue, Peter was not the leader. He spoke but it was Jesus’ brother James that led the church in making the right decision.

Peter can be found as one of the leaders among the disciples and in the early church through most of the gospels and the first part of the book of Acts. However, after Acts 12, which is about 15 years after the church began, Peter drops out of the history of the building of the church. He appears one more time in the book of Acts and that’s it. Peter is the author of two books of the Bible, 1 and 2 Peter, both written to Jewish believers. After the book of Acts, Peter is only mentioned one other place in the New Testament, and that reference is far from a positive one. If Peter was the leader of the apostles, one would expect him to show up more often in the later New Testament history of the church. It would be wrong of us to assume that any one of the apostles was considered their leader. They were men gathered together in allegiance to Jesus and followed His commands to go into the whole world telling of Him. Peter was a leading figure, but he was not the leader. He was one of a group of men used by God to start His church and spread His gospel across the globe.

Was Paul Married

No. Paul was not married. We know this from 1 Corinthians 7:7-8. In 1 Corinthians 7 Paul discusses several questions the church had about marriage and singleness. In that discussion he tells them, “I would that all men were even as I myself. I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.” Paul is stating that he is single. Paul is not giving a command to never get married. Paul goes on in that chapter to teach that it is not wrong to get married, and if one is already married they should not leave their spouse. In other books Paul highly praises marriage and teaches some of the most wonderful truths about marriage. Paul is not giving a command that church leaders should remain single. In the book of 1 Timothy Paul teaches that pastors should be “the husband of one wife” and later Paul says teaching that forbids marriage is a “doctrine of devils”. Paul does not place any restriction against marriage for those who are church leaders. If anything, it seems preferable for the pastor to be married. Paul himself was single and recommended singleness as a great way to serve the Lord, but singleness is not required of anyone by the Bible.