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.


Who was responsible for Jesus’ death?

The death of Jesus was entirely the plan of God. His death was not at all plan B but the eternal plan of God. Jesus did not come to earth and tried but failed so He had to go to the cross. The cross was always the plan of God. Jesus is the “Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world.” As we think of this question, it is important to recognize that Jesus’ death on the cross was God’s plan.

Even though Jesus’ crucifixion was the eternal plan of God, there were those who nailed Jesus on the cross in disobedience to God. They were not accepting of God’s plan for salvation and striving to live in obedience to God. They were in rebellion against God. God holds those responsible who rebelled against Him and who in their rebellion conspired for Jesus’ destruction.

A huge body of people were directly involved in the conspiracy to kill Jesus. Judas Iscariot jumps to the forefront of the mind because of his betrayal. Judas was hired to betray Jesus by the ruling body of Israel, called the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin tried Jesus and condemned Him, but they had no authority to put Jesus to death. The Jews were under Roman domination and so could not legally execute a prisoner. Only Rome could do that. The Sanhedrin had Jesus taken to the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, who attempted to pass the problem to the Roman governor of the next region over, Herod. Herod just wanted to see a magic trick. When Jesus refused to perform, Herod sent Him back to Pilate. Pilate knew the injustice of the Jews schemes to have Jesus crucified and sought to have Him released. The Jews became very agitated and Pilate finally agreed with their demands. He brought out a basin of water and washed his hands in front of the Jewish leaders telling them he was not responsible for what happened to Jesus.

When Pilate washed his hands and said, “I am innocent of the blood of this just person” the Jews willingly took the responsibility on themselves. They bear the responsibility for Jesus death. The Jews knew the promises of God. They knew the Word of God. They were waiting for their Messiah. They rejected God’s Word and God’s Savior and took on themselves the responsibility for their rebellion which sought Jesus’ crucifixion. When Pilate his hands before the Jews they said, “His blood be on us and on our children.” (Matthew 27:25) The Jews said they would take responsibility for Jesus crucifixion.

This is borne out later in the Bible. After Jesus death, burial, resurrection and return to heaven, the apostles of Jesus began to preach to the Jews. The apostles preached of salvation, forgiveness and judgment. They preached to the nation the judgment for their rejection and execution of Jesus God’s Messiah. In Acts 5 the apostles were called up on charges before the Sanhedrin, the same group that a few months earlier had condemned Jesus to death. As they stood before the rulers of Israel Peter declared to the of “Jesus, whom ye slew and hung on a tree.” Peter and the apostles, under the direction of the Holy Spirit repeatedly declared it was the Jews who were responsible for Jesus death.

Even though it was Pontius Pilate who gave permission for Jesus death and it was the Roman soldiers who did the scourging, who took Jesus to Golgotha, who drove the nails through His flesh and hung him up on the cross, the responsibility falls on those Jews and their leaders who rejected Jesus. Jesus came to His own people. He was a Jew, a descendant of King David. Jesus came to bring salvation. The salvation He brought was not the salvation the Jews were wanting. They wanted deliverance from Rome and Jesus was bringing deliverance from sin. The Jews of that generation rejected their Messiah and their’s is the responsibility for refusing their promised Savior.

Were the same people at Jesus triumphal entry and at his judgment?

Palm Sunday is the Sunday set aside by many church calendars the week before Easter to remember Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. A few days before His crucifixion Jesus road into the city on the back of a donkey. As usual He was surrounded by a large crowd of followers. On this day the crowd was immense. Jerusalem was filling with hundreds of thousands of Jews from all around the Roman Empire coming to the city to celebrate the feast of Passover. Many of these Jews had heard of the miracles Jesus had done throughout Palestine. On top of that, word of Jesus’ recent raising Lazarus from the dead had spread throughout the city. As Jesus road into Jerusalem the immense crowds began to shout their praise to Him. “Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord: Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.” (Mark 11:9-10).

A few days later Jesus was betrayed by Judas, taken captive by the Jewish leaders, condemned as guilty of blasphemy and presented to Pontius Pilate for official execution. Pilate was reluctant to condemn Jesus to death, so he sent Jesus to Herod and upon Jesus’ return Pilate had Him scourged. When those things did not satisfy the Jews demands, Pilate attempted to force the Jews into choosing to have Jesus released by offering them a choice between Jesus and a vicious criminal named Barabbas. The Jews rejected all Pilate’s pleas. In the end a large crowd was standing in front of Pilate shouting, “Crucify him.”

One obvious difference between the two crowds is the presence of Jesus’ disciples and closest followers. In the triumphal entry Jesus’ disciples were present and taking the lead in shouting praise to Jesus. On the day of Jesus’ crucifixion, the disciples were nowhere to be found. The twelve closest to Jesus and possibly others of those most faithful to Him fled when Jesus was arrested. The crowd in the Praetorium was led and incited by the chief priests and other Jewish leaders. The leaders of the two crowds were very different and Jesus’ closest disciples did not stand before PIlate’s judgment hall.

If the same people were in both crowds is very hard to say. One would speculate at least some of the Pharisees and more curious would have been in both crowds, but the Bible doesn’t say this. The crowd in front of Pilate was much smaller than the tens of thousands who shouted praise to Jesus a few days earlier. Jerusalem at that time was filled with several hundred thousand people so it is not necessary for the same people to be in both crowds. However, there is no reason to absolutely say they were two different groups.

The shouts of praise to Jesus when He rode into the city on a donkey were not praises for Him as God’s Son the Savior from sin. The shouts were praises for Jesus as a conquering king coming to usher in a golden age for the Jewish people. The crowd was crying out for a king to drive out the Roman invaders and reestablish Israel as an autonomous nation. Jesus had no intention of overthrowing Rome. His purpose was to die for the sin of His people. Jesus’ purpose was rejected by the majority of Jews who heard and saw Him. They rejected His claim to be God. Even if they were not in the crowd shouting for His crucifixion most would have agreed with the demand that one they considered a blasphemer be put to death.