The Apostles – who they were


SHAFAQNA – The Holy Scriptures speak of martyrdom. In the Acts of the Apostles 7:56–60, St. Stephen is the first to be accounted for. As for the Apostles, James the Greater (Son of Zebedee and brother of John) and Judas the Iscariot are the only two Apostles whose deaths are cited in the Bible.

Tradition and early writings of the Church account for Peter, John, Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, Simon the Zealot, Thaddeus (Jude), James the Lesser and Matthias.

Beginning with the first Pope, Peter is believed — by tradition and the writings of Origen and Clement of Rome — to have been martyred on a cross upside down on Vatican Hill. His remains are in St. Peter’s Basilica, which were publicly revealed and venerated by Pope Francis in 2013.

James the Greater was killed by Herod Agrippa I, as recounted in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 12:2). He was “killed with the sword,” which is interpreted to be beheading. He is buried in the Cathedral of Santiago in Spain.

James the Lesser (James the Just) is cited by St. Hegesippus and Eusebius to have been thrown from the top of the Temple by Pharisees and Scribes but did not die. He then knelt and prayed for the forgiveness of those attacking him while he was stoned, but he was actually killed by a blow to his head by a fuller’s club. His remains are kept in Rome in the Church of the Twelve Holy Apostles, which is a minor basilica.

Thaddeus (Jude), after traveling throughout the East, is honored by many Orthodox churches. There is discussion of his death, whether it be by a club or shot with arrows while crucified. There is also the claim that he died naturally. The most common account, though, is that he was martyred. The manner of his death is the only discrepancy. He is buried in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Philip, the one to whom Our Lord said that “anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9), is another Apostle who was martyred. There is no agreement as to how Philip died. Common belief is that he was tortured. Following the torture, some say he was hanged by his ankles with hooks to die, and others more commonly say he was crucified upside down. In a letter by Polycrates(bishop of Ephesus), he was initially buried with his two virgin daughters in Hieriopolis. His remains are now kept in the Church of the Twelve Holy Apostles in Rome.

Thomas, the Apostle who doubted Christ’s appearance in the upper room, preached predominantly in the East in countries like India and Parthia. Thomas was martyred by pagans by being stabbed with spears. Many of his relics are kept in Mylapore, India in the St. Thomas Basilica.

John, the brother of James the Greater, was the one whom Christ made the guardian of His mother. The author of the Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation, he is the only Apostle believed not to have been martyred. One source claims he was thrown into boiling oil, but escaped miraculously, and was then exiled to Patmos, an island near the city of Ephesus. There he died of natural causes. He is buried in the Basilica of St. John in Turkey.

Matthew was a tax collector who was called by Christ when in Capernaum. After writing his gospel, he traveled to Ethiopia, where he was martyred by beheading in its capitol, Nad-Davar. Somewritings claim he was nailed to the ground before the execution. He remains in the crypt of the Salerno Cathedral.

Simon is often accompanied by the phrase “the Zealot” or “the Canaanite” because of his dedication to Jewish law and custom. He traveled a vast distance to Egypt and Persia. In the gospels, he was often labeled as “Kananites” or “Zelotes,” separating himself from Simon Peter. Sources are mixed, claiming he was crucified in Syria, but others say he was sawed in half. Many of his relics are in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Bartholomew is believed by some to be “Nathaniel,” who is spoken of in the Gospel of John.According to Eusebius of Caesaria and St. Jerome, Bartholomew brought the Gospel of Matthew to India and preached to the people before the arrival of other evangelists, such as St. Pantaenus. He isbelieved to have been flayed alive. Saint Bartholomew’s relics are thought to be on top of St. Bartholomew on the Island, a temple off of the Tiber.

Andrew, the first disciple of Christ, was the brother of Peter and an initial disciple of John the Baptist (John 1:35–45). He is responsible for bringing Peter to Christ. He preached in Asia Minor and Greece. He was then crucified (tied, not nailed) in an “X” shape and left there for two days. His relics have been dispersed to many different churches, including the Greek Orthodox Church in Patras, where there is a cathedral dedicated to him, and the Duomo Cathedral in Amalfi, Italy.

Matthias was the 13th Apostle, replacing Judas Iscariot. He was chosen owing to his loyalty to Christ since his baptism by John in the Jordan. He preached in Judea and Cappadocia and also Ethiopia. He is believed to have been crucified. His relics are in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore.

Paul, originally Saul, is considered to be the 13th Apostle. He is responsible for a large portion of the New Testament writings. A Roman citizen, he was converted after a vision of Christ, which temporarily made him blind. Catholics rely heavily on his letters addressed to numerous cities. He was beheaded in Rome and is buried in the basilica St. Paul Outside the Walls.

Judas the Iscariot was one of the original 12 who betrayed Jesus. The traitor killed himself.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect that of Shafaqna, but offer a window into Christianity.

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