What Happened to the 12 Disciples and Apostles of Jesus?

Read how each of the apostles spread out to minister and evangelize and how many of the apostles died for their faith.

Updated Apr 02, 2024
What Happened to the 12 Disciples and Apostles of Jesus?

The Bible teaches that the original 12 disciples of Jesus Christ were Peter, Andrew, John, James, the son of Zebedee, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot. Judas betrayed Jesus initiating his arrest and journey to be crucified on the cross. Judas was replaced by Matthias

The 12 Disciples: Table of Contents

The Original 12 Apostles

"The names of the [original] twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him." (Matthew 10:2-4)

Matthias Replaces Judas

So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles. (Acts 1:21-26)

The apostles were not the kind of group you might have expected Jesus to send forth on his mission to reach the world. There was nothing incredibly unique or spectacular about them. The twelve apostles were just ordinary working men. But Jesus formed them into the backbone of the church and gave them the most extraordinary task imaginable: calling the entire world, including the mightiest empire ever known, to repentance and faith in the risen Christ. You can be sure that any educated, first-century Roman citizen would have laughed at any prediction that, within three centuries, the Christian faith would be the official faith of the empire.

The Dispersion of the 12 Apostles

Here are the respective missionary locations for the Apostles as found in Book 3 of the Church History of Eusebius:

Meanwhile the holy apostles and disciples of our Saviour were dispersed throughout the world. Parthia, according to tradition, was allotted to Thomas as his field of labor, Scythia to Andrew, and Asia to John, who, after he had lived some time there, died at Ephesus. Peter appears to have preached in Pontus, Galatia, Bithynia, Cappadocia, and Asia to the Jews of the dispersion. And at last, having come to Rome, he was crucified head-downwards; for he had requested that he might suffer in this way. What do we need to say concerning Paul, who preached the Gospel of Christ from Jerusalem to Illyricum, and afterwards suffered martyrdom in Rome under Nero? These facts are related by Origen in the third volume of his Commentary on Genesis.

Many wonder how the 12 apostles died, but The New Testament tells of the fate of only two of the apostles: Judas, who betrayed Jesus and then went out and hanged himself, and James, the son of Zebedee, who was executed by Herod about 44 AD (Acts 12:2). Read how each of the apostles spread out to minister and evangelize and how many of the apostles died for their faith.

How Did the 12 Apostles Die?

Reports and legends abound, and they are not always reliable, but it is safe to say that the apostles went far and wide as heralds of the message of the risen Christ. An early legend says they cast lots and divided up the world to determine who would go where so all could hear about Jesus. They suffered greatly for their faith and, in most cases, met violent deaths because of their bold witness and faith in Christ. 

The Lives and Deaths of the Apostles

Let's dissect what we know about the lives and deaths of each of the apostles.


The life of the Apostle Peter holds a significant place in Christian history. Peter, originally named Simon, was a humble fisherman from Bethsaida, chosen by Jesus Christ to be one of His twelve apostles. Known for his fervent faith and leadership, Peter was often at the forefront of the apostles, eager to follow and serve the Lord. His journey with Jesus was marked by profound moments of faith, such as when he walked on water at Jesus' command, showcasing his willingness to trust and obey Jesus.

Peter's life was transformed by his relationship with Jesus. Despite his human weaknesses, such as his impulsive nature and his denial of Christ during the crucifixion, Peter's story is one of redemption and grace. Jesus' forgiveness and reinstatement of Peter after His resurrection demonstrate the depth of God's mercy and the power of repentance. Peter's leadership in the early church, particularly his bold proclamation of the Gospel at Pentecost, serves as an inspiration for evangelism and spiritual leadership. Peter's legacy continues to inspire Christians to live courageously and faithfully in their walk with the Lord.


The Apostle Paul, originally known as Saul of Tarsus, was a significant figure in the early Christian church and the spread of Christianity. Born in Tarsus, a city in modern-day Turkey, Paul was a well-educated Pharisee and a Roman citizen, which gave him a unique perspective and access in his missionary work. His life took a dramatic turn on the road to Damascus when he experienced a profound conversion. Blinded by a heavenly light, Paul encountered the risen Christ and was transformed from a persecutor of Christians to a devoted follower of Jesus. This pivotal event marked the beginning of his mission to spread the Gospel to the Gentiles, making him one of the most influential apostles in the history of Christianity. 

Paul's missionary journeys took him across the Roman Empire, where he founded several churches and wrote numerous letters, many of which are now part of the New Testament. His epistles, including Romans, Corinthians, and Galatians, addressed theological issues, provided guidance for living a Christian life, and encouraged unity within the early church. Paul's teachings on salvation through faith in Christ, the nature of the Church as the body of Christ, and the role of the Holy Spirit have had a lasting impact on Christian theology. Despite facing persecution, imprisonment, and numerous hardships, Paul remained steadfast in his mission. Paul's legacy continues to inspire Christians worldwide, as his writings and example of faithfulness remain central to Christian belief and practice.

Both were martyred in Rome about 66 AD, during the persecution under Emperor Nero. Paul was beheaded. Peter was crucified upside down at his request since he did not feel worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord.


The Apostle Andrew was the brother of Simon Peter. Born in Bethsaida, a town on the Sea of Galilee, Andrew was initially a fisherman by trade, working alongside his brother Peter. His life took a significant turn when he encountered John the Baptist and subsequently met Jesus, whom he recognized as the Messiah. Andrew holds the distinction of being the first disciple to follow Jesus, and he wasted no time in sharing this discovery with his brother, thus bringing Peter into the fold as well.

Throughout his time with Jesus, Andrew is portrayed as a humble and dedicated follower, often seen in the background but consistently present in the critical moments of Jesus' ministry. One notable instance of his faith is recorded in the Gospel of John, where Andrew brings a young boy with five loaves and two fishes to Jesus, which Jesus then miraculously multiplies to feed five thousand people. After the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, Andrew is believed to have embarked on missionary journeys to spread the Gospel, with tradition holding that he preached in regions such as Scythia, Greece, and Asia Minor. According to early Christian writings, Andrew's martyrdom came in Patras, Greece, where he was crucified on an X-shaped cross, now known as Saint Andrew's Cross. His legacy lives on as the patron saint of several countries, including Scotland, Russia, and Greece, and his life continues to inspire Christians to share their faith with others.


The disciple Thomas, also known as Didymus, is often remembered for his skepticism, earning him the nickname "Doubting Thomas." However, there is much more to his story than this single moment of doubt. Thomas was one of the twelve apostles chosen by Jesus to follow Him and spread His teachings. He is mentioned several times in the Gospels, where he is depicted as a devoted and inquisitive follower of Christ. His most famous doubt occurred after the resurrection of Jesus when he declared that he would not believe in the risen Christ unless he could see and touch His wounds. This moment of skepticism was transformed into a powerful testament of faith when Jesus appeared to Thomas and invited him to touch His wounds, leading Thomas to proclaim, "My Lord and my God!"

Beyond this well-known episode, the life of Thomas after the resurrection of Jesus is shrouded in mystery and legend. According to early Christian traditions, Thomas traveled eastward to spread the Gospel, possibly reaching as far as India. He is believed to have founded Christian communities and performed miracles in the name of Jesus. His missionary work in India is particularly revered, and he is honored as the apostle who brought Christianity to the Indian subcontinent. Thomas is said to have been martyred for his faith, and his relics are venerated in several churches across the world. Despite the limited information about his life, Thomas's journey from doubt to faith continues to resonate with many Christians, reminding them of the importance of questioning and seeking truth in their own spiritual journeys.


The Apostle Philip is often recognized for his role in the early Christian church. While not much is known about his early life, Philip is believed to have come from Bethsaida, the same town as Peter and Andrew. He was one of the first disciples called by Jesus, and his immediate response to follow Christ reflects his openness and receptiveness to God's call. Philip is depicted in the New Testament as a thoughtful and inquisitive individual, eager to understand and share Jesus' teachings. One notable instance is when he invites Nathanael (also known as Bartholomew) to meet Jesus, saying, "Come and see," demonstrating his enthusiasm for sharing the message of Christ.

Philip's ministry extended beyond the events recorded in the Gospels. According to tradition, he preached the Gospel in various regions, including Phrygia in Asia Minor, where he is said to have performed miracles and converted many to Christianity. His dedication to spreading the word of God highlights his commitment to his faith and his role as a missionary. Today, the Apostle Philip is remembered and venerated as a saint in many Christian denominations, and his life continues to inspire believers in their own journeys of faith and service.

He possibly had a powerful ministry in Carthage in North Africa and Asia Minor, where he converted the wife of a Roman proconsul. In retaliation, the proconsul had Philip arrested and cruelly put to death.


The Apostle Matthew, also known as Levi, is the author of the first Gospel in the New Testament. Before his call to follow Jesus, Matthew worked as a tax collector in Capernaum, a profession that was often despised by the Jewish community for its association with the Roman occupation and perceived dishonesty. His life took a dramatic turn when Jesus approached him at his tax booth and simply said, "Follow me." Matthew's immediate response to leave everything behind and follow Jesus reflects a profound transformation and a willingness to embrace a new life dedicated to serving God.

As a disciple of Jesus, Matthew witnessed firsthand the teachings, miracles, and events of Christ's ministry. His background as a tax collector provided him with skills in record-keeping and writing, which were later utilized in composing his Gospel. The Gospel of Matthew is known for its detailed account of Jesus' life, teachings, and fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, making it a vital link between the Jewish and Christian faiths. After Jesus' resurrection and ascension, Matthew continued to spread the Gospel, reportedly traveling to preach in areas such as Ethiopia, Persia, and Parthia. His legacy endures through his Gospel, which continues to be a foundational text for Christians around the world.

Some of the oldest reports say he was not martyred, while others say he was stabbed to death in Ethiopia.


The Apostle Bartholomew is also known as Nathanael in some biblical accounts. Although the New Testament provides limited details about his life, Bartholomew is often identified with Nathanael, who was introduced to Jesus by Philip and is mentioned in the Gospel of John. In this account, Jesus described Nathanael as "an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit," highlighting his honesty and sincerity. Bartholomew's initial skepticism about Jesus being the Messiah, due to his humble origins in Nazareth, turned into belief and devotion after his personal encounter with Christ.

According to Christian tradition, after the ascension of Jesus, Bartholomew dedicated his life to preaching the Gospel. He is believed to have traveled extensively to spread the teachings of Christ, with some accounts suggesting that he went as far as India, Armenia, Ethiopia, and Mesopotamia. In Armenia, he is particularly revered for his missionary efforts and is considered one of the patron saints of the country. The circumstances of Bartholomew's martyrdom are not definitively known, but various traditions suggest that he was either beheaded or flayed alive. His willingness to endure suffering for his faith serves as an inspiration to Christians, and his contributions to the early church are commemorated in his sainthood.


James the Lesser is often identified this way to distinguish him from James the Greater, another of Jesus' apostles. The epithet "Lesser" is commonly interpreted to mean younger or less prominent, rather than a comment on his importance. James was the son of Alphaeus, and he is sometimes referred to as James the son of Alphaeus in the New Testament to further differentiate him from the other James. Little is known about his early life, but like the other disciples, he left everything to follow Jesus and became a devoted follower and witness to Christ's ministry.

After the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, James the Lesser became a prominent figure in the early Christian community in Jerusalem. He is often associated with James the Just, who was a leader in the Jerusalem church and known for his piety and adherence to Jewish law. This association has led to some confusion in distinguishing between the two figures. James the Lesser's contributions to the spread of Christianity, though less documented than those of some other apostles, were significant in the foundation of the early church. According to tradition, he suffered martyrdom for his faith, though the details of his death vary among sources. James the Lesser is venerated as a saint in various Christian denominations, and his life serves as a testament to the diverse backgrounds and roles of the apostles in the early church.

Simon, the Zealot

Simon the Zealot is a somewhat enigmatic figure in the New Testament, with limited details available about his life. He is often distinguished from Simon Peter by the epithet "the Zealot," which is believed to indicate his association with the Zealot movement, a Jewish political faction that fiercely opposed Roman rule in Judea. This background suggests that Simon was a passionate advocate for Jewish independence and was likely characterized by a strong zeal for his beliefs and convictions.

After being called by Jesus to be one of His disciples, Simon the Zealot embraced the teachings of Christ and became a devoted follower. His transition from a political zealot to a disciple of Jesus highlights the transformative power of Christ's message and the diverse backgrounds of those who were drawn to Him. Following the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, Simon continued to spread the Gospel as part of the early Christian movement. According to tradition, Simon the Zealot preached in various regions, including Egypt, North Africa, and Persia, where he is believed to have been martyred for his faith. His life serves as a testament to the far-reaching impact of Jesus' ministry and the dedication of His followers, regardless of their prior affiliations.

As the story goes, he ministered in Persia and was killed after refusing to sacrifice to the sun god.


Matthias holds a unique place among the disciples of Jesus Christ, as he was chosen to replace Judas Iscariot after Judas' betrayal and subsequent death. Matthias was not originally one of the twelve apostles, but he had been a follower of Jesus from the beginning of His ministry, having witnessed all the events of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. This made him a qualified candidate to take Judas' place, as the apostles sought someone who could testify to Jesus' resurrection with authority.

The selection of Matthias as an apostle is described in the Acts of the Apostles. The apostles, led by Peter, cast lots to determine God's choice between Matthias and another candidate, Joseph called Barsabbas. Matthias was chosen, thus restoring the number of apostles to twelve. Although the New Testament does not provide further details about Matthias' ministry, tradition holds that he preached the Gospel in various regions, including Cappadocia, the Caspian Sea area, and Ethiopia. Like many of the apostles,

Tradition sends him to Syria with Andrew and to death by burning.


John the Apostle, also known as John the Evangelist or the Beloved Disciple, is a central figure in the New Testament and all of Christian tradition. He was the son of Zebedee, a fisherman, and his brother James was also one of Jesus' twelve disciples. John and James were among the first to be called by Jesus to follow Him, and they left their father and their fishing nets without hesitation. John is known for his close relationship with Jesus; he was part of the inner circle of disciples and is often depicted as leaning on Jesus' chest at the Last Supper, symbolizing his special bond with the Lord.

John's contributions to the Christian faith are profound. He wrote the Gospel of John, three Epistles (1, 2, and 3 John), and the Book of Revelation. His Gospel is distinct from the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), offering a unique theological perspective on Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. John's writings emphasize the divinity of Christ, the importance of love, and the promise of eternal life for believers. After Jesus' ascension, John played a significant role in the early Christian church, particularly in Ephesus, where he is said to have lived and ministered until his death.

The only one of the apostles generally thought to have died a natural death from old age. He was the church leader in the Ephesus area and is said to have taken care of Mary, the mother of Jesus, in his home. During Domitian's persecution in the middle '90s, he was exiled to the island of Patmos. There, he wrote Revelation. An early Latin tradition has him escaping unhurt after being cast into boiling oil in Rome.

James the Greater

James, also known as James the Greater, was one of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ and is distinguished from other figures named James in the New Testament by his prominence among the disciples. He was the son of Zebedee and the brother of John, another of Jesus' close disciples. James and John were fishermen on the Sea of Galilee when Jesus called them to follow him. They left their father and their livelihoods without hesitation, demonstrating their commitment to Christ. James was part of Jesus' inner circle, along with Peter and John, and he witnessed key events in Jesus' ministry, including the Transfiguration and the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.

James' life took a dramatic turn after Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. He became a prominent leader in the early Christian community in Jerusalem and played a significant role in the spread of the Gospel. His fiery zeal and dedication to Jesus earned him the nickname "Boanerges," which means "sons of thunder," a testament to his passionate nature. According to the Acts of the Apostles, James was the first apostle to be martyred for his faith. Around 44 AD, he was executed by the sword under the orders of King Herod Agrippa I. His martyrdom marked a significant moment in the early Christian church, and he is remembered and venerated as a saint.

Influence of the 12 Apostles Today

The names of Jesus' apostles have become the most common names for males in the Western world. How many do you know who are named John, Pete, Tom, Andy, Jim, Bart, or Phil?

At least four of the apostles were fishermen. Can this be part of why one of the earliest and most prominent Christian symbols was the fish? The Greek word for fish, ichthus, formed an acrostic: Iesous Christos Theou Uios Soter, which means "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior."

After the death of the apostles, we do not find significant missionary figures of the stature of Paul. Yet the faith continued to spread like wildfire, even though Christianity was declared illegal until the 4th century under Emperor Constantine.

Find inspiration with 15 Bible Verses Every Christian Should Know By Heart HERE for you to download or share with loved ones!

Further Reading:

What Is An Apostle? Do Apostles Exist?

How Did the Apostle Paul Die?

Who Was the Apostle Philip in the Bible? 

Who Is St. James the Less in the Bible?

Who Was Andrew in the Bible?

Who Is Matthias in the Bible?

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About AD 1-300

Learn what happened to the 12 apostles after the death of Jesus - how each of the apostles spread out to minister and evangelize and how many of the apostles died for their faith.