Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Fate of the Twelve Apostles

After Easter, when thoughts turn to things spiritual, Prince Albert’s Michael Aggett fills in the gaps on the twelve Apostles.

Traditionally, eleven of the twelve Apostles were martyred. Modern scholarship, however, claims little concerning knowledge about their final years:

James the son of Zebedee (James ‘the Great’) is believed to have been the first to suffer martyrdom. His death is the only one recorded in the New Testament (Acts 12: 1-2). He died about 44 A.D. at the hands of Herod Agrippa 1, whose campaign against the Church at that time was apparently an attempt to curry favour with his Jewish subjects.

It is likely that Peter, towards the end of his life, reached Rome where he was martyred and buried.

The Acts of Thomas (3rd or 4th century A.D.) reports Thomas’s evangelizing efforts and martyrdom in India. Modern Syro-Malabar Christians still maintain this tradition.

The story of Andrew’s travels in Asia Minor, starting in Pontus and ending in Patras, Achaea, where he was martyred, is told in the Acts of Andrew. In Patras (modern Patrai), he ‘converted the city’ (including Lesbios, the proconsul) and ‘performed many miracles.’ Upon his return there, he was instrumental in the ‘healing’ and conversion of Maximilla, the wife of the new proconsul, Aegeates.

After Maximilla’s conversion to Christianity she became celibate, provoking the wrath of her husband who proceeded to arrest Andrew. The new converts began to congregate at the local prison to hear the Apostle preach, and it was there that his martyrdom began. Out of revenge for Maximilla’s refusal to return to conjugal life, Aegeantes eventually had Peter’s brother crucified. Andrew died, having preached from his cross for three long days to the assembled townspeople.
Matthew’s death is still contentious, although the Church has long revered him as a martyr. The most influential tradition holds that he died in Ethiopia. This is found in the Roman Catholic Church’s official Roman Martyrology and is corroborated in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, which reports that Matthew was killed with a halberd in the city of Nabadar. (This accounts for Matthew’s traditional depiction in art, carrying a spear).

John the son of Zebedee (the Beloved Disciple) exercised a leadership role in the Jerusalem church. He finally moved to Ephesus, where he died, an old man, of natural causes during Trajan’s rule. It is believed that John was once banished to Patmos, an island off Asia Minor not far from Ephesus. (It is ‘highly unlikely’ that John the Apostle wrote any of the five New Testament books that bear his name).

Nothing reliable is known about the final years of Matthias, Bartholomew, James the son of Alphaeus (James ‘the Less’), Judas the son of James, Philip and Simon the Zealot.

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