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WHAT HAPPENED TO THE EARLY CHRISTIANS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT?  HOW DID THEY DIE?

Most of the early followers of Jesus died violent deaths as a result of their identification with Jesus.   It was not popular then or now to be a serious Christ follower.

Note: During the Middle Ages there was a lot of superstitious interest in what were then called relics. These were typically body parts of people who were mentioned in the Bible or items connected to Jesus or the Apostles or other Bible characters.

The Roman Catholic Church continues this tradition of ”venerating” such relics.

Relics were then believed to convey spiritual power or healing power and  their possession was/is greatly prized.

This predictably resulted in the manufacturing of counterfeits (follow the money) during the Middle ages but it has also resulted in authentic parts being treasured and preserved.

It is very interesting to study this data and it often provides us with a connection to these early faithful believers and sometimes even a way to know what happened to them and to their remains.

A very close friend of mine and colleague (the late Dr. WS McBirnie) made it a life assignment to trace the traditions that grew up around the early Christians and he tracked them down by means of extensive travel to all of the lands where these traditions are preserved and thus he leaves us this rich legacy of knowledge.

Here is what he reported in his book “The Search for the Twelve Apostles”                                                                          

PETER (Simon)……….was reputed to have been crucified upside down in Rome at the Circus Maximus, (in front of where St Peters Church now stands) upside down, because he did not feel he should share the same death as Jesus.  His body is  buried under the main alter in St Peters Basilica in Rome

PETER’S WIFE ………………according to an early Egyptian believer, Clement of Alexandria, as she was being led off to martyrdom, Peter was said to have  “rejoiced because of her summons and her return home and called to her very encouragingly and comfortingly addressing her by name and saying “O Thou remember the Lord

ANDREW  ………………..He was one of Jesus’ earliest blue collar followers and a Galilean fisherman. He became the Patron saint of Scotland. The flag of Great Britain (the Union Jack) contains 3 crosses and one of them is the cross of St Andrew. Andrew was crucified in Patrae Greece. It apparently took him 2 days to finally die. His head was kept in Rome but later returned to the Orthodox Church in Patrae Greece  by the Pope in 1971

JAMES …………Also a Galilean fisherman (son  of  Zebedee and brother of John ) The account of his martyrdom is found in  Acts 12. Herod had him killed with a sword.

JOHN…………. (James’ brother and also a son of Zebedee) referred to as “the disciple Jesus loved”, and the author of the Gospel of John and of the 3 letters of John and the Book of the Revelation. He was released from prison on the island of Patmos off the coast of Turkey when the Emperor died and a new Emperor, Trajan, assumed the throne. John uniquely escaped physical torture and died in Ephesus in old age, at about 90 yrs. of age, where he had taken care of the mother of Jesus. Jesus as you may recall, while hanging on the cross, turned over the care of his mother Mary, to John.

PHILLIP…………  after 20 years of missionary work in Scythia, Phillip died in the city of Hierapolis, Turkey, where the Romans had famous hot springs near Colossae. He is reputed to have gone to France for years. He died of stoning and crucifixion In Hierapolis. Another record says he was pierced through the thighs and hung upside down.

MARY MAGDALENE and MARTHA and their brother LAZARUS,…….. All were buried in Marseilles France. No historical record of how they died………… Lazarus for the second time.  When persecution broke out around Jerusalem they fled to the island of Cyprus and from there on the France.

BARTHOLOMEW …………one of the12 Apostles, little is known of him.

The Armenian Orthodox church claims him as their founder. He was killed by being put in a sack and tossed overboard at sea. Another record says he was beaten and crucified. Another record says he was flayed to death with a knife.

THOMAS …………..fisherman. Note we know more about his history than that of any of the other Apostles. He visited Iraq (Babylon), and established Christianity in India …The Mar Thomas Church is very strong there today. Thomas died in India while praying, after being stabbed by darts and run through with a spear. He was originally buried in Mylamore India but his bones later were scattered during the Middle Ages when relics were popular..

MATTHEW (LEVI)…….. When he met Jesus he was a hated tax collector for Rome before he became a Christ follower. He is reputed to have ministered in Persia, in Turkey, and in Ethiopia. There are conflicting accounts of his death.

Some report that he was  captured by cannibals who attempted to blind and then eat him unsuccessfully. Another account says he was  wrapped in papyrus and set on fire unsuccessfully. Not sure how he died but it can be assumed it was violent. He was finally buried in Salerno Italy.

JAMES THE LESS………..( brother of Matthew) Note there is more than one  James mentioned in the Bible. Confusing: There was James the early martyr of the book of Acts account.  There was also  James  the father of the Apostle Jude. And there was   James the blood brother of Jesus. He was the best known. He died by being thrown from the pinnacle of the temple by the Jewish religious leaders. His body was kept in the Cathedral of St James on Mount Zion in Jerusalem for a long time and then later was sent to Rome where it  is now stored in a church there.

JUDE THADDAEUS……….(Matt 10:3) Several of the Apostles were called Judas, a very common name, this one is nephew of St John the Apostle. He was a missionary to Syria, Armenia and Persia.  He was martyred in Syria. Legend says he was  killed with a javelin or arrows while tied to a cross. His body was kept in a church in Armenia or Iran for many years and then probably moved to St Peters Church in Rome for safe keeping during the rampages of Genghis Khan.

SIMON THE ZEALOT or CANAANITE…………. (Matt 10:4) He was a former revolutionary. He became a missionary to Armenia. Also reputed to have gone to Egypt, North Africa, Britain and then, in order to escape persecution, went to Persia. Reputed to have died by being sawed in half in Persia

JUDAS ISCARIOT……….. He was the infamous apostle who betrayed Jesus. Note before he besmirched it, Judas was a favored name. Nobody names their child Judas today. He hanged himself and his bowels spilled out.

MATTHIAS ………..He was not one of the original 12.  He was chosen to replace Judas after his betrayal of Jesus. Speculation is that this may have been a hasty choice by the early church and that this role should have been reserved for Paul who later was called an Apostle because he saw Jesus after the resurrection, on the road to Damascus.

Matthias became a missionary to Armenia. He was possibly blinded by cannibals. There are different legends about his death: He was possibly stoned to death by Jews in Jerusalem, or maybe killed in Sebastopol.

JOHN MARK……….. (Author of the 2nd Gospel and young nephew of Barnabas) He became a missionary to Egypt and Turkey. Legend says he was dragged by his neck with a noose around it and flayed to death in Alexandria Egypt. His body was interred for years in St Mark’s Cathedral in Venice

BARNABAS………… He was a companion of Paul on his first Missionary journey and his advocate while he was yet under a cloud of suspicion by the early church following Paul’s conversion. After splitting with Paul over taking young Mark on the 2nd missionary journey, Barnabas went back to his home in Cyprus. He died there in Salamis Cyprus . Cause of death unknown                                                                                                              

JOHN THE BAPTIST……….. He was beheaded by Herod to appease his angry wife. His head ended up in Turkey in the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul

LUKE………….Author of the Gospel and the book of Acts. Luke was a medical doctor and probably cared for Paul’s physical needs when with him. He died at about 84 years of age, probably in Thebes Greece. His body is in Rome now. Cause of death unknown.                                                                                     

PAUL ………….Following imprisonment in Rome he was beheaded by Nero and buried along the Apian Way outside Rome.

This material reported above is based upon the research found in a book authored by a long time friend of the “Holy Land Guru”, the late Dr WS McBirnie entitled The Search for the Twelve Apostles. Dr Bob accompanied Dr McBirnie on many of the journeys that yielded the original research found in this book.

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