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June 30, 2016

The Iconography of the Deaths of Apostles

1. The Apostle Peter was crucified upside down in Rome, Italy.

2. The Apostle Paul was beheaded in Rome, Italy.

3. The Apostle Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped cross upside down in Patras, Greece.

4. The Apostle John, after many trials and tribulations, reposed in peace in deep old age in Ephesus.

5. The Apostle James, the Son of Zebedee, was beheaded in Jerusalem.

6. The Apostle Philip was crucified upside down on the wall of a pagan temple in Hierapolis.

7. The Apostle Bartholomew was crucified, skinned alive and beheaded in Armenia.

8. The Apostle Thomas was stabbed with five spears in India.

9. The Apostle Matthew was burned alive in Ethiopia.

10. The Apostle James, Son of Alphaeus, was crucified in Egypt, though he is depicted as being beaten with rods or whips.

11. The Apostle Jude (Thaddeus) was either crucified and shot with arrows in the area of Ararat, or martyred with the Apostle Simon in Beirut with an axe. The obscurity of his end makes the depiction of his martyrdom obscure.

12. The Apostle Simon the Zealot was either crucified in Britain, or crucified with the Apostle Jude in Beirut. The obscurity of his end makes the depiction of his martyrdom obscure.

13. The Apostle Matthias was stoned in Palestine.

14. The Apostle James, Brother of the Lord, was clubbed to death after being thrown off the pinnacle of the Temple in Jerusalem.

By Elder Epiphanios Theodoropoulos

It is one thing to die for ideas, and another to die for events. The Apostles didn’t die for any ideas. Not even for the “love one another”, or any of the other moral teachings of Christianity. The Apostles died for their testimony of supernatural events. And when we say ‘event’, we mean that which is captured by our physical senses, and is comprehended through them.

The Apostles suffered martyrdom for “that which they heard”, “that which they saw with their own eyes”, “that which they observed and their hands touched” (1 John 1).

Just like the clever speculation by Pascal, we say that one of the three following things happened to the Apostles: either they were deceived, or, they deceived us, or, they told us the truth.

Let’s take the first case. It is not possible for the Apostles to have been deceived, because everything that they reported, was not reported to them by others. They themselves were eye and ear witnesses of all those things. Besides, none of them were imaginative characters, nor did they have any psychological inclination that made them accept the event of the Resurrection. Quite the contrary - they were terribly distrustful. The Gospels are extremely revealing in their narrations of their spiritual dispositions: they even disbelieved the reassurances that some people had actually seen Him resurrected.

And one other thing. What were the Apostles, before Christ called them? Were they perhaps ambitious politicians or visionaries of philosophical and social systems, who were longing to conquer mankind and thus satisfy their fantasies? Not at all. They were illiterate fishermen. The only thing that interested them was to catch a few fish to feed their families. That is why, even after the Lord’s Crucifixion, and despite everything that they had heard and seen, they returned to their fishing boats and their nets. In other words, there was not a single trace of disposition in these men for the things that were to follow. It was only after the day of Pentecost, “when they received strength from on high”, that they became the teachers of the universe.

The second case: Did they deceive us? Did they lie to us? But then, why would they deceive us? What would they gain by lying? Was it money? Was it status? Was it glory? For someone to tell a lie, he must be expecting some sort of gain. The Apostles though, by preaching Christ - and in fact Christ crucified and resurrected – the only things that they secured for themselves were: hardships, labors, lashings, stonings, shipwrecks, hunger, thirst, nakedness, attacks from robbers, beatings, incarcerations and finally, death. And all this, for a lie? It would be undoubtedly foolish for anyone to even consider it.

Consequently, the Apostles were neither deceived, nor did they deceive us. This leaves us with the third choice: that they told us the truth.

I should also stress something else here: The Evangelists are the only ones who recorded true historical events. They describe the events, and only the events. They do not resort to any personal judgments. They praise no one, and they criticize no one. They make no attempt to exaggerate an event, nor eliminate or underestimate another. They let the events speak for themselves.