Martyrdom of the Apostles


I was wondering just how reliable the written accounts of the martyrdom of the apostles are. I was told that they were written in the early 4th century and could easily have been according to legend or just plain made up. Could someone give me some information where I can find more information on the martyrdom of the apostles?



It is probably more accurate to say that the first written records we have, based on much older accounts, date from the 4th century. It also would be more accurate to call these earliest accounts traditions rather than legends – legends have the connotation of fables or made up stories, while traditions are important stories and facts that have been carefully passed down through the generations until they have finally been set down in writing (like on the old TV mini-series “Roots”).

Don’t forget: just because something is based on a tradition, it doesn’t automatically make it a made-up story or nice pious folktale. Many traditions are based on facts that have been passed down from a pre-literate culture.

I don’t know of any one source that discusses the martyrdom of the apostles. You might have to look them up one by one. A good place to start is the New Advent Encyclopedia. I’ve linked the first one (St. Bartholemew) to get you started:


Tertullian, writing about A.D. 200 in The Demurrer Against The Heretics, said:But if you are near to Italy, you have Rome, whence also our authority derives. How happy is that Church [of Rome], on which Apostles poured out their whole doctrine along with their blood, where Peter endured a passion like that of the Lord *, where Paul was crowned in a death like John’s *, where the Apostle John, after being immersed in boiling oil and suffering no hurt, was exiled to an island. (Chap. 36)

Tertullian, writing about A.D. 211 in Antidote Against The Scorpion*, said:In Rome Nero was the first to stain with blood the rising faith. Peter was girded about by another [John 21:18], when he was made fast to the cross. Paul obtained a birth suited to Roman citizenship, when in that city he was given re-birth by an ennobling martyrdom. (Chap. 15)


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