What Happened to the Twelve Apostles?

What Happened to the Twelve Apostles? May 3, 2019

The post-New Testament stories of the apostles made the news a while back, thanks to the appearance of Tom Bissell’s book on the subject. My own research has not pursued such questions much, with the slight exception of my work on the traditions of Thomas going to India. Even working on the Gospel of John has not led naturally to a focus on what John the son of Zebedee might or might not have done. In my current fiction project, I have explored the story of an apostle – and his replacement. But for that, I will be speculating and having fun well beyond anything that could be justified by extant historical evidence.

Bissell brings interesting things to light about connections between ancient traditions and modern practices. On occasion he unearths an obscure detail in a text that even someone who studies these things for a living may have missed. He even works in a mention of mythicism. But he does all that in the context of entertaining narration about his own experience of visiting sites connected with the people mentioned, in places like Jerusalem, Rome, and Chennai. I laughed out loud when he said of the author of the Gospel of Mark, ‘His idea of an elegant transition is “and”…’

Below I offer a range of links related to Bissell’s book as well as other treatments of the stories of not only the Twelve but also others.

Article about the apostles in National Geographic

Saint Simon and St Jude

on ‘apostle’ by Tom Bissell

Wandering the desert: Author Tom Bissell on separating fact from fiction in the lives of the Apostles

How Tom Bissell’s lack of belief compelled him to write ‘Apostle’

Review of Bissell’s book by Tom Schaefer in the Wichita Eagle.

What Ever Happened to the Apostles? – Saint Thomas

The 12 Apostles – How they Died & Where Lay Bodies Today

More of the Same: Eric Bess Reviews Sean McDowell’s “The Fate of the Apostles”

What Happened to the Apostles?

Guest Blog by Michael Kok: The Tradition about the Apostle and Evangelist John

“Another Disciple” in John 18:15-16 as a Galilean Fisherman?

Episcopal Cafe on the Beloved Disciple

The RBL Review of my Book

Acts and Mission: Matthias

Review of Andrade’s book on the journey of Christianity to India in Bryn Mawr Classical Review.

Candida Moss on why Judas betrayed Jesus

Contradictions in the account of Judas’ death

Bob Cornwall reviewed A Week in the Life of Rome

Phoebe: A Story

Priscilla: An Early Christian Life


Also among perspectives we’ve had the chance to hear from lately, beyond the realm of the apostles, are Mary and Caiaphas.

On what fiction allows us to explore that other genres do not. Also related to this is Blossom Stefaniw’s piece in AJW about ancient Christian reading. Calls for papers related to historical fiction:



And another call about Catholic imagination and fiction.


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