The Scriptures tell us Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. Jesus appeared twelve times on earth to believers over a forty day period before his ascension. To the people of Judea, the story of his life and message gained more in significance and status after his crucifixion. He would go down in history not just as an historical person but as Jesus the Christ or the Messiah and is a documented figure in the historicity of Jerusalem. Roman historians, Pliny the Younger and Cornelius Tacitus, mention Jesus in their historical accounts of the period. The eminent Jewish historian Flavius Josephus also names Jesus.

The Greek historian Lucian was uncharitable to the early Christians for putting their faith in a man who died such a lowly death. Death by crucifixion was considered a punishment best suited for slaves, murderers and those of the lower classes. By the fourth century, the cross was more commonly viewed with pride as a symbol that Jesus had suffered a lowly death for the benefit of all mankind. The crucifix, the iconic image showing Jesus affixed to the cross, was not a part of Christian culture until six hundred years after his death.

The disciples, who were faint-hearted during his arrest and crucifixion, became stout-hearted after his resurrection and preached his message lion-heartedly throughout the world.  And for their efforts, they paid the ultimate price.

In 44 A.O., Herod Agrippa, the grandson of Herod the Great, who also ruled Judea, ordered that James was to be executed by decapitation. James was the first disciple to be martyred. Agrippa resisted Christianity and suppressed the new theology with fervid candor.

Peter's missionary efforts were in Rome where he strived to better organize the growing and developing Christian church. The Romans saw Christianity as a danger to their authority and mores and Peter was the embodiment of that threat.  To rid themselves of that risk, they sentenced him to die on the cross sometime between 64-67 A.O. Peter pleaded that he was too unworthy to die in the same manner as Jesus; the Romans agreed and Peter was crucified upside down.

There is substantial evidence that Peter was buried beneath St. Peter's Cathedral in Vatican City. Simon was Peter's name when his story began but Jesus changed it to Peter, which in Latin means "the rock." Peter grew into his title becoming the "rock upon which Jesus' church was built."

Andrew delivered the gospel to what is now the Ukraine, Russia and Greece. The most optimistic, bold and vigorous of all the disciples is believed to have been crucified in Patras, Greece bound to an X­ shaped cross. It is the origin of the St. Andrew's cross that is displayed to this day on the national flag of Scotland.

"Doubting" Thomas is believed to have been martyred in Madras, India, by spear and sword. Thomas was the most skeptical disciple and to whom all facts had to be validated. Bartholomew journeyed to Egypt and Iran in order to preach the "good news." It was there he was flayed and then beheaded, a most monstrous and macabre ending of life of an apostle. Simon the Zealot met his fate in Persia, just as appalling as Bartholomew's; he was sawed in half. Philip evangelized in Turkey and he was martyred in the Greco-Roman city of Hierapolis by having metal hooks driven through his ankles and then hung upside down. Matthew, the former tax collector, died in Ethiopia, murdered like the other apostles for his ardent and passionate proselytizing. Each apostle spent his life preaching and was killed for doing so.

The last disciple to die was John. He was taken prisoner by the Romans for preaching and banished to the Greek island of Patmos. It was there he wrote the book of Revelation, the final book of the New Testament. John died in Ephesus, Turkey, in 100 A.O. when he was 94 years of age. He was the only apostle to die a natural death.

Judas Iscariot's death, according to the book of Matthew, is attributed to suicide. Judas flung his 30 pieces of silver into the Temple and hung himself from a tree. According to legend, it was a redbud tree whose white blossoms turned red in embarrassment from being used in this manner.

By some accounts, Pontius Pilate and his wife Claudia converted to Christianity and were killed for their faith. Whether or not this is true, both the Coptic and Ethiopic Christian Churches venerate him as a martyr. The high priest Caiaphas, with Pilate gone, was left without a Roman political ally and his many enemies in Jerusalem quickly replaced him as the Temple's highest priest. Caiaphas disappeared into history; his birth and death are unrecorded. But in 1990, an ossuary, believed by some to contain his skeleton, was found in Jerusalem and is presently on display at the Israel Museum.

In 70 A.O., the Romans breached the city walls of Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple, burned much of the city and slayed thousands of Jews.  Recent excavations through the rubble have located some of the actual streets and homes of Jesus' time. A surprising fact is that the Via Dolorosa, claimed to be the street Jesus walked on his way to be crucified, was not established until centuries later and therefore was not in existence during the lifetime of Jesus.

Basta und damit!