The 12 Apostles

Who Are the 12 Disciples of Jesus Christ?

By Mary Fairchild

We find the names of the 12 apostles in Matthew 10:2-4, Mark 3:14-19, and Luke 6:13-16:

And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. (ESV)

Jesus Christ selected 12 men from among his early followers to become his closest disciples. After an intensive discipleship course and following his resurrection from the dead, the Lord fully commissioned the apostles (Matthew 28:16-2, Mark 16:15) to advance God’s kingdom and carry the gospel message to the world.

These men became the pioneering leaders of the New Testament church, but they were not without faults and shortcomings. Interestingly, not one of the chosen 12 disciples was a scholar or rabbi. They had no extraordinary skills. Neither religious, nor refined, they were ordinary people, just like you and me.

But God chose them for a purpose—to fan the flames of the gospel that would spread across the face of the earth and continue to burn bright throughout the centuries to follow. He selected and used each of these regular guys to carry out his exceptional plan.

Take a few moments now to learn a lesson or two from the 12 apostles—men who helped ignite the light of truth that still dwells within our hearts today and calls us to come and follow Jesus Christ.

1. Peter

Without question, the Apostle Peter was a “duh”-ciple most of us can identify with. One minute he was walking on water by faith, and the next he was sinking in doubts. Impulsive and emotional, Peter is best known for denying Jesus when the pressure was on. Even so, as a disciple he was dearly loved by Christ, holding a special place among the twelve.

Peter, often a spokesman for the twelve, stands out in the Gospels. Whenever the men are listed, Peter’s name is first. He, James, and John formed the inner circle of Jesus’ closest companions. These three alone were given the unique privilege of experiencing the transfiguration, along with a few other extraordinary revelations of Jesus.

After the resurrection of Christ, Peter became a bold evangelist and missionary, and one of the greatest leaders of the early church. Passionate until the end, historians record that when Peter was sentenced to death by crucifixion, he requested that his head be turned toward the ground because he did not feel worthy to die in the same manner as his Savior. Discover why the life of Peter conveys great hope for us today.

2. Andrew

The Apostle Andrew abandoned John the Baptist to become the first follower of Jesus of Nazareth, but John didn’t mind. He knew his mission was to point people to the Messiah.

Like many of us, Andrew lived in the shadow of his more famous sibling, Simon Peter. Andrew led Peter to Christ, then stepped into the background as his boisterous brother became a leader among the apostles and in the early church.

The Gospels don’t tell us a great deal about Andrew, but we can read between the lines and find a person who thirsted for truth and found it in the living water of Jesus Christ. Discover how a simple fisherman dropped his nets on the shore and went on to become a remarkable fisher of men.

3. James

Photo: Public Domain

James the son of Zebedee, often called James the Greater to distinguish him from the other apostle named James, was a member of Jesus Christ’s inner circle, which included his brother, the Apostle John, and Peter. Not only did James and John earn a special nickname from the Lord—”sons of thunder”—they were privileged to be at the front and center of three supernatural events in the life of Christ. In addition to these honors, James was the first of the twelve to be martyred for his faith in A.D. 44.

4. John

The Apostle John, brother to James, was nicknamed by Jesus one of the “sons of thunder,” but he liked to call himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” With his fiery temperament and special devotion to the Savior, he gained a favored place in Christ’s inner circle.

John’s enormous impact on the early Christian church and his larger-than-life personality, make him a fascinating character study. His writings reveal contrasting traits. For instance, on the first Easter morning, with his typical zeal and enthusiasm, John raced Peter to the tomb after Mary Magdalene reported that it was now empty. Although John won the race and bragged about this achievement in his Gospel (John 20:1-9), he humbly allowed Peter to enter the tomb first.

According to tradition, John outlived all of the disciples, dying of old age in Ephesus, where he preached a gospel of love and taught against heresy.

5. Philip

Philip was one of the first followers of Jesus Christ, and he wasted no time calling others, like Nathanael, to do the same. Although little is known about him after the ascension of Christ, Bible historians believe Philip preached the gospel in Phrygia, in Asia Minor, and died a martyr there at Hierapolis. Learn how Philip’s search for the truth led him directly to the promised Messiah.

6. Nathanael or Bartholomew

Nathanael, believed to be the disciple Bartholomew, experienced a jarring first encounter with Jesus. When the Apostle Philip called him to come and meet the Messiah, Nathanael was skeptical, but he followed along anyway. As Philip introduced him to Jesus, the Lord declared, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.” Immediately Nathanael wanted to know, “How do you know me?”

Jesus got his attention when he answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Well, that stopped Nathanael in his tracks. Shocked and surprised he declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”

Nathanael garnered only a few lines in the Gospels, nevertheless, in that instant he became a loyal follower of Jesus Christ.

7. Matthew

Levi, who became the Apostle Matthew, was a customs official in Capernaum who taxed imports and exports based on his own judgment. The Jews hated him because he worked for Rome and betrayed his countrymen.

But when Matthew the dishonest tax collector heard two words from Jesus, “Follow me,” he left everything and obeyed. Like us, he longed to be accepted and loved. Matthew recognized Jesus as someone worth sacrificing for. Find out why, 2,000 years later, Matthew’s eyewitness Gospel still sounds an irresistible call.

8. Thomas

The Apostle Thomas is often referred to as “Doubting Thomas” because he refused to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead until he saw and touched Christ’s physical wounds. As far as disciples go, however, history has dealt Thomas a bum rap. After all, each of the 12 apostles, except John, abandoned Jesus during his trial and death at Calvary.

Thomas, like us, was prone to extremes. Earlier he had demonstrated courageous faith, willing to risk his own life to follow Jesus into Judea. There is an important lesson to be gained from studying Thomas: If we’re truly seeking to know the truth, and we’re honest with ourselves and others about our struggles and doubts, God will faithfully meet us and reveal himself to us, just as he did for Thomas.

9. James the Less

James the Less is one of the most obscure apostles in the Bible. The only things we know for certain are his name and that he was present in the upper room of Jerusalem after Christ ascended to heaven.

In Twelve Ordinary Men, John MacArthur suggests that his obscurity may have been the distinguishing mark of his life. Discover why James the Less’ complete anonymity may reveal something profound about his character.

10. Simon the Zealot

Who doesn’t like a good mystery? Well, the Scriptures introduce us to quite a few riddles that scholars have yet to solve. One of those puzzling questions is the exact identity of Simon the Zealot, the Bible’s own mystery apostle.

Scripture tells us almost nothing about Simon. In the Gospels, he is mentioned in three places, but only to list his name. In Acts 1:13 we learn that he was present with the apostles in the upper room of Jerusalem after Christ had ascended to heaven. Beyond those few details, we can only speculate about Simon and his designation as a Zealot.

11. Thaddeus or Jude

Listed together with Simon the Zealot and James the Less, the Apostle Thaddeus completes a grouping of the least known disciples. In Twelve Ordinary Men, John MacArthur’s book about the apostles, Thaddeus, also known as Jude, is characterized as a tender-hearted, gentle man who displayed childlike humility.

Scholars believe Thaddeus wrote the book of Jude. It’s a short epistle, but the closing two verses contain a beautiful doxology, one of the finest expressions of praise to God in the entire New Testament.

12. Judas Iscariot

Judas Iscariot is the apostle who betrayed his Master with a kiss. For this supreme act of treachery, some would say Judas Iscariot made the greatest error in history.

Down through time, people have had strong or mixed feelings about Judas. Some experience a sense of hatred toward him, others feel pity, and some have even considered him a hero. No matter how you react to him, one thing is certain, believers can benefit greatly by taking a serious look at his life.

christianity.about.com/od/peopleofthebible/tp/12-Apostles.htm

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Peter the Apostle – Member of Jesus’ Inner Circle

Profile of Simon Peter the Apostle, Forgiven After Denying Christ

By Jack Zavada

Peter the apostle is one of the most prominent characters in the Gospels, a rough and tumble man whose emotions often got him into trouble, and yet he was clearly one of the favorites of Jesus Christ, who loved him for his big heart.

Peter’s true name was Simon. With his brother Andrew, Simon was a follower of John the Baptist. When Andrew introduced Simon to Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus renamed Simon Cephas, an Aramaic word meaning “rock.” The Greek word for rock, “petros,” became this apostle’s new name, Peter. He is the only Peter mentioned in the New Testament.

His aggressiveness made Peter a natural spokesman for the twelve. Often, however, he spoke before he thought, and his words led to embarrassment.

Jesus included Peter in his inner circle when he took Peter, James, and John into the house of Jairus, where Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead (Mark 5:35-43). Later, Peter was among those same disciples Jesus chose to witness the transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-9). Those same three saw Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:33-42).

Most of us remember Peter for denying Christ three times during the night of Jesus’ trial. Following his resurrection, Jesus took special care to rehabilitate Peter and assure him he was forgiven.

At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit filled the apostles. Peter was so overcome that he began to preach to the crowd. Acts 2:41 tells us 3,000 people were converted that day. Through the remainder of that book, Peter and John were persecuted for their stand for Christ.

Early in his ministry, Simon Peter preached only to Jews, but God gave him a vision in Joppa of a huge sheet containing all types of animals, warning him not to call anything made by God impure. Peter then baptized the Roman centurion Cornelius and his household and understood that the gospel is for all people.

Tradition says that persecution of the first Christians in Jerusalem led Peter to Rome, where he spread the gospel to the fledgling church there. Legend has it that the Romans were going to crucify Peter, but he told them he was not worthy to be executed in the same manner as Jesus, so he was crucified upside down.

The Roman Catholic Church claims Peter as its first pope.

Accomplishments of Peter the Apostle:

After being invited by Jesus to come, Peter got out of his boat and for a brief few moments walked on water (Matthew 14:28-33). Peter correctly identified Jesus as the Messiah (Matthew 16:16), not through his own knowledge but the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. He was chosen by Jesus to witness the transfiguration. After Pentecost, Peter boldly proclaimed the gospel in Jerusalem, unafraid of arrest and persecution. Most scholars consider Peter the eyewitness source for the Gospel of Mark. He also penned the books 1 Peter and 2 Peter.

Peter the Apostle’s Strengths:

Peter was a fiercely loyal man. Like the other 11 apostles, he left his occupation to follow Jesus for three years, learning from him about the kingdom of heaven. Once he was filled with the Holy Spirit after Pentecost, Peter was a fearless missionary for Christ.

Peter the Apostle’s Weaknesses:

Simon Peter knew great fear and doubt. He let his passions rule him instead of faith in God. During Jesus’ final hours, Peter not only abandoned Jesus but denied three times that he even knew him.

Life Lessons from Peter the Apostle:

When we forget that God is in control, we overstep our limited authority. God works through us in spite of our human frailties. No offense is too great to be forgiven by God. We can accomplish great things when we put our faith in God instead of ourselves.

Hometown:

Native of Bethsaida, settled in Capernaum.

Referenced in the Bible:

Peter appears in all four Gospels, the book of Acts, and is referred to in Galatians 1:18, 2:7-14. He wrote 1 Peter and 2 Peter.

Occupation:

Fisherman, a leader in the early church, missionary, Epistle writer.

Family Tree:

Father – Jonah
Brother – Andrew

Key Verses:

Matthew 16:18
“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (NIV)

Acts 10:34-35
Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.” (NIV)

1 Peter 4:16
However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. (NIV)

  • Old Testament People of the Bible (Index)
    • New Testament People of the Bible (Index)

Jack Zavada, a career writer and contributor for About.com, is host to a Christian website for singles. Never married, Jack feels that the hard-won lessons he has learned may help other Christian singles make sense of their lives. His articles and ebooks offer great hope and encouragement. To contact him or for more information, visit Jack’s Bio Page.

Apostle Andrew – Brother of Peter

Profile of Andrew, Fisherman and Follower of Jesus

By Jack Zavada

The Apostle Andrew, whose name means “manly,” was the first apostle of Jesus Christ. He had previously been a follower of John the Baptist, but when John proclaimed Jesus “the lamb of God,” Andrew went with Jesus and spent a day with him.

Andrew quickly found his brother Simon (later called Peter) and told him “We have found the Messiah.” (John 1:41, NIV) He brought Simon to meet Jesus. Matthew notes that Simon and Andrew dropped their fishing nets and followed Jesus as he was passing by.

The Gospels record three episodes involving the Apostle Andrew. He and three other disciples asked Jesus about his prophecy that the Temple would be torn down (Mark 13:3-4). Andrew brought a boy with two fish and five barley loaves to Jesus, who multiplied them to feed 5,000 people (John 6:8-13). Philip and Andrew brought some Greeks to Jesus who wanted to meet him (John 12:20-22).

It is not recorded in the Bible, but church tradition says Andrew was crucified as a martyr on a Crux Decussata, or X-shaped cross.

Accomplishments of the Apostle Andrew:

Andrew brought people to Jesus. After Pentecost, Andrew became a missionary like the other apostles and preached the gospel.

Andrew’s Strengths:

He hungered for the truth. He found it, first in John the Baptist, then in Jesus Christ. The Apostle Andrew is mentioned fourth in the list of disciples, indicating he stayed close to Jesus.

Andrew’s Weaknesses:

Like the other apostles, Andrew abandoned Jesus during his trial and crucifixion.

Life Lessons from the Apostle Andrew:

Jesus truly is the Savior of the world. When we find Jesus, we find the answers we have been looking for. The Apostle Andrew made Jesus the most important thing in his life, and we should too.

Hometown:

Bethsaida.

Referenced in the Bible:

Matthew 4:18, 10:2; Mark 1:16, 1:29, 3:18, 13:3; Luke 6:14; John 1:40-44, 6:8, 12:22; Acts 1:13.

Occupation:

Fisherman, apostle of Jesus Christ.

Family Tree:

Father – Jonah
Brother – Simon Peter

Key Verses:

John 1:41
The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). (NIV)

John 6:8-9
Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” (NIV)

Apostle James – First Apostle to Die for Jesus

Profile of the Apostle James, Brother of John

By Jack Zavada

The apostle James was honored with a favored position by Jesus Christ, as one of three men in his inner circle. The others were James’ brother John and Simon Peter.

When Jesus called the brothers, James and John were fishermen with their father Zebedee on the Sea of Galilee. They immediately left their father and their business to follow the young rabbi. James was probably the older of the two brothers because he is always mentioned first.

Three times James, John, and Peter were invited by Jesus to witness events no one else saw: the raising of the daughter of Jairus from the dead (Mark 5:37-47), the transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-3), and Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-37).

But James was not above making mistakes. When a Samaritan village rejected Jesus, he and John wanted to call down fire from heaven upon the place. This earned them the nickname “Boanerges,” or “sons of thunder.” The mother of James and John also overstepped her bounds, asking Jesus to grant her sons special positions in his kingdom.

James’ zeal for Jesus resulted in his being the first of the 12 apostles to be martyred. He was killed with the sword on order of King Herod Agrippa I of Judea, about 44 A.D., in a general persecution of the early church.

Two other men named James appear in the New Testament: James, the son of Alphaeus, another apostle; and James, the brother of the Lord, a leader in the Jerusalem church and author of the book of James.

Accomplishments of the Apostle James:

James followed Jesus as one of the 12 disciples. He proclaimed the gospel after Jesus’ resurrection and was martyred for his faith.

James’ Strengths:

James was a loyal disciple of Jesus. He apparently had outstanding personal qualities that are not detailed in Scripture, because his character made him one of Jesus’ favorites.

James’ Weaknesses:

With his brother John, James could be rash and unthinking. He did not always apply the gospel to earthly matters.

Life Lessons from the Apostle James:

Following Jesus Christ can lead to hardship and persecution, but the reward is eternal life with him in heaven.

Hometown:

Capernaum

Referenced in the Bible:

The Apostle James is mentioned in all four Gospels and his martyrdom is cited in Acts 12:2.

Occupation:

Fisherman, disciple of Jesus Christ.

Family Tree:

Father – Zebedee
Mother – Salome
Brother – John

Key Verses:

Luke 9:52-56
And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village. (NIV)

Matthew 17:1-3
After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. (NIV)

Acts 12:1-2
It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. (NIV)

John the Apostle – ‘The Disciple Jesus Loved’

Profile of John, Apostle, Gospel Writer and Pillar of the Early Church

By Jack Zavada

John the Apostle had the distinction of being a beloved friend of Jesus Christ, writer of five books of the New Testament, and a pillar in the early Christian church.

John and his brother James, another disciple of Jesus, were fishermen on the Sea of Galilee when Jesus called them to follow him. They later became part of Christ’s inner circle, along with the Apostle Peter. These three were privileged to be with Jesus at the raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead, at the transfiguration, and during Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane.

On one occasion, when a Samaritan village rejected Jesus, James and John asked if they should call down fire from heaven to destroy the place. That earned them the nickname Boanerges, or “sons of thunder.”

A previous relationship with Joseph Caiaphas allowed John to be present in the high priest’s house during Jesus’ trial. On the cross, Jesus entrusted the care of his mother, Mary, to an unnamed disciple, probably John, who took her into his home (John 19:27). Some scholars speculate that John may have been a cousin of Jesus.

John served the church in Jerusalem for many years, then moved to work in the church at Ephesus. An unsubstantiated legend holds that John was taken to Rome during a persecution and thrown into boiling oil but emerged unhurt. He was then exiled to the island of Patmos. John supposedly outlived all of the disciples, dying of old age at Ephesus, perhaps about A.D. 98.

John’s Gospel is strikingly different from Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the three Synoptic Gospels, which means “seen with the same eye” or from the same viewpoint. John continually emphasizes that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, sent by the Father to take away the sins of the world. He uses many symbolic titles for Jesus, such as the Lamb of God, resurrection, and the vine. Throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus uses the phrase “I am,” unmistakably identifying himself with Jehovah, the Great “I AM” or eternal God.

Although John does not mention himself by name in his own gospel, he refers to himself four times as “the disciple Jesus loved.”

Accomplishments of John the Apostle:

John was one of the first disciples chosen. He was an elder in the early church and helped spread the gospel message. He is credited with writing the Gospel of John; the letters 1, 2, and 3 John; and the book of Revelation.

John the Apostle’s Strengths:

John was especially loyal to Jesus. He was the only one of the 12 apostles present at the cross. After Pentecost, John teamed up with Peter to fearlessly preach the gospel in Jerusalem and suffered beatings and imprisonment for it. Because John experienced the unconditional love of Jesus firsthand, he preached that love in his gospel and letters.

John the Apostle’s Weaknesses:

At times, John did not understand Jesus’ message of forgiveness, as when he asked to call fire down upon unbelievers. He also asked for a favored position in Jesus’ kingdom.

Life Lessons from John the Apostle:

Christ is the Savior who offers every person eternal life. If we follow Jesus, we are assured of forgiveness and salvation. As Christ loves us, we are to love others. God is love, and we, as Christians, are to be channels of God’s love to our neighbors.

Hometown:

Capernaum

Referenced in the Bible:

John is mentioned in the four Gospels, the book of Acts, and as the narrator of Revelation.

Occupation:

Fisherman, disciple of Jesus, evangelist, Scripture author.

Family Tree:

Father – Zebedee
Mother – Salome
Brother – James

Key Verses:

John 11:25-26
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (NIV)

1 John 4:16-17
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. (NIV)

Revelation 22:12-13
“Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (NIV)

Philip the Apostle – Follower of Jesus Christ

Profile of Philip the Apostle, Seeker of the Messiah

By Jack Zavada

Philip the Apostle was one of the earliest followers of Jesus Christ. Some scholars speculate that Philip was first a disciple of John the Baptist, because he lived in the region where John preached.

Like Peter and Peter’s brother Andrew, Philip was a Galilean, from the village of Bethsaida. It’s probable they knew one another and were friends.

Jesus issued a personal call to Philip: “Follow me.” (John 1:43, NIV). Leaving his old life behind, Philip answered the call. He may have been among the disciples with Jesus at the wedding feast in Cana, when Christ performed his first miracle, turning water into wine.

Philip recruited the skeptical Nathanael (Bartholomew) as an apostle, leading Jesus to reveal that he supernaturally saw Nathanael sitting under a fig tree, even before Philip called him.

In the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus tested Philip by asking him where they could buy bread for so many people. Limited by his earthbound experience, Philip replied that eight months’ wages would not be enough to buy each person one bite.

The last we hear of Philip the Apostle is in the book of Acts, at Jesus’ ascension and the Day of Pentecost. Another Philip is mentioned in Acts, a deacon and evangelist, but he is a different person.

Tradition says Philip the Apostle preached in Phrygia, in Asia Minor, and was martyred there at Hierapolis.

Philip the Apostle’s Accomplishments:

Philip learned the truth about the kingdom of God at the feet of Jesus, then preached the gospel after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension.

Philip’s Strengths:

Philip fervently sought the Messiah and recognized that Jesus was the promised Savior, even though he did not fully understand until after Jesus’ resurrection.

Philip’s Weaknesses:

Like the other apostles, Philip deserted Jesus during his trial and crucifixion.

Life Lessons from Philip the Apostle:

Starting with John the Baptist, Philip sought the path to salvation, which led him to Jesus Christ. Eternal life in Christ is available to anyone who desires it.

Hometown:

Bethsaida, in Galilee.

Referenced in the Bible:

Philip is mentioned in the lists of the 12 apostles in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. References to him in the Gospel of John include: 1:43, 45-46, 48; 6:5, 7; 12:21-22; 14:8-9; and Acts 1:13.

Occupation:

Early life unknown, apostle of Jesus Christ.

Key Verses:

John 1:45
Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote–Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” (NIV)

John 6:5-7
When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” (NIV)

John 14:8-9
Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (NIV)

Nathanael – The True Israelite

Profile of Nathanael, Believed to Be the Apostle Bartholomew

By Jack Zavada

Nathanael was one of the 12 original apostles of Jesus Christ. Little is written about him the Gospels and book of Acts.

Most Bible scholars believe Nathanael and Bartholomew were the same person. The name Bartholomew is a family designation, meaning “son of Tolmai.” Nathanael means “gift of God.” In the synoptic Gospels, the name Bartholomew always follows Philip in lists of the Twelve. In the Gospel of John, Bartholomew is not mentioned at all; Nathanael is listed instead, after Philip.

John also describes Nathanael’s call by Philip. The two may have been friends, for Nathanael scoffs, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:46, NIV) Seeing the two men approach, Jesus calls Nathanael a “true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false,” then reveals that he saw Nathanael sitting under a fig tree before Philip called him. Nathanael responds to Jesus’ vision by proclaiming him the Son of God, the King of Israel.

Church tradition says Nathanael carried a translation of Matthew’s Gospel to northern India. Legend claims he was crucified upside down in Albania.

Accomplishments of Nathanael:

Nathanael accepted Jesus’ call and became his disciple. He witnessed the Ascension and became a missionary, spreading the gospel.

Nathanael’s Strengths:

Upon meeting Jesus for the first time, Nathanael overcame his skepticism about the insignificance of Nazareth and left his past behind. He died a martyr’s death for Christ.

Nathanael’s Weaknesses:

Like most of the other disciples, Nathanael abandoned Jesus during his trial and crucifixion.

Life Lessons from Nathanael:

Our personal prejudices can skew our judgment. By being open to God’s word, we come to know the truth.

Hometown:

Cana in Galilee

Referenced in the Bible:

Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:14; John 1:45-49, 21:2; Acts 1:13.

Occupation:

Early life unknown, later, disciple of Jesus Christ.

Family Tree:

Father – Tolmai

Key Verses:

John 1:47
When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.” (NIV)

John 1:49
Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” (NIV)

Matthew – Tax Collector and Apostle

Profile of Matthew, Gospel Writer and Follower of Jesus

By Jack Zavada

Matthew was a dishonest tax collector driven by greed, until Jesus Christ chose him as a disciple.

We first meet Matthew in Capernaum, in his tax booth on the main highway. He was collecting duties on imported goods brought by farmers, merchants, and caravans. Under the Roman Empire’s system, Matthew would have paid all the taxes in advance, then collected from the citizens and travelers to reimburse himself.

Tax collectors were notoriously corrupt because they extorted far and above what was owed, to ensure their personal profit. Because their decisions were enforced by Roman soldiers, no one dared object.

Matthew was named Levi before his call by Jesus. We don’t know whether Jesus gave him the name Matthew or whether he changed it himself, but it is a shortening of the name Mattathias, which means “the gift of God.”

On the same day Jesus invited Matthew to follow him, Matthew threw a great farewell feast in his home in Capernaum, inviting his friends so they could meet Jesus too. From that time on, instead of collecting tax money, Matthew collected souls for Christ.

Despite his sinful past, Matthew was uniquely qualified to be a disciple. He was an accurate record keeper and keen observer of people. He captured the smallest details. Those traits served him well when he wrote the Gospel of Matthew some 20 years later.

By surface appearances, it was scandalous and offensive for Jesus to pick a tax collector as one of his closest followers, since they were widely hated by the Jews. Yet of the four Gospel writers, Matthew presented Jesus to the Jews as their hoped-for Messiah, tailoring his account to answer their questions.

Matthew displayed one of the most radically changed lives in the Bible in response to an invitation from Jesus. He did not hesitate, he did not look back. He left behind a life of wealth and security for poverty and uncertainty. He abandoned the pleasures of this world for the promise of eternal life.

The remainder of Matthew’s life is uncertain. Tradition says he preached for 15 years in Jerusalem following the death and resurrection of Jesus, then went out on the mission field to other countries. Legend has it that he died as a martyr in the cause of Christ.

Accomplishments of Matthew:

He served as one of the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ. As an eyewitness to the Savior, Matthew recorded a detailed account of Jesus’ life, the story of his birth, his message and his many deeds in the Gospel of Matthew. He also served as a missionary, spreading the good news to other countries.

Matthew’s Strengths:

Matthew was an accurate record keeper. He knew the human heart and the longings of the Jewish people. He was loyal to Jesus and once committed, he never wavered in serving the Lord.

Matthew’s Weaknesses:

Before he met Jesus, Matthew was greedy. He thought money was the most important thing in life and violated God’s laws to enrich himself at the expense of his countrymen.

Life Lessons:

God can use anyone to help him in his work. We should not feel unqualified because of our appearance, lack of education, or our past. Jesus looks for sincere commitment. We should also remember that the highest calling in life is serving God, no matter what the world says. Money, fame, and power cannot compare with being a follower of Jesus Christ.

Hometown:

Capernaum

Referenced in the Bible:

Matthew 9:9, 10:3; Mark 2:14, 3:18; Luke 5:27-29; 6:15; Acts 1:13.

Occupation:

Tax collector, disciple of Jesus, gospel writer, missionary.

Family Tree:

Father – Alphaeus

Key Verses:

Matthew 9:9
As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. (NIV)

Luke 5:29
Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. (NIV)

The Apostle Known as Doubting Thomas

Learn How He Got the Nickname Doubting Thomas

By Jack Zavada

Thomas was one of Jesus Christ’s 12 apostles, specially chosen to spread the gospel after the Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection. The Apostle Thomas was not present when the risen Jesus first appeared to the disciples. When told by the others, “We have seen the Lord,” Thomas replied that he would not believe it unless he could actually touch Jesus’ wounds.

Jesus later presented himself to the apostles and invited Thomas to inspect his wounds. Thomas was also present with the other disciples at the Sea of Galilee when Jesus appeared to them again.

Although it is not used in the Bible, the nickname “Doubting Thomas” was given to this disciple because of his disbelief about the resurrection. People who are skeptical are sometimes referred to as a “Doubting Thomas.”

Thomas’ Accomplishments:

The Apostle Thomas traveled with Jesus and learned from him for three years. Tradition holds that he carried the gospel to the east and was martyred for his faith.

Thomas’ Strengths:

When Jesus’ life was at risk by returning to Judea after Lazarus had died, the Apostle Thomas courageously told his fellow disciples they should go with Jesus, no matter what the danger.

Thomas’ Weaknesses:

Like the other disciples, Thomas deserted Jesus during the crucifixion. Despite listening to Jesus’ teaching and seeing all his miracles, Thomas demanded physical proof that Jesus had risen from the dead. His faith was based solely on what he could touch and see for himself.

Life Lessons:

All of the disciples, except John, deserted Jesus at the cross. They misunderstood and doubted Jesus, but the Apostle Thomas is singled out in the gospels because he put his doubt into words.

It is worth noting that Jesus did not scold Thomas for his doubt. In fact, Jesus invited Thomas to touch his wounds and see for himself.

Today, millions of people stubbornly want to witness miracles or see Jesus in person before they will believe in him, but God asks us to come to him in faith. God provides the Bible, with eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ life, crucifixion and resurrection to strengthen our faith.

In response to the Apostle Thomas’ doubts, Jesus said that those who believe in Christ as Savior without seeing him—that’s us—are blessed.

Hometown:

Unknown.

Referenced in the Bible:

Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; John 11:16, 14:5, 20:24-28, 21:2; Acts 1:13.

Occupation:

The Apostle Thomas’ occupation before he met Jesus is unknown. After Jesus’ ascension, he became a Christian missionary.

Family Tree:

Thomas has two names in the New Testament. Thomas, in Greek, and Didymus, in Aramaic, both meaning “twin.” Scripture does not give the name of his twin, nor any other information about his family tree.

Key Verses:

John 11:16
Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (NIV)

John 20:27
Then he (Jesus) said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” (NIV)

John 20:28
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” (NIV)

John 20:29
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (NIV)

James the Less – Obscure Apostle

Profile of James the Less, Son of Alphaeus

By Mary Fairchild

The Apostle James, son of Alphaeus, was also known as James the Less. He is not to be confused with James the son of Zebedee, brother of the Apostle John.

A third James appears in the New Testament. He was the brother of the Lord, a leader in the Jerusalem church, and writer of the book of James.

James of Alphaeus is named in each listing of the 12 disciples, always appearing ninth in order. The Apostle Matthew (called Levi, the tax collector before becoming a follower of Christ), is also identified in Mark 2:14 as the son of Alphaeus, yet scholars doubt he and James were brothers. Never in the Gospels are the two disciples connected.

The title “James the Less” or “the Little,” helps to distinguish him from the Apostle James, son of Zebedee, who was part of Jesus’ inner circle of three and the first disciple to be martyred. James the Less may have been younger or smaller in stature than Zebedee’s son, as the Greek word for “the less”, mikros, conveys both meanings.

Although it’s argued by scholars, some believe James the Less was the disciple who first witnessed the risen Christ in 1 Corinthians 15:7:

Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. (ESV)

Beyond this, Scripture reveals nothing more about James the Less.

Accomplishments of James the Less:

James was hand-picked by Jesus Christ to be a disciple. He was present with the 11 apostles in the upper room of Jerusalem after Christ ascended to heaven. He may have been the first disciple to see the risen Savior.

Although his accomplishments remain unknown to us today, James may simply have been overshadowed by the more prominent apostles. Even still, being named among the twelve was no small achievement.

Weaknesses of James the Less:

Like the other disciples, James deserted the Lord during his trial and crucifixion.

Life Lessons from James the Less:

While James the Less is one of the least known of the 12 apostles, we can’t overlook the fact that each of these men sacrificed everything to follow the Lord. In Luke 18:28, their spokesman Peter said, “We have left all we had to follow you!” (NIV)

They gave up family, friends, homes, jobs, and all things familiar to answer Christ’s call.

These ordinary men who did extraordinary things for God, set the example for us. They formed the foundation of the Christian church, initiating a movement that steadily spread across the face of the earth. And we are part of that movement–the body of Christ–today.

For all we know, “Little James” was an unsung hero of faith. Evidently, he did not seek recognition or fame, for he received no glory or credit for his service to Christ. Perhaps the nugget of truth we can take from the altogether obscure life of James is reflected in this Psalm:

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory …
(Psalm 115:1, ESV)

Hometown:

Unknown

Referenced in the Bible:

Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:13-16; Acts 1:13.

Occupation:

Disciple of Jesus Christ.

Family Tree:

Father – Alphaeus
Brother – Possibly Matthew

Key Verses:

Matthew 10:2-4
The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. (ESV)

Mark 3:16-19
He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. (ESV)

Luke 6:13-16
And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. (ESV)

Acts 1:13
And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. (ESV)

Simon the Zealot – Mystery Apostle

Profile of Simon the Zealot, Disciple of Jesus

By Jack Zavada

Simon the Zealot, one of Jesus Christ’s 12 apostles, is a mystery character in the Bible. We have one tantalizing bit of information about him, which has led to ongoing debate among Bible scholars.

In some versions of the Bible (Amplified Bible), he is called Simon the Cananaean. In the King James Version and New King James Version, he is called Simon the Canaanite or Cananite. In the English Standard Version, New American Standard Bible, New International Version, and New Living Translation he is called Simon the Zealot.

To confuse things further, Bible scholars argue over whether Simon was a member of the radical Zealot party or whether the term simply referred to his religious zeal. Those who take the former view think Jesus may have chosen Simon, a member of the tax-hating, Roman-hating Zealots, to counterbalance Matthew, a former tax collector and employee of the Roman empire. Those scholars say such a move by Jesus would have shown that his kingdom reaches out to people in all walks of life.

Accomplishments of Simon the Zealot:

Scripture tells us almost nothing about Simon. In the Gospels, he is mentioned in three places, but only to list his name with the 12 disciples. In Acts 1:13 we learn that he was present with the 11 apostles in the upper room of Jerusalem after Christ had ascended to heaven.

Church tradition holds that he spread the gospel in Egypt as a missionary and was martyred in Persia.

Simon the Zealot’s Strengths:

Simon left everything in his previous life to follow Jesus. He lived true to the Great Commission after Jesus’ ascension.

Simon the Zealot’s Weaknesses:

Like most of the other apostles, Simon the Zealot deserted Jesus during his trial and crucifixion.

Life Lessons:

Jesus Christ transcends political causes, governments, and all earthly turmoil. His kingdom is eternal. Following Jesus leads to salvation and heaven.

Hometown:

Unknown.

Referenced in the Bible:

Matthew 10:4, Mark 3:18, Luke 6:15, Acts 1:13.

Occupation:

Unknown, then disciple and missionary for Jesus Christ.

Key Verse:

Matthew 10:2-4
These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. (NIV)

Thaddeus – The Apostle With Four Names

Profile of Thaddeus, Apostle and Epistle Writer

By Jack Zavada

Little is known about Thaddeus, one of Jesus Christ’s 12 apostles. Bible scholars generally agree, however, that the four names used for him all refer to the same person.

In lists of the Twelve, he is called Thaddeus or Thaddaeus, a surname for the name Lebbaeus (Matthew 10:3, KJV), which means “heart” or “courageous.”

The picture is confused further when he is called Judas but is distinguished from Judas Iscariot. In the single epistle he authored, he calls himself “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James.” (Jude 1, NIV). Most scholars believe that brother would be James the Less, or James the son of Alphaeus.

Church tradition holds that Thaddeus founded a church at Edessa and was crucified there as a martyr.

Accomplishments of Thaddeus:

Thaddeus preached the gospel as a missionary following Jesus’ resurrection. He also penned the book of Jude. The final two verses of Jude (24-25) contain a doxology, or “expression of praise to God,” considered the finest in the New Testament.

Thaddeus’ Strengths:

Thaddeus learned the gospel directly from Jesus and loyally served Christ despite hardship and persecution.

Thaddeus’ Weaknesses:

Like most of the other apostles, Thaddeus abandoned Jesus during his trial and crucifixion.

Life Lessons from Thaddeus:

In his short epistle, Jude warns believers to avoid false teachers who twist the gospel for their own purposes, and he calls us to staunchly defend the Christian faith during persecution.

Hometown:

Unknown

Referenced in the Bible:

Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:16; John 14:22; Acts 1:13; Book of Jude.

Occupation:

Unknown, missionary.

Family Tree:

Father – Alphaeus
Brother – James the Less

Key Verses:

John 14:21-22
[Jesus speaking] “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” (NIV)

Jude 20-21
But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. (NIV)

Jude 24-25
To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. (NIV)

Judas Iscariot – Betrayer of Jesus Christ

Profile of New Testament Figure Judas Iscariot

By Jack Zavada

Judas Iscariot is remembered for one thing: his betrayal of Jesus Christ. Even though Judas showed remorse later, his name became a symbol for traitors and turncoats throughout history. His motive seemed to be greed, but some scholars speculate political desires lurked beneath his treachery.

Judas Iscariot’s Accomplishments:

One of Jesus’ original 12 disciples, Judas Iscariot traveled with Jesus and studied under him for three years. He apparently went with the other 11 when Jesus sent them to preach the gospel, cast out demons and heal the sick.

Judas Iscariot’s Strengths:

Judas felt remorse after he betrayed Jesus. He returned the 30 pieces of silver the chief priests and elders had given him. (Matthew 27:3, NIV)

Judas Iscariot’s Weaknesses:

Judas was a thief. He was in charge of the group’s money bag and sometimes stole from it. He was disloyal. Even though the other apostles deserted Jesus and Peter denied him, Judas went so far as to lead the temple guard to Jesus at Gethsemane, and then identified Jesus by kissing him. Some would say Judas Iscariot made the greatest error in history.

Life Lessons:

An outward show of loyalty to Jesus is meaningless unless we also follow Christ in our heart. Satan and the world will try to get us to betray Jesus, so we must ask the Holy Spirit for help in resisting them.

Although Judas attempted to undo the harm he had done, he failed to seek the Lord’s forgiveness. Thinking it was too late for him, Judas ended his life in suicide.

As long as we are alive and have breath, it’s never too late to come to God for forgiveness and cleansing from sin. Sadly, Judas, who had been given the opportunity to walk in close fellowship with Jesus, completely missed the most important message of Christ’s ministry.

It’s natural for people to have strong or mixed feelings about Judas. Some feel a sense of hatred toward him for his act of betrayal, others feel pity, and some throughout history have considered him a hero. No matter how you react to him, here are a few biblical facts about Judas Iscariot to keep in mind:

  • He made a conscience choice to betray Jesus – Luke 22:48.
  • He was a thief with greed in his heart – John 12:6.
  • Jesus knew Judas’ heart was set on evil and that he would not repent – John 6:70, John 17:12.
  • Judas’ act of betrayal was part of God’s sovereign plan – Psalm 41:9, Zechariah 11:12-13, Matthew 20:18 and 26:20-25, Acts 1:16,20.

Believers can benefit from thinking about Judas Iscariot’s life and considering their own commitment to the Lord. Are we true followers of Christ or secret pretenders? And if we fail, do we give up all hope, or do we accept his forgiveness and seek restoration?

Hometown:

Kerioth. The Hebrew word Ishkeriyyoth (for Iscariot) means “man of the village of Keriyyoth.” Kerioth was about 15 miles south of Hebron, in Israel.

Referenced in the Bible:

Matthew 10:4, 13:55, 26:14, 16, 25, 47-49, 27:1-5; Mark 3:19, 6:3, 14:10, 43-45; Luke 6:16, 22:1-4, 47-48; John 6:71, 12:4, 13:2, 13:26-30; 14:22, 18:2-6; Acts 1:16-18, 25.

Occupation:

Disciple of Jesus Christ. Judas was the money keeper for the group.

Family Tree:

Father – Simon Iscariot

Key Verses:

Matthew 26:13-15
Then one of the Twelve-the one called Judas Iscariot-went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. (NIV)

John 13:26-27
Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. (NIV)

Mark 14:43
Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders. (NIV)

Luke: 22:47-48
He (Judas) approached Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” (NIV)

Matthew 27:3-5
When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders…So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. (NIV)

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Who were the twelve disciples?

The disciples/apostles of Christ were the foundation stones of His church. In Revelation 21:14 we are told that the twelve foundations of the wall of the New Jerusalem will have in them the names of the twelve disciples/apostles. It is evident, therefore, that our Lord attaches great importance to these men.

As we study these courageous first-century lives, and what discipleship meant in the time of Christ, we may expect to be aided in developing a Spirit-directed twenty-first century discipleship as Christ must have meant it to be.

The following information uses the New Testament accounts of these 12 men, along with the most respected legends and traditions. We do not mean to infer, that legend and tradition constitute historical fact. We do feel, however, that they do have value in the study of the lives of these men who “…turned the world upside down…”

ANDREW

Andrew was the brother of Peter, and a son of Jonas. He lived in Bethsaida and Capernaum and was a fisherman before Jesus called him. Originally he was a disciple of John the Baptist (Mark 1:16-18). Andrew brought his brother, Peter, to Jesus (John 1:40). He is the first to have the title of Home and Foreign Missionary. He is claimed by three countries as their Patron Saint-Russia, Scotland and Greece. Many scholars say that he preached in Scythia, Greece and Asia Minor.

Andrew introduced others to Jesus. Although circumstances placed him in a position where it would have been easy for him to become jealous and resentful, he was optimistic and well content in second place. His main purpose in life was to bring others to the master.

According to tradition, it was in Achaia, Greece, in the town of Patra that Andrew died a martyr. When Governor Aepeas’ wife was healed and converted to the Christian faith, and shortly after that the Governor’s brother became a Christian. Aepeas was enraged. He arrested Andrew and condemned him to die on the cross. Andrew, feeling unworthy to be crucified on the same-shaped cross as his Master, begged that his be different. So, he was crucified on an X-shaped cross, which is still called Saint Andrew’s cross and which is one of his apostolic symbols. A symbol of two crossed fish has also been applied to Andrew, because he was formerly a fisherman.

BARTHOLOMEW

Bartholomew Nathanael, son of Talmai, lived in Cana of Galilee.

Tradition says he was a missionary in Armenia. A number of scholars believe that he was the only disciple who came from royal blood, or noble birth. His name means Son of Tolmai or Talmai(2 Samuel 3:3). Talmai was king of Geshur whose daughter, Maacah, was the wife of David, mother of Absolom.

Bartholomew’s name appears with every list of the disciples (Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:14; Acts 1:13). This was not a first name, however; it was his second name. His first name probably was Nathanael, whom Jesus called “An Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile” (John 1:47).

The New Testament gives us very little information about him. Tradition indicates he was a great searcher of the Scripture and a scholar in the law and the prophets. He developed into a man of complete surrender to the Carpenter of Nazareth, and one of the Church’s most adventurous missionaries. He is said to have preached with Philip in Phrygia and Hierapolis; also in Armenia. The Armenian Church claims him as its founder and martyr. However, tradition says that he preached in India, and his death seems to have taken place there. He died as a martyr for his Lord. He was flayed alive with knives.

His apostolic symbol is three parallel knives.

JAMES, THE ELDER

James, the Elder, Boanerges, son of Zebedee and Salome, brother of John the Apostle; a fisherman who lived in Bethsaida, Capernaum and Jerusalem. He preached in Jerusalem and Judea and was beheaded by Herod, AD 44 (Acts 12:1,2). He was a member of the Inner Circle, so called because they were accorded special privileges. The New Testament tells us very little about James. His name never appears apart from that of his brother, John. They were an inseparable pair (Mark 1:19-20; Matthew 4:21; Luke 5:1-11).

He was a man of courage and forgiveness-a man without jealousy, living in the shadow of John, a man of extraordinary faith. He was the first of the twelve to become a martyr.

His symbol is three shells, the sign of his pilgrimage by the sea.

JAMES, THE LESSER (OR YOUNGER)

James, the Lesser or Younger, son of Alpheus, or Cleophas and Mary, lived in Galilee. He was the brother of the Apostle Jude.

According to tradition he wrote the Epistle of James, preached in Palestine and Egypt and was crucified in Egypt. James was one of the little-known disciples. Some scholars believe he was the brother of Matthew, the tax collector. James was a man of strong character and one of the most fiery type. Tradition tells us that he also died as a martyr and his body was sawed in pieces. The saw became his apostolic symbol.

JOHN

John Boanerges, son of Zebedee and Salome, brother of James, the Apostle. he was known as the Beloved Disciple. A fisherman who lived in Bethsaida, Capernaum and Jerusalem, he was a member of the Inner Circle. He wrote the Gospel of John, I John, II John, III John and Revelation. He preached among the churches of Asia Minor. Banished to the isle of Patmos, he was later freed and died a natural death. John was one of the prominent Apostles. He is mentioned in many places in the New Testament. He was a man of action; he was very ambitious; and a man with an explosive temper and an intolerant heart. His second name was Boanerges, which means son of Thunder. He and his brother, James, came from a more well-to-do family than the rest of the Apostles. Since his father had hired servants in his fishing business (Mark 1:20) he may have felt himself above the rest. He was close to Peter. They were acting together in the ministry. Peter, however, was always the spokesman for the band.

John mellowed with time. At the latter part of his life, he had forgotten everything, including his ambition and explosive temper, except his Lord’s command of love.

It is said that an attempt was made on his life by giving him a chalice of poison from which God spared him. He died of natural causes. A chalice with a snake in it is his symbol.

JUDAS

Judas Iscariot, the traitor, was the son of Simon who lived in Kerioth of Judah. He betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver and afterwards hanged himself (Matthew 26:14,16).

Judas, the man who became the traitor, is the supreme enigma of the New Testament because it is so hard to see how anyone who was so close to Jesus, who saw so many miracles and heard so much of the Master’s teaching could ever betray him into the hands of his enemies.

His name appears in three lists of the 12 Apostles (Matthew 10:4; Mark 3:19; Luke 6:19). It is said that Judas came from Judah near Jericho. He was a Judean and the rest of the disciples were Galileans. He was the treasurer of the band and among the outspoken leaders.

It is said that Judas was a violent Jewish Nationalist who had followed Jesus in hope that through Him his nationalistic flame and dreams might be realized. No one can deny that Judas was a covetous man and at times he used his position as treasurer of the band to pilfer from the common purse.

There is no certain reason as to why Judas betrayed his master; but it is not his betrayal that put Jesus on the cross-it was our sins.

His apostolic symbol is a hangman’s noose, or a money purse with pieces of silver falling from it.

JUDE

Jude, Thaddeus, or Lebbeus, son of Alpheus or Cleophas and Mary. He was a brother of James the Younger. He was one of the very little-known Apostles and lived in Galilee. Tradition says he preached in Assyria and Persia and died a martyr in Persia.

Jerome called Jude “Trinomious” which means “a man with three names.” In Mark 3:18 he is called Thaddeus. In Matthew 10;3 he is called Lebbeus. His surname was Thaddeus. In Luke 6:16 and Acts 1:13 he is called Judas the brother of James. Judas Thaddeus also was called Judas the Zealot.

By character he was an intense and violent Nationalist with the dream of world power and domination by the Chosen People. In the New Testament records (John 14:22 NIV) he asked Jesus at the Last Supper, “But Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” Judas Thaddeus was interested in making Christ known to the world. Not as a suffering Saviour, however, but as ruling King. We can see plainly from the answer Jesus gave him, that the way of power can never be substituted for the way of love.

It is said that Jude went to preach the gospel in Edessa near the Euphrates River. There he healed many and many believed in the name of the Master. Jude went from there to preach the Gospel in other places. He was killed with arrows at Ararat. The chosen symbol for him is the ship because he was a missionary thought to be a fisherman.

MATTHEW

Matthew, or Levi, son of Alpheus, lived in Capernaum. He was a publican or tax collector. He wrote the Gospel that bears his name. He died a martyr in Ethiopia.

The call of Matthew to the apostolic band is mentioned in Mark 2:14, Matthew 9:9; and Luke 5:27-28. From these passages, we learn that Matthew also was called Levi. It was a common custom in the Middle East at the time of Christ for men to have two names. Matthew’s names mean “a gift of God.” The name Levi could have been given to him by Jesus. It is likely that James the lesser, who was one of the twelve Apostles, was Matthew’s brother, also the son of Alpheus. Although we know little about Matthew personally, the outstanding fact about him is that he was a tax collector. The King James Version calls him a publican, which in Latin is Publicanus, meaning engaged in public service, a man who handled public money, or a tax gatherer.

Of all the nations in the world, the Jews were the most vigorous haters of tax gatherers. To the devout Jew, God was the only one to whom it was right to pay tribute in taxes. To pay it to anyone else was to infringe on the rights of God. The tax collectors were hated not on religious grounds only but because most of them were notoriously unjust.

In the minds of many honest, Jewish men, these tax collectors were regarded as criminals. In New Testament times they were classified with harlots, Gentiles and sinners (Matthew 18:17; Matthew 21:31, 33; Matthew 9;10; Mark 2:15,16; Luke 5:30). Tax collectors had been known to assess duty payable at impossible sums and then offer to lend the money to travelers at a high rate of interest. Such was Matthew. Yet, Jesus chose a man all men hated and made him one of His men. It took Jesus Christ to see the potential in the tax collector of Capernaum.

Matthew was unlike the other Apostles, who were all fishermen. He could use a pen, and by his pen he became the first man to present to the world, in the Hebrew language, an account of the teaching of Jesus. It is clearly impossible to estimate the debt that Christianity owes to this despised tax gatherer. The average man would have thought it impossible to reform Matthew, but to God all things are possible. Matthew became the first man to write down the teachings of Jesus. He was a missionary of the Gospel, who laid down his life for the faith of his Master.

The apostolic symbol of Matthew is three money bags which reminds us that he was a tax collector before Jesus called him.

PETER

Simon Peter, son of Jonas, was a fisherman who lived in Bethsaida and Capernaum. He did evangelistic and missionary work among the Jews, going as far as Babylon. He was a member of the Inner Circle and authored the two New Testament epistles which bear his name. Tradition says he was crucified, head downward, in Rome.

In every apostolic list, the name Peter is mentioned first. However, Peter had other names. At the time of Christ, the common language was Greek and the family language was Hebrew. So his Greek name was Simon (Mark 1:16; John 1:40, 41). His Hebrew name was Cephas (1 Corinthians 1:12; 3:22; 9:5 and Galatians 2:9). The Greek meaning of Simon is rock. The Arabic meaning of Cephas is also rock.

By trade, Peter was a fisherman. He was a married man (1Corinthians 9:5) and his home was Capernaum. Jesus probably made His headquarters there when He visited Capernaum. Peter was also a Galilean as was typical of many of the other disciples. Josephus described the Galileans this way, “They were ever fond of innovation and by nature disposed to change and delighted in sedition. They were ever ready to follow the leader and to begin an insurrection. They were quick in temper and given to quarreling and they were very chivalrous men.” The Talmud says this of the Galileans, “They were more anxious for honor than for gain, quick-tempered, impulsive, emotional, easily aroused by an appeal to adventure, loyal to the end.” Peter was a typical Galilean. Among the twelve, Peter was the leader. He stands out as a spokesman for all the Apostles. It is he who asked the meaning of the difficult saying in Matthew 15:15. It is he who asked how often he must forgive. It is he who inquired about the reward for all of those who follow Jesus. It is he who first confessed Jesus and declared Him as the Son of the Living God. It is he who was at the Mount of Transfiguration. It is he who saw Jairus’ daughter raised to life. Yet, it is he who denied Christ before a maiden. He was an Apostle and a missionary who laid down his life for his Lord. It is true, Peter had many faults, but he had always the saving grace of the loving heart. No matter how many times he had fallen and failed, he always recovered his courage and integrity.

Peter was martyred on a cross. Peter requested that he might be crucified head downward for he was not worthy to die as his Lord had died. His apostolic symbol is a cross upside down with crossed keys.

PHILIP

Tradition says that Philip preached in Phrygia and died a martyr at Hierapolis. Philip came from Bethsaida, the town from which Peter and Andrew came (John 1:44). The likelihood is that he, too, was a fisherman. Although the first three Gospels record his name (Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:14; Acts 1:13), it is in the Gospel of John that Philip becomes a living personality.

Scholars disagree on Philip. In Acts 6:5, we have Philip as one of the seven ordained deacons. Some say this is a different Philip. Some believe this is the Apostle. If this is the same Philip, then his personality came more to life because he had a successful campaign in Samaria. He led the Ethiopian eunuch to Christ (Acts 8:26). He also stayed with Paul in Ceasarea (Acts 21:8) and was one of the major figures in the missionary enterprise of the early church.

The Gospel of John shows Philip as one of the first of many to whom Jesus addressed the words, “Follow Me.” When Philip met Christ, he immediately found Nathanael and told him that “we have found him, of whom Moses … and the prophets, did write.” Nathanael was skeptical. But Philip did not argue with him; he simply answered, “Come and see.” This story tells us two important things about Philip. First, it shows his right approach to the skeptic and his simple faith in Christ. Second, it shows that he had a missionary instinct.

Philip was a man with a warm heart and a pessimistic head. He was one who would very much like to do something for others, but who did not see how it could be done. Yet, this simple Galilean gave all he had. In return God used him. It is said that he died by hanging. While he was dying, he requested that his body be wrapped not in linen but in papyrus for he was not worthy that even his dead body should be treated as the body of Jesus had been treated. The symbol of Philip is a basket, because of his part in feeding of the five thousand. It is he that stressed the cross as a sign of Christianity and victory.

SIMON

Simon, the Zealot, one of the little-known followers called the Canaanite or Zelotes, lived in Galilee. Tradition says he was crucified.

In two places in the King James Version he is called a Canaanite (Matthew 10:4; Mark 3:18). However in the other two places he is called Simon Zelotes (Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13).

The New Testament gives us practically nothing on him personally except that it says he was a Zealot. The Zealots were fanatical Jewish Nationalists who had heroic disregard for the suffering involved and the struggle for what they regarded as the purity of their faith. The Zealots were crazed with hatred for the Romans. It was this hate for Rome that destroyed the city of Jerusalem. Josephus says the Zealots were reckless persons, zealous in good practices and extravagant and reckless in the worst kind of actions.

From this background, we see that Simon was a fanatical Nationalist, a man devoted to the Law, a man with bitter hatred for anyone who dared to compromise with Rome. Yet, Simon clearly emerged as a man of faith. He abandoned all his hatred for the faith that he showed toward his Master and the love that he was willing to share with the rest of the disciples and especially Matthew, the Roman tax collector.

Simon, the Zealot, the man who once would have killed in loyalty to Israel, became the man who saw that God will have no forced service. Tradition says he died as a martyr. His apostolic symbol is a fish lying on a Bible, which indicates he was a former fisherman who became a fisher of men through preaching.

THOMAS

Thomas Didymus lived in Galilee. Tradition says he labored in Parthia, Persia, and India, suffering martyrdom near Madras, at Mt. St. Thomas, India.

Thomas was his Hebrew name and Didymus was his Greek name. At times he was called Judas. Matthew, Mark and Luke tell us nothing about Thomas except his name. However, John defines him more clearly in his Gospel. Thomas appeared in the raising of Lazarus (John 11:2-16), in the Upper Room (John 14:1-6) where he wanted to know how to know the way where Jesus was going. In John 20:25, we see him saying unless he sees the nailprints in Jesus’ hand and the gash of the spear in His side he will not believe. That’s why Thomas became known as Doubting Thomas.

Thomas became certain by doubting. By nature, he was a pessimist. He was a bewildered man. Yet, he was a man of courage. He was a man who could not believe until he had seen. He was a man of devotion and of faith. When Jesus rose, he came back and invited Thomas to put his finger in the nail prints in his hands and in his side. Here, we see Thomas making the greatest confession of faith, “My Lord and my God.” Thomas’ doubts were transformed into faith. Thomas was always like a little child. His first reaction was not to do what he was told to do and not to believe what he was asked to believe. The good news to him was always too good to be true. By this very fact Thomas’ faith became great, intense and convincing. It is said that he was commissioned to build a palace for the king of India, and he was killed with a spear as a martyr for his Lord. His symbol is a group of spears, stones and arrows.

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