Luke 6: 12 – 16 The twelve apostles
One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
Peter (Cephas, Simon)
Son of Jonah. We know he was married because Jesus healed his mother in law when she had a high fever (Luke 4: 38 – 39). Peter was one of inner circle with James and John the sons of Zebedee. He was the first to recognise Jesus as Messiah. After Jesus was arrested and was on trial for his life, Peter denied that he knew Jesus. After Jesus’ resurrection and Pentecost, Peter became a pillar of church leadership. He went to Rome to proclaim the good news of Jesus.
He was martyred under Nero. Crucified upside down. RC tradition makes him the first pope. Preached at Pentecost. Convinced the early church that Gentiles were ok after a vision. Raised Dorcas from the dead.
Peter’s brother. The name Andrew is Greek and Andrew has no alternative Hebrew/Aramaic name, which argues an element of cultural openness in his family. He was born in Bethsaida in Galilee, which was quite Hellenized. Brought Peter to Jesus (John 1: 35 – 42). Brought the boy with the loaves and fishes to Jesus (John 6: 8). When some Greeks asked Philip if they could see Jesus, Philip asked Andrew who then asked Jesus. Andrew made numerous missionary journeys, travelling literally to the ends of the Roman world.
James the Greater
‘Greater’ here refers either to height or age rather than to importance. One of the two sons of Zebedee, the other being John. Witnessed the transfiguration. He was martyred by beheading in AD 44 on the order of King Herod (Acts 12: 1 – 2).
John the Apostle
A son of Zebedee, and held by tradition to be the youngest of the Apostles. He was a disciple of John the Baptist, before John pointed him to Jesus, and he became one of the first of Jesus’ disciples. He witnessed the raising of Jairus’ daughter, the transfiguration, he was sent ahead with Peter to make preparations for the Last Supper. He probably wrote St John’s gospel and the first letter of St John, but probably not the second and third letters or Revelation. He is believed to have died of natural causes.
Most of what we know about Philip is from St John’s gospel. He was from Bethsaida and was one of Jesus first disciples. As soon as he had been recruited, he went to Nathanael and told him about Jesus. He was approached by Greek pilgrims with a request to see Jesus. This, together with his Greek name, suggests that he was familiar with Greek culture and may have spoken some Greek.
Note that Philip the Apostle is not to be confused with St Philip the Evangelist, who is mentioned extensively in Acts!
Little is recorded about this saint. He may be the same person as Nathanael.
Matthew (or Levi) was born in Galilee, the son of Alpheus. He was originally a tax collector, and, as such, would have been literate in both Aramaic and Greek. Jesus called Matthew to follow him, which he did without hesitation. The book of Acts records that Matthew was present at the ascension of Jesus into heaven (Acts 1: 13).
It isn’t certain whether Matthew’s gospel was written by Matthew the Apostle. The gospel does not state the author. Early tradition says that Matthew wrote it, but modern scholars doubt this.
Thomas (also known as Didymus; both names mean “Twin”) is best remembered for doubting the resurrection of Jesus until he had seen and touched his wounds. When Jesus appeared to Thomas, though, he believed immediately. But alongside his scepticism, Thomas was also a brave man. In John’s gospel, after Lazarus has died, Jesus told the disciples that he was going to Judea, a horribly dangerous act because he’d only just avoided being stoned there. Thomas’s response was “Let us also go that we may die with him.” (John 11: 16)
After the resurrection and Pentecost, Thomas travelled widely to tell the world about Jesus. He travelled to India (to Kerala), and probably visited China as well.
James the Less
James the Less was also known as James the Just, or James, the brother of the Lord. It is quite likely that he was the son of Alphaeus and Mary Clopas, and a cousin of Jesus. He played a prominent role in the early church in Jerusalem. He’s mentioned as a pillar of the early church by St Paul in his letter to the Galatians. He played the decisive role in the council at Jerusalem that pronounced that Gentiles didn’t need to be circumcised.
Simon the Zealot
The least known apostle. There is very little written about him that isn’t scholarly speculation, and I’m not qualified either to add to that or to assess it! However, it is likely that he was not a member of the Zealots; the name almost certainly refers to his zeal for the law rather than his political inclination.
Jude, son of James
Again, a little-known apostle. He was probably the writer of the Epistle that bears his name.
The man who betrayed Jesus to his death.
Thank you for the apostles you sent to tell us about Jesus. Because of them we have a written record of the life and ministry of Jesus, and a worshipping church in which we can grow as Christians. Thank you.
In Jesus’ name, Amen