In the Bible, Jesus has twelve disciples who follow Him and are some of the most well-known people in scripture. So, who were they? How were they related to each other? Read on to find out!
Matthew 4:18-22 – “As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.”
The twelve disciples are known as…
Simon (known as Peter) is one of the most important of Jesus’ disciples. He is one of three disciples in the “inner circle.” His name Simon means “heard” (שִׁמְעוֹן) in Hebrew, His name Peter means Rock in Greek (Πέτρος). Jesus says, “on this rock I will build my church,” (Matthew 16:18) meaning the church is built on the faith of people like Peter. Tradition says he died in Rome where he was crucified upside down.
Andrew was Peter’s brother and a disciple of John the Baptist. It was Andrew who introduced Peter to Jesus. His name, Andrew, means “manly” (Ἀνδρέας).
Andrew is characterized by his desire to introduce people to Jesus. Not only did he introduce Peter, but also the boy with five loaves and two fish. (John 6:8) Tradition says preached in Asia Minor and Greece and was crucified on a Saint Andrews cross.
James was a cousin of Jesus, and one of two sons of Zebedee and Salome (Mary’s sister) who were included among the Apostles. He was named after one of the Jewish Patriarchs, Jacob (which means “supplanter” Ἰάκωβος).
James was the second disciple of the “inner circle” and the first of the disciples martyred. He was beheaded by Herod (Acts 12:1-2).
John was the brother of James, and also a cousin of Jesus. He is known as the Beloved Apostle. His name means, “Jehovah is a gracious giver” (Ἰωάννης). John is the third disciple in the inner circle. He was possibly a priest (http://koshercopy.blogspot.com/search/label/John%201). He was the only disciple to be present at the crucifixion, and he died a natural death in old age.
Phillip was a friend of Andrew and Peter, and an early disciple of Jesus (John 1:43-46). He introduced Bartholomew to Jesus. His name means “Lover of Horses” (Φίλιππος). He was possibly named after Philip the Tetrarch who was a ruler who had done much for his home town of Bethsaida in Galilee. Tradition says he preached in Asia Minor and died a martyr at Hierapolis.
Bartholomew is also known in the Gospel of John as Nathaniel. He was introduced to Jesus by his frind Philip. Bartholomew means “son of Tolmai” or son of the furrow (farmer?). Nathaniel means “Gift of God.” Nathaniel had doubts about Jesus, asking, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” He eventually became a missionary to Ethiopia, Mesopotamia,Parthia, and Lycaonia.
Thomas was known as the doubting disciple. His name means “a twin” (Θωμᾶς).
Thomas when convinced was an energetic follower of Christ – however, he had a way of asking questions that earned him the title “Doubting Thomas.” When the Pharisees were seeking to kill Jesus, and looking for him to appear following the death of Lazarus, Thomas said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (John 11:16). Once he saw Jesus as resurrected he declared, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). Tradition says he took the gospel to Parthia, Persia and India dying a martyr in Madras.
Matthew the son of Alphaeus was a hated publican or the tax collector. Jesus called him to be a disciple while on the road near the Sea of Galilee. Matthew means “gift of Jehovah” (Ματταθίας).
His Hebrew name is Levi which means “joined to” (לֵוִי). Matthew possibly gained Jesus opportunity to speak to other Publicans, and also earned Jesus a reputation of being a friend to tax collectors. (Matthew 9:9-10) Matthew is the author of a gospel, and tradition says he died a martyr in Ethiopia.
James the less
James the less is also listed as a son of Alphaeus. Many say this is a different Alphaeus (which means “Changing” Ἀλφαῖος). The two sons of Alphaeus are not listed as brothers. Alphaeus is traditionally identified with Clopas, based on the identification from parallel Gospel accounts at the Crucifixion and Resurrection. According to tradition he was crucified in Egypt.
The tenth Apostle is known as Thaddeus – “large hearted, courageous,” Judas “he shall be praised,” or Lebbaeus “a man of heart,” as you compare the lists of Apostles in Matthew 10:1-3; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-15, and Acts 12:1-14). The 14th-century writer Nicephorus Callistus says Jude was the bridegroom at the wedding at Cana. Some say he was the author of the New Testament book Jude. Tradition says he preached in Iraq and Iran, dying a martyr in Persia.
Simon the less
Simon the less was known as the zealot or Simon the Canaanite. The Zealots were rebels who desired the overthrow of Roman rule in Israel. They wanted to go back to an independent, self governing state.
Muslim tradition says that Simon was sent to preach the faith of God to the Berbers, outside North Africa. Tradition also says he was crucified.
Judas Iscariot was the betrayer of Jesus. His name means “he
shall be praised,” but Judas was a common name in Israel. Judas was the name of one of the twelve sons of Jacob or Israel. Another Judas was a son of Matthias, the village priest who started the insurrection which gained the Jewish people independence in about AD 164. Judas Iscariot died a horrible death described in Acts 1:18.