History in the Bible Podcast

The Twelve Disciples

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The Twelve Disciples, Take One

We all know the twelve disciples. This table shows the names of those disciples we have from the gospels, as commonly used in English. At various points, the synoptics provides lists. The gospel of John has no list per se. The gospels disagree in two cases, those of Bartholemew and Thaddaeus. The disagreements are easily reconciled. The real issue is why so many disciples are little more than names. Early Christians produced a large literature to try to fill in the historical gaps. None of those books made it into the New Testament.

Mark 3:13-19 Matthew 10:1-4 Luke 6:12-16 Acts 1:13 John (no specific list)
Simon, “called Peter” Simon, “also called Peter” Simon, “whom he named Peter” Peter Simon Peter
John, “the brother of James, whom he named Boanerges” John, “the brother of James” John John Son of Zebedee
James, “son of Zebedee, whom he named Boanerges” James, “son of Zebedee” James James Son of Zebedee
Andrew Andrew, “Peter’s brother” Andrew, “Peter’s brother” Andrew Andrew
Philip Philip Philip Philip Philip
Bartholomew Bartholomew Bartholomew Bartholomew Nathaniel
Matthew Matthew, “the tax collector” Matthew Matthew
Thomas Thomas Thomas Thomas Thomas, “called Didymus”
James, “son of Alphaeus” James, “son of Alphaeus” James, “son of Alphaeus” James, “son of Alphaeus”
Thaddaeus Thaddaeus Judas, “son of James” Judas, “son of James” Judas, “not Iscariot”
Simon, “the Cananaean” Simon, “the Cananaean” Simon, “the Zealot” Simon, “the Zealot”
Judas Iscariot Judas Iscariot Judas Iscariot Judas, “son of Simon Iscariot”

The Twelve Disciples, Take Two

Only the three members of the inner circle, shown in yellow below, get any significant air-time in the gospels. Andrew, Thomas and Phillip are strictly bit-players, Judas Iscariot only gets billing as a villain, and the rest are nonentities. The final column shows the number of times each apostle is mentioned in the gospels and the book of Acts.

Name in English translations of Mark Hebrew and Greek Names Notes Mentions
Simon, called Peter Hb: Shimon, Gk: Simon and Petros Inner circle 168
John, son of Zebedee Hb: Yohanan, Gk: Ioannes Inner circle. Almost certainly the Beloved disciple. Traditional author of the gospel and letters. In the west, held to be the author of Revelation. 31
James, son of Zebedee Hb: Yakov, Gk: Iakobos Inner circle. James the Greater. 15
Andrew Hb: —, Gk: Andreas Bit-player. Tag-teams with Philip. 12
Philip Hb: —, Gk: Philippos Bit-player. Tag-teams with Andrew. 15
Bartholomew Hb: bar-Talmai, Gk: Bartholomaios Nonentity. Associated with Philip. 4
Matthew Hb: Matityahu, Gk: Matthaios Traditional author of the gospel. Identified with Levi. Otherwise a nonentity. 5
Thomas Hb: Teom, Gk: Didymus Bit-player 11
James, son of Alphaeus Hb: Yakov, Gk: Iakobos James the Lesser. Nonentity. 4
Thaddaeus Hb: Yehudah, Gk: Thaddaios Nonentity 6
Simon, the Cananaean Hb: Shimon, Gk: Simon Nonentity 4
Judas Iscariot Hb: Yehudah, Gk: — Bit-player villain 16

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