When Jesus began his ministry, he called on twelve men to follow him. Known as his disciples, these men came from every walk of life. Two of the twelve, Matthew and John, would each write a gospel, a recording of Jesus’ teachings and the events in his life. The gospels were not meant to be a moment by moment account of Jesus’ life. In fact, John wrote, “there are also many other things that Jesus did… that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written”. Two others would also write gospels, Luke, a doctor, and a young man named Mark, who is believed to have been a companion and interpreter of the disciple, Peter.
James the Greater
James the Greater was the son of Zebedee and Salome. He was the brother of another disciple, John. Fishermen by trade, he and John were seemingly never apart.
Andrew was Peter’s brother. He was originally a disciple of John the Baptist, and according to some accounts, was the person who introduced Peter to Jesus.
Simon was a fisherman who Jesus named Peter. He was married. Born in Galilee, Peter’s father was named Jonah. Referring to Peter, Jesus said, “Upon this rock I will build my church”. In Greek, Peter’s name was Petros, and the word for “rock” in Greek is Petra.
John was a fisherman from Galilee and was possibly the younger brother of James the Greater. A member of Jesus’ inner circle, John was “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. Many believe he wrote one of the gospels, although some experts dispute this. Some scholars believe the New Testament refers to three separate Johns; John the Apostle, John the Evangelist and John of Patmos (to whom the Book of Revelation is traditionally attributed).
Simon the Zealot
Not much is known about Simon, only that he was a zealot – a fanatic who hated the ruling Romans.
According to the Gospel of John, Philip was the first to be called by Jesus to follow him. Philip lived in the same town as Andrew and Peter. He also convinced Nathanael to follow Jesus. “We have found the one whom Moses and the other prophets wrote about”, Philip said.
James the Lesser
James, the son of Alphaeus, is also known as James the Lesser, possibly to help distinguish him from James, son of Zebedee, who was another of the disciples and one of Jesus’ inner circle. James the Lesser went on to preach in Palestine and Egypt, and tradition maintains that he was crucified.
Judas betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver and hanged himself afterward. Unlike the rest of the disciples, Judas was from Judea. He was also the treasurer of the group and was often outspoken.
Brother of James the Lesser, Jude was also called Thaddeus. Jude wanted people to know Jesus not as a suffering savior but as a ruling king.
Scripture doesn’t say much about Nathanael, also known as Bartholomew. He preached the gospel in many countries, including India and Armenia.
Matthew’s original name was Levi. His gospel is the first book in the New Testament. Matthew was a tax collector, one of the most hated professions in the Jewish world. At the time, most Jews believed that only God should be paid tribute.
Thomas was ready to die for Jesus upon arriving in Jerusalem. However, his greatest claim to fame was doubting that Jesus had risen from the dead. Only when he touched Jesus’ wounds was Thomas convinced.