The topic of the apostles, who they were, what they did prior to their selection by Christ, their accomplishments after the death of Jesus, and their exits from the earthly realm (death) have always piqued my interest.  This is an overview of Scripture to know more about the men who continued to shake and shape the world after the Lord’s crucifixion.

There are four listings of the apostles.  The names are very similar, but not exact in each of the listings.

  • Matthew 10:2 – 4  “Now 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 Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.”
  • Mark 3:16 – 19  “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, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Canaanite; and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.”
  • Luke 6:13 – 16 “And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve who He also named apostles: Simon, whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; James and John; Philip and Bartholomew; Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called the Zealot; Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot who also became a traitor.”
  • Acts 1:13 “And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son of James.”

So, how much do we really know about each of the original apostles?  Here is a brief overview of each of the men who personally walked with Jesus and went on after His death to turn the world up-side-down with their faith.

Peter – also known as Simon Peter and Cephas;

  • is named first in all four of the accounts listing the apostles, causing many scholars to believe Peter was the ordained leader of the apostles after the death of Jesus;
  • brother of Andrew;
  • fisherman by trade at Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee (Matt. 4:18);
  • married (Matt. 8:14);
  • the family of Peter and Andrew lived in Capernaum (John 1:44)
  • Death:   “he was crucified, his head being down and his feet upward, himself so requiring, because he was (he said) unworthy to be crucified after the same form and manner as the Lord was.”  FBM

Andrew

  • brother of Peter;
  • lived in the city of Bethsaida (John 1:44)  NTB;
  • a disciple of John the Baptist;
  • fisherman by trade (Matt. 4:18);
  • the family of Peter and Andrew live in Capernaum (John 1:44)
  • Death: “he was taken and crucified on a cross, the two ends of which were transversely in the ground.  Hence the derivation of the term, St. Andrew’s Cross.”  FBM

James the older brother of John and the son of Zebedee; also named the Sons of Thunder by Jesus (Mark 3:17); some circles also recognize him as James the Great

  • James and John were related to Christ Jesus as their mother, Salome, was a sister to Mary, the mother of Jesus.  ISBE;
  • James and John were fishermen, working with their father, Zebedee, and were in partnership with Simon Peter (Matt. 5:10 and Mark 1:19);
  •  they owned several boats and employed hired servants (Luke 5:11; Mark 1:20)  ISBE;
  • the establishment they possessed must have been considerable;
  • Death:  “as James was led to the place of martyrdom, his accuser was brought to repent of his conduct by the apostle’s extraordinary courage and undauntedness, and fell down at his feet to request his pardon, professing himself a Christian, and resolving that James should not receive the crown of martyrdom alone.  Hence they were both beheaded at the same time.”  FBM

John – the ‘beloved disciple’, the younger brother of James and also the son of Zebedee

  • James and John were related to Christ Jesus as their mother, Salome, was a sister to Mary, the mother of Jesus.  ISBE;
  • was called “the disciple whom Jesus loved”  (John 13:3, 19:26; 20:2; 21:7; 21:20);
  • John was a disciple of John the Baptist  (John 1:35)  ISBE;
  • called a “pillar” of the apostles by Paul  (Gal. 2:9)  ISBE;
  • Founded the churches of Smyrna, Pergamum, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea and Thyatira.;
  • wrote the Gospel of John, 1st John, 2nd John, 3rd John, and the book of Revelation;
  • Death:  “John was the only disciple to escape a violent death.  However, this does not mean that others didn’t try to inflict harm upon him.  It is confirmed that John was cast into a cauldron of boiling oil.  He escaped by miracle, without injury.”  FBM

Matthew – formerly know as Levi (Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27), changed his name to Matthew immediately after Christ called out to “follow Me.”

  • was a toll-gatherer (tax collector) or publican at Capernaum;
  • the same day that Jesus called out to him, he made a “great feast” in which he invited Jesus and the disciples and probably a lot of his old friends and co-workers;
  • he was selected as one of the twelve disciples (Luke 6:15);
  • wrote his gospel in Hebrew, which was later translated into Greek by James the Less;
  • tradition states that he first preached for 15 years in Palestine, after which he went to the Ethiopians, Macedonians, Syrians, Persians, Parthians and Medes.  ISBE;
  • most of his work took place in Parthia and Ethopia;
  • Death:  “slain by a halberd in the city of Nadabah, A.D. 60”  FBM;  a halberd is a military weapon consisting of a combination of a spear and a battle-ax with a handle about six feet long.  WD;  “The stories of the Roman Catholic church that he died the death of a martyr on September 21 and of the Greek church that this occurred on November 10 are without any historical basis.  Clemet of Alexandria (Strom., iv. 9) give the explicit denial of Heracleon that Matthew suffered martyrdom.”  ISBE

Thomas – also called Didymus; referred to as “The Twin” (John 21;2)

  • the disciple who caused the term “doubting Thomas”  (John 20:25);
  • preached in Parthia and India;
  • Death:  “exciting the rage of the pagan priests, he was martyred by being thrust through with a spear.”  FBM

Phillip

  • was born in Bethsaida (John 1:44);
  • was the first to be called a disciple;
  • labored in Upper Asia;
  • Death:  “he was scourged, thrown into prison, and afterwards crucified, A.D. 54 at Heliopolis, in Phrygia.”  FBM

Bartholomew – referred to as Nathanial in the book of John

  • was from  Cana in Galilee  (John 21:2);
  • preached in several countries;
  • translated the Gospel of Matthew into the language of India, where he labored;
  • Death:  “He was at length cruelly beaten and then crucified by the impatient idolaters.”  FBM;  “The ‘martyrdom of Bartholomew’ states that he was placed in a sack and cast into the sea.”  ISBE

James (son of Alphaeus)

  • referred to as the son of Alphaeus in each of the four listings of the disciples.
  • Mentioned in Acts 12:17, this reference may indicate that he was the leader of the brethren in this area; “But motioning to them with his hand to keep silent, he declared to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison.  And he said, ‘Go, tell these things to James and the brethren.’  And he departed and went to another place.”

Simon – surnamed Zelotes; also referred to as Simon the Zealot

  • preached in Mauritania, Africa and in Great Britain;
  • Death:  “he was crucified in Great Britain in A.D. 74.”  FBM

Thaddeus – referred to as Lebbaues (Matt. 10:3); referred to as Judas, son of James

  • Death:  “he was crucified at Edessa, A.D. 72.”  FBM

Matthias

  • he was the one chosen to take the place of Judas Iscariot (who betrayed Jesus) when the apostles cast lots to choose between him and Joseph Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus (Acts 1:23);
  • Death:  “he was stoned at Jerusalem and then beheaded.”  FBM

Judas Iscariot – also know as the betrayer of Christ for 30 pieces of silver (John 18:3)

  • Jesus answered, “Did not I choose you the twelve, and one of you is a devil”  (John 6:70);
  • John’s commentary says, “Now He spake of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve” (John 6;71), implying that Judas was already know to Jesus as being in spirit one of those who “went back, and walked no more with Him.”  (John 6:66)  It is writeen that “Jesus knew from the beginning who should betray Him.”  (John 6:64);
  • Appointed keeper of the purse, he disregarded the warnings of Jesus concerning greed and hypocrisy (compare Matt 6:20 & Luke 12:1-3) and appropriated the funds to his own use.
  • EVERY MENTION of his name includes the reference of the fact he was the one who betrayed Christ.
  • Death:  He hanged himself (Matt. 27:5) and then fell headlong and burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out (Acts 1:18).

References

  • EBD = Easton’s Bible Dictionary
  • FBM = Foxes’ Book of Martyrs
  • ISBE = International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
  • NTB = Nave’s Topical Bible
  • WD = Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language