Jesus' Disciples

By Mary Jane Chaignot

Categories: Jesus' Apostles

  • The Gospels and Acts do not agree on the names of the Twelve.
Matthew Mark Luke John
Simon Simon Simon Peter
Andrew, his brother   Andrew, his brother  
James James James James
John, his brother John, his brother John, his brother John, his brother
Philip Andrew Philip Andrew
  Philip   Philip
Bartholomew Bartholomew Bartholomew Thomas
Thomas Matthew Matthew Bartholomew
Matthew (tax collector) Thomas Thomas Matthew
James Son of Alphaeus James Son of Alphaeus James Son of Alphaeus James Son of Alphaeus
Thaddaeus Thaddaeus Simon (zealot) Simon (zealot)
Simon (Canaanaean) Simon (Canaanaean) Judas (Son of James) Judas (Son of James)
Judas Iscariot Judas Iscariot Judas Iscariot  
  • The gospel of John does not have a list of the Twelve.
  • Andrew was the brother of Simon Peter and the son of Jonah.
  • In the Synoptics, Jesus called the two brothers while they were fishing. According to John, Andrew was originally a follower of John the Baptist and when he heard John say, “Behold the lamb of God,” he left John to follow Jesus. Only then did he find his brother, Simon, and together they began to follow Jesus.
  • In the gospel of John, they are from Bethsaida; in the Synoptics they live in Capernaum. (Maybe they moved as they got older.)
  • Andrew is a Greek name, but he was, no doubt, a conscientious Jew (especially if he was a follower of John the Baptist and awaiting the Messiah).
  • Jesus nicknamed James and John “Boanerges,” which means sons of thunder.
  • James and John were brothers, the sons of Zebedee, and also fishermen.
  • Peter, James, and John accompanied Jesus at the Transfiguration, at the raising of Jairus’ daughter, and at the Garden of Gethsemane. They were part of his inner circle.
  • James and John requested a special place with Jesus in the messianic kingdom. (The other disciples were furious upon hearing this.)
  • James is the only disciple whose martyrdom is related in the New Testament (See Acts 12:1-3). He was probably the first to be put to death.
  • Little is known about James, the son of Alphaeus, apart from his being on the list of the Twelve.
  • Most scholars think Judas, the son of James (different James from the one just mentioned), is probably the same person as Thaddaeus of Matthew and Mark.
  • Scholars disagree on whether this Thaddeus/Judas was the author of the book of Jude. (Jude is a shortened version of Judas.)
  • Judas Iscariot was the treasurer of the group and may have been reclining next to Jesus at the Last Supper.
  • There is no consensus on the meaning of Iscariot. Some scholars think the name was derived from Issachar, or it might mean “a man from Karioth,” although they don’t know where that was. It could also mean “the assassin,” “liar” or “hypocrite.”
  • Recently, scholars have challenged Judas’ motivation in betraying Jesus. Some see him as fulfilling the role of revolutionary. He intended his betrayal to set in motion the messianic age. Surely Jesus could command a legion of angels to deliver him. (Scholarship is still evolving on him.)
  • Judas felt deep regret afterwards and sought to return the money to the priests.
  • After the priests refused him, Judas hanged himself (Mt. 27:5).
  • Tradition has it that his body fell headlong and split open (Acts 1:18). (This tradition is based on the assumption that evil men should die horrendous deaths.)
  • The priests did not want to put his “blood money” into the temple treasury, so they bought a field and named it the “Field of Blood” or the potter’s field.
  • Nothing is known about Bartholomew apart from this list of the Twelve. (However, some people think the Nathanael mentioned in John 1:45-51 might be the same person because there is no mention of Bartholomew in John and none of Nathanael in the Synoptics.)
  • Philip is merely mentioned in the list of the Twelve in the Synoptics, but he has a much larger role in the Gospel of John.
  • Philip came from Bethsaida (and therefore might have been acquainted with Simon and Andrew) and was sought out as an intermediary by Greeks who had hoped to have contact with Jesus (John 12:20-23).
  • Thomas was called “Didymus” (meaning “twin”) in the Gospel of John. He, too, plays a larger role in John’s Gospel.
  • Thomas will be forever remembered as “doubting Thomas” for his remarks after hearing about the resurrection.
  • Not all scholars are convinced that Matthew was the tax collector named Levi, but most think that he was and that he was known by both names (much like Simon Peter).
  • Since Levi was the son of Alphaeus, if he and Matthew were the same person, then Matthew was probably the brother of James.
  • As a tax collector, Matthew was in the service of Herod Antipas and collected duty on all the merchandise that was transported in and out of the area as well as taxes from the fishing industry. (He was probably well known within the community and had a heinous reputation.)
  • Most scholars think Simon the zealot and Simon from Canaanaean were the same individual. Canaanaean doesn’t mean from Canaan. It is the Aramaic equivalent of zealot or enthusiast.
  • Simon might have been identified as an enthusiast based on his previous activities with the Zealots, fanatical opponents of the Romans.
  • The word “disciple” means an apprentice or a pupil who attaches himself to a teacher.


Achtemeier, Paul. Harper's Bible Dictionary. San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, 1985.

Aland, Kurt. Synopsis of the Four Gospels. Germany: Biblia-Druck Stuttgart, 1987.

The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1962.

Bible Characters