12 Apostles and their Characteristics

Characteristics of the Apostles

Studying The 12 Apostles and their Characteristics made us understand that irrespective of the apostles’ character, these men became the pioneering leaders of the New Testament church, but they were not without faults and shortcomings.

Interestingly, not one of the chosen apostles was a scholar or rabbi.

But God chose them for a purpose — to fan the flames of the gospel that would spread across the face of the earth and continue to burn bright throughout centuries to follow.

God selected and used each of these regular guys to carry out his exceptional plan.

The twelve disciples were, according to Christianity, ordinary men who followed the teachings of Jesus Christ.

After witnessing His crucifixion and His resurrection, and His ascension, these men were sent out to spread the word of Christianity and be witnesses to the work of God.

The Leading Apostles and their Characteristics

  • Andrew – open-minded
  • Bartholomew – composed
  • James – fanatical
  • James the son of Alphaeus – quietness
  • John – passionate
  • Judas – traitor
  • Jude – intense
  • Matthew – humble
  • Peter – impulsive
  • Philip – inquisitive
  • Simon the Zealot – strong-willed
  • Thomas – pessimism

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Apostle Peter

The characteristics of Peter are transparent and easily analyzed. He appears to have been the leader of the apostles on every occasion. He is named first in every list of them and was their common spokesman. Peter was known for being bold, confident, courageous, frank, impulsive, energetic, vigorous, strong, loving, and faithful to his Master despite his defection before the crucifixion.

He was indeed liable to change, and inconsistency prevailed at times. Because of his peculiar temperament, Peter sometimes appeared forward and rash. Yet, his virtues and faults had their common root in his enthusiastic disposition.

Such was Peter’s makeup, his nature, and his personality traits. Peter was not a phony. However, at times, he was the type of individual who did not think before acting. He had the strongest character in the group, and he frequently served as a spokesman for the disciples. He was their recognized leader.

Apostle Andrew

Andrew was not the greatest of the apostles, yet he is typical of those men of open-minded understanding and sounds common sense without whom the success of any great movement cannot be assured. Void of the boldness and ruggedness of Peter’s character, to which only a few can aspire, Andrew had that feature that makes him a pattern within reach of all – a simple, earnest determination to carry out the dictates of his convictions.

Another feature of Andrew was his eagerness to win souls in private to Jesus. Andrew was not a powerful public speaker. He was a low-key individual who was very trustworthy.

While we admire Peter as the foremost Apostle through whom 3,000 were added to the church on the day of Pentecost, let us not forget that without Andrew, “Simon” would never have become “Peter.” So, well-known was his love for souls that when certain Greeks desired to see Jesus, Andrew was the person to whom Philip brought them.

Apostle James (son of Zebedee)

The next Apostle we will look at is James, the son of Zebedee and the older brother of John. From the time, he was ordained an apostle, James occupied a prominent place among the apostles and, along with Peter and John, became the special confidant of Jesus. These three apostles alone were present at the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Luke 8:51), at the Transfiguration, and at the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Shortly after the Transfiguration, when Jesus was determined to go to Jerusalem, in Luke 9:51, they were passing through Samaria, the fury of James and John was kindled by the unkind reception given to our Lord by the crowd,

It was probably for this type of hotheaded rashness and fanaticism that the surname “Boanerges,” which means “Sons of Thunder,” was bestowed on them when they were ordained to the Twelve. Note, however, that there was some excuse for their action.

The impression left by the Transfiguration was still greatly upon them. They felt strongly that their Lord, whom they had just beheld “in His glory” with “His countenance altered” and “shining garments,” should not be subjected to such indignities by the Samaritans.

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Apostle John (James’ brother)

John was the kind of man who could profit from the rebuke of Jesus. John’s passionate disposition was held in check and under control, and he was allowed to vent only on occasions when it was permissible and even necessary.

John’s gospel writings note the intensity that he had displayed but directed only against those who refused to believe in and acknowledge Jesus as Christ.

John also held an intimate connection with the Lord. He was a young man of fiery zeal and a tendency toward intolerance and exclusiveness, evident in his desire to call down fire upon the Samaritan village.

His tendency toward exclusiveness is manifested in his mother’s request as to the place her sons were to occupy in the kingdom – the highest positions.

Apostle Phillip

Along with Andrew and other fellow townsmen, Philip had journeyed to Bethany to hear the teaching of John the Baptist, and there he received his first call from Christ.

This is strengthened by the fact that he acted as the spokesman for the Greeks at the Passover. Of a weaker mold than Andrew, he was the one whom the Greeks would first appeal to when seeking answers from the Lord. Philip was very interested, asked probing questions, and sympathized and understood the doubts and difficulties that the Greeks had.

While Andrew was practical, strong-minded, and naturally the type of man to win over the impulsive, head-strong Peter, the slower Philip, versed in the Scriptures, appealed more to the critical Nathanael and the cultured Greeks. Philip was very cautious, deliberate, and desirous of submitting all truth to the test of sensual experience.

Apostle Bartholomew

One of the first characteristics of Apostle Bartholomew or Nathaniel was what appeared to be a prejudice in him, as when he says,

“Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?”


This is not to condemn or judge, but merely to try to give you a picture of what he was like in the natural realm as well as the spiritual realm.

Nathanael or Bartholomew appears to be a calm, retiring, behind-the-scenes type whom a man may not recognize, but God does.

According to tradition, he was crucified upside down after being flayed alive.

There is no further reference to him in the New Testament.

Apostle Thomas

Thomas, as many of you know, was known as the doubter in the group. When he said,

“Let us also go, that we may die with Him,”


This was not a statement of courage but one of pessimism.

Thomas tended to stress the unfavorable or take the gloomiest possible view of things. On the night before our Lord’s death, Thomas asked that famous question.

He is typical of many individuals who have certain conflicting principles difficult to reconcile.

He was the type of individual who seemed to have difficulty recovering quickly from setbacks, and he was inclined to look upon life with eyes of gloom or despair.

However, he still was a man of courage and unselfishness. With his perplexed faith in the teaching of Jesus, there was mingled a sincere love for Jesus, the teacher.

Apostle Matthew

Matthew is called “Matthew” in the first gospel, while in the second and third gospels, he is called “Levi.” Then in the book of Acts, he is once again called Matthew.

Being a tax collector, Matthew was especially hated by the Jews because they considered the tax collectors to be evil, wicked men.

Whether he had more to repent of than his neighbors, we cannot tell. He indeed belonged to a class of men, many of whom were truly guilty of fraud and extortion, but Matthew may have been an exception.

We can only say this, if he had been covetous, the spirit of greed was now gone.

If he had ever been guilty of oppressing the poor, he now despised such work. He had grown weary of collecting revenue from a reluctant population and was glad to follow one who had come to take burdens off instead of laying them on, to release from debts instead of collection from them with severity.

James (son of Alphaeus)

James is generally identified as James the Little or the Less, the brother of Joseph and son of Mary. In each list of the apostles, he is mentioned in the ninth position.

He is said to be the brother of Jude.

We know very little of his background except that some teach that he was known for his quietness and humility.

Perhaps the type of individual who doesn’t stand out in a crowd but is always faithful.

Thaddeus (also known as Judas, son of James and Lebbaeus)

Judas, surnamed Thaddeus, was also called Judas the Zealot and was a very enthusiastic and intense individual, MAT 10:3. The only incident recorded of Judas is in JOH 14:22, where during Christ’s address to the disciples after the last supper he put the question, JOH 14:22-25 “Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him,

‘Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us, and not to the world?’


Jesus answered and said to him,

‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words, and the word you hear is not Mine, but the Fathers who sent Me.


These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you.'”

He seems to have been a follower who needed to fall in love with his Lord. Tradition says he preached in Assyria and Persia and died a martyr in Persia.

Simon (the Zealot also known as Simon the Canaanite)

Simon is called the Zealot and the Canaanite to distinguish him from Simon Peter. He was an ex-member of a fanatical Jewish sect called the Zealots.

Members of this group were passionate opponents of Roman rule in Palestine. As a Zealot, Simon hated any foreign domination or interference.

The Zealots were also known for their fierce advocacy of the Mosaic rituals. He was strong-willed, and once he made up his mind, he was the type of individual to go all the way with what he believed.

He was not a leader but a tremendous strong-willed follower. Simon received his call to the apostleship and Andrew and Peter, the sons of Zebedee, Thaddaeus, and Judas Iscariot at the Sea of Tiberius.

Although Simon, like most of the apostles, was probably a Galilean, the designation “Canaanite” is regarded as political rather than geographical significance.

Judas Iscariot

Interestingly, Judas Iscariot is always identified as such – Judas Iscariot. Judas was from Kerioth, which means he was near Hebron at birth, and being reared there, he is the only non-Galilean that Jesus chose.

He was the only one from Judea and probably the sharpest of the twelve – that’s why he was treasurer.

Don’t always think that the brightest is the best of the bunch. What you should pay attention to is character and attitude – not intellectual ability only. Our Lord does not grade according to SATs; He looks at the heart.

One of Judas’ characteristics proves He did not care about the poor. He was a hard-hearted man, too concerned with feathering his own nest while others, less fortunate, suffered around him.

He was a thief, stealing funds from the Lord’s treasury, which exposes that Judas was full of avarice or greed. Judas was not in tune with Jesus and rejected the Lord’s message.


What you want to pay attention to is the characteristics of the 12 apostles and attitude, not intellectual ability only. What did these men have except one? They were available, they were flexible, they were teachable, and they were dependable. With these four traits, the character can be built.

There was not a great deal of intellectual ability within them, except probably with Judas Iscariot, but they had the things from which character could be built. They were Galileans, also. Galileans were easily recognized when they spoke. This is why during the trial of Jesus, it was a simple matter for the servant girl to detect Simon Peter as one of Jesus’ disciples.



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