- Simon Peter, the Rock
- Andrew, the First-Called
- James, the Son of Thunder
- John, the other Son of Thunder
- Philip, the Dragonslayer, and Goat-Converter
- Bartholomew, or maybe Nathanael
- Thomas, the Doubter and the Twin
- Matthew, the Evangelist and Taxman
- James, maybe Less, maybe Just
- Jude, the Obscure
- Simon, the What?
- Judas Iscariot, the Betrayer (or is he?)
- Conclusion The Untold Truth of the 12 Disciples
- Resources The Untold Truth of the 12 Disciples
The Untold Truth of the Apostles
The untold truth of the 12 Disciples proves you don’t have to be a regular attendee of a Christian church to know that Jesus, whom Christians worship as the Son of God and Savior of the World, famously had 12 men who followed him around most of the time and listened to him talk.
They also regularly asked him stupid questions so he could explain the essence of God’s Kingdom in simple analogies. These 12 men are commonly referred to as Jesus’ disciples, which simply means “students,” but they are more appropriately referred to as the Twelve 12, which means “those sent forth,” because they were given a literal mission from God to preach to all countries.
While St. Paul is sometimes referred to be one of the Twelve Apostles, he never met Jesus during his lifetime. And while notorious traitor Judas Iscariot was replaced among the 12 Apostles by Matthias, much wasn’t said about Matthias. So, just looking at the disciples named in the Gospels, here’s what we know and what we don’t — from canon, Apocrypha, tradition, and elsewhere about the untold truth of 12 Disciples of Jesus.
Simon, the son of Jonah (or John), better known by the cool moniker Jesus gave him, Peter, is probably the most renowned of the 12 Apostles, and possibly Jesus’ first. (Jesus most likely called him Kapha in Aramaic, which translates as “Peter” in Greek.)
Because both terms imply “rock,” his name is Simon “the Rock” John’s Son.) Peter is the subject of several notable episodes in the canonical Gospels, most notably the episode in which he (briefly) walks on water, the time he denied knowing Jesus three times, and the time he chopped off a someone’s ear to save Jesus from being imprisoned.
Peter was the first head of the early church by the time Jesus returned to Heaven; for Catholics, he is the first pope, and for the Eastern church, he is the first Patriarch of Antioch. In art, he is usually shown clutching keys, a reference to Jesus’ promise to give him the keys to Heaven and Earth. In art, he is commonly paired with the Apostle Paul; you can tell the difference because Paul has a long philosopher’s beard (and is typically bald) while Peter has a short working man’s beard.
To see the end of Peter’s life, you have to turn to the extracanonical Acts of Peter, which shows him having a deadly wizard battle with the evil Simon Magus before being shamed by the ghost of Jesus into going to Rome to be crucified upside-down, and now an upside-down cross is called a Cross of St. Peter.
While there is no shortage of information to be found about Peter — in the canonical Gospels, in the Acts of the Apostles, in the two New Testament letters that bear his name, and the numerous extracanonical books that bear his name — there is considerably less to be found about his brother Andrew.
The Gospels of Matthew and Mark tell us that Peter and Andrew (whose name comes from the Greek word for “manliness”) were fishermen that Jesus called to be “fishers of men”; the Gospel of John adds that Andrew and the Apostle John were followers of Jesus’ cousin John the Baptist and he was the first to recognize Jesus’ divinity.
For this reason, the Orthodox Church calls him the First-Called. Otherwise, apart from being mentioned by name as being present at important events, the only other major thing Andrew does in the canon is found the kid with the loaves and fishes that Jesus uses to feed the five thousand.
Outside of canon, however, the Acts of Andrew tells us that Andrew went on to perform great deeds, including raising the dead, magically defeating entire armies by himself, escaping wild animals, doing a magical abortion, summoning an earthquake, and rescuing a fellow Apostle from cannibals. According to tradition, he was crucified on an X-shaped cross, known as a St. Andrew’s Cross, like the one found on the Scottish flag.
The brother’s Peter and Andrew were not the only ones in Jesus’ entourage. Even more well-known as a pair are James and John, Zebedee’s sons, who are also known as the Sons of Thunder, probably due to their quick tempers.
To distinguish himself from the other apostle named James, James is commonly referred to as James the Greater, with “greater” implying that he was older (though he also has a more significant role within the Gospels). James and John were also fishermen summoned by Jesus on the beach, and they appeared to be Jesus’ primary dudes among the Twelve Apostles, along with Peter.
For example, when Jesus changed into beams of light and the spirit of Moses appeared, those three were the only ones present. James and John thought they were significant enough to be seated next to Jesus in Heaven. (Jesus said, “No.”)
According to the Acts of the Apostles, King Herod Agrippa had James slain with a sword, making him the first of the Twelve Apostles to be killed. As a result, he had no post-canonical adventures, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t non-canonical novels credited to him. The most prominent of them is the Secret Book of James, in which Jesus discloses the mysteries of redemption to James and Peter after his resurrection.
Several New Testament names are so prevalent that it can be difficult to determine who’s who at times. Names like Mary, Simon, James, Judas, and John are among them.
Many churches believe that John the Apostle, the son of Zebedee and brother of James, is the same person as John the Evangelist (who wrote the Gospel of John), John the Presbyter (who [probably] wrote the three Epistles of John in the New Testament), John of Patmos (who wrote the Book of Revelation), and the mysterious figure known as the Disciple Jesus Lo.
But they may be all distinct persons. At the very least, we may be certain that John the Baptist is a distinct individual.
According to legend, John was the youngest of the Twelve Apostles and outlived all of them due to a combination of his youth and the fact that he was never martyred, despite several attempts.
According to the non-canonical Acts of John, someone tried to poison John’s wine, but he dissolved the poison by blessing his cup. (This is usually shown in art by John holding a cup containing a snake.) His other exploits include resurrecting a married couple from the dead, using mind bullets to destroy an Artemis altar, and magically forcing fleas to leave his mat until he’s finished sleeping.
Once you’ve passed the two pairs of brothers among the Twelve Apostles, the other disciples of Jesus begin to fade into the background. For example, Philip (whose Greek name translates as “the man likes horses”) is listed as coming from Peter and Andrew’s hometown, presenting Jesus to another of the Twelve Apostles, and then, like, being there at other things.
He also warns Jesus that they would never be able to purchase enough food to serve 5,000 people (whoops). That’s all there is to it. From then, tracing his biography becomes a bit more difficult, as there’s another man named Philip the Evangelist who is often confused with him.
Fortunately, the fourth-century Acts of Philip assist to fill in some gaps about what occurred to Philip after the New Testament ended. In it, Philip goes to Greece, Phrygia, and Syria with his biological sister, Mariamne, and spiritual brother, Bartholomew.
During his journeys, he converts a talking goat and a talking leopard to Christianity before defeating a dragon. However, he converts the incorrect magistrate’s wife, who has Philip and Bartholomew executed on upside-down crosses. (The Cross of Philip, on the other hand, is upside down.) Bartholomew is initially liberated but became a martyr as well.
Because he is only mentioned in three of the four Gospels, the Apostle Bartholomew has less information about him in the canonical Gospels than most of the Twelve Apostles. The Gospel of John never mentions a Bartholomew, but rather a Nathanael, whom many academics believe to be the same person.
Part of the reason for this is that Bartholomew isn’t a legitimate name — it simply means “Son of Talmai” — and the other primary reason is that in the first three Gospels, Bartholomew is usually associated with Philip, and John describes Nathanael as Philip’s buddy whom he presents to Jesus.
That’s about all we know from canon, but thankfully, post-canonical tradition has our back once more. The Questions of Bartholomew, a particularly amazing text, depicts Bart as the only one of the Twelve Apostles willing to ask Jesus the tough questions after his resurrection, and the answers include Jesus peeling back the ground like a blanket to open a portal to Hell and summoning Satan so Bartholomew can step on his neck, as well as the secret of God and Mary’s first date.
There are several versions of his death, but the most well-known is that he was flayed alive by the King of Armenia, hence he is often portrayed in art holding his empty skin.
Thomas has survived in public memory considerably longer than the majority of the Twelve Apostles, thanks to one event in one Gospel – John.
We still refer to him as “doubting Thomas” because he stated that he would not believe Jesus had been resurrected unless he saw him and felt his nail holes.
Thomas is also known by the Greek name Didymus; both names imply “twin,” therefore we may assume he was a twin. Whose twin, however, is unknown.
There is a plethora of apocryphal writings about or attributed to Thomas, including the Gospel of Thomas, which contains some highly unorthodox Jesus sayings, and the renowned Infancy Gospel of Thomas, which describes Jesus’ experiences as a kid.
In the Acts of Thomas, Thomas journeys to India (the area with which he is most identified even now) and mentally directs a group of hounds and a lion to eat a gentleman who slapped him, then confronts a dragon and numerous demons.
According to legend, he is the one who baptized the Three Kings and, after converting the King of India by resurrecting his brother from the dead, was riddled to death with spears. Sounds pretty loyal for a guy most famous for lacking faith.
The Apostle Matthew is perhaps more known as an evangelist than as one of the Twelve Apostles.
The first book of the New Testament is named after him, and the Gospel of Matthew is said to have been written by him.
However, he does not do much in the Gospels themselves.
According to Matthew’s Gospel, he was a tax collector (considered scummier back then than they are now) who abandoned his work in the middle of a shift when Jesus asked him to hang out.
This tale is told by Mark and Luke as well, but their tax collector is named Levi, thus tradition holds that the two names relate to the same guy.
The Gospel of John makes no mention of Matthew.
Unfortunately, Matthew does not have any interesting post-canon experiences, but he is linked with a lot of non-canonical works.
Because the Gospel of Matthew was written for a Jewish audience, Matthew is credited with several third-century gospels produced for ethnically Jewish Christians such as the Nazarenes and Ebionites.
There is also an Infancy Gospel ascribed to him, although it is mainly a retelling of Thomas and James’ more renowned Infancy Gospels. Matthew is thought to have been martyred, although no one knows how or where.
James is one of the most prevalent and, as a result, most perplexing names in the New Testament. The Apostle James, son of Alphaeus, is most likely, although not always, the same as the James the Less (younger) described in Matthew and Mark.
He might be the pivotal person in the early church known as James the Just, also known as James the Brother of Jesus.
And, depending on the type of religion you attend, how you interpret the word “brother” may differ greatly. (According to the Gospels, Jesus had at least four brothers: James, Jude, Joses, and Simon; however, churches that believe in Mary’s everlasting virginity claim that “brother” in this context implies “cousin.”)
Earlier legends said they were Joseph’s sons from a prior marriage.) If James, son of Alphaeus, is James the Just, he was the first head of the church in Jerusalem and is the credited author of works as diverse as the canonical Epistle of James and the amazing Infancy Gospel of James, which tells the story of Mary’s childhood up to the birth of Jesus, during which a midwife’s hand is burned off to test whether Mary is still a virgin.
If James the Less isn’t also James the Just, the only thing we know about him is that he was crucified in Egypt.
Throughout the Gospels, the Apostle Jude is given many names, including Thaddeus in Matthew and Mark (some manuscripts of Matthew even call him “Lebbaeus who was surnamed, Thaddeus). The Gospel of John emphasizes that he is not the same Judas as Judas Iscariot.
This difference is maintained in current times by referring to him as St. Jude or Judas Thaddeus rather than just Judas. Jude, like James the Less, may or may not be one of Jesus’ brothers (or “brothers”). If he is, he is most likely the author of the canonical Epistle of Jude, which claims to have been authored by James the Just’s brother.
Because of the misunderstanding between Judas Thaddeus and Judas Iscariot, St. Jude is known as the saint of lost causes. The notion is that Christians would be reluctant to pray to St. Jude for fear of mistakenly praying to Judas Iscariot, thus they would have to be desperate to call on Judas.
Because Jude and Bartholomew are said to be the first to bring Christianity to Armenia, they are both patron saints of that country. Instead, in the apocryphal Acts of Simon and Jude, Jude is paired with Simon the Zealot, and the two go to Persia, where they are both martyred. In art, Jude is usually shown clutching the ax that murdered him.
The name of the Apostle Simon appears just once in the Bible in various lists of the Twelve Apostles, thus all we know about him is his name. The issue is that even his name becomes muddled in translation. This Simon is known as Simon the Canaanite, Simon the Canaaean, or Simon the Zealot to distinguish him from Simon Peter.
The issue was that Simon was neither from Canaan or Cana. This is a translation mistake since he is known by the Hebrew term “qanai,” which means “zealous,” referring to his other moniker, the Zealot. The difficulty with the name “Zealot” is that it has led many people to assume that this Simon lived in the first century A.D.
The Zealots were a political movement that sought to incite revolt against the Roman conquerors of Judea. The difficulty is that this movement did not emerge until several decades after the events in the Gospels. So, most likely, Simon the Zealot was just really, really into the Bible.
Outside of canon, there’s not much known about Simon: he’s supposed to have journeyed to Persia with Jude, where he was sawed in half. As a result, he is naturally the patron of those who observed things for a living.
Judas Iscariot (the name “Iscariot” is obscure; it could mean “man from Kerioth” or it could be related to the Latin word “Sicarius,” which means “assassin”) is one of history’s most famous villains, placed by Dante in Hell’s innermost circle, being eternally chewed on by Satan alongside the two men who betrayed Caesar.
He is, of course, so widely known for giving up Jesus to the Roman authorities — indicating his identity by kissing him — in return for 30 pieces of silver that the name “Judas” is still used in various situations to denote the treachery of any number of people, animals, or things.
Matthew says Judas regretted his betrayal and hanged himself, while the Acts of the Apostles says he used the silver to buy a field where he tripped and then exploded like a blood Gusher.
The reasons for Judas’ betrayal of Jesus remain unknown. According to Luke and John, he did it under the power of Satan; some recent interpretations suggest Judas was dissatisfied that Jesus was not a more militant political messiah.
The recently discovered Gospel of Judas, on the other hand, says that Judas was, in reality, Jesus’ most devoted disciple. It is said that because Jesus’ crucifixion was an essential step toward salvation, Jesus urged Judas to betray him so that his mission could be completed, and Judas voluntarily accepted the eternal stain on his character.
Conclusion The Untold Truth of the 12 Disciples
The untold truth of the 12 Disciples in summary shows how 12 men responded to the call to be disciples of Jesus.
They were Jews, illiterate commoners, and humble believers who gave up all to follow Christ. Jesus trained these guys to be leaders for three years. Jesus intended for the disciples to eventually take over and finish the job He had begun.
What we do know about Jesus is that He picked regular, unpolished individuals to be his apostles. They were the most frequent of the commons. They were farmers and fishermen from rural regions. Christ purposefully avoided the wealthy, aristocratic, and prominent individuals of society, instead favoring the dregs of society. That has always been the case in God’s economy. He exalts the humble and despises the arrogant.
Resources The Untold Truth of the 12 Disciples