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The Apostles Essay

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The Apostles

Introduction

In Mark 10 v 32 -42 Jesus predicts his own future, and, to some extent that of the Disciples, ‘You will drink of the cup that I drink.’[1]

The Apostles

Often the words Apostles and Disciples are used interchangeably, but it is obvious from close reading of the gospels that many more than 12 people went around with Jesus and would have been considered to be his disciples or followers/students of a master and this included women such as Martha and Mary The word Apostles specifically refers to the 12 plus Matthias and Paul. The word means someone sent out, i.e. someone with a specific mission, in this case sent by Jesus to spread the good news of the kingdom of God. Matthew 28 v 19 records a post resurrection appearance of Jesus to his close followers in which he gives them their commission:-

            Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of  the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always,  to the very end of the age.[2]

This all but Judas did, he being already dead. They spent their lives spreading the good news in obedience to the command of Christ. In almost every case this led to death by martyrdom.

Upon the defection and death of Judas the remaining apostles felt the need to replace him. They elected Matthias, from among those who had been with the group right from the beginning of Jesus’ mission – See Acts 1 v 21

Paul comes into the picture rather later. At first he had opposed the Christians. There has even been a supposition that it was he was the same young man who held the clocks of those stoning Stephen in Acts 7 v 57. We are told in Acts 8 v 1 ‘Saul was there, giving approval to his death’[3]. Yet in chapter 9 Luke tells us of Saul meeting with the ascended Jesus on the road to Damascus, and how this changed his whole life, so much so that he even changed his name, for he was converted and also given a mission, ‘Get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’ That Paul clearly considered himself to be an apostle, even though he had not been with Jesus from the beginning is clear from passages such as the opening of Ist Corinthians where he describes himself as ‘Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus.’ Unlike the others he was not from Israel, but from Tarsus, but nevertheless a Jew from birth as the others were.

According to Mark and Matthew and Luke  in the Synoptic Gospels, the other apostles were Peter, also known as Simon or Cephas; his brother Andrew, a former follower of John the Baptist, James and John the sons of Zebedee; Phillip from Bethsaida;   Bartholomew who may be the same person as the Nathanael mentioned in John 1 v 45-51, as the name Bartholomew simply refers back to his parentage – the son of Talemai; Matthew the tax collector, also known as Levi; Thomas, also known as Judas or Didymus ( Both the words Didymus and Thomas mean a twin, the first in Greek and the second in Hebrew); James, son of Alphaeus, sometimes identified as James the Less or James the Just; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot – which probably means ‘of Kerioth’ a place name , though some believe it refers to the fact that he wore a dagger.

Luke differs slightly in his record in that he includes Judas son of James instead of Thaddeus and Simon the Zealot is referred to as Simon the Canaanite.

In John’s account three of these are not identified by name :- James , son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot and Matthew.

Andrew

In the Orthodox tradition Andrew is referred to as Protokletus or the First Called as he was the first of the 12 that Jesus is recorded as calling into service.[4] Andrew Damick tells how church tradition says that Andrew began his missionary activity in the Roman provinces of Vithynia and Pontus, that is on the shores Black Sea. He later traveled to Byzantium where he ordained its first bishop, Stachys who had been an early follower of  Jesus. There are many stories recorded of Andrew performing miracles in the name of Jesus, even raising a young man from the dead. On one occasion he was badly injured by a hostile mob, but Jesus is said to have come and miraculously healed him. The wife and brother of the Proconsul Aegeates were converted. This so infuriated the Proconsul that he ordered the execution of Andrew on an X shaped cross. This was done with the saint upside down according to Damick. So many people mourned Andrew that the Proconsul is said to have been so overcome that he had killed a holy man that he committed suicide.

In 357 the Emperor Constantine ordered that Andrew be reburied in Constantinople, but it is said that at least part of the Saint ended in the town which now bears his name in Scotland and he is the patron saint of that land , his cross being on its flag.

James, son of Zebedee.

James was a Galilean fisherman who worked on the lake alongside his father and brother John as in Matthew 4 v 21 where it says specifically that Jesus called them. His own home of Nazareth was only a short distance away and it is highly likely that they knew each other before this meeting. Along with John and Peter he forms an inner circle around Jesus as in Mark 13 v 3 on the Mount of Olives. Mark’s gospel tells us in 3 v 17 that Jesus gave the brothers the nickname ‘the Sons of thunder’, presumably because of their temperament. They are also ambitious, asking Jesus for places next to him in his kingdom – Mark 10 v 35-45. The brothers are present at post-resurrection appearances – John 21 v 2 and at the Ascension – Acts 1 v 13. James died on the orders of Herod Agrippa Ist in about A.D. 44 – Acts 12 v 1-2.

He is often referred to as James the Great in order to distinguish him from James the Less and Jesus’ brother of the same name.

One legend quoted by the Confraternity of Saint James[5] says that when the apostles divided the world into areas for mission James was allocated the Iberian Peninsula. In the apocryphal gospels he is mentioned only once, probably because of his early death. This is in the Gospel of the Ebionites, of which only scraps are known, having been quoted by which survives Epiphanus in the fourth century, who tell a version of his call to discipleship. He is of course closely associated with Spain and in particular with Compostelo where his tomb was believed to have been found in the 9th century after the hermit Pelayo had a vision. It seems unlikely that he did reach Spain especially as St Paul expressed a wish to travel there in Romans 15 v 24 & 28 and he did not normally encroach on the territory of others. If James ever did reach Spain he returned to Jerusalem and martyrdom. Legend says his followers put his corpse in a boa t which was carried by angels to the coast of Spain.

James the Less

James was a common New Testament name. In the Catholic Encyclopaedia Camerlynck, [6] identifies this James as the son of Cleophas and Mary ( John 19 v 25). He is referred to in many early writings and these are listed by Camerlynck. They include the historian Josephus in his Antiquities XX, ix.1. and St Jerome in ‘Illustrious Men 2’He became leader of the Jerusalem church and seems to have lived an abstemious life and was apparently killed by fellow Jews.

John the Evangelist

John, son of Zebedee, ( Mathew 4 v 21) was together with his brother James and Peter the inner circle of the apostles.  He also was the author of the Gospel bearing his name. Several canonical letters are attributed to him, and also the Book of Revelation, called in some Bible versions ‘the Revelation of Saint John the Divine’, for example the King James Bible. He is associated with ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’ in John 13 v 23 and together with Peter he seem to have run to the tomb on hearing that Jesus’ body was no longer there.( John 20 v 3) When dying Jesus placed his mother in John’s care.( John 19 v 26 and 27)Alban Butler says he went to Parthia to preach and records that St Jerome tells how he wrote the gospel when pressed to do so by fellow Christians.[7] Some believe he wrote it on the island of Patmos, others in Ephesus. Either way it was written in his extreme old age in about the year 98 C.E.

Jude/Thaddeus

McBirnie[8] states that Jude was one of the first apostles to go overseas He is believed to have spread the good news in Armenia, perhaps together with Bartholomew and possibly Thomas. There are stories of him in Syria and Persia. He is maybe buried in modern Iran, near the Caspian Sea, having like so many others been martyred. At the beginning of the epistle bearing his name he is said to be the brother of James. In the  book ‘Lives of the Saints’[9] he and James the Less are cited as the children of Cleophas and Mary, a cousin of the virgin Mary.

Judas Iscariot

Judas of Kerioth, a town in Judea, was the treasurer of the group, a dishonest one according to John 12 v 6 . Another theory is that the name means he was a member of the Sicarii or dagger men– i.e. a group who resisted Roman occupation. He is however best known as the betrayer of Jesus. In Matthew 26 this is attributed to simple greed, but in Luke 22 v 3 and in John 13 v 27 the blame is placed upon Satan entering him. A reading of the events of the last supper show that Jesus was aware that Judas was about to betray him as in John 13 v 26.

Matthew 27 says he was remorseful and returned the money before killing himself, but in Acts 1 v 18 Luke tells us through the words of Peter how Judas bought a field with the money and there fell down with his guts bursting out. Just like his former colleagues there are various legends. In April 2006 The National Geographical Society reported the finding of a ‘Gospel of Judas’ in an Egyptian cave.[10] The document dates from about 300 C.E.  but is perhaps a Coptic translation of an earlier work. It portrays Judas as the favorite of Jesus – a totally different perspective on this enigmatic man.

Matthew/Levi

Matthew was a tax collector when Jesus called him into service. According to the Blue Letter Bible Papias, bishop of Heriopolis, associated Matthew with the gospel that bears his name in about A.D. 130, though there are scholars who would prefer to believe that it was written by another Jewish Christian at a later date. He is mentioned 5 times in the New Testament. The man Matthew in Matthew 9 v 9 is the same person as Levi in Luke 5 v 27.There is some disagreement among ancient writers about his. Usually he is thought of as a Galilean, but Eusebius said he was a Syrian according to Jacquier[11] Subsequently he is said to have gone to Ethiopia (south of the Caspian Sea not in Africa). Persia, Parthia, Syria and Macedonia are also referred to. One document mentions his martyrdom in Ponto which may refer to Pontus on the southern shores of the Black Sea.

Matthias

Little is known except that by tradition he died a martyr at Colchis, south of the Black Sea, and now in modern Georgia, perhaps in about 80C.E. and Greek sources say he is buried there. Clement of Alexandria links him with Zacchaeus saying that some identified him so, but Hilgenfeld is cited in the Answers .com article St Matthias[12] as believing he is the same person as Nathanael in John’s Gospel. The Coptic church’s ‘Acts of Andrew and Matthias’ place him in Ethiopia. which agrees with the ‘Synopsis of Dorotheus’ which records his death at Sebastopolis where his burial took place close to a temple dedicated to the sun. The record is further confused by Hippolytus of Rome who stated that Matthias died in Jerusalem of old age, but there was a bishop of Jerusalem of the same name in about 120 C.E. There was a gospel of Matthias, now lost, but mentioned by Origen, Eusebius and Jerome according to the Catholic Encyclopedia. Even his feast day is confused. Catholics remember him on May 14th, Anglicans on February 24th or the14th May, the Eastern Orthodox celebrate St Matthias in August and Episcopalians in May.

Nathaneal/Bartholomew

It was his friend Phillip who introduced Nathanael to Jesus in John 1 v 45 and they are mentioned together in the Synoptic gospels as in Matthew 10 v 3. He is listed as being present at the Ascension. In Acts I v 13. Austin Cline mentions legends that he traveled to India and also that he went with Thaddeus to Armenia where he was flayed alive and then crucified.

Paul

Although Jewish, Paul came from Tarsus,( Acts 9 v 11) the only non-Judean among the Apostles. There is no definitive proof that the met the incarnate Jesus before the Ascension. On the Damascus road, when Paul was traveling to threaten the Christians there as recorded by Luke in Acts 9. His life was turned round and he became the apostle to the Gentiles, founding many churches. He stuck up for the Gentile converts despite some opposition, but in his letter to the Galatians, chapter 2, the matter is reported as resolved. Luke reports him last in Rome under house arrest. He had planned to travel to Spain according to Romans 15 v 28, but it seems likely that he died in Rome. Paul today remains important because of his many writings, among which are those outlining how Christians and the church should conduct itself.

Peter

Together with James and John Peter was part of an inner circle among the apostles. His original name was Simon or Simeon. He was a fisherman, originally from Bethsaida, but lived along with his mother-in-law in Capernaum on the Galilean shore (Matthew 8 v 14). J.P. Kirsch, in his 1911 article, ‘St Peter’[13] cites Clement of Alexandria as saying that he had children. H e comes across in the gospel record as rash on occasions, but also close to the Lord and full of enthusiasm. Luke 5 v 3 tells us that he was a fisherman who owned his own boat. Along with his brother Andrew he was at first interested in the ministry of John the Baptist. He was originally called Simon but Jesus gave him the new name Cephas which means Rock – translated in Latin Peter.( John 1 v 42) He was a leader as in Matthew 16 v 16 where he speaks on behalf of the whole group.  After the Resurrection in John 21 Jesus asks Peter to take care of the flock. It is clear from the Book of Acts and from the Epistles of Paul Peter was active in Israel and in Syria. His imprisonment by Herod is recorded in Acts 12 as is his miraculous release. He and Paul clashed at one time because of Peter’s attitude to non-Jews. Eusebius says in his ‘Church History III, according to Kirsch in his 1911 article,[14] that Peter was the founder of the Antioch church and it seems likely was also in Corinth. Traditionally Peter was martyred in Rome. His first Epistle describes him as being in ‘Babylon’ which is a title given to Rome.( I Peter 5 v 13)

Phillip

Phillip, like Andrew and Peter came from Bethsaida, which means ’house of the fishermen’. The site was unknown for centuries, but in 1987 it was re-discovered  2 km north east of the Sea of Galilee. It was Phillip who brought Nathaniel to Jesus ( John 1 v 46). Later in the same gospel (Chapter12) he brought some Greeks to Jesus. John Mancantelli[15] reports many miracles said to have been performed by Phillip and that he was crucified alongside Bartholomew in Phrygia at the orders of the governor. While they were still alive on the crosses an earthquake occurred and the people demanded that they be taken down. Bartholomew was still alive and went on to baptize many people. His sister Mariamna buried him and then went with Bartholomew to Armenia. She continued to preach until the day she died.

Simon the Zealot

Again there are conflicting stories as to what happened to Simon. He is said to have traveled with the gospel all across North Africa and perhaps even in Briton as there is a tradition that he was executed by crucifixion in Caistor, Lincolnshire in 61 C.E. Another version says he left Britain for Persia and there was martyred by having his body sawn in two according to William McBirnie. [16]

Thomas

Thomas is usually remembered as ‘Doubting Thomas’ as recoded in John 20, but he had another side. It was Thomas who in John 11 v 16 said to his fellow apostles ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him’. There is a Gnostic gospel with his name and by tradition he went to India, where there are still Christian churches in Goa which claim Thomas as their founder. H.Thurston in his 1912 article hints at the possibility of his martyrdom there.[17]

Conclusion

In one sense it seems surprising how little is known about these 14 men, a brief reference here and there only, and many of these references seemingly in conflict with other references. But some of these men lived a long time. They could well have been first in one part of the world and then another. They were special people, most of them having spent three years in the presence of Jesus of Nazareth, so like all famous people stories have accrued around them, some based on fact, just as today we read stories in our newspapers with only elements of fact  within. In another sense though it is not surprising that we know so little  – none of these men were really important  – that honor went to their message. They really did take on the commission given them , and  by the trials they passed through, and in most cases their way of death, really did share in the cup of Christ.

References and Works Cited

Electronic Sources

Bible, New International Version, http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?book_id=47&chapter=28&version=31 (accessed 10th November 2008)

Butler,A. St John , Apostle and Evangelist, taken from ‘The Lives or the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints’ Volume iv, http://www.ewtn.com/library/MARY/JOHNEVAN.htm accessed (10th November 2008)

Camerlynck,A., James outside the Scriptures, ( 1910) Catholic Encyclopaedia, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08280a.htm ( accessed 10th November 2008)

Clement of Alexandria, Stromata III.4, quoted in Catholic Encyclopaedia article St Matthias http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10066a.htm ( accessed 9th November 2008)

Clement of Alexandria, Stromata III.vi, quoted in Catholic Encyclopaedia article St Peter, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11744a.htm (accessed 10th November 2008)

Cline, A. St Bartholomew the Apostle, http://atheism.about.com/od/christianhistory/ig/Jesus-Apostles-Christianity/Saint-Bartholomew-Apostle.htm ( accessed 10th November 2008)

Damick, A, Life of the Holy Apostle Andrew, the First Called: http://www.chrysostom.org/firstcalled/life.html ( accessed 8th November 2008)

Gospel of Judas, The National Geographic Society, 2006, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5327692 ( accessed 10th November 2008).

Hilgenfeld, A. cited in article, St Matthias, at Answers.com http://www.answers.com/St%20matthias accessed 89th November 2008

Jacquier, J.( 1911),St Matthew, the Catholic Encyclopaedia, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10056b.htm ( accessed 10th November 2008)

Jacquier,J., St Matthias ( 1911), St Matthias, the Catholic Encyclopaedia, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10066a.htm ( accessed 9th November 2008)

Kirsch,J. St Peter Prince of the Apostles, the Catholic Encyclopaedia, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11744a.htm ( accessed 10th November 2008.)

Mancantelli, J., Holy and All Praised Apostle Phillip. http://www.stnicholas-billings.org/Saints/Apostles/TheTwelve/apostlephillip.htm ( accessed 10th November 2008)

McBirnie, W. Simon the Zealot, http://www.biblepath.com/simon.html ( accessed 9th November 2008

St James the Apostle, The Confraternity of Saint James: http://www.csj.org.uk/apostle.htm ( accessed 8th November 2008)

St Jude-Apostle-First Century, Lives of the Saints, John Crawley and Co Ltd http://www.ewtn.com/library/MARY/JUDE.htm ( accessed 8th November 2008)

Synopsis of Dorotheus quoted in Catholic Encyclopaedia article St Matthias http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10066a.htm ( accessed 9th November 2008)

The gospel according to Matthew, The Blue Letter Bible, 1st April 2002, http://www.blueletterbible.org/study/intros/matthew.cfm ( accessed 10th November 2008).

Thurston H. (1912). St. Thomas the Apostle, The Catholic Encyclopedia. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14658b.htm ( accessed 10th November 2008)

[1] Bible, New International Version
[2] Bible, New International Version
[3] Bible, New International Version
[4] Damick, A, Life of the Holy Apostle Andrew, the First Called: http://www.chrysostom.org/firstcalled/life.html ( accessed 8th November 2008)

[5] St James the Apostle, The Confraternity of Saint James: http://www.csj.org.uk/apostle.htm ( accessed 8th November 2008)

[6] Camerlynck,A., James outside the Scriptures, ( 1910) Catholic Encyclopaedia, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08280a.htm ( accessed 10th November 2008)

[7] Butler,A. St John , Apostle and Evangelist, taken from ‘The Lives or the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints’ Volume iv, http://www.ewtn.com/library/MARY/JOHNEVAN.htm accessed (10th November 2008)

[8] McBirnie, W. Simon the Zealot, http://www.biblepath.com/simon.html ( accessed 9th November 2008
[9] St Jude-Apostle-First Century, Lives of the Saints, John Crawley and Co Ltd http://www.ewtn.com/library/MARY/JUDE.htm ( accessed 8th November 2008)

[10] Gospel of Judas, The National Geographic Society, 2006, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5327692 ( accessed 10th November 2008).

[11] Jacquier, J.( 1911),St Matthew, the Catholic Encyclopaedia, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10056b.htm ( accessed 10th November 2008)

[12] Hilgenfeld, A. cited in article, St Matthias, at Answers.com http://www.answers.com/St%20matthias accessed 89th November 2008

[13] Kirsch,J. St Peter Prince of the Apostles, the Catholic Encyclopaedia, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11744a.htm ( accessed 10th November 2008.)

[14] Kirsch,J. St Peter Prince of the Apostles, the Catholic Encyclopaedia, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11744a.htm ( accessed 10th November 2008.)
[15] Mancantelli, J., Holy and All Praised Apostle Phillip. http://www.stnicholas-billings.org/Saints/Apostles/TheTwelve/apostlephillip.htm ( accessed 10th November 2008)

[16] McBirnie, W. Simon the Zealot, http://www.biblepath.com/simon.html ( accessed 9th November 2008
[17] Thurston H. (1912). St. Thomas the Apostle, The Catholic Encyclopedia. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14658b.htm ( accessed 10th November 2008)