WHO WERE THE TWELVE APOSTLES
For the most part, they were not men of exceptional intellect or training; some may not have even been able to read or write, but all had studied the oral law from their mothers and fathers. They were typically “mediterranian” given to emotional outbursts and arguments, and in a dispute would usually answer a question with another question.
Like all men from Palestine at that time, they averaged five feet six inches in height give or take. Peter was taller. They wore white garments, and one or two who admired fashion had a purple hem. All wore full beards and uncut hair, because Jewish Law warned against all forms of vanity. Those who were fisherman were proud of it in Galilee and ashamed of it in Jerusalem because the city dwellers said that the garments of fishermen smelled of fish and lake water.
Of the twelve, there were three apostles who enjoyed the deepest confidence of Jesus: Peter, and the brothers James and John. Most of the men had two names, the second of which was gvien to each one by Jesus. This caused much confusion among the followers of Jesus to this day. The new name given to one man was sometimes the same as the original name of another. There were at least two Jameses, two Simons, and two Judases.
1. ANDREW THE FIRST CALLED
The apostle Andrew was short and dark. He was from Capharnaum. His older brother was Peter, and when Jesus appointed Peter as the spokesman of the apostles Andrew began to call his brother “Father Peter.” Andrew was never known to lead a conversation. Among the fisherman in Galilee he was known to be valorous in storms. He had enormous faith, and was a disciple of John the Baptist before he met Jesus. Nobody knows when Andrew died, but it is possible that he was crucified on an X shaped cross.
Bartholomew was tall slender and handsome. He was one of the most fashionably dressed of the apostles. It was said that even his undercloak was bordered with regal purple. He looked distinguished, with black hair hanging in heavy ringlets and a yellow beard. He was born in Cana, and his father’s name was Nathanael. He had been a vinedresser. His best friend was Philip. He would preach in Persia and the eastern countries. He was flayed alive for his faith in Jesus.
Philip was the happy one. He was short, dark and, to his way of thinking, the long journey through life toward heaven was a most enjoyable experience. He lived in Bethsaida, in Galilee, and there he and his wife had three daughters. His sister was named Marianne. He was witty and gregarious. He was martyred for his faith.
4. JAMES OF ALPHAEUS
Do not confuse this James with James the brother of John. This James will come to be called James the Less or Lesser and James the Just. This man was shy to the point of pain. When he spoke, it was his custom to whisper. He was the shortest of the group. His father was Alphaeus; his mother was reputed to be a woman named Mary who, in turn was said to be the sister of the Theotokos. This would make James a blood cousin of Jesus. James of Alphaesus was always addressed by Jesus as “my brother.” And this James loved him dearly but had difficulty believing that Jesus was the Messiah. He was older than Jesus and had known him from infancy. He had seen his cousin perform many works of wonder, but James a paragon of intellectual honesty, found himself admitting, on occasion that this man was indeed the Messiah and, a few weeks later, found himself wavering in his belief. He was martyred for his faith.
There was another cousin of Jesus in the group and this was Jude. He was not a prominent figure among the apostles, and little is known of him. He was the brother of James Alphaeus, and others contend that he was the son of James. He was called Jude, JudeThaddaeus, and Judas of James – meaning Judas, son of James. Like James, he was a quiet man, almost introspective, and yet, completely devoted his life to Christ in Arabia, Mesopotamia, Persia and Syria, where he would be murdered.
6. SIMON ZELOTES
The blank face among these men belongs to Simon Zelotes. Sometimes he is called Simon the Cananaean. There is no record of what he looked like, or even of his place among the twelve. It is believed that he preached in Persia and Egypt, and it is known that he enjoyed travel. In age, the apostles averaged a few years younger than Jesus who was about thirty at the time of His death and resurrection. If Simon Zelotes was about thirty at the time of the resurrection he had a long life ahead of him because he was killed while preaching in Egypt in AD 107.
7. THOMAS THE TWIN
Thomas was a balding worrier. He was certain that few things happened for the best. He was the least shocked of the apostles when Jesus announced that his kingdom was not of this world and that these men should not expect to sit with him in judgment of the twelve tirbes of Judea; rather, he would die and leave them enthusiastic about death. Once, when Jesus said that he was going to Jerusalem where plotters were waiting for him, Thomas said happily: “Let us go also, that we might die with him!”
Thomas was a twin, and had been called by the Greek name for twin, “Didymus.” He was a carpenter from from Galilee and sat in the evenings with Jesus and discussed the framing of houses and the building of furniture. Remember that Jesus was also a carpenter.
Among all these men, there was one of engaging personality and this was Matthew. He had been a publican, (tax collector) and the people regarded him as a sinner because he worked for the Roman government. Originally, his name had been Levi and he worked in the customs office on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Passing by, Jesus looked at Levi and said: “Follow me.” The tax agent gave up his career at once, and became an apostle. He later wrote the only Gospel not in the Greek language.
Jesus changed his name to Mattija (Gift of God). This becomes Matthew in the Greek. He was probably the only apostle who couldread and write in Hebrew. As his gospel betrays, he had a passion to quote Scripture (Old Testament) verbatim, and an equal passion for genealogy and the tracing of names and dates. Read the first chapter of Matthew’s gospel.
9. JUDAS ISCARIOT
The busiest man of the group was Judas Iscariot. He was short and dark and his hair fell in dark ringlets. His name was not Iscariot; it was Judas ish Kerioth. Under his outer garment of white Judas wore a leather apron with two hugh pockets, and in these he maintained the treasury. He was also known to carry a small box under his arm.
His duties made him harsh and tight fisted; he expected the others to account to him for any moneys donated to them, but he did not feel he was accountable to anyone for the total receipts or expenditures. Even though he was from the hill country of Judea and his family had not subscribed to the law, Judas affected a superior manner to the Galileans. He committed the sin of dispair and hanged himself.
10. JOHN THE BELOVED
John was the youngest and single. He was treated like a son by Jesus. He was able to bring a smile to the face of Jesus. This was the only apostle to die a natural death. After the resurrection of Jesus, he took care of the Theotokos until her dormition. The Theotokos was in her late sixties or early seventies when she died.
11. JAMES THE BROTHER OF JOHN
James was the older brother of John. He had a broad and deep chest. He was a modest man and made a habit of looking at his feet when Jesus addressed him. He slept late and often irritated the others by dozing off through situations which they regarded as important.
Peter was taller than the rest. He was a big, broad fisherman with a deep voice coming from a loving heart. He was tactless and more than once Jesus was impelled to stop him by asking “what is that to you?” Peter was given to speaking without first thinking, and too often the words came from his heart and not his head. He was impetuous.
He had been called Simon, Simon Peter, Cephas (Stone) and Symeon. He was probably called Cephas in Aramaic by Jesus and this, in Greek is rendered Petros (Peter), a stone or rock. Originally, he was Simon bar Jona, the son of Jonas. Peter lived with his wife and mother-in-law in a substantial house in Capharnaum. Some say that his brother Andrew and his family lived with them.
When it came time for Peter to die for his faith, he asked to be crucified upside down. He died in Rome, Italy. His greatest utterance, a marvel of faith and humility, was: “You know all things Lord, You know that I love you.”
These twelve and their families lived with Jesus and traveled with him throughout most of his three year public ministry. Jesus had many followers. At times some left him. These twelve, with the exception of Judas Iscariot (replaced by Mathias) remained faithful.