Who Were the Disciples?

Matthew 9: 35 - 10: 8

Mark 3: 13 - 19

Luke 6: 12 - 18

John 1: 35 - 42

means pupil or student, and the disciples were people who chose to follow Jesus and to listen to his teaching. They called him rabbi, or teacher. The twelve disciples were followers of Jesus whom he had chosen to become his core group, the people he talked things over with and depended on.

Simon and his brother Andrew were the first disciples Jesus chose. Next Jesus called James and John, then Philip, Nathaniel (also called Bartholomew), Matthew, Thomas, and James, son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas, son of James, and Judas Iscariot.

According to the Gospel of John, Andrew and one other of the disciples had first been disciples of John the Baptist.

The disciples were more interested in telling Jesus' story than in telling their own, but we do know a few things about some of them.

Jesus nicknamed Simon Peter, and the nickname stuck.

Peter, Andrew, James and John were commercial fishermen. They (or their families) owned their own boats. James and John were the sons of Zebedee, and this John may be the person who wrote the Fourth Gospel, the Gospel of John.

Andrew and Philip have Greek names and spoke Greek to the travelers who came from Greece to hear Jesus preach. They may have had Greek relatives or Greek or Roman educations.

Matthew had been a tax collector, a disrespected way of earning a living in those days. Tax collectors were not allowed to testify in court, because everyone believed they were totally dishonest.

Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot may have been political activists, belonging to some of the many groups that wanted to overthrow the Roman government. The Jews at that time wanted very much to have a Jewish king and Jewish courts that understood their beliefs and the way they observed the religious laws.

We only know Thomas's nickname: both Thomas in Aramaic and Didymus in Greek mean twin. He may have had an actual twin brother - or he may have looked so much like Jesus that everyone joked that he was Jesus' twin brother. Nowhere in the Gospel accounts does anyone mention that Thomas had a twin brother or sister.

What we know for sure about all the disciples is that they all left their livelihoods and commitments to follow Jesus as he traveled around the country, preaching, teaching, and healing.

Simon Peter - Fisherman, son of John

Andrew - Fisherman, son of John and Peter's brother

James - Fisherman, son of Zebedee, son of Boanerges (thunder)

John - Fisherman, son of Zebedee, Boanerges (thunder), brother of James

Philip - From Bethsaida

Matthew - tax collector, son of Alphaeus

Nathaniel (Bartholomew) - from Cana, a "true Israelite"


James, son of Alphaeus

Simon, the Zealot - Guerrilla fighter

Judas, son of James

Judas Iscariot - Guerrilla fighter, son of Simon


People | HomePage | Lessons | Calendar | Pentecost 3 Lesson | Disciple Eggs