Who Were the Disciples?

Disciple means pupil or student, and the disciples were people who chose to follow Jesus and listen to his teaching. They called him rabbi, or teacher. The twelve disciples were followers of Jesus whom he chose 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 Alpheus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas, son of James, and Judas Iscariot.

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.

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 a 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: it means 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.

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.

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