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  • Writer's pictureLeigh Gerstenberger

Men of Principle – Part II

Last week’s post discussed the 56 men of principle who signed the Declaration of Independence. This week our focus is on another group of men who went to their graves refusing to waver in their beliefs. While there are a number of resources available that summarize what happened to the disciples, I thought this article from was a good summary. I hope you find it thought provoking.

Who Were the 12 Disciples and What Should We Know about Them?

by Allyson Holland

Twelve men responded to the call to be disciples of Jesus. They were Jews, uneducated commoners, and simple men of faith who gave up everything to be followers of Christ. Jesus spent three years training these men to be leaders. Jesus’ plan was to eventually have the disciples take over and carry on the work He had started.

What we know to be true about Jesus is that He chose ordinary and unrefined men to be his apostles. They were the commonest of the common. They were from rural areas. They were farmers and fishermen.

Christ purposely passed over the elite, aristocratic, and influential men of society and chose mostly the men from the dregs of society. That is how it has always been in God’s economy. He exalts the humble and lays low those who are proud.

The Names of the 12 Disciples

We find the names of the disciples in the Gospel books of Matthew, Mark and Luke.

Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew (Nathanael); Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus (James the Less), and Thaddaeus (Judas, son of James); Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him. (Matthew 10:2-4)

Now that we know the names of the apostles, let's take a deeper look into the life story of each man.

Peter and Andrew

Peter and Andrew--Sons of John, were born in Bethsaida. They later settled in a home together in the town of Capernaum. They were fisherman and worked alongside James and John. They were companions and had probably known each other for years.

Peter and Andrew were early followers of John the Baptist. It was Andrew who first introduced his older brother Peter to Jesus when they were in the wilderness with John. It is thought that they became spiritual followers of Jesus at this time. Once Peter had been introduced to Jesus, they left John and became followers of Christ.

1. Peter

Also known as Simon, Simon Peter, or Cephas (Rock), Peter was a gregarious, natural leader, and an obvious spokesperson for the twelve. Peter’s name is mentioned far more in the New Testament than any other of the disciples. He was the older of the two brothers and the only married disciple. His wife was known to travel with him when he was on mission.

Peter is well known for denying Christ three times after Christ was arrested. After his own arrest many years later, he requested to be crucified with his head down. He didn’t believe he was worthy to be crucified in the same manner as his Lord. He died a martyr’s death in Rome during the reign of Nero. Some speculate around the same time as Paul was being beheaded.

2. Andrew

An early disciple of John the Baptist, Andrew, and John, the Son of Zebedee were present when John the Baptist said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” Andrew was the first to follow Jesus and his enthusiasm was evident as his desire to introduce his older brother to Jesus revealed what was already in his heart—a deep love for God.

He was not a dominant person next to his outspoken brother. He was a passionate preacher and shared the gospel boldly and was a significant contributor to the early church.

Andrew died a martyr’s death. He faced crucifixion with boldness and courage. He said, “Oh, cross most welcome and longed for! With a willing mind, joyfully and desirously, I come to you, being a scholar of Him which did hang on you, because I have always been your lover and yearn to embrace you.”

James and John—Sons of Zebedee

There is some evidence that Zebedee was a man of affluence. He was able to hire enough servants to help with his fishing business. In Scripture, James is listed before his younger brother John, yet he remains somewhat obscure except for the fact he is part of Jesus’ inner three. John is much more in the forefront of what is happening during the three years of training with Christ. James and John were both known for being men of intense passion and fervor. Because of this Jesus nicknamed them the Sons of Thunder.

3. James

James is the elder brother of John. He is a rather quiet part of the team of disciples in that we don’t read much about him in Scripture. As part of Jesus’ “inner three” he was permitted to be present along with Peter and John when Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead, he witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration on the Mount of Olives, and he was in the Garden of Gethsemane with Jesus.

James was the first disciple to be martyred (he was beheaded) and the only disciple to have their martyrdom recorded in Scripture.

4. John

Known as the “disciple Jesus loved,” he was also a part of the inner three. He wrote a substantial portion of the New Testament—The book of John, 1, 2, and 3 John, and the book of Revelation. He wrote more about love than any other New Testament author. His proximity to Jesus taught him much about love.

He was exiled to the island of Patmos under Domitian, but after his death, John was allowed to return to Ephesus where he governed churches in Asia until his death at about A.D. 100.

5. Philip

What do we know about Philip? Almost nothing. Although a Jew, we only know him by his Greek name, Philip. A heart for evangelism, he was anxious to tell Nathanael the One foretold by Moses and the prophets had been found. They were close companions and studied the Old Testament together.

Philip was stoned and crucified in Hierapolis, Phrygia.

6. Nathanael

Also known as Bartholomew, Nathanael came from Cana in Galilee. He expressed some local prejudice about Nazareth. Jesus recognized how sincerely his love for God was from the beginning when He said, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!”

Nathanael may have preached in India and translated the book of Matthew into their language. He was beaten, crucified, and beheaded. He died as a martyr while serving the people of Albanopolis, Armenia.

7. Matthew

Levi, the Son of Alphaeus, Matthew was a tax collector--the most despised people in all of Israel. They were known for taking extra money from the people of Israel to pay off the Romans and to pad their own pockets.

Matthew brought the gospel to Ethiopia and Egypt. Hircanus the king had him killed with a spear.

8. Thomas

Usually nicknamed “Doubting Thomas," Thomas was also called Didymus, meaning The Twin (although a twin brother or sister is never mentioned in the Bible.) He was an outspoken skeptic to the point of being known as a pessimist. No details are given about Thomas in the first three Gospels other than the mention of his name. John’s first mention of Thomas is in John 11:16. Lazarus had died, and the disciples feared for the life of Jesus and themselves if they were to go back to Bethany. Thomas speaks up. “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” Here we see the character quality of courage and loyalty to Christ, a quality not often attributed to Thomas.

Tradition strongly suggests that Thomas started the Christian church in India. Some suggest being run through by a spear killed him, ironically, like Jesus being pierced by a spear.

9. James the Less

He is the son of Alphaeus. His mother’s name is Mary, and he has a brother named Joseph. Except for a few details about his family, there is nothing more mentioned about him in Scripture. This is why he is referred to as James the Less. What is important to remember is although James was in the background, he was chosen by Jesus to be one of the twelve disciples. He was trained and used by Christ in a powerful way to further the Kingdom of God. He was a valuable team member.

Tradition says he was crucified in Sinai or possibly stoned to death in Jerusalem.

10. Simon the Zealot

Simon was probably a political activist in his younger years. Why would Jesus choose someone with this background?

There is some speculation about what happened to Simon. Tradition says that after preaching on the west coast of Africa, Simon went to England where he ended up being crucified in 74 AD.

11. Judas, son of James

The eleventh name on the list of disciples is Judas. Also known as Jude, Thaddeus, and Lebbaeus, Judas lived in obscurity as one of the Twelve.

Most early tradition says that Judas, son of James, a few years after Pentecost, took the gospel north to Edessa. There he healed the King of Edessa, Abgar. Eusebius the historian said the archives at Edessa contained the visit of Judas and the healing of Abgar (the records have now been destroyed). The traditional symbol of Judas is a club and tradition says he was clubbed to death for his faith.

12. Judas Iscariot

The Traitor. Nothing is known about Judas’ background. His encounter and call by Jesus is not recorded in Scripture. He was not from Galilee--that much is known. He obviously became a follower and stayed with Jesus for three years. He gave Christ three years of his life, but he certainly didn’t give Him his heart, and Jesus knew this. Judas betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. He committed suicide.

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