Ready for Paul?

Monday, July 19, 2010

New Testament Tales - Jesus' Disciples

Jesus’ Disciples
1. Which disciples were brothers?
2. Which disciples followed Jesus first?
3. Which disciple was a serious student?
4. Which disciple was a tax collector?
5. Which disciple first recognized Jesus as the Messiah?
6. Which disciple had four daughters?
7. Which disciple died first?
8. Which disciples were present at the raising of Jairus’ daughter?
9. Which disciples were present at the transfiguration?
10. Which disciple betrayed Jesus?

According to John’s gospel, Andrew and one other disciple of John the Baptist left him to follow Jesus. Andrew ran to his brother Simon, announcing “We’ve found the Messiah!” According to Origen, Andrew preached in Asia Minor, the Volga and Kiev, becoming the patron saint of Ukraine, Romania and Russia. (He’s also the patron of Scotland, following legends that his relics were supernaturally brought to St Andrews from Constantinople.) Tradition (based on non-gospel accounts) has him starting the first church in Byzantium (or Constantinople), and dying by crucifixion on a diagonal, St. Andrew’s, cross. Sometime around the 3rd century, an apocryphal book, the Acts of Andrew, was written and ascribed to him. Andrew’s more famous brother Peter was originally called Simon, and the name change in the original language is probably a play on pronunciation.

John was probably the other disciple that followed Jesus with Andrew, but the next disciple is Philip, who Jesus meets in Bethsaida in Galilee. Philip leads Nathaniel (a student of religion, also called Bartholomew) to Jesus, though Nathaniel is reluctant to believe anything good can come from Nazareth. Since James and John, like Simon and Andrew, are Galilean fishermen, Jesus was probably on his way to meet John’s brother at the time. James and John are recorded in Mark as the next disciples after Andrew and Simon. James was killed by Herod Agrippa soon after Jesus’ death. Tradition has him preaching in Spain before his return to his death in Judea. Meanwhile John is believed to have written a gospel, several epistles and the book of Revelation, assuming he is John of Patmos. (In his gospel John refers to himself as “the disciple Jesus loved,” but in Revelation, John of Patmos, refers to himself by name.) Peter, James and John were the only disciples to witness the raising of Jairus’ daughter, the transfiguration and the agony in the garden. If John is truly the writer of Revelation, then he lived to an old age and became an influential bishop before his death, despite being exiled for a while.

Matthew (or Levi), a tax collector (therefore well able to write a gospel), is the next disciple, called after Jesus eats at his house. Finally more are added to the number to make a symbolic twelve (like twelve tribes, the number of God’s choosing), who are sent out in pairs to teach. The additional disciples are Thomas (doubting Thomas), James son of Alphaeus (James the Less, or the Just, and possibly Matthew’s brother), Thaddeus (or Jude, or Judas son of James, possibly the writer of an epistle), Simon the Zealot (or the Cananean, or Simeon, 2nd bishop of Jerusalem), and Judas Iscariot.

The Philip of the gospels may or may not be the same Philip referred to in Acts as a deacon, converter of the Ethiopian and of Simon Magus in Samaria, father of four prophetess daughters and friend of Paul. Bartholomew/Nathaniel may or may not be the Bartholomew who worked with Paul. Tradition has him carrying Matthew’s gospel to India, and founding the Armenian church with Jude.

Thomas travelled beyond the Roman Empire and brought the gospel to Persia and India. There’s a tradition (related to Joseph of Arimathea) that he was the only witness to the assumption of Mary into heaven. The Gospel of Thomas is a collection of “hidden sayings” of Jesus which seems to have been collected or built onto long after Jesus’ death. James the Less is believed to have died in Egypt.

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