When we talk about the life of Jesus, we very often tend to imagine Him alone, intent on preaching, bringing consolation and hope among the most unfortunate, and performing miracles. Even thinking back to His Passion and death on the cross, few figures are mentioned in his Gospels alongside Him, who are the apostles of Jesus.
The truth is that from the beginning of His mission, Christ was rarely alone because right from the start, he began to gather disciples who followed him everywhere and shared every aspect of life with him. Tradition speaks of 70 disciples, among whom Jesus chose 12 particularly close men. He shared the Last Supper and entrusted the task of spreading his message to the world, the Word of Salvation. He was ambassador and herald.
One of them in particular, Peter, asked to find the Church. In the Gospels of Mark and Luke, there is a clear difference between the apostles of Jesus and the disciples. While in Matthew, the 12 end up conforming to all those who followed Jesus. All the apostles of Jesus, except Judas Iscariot, are counted among the saints and blessed.
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If there are some uncertainties about the place chosen for the first calling of the 12 apostles for the names, there are no differences between the Gospels.
The names of the 12 apostles of Jesus are:
- James, the elder
- James the Less
- Simon, the Zealot
- Judas Thaddeus
According to tradition, Jesus chose 12 apostles, as 12 were the tribes of Israel. We have already emphasized in previous articles how important numbers were in Jewish culture and religion. The Holy Scriptures are permeated with strong numerical symbolism, according to which numbers rarely indicate a quantity. But rather as symbols of human or God-related realities. In particular, the number 12 and its multiples recur in many passages from the Bible. Twelve were the tribes of Israel, and each of them descended from one of the 12 sons of Jacob. Twenty-four Elders appear in John’s Apocalypse, seated on as many benches as possible. Twelve stars make up the crown of the woman clothed with the sun. Who embodies the Church consistently in the Apocalypse?
The importance of the number 12 regarding the apostles is confirmed by the fact that, after the betrayal of Judas, since they remained in 11, it was necessary to find a replacement immediately to return to the completeness desired by Jesus: so Matthias was chosen.
Paul of Tarsus never knew Jesus, but he is defined as the “apostle of the Gentiles” because he brought the Word between the Greeks and the Romans, obtaining innumerable conversions.
Read also: Who guards the gates of Heaven? Is St Peter the gatekeeper?
The professions of the twelve apostles
But what did the apostles of Jesus do before following Jesus’ call? Peter and his brother Andrew were fishermen, as were James, John, and Philip. From fish fishermen, they became fishers of men.
Matthew worked instead as a tax collector, or tax collector, while Judas Iscariot was the treasurer of the apostles, depositary of the alms offered to them.
Judas Thaddeus, the big-hearted apostle, was presumably a farmer and married. Indeed, perhaps he was the bridegroom of the famous Canaan Wedding.
Read also: Land of Canaan. Is Canaan The Promised Land?
What are the Acts of the Apostles?
It is a part of the New Testament, the fifth book immediately after the Gospels. It tells what happened to the disciples and the Church of Jerusalem after the ascension of Jesus—dwelling on the first missions of the apostles, on the life of the Church of Antioch, and the Council of Jerusalem. And the travels of St. Paul until he arrived in Rome. For this reason, the work has been attributed to Luke, a doctor and companion of Paul himself. Who would have written it between 70 and 90 AD?
It is divided into 27 chapters and is a precious document because it allows us to realize the speed with which the Gospel message spread in the Mediterranean basin immediately after the death of Jesus.
Representation of Jesus’ Apostles
The letters of the apostles
In ancient times, letters were used as a vehicle for knowledge and teaching. The Letters of the Apostles also had great value in spreading the Gospel message and in the desire to ideally unite all the new Christian communities in the countries bordering the Mediterranean.
Together with the Acts of the Apostles of Jesus and the canonical Gospels, these Letters are part of the canon of the New Testament and collect letters written between 50 and 100 AD, 13 attributed to St. Paul, and 7 “Catholic” or “canonical” 1 letters of James, 2 of Peter, 3 of John, 1 of Judah. The Epistle to the Hebrews has been attributed to Paul for centuries, but the attribution is uncertain. Indeed, it was Paul, the apostle, who did not know Jesus, one of the most vibrant and tireless of the apostles, and his letters bear witness to this.
Read also: Is The Abrahamic Covenant a Central Theme For The Old Testament?
Difference between apostles and disciples
Once we have established who the 12 canonical apostles were, we can consider an apostle any follower of Jesus. After following Jesus and witnessing his death and resurrection, this person chooses to bring his Word into the world.
But the apostles proper are only those who, after Jesus’ ascension into heaven, were invested by Him with the mission of bringing His message of salvation to the world. For this reason, Jesus made the Holy Spirit descend on these chosen ones on Pentecost. He ordered the chief among them, Peter, to find his Church and take it everywhere.
Read also: What Are Spiritual Gifts? The Gifts of the Holy Spirit Explained
What did the apostles do after Jesus died?
After the Messiah’s death, his apostles separated and began preaching the Good News and bringing it to the world. Unfortunately, they found themselves dealing with those who did not accept the new religion brought by Jesus and promoted by them.
According to the Bible, all the apostles of Jesus suffered martyrdom and were tortured and slaughtered in the name of their faith, and for this reason, the example they left is still so precious and essential today. The fact that the apostles of Jesus accepted their destiny demonstrates that they witnessed the miracle of the resurrection of Jesus. For this reason, they knew that every Word of his was accurate. At the same time, they took care to bring it into the world.
Read also: What the Bible says about the Resurrection of Lazarus?
Who are the 12 apostles described in the New Testament in the second part? The 12 apostles of Jesus are a group of disciples chosen by Jesus. To continue proclaiming the message of salvation, he initiated. According to the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus chose the first of the twelve apostles of Jesus. In Galilee, near the Sea of Galilee while, if we read the Gospel of John, the calling of the first disciples took place near Bethany. In both cases, the first disciples to be called were Andrew, Peter, James, and John.
We have often seen how important Jesus is to friendship and valued friends. So it was for Martha, Mary, and Lazarus of Bethany, so for the many women. Who followed him and listened to his words. All the more reason, we must think that a profound bond bound him with the Apostles: his closest disciples, the twelve chosen to share everyday life with him. And among them, he had a favorite disciple, to whom a particularly tender relationship linked him: the apostle John, brother of the apostles of Jesus, Simon, and Peter. And Andrew, author of the Fourth Gospel.