The Disciples

Who were the twelve disciples? Create a poster or short biography about who each of them were. You could aim to include symbols, actions and importance to the story of Jesus – some are more important than others!

Disciple means ‘follower’, and Jesus had many followers during his short ministry. The Bible mentions twelve in particular before his crucifixion. Here is a summary of them and their importance in the story:

1Simon (Peter)

Simon was nicknamed ‘Peter’ by Jesus, which is Greek for ‘rock’. Jesus said that Simon’s faith was so strong that he would build his church on that rock. This is interesting given that it was Simon Peter who denied knowing Jesus three times before the dawn on the morning of Jesus’ crucifixion. Simon Peter became the first Bishop of Rome (Pope) after Jesus death as Christianity began to spread. He is also rumoured to be the keeper of the gates of heaven, so his symbol is the crossed keys. The relationship between him and Jesus is very interesting in the story as it is by breaking Simon Peter’s ideas of what master and servant are supposed to do for each other that Jesus teaches us about how we should really treat each other, such as when Jesus insists on washing Simon Peter’s feet before they sit down to eat.

He was crucified by Nero, the Roman Emperor, for being a Christian but insisted on being crucified upside down as he did not want to die in the same way as Jesus as he did not think he was worthy!

2Andrew

Andrew was the brother of Peter and although the Gospel of St. John tells us he was already a follower of John the Baptist who left to follow Jesus there is not much else known about him and he does not play a huge part in the Gospel stories of Jesus.

He was also killed by crucifixion but was crucified on an ‘X’ shaped, hence the St. Andrew’s cross that forms the basis of the Scottish flag.

3James (the Greater – son of Zebedee)

Again, not too much is known about James, except that he is the only apostle (messenger) of Jesus whose death is recorded in the Bible itself. According to the Book of Acts (just after Jesus ascends to Heaven) he is ordered to be killed by the sword by King Herod. He and his brother John were the sons of a fisherman called Zebedee who left their jobs to follow Jesus. They were known as the ‘Sons of Thunder’, possibly because of their tempers! James had to be stopped from destroying a Samaritan by Jesus!

4John (son of Zebedee)

John is often called Jesus’ ‘favoured disciple’ and may have been the only disciple to survive martyrdom (he wasn’t killed for being Christian but may have died of old age!). Many Christians have considered him to be the author of the Gospel of St. John and the Revelation of St. John the Divine (the fourth Gospel in the Bible and the very last book of the Bible) although this is disputed as has little proof. He and James were cousins of Jesus (their mother, Salome, was the younger sister of Mary, Jesus’ mother) but his role in the story of Christianity comes mainly after Jesus’ ascension, not during Jesus’ life.

5Philip

Philip is not a very interesting disciple! He has a Greek name so may have spoken Greek, unlike many of the other uneducated disciples.

6Bartholomew (Also called Nathaniel)

Bartholomew is also not very interesting but may have been a ploughman (he also very well may not have been!). If he was it does tend to suggest that Jesus draw most if not all of his apostles from poor workmen, not from richer or more influential classes.

7Thomas (Didymus – meaning ‘twin’)

Thomas is Mr. Kirk’s favourite apostle so you get extra credit for saying lots about him. Also known as ‘Doubting Thomas’ because he refused to believe that Jesus had returned from the dead until he could ‘poke his fingers into the wounds’, which he duly did. While this in itself is an interesting example of the ‘scientific viewpoint’ – i.e. needing to have physical proof before you’ll believe something, Jesus’ response is also interesting. He said (probably after ‘ow’) ‘You believe because you have seen but happy are those who believe without ever having to see’, in other words that faith is something that does not require proof. There’s also a great Caravaggio painting of this!

8Matthew

Believed to be a tax collector (though this is not mentioned in all the Gospels), Matthew may have been disliked by others before he became a disciple. He was an outsider in his own right as a man who worked for the Romans against his own people.

9James (the Less)

Distinguished from James the Greater, the Son of Zebedee, James the Less is not terribly important in the story before the ascension of Jesus.

10Jude (Judas Thaddeus)

Again, not very important in the early part of the story, often called ‘Jude’ or ‘Thaddeus’ to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot, who was another disciple. Some Catholics have thought he was the same Jude as the brother of Jesus (Jesus had three brothers, Jude, Josses and James) but this is unlikely as Jesus did not call any of his other brothers to serve in his immediate ministry.

11Simon (the Zealot)

Called the zealot, to distinguish him from Simon whom Jesus called ‘Peter’, not much is known about Simon. The zealots were a group of Jews who wanted the Romans out of Judea and may have taken part in ‘terrorist’ actions against them though there is no evidence this was true in Simon’s case.

12Judas Iscariot

The disciple who betrayed Jesus with a kiss. The name Judas (Judah) is very common but there is argument about the meaning of the word Iscariot. Some think it comes from a Hebrew word for liar or betrayer, others from an Aramaic word for deliverer and this is a nice disagreement as it summaries the ways in which Judas is thought about.

He has often been vilified (made into the villain) for betraying Jesus, indeed to call someone as ‘Judas’ is to call them a betrayer or backstabber. However, the fact that Jesus had to be betrayed to fulfil prophecy and the fact that Jesus actually seems to have commanded him to go and do it might paint him more as the deliverer, that he allowed Jesus destiny to be fulfilled. Some have even speculated that he must have been one of the favoured disciples as he was trusted with this mission by Jesus though this may be unlikely given the guilt he seems to have suffered afterwards.

Along with John he was the only disciple not to be killed for being Christian. He hanged himself after he betrayed Jesus for the famous 30 silver pieces (about a month’s wages).

Example Project (incomplete)

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