Who were the Disciples?


While reading this week, I read over the disciples names again for the 1 millionth time. Then, it hit me. I know nothing about these men who followed Jesus for his entire ministry. These men had a very vital part in the spread of Christianity, and all my life I just skimmed over their names. So, who were these 12 disciples? What did they do after Jesus’ death? How did they die?

Simon (Peter) & Andrew: 

Simon (Peter) was born in  Betsaida, a town in Galilee. He was the son of Jona and brother of the apostle Andrew.They were fishermen. Simon (Peter) was married.  He was a follower of John the Baptist.  Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter. Simon (Peter) was the “mouth piece” of the disciples. He was outspoken. He is most known for denying Jesus as the Son of God three times. In the book of Acts, Simon (Peter) is the one who preaches at Pentecost. Simon (Peter) is the one who converted Cornelius and his family, all Gentiles,  in Acts 10. Tradition says that persecution of the first Christians in Jerusalem led Peter to Rome, where he spread the gospel to the fledgling church there. Legend has it that the Romans were going to crucify Peter, but he told them he was not worthy to be executed in the same manner as Jesus, so he was crucified upside down.

Andrew is only mentioned 12 times in the Bible.  He was also a follower of John the Baptist. The Acts of St. Andrew, an apocryphal work from the 3rd century, says Andrew was arrested and executed in 60 CE while preaching on the northwest coast of Achaia. A 14th century tradition says he was crucified on an X-shaped cross, lasting for two days before dying.

James & John: 

James is the brother of John. James and John were fishermen. They knew Simon (Peter)  and Andrew. Jesus gave James the Greek name of “Boanerges” which translates as “Sons of Thunder.”  After Jesus’ death, we do not hear anything of James until his death.  He  was the first of the 12 apostles to be martyred. He was killed with the sword on order of King Herod Agrippa I of Judea, about 44 A.D., in a general persecution of the early church.

John was called the “beloved disciple”. He was the only apostle to stay with Jesus as he was dying on the cross.  John  has five books of the Bible attributed to him; the Gospel of John, Revelation, and three epistles. He is thought to be the only apostle to die a natural death at an old age.


Philip was also from Bethsaida. Little is known about his life before Jesus. Philip introduced Bartholomew to Jesus. It is thought that Philip died during the reign of Domitian and was martyred aged 87 by being crucified upside down. In 2011,  excavation director Francesco D’Andria made a discovery in Hierapolis, a significant site in Christian Turkey. He claims to have found the tomb of Philip.

The discovered tomb of Philip

The discovered tomb of Philip


Little is written about Bartholomew. Bartholomew is also called Nathanael. He is skeptical of Jesus being the Messiah. After Jesus’ death, it is believed that Bartholomew went to India. It is said that he was martyred at Albanopolis in Armenia. The form of death is uncertain. Some say he was beheaded, and others say that he flayed alive and crucified, head downward

Matthew (Levi):

Matthew was called Levi before Jesus called him to be a disciple.  He was the son of Alpheus. Matthew was a tax collector. Matthew was in Capernaum when Jesus called him.  He is credited with the authorship of the Gospel of Matthew. There is a tradition that points to Ethiopia as his field of labor; other traditions mention of Parthia and Persia. It is uncertain whether he died a natural death or received the crown of martyrdom.


Doubting Thomas


Thomas’ early life is unknown. His name in Greek and Aramaic, Didymus,  means twin. In a non-canonical text,  the Acts of Thomas, it is suggested that Thomas was a carpenter and a member of Jesus’ immediate family. It is believed that Thomas went to Syria, ancient Persia, and India. Thomas is still known today as the apostle to India for the many churches that he formed and helped build there.Thomas died in India in 72 AD as a martyr for his faith when an Indian king, angry that he couldn’t get Thomas to worship an idol, ordered his high priest to stab Thomas with a spear.

James, the son of Alphaeus:

There is no information on this James other than him being named an apostle. Since there is no information on him, we do not know where he lived after Jesus’ death or how he died.

Simon (the Zealot):

Not much is known about Simon the Zealot’s life before or after Jesus.  It is commonly believed that Simon was called Zealot because of his adherence to the Jewish law and to the Canaanite law. He was one of the original followers of Christ. Western tradition is that he preached in Egypt and then went to Persia with St. Jude, where both suffered martyrdom.

Judas, son of James:

He is also called Thaddaeus or Jude.  As is common, not much is known about Judas. Tradition holds that he founded a church at Edessa and was crucified there as a martyr.

Judas of Iscariot:

Judas of Iscariot is the disciple who betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. After Jesus’ arrest, Judas felt remorseful and hanged himself.



While I didn’t find solid information om any of the disciples, I did learn a little more about these men. It’s pretty hard to find any solid information on people who (may or may not have) lived 2000 years ago. I did realize about half way through the list the further down you go, the less you find. So, where these disciples listed in order of importance?


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