Re: [XTalk] The Twelve
Good to see you posting comments again! But while there are ample reasons
to be skeptical about the pictures about "the twleve" in the Gospel of Mark,
it seems to me that it is better to consider this an elaboration of
something rather than a complete invention. My reason is not just personal
preference but how else to handle Paul's referring to "the twelve" in
I Cor. 15:5. Granted that this passage is more than a little puzzling
itself, especially as it might seem to differentiates "the twelve" from "the
apostles," still this number may well go back at least to "the earliest
days" of Palestinian Christianity if not
all the way back to Jesus himself.
In fact, my own surmise/guess has been that in fact Jesus did select twelve
out of the larger field of "disciples" as a "prophetic sign," signaling the
restoration of the twelve tribes of Israel, but not (as the author of Mark
has it) as a way of preparing for the future by authorizing his successors
and by preparing them for their future position and authority. Skepticism
about this Marcan picture does not necessarily lead to skepticism about
whether Jesus himself did not select a group of twelve for some purpose!
Clive F. Jacks, Th.D.
Professor of Religion, Emeritus
(But now happily retired to metropolitan Atlanta)
P.S. For you other listers, this interchange is just a "going public" of
conversations Bob and I used to enjoy when I was still living and teaching
----- Original Message -----
From: Davis, Robert C. <rdavis@...>
Sent: Tuesday, September 03, 2002 10:35 AM
Subject: RE: [XTalk] The Twelve
> The question here is not whether Jesus had followers--it seems to be quite
> clear that he did. The question is whether the "traditional twelve" is
> itself historical, and here I am not certain that we are on solid ground.
> The Babylonian Talmud suggests that Jesus had five disciples, which it
> on to name: Matai, Maquai, Todah, Buni, and Metzer. Some, but not all,
> these names might be able to be linked up with the more traditional names
> given in the NT. This evidence is not conclusive in itself, but by the
> principle of contradiction--that neutral or hostile sources must be given
> some weight, because they would have had no reason to confirm more
> established and favorable evidence, so that when they do, consideration
> be given as to accuracy--one must at least give some credence to it.
> There is also the numerological issue pertaining to the number 12: this
> one of the numbers of "completeness" in many ancient cultures, and thus a
> number associated with "goodness." ("Evil" numbers were complete numbers
> minus 1.) Additionally, the use of the number 12 in the OT when referring
> to the tribes of Israel probably had some symbolic impact on the use of
> number 12 in the NT lists of disciples. The Book of Revelation clearly
> this parallel in mind when it referred to the 24 elders. Thus, I am not
> sure that we can definitively say that the Twelve as presented in the NT
> of unchallengeable historicity, even though the concept of "disciple" per
> certainly is.
> One more thing: In John, there is the issue of the "disciple whom Jesus
> loved." If, as some have suggested, that disciple was Lazarus (or perhaps
> Mary Magdalene), then this must surely suggest that there was a certain
> "fluidity" within Jesus' inner circle, and that the more traditional
> may not have been established, either in concept or in fact, until after
> death. Indeed, the "hardening" of the disciple-list may well have been a
> partial response to the presence of women among the early leadership of
> Christian movement, a presence which became officially intolerable at some
> point near the turn of the century. If so, then this might well be a part
> of same dynamic which gave rise to the legend of Mary Magdalene as a
> I present these only as considerations, not as definitive proof of any
> particular argument or proposal. But at the very least, I think they do
> raise some interesting questions.
> Robert Davis
> Division of Humanities
> Pikeville College
> [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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- Frank McCoy wrote:
> --- Karel Hanhart <K.Hanhart@...> wrote:Frank,
> Historically, the original group of twelve were formed
> IMHO in the wake of the crucifixion, when various
> Judean factions from within the land and from the
> diaspora joined with Jesus' disciples, thus forming
> the beginnings of christianity. Luke reports on this
> major event in Acts 2 in hagadic fashion. As I
> suspect, out of this larger group of converts (3000,
> Acts 2,41) twelve 'apostles' were chosen to lead the
> movement headed by 'James, Peter and John' called
> 'pillars'. In other words, the 'historical' Jesus did
> not select 12 disciples during his lifetime to
> represent a 'new Israel'. The twelve, chosen soon
> after the crucifixion, were honored as "witnesses" of
> the risen Messiah and as such were called 'apostles'.
> (Comp. Paul's claim to be an apostle not "by men").
> I have tried to reconstruct the assumed original
> pre-Markan list of the twelve without a fictive Judas
> Iscariot and a symbolical Andrew, but including the
> three 'pillars' on pg 445 as follows: James (Jesus'
> brother), Simon (Cephas), John (of Jerusalem, an
> Essene), James Zebedee, John Zebedee, Thomas, Matthew,
> James (Alphaeus), Thaddaeus, Simon (the Cananaean);
> Judas, (brother of James).
> I would very much appreciate your reactions to this
> Dear Karel Hanhart:
> The early Jerusalem Church, with its three pillars and
> twelve apostles, might be based on an Essene model,
> thusly described in 1QS (VIII, 1-4), "In the Council
> of the Community there shall be twelve men and three
> Priests, perfectly versed in all that is revealed of
> the Law, whose works shall be truth, righteousness,
> justice, loving-kindness and humility."
I was and am aware of this structure of the Qumran community.
However, as you also know, the differences of the Jesus' movement
and the Qumran community are considerable. On the other hand,
it seems clear to me that many followers of Jesus could be called
'chassidic' as compared to Pharisees, Zealotrs, Herodians and other
As I see it,( - but who can make bold answers to historical
questions concerning the early post-crucifixion Jesus' movement? -)
various chassidim as well as Judeans from the diaspora joined with the
disciples of Jesus and his Galilean followers soon after the
crucifixion. It seems to me that there may well be some connection
between the structure of the Qumran community and the number
twelve. The twelve may well have been regarded as representing Israel,
but certainly not as replacing the people of Israel..
Simon Peter, however, was not a priest; neither James, Jesus'
brother, as far as we know, James and Peter were naturally regarded
as leaders from the beginning. It seems to me that John (of Jerusalem) may
been a chassidic leader. We may not conclude, therefore,
that the election was modeled precisely after that Qumran structure.
The Jerusalem community could well be called chassidic in a broad sense.
The fact that neither Paul nor the authors of the Gospels refer to the
implies I think that many persons, sympathetic with the community at Qumran,
had joined with the disciples. I dare not go further than assessing the texts
Acts 1, 15 ff (some sort of an election took place!), the text of Acts 2; the
of James and the "pillars" in Acts and the epistles and the obvious
in the lists of the twelve we have.