Re: [XTalk] The Twelve
- Reading over this list, I thought of my own comments. Are any of them
----- Original Message -----
From: "Peter Kirby" <kirby@...>
Sent: Tuesday, September 03, 2002 7:56 PM
Subject: Re: [XTalk] The Twelve
> The Secret Book of James mentions the 'twelve disciples' as well as James,
> Peter, and John.
My list was drawn up hastily, and I may have made an error here. Here is
the quote from the Apocryphon of James:
The Lord answered and said: "Do you not know that the head of prophecy was
cut off with John?"
This is most obviously a reference to the Baptist (Mark 6:27), although I
suppose it could technically be the son of Zebedee, if both sons of thunder
were executed at the same time as some suggest. According to Acts 12:2,
James the brother of John was beheaded.
> The Gospel of the Ebionites mentions Simon Peter, John and James the sons
> Zebedee, Simon, Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, James the son of Alphaeus,
> Thomas, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas the Iscariot.
The name 'Simon' should not appear twice, and the name 'Matthew' must be
Here is the translation of the passage in Epiphanius from M. R. James,
transcribed by me.
"In the Gospel they have, called according to Matthew, but not wholly
complete, but falsified and mutilated (they call it the Hebrew Gospel), it
is contained that 'There was a certain man named Jesus, and he was about
thirty years old, who chose us. And coming unto Capernaum he entered into
the house of Simon who was surnamed Peter, and opened his mouth and said: As
I passed by the lake of Tiberias, I chose John and James the sons of
Zebedee, and Simon and Andrew and <Philip and Bartholomew, James the son of
Alphaeus and Thomas> Thaddaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the Iscariot:
and thee, Matthew, as thou satest as the receipt of custom I called, and
thou followedst me. You therefore I will to be twelve apostles for a
testimony unto (of) Israel."
Here is the quote from Epiphanius in a different translation, which I pulled
off the net somewhere.
There appeared a certain man named Jesus of about thirty years of age, who
chose us. And when he came to Capernaum, he entered into the house of Simon
whose surname is Peter, and opened his mouth and said: "As I passed the Lake
of Tiberias, I chose John and James the sons of Zebedee, and Simon and
Andrew and Thaddeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the Iscariot, and you,
Matthew, I called as you sat at the receipt of custom, and you followed me.
You, therefore, I will to be twelve apostles for a testimony unto Israel."
(Epiphanius, Panarion 30.13.2-3)
> Papias mentions Andrew, Peter, Philip, Thomas, James, John, Matthew, and
Here is the quote of Papias from Eusebius as found in the Ante-Nicene
But I shall not be unwilling to put down, along with my interpretations,
whatsoever instructions I received with care at any time from the elders,
and stored up with care in my memory, assuring you at the same time of their
truth. For I did not, like the multitude, take pleasure in those who spoke
much, but in those who taught the truth; nor in those who related strange
commandments, but in those who rehearsed the commandments given by the Lord
to faith, and proceeding from truth itself. If, then, any one who had
attended on the elders came, I asked minutely after their sayings,--what
Andrew or Peter said, or what was said by Philip, or by Thomas, or by James,
or by John, or by Matthew, or by any other of the Lord's disciples: which
things Aristion and the presbyter John, the disciples of the Lord, say. For
I imagined that what was to be got from books was not so profitable to me as
what came from the living and abiding voice.
> The Epistula Apostolorum mentions John, Thomas, Peter, Andrew, James,
> Philip, Batholomew, Matthew, Nathanael, Judas Zelotes, and Cephas as well
> Joseph and Mary.
Here is the quote from the Epistula Apostolorum as translated by M. R. James
from the Ethiopic.
2 We, John, Thomas, Peter, Andrew, James, Philip, Batholomew, Matthew,
Nathanael, Judas Zelotes, and Cephas, write unto the churches of the east
and the west, of the north and the south, the declaring and imparting unto
you that which concerneth our Lord Jesus Christ: we do write according as we
have seen and heard and touched him, after that he was risen from the dead:
and how that he revealed unto us things mighty and wonderful and true.
Now let me quote from some lists of leaders or disciples found in the
Mark 3:16-19. "Simon, whom he named Peter; James, son of Zebedee, and John
the brother of James, whom he named Boanerges, that is, sons of thunder;
Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus;
Thaddeus, Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him."
Matt 10:2-3. "The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon
called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, the son of Zebedee, and his
brother John; Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the tax collector
[note the name change in Mt 9:9 from Levi, son of Alphaeus, as compared with
Mk 2:14]; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus; Simon the Cananean, and
Judas Iscariot who betrayed him."
Luke 6:14-16. "Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, James,
John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon
who was called a Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who
became a traitor."
Acts 1:13. "When they entered the city they went into the upper room where
they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas,
Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas
son of James."
The author of Luke-Acts also mentions the seventy and the seven.
Luke 10:1-17. "Now after these things the Lord appointed seventy others
also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place
where he himself was about to come. . . . And the seventy returned with joy,
saying, Lord, even the demons are subject to us through thy name."
Acts 6:3-5. "Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled
with the spirit and wisdom . . ." So they chose Stephen, a man filled with
faith and the holy spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas,
and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism."
Some suggest that John 1:45-51 suggests that Nathanael can take his place
among the college of the apostles. It is often observed that the fourth
gospel has no list of the Twelve, but we do find this list in the Johannine
John 21:2. "There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and
Nathanael who was of Cana of Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two
others of his disciples."
If you count these, there are seven disciples mentioned. If you look up
above, you will find that Papias also mentions seven disciples: Andrew,
Peter, Philip, Thomas, James, John, and Matthew. Papias mentions Judas
elsewhere but does not mention him as an apostle here. The Gospel of the
Ebionites mentions eight people; the additional four names inserted by M. R.
James are a conjectural emendation so that the list adds up to twelve, in
accord with the mention of the twelve in Epiphanius' quote, but it is
possible that two different traditions are reflected in this quote. If
Judas may be excluded, as he is in Papias, the Jewish-Christian Gospel
mentioned by Epiphanius names seven disciples: John and James the sons of
Zebedee, and Simon and Andrew and Thaddaeus and Simon the Zealot and
So we have three lists of seven: John, Papias, and the Ebionite Gospel
quoted by Epiphanius. Let me repeat the list for each.
Gospel of John: Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathanael who was of
Cana of Galilee, son of Zebedee, son of Zebedee, one of two other disciples,
one of two other disciples
Papias in Eusebius: Andrew, Peter, Philip, Thomas, James, John, and Matthew
Ebionite Gospel in Epiphanius: John son of Zebedee, James the son of
Zebedee, Simon, Andrew, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot, Matthew.
There are three persons that appear in all these lists of seven, though
without names in the fourth gospel (for his own literary purposes).
= John - Papias - Ebionite =
Simon Peter - Peter - Simon
'sons of Zebedee' - John - John son of Zebedee
'sons of Zebedee' - James - James son of Zebedee
These are the same names found in the Big Three (Gal 2:9; Mark 5:37, 9:2,
13:3, 14:33 and parallels.).
There are then four persons whose names may vary.
= John - Papias - Ebionite =
Thomas called Didymus - Thomas - Thaddaeus/Simon the Zealot
Nathanael - Matthew - Matthew
'two others of his disciples' - Andrew - Andrew
'two others of his disciples' - Philip - Thaddaeus/Simon the Zealot
Here is how I constructed this table. First, I noted that Andrew and Philip
often appear together in the apostolic lists (Mark 3:18, Acts 1:13). Also,
I noted that Andrew and Philip were mentioned in the first chapter of the
fourth gospel (Jn 1:40, 1:43-44). They were therefore obvious candidates
for the two other disciples, and they both appear in Papias separated only
by Peter (the brother of Andrew). Then, it is obvious that Thomas in Papias
should be paired up with Thomas called Didymus in the fourth gospel. After
that, the only name left unmatched in Papias is Matthew, so I placed it next
to Nathanael by a process of elimination. For the Gospel of the Ebionites,
Andrew and Matthew are mentioned and so appear in the table next to the
names in the list from Papias. I saw no clear way to connect
Thaddaeus/Simon the Zealot with Thomas/Philip, so I left these relationships
With the exception of Nathanael, all of these names appear in the synoptic
lists of Twelve, but not in the same order. The lack of a common order with
the synoptic Twelve suggests to me that the Seven is a separate tradition
from the Twelve. I am not sure how the apostolic Seven relates to the
Hellenist Seven in Acts. Is the author of Luke-Acts somehow commenting on
an earlier tradition of seven disciples? If so, what is the comment? I
haven't worked that out.
Now we come to the lists of Twelve. The slight discrepancy between the list
in Mark/Matthew and the list in Luke/Acts is well-known, and the time-worn
harmonization tells us that Judas the son of James is Thaddaeus. But not so
well-known is the non-synoptic list of Twelve to be found in the Epistula
Apostolorum. There we find it written:
"We, John, Thomas, Peter, Andrew, James, Philip, Batholomew, Matthew,
Nathanael, Judas Zelotes, and Cephas, write unto the churches . . ."
Count them up, and you will reach the number eleven. Add in Judas Iscariot,
excluded from the Twelve after the resurrection (Mt 28:16; Lk 24:9, 24:33),
and what you see in the Epistula Apostolorum is a different list of the
So let us compare the lists of the Eleven (minus the Iscariot) in these
Gospel of Mark: Peter, James son of Zebedee, John the brother of James,
Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus,
Thaddeus, Simon the Cananean
The Work of Luke-Acts: Simon whom he named Peter, his brother Andrew, James,
John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon
who was called a Zealot, Judas the son of James
Epistula Apostolorum: John, Thomas, Peter, Andrew, James, Philip,
Batholomew, Matthew, Nathanael, Judas Zelotes, Cephas
The first thing that jumps out at you is that Peter is separated from Cephas
in the Epistula Apostolorum. It has been suggested by some that the name of
Peter was interpolated into the Pauline epistles to replace the name of
Cephas in some places. (http://www.depts.drew.edu/jhc/barnikol.html) This
list of the Eleven in the Epistula Apostolorum could provide independent
attestation of the tradition that Peter and Cephas were not always
identified, regardless of their etymological similarity.
Other striking points in the Epistula Apostolorum include the priority of
John, paralleled only in the Ebionite Gospel, and the high position given to
Thomas as second, while Thomas usually appears much later. Andrew is
mentioned along with Peter, which is not unusual, but three names now place
a wedge between John and James: did the author of the Epistula Apostolorum
think of them as brothers?
Philip, Bartholomew, and Matthew appear together in the proper order in the
Epistula Apostolorum. So far, all of these names are found in the synoptic
list. But then we see the name of Nathanael: the list that places John
first provides an additional testimony to the apostolate of Nathanael.
Then we come to the apostle that I would dub "Jude the obscure," named here
Judas Zelotes, who could be identified with Simon who was called the Zealot
in Luke-Acts (Simon the Cananean in Matthew/Mark), or who could be
identified with Judas the son of James in Luke-Acts (sometimes identified
with Thaddeus in Matthew/Mark). Is it too much to suggest that a name was
made up on occasion to round out the number of apostles?
From the list in the Epistula Apostolorum, it is apparent that, if Jesus
chose twelve disciples, their names were not committed to memory by the
early church, perhaps analogous to the way they are not committed to memory
in the church today. All the lists remember Peter and the sons of thunder,
and then Andrew or Matthew or Thomas come to mind, but after that the memory
We have examined the traditions of the Seven and of the Twelve. Brief
mention can be made of the other traditions of disciples.
The Two appear in the Apocryphon of James, "a secret book which was revealed
to me and Peter by the Lord," in which Jesus says, "Let me have James and
Peter, in order that I may fill them." Then there is that dynamic duo,
Peter and Paul, mentioned in First Clement together as follows: "Let us set
before our eyes the good Apostles. There was Peter who by reason of
unrighteous jealousy endured not one not one but many labors, and thus
having borne his testimony went to his appointed place of glory. By reason
of jealousy and strife Paul by his example pointed out the prize of patient
endurance. After that he had been seven times in bonds, had been driven into
exile, had been stoned, had preached in the East and in the West, he won the
noble renown which was the reward of his faith, having taught righteousness
unto the whole world and having reached the farthest bounds of the West; and
when he had borne his testimony before the rulers, so he departed from the
world and went unto the holy place, having been found a notable pattern of
The triumvirate of James, Peter, and John appear in Paul (Gal 2:9) and the
synoptics (Mark 5:37, 9:2, 13:3, 14:33, parallels). I write in my summary
of Eisenman: "Ancient tradition has it that the first Jewish revolt was
sparked by the unjust execution of James the Just. In order to disassociate
James the Just from his brother Jesus, the Gospels split him into two: on
the one hand, the family of Jesus including James think Jesus is mad; on the
other hand, James the son of Zebedee is one of the trio of James, Peter, and
John as found in the Gospels. Yet the fiction is exposed when we look at the
earlier letters of Paul, in which the trio is James the brother of the Lord,
Peter, and John - what an odd coincidence, which so many scholars take at
face value, that one James the son of Zebedee should have died only to be
conveniently replaced by another by the name of James, the brother of
Jesus!" A lesser-mentioned threesome is found in the Gospel of Thomas in
the form of Simon Peter, Matthew, and Thomas (saying 13).
For the Five, here is the quote from the Talmud. It is from TB Sanhedrin
43a, as given by F. F. Bruce in _Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New
Testament_, p. 62. It comes right after the story of hanging Jesus on the
Passover Eve for sorcery and leading Israel astray into apostasy, which
gives reasonable assurance that Jesus of Nazareth is intended. There
follows a list of offenses supposedly committed by these people, with quotes
from the Hebrew scriptures that pun on their names; giving names that would
create puns may have been the principle behind the selection of names.
Nevertheless it is interesting as providing a testimony to a tradition of a
group of five. "The rabbis taught: Jesus had five disciples: Mathai, Naqai,
Nezer, Buni, and Todah."
Finally, for a group of seventy which would be a separate group from the
apostles in any account, see Luke 10:1-17, which is worth noting for the
sake of completeness. (The references in Paul to himself, Apollos, James
the Lord's brother, the Twelve after the resurrection, "all the apostles" in
addition, and those "prominent among the apostles" could be mentioned here
So it seems that we are narrowing our focus prematurely when asking, "Are
the Twelve historical?" We should really be asking, "Are the Two or the
Three or the Five or the Seven or the Twelve or the Seventy historical?" At
the least, I think that the tradition of the Seven deserves consideration
along with the tradition of the Twelve.
- 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.