Who Were The Twelve Disciples?
The twelve disciples, often referred to as the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ were twelve of the followers of Jesus Christ in Christianity. The twelve disciples were, according to Christianity ordinary men who followed the teachings of Jesus Christ and after witnessing His crucifixion and His resurrection and His ascension these men were sent out to spread the word of Christianity and be witness to the work of God.
Men of Ordinary Means
The twelve disciples were men of ordinary means, working as a fisherman, a tax collector and a revolutionary among other occupations and they experienced much hardship, failings and doubts during their following of Jesus; however, these men played an important part in spreading the word of Jesus Christ and Christianity. The twelve disciples are generally referred to as disciples during the time when Jesus walked the Earth and they are referred to as apostles after Jesus ascension.
Names of the 12 Disciples
The twelve disciples are known as:
Simon (known as Peter)
Andrew (Peter’s brother)
James (son of Zebedee)
John (James’ brother)
Matthew (the tax collector)
James (son of Alphaeus)
Thaddeus (also known as Judas, son of James and Lebbaeus)
Simon (the zealot also known as Simon the Canaanite)
Judas: The Betrayer of Jesus
It is also noted that in the twelve apostles Judas Iscariot the betrayer of Jesus Christ is replaced by Matthias; however, there is argument amongst religious zealots who believe that Paul would have been the replacement of Judas Iscariot and not Matthias.
Simon (St. Peter): The First Disciple
Simon (known as Peter): Peter (also referred to as Saint Peter by the Catholic church) made his home in Bethsaida, a small town on the eastern shore of the sea of Galilee. Peter is generally the first of Jesus’ disciples to be listed when naming off the twelve disciples and he is the most well known disciple referenced in The Bible.
Peter is characterized as a strong willed and courageous man; however, at times he could be quick to speak, impulsive and impetuous. Peter seems to embody every man in his strength and weakness. Peter held firm belief in the teachings of Christ and made up one of the three closest disciples to Christ. Historical evidence points to the fact that during the time of Nero, Peter was crucified upside down. Crucifixion was the general means of death for Christians during the Roman empire and when condemned to death Peter requested to be crucified upside down because he did not feel worthy to perish in the same way as Jesus.
Andrew (Peter's Brother): The First Apostle Called by Jesus
Andrew (also referred to as Saint Andrew by the Catholic church) is the brother of Peter and as such was also born in Bethsaida. Andrew served as a disciple of John the Baptist and lived as a fisherman. Andrew left his life as a fisherman to serve as one of the two disciples of John the Baptist. While John the Baptist was a great prophet he sent Andrew to Jesus referring to him as the “Lamb of God”. Andrew is most noted for being the first Apostle called by Christ and spent his life spreading the word of Jesus Christ. The death of Andrew is not referred to in The Bible but it is believed by many that Andrew was hung on an “X” shaped cross for two days before succumbing to death, this is why the “X” shaped cross is referred to as the St. Andrew’s cross.
James (son of Zebedee) of Galilee
James (son of Zebedee, older brother of John): James (also referred to as Saint James by the Catholic church) is known for being the son of Zebedee and the brother of John, he hailed from Galilee. James was a fisherman with Peter and John and is always referred to in The Bible as the son of Zebedee in order to prevent confusion among other James’ in The Bible (there are many!) Jesus nicknamed both James and John “Sons of Thunder,” this nickname is thought to come from the fact that they both were such stormy personalities; they were easily angered and quick to judge enemies of the Lord. James was one of the three disciples closest to Jesus and as a result he witnessed many magnificent events which the other nine disciples were not allowed to see. The death of James is clearly spoken of in The Bible, as the first of Jesus’ disciples to give up his life in martyrdom James was slain by a sword.
John (James' Brother) the Apostle wrote Five Books of The Bible
John (also referred to as Saint John by the Catholic church) the apostle is sometimes confused with John the Baptist when these men were two very different figured in Biblical history. John the Apostle was the younger brother of James and also a fisherman. John is known for writing five books of The Bible. John, like Andrew served as the second disciple to John the Baptist. John served as the third disciple to be included in the circle of three disciples closest to Christ and as such he was witness to many miracles of Christ that the other nine disciples were not allowed to see. John was particularly devoted to Jesus and is claimed to be the closest of all twelve disciples to Jesus, never straying far from him. John is often found in accompaniment of Peter in The Bible and it was Peter and John who discovered the empty tomb of Jesus after his resurrection. John was the last of the twelve disciples to die and the only disciple who did not die in martyrdom; he is believed to have died from old age after being exiled to Patmos.
Phillip the Apostle
Phillip: Phillip (also referred to as Saint Phillip by the Catholic church) was born in Bethsaida like Peter and Andrew and is often referred to as Phillip the Apostle in order to distinguish him from the Phillip that occurs in Acts. Phillip was slow to recognize Jesus; however, once he found Jesus he was quick to share His greatness with his friend Nathanael Bartholomew. Both Phillip and Bartholomew are frequently named together as they frequently appear together and speak together in The Bible. Phillip is not mentioned a great deal throughout The Bible and not too much is known about him in depth. While Phillips death is not detailed in The Bible it is believed that he died the death of a Christian martyr.
Bartholomew, friend of Phillip
Bartholomew (Nathanael Bartholomew): Bartholomew (also referred to as Saint Bartholomew by the Catholic church) was friend of Phillip and brought to see the greatness of Christ by Phillip. Both Bartholomew and Phillip are often seen together and as a result they are generally lumped together when spoken of in any detail. Bartholomew is known for being an honest man who was convinced by Jesus’ greatness upon his meeting with Him and learning that Jesus saw him even before he came to Him. Much as with Phillip, Bartholomew is not referred to in detail in The Bible and so not too much is known about him. While his death is not talked of in The Bible it is believed that Bartholomew too received the death of a martyr as a result of his firm belief in Christianity and his intent on spreading the word of Christ.
Thomas ("Doubting Thomas")
Thomas (also referred to as Saint Thomas by the Catholic church) is thought to have been a twin although there is no mention of his twin in The Bible. The phrase “doubting Thomas” comes from Thomas the disciple in that he was particularly slow to believe in Christ. Thomas is also characterized by being somewhat gloomy and easily discouraged. While he was much of a pessimist Thomas was a full believer in Christ and followed Him loyally throughout His life. Thomas is known for being unable to see the forest for the trees and Jesus often had to help him to see the whole forest. Thomas is the one disciple who was not present on the first Easter Sunday. Thomas was the disciple who refused to believe in resurrection but he went on to spread the word of Christ until his death. It is believed that Thomas died the death of a martyr but this cannot be verified.
Matthew the Tax Collector
Matthew (also referred to as Saint Matthew by the Catholic church) is known for being a publican (or tax collector) which is unusual in that most of the disciples were fishermen by trade. Due to his work as a tax collector Matthew was seen as filth among people, classified as the lowest of the low for working alongside the Romans in collecting taxes and at the time being under Roman rule was the most hated thing of all. In addition during this time many tax collectors were dishonest giving people even more reason to hate them. Matthew always refers to himself as Matthew the tax collector or Matthew the publican making note of the fact that he was once a sinner even though he followed the path of Christ. Matthew was particularly self absorbed at the time he was called by Jesus to serve as His disciple. Upon meeting Christ; however, Matthew forgot about being self centered and began to consider others. Matthew is recognized for being the first writer of the first Gospel which is now referred to as the Gospel of Matthew.
James (son of Alphaeus)
James (son of Alphaeus) (also known as Saint James the Less by the Catholic church) is one of the disciples that very little is known about. James’ father shared his name with the father of Matthew and it is possible that they were brothers; however, this cannot be known for certain because there was much reuse of names in this time. James the son of Alphaeus is thought to be the same man as referred to as “James the Less” as a way for the disciples to distinguish between the two James’ however this is not known for certain and should not be assumed.
Thaddeus (also known as Judas, son of James and Lebbaeus): Thaddeus (also referred to as Saint Jude in the Catholic church) is believed to have been the nickname or surname of Judas. There is some confusion as to whether Thaddeus was the brother or son of James but it is known that they were related. Thaddeus is known as a disciple of three names being that he is referred to as Thaddeus, Judas and Lebbaeus. Thaddeus was not a leader of the twelve disciples and he is not mentioned often throughout The Bible.
Simon (the Canaanite)
Simon (the zealot also known as Simon the Canaanite): Simon (also known as Saint Simon in the Catholic church) is the least known of all of the twelve Apostles. The interesting thing about Simon is that he is never mentioned throughout The Bible, except to list his name as one of the twelve disciples. The word Canaanite as used to describe Simon is actually a term which relates to his position as a member of the zealots, a political party.
Judas Iscariot (the Betrayer)
Judas Iscariot – Judas Iscariot is always the last disciple placed on the list of twelve. Judas Iscariot is often referred to as Judas the Betrayer and he is known, and will forever be known for the one act of betrayal of the Lord. Though Judas was chosen to serve as one of Jesus’ disciples he eventually betrayed him while wearing the mask of a friend. Even when given the chance to reveal that he was plotting against Jesus, Judas Iscariot kissed Jesus and Jesus called him “friend”. Judas was the disciple who did not truly believe in the love of Jesus and when the chief priests were looking for a way to arrest Jesus Judas provided them with that way by identifying Jesus with a kiss in return for thirty pieces of silver. Judas is frequently referred to as the only disciple who was separated from God in his death as he never had salvation as a result of his betrayal, thievery and lies.
Matthias (the 12th Apostle)
Matthias (also known as Saint Matthias in the Catholic church) was chosen by the remaining eleven disciples to replace the betrayer, Judas Iscariot before Jesus’ resurrection. The scriptural recommendation was for twelve disciples and so Peter declared that they must choose another to take the place of Judas Iscariot. Matthias was chosen as the twelfth Apostle since he was present with Jesus Christ during his time on Earth as well as through his crucifixion. While two men were chosen to take the twelfth place in the Apostles lots were drawn and Matthias was selected as the twelfth and final Apostle.
Paul (the Other Candidate for 12th Apostle)
Paul (known as St Paul of the Gentiles in the Catholic church) is the choice of many Christians to replace Judas Iscariot as the twelfth Apostle. Paul was known as a persecutor of Christians and a Roman citizen until his conversion to Christianity. Paul is known for three missionary journeys during which he preached the word of Christ and some believe he would have been selected by Jesus Himself to replace Judas Iscariot after His death.
The Twelve Disciples as Saints
All of the disciples with the exception of Judas Iscariot were each made saints in the Catholic religion. This not only recognizes that these are holy people, but it also means that Catholics can invoke these saints through prayer to intercede on their behalf. Below you will find the most popular prayers for each of the twelve disciples.
Prayers Invoking the Assistance of the Disciples
Prayer to Saint Peter the Apostle
Thou art the Shepherd of the sheep, the Prince of the Apostles, unto thee were given the keys of the kingdom of heaven. "Thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my Church." Raise us up, we beseech Thee, O Lord, by the apostolic assistance of blessed Peter, Thine Apostle; so that the weaker we are, the more mightily we may be helped by the power of his intercession; and that being perpetually defended by the same holy apostle, we may niether yield to any iniquity, nor be overcome by any adversity. Through Christ, Our Lord. Amen.
Prayer to Saint Andrew the Apostle
O glorious St. Andrew, you were the first to recognize and follow the Lamb of God. With your friend, St. John, you remained with Jesus for that first day, for your entire life, and now throughout eternity. As you led your brother, St. Peter, to Christ and many others after him, draw us also to Him. Teach us to lead others to Christ solely out of love for Him and dedication in His service. Help us to learn the lesson of the Cross and to carry our daily crosses without complaint so that they may carry us to Jesus. Amen.
Prayer to Saint James the Apostle
O glorious Apostle, St. James, who by reason of thy fervent and generous heart wast chosen by Jesus to be a witness of His glory on Mount Tabor, and of His agony in Gethsemane; thou, whose very name is a symbol of warfare and victory: obtain for us strength and consolation in the unending warfare of this life, that, having constantly and generously followed Jesus, we may be victors in the strife and deserve to receive the victor's crown in heaven. Amen.
Prayer to Saint John the Apostle
O Glorious Apostle, who, on account of thy virginal purity, wast so beloved by Jesus as to deserve to lay thy head upon his divine breast, and to be left, in his place, as son to his most holy Mother; I beg thee to inflame me with a most ardent love towards Jesus and Mary. Obtain for me from our Lord that I, too, with a heart purified from earthly affections, may be made worthy to be ever united to Jesus as a faithful disciple, and to Mary as a devoted son, both here on earth and eternally in heaven. Amen.
Prayer to Saint Philip the Apostle
O Glorious St. Philip, at the Last Supper you said to Jesus: "Lord, show us the Father and it will be enough for us." Help us to make this our prayer also and to seek God in all things. Obtain for us the grace to know the Father and Jesus Christ whom he has sent, for in this does eternal life consist.
Prayer to Saint Bartholomew the Apostle
O Glorious Saint Bartholomew, Jesus called you a person without guile and you saw in this word a sign that he was the Son of God and King of Israel. Obtain for us the grace to be ever guileless and innocent as doves. At the same time, help us to have your gift of faith to see the Divine hand in the events of daily life. May we discern the signs of the times that lead to Jesus on earth and will eventually unite us to him forever in heaven. Amen.
Prayer to Saint Thomas the Apostle
O Glorious Saint Thomas, your grief for Jesus was such that it would not let you believe he had risen unless you actually saw him and touched his wounds. But your love for Jesus was equally great and it led you to give up your life for him. Pray for us that we may grieve for our sins which were the cause of Christ's sufferings. Help us to spend ourselves in his service and so earn the title of "blessed" which Jesus applied to those who would believe in him without seeing him. Amen.
Prayer to Saint Matthew the Apostle
O Glorious St. Matthew, in your Gospel you portray Jesus as the longed-for Messiah who fulfilled the Prophets of the Old Covenant and as the new Lawgiver who founded a Church of the New Covenant. Obtain for us the grace to see Jesus living in his Church and to follow his teachings in our lives on earth so that we may live forever with him in heaven.
Prayer to Saint James the Apostle
O glorious Apostle, Saint James, who by reason of thy fervent and generous heart was chosen by Jesus to be witness of His glory on Mount Tabor, and of His agony in Gethsemane; thou, whose very name is a symbol of warfare and victory: obtain for us strength and consolation in the unending warfare of this life, that, having constantly and generously followed Jesus, we may be victors in the strife and deserve to receive the victor's crown in heaven. Amen.
Prayer to Saint Thaddeus (Jude) the Apostle
Glorious Apostle, Saint Jude Thaddeus, I salute you through the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Through His Heart I praise and thank God for all the graces he has bestowed upon you. I implore you, through His love to look upon me with compassion. Do not despise my poor prayer. Do not let my trust be confounded. God has granted to you the privilege of aiding mankind in the most desperate cases. Oh, come to my aid that I may praise the mercies of God. All my life I will be your grateful client until I can thank you in heaven. Amen.
Prayer to Saint Simon (the Zealot) the Apostle
O Glorious Saint Simon, you were a cousin of Jesus and a devoted follower as well. You were called "the Zealot," indicating that you were willing to give your life for your religion and your freedom as a human person. Obtain for us the grace to be willing to give our lives for Christ and to labor for the freedom and peace that only God can give. Help us to spend ourselves for God on earth and be received by him in eternal bliss in heaven. Amen.
Judas Iscariot the Apostle
Due to the fact that it was Judas Iscariot that betrayed Jesus he has no prayers dedicated to him, nor was he sanctified. Judas is often confused with St. Jude Thaddeus however when they are two separate disciples.