Apostle Curiosities

The word “apostle” is used to denote the alleged twelve followers whom Jesus is said to have chosen and sent forth to preach his message.  It should be noted that not one of these alleged historic persons has ever been verified by any public records or historians of that Roman Empire period.  The names of Jesus’ alleged apostles are listed here in alphabetical order.

Andrew, an apostle portrayed as brother of Simon “Peter,” was allegedly a disciple of John the Baptist and was the first one called by Jesus.  Jesus summoned the brothers, both portrayed as fishermen, to follow him and become “fishers of people.” (Mark 1:16 and Matthew 4:18-20)  Andrew is not as prominent in the New Testament as is “Peter,” but he was said to be present at the apocalyptic speech on the Mount of Olives (Mark 13:3-37), and he was portrayed as present at the division of bread miracle.

Bartholomew, is also said to be the same person mentioned later in Gospel as Nathanael who was said to have been active in Galilee.  Strangely, nothing is actually recorded about Bartholomew in the New Testament, and he is not mentioned at all in the gospel of John.  On the other hand, Nathanael is never mentioned in the synoptic Gospels.  Why this should have been a confusion of identity with these two names is never answered.  Both names are linked with Philip, however, and it for this reason that it has been suggested that they refer to the same person.  According to traditions, Bartholomew is said to have been a missionary to many countries, such as Egypt, Persia, India and Armenia.  By different accounts he suffered many martyrdoms, but the favored one is that he was flayed alive in Armenia—and thus he is considered the patron of tanners!

James, is the name given for two apostles.  James “the Greater” was a son of Zebedee, and his brother was John.  In Christian tradition James “the Greater” is presented as a strong spiritual teacher, and in this he resembles the enlightened centaur Chiron of Greek myth.  Tradition also has it that James “the Greater” later preached in Spain, but he returned to Judea where, c. 44, Herod Agrippa allegedly had him martyred by sword.  Like the others, he is considered to be a “saint,” and his feast is celebrated July 25, which, apparently by coincidence, is about the time when constellation Sagittarius rises into prominence in the skies of the Northern Hemisphere.  James and his brother John were called Boanerges by Jesus, which is an anagram reference to the Greek Cyclopes myth of Brontes and Arges, who represented thunder and lightning.  Thus in the book of Luke 9:54, the brothers, in the role of those cosmic fire elements, when Jesus is rebuked by sectarianism Mark (9:38-40) the brothers ask Jesus, “…wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them?”

James, “the Less,” is portrayed as the son of Alphaeus (or Cleopatra: no, not that Cleopatra), and is called the “Less” to distinguish him from James, the son of Zebedee.  In the befuddled writing style, this James could be mistaken for the brother of Jesus, but that is skirted by saying that this James was the son of Mary Cleophas, the sister of Mary, mother of Jesus, and therefore a cousin of Jesus.  Other scholars skirt the problem by insisting that the phrase “brother of the Lord” refers to a son of Joseph by a former marriage.  Still others say that he was the son born to Joseph and Mary after Jesus.  Whatever his imagined connection, he is considered a “saint”; his feast is celebrated May 1.

John, presented as the younger brother of James “the Greater,” is portrayed as having been a disciple of John the Baptist, as was Andrew, but became an apostle of Jesus.  The brothers James and John were allegedly called Boanerges by Jesus, meaning “sons of thunder (Mark 3:17).  This nickname for the brothers given by Jesus seems questionable, for it is derived from the Greek myth of Creation in which two Cyclopes named Brontes and Arges are the personifications of thunder and lightning.  Wherever the name John is used in the NT, it is always a personification of light, which is why he is considered the most beloved of Jesus’ apostles.  John is credited with being the most active of the Apostles in organizing the Christian cult in Palestine and, later, throughout Asia Minor.  Tradition avers that Romans were persecuting Christians and that John was banished to Patmos, an island off the coast of Asia Minor where he allegedly wrote the book of Revelations.  The writing styles of the various texts attributed to John show the works to be by different authors, however.  Interestingly, the eagle is one of his several emblems, and the eagle happens to have been the Hebrew symbol for the constellation Scorpius.  “Saint” John’s feast is celebrated December 27.

Judas Iscariot is the most artificial of all the characters in Gospel.  Contradictions swirl around this character that make any serious thinker question the role he is alleged to have played.  Like bad storytelling, the motive for Judas’ behavior is not made clear, and there are differing points of whether he was only promised money or actually received money to betray Jesus.  Curiously, in the book of Mark the name of the traitor is never given (Mark 14:17-21).  And did Judas hang himself or did he die as a result of a fall?  Did he purchase a field with the “blood money,” or did he return the money and hang himself in disgrace and the priests used the money to buy the “Field of Blood” to bury him?  Both of these versions are offered.  As far as the faith merchants are concerned everything was all due to Satan’s influence (Luke 22:3), so all this is just inconsequential.  The elaborations regarding the role of Judas are too varied and details of his manner of death too unclear as presented by different authors.  A major point that the devout always sidestep is the fact that without Judas, Jesus could never have become Christ, for that could happen only through Jesus submitting to physical sacrifice demanded by his heavenly father.  Judas has had a long run as being portrayed as the enemy of Christ, but the story itself raises serious doubt about that, for without Judas the alleged purpose of Jesus’ brief time on Earth—the depraved demand that he must sacrifice himself in order to salvage the souls of man for the father could not have been fulfilled.  Does this sound like something an omniscient Creator would choose to resort to in order to “save” his prized creation?

Matthew, is honored as the author of the First Gospel although it is not the oldest text, and he is frequently said to be one and the same with Levi mentioned in Mark 2:14, and in Luke 5:27.  Why there should be such an inconsistency of identity among the apostles is never explained.  With the exception of the four lists of apostles that float around, or the mention of him in the books Mark and Luke, the character of Matthew is nowhere else mentioned in the New Testament.  But this has not stopped the tradition that he actively preached in such places as Macedonia, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Parthia.  The so-called First Gospel does not convey the familiarity that would come from an actual companion of Jesus, but seems more like an account based on another document.  But then the book of Matthew underwent revision sometime around the year 80, which possibly altered its content.  Whatever the reason, it has led some scholars to consider the First Gospel to be “according to Matthew” rather than to be by Matthew.  Nonetheless, most Christians accept the avowal that the book of Matthew is the most important of the four books of Gospel.  The feast in honor of this “saint” is celebrated September 21 (just preceding the Autumnal equinox).

Philip, from Bethsaida, was therefore a fellow townsman of the brothers Andrew and Simon “Peter,” and he was allegedly the fourth apostle chosen by Jesus.  This is probably one of the lesser known of the twelve apostles, his character being acknowledged principally as having been quick to appreciate the ministry of Jesus, but not particularly confident how his message could be utilized to solve man’s problems.  It is speculated that he had been a disciple of John the Baptist.  He is the only one of the apostles to have a Greek name.  The story goes that immediately after being called by Jesus he brought to Jesus his companion Nathaniel (who is elsewhere referred to as Bartholomew).  According to the book of John (12:20-22), it was to Philip that “certain Greeks came” asking to be admitted to the presence of Jesus.  Only in the book of John (6:5-9), is Philip presented as one of the two apostles named in the account of Jesus miraculously feeding 5000 persons.  Oddly, nothing more of Philip is followed in Gospel.

Simon “Peter”: Originally this character was presented as Simon (or as Simeon in Acts 15:12), but Jesus allegedly bestowed the name “Peter” upon him.  This possibly resulted from the Greek translation of an Aramaic word Cepha(s), meaning rock or stone.  Much more likely the name was drawn from the Latin word petra, which means “rock.”  (It was, after all, in Roman Empire times when the texts known as the New Testament were composed.)  Simon “Peter” and his brother Andrew are depicted as poor, uneducated working fishermen who did not own their own boat.  Association with Jesus apparently miraculously enlightened Simon to such an extent that he could pen at least two of the writings of the NT (the “letters of Peter”), and he often acted as the apostles’ spokesperson (as in Mark 8:29; 11:21; and 14:29).  Peter, the “rock”, is not favorably portrayed in Mark, especially in chapter 9:5-6, where he three times denied knowing Jesus.  Even so, it is Peter who allegedly was permitted to be the first to see the risen Jesus.  By the account given, however, it was Mary Magdalene who first encountered the risen Jesus.  This is brushed aside, for it was understood that the first to see the risen Jesus was supposed to head his church (to be established in Rome); thus typically  the female is belittled, and it is said that Peter was the first male to behold the blessed event.  To get around this controversial situation of Peter being favored, it was subsequently interpreted, supposedly by the self-proclaimed apostle Paul in shaping the corporate church, that Peter was meant to minister the Jews and Paul, who never knew Jesus personally, was delegated to convert gentiles.  This presents a sticky situation: in the timeframe of this story, Jews did not travel much outside their region of Palestine.  And yet the story goes that Peter apparently sought Jews in Rome, and supposedly instituted Jesus’ church there.  (See earlier blogs, Simon/Peter, Historical or Mythical, March 2012, and Christianity and the PTR Factor, March 2012.)

Thaddeus, or Judas Thaddeus, son of James, to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot.  Thus this may be the Judas referred to in John 14:22.  Further confusion as to who is who may be traced back to inferior manuscripts in which are listed the apostles as given in Mark and Matthew and a scribe mistakenly substituted the name Lebbaeus for Thaddeus.  This may also be when the identity of Levi also became mixed as Matthew.  The little that is known of the character Thaddeus came from the ecclesiastical “historian” named Eusebius of Caesarea (260?-340?), who was not above rewriting things to fit his objectives.  Also it was only Eusebius who asserted that the apostle Philip chose the Phrygian regions for his missionary work.  This is holy history?

Thomas has the distinction of being named in all lists of Jesus’ twelve apostles.  Peculiarly, he is presented as a major character only in the gospel of John, however, and his major scene is where he demands to see physical proof of Jesus’ crucifixion ordeal.  Confusion swirls around Thomas due to the fact that his name means “twin” in Aramaic, and this has led to speculation that he was the twin of Jesus!  (This speculation has much in common with the Greek story of the Zeus-sired Heracles and his mortal twin Iphicles.)  But all the twelve apostles are based on the twelve zodiac signs—just as were the twelve alleged tribes of Israelites and the twelve sons of Jacob/Israel. The authors of these lists that include Thomas referred to him as Judas Thomas or as Thomas Didymus, which was derived from the Greek word didymos, which was a direct reference to the Gemini twins of the zodiac.  In prehistory lessons which used constellation groupings to illustrate the lessons, the lessons of Gemini concerned Creation’s pre-physical energies involving as mental energy.  In the Romanized version taken from this, Thomas therefore personified the dual nature at work in Creation, and as such he symbolizes Creation’s concentrated, undivided genetic energy, or what might be termed hermaphroditic characteristics.  What the character of Thomas signifies, therefore, is that the norm of spirit is androgynous—spirit in equilibrium.

  • These brief biographical sketches offered here are based on New Testament storylines which were written in the Roman Empire era, and there exists absolutely no historical records which confirm that any of the alleged apostles ever existed.
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10 Responses to “Apostle Curiosities”

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  2. If John could not manage to “watch” as Jesus had requested at Gethsemane, why would anyone think John abruptly changed and began to act unlike his fellow apostles after Jesus was seized? There is no reason to believe John acted any differently than the way the rest of the apostles acted on that night. But the “other disciple” did act differently that night. We are told he, “went in with Jesus into the palace of the high priest” (Fourth gospel 18:15) and at the cross the following morning, scripture tells us Jesus saw “the disciple standing by, whom he loved” (Fourth gospel 19:26). So, this disciple most likely stayed in the vicinity of Jesus in the period of time that transpired in between these two verses.

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