DISCIPLE IN THE ENGLISH VERNACULAR means pupil or student, and those disciples who accepted the challenge to follow Jesus and to listen to his teaching were men and later women of less than celebrated standing. They called him rabbi, or teacher, whom he had chosen to become his core group of confidantes, who listened and helped spring the holy spirit into action.
Simon and his brother Andrew were the first disciples Jesus chose. Next Jesus called James and John, then Philip, Nathaniel (also called Bartholomew), Matthew, Thomas, and James, son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas, son of James, and Judas Iscariot. According to the Gospel of John, Andrew and one other of the disciples had first been disciples of John the Baptist.
The disciples were more interested in telling Jesus’ story than in telling their own, but we do know a few things about some of them.
Jesus nicknamed Simon Peter, and the nickname stuck.
Peter, Andrew, James and John were commercial fishermen. They (or their families) owned their own boats. James and John were the sons of Zebedee, and this John may be the person who wrote the Fourth Gospel, the Gospel of John.
Andrew and Philip have Greek names and spoke Greek to the travelers who came from Greece to hear Jesus preach. They may have had Greek relatives or Greek or Roman educations.
Matthew had been a tax collector, a disrespected way of earning a living in those days. Tax collectors were not allowed to testify in court, because everyone believed they were totally dishonest. Simon the Zealot and may have been political activists, belonging to some of the many groups that wanted to overthrow the Roman government. The Jews at that time wanted very much to have a Jewish king and Jewish courts that understood their beliefs and the way they observed the religious laws.
We only know Thomas‘s nickname: both Thomas in Aramaic and Didymus in Greek mean twin. He may have had an actual twin brother – or he may have looked so much like Jesus that everyone joked that he was Jesus’ twin brother. Nowhere in the Gospel accounts does anyone mention that Thomas had a twin brother or sister. He is also known as Thomas the Doubter.
What we know for sure about all the disciples is that they each left their livelihoods and family commitments to follow the Nazarene as he traveled around the country, preaching, teaching, and healing. But this page will not merely include those men called in the time of the earthly Jesus, but many others down through the ages who may or may not have had an impact on this website.
To be continued…
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