During his time on Earth, Jesus had 12 men who were his closest followers. The disciples, sometimes called apostles, of Jesus, came from a variety of backgrounds. How each disciple came to Jesus is recounted in three of the gospels in the New Testament of the Bible.
The names of Jesus' 12 disciples are:
- Simon the Zealot
- Simon Peter
- James, Son of Alpheus
- James, Son of Zebedee
- Judas Iscariot
Who Were the Disciples of Jesus?
During the time of Jesus, it was common for teachers and rabbis to be approached by students who wanted to learn from them. Students would ask a rabbi if they could follow them to learn more about the faith. Jesus did the opposite. Instead of having his disciples come to him, he went to the disciples and called them to follow him.
The 12 men who ended up following Jesus didn't have a background in the Jewish establishment or close ties to the faith. Instead, they were fishermen, tax collectors, and farmers.
What Did the Disciples Do?
While Jesus was alive, his disciples followed him and were present at many of his miracles. After his death, the disciples had the responsibility of establishing the Christian Church and carrying on the work of Jesus. Some of the disciples wrote the books of the New Testament, sharing the story of Jesus as well as recording the history of the early Church.
Many of Jesus' disciples ended up traveling to spread the word of Jesus and to build churches in other areas. Several were killed for their beliefs.
Judas Iscariot, the Traitor, and His Replacement
Judas Iscariot might be one of the most recognizable of the 12 disciples as he's the one who betrayed Jesus. Little else is known about Judas Iscariot, aside from his betrayal for 30 pieces of silver. It's also known that he committed suicide by hanging himself after the betrayal.
Matthias replaced Judas after his betrayal and death. Although Matthias was a disciple, he didn't follow Jesus during his lifetime. The other 11 disciples chose him by a process of casting lots.
Peter, along with his brother, Andrew, was one of the first disciples to follow Jesus. Jesus found Peter and Andrew while they were trying to fish. Peter is also known as Simon and, in some cases, Simon Peter.
In addition to being one of Jesus' first followers and to being known for his zeal for Jesus, Peter is known for denying Jesus three times right before his death.
The most details about the disciple Thomas are given in the gospel of John. Thomas is also known as Doubting Thomas as he was the most pessimistic of the 12 disciples. After hearing from the others that Jesus had risen from the dead, it's believed that Thomas said he would not believe it until he saw Jesus for himself and saw the gash in his side from the spear.
Matthew is also known as Levi and is credited with writing the gospel of Matthew in the New Testament. What's most notable about Matthew is that he was a tax collector, a profession that was not respected in the Jewish faith. It's also believed that Matthew was one of the first to write about the story of Jesus.