The twelve disciples of Jesus.

Also known as the twelve apostles.


The following table coordinates the four canonical lists of the twelve disciples (or apostles):

Matthew 10.2-4. Mark 3.16-19. Luke 6.14-16. Acts 1.13.
Simon Peter.
Andrew his brother.
James son of Zebedee.
John his brother.
 
Philip.
Bartholomew.
Thomas.
Matthew.
 
James son of Alphaeus.
Thaddeus.
Simon the Cananean.
Judas Iscariot.
Simon Peter.
James son of Zebedee.
John brother of James.
Andrew.
 
Philip.
Bartholomew.
Matthew.
Thomas.
 
James son of Alphaeus.
Thaddeus.
Simon the Cananean.
Judas Iscariot.
Simon Peter.
Andrew his brother.
James.
John.
 
Philip.
Bartholomew.
Matthew.
Thomas.
 
James of Alphaeus.
Simon the zealot.
Jude of James.
Judas Iscariot.
Peter.
John.
James.
Andrew.
 
Philip.
Thomas.
Bartholomew.
Matthew.
 
James of Alphaeus.
Simon the zealot.
Jude of James.

The list appears to have been remembered and transmitted as three groups of four.

The names in the first group are stable. They change in order of mention only. I find it interesting that the list was not transmitted in groups of three, since Peter, James, and John appear to hold a special place in the ministry of Jesus as an inner circle of three. On the other hand, the pairing of brothers in this first set seems quite natural and conducive to oral memory. Peter is always first.

The second group always commences with Philip. These names, too, are stable. Only their order changes.

The third group always commences with James son of Alphaeus and concludes with Judas Iscariot (except in the Acts, since Judas had defected and killed himself). Meier notes on page 205 of Companions and Competitors:

Practically all critics agree that Simon "the Cananean" and Simon "the Zealot" are the same person, "Zealot" being a translation into Greek (zēlōtēs) of the Aramaic word for "zealous" or "jealous" (qan‘ānā‘), represented by the transliteration "Cananean".

Which leaves only one unstable slot: Thaddeus and Jude of James. Are they the same person? Is one invented, or wrongly placed amongst the official twelve? Did one replace the other in the twelve sometime during the ministry of Jesus?

Luke lists the same names in his gospel as in his acts, but in a different order. Why? Has he reshuffled the names in the Acts to reflect their later status in the church? For instance, he has moved John (who became a pillar of the Jerusalem church, according to Galatians 2.9) up before James (who died as a martyr very early in church history, according to Acts 12.1-2), and both of these before Andrew, who fails to appear in the Acts after the listing in Acts 1.13. One then struggles, however, to explain why Thomas has now moved up past Matthew and Bartholomew in the list in Acts. Could this move reflect yet another connection between Luke and the gospel of John, in which Thomas plays a greater role than in the synoptics?

On the tenure (12 years) of the apostles in Jerusalem: Acts of Peter 2.5, as well as the following texts.

Eusebius, History of the Church 5.18.14:

Ετι δε ως εκ παραδοσεως τον σωτηρα φησιν προστεταχεναι τοις αυτου αποστολοις επι δωδεκα ετεσιν μη χωρισθηναι της Ιερουσαλημ, κεχρηται δε και μαρτυριαις απο της Ιωαννου αποκαλυψεως, και νεκρον δε δυναμει θεια προς αυτου Ιωαννου εν τη Εφεσω εγηγερθαι ιστορει, και αλλα τινα φησιν, δι ων ικανως της προειρημενης αιρεσεως πληρεστατα διηυθυνεν την πλανην. ταυτα και ο Απολλωνιος.

[Apollonius] speaks yet from a tradition that the savior ordered his apostles not to depart from Jerusalem for twelve years, and he also uses testimonies from the revelation of John, and he relates that a dead man had been raised by John himself in Ephesus by divine power, and he also says other things, through which he sufficiently and fully exposes the error of the aforementioned heresy.* These are also the things of Apollonius.

* From context, the heresy of Montanism.

From Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies 6.5, citing the lost Preaching of Peter:

Δια τουτο φησιν ο Πετρος ειρηκεναι τον κυριον τοις αποστολοις· Εαν μεν ουν τις θεληση του Ισραηλ μετανοησαι, δια του ονοματος μου πιστευειν επι τον θεον, αφεθησονται αυτω αι αμαρτιαι. μετα δωδεκα ετη εξελθετε εις τον κοσμον, μη τις ειπη· Ουκ ηκουσαμεν.

On this account Peter says that the Lord said to the apostles: If therefore anyone of Israel wishes to repent, by my name to believe upon God, his sins shall be forgiven him. After twelve years go forth into the world, lest anyone say: We have not heard.