Read March 11-17 Come, Follow Me – For Individuals and Families lesson here.
Attestaments focus: Matthew 10
THE TWELVE APOSTLES
Listen. I’ve just been over here nerding out over the amazingness that a temple opened in Rome, Italy. And that ALL of the modern-day apostles attended the dedication. And that we’re studying the New Testament at the same time. And we’re assigned to learn about the first apostles called by the Savior this week in Come, Follow Me. I can only imagine the rejoicing in heaven by those early apostles and early Christians who suffered such severe persecution in Rome. This truly is a historic moment.
And can we talk about this picture? What a statement. While in Rome, Elder Renlund said, “We know that two former-day apostles, Peter and Paul, were here…and then to have modern-day apostles here, all of us, is just a moving experience, in some ways paying homage to them and homage to the gospel we all preach.” The original church that Jesus Christ established in the meridian of time has been restored to the earth. What an amazing time to be alive!
And have you read this quote by President Nelson?
“This is a hinge point in the history of the Church. Things are going to move forward at an accelerated pace of which this is a part. We think the Church is an old Church. It’s 189 years old. But it’s only the beginning. Just project out what the next future will be and the Church is going to have an unprecedented future. Unparalleled. We’re just building up to what’s ahead now.”President Russell M. Nelson
Unreal. And I know…that was a lot of sentences starting with the word “and!” I’ll settle down now. I’m just excited! But in light of everything, I think it’s worthwhile to learn more about the original apostles called by the Savior. These original apostles were first hand witnesses to Jesus and some write and assign words to His personality, His behaviors, and His miracles.
The Apostle Paul taught that faithful Saints are “of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Ephesians 2:19–20; emphasis added).
THE ORIGINAL TWELVE APOSTLES CALLED BY JESUS
The night before Jesus called the twelve, “he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles” (Luke 6:12-13).
Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphæus, and Lebbæus, whose surname was Thaddæus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.Matthew 10: 2-4
Side note: Names in the Bible often reflect the personality of the person or qualities they develop over time, so we can learn about their individual character as we consider the meaning of their names.
- Alternate Names and Meaning: Simon bar Yonah means “son of a man named Jonah.” Also called Cephas in Aramaic or Petros in Greek which means “stone or rock.”
- Hometown: Bethsaida
- Family Info: Son of Jonah, brother of Andrew. Married.
- Occupation: Successful fisherman, with brother Andrew and business partners James and John.
- Death: Crucified upside-down in Rome. Tradition is that he chose to be crucified upside-down as he didn’t feel worthy to be killed the same way as Jesus.
- Interesting Facts: Appeared to Joseph Smith in 1829, along with James and John.
- Alternate Names and Meanings: From the Greek Andreas, means “manly.”
- Hometown: Bethsaida
- Family Info: Son of Jonah, brother of Simon Peter
- Occupation: Successful fisherman, with brother Simon Peter and business partners James and John.
- Death: Tradition holds that Andrew was crucified on a cross turned on its side.
- Interesting Facts: Andrew had been a follower of John the prophet (or John the Baptist). He believed John’s testimony of Jesus, told his brother Simon Peter, and brought him to Jesus. Andrew is mentioned with the feeding of the five thousand and the ascension of Jesus.
- Alternate Names and Meanings: Ya’akov in Hebrew. He and his brother John were called Boanerges meaning “sons of thunder,” likely in reference to when they suggested to bring fire down to destroy villagers (Luke 9:54) who refused Jesus hospitality in Samaria, or their zeal in service of the Lord.
- Hometown: Bethsaida
- Family Info: Son of Zebedee, brother of John
- Occupation: Fisherman, in business with brother John, Simon Peter, and Andrew.
- Death: Beheaded by Herod Agrippa. He was the first martyr apostle.
- Alternate Names and Meanings: Yohanan in Hebrew, means “God is gracious.” Also called “the Beloved” and “the Revelator.”
- Hometown: Bethsaida
- Family Info: Son of Zebedee, brother of James
- Occupation: Fisherman, in business with brother James, Simon Peter, and Andrew
- Death: Is a translated being, granted the wish to remain on earth as a ministering servant until the Second Coming. Read D&C 7 right this minute! It is a translation of a record written by John himself regarding his desire to stay on the earth. Amazing!
- Interesting Facts: John is never actually named in the gospels as “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” but this character is traditionally assigned as John. “The disciple whom Jesus loved” leaned on Jesus’s bosom at the Last Supper, stood at the foot of the cross of Jesus, took care of the mother of Jesus after the crucifixion, ran to the tomb of Jesus when he heard it was empty. He is the author or source for the Gospel of John, Revelation, and three epistles. John was banished to the Isle of Patmos in about A.D. 93 or 94.
- Alternate Names and Meanings: Greek, means “lover of horses.”
- Hometown: Bethsaida
- Death: Tradition holds that Philip was crucified.
- Interesting Facts: Friend of Andrew and Peter. Philip believed in their testimony and he was introduced to Jesus. Philip then told his friend Nathanael of Jesus. Was possibly the only apostle that Jesus personally sought out and to hear the words “Follow me” from Jesus. Philip is mentioned in connection with the feeding of the five thousand.
- Alternate Names and Meanings: Hebrew, means “Gift of God.” Also called Bartholomew.
- Hometown: Cana of Galilee
- Family Info: Bar Tolmai (notice the same sounds in Bartholomew) means son of Tolmai in Hebrew.
- Death: Tradition holds that Nathanael was skinned alive.
- Interesting Facts: Was told of Jesus by his friend Philip. Nathanael’s first reaction to the news is, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” But Nathanael accepts the invitation to “Come and see”. In his first conversation with Jesus, Nathanael declares, “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.” Jesus goes on to tell him, “Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.” (See John 1 for the amazing conversation between the two.) Nathanael sees the risen Jesus after His resurrection.
- Alternate Names and Meanings: Didymus, which may have been his surname. Didymus in Greek and Thomas in Aramaic each mean “twin.”
- Death: Tradition holds that Thomas was killed by the spears of four soldiers.
- Interesting Facts: Thomas is referred to as “Doubting Thomas” due to his doubt of the actuality of a risen Jesus as he wasn’t with the apostles when they first saw Him. Eight days later, the resurrected Jesus returned again to the apostles and Thomas was able to see Him. Thomas expressed his belief, to which Jesus replied, “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou has believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” Thomas is mentioned in the raising of Lazarus as a witness. Thomas was willing to accompany Jesus into areas of intense persecution exclaiming, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
- Alternate Names and Meanings: Greek Mattathias or Hebrew Mattithyah means “Gift of God.” Also called Levi and the Publican.
- Family Info: Son of Alphaeus, brother of James the less.
- Occupation: Tax collector
- Death: Tradition holds that Matthew was stabbed by a sword in Ethiopia.
- Interesting Facts: Wrote the Gospel of Matthew. The Hebrew name Levi connotes his priestly lineage of the house of Israel. Very active in his apostolic duties after the death of Christ.
- Alternate Names and Meanings: Also called “the less” to distinguish him from James, son of Zebedee.
- Family Info: Son of Alphaeus, brother of Matthew
- Death: Tradition holds that James was crucified in Egypt or that he was stoned and clubbed to death.
- Alternate Names and Meanings: Yehuda or Judah in Hebrew or Judas in Greek. Sometimes referred to as “not Iscariot” so not to be confused with Judas, the traitor. Also called Lebbaeus, meaning “root” in Arabic, or Thaddaeus, which is the Hebrew root meaning “heart.”
- Death: Tradition holds that Judas was crucified.
- Alternate Names and Meanings: The Canaanite or the Zealot, from the word Zelotes. Zealots were a Jewish sect which advocated a violent overthrow of Roman rule.
- Death: Tradition holds that Simon was crucified.
- Alternate Names and Meanings: “Iscariot” was a name assigned to him from the Hebrew ish Karioth, which means man from Kerioth
- Hometown: Kerioth
- Family Info: Son of Simon
- Occupation: Treasurer of the Quorum
- Death: Suicide by hanging
- Interesting Facts: Judas Iscariot was the only apostle called from Judea as all others were from Galilee. Betrayed Jesus to the Sanhedrin for 30 pieces of silver.
MINI HISTORY LESSON
The Apostles were killed during a time when the entire Church was being persecuted. Nero, a Roman emperor, was the first to make laws to exterminate Christians, in about A.D. 65. Under his reign, thousands were cruelly killed. A second round of persecutions began in about A.D. 93 under Emperor Domitian. Succeeding emperors continued torturing and killing Christians. As a result of these persecutions, thousands of Christians were martyred. Many others apostatized.Read the rest of the article “What Happened to Christ’s Church?” here.
In about A.D. 324 Constantine became the emperor of the Roman Empire. He made Christianity a legal religion, stopping centuries of persecution. His actions linked the church to the government, and corrupt church leaders began seeking power and the honors of the world.
Teachers within the church began to adopt false religious concepts from Greek philosophy and pagan religions. False ordinances and ceremonies were also introduced. Even though the church still taught some truth, the true Church of Christ and the priesthood were no longer on the earth. And as Christianity spread to various parts of the world—including to Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas—new churches were formed and grew. None of these churches, however, was the true Church, since the Lord had already taken priesthood authority and priesthood keys from the earth.
- Talmage considers each apostle individually in this chapter: “Chapter 16: The Chosen Twelve,” Jesus the Christ (2006), 217–229.
- BYU New Testament Commentary has listed additional sources to learn further about some of Christ’s closest disciples here.
- Read tons of quotes from modern prophets and apostles testifying of the divine calling of an apostle and that Jesus is the Christ here.
- Listen to a really excellent podcast about discipleship here.
The mere utterance of a few simple words to deny Christ would have stopped a violent and incredibly painful death of many of the apostles. But they were first hand witnesses to the life, miracles, and ministry of Jesus. They knew Him. They were strengthened by Him. They were His friend. And they loved Him. They simply could not deny that He was the Christ.
Do the apostles’ accounts and testimony of Jesus help you have a stronger faith in Jesus and what He is capable of? I hope so.
The first twelve apostles “provide us a mirror in which we can view our own walk with the Lord, seeing how the seeds of our testimony were planted and how we can share that witness with others. The titles that these first disciples give Jesus reflect what we as disciples should believe about him, and their choice to follow him and share their faith show us we should do.” Becoming The Beloved Disciple by Eric Huntsman, page 17.