The Greek word for the Disciple is ‘mathetes‘ meaning a ‘learner’ or ‘follower’. The word means accepting and following the views and practices of a teacher. Apart from having a large following of people, Jesus chose twelve disciples during his earthly ministry. The list is mentioned in Matthew 10:2-4, Mark 3:16-19, Luke 6:13-16 and Acts 1:13. The original twelve disciples are also called the ‘apostles’ (Greek – ‘apostolos‘ meaning ‘one who is sent out with a special commission as a fully authorized representative of the sender, like an ambassador). This bible study lesson lists the names and meaning of these disciples and their occupations. (Also check out conditions of Christian discipleship)
- Peter: (Greek: Petros meaning ‘Rock’) – Peter was one of the most prominent of the 12 disciples. He was a natural spokesperson and also the leader of the early Christian church. His original Hebrew name was Simon, a common popular Hebrew name. Jesus gave him a name ‘Kephas‘, an Aramaic name. John translated into it Greek ‘Petros‘ meaning Rock. (John 1:42 – “you will be called Cephas.”) Peter was a native of Bethsaida (John 1:44), was the brother of Andrew, lived in a fishing town- Capernaum. (Mark 1:29) He was a fisherman by occupation on the Sea of Galilee. He was a married man. (Mark 1:30, 1 Cor 9:5)
- John:(Meaning – God is gracious) John was originally the disciple of John the Baptist (John 1:35), and was introduced to Jesus in John 1:35-39. He was the brother of James and the son of Zebedee. He lived in Capernaum in Galilee, but most probably a native of Bethsaida. He was a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee along with his brother and father. (Mark 1:19-20). He was one of the three disciples, closest to Jesus, the others being Peter and James.
- James:(Greek Iakobos– the English word for Jacob meaning Israel or he who supplants his Brother). James was the son of Zebedee (Mark 4:21), the older brother of John (Mat 17:1), by occupation a fisherman along with his brother and father at the Sea of Galilee, in partnership with Peter and Andrew. (Luke 5:10). He was the first disciple (apostle) to be martyred. (Acts 12:2)
- Andrew:(Greek –Andreas, meaning ‘Manly’, man), was the brother of Simon Peter, the son of Jonas, lived in Capernaum like his brother, , and was a fisherman by occupation. He brought Peter, his brother, to Jesus. (John 1:25-42)
- Philip:(Greek – Philippos, meaning ‘Lover of horses’). He was a close friend of Andrew and Peter, and a native of Bethsaida (John 1:44). Jesus called Philip near Bethany where John the Baptist was preaching (John 1:43). He was the one who persuaded and brought Nathaniel to Jesus. (John 1:45-51)
- Bartholomew:(Greek –bartholomaios meaning Son of Talmai). He is mentioned in all the four lists of the apostles in the New Testament. There is no other reference to him in the New Testament. Nothing much is known about him.
- Thomas:(Greek –Thomas from Aramaic –te’oma meaning ‘twin’) He is also called ‘Didymus’ or ‘the Twin’ (John 11:16, 20:24, 21:2). When Jesus appeared to the apostles after His resurrection, Thomas was not present with them. Later on, when the disciples told him about Jesus’ appearance, he would not believe them, until Jesus showed Himself a week later. (John 20:24-29). His occupation is unknown.
- Matthew: (Greek –maththaios– meaning ‘gift of Yahweh’) is also called ‘Levi’ (Mark 2:14, Luke 5:27). He was a tax collector by occupation. Jesus called him to be one of his disciples, when he was at the tax office (Mat 9:9, Mark 2:14). He is ascribed to be the author of the Gospel according to Matthew.
- James: He was one of the apostles of Christ. He was the son of Alphaeus.. Nothing much is known about him.
- Thaddaeus: He is mentioned in two of the four lists of Jesus’ disciples. (Mat 10:3, Mark 3:18). In the other two lists he is variously called as Jude of James, Jude Thaddaeus, Judas Thaddaeus or Lebbaeus. Nothing else is known about him apart from the mention of his names in the two lists.
- Simon the Zealot: He is another disciple of Jesus. He was a member of a party later called as the ‘Zealots’ (Matthew 10:4, Mark 3:18)
- Judas Iscariot: He is the disciple who betrayed Jesus. His last name ‘Iscariot’ is from the Hebrew word ‘Ish Kerioth‘ meaning ‘a man from Kerioth’, a place in the south of Judah (Joshua 15:25). He was a treasurer of the group. (John 12:6,13:29). After his betrayal of Jesus, he grieved for his actions and committed suicide. (Matthew 27:5). He is always mentioned last in the list of apostles.
- Matthias: After Judas committed suicide after his betrayal of Jesus (Matthew 27:3–10), the eleven disciples selected Matthias as the twelfth disciple.
Acts 1: 23-26 – So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.
Other related studies about the disciples:
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