All three of the synoptic Gospels give an account of Jesus’ selection of His disciples. But only Luke reveals that He spent an entire night in prayer before making His choice (Luke 6:12-16). These were the men who would continue His ministry after Her death, resurrection, and ascension. So He sought God’s will in this decision through fervent prayer. By this time in His Galilean ministry, Jesus had probably attracted several followers, or disciples, who supported Him. He selected the Twelve from among this larger group and designated them as “apostles” (Luke 6:13). An apostle was a person who knew Jesus in the flesh and who was commissioned by Him to bear His message of redemption to all the world.
A comparison of the lists of the Twelve in the Gospels, along with Acts 1:13, yields some puzzling results. The names in these lists are not the same. This problem occurs because some of Jesus’ apostles were known by more than one name. Below is a list of the Twelve, with their variant names noted and a brief description of each.
- Simon or Peter: a fisherman, brother of Andrew
- Andrew: a fisherman, brother of Peter
- James: a fisherman, brother of John and son of Zebedee
- John: a fisherman, brother of James and son of Zebedee
- Philip: from Bethsaida
- Bartholomew or Nathanael: from Cana
- Thomas or Didymus the twin: perhaps a fisherman
- Matthew or Levi: a tax collector from Capernaum
- James: not the same as James son of Zebedee, this James was the son of Alphaeus
- Lebbaeus Thaddaeus or Judas, called Judas son of James to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot
- Simon or the Zealot; from Cana, associated with the Zealots, revolutionaries opposed to Rome
- Judas Iscariot: betrayer of Jesus, from Kerioth in Judea, perhaps the only disciple who was not a Galilean