So…were there really 13 apostles of Jesus?

The New Testament gives four separate listings of Jesus’ inner-circle disciples, a group of men known as “the Twelve.” The list in Matthew 10:2-4 claims to be a complete summary of “the names of the twelve apostles.” That list includes:

  • Simon (who is called Peter)
  • Andrew
  • James son of Zebedee
  • John
  • Philip
  • Bartholomew
  • Thomas
  • Matthew the tax collector
  • James son of Alphaeus
  • Thaddaeus (sometimes written as Lebbaeus)
  • Simon the Zealot
  • Judas Iscariot (the betrayer)

Mark’s list (in Mark 3:16-19) is identical to Matthew’s except that the order of the names is changed. But a question arises in the lists found in Luke 6:14-16 and Acts 1:13. In these lists, 11 of the 12 are the same as those in Matthew (though Judas Iscariot is left off the list in Acts). The name of Thaddeus, though, is not included by Luke in either his gospel of the book of Acts (which Luke also wrote). Additionally, another name—“Judas son of James”—is added to the list of apostles in both of Luke’s books.

So what gives? Where there really 13 apostles? Most Bible historians think the answer is no.

The literary and historical evidence suggest that, just as Simon was also called Peter, Judas son of James was also called Thaddeus—a nickname that he preferred exclusively after Christ’s death and resurrection. As such, most theologians believe Biblical mentions of “Judas son of James” and “Thaddeus” actually refer to the same person. Dr. Michael Wilkins comments, “After the name Judas became stigmatized because of the traitorous Judas Iscariot, Judas the son of James changed his name to Thaddeus. In that case, Matthew and Mark provided the safer and alternative name, while Luke stuck with the controversial name.”


Works Cited:

[HAC, 75-76]



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