Msgr. Michael Heintz
The Human Condition
April 11, 2017 // The Human Condition

Counting ‘The Twelve’

Msgr. Michael Heintz
The Human Condition

Jesus had numerous disciples; some of them known to us, most of them lost to history but not to the mind of God. From among those disciples (literally, “learners,” or “followers”) Jesus hand-picked and commissioned twelve as His apostles. Sometimes folks puzzle about the count and the names of the various disciples whom Jesus designated apostles (literally, those “sent with a mission”). If we can trust Prosper of Aquitaine’s dictum — “legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi” (roughly, “let the pattern of prayer serve as a norm for faith”) — we can begin with the Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer I), which lists, in the first “Memento,” or commemoration: Peter, Andrew, James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon and Jude (minus, of course, Judas Iscariot and his replacement [Acts 1.15-26], Matthias).

This reflects the evidence of the Synoptic Gospels:

Mark 3.14-19: Simon (Peter), James, John, Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James (son of Alphaeus), Thaddeus (Jude), Simon the Cananite (Zealot) and Judas Iscariot;

Matthew 10.2-4: Simon (Peter), Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James (son of Alphaeus), Thaddeus (Jude), Simon the Cananite (Zealot) and Judas Iscariot;

Luke 6.13-16: Simon (Peter), Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James (son of Alphaeus), Simon the Zealot, Judas son of James (Jude) and Judas Iscariot.

Note that there are two Jameses, one usually called in the Tradition, the “greater” (son of Zebedee and John’s brother, cf. Mk 1:19; 10:35 and Mt 20:20) and the other, the “lesser” (son of Alphaeus), as well as two Judas/Judes; the name is the same in Greek, Jude being an anglicized form of the Greek, and the distinction between them thus more easily maintained; one is usually referred to, for clarity, as Thaddeus, the other by the nickname Iscariot, which some scholars suggest means something like “dagger-man,” a possible indication of his zealot sympathies and perhaps providing a basis for understanding his betrayal of Jesus: Christ offered no political solution to Israel’s woes. There are also two Simons (one later named “Peter;” the other the Cananite, or Zealot). Simon Peter and Andrew (sons of Jonah, cf. Mt 16:17 and Jn 21:15-17) are brothers, as are James and John (sons of Zebedee); elsewhere, James and John were given the nickname “Boanerges,” or “sons of thunder,” by Jesus because of their desire to call down fire on an unwelcoming town in Mark 3:17.

In John’s Gospel there is no systematic listing or accounting of the names of the Twelve, but reference is made to Nathaniel (Jn 1:47); in subsequent tradition (since at least the ninth century in the East and since the 12th century in the West), he has been associated with Bartholomew, particularly in art and devotional piety and in liturgical texts. This is quite plausible, as Bartholomew is likely equivalent to a surname; literally, “son of Tolmai.”

Thus, if one follows the list in the Roman Canon, which inserts Paul between Peter and Andrew, and recalls that Bartholomew and Nathaniel refer to the same person, it’s easy to remember the Twelve.

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