James, son of Alpheus – not to be confused with James, son of Zebedee – is a disciple that is mentioned in three of the four gospels: Matthew, Mark and Luke. In the Church, he is also identified as James the Less, the Minor, or the Younger depending on the translation. “Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome.” (Mark 15:40 NIV)
The word “less” does not imply James was less worthy than James the Greater. Instead, it may refer to his age or his height. Although there are very few mentions of James the Less in the Bible, his importance is equal to that of the other disciples. “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Matthew 19:28)
Like most of the other disciples, James came from Galilee, which at the time was part of the Roman Empire. How he came to be chosen as Jesus’ disciple is missing from the Bible. There is also confusion about who James was since some scholars debate he may also have been Jesus’ brother, James the Just. The consensus, however, is they were two separate people.
Sadly, very little is known about James. After King Herod killed James the Greater, Peter who had been arrested escaped and said to Mary the mother of John, “Tell James and the other brothers and sisters about this.” (Acts 12:17) Since James the Greater was dead, this James could either be James the Less or James the Just. Unfortunately, there is no clarification in the Bible.
James the Less’s death was recorded by the 2nd-century theologian Hippolytus. “And James the son of Alphaeus, when preaching in Jerusalem was stoned to death by the Jews, and was buried there beside the temple.” James the Just, the brother of Jesus, is also believed to have died the same way, thus adding to the confusion about their identity. On the other hand, James the Less is traditionally believed to have preached at Ostrakine in Lower Egypt. Many believe he was crucified there.
In Art, James is usually depicted with a fuller’s club, implying he may have been involved with woollen clothmaking before he became an apostle. Occasionally, he is depicted with a carpenter’s saw, suggesting an alternative trade.
Just for fun, here are the items that have Saint James the Less as their patron. Some, you will notice, are related to clothmaking and others to medicine – another potential career, perhaps?
Matthew, later Saint Matthew, is another of the Galilean disciples. Traditionally, he is also the author of the Gospel of Matthew, one of the four evangelists. Of all the disciples, he is one of the least likely candidates to have been chosen by Jesus since he was “Matthew the tax collector” (Matthew 10:30) and not liked by the public.
Tax collectors or publicans, as they were also called, collected unpaid taxes for the Roman occupiers. It was not their job that caused people to dislike them but rather their fraudulent behaviour. Rather than collecting the amount that was owed, the tax collectors demanded more money, keeping the excess for themselves. Tax collectors were seen as both greedy and collaborators with the Romans.
“As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.” (Matthew 9:9) Jesus came across Matthew after healing a paralysed man in Capernaum. Matthew invited Jesus to his house for a meal, an invitation that did not go unnoticed by the Pharisees. Always trying to find fault with Jesus, the Pharisees asked the disciples “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (9:11) Before they could respond, Jesus answered them, explaining, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (9:12-13)
Nothing is known of Matthew’s early life other than his career, although in one Bible verse the name of his father is mentioned. “And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him.” (Mark 2:14) As you will notice, Matthew was also known by the name Levi and his father was Alphaeus. The Bible also records the father of the Apostle James (see my next article) as Alphaeus but there is no evidence they are the same person. A man of the same name is also implied to be the father of Joseph/Joses, a potential brother of Jesus. In the Catholic Church, Saints Abercius and Helena also have a father called Alphaeus.
Matthew’s call to discipleship is recorded in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, however, he is never mentioned in John. The final mention of the disciple is in Acts 1:10–14 where the apostles had withdrawn to a room after the Ascension of Jesus. To begin with, the disciples remained in the Jewish communities in Judea, preaching the Gospel before moving to other countries. Unfortunately, scholars have not been able to determine to which countries Matthew travelled. It is traditionally believed he died a martyr but there is no evidence of this. Writers have suggested Hierapolis in Greece or Ethiopia as Matthew’s place of death.
The early Christian bishop Papias of Hierapolis (c. AD 60–163) was the first person to propose Matthew the Apostle and Matthew the Evangelist were the same. The Gospel was written in Hebrew near Jerusalem for Hebrew Christians before being translated into Greek. As a tax collector, Matthew would have been literate in Aramaic and Greek as well as his native tongue. To begin with, Matthew’s Gospel was known as Gospel according to the Hebrews and Gospel of the Apostles. An argument against Matthew’s authorship points out the text was written anonymously and at no point does the author imply he was an eyewitness to the events.
Matthew is supposedly buried in the crypt of Salerno Cathedral in southern Italy. He is recognised as a saint in Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran and Anglican churches, and his feast day is celebrated on 21st September. In art, Matthew is usually shown with a book, implying he wrote the Gospel, and an angel. Just for fun and to end this article, here is a short list of the things that have Matthew as their patron:
Thomas, most commonly known as “Doubting Thomas” is one of the disciples with a speaking part in the Bible, and yet, he is barely mentioned in the Synoptic Gospels. Matthew 10:3, Mark 3:18 and Luke 6:15 list him as one of the twelve disciples but nothing is mentioned about how he became an apostle and what came after. For that, we have to turn to the Gospel of John.
Thomas is believed to have come from Galilee, however, he is listed as having two names. Thomas was his Aramaic name and Didymus was his Greek name, both of which mean “twin”. Although there is no explanation for the choice of names, it is most likely Thomas was born a twin. In the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas, the author gives his name as Judas Thomas.
The first time Thomas’ name appears in John’s Gospel is John 11:16: “Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’” Jesus had learnt that his friend Lazarus was sick and had decided to visit him. The disciples were shocked by this decision because Lazarus lived in Judea where the Jewish population had tried to stone him. Yet, Jesus was adamant and Thomas encouraged the disciples to go with him.
Thomas next speaks in John 14:5: “Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’” Jesus had explained that he was going to prepare a place for them in heaven and that one day they would join him there. Thomas spoke on behalf of the disciples, explaining that they did not know where that place was or how to get there. Jesus responded to this with one of the most famous sayings in the bible: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (14:6)
Of course, the most famous exchange between Thomas and Jesus takes place after the resurrection. This is the scene that forever brands him as “Doubting Thomas.” “Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.” (John 20:24) To prove he had risen from the dead, Jesus visited the disciples in a locked room where they were hiding from the Jewish leaders, however, Thomas was not there. Unable to imagine someone coming back to life, Thomas doubted the disciples’ claim that they had seen the Lord. “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (20:25)
The following week, Jesus visited the disciples again. This time, Thomas was with them and Jesus showed Thomas the nail marks and wound in his side. At once, Thomas believed, declaring “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28) Unfortunately, it was too late for Thomas to redeem himself and he is still referred to as the doubter, giving his name to sceptics who refuse to believe without direct personal experience. “Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’” (20:29)
Apart from these brief episodes in the Gospel of John, the Bible reveals nothing else about Thomas’ life. Scholars have turned to other literature to ascertain what happened to Thomas after Jesus was taken up into heaven. One belief is Thomas travelled to India in AD 52 to spread the Christian faith to the Jewish community that lived there at the time. Tradition claims he established seven churches while he was there and baptised many families.
The theologian Origen of Alexandria (184-253) stated Thomas was the apostle to the Parthians, a historical region located in north-eastern Iran. Eusebius of Caesarea (c.260-340) recorded Thomas and Bartholomew were assigned to Parthia and India, and the Christian treatise Didascalia Apostolorum corroborates Thomas’ presence: "India and all countries considering it, even to the farthest seas... received the apostolic ordinances from Judas Thomas, who was a guide and ruler in the church which he built."
Traditions of the Saint Thomas Church in India claim Thomas briefly visited China. In the Office of St. Thomas for the Second Nocturn written by Gaza of the Church of St. Thomas of Malabar, the following is claimed:
Saint Thomas has only been made patron of a handful of things, including India and Sri Lanka. Just for fun, here are a few fun “facts” about the apostle:
The next disciple in our series is Bartholomew, who became a disciple at the same time as Philip. Although he is named Bartholomew in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, John’s Gospel refers to him as Nathanael. “Philip found Nathanael and told him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’” (John 1:45) Little is known about Bartholomew/Nathanael, however, at the end of John’s Gospel he is referred to as “Nathanael from Cana in Galilee” (John 21:2) implying he lived fairly locally to Jesus.
It is not certain why Bartholomew has two names, however, the meaning of the names may give us a clue. Bartholomew is an anglicised version of Bar Talmai, which means either “Son of Talmai” or “Son of Furrows”. It is possible that Bartholomew’s father was called Talmai, which was an Aramaic form of the name Ptolemy. Nathanael, on the other hand, means “God has given” but whether he had this name before he met Jesus is unknown and why it was only John’s Gospel that used it is another mystery.
When Bartholomew/Nathanael was first called to be a disciple, he was sceptical, asking, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:46) Nazareth was not a particularly well-off place at the time and Nathanael could not believe the true Messiah would come from such a place.
“When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, ‘Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.’” (John 1:47) Nathanael was surprised that Jesus knew him, so Jesus clarified, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” (1:48) From that moment, Nathanael believed Jesus was the Messiah but Jesus tells him, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that… Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (1:50-51)
So, that is how Bartholomew became a disciple, however, nothing else is said of him in the Gospels other than to list him with the other apostles. Bartholomew’s life after the death and resurrection of Jesus has been pieced together by a variety of sources, however, none of them are completely reliable. The Christian historian Eusebius (c.260-340) claims Bartholomew went on a missionary trip to India, where he left a copy of the Gospel of Matthew. Saint Jerome (347-420) agrees with this claim, however, other sources record Bartholomew serving as a missionary in Ethiopia, Mesopotamia, Parthia (Iran), Lycaonia (Asia Minor) and Armenia.
Popular legend believes Bartholomew travelled to Armenia with the apostle Jude where they preached about the life of Jesus. It was also in Armenia where he met his death, either from being flayed alive and beheaded or crucified upside down. Bartholomew had reportedly converted Polymius, the king of Armenia, to Christianity, which enraged his brother Prince Astyages. Yet, this does not match historical records of Armenian kings; there was no King Polymius. In India, however, there was an official named Polymius and some scholars state Bartholomew most likely died there in the town of Kalyan.
A few texts record the miracles Bartholomew may have performed before and after his death. The two most popular post-death miracles occurred on the Aeolian island, Lipari. On Bartholomew’s feast day (24th August), the people of Lipari were taking part in an annual procession from the Cathedral of St Bartholomew to the main part of the town, carrying a golden statue of the saint. The statue was usually easy to carry, however, on this occasion, it was too heavy and the bearers had to stop and rest a couple of times, delaying the procession. Whilst resting, at the top of a hill, the walls of the town downhill started to collapse. If the people of Lipari had been in the town at the time, they would all have been killed. They believed Saint Bartholomew had saved their lives by making the statue too heavy to carry.
The second miracle on Lipari occurred much later during the Second World War. Fascist leaders needed money and ordered a silver statue of Saint Bartholomew to be melted down, however, when it was weighed they discovered it was only a few grams and not worth the effort. The statue was returned to the cathedral but locals knew the statue weighed several kilograms Once again, they believed Saint Bartholomew had altered the weight of the statue.
Despite not much being known about Bartholomew, he has been a popular figure in art. In a biography of the disciple by Jacobus de Varagine (1230-1299), Bartholomew’s supposed appearance was described in detail. "His hair is black and crisped, his skin fair, his eyes wide, his nose even and straight, his beard thick and with few grey hairs; he is of medium stature..." Many artists since have used this description when depicting Bartholomew in their paintings. He is also often depicted as being flayed alive. Contemporary artists have also been inspired by Bartholomew’s fate, including Damien Hurst and Gunther Von Hagen, the developer of the exhibition Body Worlds.
Due to the legends, Bartholomew was made the patron saint of the Armenian Apostolic Church. He was also celebrated in England, for example, the Bartholomew Fair, which was held in Smithfield, London during the middle ages. St Bartholomew's Street Fair continues to be held annually in Crewkerne, Somerset and is believed to date back to Saxon times.
The nature of Bartholomew’s death led him to be made the patron saint of tanners, plasterers, tailors, leatherworkers, bookbinders, farmers, house painters, butchers and glove makers. Just for fun, here are some of the other things and places that have claimed him as their saint:
“The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, ‘Follow me.’” (John 1:43) Not much is known about Philips origins other than he came from Bethsaida in Galilee, the same place as Andrew and Peter. Having a Greek name, Philippos, suggests Philip may have originally come from Greece. Although there is no evidence to support this, when a group of Greeks wanted to visit Jesus, it was Philip they approached. “They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘we would like to see Jesus.’” (John 12:21)
Philip only gets a brief mention in the Synoptic Gospels and it is only in the Gospel of John that his presence is recorded at certain events. Not only was Philip present at the feeding of the 5000, but it was also Philip Jesus turned to ask, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” (John 6:5) Philip thought the task was impossible, replying “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” (6:6) John’s Gospel, however, reveals Jesus already had a plan and was testing Philip’s faith.
At the last supper, Philip said to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” (John 14:8) Jesus’ response suggests he was not pleased with Philip’s request: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time?” (14:9) This, however, prompted Jesus to teach his disciples about the unity of the Father and the Son: “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.” (John 14:11)
The final time Philip is mentioned in the Bible is in the Acts of the Apostles shortly after Jesus had been taken up to heaven. The apostles met up to talk, pray and decide who would replace Judas Iscariot as the twelfth disciple. After this, Philip is never mentioned again by name, however, in Acts 6 “the twelve” came together to appoint seven men to help spread the ministry of the word of God. Whenever the apostles are referred to as “the twelve” it is safe to assume Philip was amongst them. Confusingly, one of the men chosen was also called Philip (the Evangelist), who continues to be mentioned in the Book of Acts.
Some extra-canonical texts mention Philip, however, scholars have had difficulty differentiating between Philip the Apostle and Philip the Evangelist. Some historians have even suggested they were the same person; therefore, many texts cannot be fully trusted. The non-canonical Acts of Philip is believed to be an account of the preaching and miracles of Philip after the resurrection of Jesus. The text claims Philip and Bartholomew, one of the other twelve, were sent to preach in Greece, Phrygia and Syria. It also says Philip’s sister Mariamne went with them, however, Mariamne was a name commonly used in the Herodian royal house, therefore, the author may have confused Philip the Apostle with Philip the Tetrarch (26 BC-34 AD).
Whilst Philip was preaching in Hierapolis in Phrygia, he converted the wife of the proconsul. This, however, angered the proconsul who ordered Philip to be tortured and killed. There are two versions of his death, one being that he was beheaded. The other, according to the Acts of Philip, claims Philip was crucified upside-down. He continued preaching whilst nailed to the cross, which converted a few more people who tried to release him; however, Philip insisted they leave him and eventually died. His year of death is recorded as 80 AD.
Due to his crucifixion, Philip is associated with the symbol of the Latin Cross. He is also symbolised by two loaves of bread or a basket filled with bread due to his part in the feeding of the 5000.
Another extra-biblical text, known as the Letter from Peter to Philip, suggests Philip had departed on a solo mission at some point between Jesus’ resurrection and being taken up into heaven. The letter from Peter asks Philip to re-join the disciples at the Mount of Olives, presumably so they could appoint a new disciple.
In 2011, Turkish archaeologists claimed to have discovered the tomb of Saint Philip in the ancient town of Hierapolis, near the modern town of Denizli. Writings on the wall of the tomb have provided enough evidence for other archaeologists to agree that it was the final resting place of the apostle. Saint Philip’s relics, however, are kept in the crypt of the Basilica Santi Apostoli in Rome.
The Roman Church venerated Philip and 1st May was designated as his feast day, although this has now changed to 3rd May. Eastern Orthodox churches, however, celebrate Saint Philip on 14th November. Just for fun, here are the few things that claim Saint Philip as their patron:
· Cape Verde
· Pastry Chefs
· San Felipe Pueblo in New Mexico, USA
John the Apostle was the brother of James and the youngest of the disciples. Scholars continue to debate whether this is the same John who wrote several of the books of the New Testament and others have tried to identify him as John of Patmos, John the Evangelist and John the Elder. What we know from the Bible is John was a fisherman and became a disciple at the same time as his brother. According to the Gospel of John (1:35-39), James and John were originally the disciples of John the Baptist, however, the other Gospels do not record this.
“Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets.” (Matthew 4:21)
John and James were the sons of Zebedee and Salome, although some churches say Joanna. We can presume Zebedee was a fisherman since he was in the boat where John and James were preparing their nets. When they left to follow Jesus, “they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men”. (Mark 1:20) The fact they could afford hired men implied Zebedee had some wealth. Little else is known about their father.
Salome, like her sons, was a follower of Jesus. She is recorded as being one of the women present at Jesus’ crucifixion. “Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome.” (Mark 15:40). According to medieval tradition, Salome’s full name was Mary Salome and was one of the three daughters of Saint Anne. This would make her Jesus’ aunt and John and James his cousin. This is based upon the Gospel of John’s version of the crucifixion, which substitutes the name Salome for Mary the wife of Clopas. “Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” (John 19:25) Not everyone, however, agrees with this interpretation.
If you have read my article about James the Great, you may recall John and James asked Jesus to let them sit either side of him in the kingdom of heaven (Mark 10). The Gospel of Matthew, on the other hand, records Salome making this request. “Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favour of him. ‘What is it you want?’ he asked. She said, ‘Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.’” (Matthew 20:20-21)
Throughout the Gospels, John and James are often mentioned together, therefore, I have already written about most of his activities in my previous article. To summarise, John was present at the raising of Jairus’ daughter, a witness of the Agony in the Gethsemane, and nicknamed “son of Thunder” after suggesting Jesus call down heavenly fire on an inhospitable town. There were, however, times when John was mentioned without his brother, for example, on the day of Unleavened Bread, “Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.’” (Luke 22:8)
In the Gospel of John, the phrase “the disciple whom Jesus loved” is used at least five times but does not appear in the other Gospels. As a result, the scholars who believe John the disciple wrote John’s Gospel also believe John was the disciple Jesus loved. “Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them…This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.” (John 21:20-24)
The references to “the disciple whom Jesus loved” are as follows:
John was born in around 6 AD and died around 100 AD, almost a generation after the death of his brother James, the first disciple to die a martyr’s death. A remark made by Jesus about the disciple he loved, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” (John 21:22), led to rumours that he would never die. This turned out to be untrue, however, he did outlive all the other disciples, dying at Ephesus in old age.
John’s activities after his brother’s death are not mentioned in the Bible; however, it is assumed he was forced to leave Judea due to Herod Agrippa’s Persecution of the Christians. Tradition says John went to Ephesus where looked after a church founded by Paul. If scholars are correct in assuming John was the same John who wrote three epistles, then it is likely he wrote them at this time. Allegedly, John was then banished to the Greek island of Patmos after being plunged into a vat of boiling oil and suffering no consequences. Some use this tradition to claim John the Apostle and John of Patmos, the author of the Book of Revelation, is the same person.
According to the theological work Against Heresies by Irenaeus the bishop of Lugdunum (now Lyon in France) written in 180 AD, John taught Polycarp, the future Bishop of Smyrna, about Jesus. In turn, Polycarp taught Irenaeus about Jesus and John. It is said Ignatius of Antioch was also a student of John.
The Feast Day of Saint John the Apostle is traditionally celebrated on 27th December, however, there was once another feast on the 6th May: Saint John Before the Latin Gate. This celebrated the legend that he was miraculously preserved from the vat of boiling oil during the reign of the anti-Christian Emperor Domitian. A legend from the apocryphal Acts of John claims he was challenged to drink a cup of poison to demonstrate the power of his faith, from which he survived unharmed. As a result, he is the patron saint of burn- and poison-victims.
Just for fun, here is a list of all the things that have Saint John the Apostle as their patron:
James the Great became the third (or fourth) disciple along with his brother John. He is known as James the Great to distinguish himself from James the Less, however, it is believed “great” meant older or taller rather than more important. James was born in around 3 AD to Zebedee and Salome in Bethsaida, Galilee and died in 44 AD.
“Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets.” (Matthew 4:21) After calling Simon Peter and Andrew to discipleship, Jesus came across James and John fishing with their father. All three Synoptic Gospels mention Zebedee was their father, however, only Luke indicates that they were also Simon’s fishing partners. Jesus called to them, saying, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” (Luke 5:10) So, they returned to shore and went with Jesus.
The Gospels record the names of all twelve of the disciples, however, Mark goes a step further, revealing that Jesus gave James and John a nickname. “James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means ‘sons of thunder’)” (Mark 3:17) This is indicative of their hot-headed temper as evidenced in Luke 9:54 “When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?’” Jesus had sent his disciples to a Samaritan village to prepare them for his arrival; however, the villagers did not want to welcome him. James and John’s immediate response was total destruction but Jesus rebuked them and went to a different village instead.
James and John are always mentioned as a pair in the Bible, therefore, they must have been very close as brothers. They also experienced things that some of the other disciples did not, for example, the Transfiguration. “After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.” (Matthew 17:1-2) Afterwards, Jesus told them not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
“He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James.” (Mark 5:37) The same three disciples were the only ones who were allowed to come with Jesus to the home of Jairus, the Synagogue leader whose child had just died. In front of Peter, James and John, Jesus raised the girl to life but told them to not let anyone know what he had done.
“As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, ‘Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?’” (Mark 13:3-4) Once again, it was the same trio, James, John and Peter, who approached Jesus on the Mount of Olives. They wished to know when the destruction of the Temple would occur and how to read the signs for the End Times.
“He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled.” (Mark 14:33) Finally, Jesus called the same three disciples to follow him after the Last Supper, asking them to keep guard whilst he prayed. Peter, James and John all fell asleep and were awoken by Jesus on his return. He asked them twice more to keep guard and they fell asleep both times.
On one occasion, James and John approached Jesus without Peter, saying, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” (Mark 10:35) What they wanted Jesus to do was “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” (10:37). Jesus informed them that it was not for him to grant who sat in those places. When the other ten disciples heard about their request, “they became indignant with James and John.” (Mark 10:41) To them, it may have appeared James and John thought they were better than them and more worthy of a place by Jesus’ side. Jesus kept the peace by saying that anyone who wishes to be great must first be a servant. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (10:45)
James’ impertinence and fiery temper may have led to his downfall. According to the Acts of the Apostles, “King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword.” (Acts 12:1-2) It does not mention for what reason James was killed but we do know Peter had a different fate, imprisonment, suggesting Herod had not intended to kill them all. King Herod has been identified as Herod Agrippa who was King of Judea from 41 to 44 AD. James’ date of death is estimated as 44 AD since the Bible reports Herod died soon after.
According to legend, James’ remains are held in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia in northwestern Spain. Santiago means Saint James in Spanish and James is the patron saint of Spain. Yet, as the Bible tells us, James was martyred “with the sword” in Jerusalem. Due to the belief this meant he had been beheaded, another legend states his head is buried under the altar of the Armenian Apostolic Cathedral of St. James in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem. So, if James was killed in Jerusalem, how and why did he end up in Spain?
The 12th-century bishop Diego Gelmírez claimed James once preached in Spain and, after his death, the disciples carried his body by sea to the coast of Galicia where they buried him. An ancient Galician tradition says the Virgin Mary appeared to James where he was preaching the Gospel on the banks of the Ebro River in Spain. Mary was still alive and living in Jerusalem and the reason for the supernatural visitation is either lost or unknown. Following this, James returned to Jerusalem and his death.
Other traditions, however, claim James’ link to Spain to be false. According to the history of the early Church, James had never left Jerusalem. In the book of Romans, which was written after 44 AD, Paul visited Spain or “Illyricum” where he claimed Christ was not known, therefore, suggesting James had never been there.
Another legend states James appeared to fight during the legendary battle of Clavijo, which took place 800 years after his death. He was subsequently named Saint James the Moor-slayer and made Spain’s patron and protector. In the 12th century, the military Order of Santiago was founded in his name and can be recognised by its insignia, which represents a sword. The sword symbolises James’ death but his emblem is also a scallop shell, which is represented by the shape of a fleur-de-lis on the insignia. Pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela often wore scallop shell symbols on their clothing. In French, a scallop shell is known as coquille St. Jacques (cockle of St. James) and in German, Jakobsmuschel (mussel of St. James).
As well as Spain, James the Great is the patron saint of Guatemala, Nicaragua and Guayaquil, the second-largest city in Ecuador. His feast day changes depending on whether you are part of the Western Church (25th July), Eastern Church (30th April) or Hispanic Church (30th December). Just for fun, here is a list of the professions that have James the Great as their patron:
· Furriers (people who make fur clothing)
· Tanners (leather producers)
· Oyster fishers
Andrew the Apostle or Saint Andrew was the brother of Simon Peter. It is estimated Andrew was born in Bethsaida, Galilee between 5 and 10 AD and died around 62 AD in Greece. His name, however, is neither Hebrew nor Aramaic but Greek, meaning “brave”.
In some traditions, Andrew is known as “the First Called” (Prōtoklētos) due to the Gospel of John’s version of Jesus calling his first disciples. Matthew and Mark tell us “As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.” (Matthew 4:18) John, however, provides more detail.
“Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus.” (John 1:40-42)
The Gospel of John explains that Simon and Andrew were originally disciples of John the Baptist. Although the other Gospels suggest Jesus spoke to Simon first, it was Andrew that led his brother to the Messiah, therefore, the Orthodox churches argue Andrew was the first to be called.
The Gospels suggest Andrew and his brother were very close since they lived together. “As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew.” (Mark 1:29) Not only that, they lived with Simon’s mother-in-law, and presumably his wife. When Jesus and the disciples arrived at their house, they found Simon’s mother-in-law in bed with a fever, which Jesus immediately healed.
Unlike his brother, Andrew is mentioned less frequently in the Bible, however, he is recorded as being present for some of the important occasions, including the Last Supper. Andrew played a role in the Feeding of the Five Thousand. A great crowd had come to visit Jesus but the disciples did not have any food to feed them. One of the disciples exclaimed that it would take half a year’s wages to provide enough food, however, Andrew spoke up saying, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” (John 6:9) As you know, it was more than enough for everyone.
Andrew was one of the disciples present when Jesus predicted his death. The other was Philip who had been approached by some Greeks asking to see Jesus. Rather than going straight to Jesus, “Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.” (John 12:22) What this signified is uncertain. Perhaps Philip and Andrew were close friends or Philip did not want to go alone.
During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus predicted the destruction of the Temple and the signs of the End Times. “As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, ‘Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?’” (Mark 13:3-4)
The final time Andrew is mentioned in the Bible is in the Acts of the Apostles. “When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James.” (Acts 1:13) By this time, Jesus had died, risen and been taken up into heaven, and the disciples had returned to Jerusalem. They were about to make an important decision: who to elect as the twelfth Apostle, replacing Judas Iscariot. After casting lots, a man named Matthias was chosen.
Unlike Peter, whose movements are recorded, it is not certain what Andrew did next. Origen of Alexandria (184-253 AD) claims Andrew preached in the Central Eurasian region of Scythia. The Chronicle of Nestor written in 1113, however, suggests Andrew also preached along the Black Sea and parts of Eastern Europe, resulting in him becoming the patron saint of Ukraine, Romania and Russia. Hippolytus of Rome (170-235 AD) mentioned Andrew preaching in Thrace and Byzantium, where he set up the See of Byzantium, which later became the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
The Acts of Andrew is an uncompleted testimony of the acts and miracles supposedly conducted by Andrew. Located in the New Testament Apocrypha with other books of the Acts of various disciples, the manuscript claims Andrew raised the dead, healed the blind, calmed storms and defeated armies simply by making the sign of the cross. It is said he caused the death of an embryo that would have resulted in an illegitimate child and he rescued a boy from an incestuous mother. The latter act landed Andrew in trouble when the mother began accusing him of false claims, however, God caused an earthquake to free Andrew and the boy.
Everything written in the Acts of Andrew is open to speculation and many believe it is heretical and absurd. One person went as far as to claim it was a Christian retelling of Homer’s Odyssey. Regardless as to whether the manuscript is reliable, it has led to the general belief that Andrew was crucified in the city of Patras in modern-day Greece. Rather than being crucified on a cross with similar proportions to the cross of Jesus, Andrew was crucified on an X shaped cross. Today, the X is a symbol of Saint Andrew and can be found on the Scottish flag of whom he is the patron saint. Less accepted is the claim that Andrew was able to preach for three days whilst on the cross before he eventually died.
Due to the lack of verifiable knowledge about Andrew’s life, many cultures have developed myths and traditions. In Georgia, for example, Andrew is considered the first preacher of Christianity and the founder of the Georgian church. The people of Cyprus claim Andrew’s boat ran aground on their shores where he caused springs of healing water to gush out of a rock, which restored the sight of the ship’s half-blind captain.
Legends state Andrew’s relics were brought by divine guidance from Constantinople to a town in Scotland, now known as St Andrews. Reports of X shapes in the sky during battles in the 9th century AD led people to believe Andrew was on their side. King Óengus II of the Picts said he would appoint Saint Andrew as the patron saint of Scotland if they won a battle, which they did. Later, the X symbol was used as a hex sign in fireplaces to prevent witches from flying down the chimney. The National Day of Scotland, 30thNovember, is celebrated as the feast of Andrew within the church.
As mentioned, the Scottish flag contains the cross of Saint Andrew and, therefore, so does the Union Flag. Just for fun, here are a few more flags that contain the symbol:
Saint Peter, or should I say Simon Peter, Simeon, Simon, Sham'un al-Safa, Cephas, or Peter the Apostle, was one of the first of the disciples Jesus called during his ministry. Born in around 1 AD to a man called either John or Jonah, Simon, as he was originally named, was a fisherman from the town of Bethsaida. Most of what we know about Simon/Peter is inferred from the Bible. We know, for example, that he was married because the Synoptic Gospels record Jesus healing Peter’s mother-in-law:
“When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.” (Matthew 8:14-15)
Peter/Simon is first mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew when he is called to be Jesus’ disciple. “As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers,Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’” (Matthew 4:18-19) According to Matthew, the brothers left their nets and followed Jesus, no questions asked, however, the Gospel of Luke has a more detailed story.
“One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.” (Luke 5:1-3)
After speaking to the crowd, Jesus told Simon to cast his fishing nets. Simon revealed they had been fishing all night yet did not even catch a single fish, however, he obeyed Jesus’ instruction. The nets were soon full and Simon was astonished and afraid but Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” (Luke 5:10)
The Gospel of John adds a few more details to the story. Simon and Andrew were both disciples of John the Baptist before they met Jesus. They had heard about the Messiah from John, which is why they followed Jesus when they first met him. It is then that Jesus renamed Simon. “Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas’ (which, when translated, is Peter).” (John 1:42)
Despite becoming a disciple, Peter continued to use fishing boats, such as the one he and the other disciples were in when they saw Jesus walking on water. Naturally, the sight terrified the disciples who believed Jesus to be a ghost. Once realising it was Jesus, Peter decided he too would walk on water. “Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” (Matthew 14:29-30)
During the Last Supper, Peter is mentioned by name more times than any of the other disciples. According to the Gospel of John, Peter initially refused to let Jesus wash his feet. “He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus replied, ‘You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ ‘No,’ said Peter, ‘you shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.’” (John 13:6-8)
When Jesus predicted his betrayal, it was Peter who asked who Jesus thought was going to betray him – or, at least he told another disciple to ask. “Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.” (John 13:24) Shortly after this, Peter claimed he would lay down his life for Jesus, to whom Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!” (John 13:38)
Just as Jesus had predicted, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times after his arrest. Before this, Peter had made one final attempt to prevent Jesus’ arrest and inevitable death. When the soldiers and chief priests arrived, “Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)” (John 18:10)
Peter frequently features in the Acts of the Apostles. After Jesus had risen from the dead, the Disciples began to spread the Christian message throughout the Roman Empire. The Book of Acts records:
Peter is largely regarded as the most prominent Disciple and the first leader of the early Church. He is often referred to as “the rock” upon which the Church was built. Peter is always listed first among the Disciples and was present and appeared to be the spokesman on most occasions. Peter’s importance is also suggested by Paul in his First Epistle to the Corinthians in which he lists Peter as the first person (or man) to see the risen Christ. Before this, Peter had been the first disciple to enter the empty tomb. “So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in.Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.” (John 20:3-8)
In the final chapter of the Gospel of John, it is to Peter that Jesus asks “do you love me?” three times. This balances out the three times Peter had previously denied Jesus. Jesus instructed Peter to “Feed my lambs”, “Take care of my sheep”, and “Feed my sheep”. He also foretold Peter’s death by saying, “when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” (John 21:18)
Some scholars interpret John 21:18 as a sign that Peter was crucified (“stretch out your hands”). His death was not recorded in the Bible, although some believe the angel releasing Peter from prison in Acts 12 was a metaphor for his crucifixion. Traditionally, some Christians believe Peter was sentenced to death at the age of 64 during the reign of Emperor Nero. It is said he was crucified upside-down. The Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican is said to have been built on the location of Peter’s burial site.
In 1950, human bones were discovered under St Peter’s Basilica. After forensic examination, they have been identified as belonging to a man of roughly 61 years of age from the 1stcentury AD. In 1968, Pope Paul VI announced they are most likely the remains of the Apostle Peter.
Since no one knows the date of Peter’s death, the Roman Catholic Church has assigned the 29th June as the Feast of Saint Peter. The day is celebrated as a public holiday in Rome, where Peter is one of the patron saints as well as in parts of Switzerland, Peru, Malta and the Philippines.
Just for fun: as well as being the patron saint of Rome, Saint Peter is the saint of:
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Rev'd Martin Wheadon