May 31 – Making Worthless Things Valuable

“The names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax-gatherer; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him” (Matt. 10:2–4).

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In God’s hands you can be a precious and effective instrument.

The story is told of a great concert violinist who wanted to prove a point, so he rented a music hall and announced that he would play a concert on a $20,000 violin. On concert night the music hall was filled to capacity with music lovers anxious to hear such an expensive instrument played. The violinist stepped onto the stage, gave an exquisite performance, and received a thunderous standing ovation. When the applause subsided, he suddenly threw the violin to the ground, stomped it to pieces, and walked off the stage. The audience gasped, then sat in stunned silence.

Within seconds the stage manager approached the microphone and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, to put you at ease, the violin that was just destroyed was a $20 violin. The master will now return to play the remainder of his concert on the $20,000 instrument.” At the conclusion of his concert he received another standing ovation. Few people could tell the difference between the two violins. His point was obvious: it isn’t the violin that makes the music; it’s the violinist.

The disciples were like $20 violins that Jesus transformed into priceless instruments for His glory. I trust that you have been encouraged to see how God used them despite their weakness, and I pray that you have been challenged by their strengths. You may not be dynamic like Peter or zealous like James and Simon, but you can be faithful like Andrew and courageous like Thaddaeus. Remember, God will take the raw material of your life and will expose you to the experiences and teachings that will shape you into the servant He wants you to be.

Trust Him to complete what He has begun in you, and commit each day to the goal of becoming a more qualified and effective disciple.

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Suggestions for Prayer:  Make a list of the character traits you most admire in the disciples. Ask the Lord to increase those traits in your own life.

For Further Study: Read 1 Timothy 1:12–17, noting Paul’s perspective on his own calling.[1]


Twelve Disciples Called (10:1–4)

10:1 In the last verse of chapter 9, the Lord instructed His disciples to pray for more laborers. To make that request sincerely, believers must be willing to go themselves. So here we find the Lord calling His twelve disciples. He had previously chosen them, but now He calls them to a special evangelistic mission to the nation of Israel. With the call went authority to cast out unclean spirits and to heal all kinds of diseases. The uniqueness of Jesus is seen here. Other men had performed miracles, but no other man ever conferred the power on others.

10:2–4 The twelve apostles were:

  1. Simon, who is called Peter. Impetuous, generous-hearted, affectionate man that he was, he was a born leader.
  2. Andrew, his brother. He was introduced to Jesus by John the Baptist (John 1:36, 40), then brought his brother Peter to Him. He made it his business thereafter to bring men to Jesus.
  3. James, the son of Zebedee, who was later killed by Herod (Acts 12:2)—the first of the twelve to die as a martyr.
  4. John, his brother. Also a son of Zebedee, he was the disciple whom Jesus loved. We are indebted to him for the Fourth Gospel, three Epistles, and Revelation.
  5. Philip. A citizen of Bethsaida, he brought Nathanael to Jesus. He is not to be confused with Philip the Evangelist, in the book of Acts.
  6. Bartholomew. Believed to be the same as Nathanael, the Israelite in whom Jesus found no guile (John 1:47).
  7. Thomas, also called Didymus, meaning “twin.” Commonly known as “Doubting Thomas,” his doubts gave way to a magnificent confession of Christ (John 20:28).
  8. Matthew. The former tax-collector who wrote this Gospel.
  9. James, the son of Alphaeus. Little else is definitely known about him.
  10. Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus. He is also known as Judas the son of James (Luke 6:16). His only recorded utterance is found in John 14:22.
  11. Simon, the Canaanite, whom Luke calls the Zealot (6:15).
  12. Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of our Lord.

The disciples were probably in their twenties at this time. Taken from varied walks of life and probably young men of average ability, their true greatness lay in their association with Jesus.[2]


The Setting

10:1. And he called to himself his twelve disciples, and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every sickness and every infirmity. Matthew seems to take for granted that the readers of his Gospel already know that The Twelve, taken as a group, had been chosen earlier, though he himself does not record this call. According to Luke 6:12, 13, 20 this company of twelve had been called just previous to the preaching of the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Mark 3:13, 14). Now, perhaps somewhat later (during the same summer, namely, of the year a.d. 28?), Jesus sends these men out on a mission tour. They were to be his official ambassadors or “apostles,” clothed with authority to represent their Sender. That exactly twelve men, no more and no less, were chosen for this task must mean that the Lord designated them to be the nucleus of the new Israel, for the Israel of the old dispensation had been represented by the twelve patriarchs (Gen. 49:28).

Very interesting and instructive surely is the fact that the very men who had been urged to pray that the Lord of the harvest might thrust out laborers into his harvest (9:38) are now placed in the forefront of these laborers (cf. 18:18). They are, moreover, given authority over “unclean spirits” (cf. Rev. 6:13), probably designated by that name because not only are these spirits themselves filthy but among men they are also the instigators of filthy thoughts, words, and deeds.

Exactly what does Matthew mean when he says that Jesus gave to The Twelve “authority” [that is, power plus the right to exercise it] “over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every sickness and every infirmity”? Does he wish to say that by means of, and as a result of, casting out these demons the disciples acquired the authority to heal every sickness and every infirmity? If that is the sense it would almost seem as if every sickness and every infirmity is somehow caused by demons. Now in connection with 9:32 it has already been shown: a. that according to the Gospels in certain cases diseases were indeed associated with demon possession, but also b. that this was by no means always true. At times a physical affliction is ascribed to Satanic influence rather than specifically to demon-possession (Luke 13:16; cf. Job 2:7). Often neither Satan nor his underlings are even mentioned in connection with human illnesses. It is true that in a very general and indirect way every manifestation of human distress, whether physical or spiritual, can be ascribed to Satan, for had Adam as head of the race resisted the temptation these evils would not now be in evidence (Gen. 2:16, 17; 3:3, 6, 19; Rom. 5:17). All this hardly suffices to justify the conclusion: “Matt. 10:1 means a. that every sickness and every infirmity is directly caused by demons, and b. that the disciples by receiving authority to drive them out acquired the power to heal every disease.”

Grammatically it is entirely legitimate to interpret 10:1 differently, namely, that Jesus gave to The Twelve “authority over unclean spirits, so that these men were able and were instructed to cast them out, and he gave them authority to heal every sickness and every infirmity.” The shortened manner in which this is expressed in 10:1 may be considered one of the many instances of abbreviated discourse.

The similarity of 10:1 to 4:23 and 9:35 shows that in faithfully carrying out their assignment The Twelve are truly representing their Master, for they are doing what he himself is doing and what they have been ordered to do. In the same manner Jesus himself represents the Father (John 5:19).

  1. Now the names of the twelve apostles are as follows:

first, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and

James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother;

  1. Philip and Bartholomew;

Thomas and Matthew the tax collector;

James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;

  1. Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

In the New Testament the names of The Twelve are listed four times (Matt. 10:2–4; Mark 3:16–19; Luke 6:14–16; Acts 1:13, 26). Acts 1:15–26 records the manner in which Judas Iscariot was replaced by Matthias. As to the Gospel lists, each begins with Peter (so does Acts) and ends with Judas Iscariot. Even the arrangement within the four references shows but little variation. When theoretically the twelve names are viewed in each case as consisting of three groups of four, the following result is obtained:

In Matthew’s summary Andrew’s name is listed immediately after that of his brother Peter; the brothers James and John are mentioned next. This completes the first group of four. These four may well have been Christ’s first disciples (see N.T.C. on John 1:35–42; and see above on Matt. 4:18–22). The second group of four begins with Philip and Bartholomew (=Nathanael), called to be Christ’s disciples immediately after the first group of four (John 1:43–51); and concludes with Thomas and Matthew. In the final group the first three names are those of “obscure” disciples, that is, men about whom little (Thaddaeus) or next to nothing (James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Cananaean) is known; the last name is that of the traitor Judas. Does this obscurity and (in one case) perversity account for the fact that these four are mentioned last? Or are they mentioned last because they were the last to be called? We do not know.

In Mark’s list the sequence for the first group of four is the same as in Matthew’s with the exception that Andrew is now placed last. In Mark’s second four we find “Matthew and Thomas” instead of “Thomas and Matthew.” With respect to his last four, Matthew’s and Mark’s lists are identical.

Luke’s Gospel list follows Matthew’s for the first four names, Mark’s for the second four. With respect to the last four names Luke goes his own way, reversing the order of the two middle names as listed in both Matthew and Mark. Besides, he substitutes the name “Judas the son [or: the brother] of James” for Thaddaeus, undoubtedly having in mind one and the same person. Hence, here Luke has the sequence: “James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the one called the Zealot, and Judas the son [or: the brother] of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.”

Luke’s list in the book of Acts has the sequence “Peter and John and James and Andrew,” for the first four; “Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew,” for the second four; and ends with “James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James.” The name of Matthias is added in verse 26.

Therefore, not only do the four lists contain the same twelve names (with the exception already indicated: in Acts 1 Matthias instead of Judas Iscariot); they even (again, with exception as noted) have the same names in each group of four.

According to Mark 6:7 Jesus sent out the twelve “two by two.” In Matthew, as the “and” within each pair and the omission of “and” between each pair indicates, the grouping is in pairs: “Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew,” etc. Exception: “and” also occurs between the first two pairs, perhaps because these are two sets of brothers. The possibility that on the journey Philip and Bartholomew actually traveled together, and so also Thomas and Matthew, Peter and Andrew, etc., must be allowed. Yet, there can be no absolute certainty about this, all the less so because the grouping varies somewhat in the four lists, as has been indicated. At any rate the old rhyme makes it easy to remember the names, and also reminds one of the fact that the men were actually sent out in pairs.

Peter and Andrew, James and John,

Philip and Bartholomew,

Matthew next and Thomas too

[or: Thomas next and Matthew too],

James the Less and Judas the Greater,

Simon the Zealot and Judas the Traitor.

As to the individuals that composed this group of twelve, no one is mentioned more often than colorful, impetuous Peter. His original name was Simon (or Simeon). He was the son of Jonas (or John). By trade he was a fisherman, with his brother Andrew dwelling first in Bethsaida, afterward in Capernaum. Jesus, by whose grace and influence he was to be gradually transformed from a rather unstable person to a faithful, dependable witness, prophetically changed his name from Simon to Cephas (Aramaic), the same as Peter (Greek: Petros), meaning rock. For a description of Peter’s character and personality see especially on 4:18–22; 26:58, 69–75; and N.T.C. on John 13:6–9; 18:15–18, 25–27; ch. 21. Two New Testament books are by tradition credited to Peter, namely, the epistles called I and II Peter. As was shown earlier (see pp. 41, 44, 53) the Gospel writer Mark has not unjustly been called “Peter’s interpreter.” Here in Matt. 10:2 to the name of this disciple, who is variously called Simon, Peter, Simon Peter, and Cephas, is prefixed the word “first.” He was indeed the leader of the group. In this connection see on 16:16–19. It is hard to overestimate Peter’s meaning for the history of the early church.

It was Andrew, also a fisherman, who brought his brother Peter to Jesus (see N.T.C. on John 1:41, 42). For other references to Andrew see above (on 4:18–22); also study Mark 1:16, 29; 13:3; John 6:8, 9; 12:22. See also below under Philip.

James and John, too, were brothers, sons of Zebedee. Matthew mentions these two fishermen not only here and in 4:21, 22 (see on that passage), but also later on (17:1; and cf. 20:20, 21). There are also several references to them in the other Gospels. Because of their fiery nature Jesus called James and John “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17; cf. Luke 9:54–56). James was the first of the apostles to wear the martyr’s crown (Acts 12:2). While he was the first to arrive in heaven, his brother John was in all probability the last to remain on earth. On the life and character of John, considered by many (I believe correctly) as being “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20) see N.T.C. on the Gospel according to John, Vol. I, pp. 18–21. Five New Testament books have by tradition been assigned to John: his Gospel, three epistles (I, II, and III John), and the book of Revelation.

Philip was at least for a while a fellow townsman of Peter and Andrew, that is, he too was from Bethsaida. Having himself responded to the call of Jesus, he found Nathanael, and said to him, “The one about whom Moses wrote in the law and about whom the prophets wrote, we have found, Jesus, son of Joseph, the one from Nazareth” (John 1:45). When Jesus was about to feed the five thousand he asked Philip, “How are we to buy bread-cakes that these (people) may eat?” Philip answered, “Bread-cakes for two hundred denarii would not be sufficient for them so that each might get a little something” (John 6:5, 7). Philip apparently forgot that the power of Jesus surpassed any possibility of calculation. To deduce from this incident the conclusion that Philip was a coldly-calculating type of person, more so than the other apostles, would be basing too much on too little. In the Gospels Philip generally appears in a rather favorable light. Thus, when the Greeks approached him with the request, “Sir, we would see Jesus,” he went and told Andrew, and these two, Andrew and Philip, brought the enquirers to Jesus (John 12:21, 22). It must be admitted that Philip did not always immediately understand the meaning of Christ’s profound utterances—did the others?—but to his credit it must be said that with perfect candor he would reveal his ignorance and ask for further information, as is also clear from John 14:8, “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be content.” He received the beautiful and comforting answer, “… He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

Bartholomew (meaning: son of Tolmai) is clearly the Nathanael of John’s Gospel (1:45–49; 21:2). It was he who said to Philip, “Out of Nazareth can any good come?” Philip answered, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him he said, “Look, truly an Israelite in whom deceit does not exist.” This disciple-apostle was one of the seven persons to whom the resurrected Christ appeared at the Sea of Tiberias. Of the other six only Simon Peter, Thomas, and the sons of Zebedee are mentioned.

The references to Thomas combine in indicating that despondency and devotion marked this man. He was ever afraid that he might lose his beloved Master. He expected evil, and it was hard for him to believe good tidings when they were brought to him. Yet when the risen Savior in all his tender, condescending love revealed himself to him it was he who exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” For more information on Thomas see N.T.C. on John 11:16; 14:5; 20:24–28; 21:2.

Matthew has already been discussed in some detail (see on 9:9).

About James, the son of Alphaeus, by Mark (15:40) called “James the Less,” which by some is interpreted as meaning “James the younger,” but by others as “James small in stature,” we have no further positive information. It is probable, however, that he was the same disciple who is referred to in Matt. 27:56; Mark 16:1; and Luke 24:10. If this be correct, his mother’s name was Mary, one of the women who accompanied Jesus and stood near the cross. See N.T.C. on John 19:25. It has already been shown that the Alphaeus who was the father of Matthew should probably not be identified with Alphaeus the father of James the Less. See above, footnote 113 on p. 95.

Thaddaeus (called Lebbaeus in certain manuscripts of Matt. 10:3 and Mark 3:18) is in all probability the “Judas not Iscariot” of John 14:22 (see on that passage); cf. Acts 1:13. From what is said about him in John 14 it would seem that he wanted Jesus to show himself to the world, probably meaning: to get into the limelight.

The second Simon is called the Cananaean, the latter being an Aramaic surname meaning enthusiast or zealot. In fact Luke calls him “Simon the Zealot” (Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13). In all probability this name is here given him because formerly he had belonged to the party of the Zealots, which party in its hatred for the foreign ruler, who demanded tribute, did not shrink from fomenting rebellion against the Roman government. See Josephus Jewish War II.117, 118; Antiquities XVIII.1–10, 23. Cf. Acts 5:37.

Finally, there was Judas Iscariot, generally interpreted as meaning “Judas the man from Kerioth,” a place in southern Judea. The Gospels refer to him again and again (Matt. 26:14, 25, 47; 27:3; Mark 14:10, 43; Luke 22:3, 47, 48; John 6:71; 12:4; 13:2, 26, 29; 18:2–5). He is at times described as “Judas who betrayed him,” “Judas one of the twelve,” “the betrayer,” “Judas the son of Simon Iscariot,” “Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son,” or simply “Judas.” It is probably useless to speculate about the reasons which induced Jesus to select this man as one of his disciples. The basic answer may well be embedded in such passages as Luke 22:22; Acts 2:23; cf. 4:28. This man, though thoroughly responsible for his own wicked deeds, was an instrument of the devil (John 6:70, 71). While other people, when they felt that they could no longer agree with or even tolerate Christ’s teachings, would simply disassociate themselves from him (John 6:66), Judas remained, as if he were in full accord with him. Being a very selfish person he was unable—or shall we say “unwilling”?—to understand the unselfish and beautiful deed of Mary of Bethany, who anointed Jesus (John 12:1 ff.). He was unable and unwilling to see that the native language of love is lavishness. It was the devil who instigated Judas to betray Jesus, that is, to deliver him into the hands of the enemy. He was a thief; yet it was he who had been entrusted with the treasuryship of the little company, with the predictable result (John 12:6). When, in connection with the institution of the Lord’s Supper, the dramatic moment arrived—forever commemorated in Scripture (Matt. 26:20–25; John 13:21–30) and emblazoned in art (Leonardo da Vinci, etc.)—in which Jesus startled The Twelve by saying, “One of you will betray me,” Judas, though having already received from the chief priests the thirty pieces of silver as a reward for his promised deed (Matt. 26:14–16), had the incredible audacity to say, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” Judas served as guide for the detachment of soldiers and the posse of temple police that arrested Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. It was by means of perfidiously kissing his Master, as if he were still a loyal disciple, that this traitor pointed out Jesus to those who had come to seize him (Matt. 26:49, 50; Luke 22:47, 48). As to the manner of Judas’ self-inflicted demise, see on Matt. 27:3–5; cf. Acts 1:18. What caused this privileged disciple to become Christ’s betrayer? Was it injured pride, disappointed ambition, deeply intrenched greed, fear of being put out of the synagogue (John 9:22)? No doubt all of these were involved, but could not the most basic reason have been this, that between the utterly selfish heart of Judas and the infinitely unselfish and outgoing heart of Jesus there was a chasm so immense that either Judas must implore the Lord to bestow upon him the grace of regeneration and complete renewal, a request which the traitor wickedly refused to make, or else he must offer his help to get rid of Jesus? One thing is certain: The shocking tragedy of Judas’ life is proof not of Christ’s impotence but of the traitor’s impenitence! Woe to that man!

What points up the greatness of Jesus is that he took such men as these, and welded them into an amazingly influential community that would prove to be not only a worthy link with Israel’s past but also a solid foundation for the church’s future. Yes, he accomplished this multiple miracle with such men as these, with all their faults and foibles, as described on pp. 246, 247. Even when we leave out Judas Iscariot and concentrate only on the others, we cannot fail to be impressed with the majesty of the Savior, whose drawing power, incomparable wisdom, and matchless love were so astounding that he was able to gather round himself and to unite into one family men of entirely different, at times even opposite, backgrounds and temperaments. Included in this little band was Peter the optimist (Matt. 14:28; 26:33, 35), but also Thomas the pessimist (John 11:16; 20:24, 25); Simon the one-time Zealot, hating taxes and eager to overthrow the Roman government, but also Matthew, who had voluntarily offered his tax collecting services to that same Roman government; Peter, John, and Matthew, destined to become renowned through their writings, but also James the Less, who remains obscure but must have fulfilled his mission.

Jesus drew them to himself with the cords of his tender, never-failing compassion. He loved them to the uttermost (John 13:1), and in the night before he was betrayed and crucified commended them to his Father, saying:

“I have manifested thy name to the men whom thou gavest me out of the world; thine they were, and thou gavest them to me, and they have kept thy word.… Holy Father, keep them in thy name which thou hast given me, in order that they may be one, even as we are one.… I do not make request that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Consecrate them in the truth; thy word is truth. Just as thou didst send me into the world, so have I also sent them into the world. And for thy sake I consecrate myself, in order that they also may be truly consecrated” (John 17:6–19, in part).[3]


Commissioning the Twelve (10:1–4)

Commentary

1 He whose word (chs. 5–7) and deed (chs. 8–9) were characterized by authority now delegates something of that authority to twelve men. This is the first time Matthew has explicitly mentioned the Twelve (cf. v. 2; 11:1; 20:17; 26:14, 20, 47), who are introduced a little earlier in Mark (3:16–19). This commission appears to be the culmination of several previous steps (Jn 1:35–51; see comments at 4:18–22). Indeed, Matthew’s language suggests that the Twelve became a recognized group somewhat earlier. At the same time, this commission was a stage in the training and preparation of those who, after Pentecost, would lead the earliest thrust of the fledgling church. Twelve were chosen, probably on an analogy to the twelve tribes of Israel (cf. the council of twelve at Qumran, 1QS 8:1 ff.), and they point to the eschatological renewal of the people of God (see comments at 19:28–30).

The authority the Twelve received enabled them to heal and drive out “evil [akathartos, lit., ‘unclean,’ GK 176] spirits”—spirits in rebellion against God, hostile to man, and capable of inflicting mental, moral, and physical harm, directly or indirectly. This is the first time in Matthew that demons are so described, and only again at 12:43 (but see comments at 8:16). “Every kind of disease and sickness” is exactly the expression in 4:23; 9:35. The authority granted the Twelve is in sharp contrast to the charismatic “gifts [plural] of healing” at Corinth (1 Co 12:9, 28), which apparently were individually more restricted in what diseases each could cure.

2–4 For the first and only time in Matthew, the Twelve are called “apostles.” Apostolos (“apostle,” GK 693), cognate with apostellō (“send,” GK 690), is not a technical term in the background literature. This largely accounts for the fact that as used in NT documents it has narrower and wider meanings (cf. NIDNTT, 1:126–37). Luke 6:13 explicitly affirms that Jesus himself called the Twelve “apostles”; certainly Luke shows more interest in this question than the other three, partly in preparation for his work on the Acts of the Apostles. But in the NT, the term can mean merely “messenger” (Jn 13:16) or refer to Jesus (“the apostle and high priest whom we confess,” Heb 3:1) or elsewhere (esp. in Paul) denote “missionaries” or “representatives”—i.e., a group larger than the Twelve and Paul (Ro 16:7; 2 Co 8:23). Nevertheless, the most natural reading of 1 Corinthians 9:1–5; 15:7; Galatians 1:17, 19 et al. is that even Paul could use the term in a narrow sense to refer to the Twelve plus himself (by special dispensation, 1 Co 15:8–10).

Lists of the Twelve are found here and in three other places in the NT:

Matthew 10:2–4

 

Mark 3:16–19

 

Luke 6:13–16

 

Acts 1:13

 

1.

 

Simon Peter

 

Simon Peter

 

Simon Peter

 

Peter

 

2.

 

Andrew

 

James

 

Andrew

 

John

 

3.

 

James

 

John

 

James

 

James

 

4.

 

John

 

Andrew

 

John

 

Andrew

 

5.

 

Philip

 

Philip

 

Philip

 

Philip

 

6.

 

Bartholomew

 

Bartholomew

 

Bartholomew

 

Thomas

 

7.

 

Thomas

 

Matthew

 

Matthew

 

Bartholomew

 

8.

 

Matthew

 

Thomas

 

Thomas

 

Matthew

 

9.

 

James son of Alphaeus

 

James son of Alphaeus

 

James son of Alphaeus

 

James son of Alphaeus

 

10.

 

Thaddaeus

 

Thaddaeus

 

Simon the Zealot

 

Simon the Zealot

 

11.

 

Simon the Cananaean (NRSV)

 

Simon the Cananaean (NRSV)

 

Judas brother of (or son of) James

 

Judas brother of (or son of) James

 

12.

 

Judas Iscariot

 

Judas Iscariot

 

Judas Iscariot

 

[vacant]

 

Many significant things arise from comparing these lists.

  1. Peter is always first, Judas Iscariot always last. Matthew uses “first” in connection with Peter. The word cannot mean he was the first convert (Andrew or perhaps John was) and probably does not simply mean “first on the list,” which would be a trifling comment (cf. 1 Co 12:28). More likely it means primus inter pares (“first among equals”; see comments at 16:13–20).
  2. The first four names of all four lists are those of two pairs of brothers whose call is mentioned first (cf. 4:18–22).
  3. In each list, there are three groups of four, each group headed by Peter, Philip (not to be confused with the evangelist), and James son of Alphaeus respectively. But within each group the order varies (even from Luke to Acts!) except that Judas is always last. This suggests, if it does not prove, that the Twelve were organizationally divided into smaller groups, each with a leader.
  4. The commission in Mark 6:7 sent the men out two by two; perhaps this accounts for the pairing in the Greek text of Matthew 10:2–4.
  5. Some variations in order can be accounted for with a high degree of probability. For the first four names, Mark lists Peter, James, John, and appends Andrew, doubtless because the first three were an inner core privileged to witness the raising of Jairus’s daughter and the transfiguration and invited to be close to Jesus in his Gethsemane agony. Matthew preserves the order suggested by sibling relationships. He not only puts himself last in his group but mentions his less-than-savory past. Is this a sign of Christian humility?
  6. Apparently Simon the Cananaean (Matthew, Mark) is the same person as Simon the Zealot (Luke, Acts). If so, then apparently Thaddaeus is another name for Judas the brother of (or son of) James (see comments below).

Not much is known concerning most of these men (see Reflections below). For interesting but mostly incredible legends about them, see Hennecke (New Testament Apocrypha, 2:167–531).

Notes

1 The construction ὥστε (hōste, “so that”) plus an infinitive to indicate purpose is extraordinary (cf. BDF, para. 391 [3]; Zerwick, Biblical Greek, para. 352) but cannot easily be taken any other way.

Reflections

Simon Peter. Simon is probably a contraction of Simeon (cf. Ge 29:33). Natives of Bethsaida on Galilee (Jn 1:44), he and his brother Andrew were fishermen (Mt 4:18–20) and possibly disciples of John the Baptist before they became disciples of Jesus (Jn 1:35–42). Jesus gave Simon the name Cephas (in Aram.; “Peter” in Gk. [Jn 1:42]; see comments at 4:18). Impulsive and ardent, Peter’s great strengths were his great weaknesses. NT evidence about him is abundant. Tracing Peter’s movements after the Jerusalem Council (Ac 15) is very difficult.

Andrew. Peter’s brother is not nearly so prominent in the NT. He appears again only in Mark 13:3; John 1:35–44; 6:8; 12:22, and in late and unreliable traditions. The Johannine evidence shows him to have been quietly committed to bringing others to Jesus.

James and John. James was probably the older (he almost always appears first). But as he became the first apostolic martyr (Ac 12:2), he never achieved his brother’s prominence. The brothers were sons of Zebedee the fisherman, whose business was successful enough to employ others (Mk 1:20) while his wife was able to support Jesus’ ministry (Mt 27:55–56). His wealth may help account for the family’s link with the house of the high priest (Jn 18:15–16), as well as for the fact that he alone of the Twelve stood by the cross. The brothers’ mother was probably Salome (cf. Mt 27:56; Mk 15:40; 16:1), and her motives were not unmixed (see comments at 20:20–21). Perhaps the sons inherited something of her aggressive nature; whatever its source, the nickname “sons of thunder” (Mk 3:17; cf. also Mk 9:38–41, Lk 9:54–56) reveals something of their temperament. John may have been a disciple of John the Baptist (Jn 1:35–41). Of James we know nothing until Matthew 4:21–22. John was undoubtedly a special friend of Peter (Lk 22:8; Jn 18:15; 20:2–8; Ac 3:1–4:21; 8:14; Gal 2:9). Reasonably reliable tradition places him after the fall of Jerusalem in Ephesus, where he ministered long and usefully into old age, taking a hand in the nurture of leaders like Polycarp, Papias, and Ignatius. Broadus’s summary does not seem too fanciful: “[The] vaulting ambition which once aspired to be next to royalty in a worldly kingdom [Mt 20:20–23] now seeks to overcome the world, to bear testimony to the truth, to purify the churches, and glorify God.”

Philip. Like Peter and Andrew, Philip’s home was Bethsaida (Jn 1:44). He too left the Baptist to follow Jesus. For incidents about him, see John 6:5–7; 12:21–22; 14:8–14. In the lists he invariably appears first in the second group of four. Polycrates, a second-century bishop, says Philip ministered in the Roman province of Asia and was buried at Hierapolis.

Bartholomew. The name means “son of Tolmai” or “son of Tholami” (cf. Jos 15:14 LXX) or “son of Tholomaeus” (cf. Josephus, Ant. 20.5 [1.1]). Many have identified him with Nathanael on the grounds that (1) the latter is apparently associated with the Twelve (Jn 21:2; cf. 1:43–51), (2) Philip brought Nathanael to Jesus (Jn 1:43–46), and (3) Philip and Bartholomew are always associated in the lists of apostles. The evidence is not strong, but if it is solid, we also know he came from Cana (Jn 21:2). He is remembered for Jesus’ tribute to him (Jn 1:47).

Thomas. Also named “Didymus” (Jn 11:16; 21:2), which in Aramaic means “Twin,” Thomas appears in gospel narratives only in John 11:16; 14:5; 20:24–29. Known for his doubt, he should also be known for his courage (Jn 11:16) and his profound confession (Jn 20:28). Some traditions claim he went to India as a missionary and was martyred there; others place his later ministry in Persia.

Matthew. See comments at 9:9; Introduction, section 5.

James son of Alphaeus. The extra phrase distinguishes him from James son of Zebedee. If we assume (and this is highly likely) that this James is not the same as “James the brother” of Jesus (see comments at 13:55), we know almost nothing about him. Assuming Matthew = Levi (see comments at 9:9), Matthew’s father was also called Alphaeus (Mk 2:14); and if this is the same Alphaeus, then James and Matthew are another pair of brothers among the Twelve. Some have argued that Alphaeus is an alternative form of Cleophas (Clopas), which would mean that “James son of Alphaeus” is the same person as “James the younger” (Mk 15:40) and that his mother’s name was Mary (Mt 27:56; Mk 15:40; 16:1; Jn 19:25). But such connections are by no means certain.

Thaddaeus. The textual variants are difficult. The longer ones (e.g., KJV, “Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus”) are almost certainly conflations. “Thaddaeus” has the support of early representatives from Alexandrian, Western, and Caesarean witnesses (cf. Metzger, Textual Commentary, 26). Through elimination he appears to be identified with (lit.) “Judas of James”—which could mean either “Judas son of James” or “Judas brother of James.” The former is perhaps the more normal meaning; but the author of the epistle of Jude designates himself as “Jude [Gk. Ioudas], … a brother of James” (Jude 1, where adelphos [“brother”] is actually used). If Jude is the apostolic “Judas of James,” then the meaning of the latter expression is fixed. On the other hand, if canonical Jude is the half brother of Jesus and full brother of Jesus’ half brother James (see comments at 13:55), then “Judas of James” most likely means “Judas son of James.” “Thaddaeus” comes from a root roughly signifying “the beloved.” Perhaps this apostle was called “Judas the beloved” = “Judas Thaddaeus,” and “Thaddaeus” was progressively used to distinguish him from the other Judas in the apostolic band. Only John 14:22 provides us with information about him. Later traditions are worthless.

Simon the Zealot. Matthew and Mark have “Simon the Cananaean” (NRSV; Kananaios, GK 2831; not “Canaanite,” which would suggest a pagan Gentile; cf. the different Gk. word in 15:22: Chananaios). “Cananaean” (qanʾân) is the Aramaic form of “Zealot” specified in Luke—Acts. The Zealots were nationalists, strong upholders of Jewish traditions and religion. Some decades later, they became a principal cause of the Jewish War in which Rome sacked Jerusalem. The Zealots were probably not so influential in Jesus’ time. The nickname may reveal Simon’s past political and religious associations; it also distinguishes him from Simon Peter.

Judas Iscariot. Judas’s father is called “Simon Iscariot” in John 6:71; 13:26. Scholarly interest has spent enormous energy and much ingenuity on the name “Iscariot.” Explanations include (1) “man of Kerioth” (there are two eligible villages of that name [cf. ZPEB, 3:785; IDB, 2:830]); (2) transliteration of Latin sicarius, used to refer to a Zealot-like movement; (3) “man of Jericho,” an explanation depending on a Greek corruption; (4) a transliteration of the Aramaic eqāryaʿ (“falsehood,” “betrayal”; cf. C. C. Torrey, “The Name Iscariot,” HTR 36 [1943]: 51–62), which could therefore become a nickname for Judas only after his ignominy and not at this point in his life; cf. S. Morschauser, “A Note on Iskariot: ‘The Pariah,’ ” Journal of Higher Criticism 10 (2003): 66–74; (5) “Judas the dyer,” reflecting his occupation (cf. A. Ehrman, “Judas Iscariot and Abba Saqqara,” JBL 97 [1978]: 572–73; Y. Arbeitman, “The Suffix of Iscariot,” JBL 99 [1980]: 122–24); (6) as an adaptation of the last, “Judas the redhead” (Albright and Mann). The first and fifth seem most likely; the second is perhaps most popular. Judas was treasurer for the Twelve but not an honest one (Jn 12:6, 13:29; see comments at 26:14–16; 27:3–10). Matthew and Mark add the damning indictment—“who betrayed him.” Luke 6:16 labels him a traitor.[4]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 164). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1238). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew (Vol. 9, pp. 449–456). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, pp. 275–280). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

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