Who were the 12 disciples of Christ?

The twelve disciples were men that Jesus chose to follow and learn from him for the last three years of his life.  They are called "disciples" because the word means a student who imitates his teacher.  Jesus not only taught the twelve men spiritual teachings, he expected them to live and behave like him. 

Matthew 10:24  "A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.

The disciples were later called "apostles" which means "a sent person".  The twelve apostles traveled to most parts of the known world in their lifetime teaching and preaching about their master.

Sometimes Jesus referred to all those who followed and listened to him as his disciples.  In this sense, all Christians should become disciples of Jesus Christ.

His demands on discipleship are difficult.  One has to put all other priorities in a distant second place in order to fulfill the discipleship of Christ.
Luke 14:26-27
(26)  "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.
(27)  Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

There are several lists of the names of the twelve disciples.  It seems that there must have been multiple names for some of the men since there are discrepancies in the lists.

Matthew 10:2-4
(2)  The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother;
(3)  Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;
(4)  Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

Mark 3:16-19
(16)  He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter);
(17)  James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder);
(18)  Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean,
(19)  and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

Luke 6:13-16
(13)  And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles:
(14)  Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew,
(15)  and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot,
(16)  and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

It seems that Thaddaeus was also known as “Judas, son of James” (Luke 6:16) and Lebbaeus (Matthew 10:3). Simon the Zealot was also known as Simon the Canaanite (Mark 3:18).

One of the disciples, Judas, was actually a false believer.  He was not a true Christian.  He was replaced by Matthias.

Acts 1:20-26
(20)  "For it is written in the Book of Psalms, "'May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it'; and "'Let another take his office.'
(21)  So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,
(22)  beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us--one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection."
(23)  And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias.
(24)  And they prayed and said, "You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen
(25)  to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place."
(26)  And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

The Apostle Paul was added as a thirteenth apostle at a later time.  Although he didn't follow the Lord during his time on earth, he did see him in the glory of heaven when Christ appeared to him the day he was saved.

Acts 9:3-6
(3)  Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.
(4)  And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?"
(5)  And he said, "Who are you, Lord?" And he said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.
(6)  But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do."

Paul was accused of not being a true apostle.  He defended his apostleship in both of his letters to the church in Corinth. 

1 Corinthians 4:14-21
(14)  I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children.
(15)  For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
(16)  I urge you, then, be imitators of me.
(17)  That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.
(18)  Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you.
(19)  But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power.
(20)  For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.
(21)  What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?

The Great Commission was the final commandment that Jesus gave to his disciples for the work of spreading his message:

Matthew 28:18-20
(18)  And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
(19)  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
(20)  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

While Peter and Paul are featured in the book of Acts in the various journeys around the Mediterranean world, the historians of the church believe that the other apostles traveled to other parts of the globe.  Since there is no inspired record in the Acts about the other disciples, scholars have debated the following list for centuries.


Andrew – Scotland, Synthia near the Black sea, Greece, Asia Minor.

Simon the Zelot
- Egypt, Cyrene, Africa, Mauritania, Libya, Britain.

Matthew - Jews of Palestine as well as those who had been dispersed around the world. Asiatic Ethiopians located south of the Caspian Sea.  Macedonia, Syria, Persians.

Peter wrote his first epistle in Babylon.

1 Peter 5:13  She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son.

James, the son of Alphæus – Spain, Britain and Syria.

Thomas – Babylon, Parthia and India.

Judas called Thaddæus - Assyria and Mesopotamia.

Bartholomew, Simon the Zealot, Andrew, and Matthias – Armenia.

Thaddæus - Syria, Arabia, and Persia.

Bartholomew - Asia Minor, Armenians, Arabia, southern Persia, and to the borders of’ India.

Philip - Gaul.