Who Were The 12 Disciples Of Jesus?


A lot is known about Jesus’ life and earthly ministry, but there’s been a lot of obscurity surrounding the lives of the 12 men with whom He shared it with. Who were the 12 disciples of Jesus?

For three years they followed Him, subjecting themselves to His mentorship and his teachings, which transformed them into 12 major foundations in Christianity. Today, more than 2,000 years later, their lives still contain so much relevance and values we as a generation can glean from.

This article aims to give you a peek into the lives of each of these apostles and who they really were back in the days.

Individual Profiles of the 12 Disciples


Often considered one of the foremost disciples of Jesus, he was a man of great love and fervor for the Lord. He was originally known as Simon or Simeon, but Jesus changed his name to Peter meaning “the rock” in Matthew 16:18.

Peter’s journey as one of the 12 disciples of Jesus began when he abandoned his occupation as a fisherman along with his brother and followed Him (Luke 5:10). Over time, he exhibited great faith and was the only disciple to follow Jesus out into the storm in Galilee and walk on water.

He was also the disciple who recognized Jesus as the son of God and Messiah in Matthew 16:13-20 and was part of Jesus’ inner circle of three, the other being James the Greater and John.

As a result, he witnessed a lot of significant events in the ministry of Jesus.

But just like every human, he also had his moments of doubt and fear and once denied Jesus three times in one night.

After Jesus’ death and ascension, he became His successor and rose to the responsibilities of leading the early church. By doing so, Peter sets an example that we too can do great things when we look past our fears.

Some accounts state that he was eventually martyred in Rome, put to death by upsidedown crucifixion, as he felt unworthy to die in the same way His Master did.


Andrew was the brother of Peter and he was also once a disciple of John the Baptist. They were both fishermen who left their vocations to follow Christ. Next to his more outspoken brother Peter, not much is recorded about him in Scripture. He was, however, present in many events in Jesus’ ministry.

After His death, he played a huge part in carrying the gospel to other nations.

In the end, Andrew died a martyr by crucifixion on an X-shaped cross by Roman proconsul Aegeates in 69 AD.

James The Greater

He was the older brother of John and a son of Zebedee. They were nicknamed sons of Thunder by Jesus because of their passion and zeal. James leaned towards the quieter side because although he was part of Jesus’ inner circle of three, not much is recorded about him in the gospels.

He was present for intimate events like Jesus’ transfiguration on the Mount of Olives in Matthew 17:1 and was among the disciples who were in the Garden of Gethsemane with Him in the moments leading up to His arrest (Mark 14:33). According to Acts 12:1-3, James was eventually martyred by beheading.

He was the first to be killed and of all the 12 disciples of Jesus, his was the only martyrdom recorded in the Bible.


Also referred to as John the Beloved, this disciple was the last member of Jesus’ inner circle and said to be the one He loved the most. He is also the author of the gospel of John, the book of Revelations, and the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd books of John, accounting for more parts of the New Testament than any other disciple.

Originally a fisherman, he also left his vocation with his brother to become one of Jesus’ disciples. Over time, they developed a special friendship and in the moments before his death on the cross, Jesus even left Mary His mother to his care.

Tradition suggests that John wasn’t martyred, but lived a full life preaching the gospel and governing the churches in the Asian provinces until his death around 100 AD.


Although he was a Jew, the name Philip has a Greek origin which means “horse loving” or “fond of horses”. From John 1:45 we can deduce that he was close friends with Nathaniel and he had a heart for evangelism, as he was eager to spread the news of the Messiah’s arrival to him under the fig tree.

After the death of Jesus, he took the gospel to Greece, Syria, and Phrygia.

He was martyred in the city of Heliopolis in Egypt by crucifixion around 54 A.D.


Nathanael was a Jew from Cana in Galilee, and he was also known as Bartholomew in the bible.

Initially, he exhibited a bit of skepticism in John 1:46 when Philip came to give him news of the Messiah’s arrival from Nazareth but eventually believed when he met Jesus in person.

Jesus in return called him an ‘Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit’, recognizing his heart for God.

According to accounts, Nathaneal took the gospel to Ethiopia, Mesopotamia, Parthia (modern Iran), Lycaonia (modern Turkey), and Armenia.

Some accounts say that he went to India and even translated the Book of Matthew into their local language.

He was later martyred in Albinopolis, Armenia by beating, crucifixion, and beheading.


Named the son of Alphaeus, Matthew was a tax collector, one of the most loathed people in all of Israel because they took extra money from their countrymen to pay off colonialist Rome.

From the ostracized Jew to the Messiah’s disciple, his story is one that demonstrates the love of God. When Jesus called him to follow Him, he wasn’t afraid to give up his life of comfort, so he gave out everything he owned to take up the life The Lord offered.

He is credited with writing the gospel of Matthew. After Jesus’ ascension, he became a missionary to Ethiopia and Egypt. Traditionally, it is said that he was martyred by Hircanus the king with a spear.


For most people, what comes to mind when they hear of this disciple is doubt, which is a bit unfortunate considering his fierce devotion to Christ. In fact, in John 11:16, when Jesus planned to go to Judea amidst threats to take his life there, Thomas stood firmly by His side saying,

“Let us also go, that we may die with him”.

Nothing is recorded in Scripture about his life before meeting Jesus.

Despite his reputation as Doubting Thomas, he went on to become a powerful ambassador of Jesus, carrying the gospel to India, and was also martyred by a spear.

James the Less

The Bible records that he was the son of Alphaeus and Mary and he had a brother named Joseph.

(Luke 6:15, Mark 15:40, Matthew 27:56). Aside from these details, the Bible doesn’t say any more about him.

The fact that Jesus chose him, however, made him special in his own way.

Tradition mentions his death by either crucifixion in Sinai or stoning in Jerusalem.

Judas, son of James

He was also known as Jude, Thaddeus, and Lebbaeus. He fades into the background as one of the 12 disciples of Jesus for most of Scripture, but John 14:22 records him asking Jesus a question, “Lord, why are you going to reveal yourself only to us and not to the world at large?” Jesus answers that He would reveal Himself to anyone who loved Him.  His question today helps readers to understand the magnanimity of the love and sacrifice of Christ.

Now, destroyed archives at Edessa contain the visit of Judas and the healing of their king Abgar by his hands, suggesting that he took the gospel to that region.

Tradition believes that he was clubbed to death.

Simon (The Zealot)

This disciple is only mentioned three times in the Bible and only in the listing of the names of the 12 disciples of Jesus. Hence, all that is known about this apostle is speculated.

He is believed to have been a political activist before following Jesus, hence the name “the zealot”. Others argue that the name simply points to the zeal and enthusiasm with which he followed the Lord.

Accounts say that he ended up preaching on the west coast of Africa and then in England where he was eventually killed.

Judas Iscariot

Judas- The Traitor. Although one of the more popular disciples, he is well known not for his virtue, but for his lack of it.

Nothing is known about his background, but he was once the one in charge of the group’s treasury and stole money from it.

He betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver to the Pharisees and religious leaders who wanted to kill him, and eventually died by suicide from guilt and grief for his actions.

Final Thoughts

There couldn’t be more variety than as seen in the 12 apostles and their characteristics.

Although they came from different backgrounds, one thing united them, and that was their unwavering love, faith, and obedience to Jesus.

One valuable lesson we can glean from the lives of these men is that we too can do great things from a small place if only we can believe and trust God’s work in us.