Many people have ventured to speculate on the characters of the 12 apostles by analysing the Gospel accounts, sometimes combining this research with their own intuition, as with the Urantia Papers.

Here follows an analysis of each apostle, inferred from the New Testament and other non-canonical literature.


Simon Peter (Shim-un Keepa)

New testament

+ See also his writings, 1 (and 2?) Peter.

Non-canonical literature

Church fathers/Traditions

  • The oldest extant representation of St. Peter is on a bronze medallion with the heads of the Apostles dating from the end of the second or the beginning of the third century, preserved in the Christian Museum of the Vatican Library. Peter has a strong, roundish head, prominent jaw-bones, a receding forehead, thick, curly hair and beard.
  • St. Peter's First Epistle was written almost undoubtedly from Rome, since the salutation at the end reads: "The church that is in Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you: and so doth my son Mark" (v, 13). Babylon must here be identified with the Roman capital; since Babylon on the Euphrates, which lay in ruins, or New Babylon (Seleucia) on the Tigris, or the Egyptian Babylon near Memphis, or Jerusalem cannot be meant, the reference must be to Rome, the only city which is called Babylon elsewhere in ancient Christian literature (Apoc., xvii, 5; xviii, 10; "Oracula Sibyl.", V, verses 143 and 159, ed. Geffcken, Leipzig, 1902, 111).
  • From Bishop Papias of Hierapolis and Clement of Alexandria, who both appeal to the testimony of the old presbyters (i.e., the disciples of the Apostles), we learn that Mark wrote his Gospel in Rome at the request of the Roman Christians, who desired a written memorial of the doctrine preached to them by St. Peter and his disciples (Eusebius, "Hist. Eccl.", II, xv; III, xl; VI, xiv); this is confirmed by Irenaeus (Adv. haer., III, i). In connection with this information concerning the Gospel of St. Mark, Eusebius, relying perhaps on an earlier source, says that Peter described Rome figuratively as Babylon in his First Epistle.
  • Bishop Dionysius of Corinth, in his letter to the Roman Church in the time of Pope Soter (165-74), says: "You have therefore by your urgent exhortation bound close together the sowing of Peter and Paul at Rome and Corinth. For both planted the seed of the Gospel also in Corinth, and together instructed us, just as they likewise taught in the same place in Italy and at the same time suffered martyrdom" (In Eusebius, "Hist. Eccl.", II, xxviii).
  • In his "Hypotyposes" (Eusebius, "Hist. Eccl.", IV, xiv), Clement of Alexandria, teacher in the catechetical school of that city from about 190, says on the strength of the tradition of the presbyters: "After Peter had announced the Word of God in Rome and preached the Gospel in the spirit of God, the multitude of hearers requested Mark, who had long accompanied Peter on all his journeys, to write down what the Apostles had preached to them" (see above).
  • The apocryphal Acts of St. Peter and the Acts of Sts. Peter and Paul likewise belong to the series of testimonies of the death of the two Apostles in Rome.
  • Clement of Alexandria relates that Peter's wife also suffered martyrdom (ibid., VII, xi ed. cit., III, 306).
  • From the references above, we can infer the following with regard to Simon Peter:

    Andrew (An-dree-yus)

    New Testament

    Non-canonical literature

    Church Fathers/Traditions

    From the references above, we can infer the following with regard to Andrew:

    James (Ya-kov).

    Church Fathers/Traditions

    From the references above, we can infer the following with regard to James the Greater:

    John (Yoo-khanan)

    New testament

    John generally appears together with his brother James (see above), the only exceptions to this are cited below:

    + See also his writings, John's Gospel, 1John,2John,3John, Revelation

    Non-Canonical Literature

    Church Fathers/Traditions

    From the references above, we can infer the following with regard to John:

    Philip (Pee-lee-pus)

    New testament

    Non-Canonical Literature

    Church Fathers/Traditions

    From the references above, we can infer the following with regard to John:

    Bartholemew (Bar-tul-meh /Nathaniel Son of Tolomai)

    Bartholemew of the Synoptic Gospels and Acts is generally held by scholars to have been the Nathanael of John.

    New Testament

    Non-Canonical Literature

    The apocryphal Gospel of Bartholomew details a long conversation between Jesus and Bartholomew after the resurrection:

    Church Fathers/Traditions

    From the references above, we can infer the following with regard to Bartholomew:

    Thomas (Too-ma)

    New Testament

    Non-Canonical Literature

    The non-canonical Gospel of Thomas, purports to be written by this disciple, beginning: "These are the secret sayings that the living Jesus spoke and Didymos Judas Thomas recorded." It is regarded by many scholars as among the most reliable of the non-canonical accounts of Jesus, even on a par with the most reliable canonical accounts by some.

    There are also several texts of an Infancy Gospel of Thomas recounting stories of Jesus' childhood and purporting to be by the same apostle.

    Church Fathers/Traditions

    From the references above, we can infer the following with regard to Thomas:

    Matthew (Mat-tai) =Levi, Son of Alphaeus. See Gosp. Matthew

    New Testament

    See the Gospel of Matthew, believed to have been written by this apostle. First composed in Aramaic, this Gospel is written with a Jewish audience in mind.

    Non-Canonical Literature

    A Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew exists, beginning: Here beginneth the book of the Birth of the Blessed Mary and the Infancy of the Saviour. Written in Hebrew by the Blessed Evangelist Matthew, and translated into Latin by the Blessed Presbyter Jerome.

    Church Fathers/Traditions

    From the references above, we can infer the following with regard to Matthew:

    James son of Alphaeus (Ya-kov bar Khalpeh)

    At least 5 men bear the name James in the New Testament alone. The quotations below comprise all references to any 'James' except those obviously referring to James the Greater, brother of John.

    Some conjecture that this apostle was James the Just, first bishop of Jerusalem, martyred AD66 in Kidron Valley. The evidence below suggests strongly that James the Just was in fact the Lord's brother, son of Joseph and not this disciple.

    It seems unlikely (but not impossible) that this James was author of the eponymous New Testament Letter.

    New Testament

    See also the Letter from James.

    Non-Canonical Literature

    From the references above, we can infer the following with regard to James, son of Alphaeus:

    Given that most of the references above relate to James the Just, there is little we can infer except..

    Jude Thaddaeus (Tee-deh)

    The gospels give several names for this disciple. Assuming they refer to the same man, his name was possibly Jude Thaddaeus.

    New Testament

    See also, the letter of Jude, understood to have been written by this apostle.

    Non-Canonical Literature

    Church Fathers/Traditions

    From the references above, we can infer the following with regard to Jude Thaddaeus:

    Simon 'the Zealot' (Shim-un the Cananean)

    New Testament

    Non-Canonical Literature

    Church Fathers/Traditions

    From the references above, we can infer the following with regard to Simon 'the Zealot':

    Information on this Simon is scant and contradictory -

    Judas Iscariot (Ye-hu-da)

    Non-Canonical Literature

    From the references above, we can infer the following with regard to Judas Iscariot:


    Some references taken from the Catholic Encyclopaedia Online Edition Copyright 1999 by Kevin Knight