It is a question that historians have asked and religious scholars for centuries – how many Jesus disciples existed? The number of disciples mentioned varies greatly depending on which historical account or sacred text you read. Historically, there were 12 original disciples of Jesus. This number was based on the Twelve Tribes of Israel mentioned in the Hebrew Bible.
However, this number has grown due to new converts and missionaries. Some say there were only twelve disciples, while others claim there were up to seventy. So, what is the truth? Let’s take a closer look at the different accounts to try and find an answer!
What is the Exact Number of Jesus’ Disciples?
Nowadays, there is no definitive answer to how many Jesus disciples existed in the early ages of Christianity. The Bible does not give a specific number, and estimates range from as low as 12 to as high as 120.
The most commonly cited number is 12, based on the 12 apostles mentioned in the New Testament. However, it’s possible that other disciples are not mentioned by name in the Bible. For example, Jesus is said to have had women followers, and some of his disciples may have been children.
Whatever the case may be, Jesus and his teachings certainly impacted many people. Even today, 2,000 years after his death, millions worldwide identify as Christians and follow his instructions. So, while we may not know precisely how many disciples Jesus had, we do know that his message has resonated with people for centuries.
What Exactly Does the Term ‘Disciple’ Means?
To answer the question of how many Jesus disciples existed, one has to understand who a disciple is. The word “disciple” is derived from the Greek word μαθητής (mathētēs), meaning “a learner, pupil.”
In religious contexts, it’s worth noting that the term “disciple” can refer to a follower of Jesus at any stage of their relationship with him. So, even though the Bible only mentions 12 disciples by name, there may have been many more people who considered themselves disciples of Jesus.
Jesus Christ chose the 12 apostles mentioned in the New Testament of the Bible to be his closest disciples. They were hand-picked for their loyalty and dedication to Christ’s teachings, and they went on to play a crucial role in spreading Christianity throughout the world.
12 Apostles of Jesus
There were 12 apostles mentioned in the New Testament of the Bible. They were:
- Simon Peter
- James, son of Alphaeus
- Simon, the Zealot
- Judas Iscariot (who betrayed Jesus)
- Matthias (who replaced Judas after his betrayal)
Each apostle had a different role; they continued preaching and converting people to Christianity. Let’s have a brief look at the part of each of them!
Simon Peter was a fisherman, the apostles’ leader, and was considered the first Pope.
Andrew was also a fisherman and the brother of Simon Peter. He was a missionary to Greece.
James & John
James and John were sons of Zebedee, another fisherman. James was the first apostle to be martyred, whereas John was known as the “beloved disciple” and wrote the books of Revelation. James and John became known as the “Sons of Thunder” for their boldness.
The next apostle on the list is Philip, who was from Bethsaida. He was a missionary to Ethiopia, preaching Christianity.
Bartholomew was a scribe who was skeptical of Jesus at first, but he eventually came to believe in him. He was also known as Nathanael. Bartholomew preached in India and Armenia.
Matthew was a tax collector by profession. He preached the teachings of Jesus in the state of Ethiopia.
Thomas was also known as Doubting Thomas. He preached in India about what Jesus says and why to follow him.
James, son of Alphaeus
James, son of Alphaeus, was also known as James the Less. He preached in Jerusalem and its surrounded areas.
Simon, the Zealot
Simon the Zealot was a zealot, which means he was a Jewish nationalist who wanted to overthrow Roman rule.
Judas Iscariot was the only apostle who betrayed Jesus. He died in a self-murder attempt.
Matthias took the place of Judas Iscariot and preached Jesus’ words after Judas betrayed Jesus and then committed suicide.
Besides these 12 apostles, Paul, who was not one of the original apostles but became an apostle after Christ’s Ascension, was also martyred. Paul was a missionary to Rome and is considered the most critical apostle after Simon Peter.
How Did these Apostles of Jesus Sacrifice Their Life?
The apostles all played an essential role in the early days of Christianity. After the Ascension of Jesus Christ, they preached the gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ to people worldwide, and they often risked their lives to do so. In the end, most of the apostles were martyred for their faith.
- Simon Peter was crucified upside down
- Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped cross
- James was beheaded
- John was boiled in oil but did not die, so he was exiled to the island of Patmos
- Philip was crucified
- Bartholomew was flayed alive and then beheaded
- Thomas was stabbed with a spear
- Matthew was beheaded
- James the Less was stoned to death
- Matthias was stoned and then beheaded
Today, the 12 apostles are still revered by Christians as courageous men who helped spread the message of Christianity to the ends of the earth. They are an inspiration to us all to be bold in our faith, no matter the cost.
Our Final Thoughts
Scholars still debate the answer to this question, but the evidence suggests that there were more than 12 disciples. This has exciting implications for Christianity and how it is practiced today.
However, with the help of new technology and historical research, we are getting closer to an answer. The number of how many Jesus’ disciples existed may have been more than what was initially thought.