These were the names of the Apostles: There was Simon, whom he surnamed, Peter. There were James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; he surnamed them, Boanerges, which is, the “sons of thunder.” There were also Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Canaanite.
Names are important. When someone introduces us to another, and we soon thereafter forget that person’s name, we feel somewhat embarrassed to ask, “I am sorry, but what did you say your name was?” Names are important now, and they were just as important 2000 years ago. Hence, it is appropriate to examine the names of the Apostles. Interestingly enough, the Synoptic Gospels are similar, but not identical. John’s Gospel is significantly different. Nevertheless, what I simply wish to stress here are the Hebrew names of the Apostles. Hebrew names? But of course! Jesus was a Jew and so were his Apostles.
Just as nobody called Jesus, “Jesus,” (see “Jesus or Yehoshua: What’s In a Name?” post of April 5, 2010), Jesus did not call the Apostles, “Simon” or “John.” Rather, he referred to them by their Hebrew or Aramaic names, as follows:
Simon was Shimon. James was Yakov (that is, Jacob). John was Yochanan. Bartholomew was Bar-Talmai (son of Ptolemy). Matthew was Mattityahu, meaning, “gift from God.” Thomas was Tau’ma, an Aramaic name. Thaddaeus was a variant of Theudas, which was a Grecian version of Judas or Yehuda.
Andrew and Philip are interesting because those are clearly Greek names—Andreas and Filippos; there are no Hebrew equivalents. Thus, we may surmise that Andrew and Philip were either Grecian-Jews or Grecian-Gentiles. In all probability, we may discount the theory that they were Gentiles: Jesus was a Jew who saw his mission as teaching and healing his fellow Jews. “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Matthew 15:24. It would be hard to imagine preaching to Jews while having Gentile Apostles.
Judas Iscariot was Yehuda. I will discuss Judas in the next post, along with the “sons of thunder” appellation for John and James.
Until then, as always, I welcome your comments.
Oh, and if you are interested in learning more about Judaism, you can check out my book, Every Christian's Book on Judaism: Exploring Jewish Faith and Law for a Richer Understanding of Chritianity.
Copyright 2011 by Ira L. Shafiroff. All rights reserved.