A Summary of Chapter 5 of Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses

5. The Twelve

The Significance of the Twelve

The scholarly consensus is that Jesus appointed the Twelve to be his closest companions throughout his ministry and that they were the leaders of the Jerusalem church and its initial outreach elsewhere.  On the basis of these two facts, we should expect the Twelve to have been authoritative transmitters of the traditions of Jesus.

The Lists of the Twelve

Bauckham finds confirmation for the above hypothesis in the lists of the Twelve found in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:13-16).  The fact that Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus and was replaced by Matthias (Acts 1:26), is included in these lists shows that they are intended to portray the membership of the Twelve during Jesus’ ministry.  The lists show the continuity of this group during and after Jesus’ ministry, in other words, a continuity between Jesus and the early Christian community.  In Luke-Acts, the lists (Luke 6:13-16; Acts 1:13) do this explicitly (Acts 1:12-26) and identify by name a group of “eyewitnesses and ministers of the word” (Luke 1:2).  But, says Bauckham, this is surely done implicitly in Matthew and Mark (I, Jayman777, am not so sure).  The lists do not serve as mere introductions to characters in the narratives of the Gospels since Mark and Luke never mention seven of these persons again as individuals and Matthew never mentions six of these persons again as individuals.  The absence of a list of the Twelve in John will be addressed later.

Differences among the Lists of the Twelve

Many scholars, based on differences in the lists of the Twelve, have thought that the names of the Twelve were no longer accurately remembered when the evangelists wrote the Gospels.  Bauckham admits that if this is true it would “count against the argument that the Twelve were the authoritative guarantors of the Gospel traditions not only at the beginning but also for as long as they lived” (p. 97).

But the differences in the lists are not great.  Each list contains three groups of four names and the first name of each group is the same in each list (Simon Peter, Philip, James the son of Alphaeus).  The other three names in each group differ across the lists though Judas Iscariot is always mentioned last.

In the second and third groups the variation in order should probably be explained as variations in the way the list was remembered either in oral tradition or by the Evangelist.  It is quite intelligible that a list of this kind should be remembered as consisting of three groups, with the first name in each group a fixed point in the memory, but with the order of the other three names in each group variable.  It is also easily intelligible that Judas Iscariot should always come in last place in a list of the Twelve as they were during Jesus’ ministry.  (p. 98)

Regarding the first group of names, Bauckham notes that Matthew and Luke keep the two pairs of brothers together (Peter and his brother Andrew, James and his brother John).  Mark’s order is different.  He lists as his first three the disciples to whom Jesus gave nicknames (Simon was given the name Peter, the sons of Zebedee were called Boanerges) and who formed the inner circle of the Twelve in his Gospel (5:37; 9:2; 14:33).  The grammatically awkward clauses about Jesus giving the nicknames suggests that Mark modified the list of the Twelve that he knew.  Luke modified the order of his list in Acts (Luke: Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John; Acts:  Simon Peter, John, James, Andrew) to reflect the prominence of Peter and John in Acts (3:1-4:31; 8:14-25).  The martyrdom of James is recorded in Acts 12:2 but Andrew never appears.

The addition in the Gospel of Matthew that Matthew was “the tax collector” (10:3) alerts his readers to the connection with the account of Matthew’s call in 9:9.  Mark and Luke record the calling of Levi.  Bauckham will consider later whether Matthew and Levi are the same person but notes that readers of Mark and Luke would have no reason for thinking they were.

In the last group of four names, Mark and Matthew have Thaddaeus but Luke-Acts has Judas son of James.  This is the only apparent difference among the lists in terms of actual membership in the Twelve.  Bauckham rejects the notion that Thaddaeus was once a member of the Twelve during Jesus’ ministry but who dropped out and was replaced by Judas the son of James because it seems unlikely that a standard list of the Twelve used by Mark would contain the name of an already-replaced member of the Twelve.  The case of Judas Iscariot does really parallel this hypothesis since Judas is an essential character in Mark and his defection is clearly stated.

Bauckham argues that Thaddaeus and Judas son of James are the same person.  The Greek name Thaddaios was born by seven other known individuals in Jewish Palestine during this period (see chapter 4).  Because of its theophoric character (it incorporated the Greek word for God, theos) such a name would be popular with Jews.  Palestinian Jews were known to bear both Semitic and Greek names so there would be nothing strange about an individual called both Judas (Yehudah) and Thaddaeus (Taddai).  A member of the Twelve named Judas would have to be distinguished from Judas Iscariot in some way.  This could be done by referring to his father or using a Greek name.

I, Jayman777, do not think we can know whether Thaddaeus and Judas son of James are the same person and I am not sure how confident Bauckham himself is on this matter.  On page 99 he rejects, as too sweeping, the suggestion of Joseph Fitzmyer that a difference in one name means that the names of the Twelve were no longer preserved in the early church at the time Matthew and Luke wrote and that the Twelve had lost much of their significance.  Immediately after that he says that if the Twelve were remembered in the Gospel traditions primarily because they were the official eyewitnesses and guarantors of the core tradition we should expect them all to have been remembered accurately.  On page 108 (quoted below) he says the study of these lists shows it is true that not many of the Twelve were forgotten and that all of the Twelve were remembered.

Names and Epithets of the Twelve

In this section Bauckham notes that the epithets attached to the names in the lists of the Twelve distinguish one member of the Twelve from another.  The use of such epithets in Jewish Palestine was covered in chapter 4 and the same numbering is used in this chapter.

(2) Patronymic added. This was the most common way to distinguish individuals with the same name and occurs three times in the list of the Twelve:  James son of Zebedee, James son of Alphaeus, and Judas son of James.

(3) Patronymic substituted.  Bartholomew (Bartholomaios) is only known by this patronymic.  Bartholomew’s father’s name Tolmai/Ptolemy was unusual (50th in order of popularity) so it is understandable why it would have been used to distinguish him from others.  Since the patronymic would probably have replaced a more common name it is unlikely that Bartholomew was the same person as the disciple Nathanael (John 1:45-48; 21:2) since Nathanael was as unusual as Tolmai/Ptolemy (Nathanael is also 50th in order of popularity with 7 occurrences in our sources).

(5) Nickname added.  Simon Peter is the most famous example of a nickname.  “In the case of Simon the Cananaean/zealot, the lists of the Twelve in Mark and Matthew give a Greek transliteration (ho Kananaios) of the Aramaic term (qanana), whereas Luke translates it as ‘the zealot’ (ho zelotes)” (p. 104).

(6) Nickname substituted.  Thomas is the Aramaic word for “twin” and is probably a nickname and not a personal name.  In the East Syrian Christian tradition this disciples was known as Judas Thomas (the Curetonian Syriac version of John 14:22; Acts of Thomas; Gospel of Thomas).  If this tradition is accurate it is understandable why this individual needed to be distinguished from the two other Judas’ among the Twelve.

(7) Place of origin or dwelling added, and (9) Family name.  In the case of Judas Iscariot, the best explanation of his second name is that it means “man of Kerioth”, understood to refer to a place.  The Hebrew expression ish qeriyyot is used to refer to a person’s place of origin in rabbinic literature.  The Gospel of John’s use of the phrase “Judas son of Simon Iscariot” (6:71; 13:2, 26) seems to require that it is a reference to a place of origin.  It also suggests it was a family name.  Bauckham notes that the “many parallels to a place of origin as an identifying second name, from ossuaries and other Second Temple period sources, all seem to refer to a place from which the individual or the family came before living elsewhere” (p. 106).

(10) Two names in two languages.  Bauckham already argued above that Thaddaeus is the Greek name of Judas son of James.  Besides Simon, two other Greek names appear in the lists:  Philip and Andrew.  It may be that these two men bore common Semitic names and so were better known by their uncommon Greek names.

(11) Occupation.  Only the Gospel of Matthew notes that Matthew was “the tax collector” (ho telones).  As noted above, this makes a connection with Matthew 9:9.  But it is also possible that it was a distinction made after Matthias joined the Twelve in Acts 1:23.  After that time there would be two members of the Twelve with names that were the abbreviated form of Mattathias.

The conclusion we can draw from this study of the epithets in the lists of the Twelve is that these lists have preserved very accurately not just the names but also the epithets that were used to distinguish members of the Twelve among themselves and in their circle.  The lists show, not carelessness about the precise membership of the Twelve, but quite the opposite:  great care to preserve precisely the way they were known in their own milieu during the ministry of Jesus and in the early Jerusalem church.  It is difficult to account for this phenomenon except by the hypothesis that the Twelve were the official eyewitnesses and guarantors of the core of the gospel traditions.  It is not true that many of them were forgotten; as essential members of this official group of eyewitness all twelve were rememberd.  (p. 108)

A Note on Matthew and Levi

It is implausible that Matthew (Matthew 9:9) and Levi (Mark 2:14) are the same person.  First, Mark does not know that Levi and Matthew are the same person.  Second, we do not know of any Palestinian Jews bearing two common Semitic names (Matthew was the ninth most popular name and Levi the seventeenth most popular name).

Why did Matthew change the name but otherwise leave the story he received from Mark largely intact?  Why is the first Gospel known as the Gospel according to Matthew?  Bauckham suggests that the writer of the Gospel of Matthew wanted to associate the Gospel with the apostle Matthew but was not himself the apostle Matthew.  The evangelist knew that Matthew was a tax collector and wanted to narrate his calling but did not know the story of Matthew’s call.  Mark’s story of Levi’s calling is so brief and general that it could be appropriate for the calling of any tax collector.

There is one feature of Matthew’s text that helps to make this explanation probable.  In Mark, the story of Levi’s call is followed by a scene in which Jesus dines with tax collectors (Mark 2:15-17).  Mark sets this scene in “his house,” which some scholars take to mean Jesus’ house, but could certainly appropriately refer to Levi’s house.  In Matthew’s Gospel the same passage follows the narrative of the call of Matthew, but the scene is set simply in “the house” (Matt 9:10).  Thus this Evangelist has appropriated Mark’s story of the call of Levi, making it a story of Matthew’s call instead, but has not continued this appropriation by setting the following story in Matthew’s house.  He has appropriated for Matthew only as much as Mark’s story of Levi as he needed.  (p. 111)


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