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SPREADING THE GOSPEL
The Bible says Jesus named a dozen of his most devoted disciples Apostles, or messengers, choosing a number that paid homage to the 12 tribes of Israel. The 12 Jews preached their new faith across thousands of miles in the first century A.D., changing history. Several early converts—including Matthias, Mary Magdalene, Mark, and Luke—also became apostles. A vision transformed Saul, a persecutor of the early Christians, into Paul. His missionary journeys helped spread Christianity throughout the Mediterranean.

PETER

Jesus gave some disciples a second name; Simon the fisherman was also Peter, the “rock.” He was the first to invite non-Jews to join the early church.

BY EL GRECO, ERICH LESSING, ART RESOURCE, NY

ANDREW

Persuaded by John the Baptist, Andrew and his brother Peter became Jesus’ first followers. Andrew later preached in Greece and perhaps Ukraine.

BY EL GRECO, SCALA/ART RESOURCE, NY

JAMES THE GREATER

He was a fisherman with his brother, John, and was beheaded in Jerusalem. Some believe that he preached in Spain and was buried there.

BY GAROFALO, FINSIEL/ALINARI/ART RESOURCE, NY

JOHN

John and his brother, James, “sons of Zebedee,” were in Jesus’ inner circle. The fourth Gospel, three epistles, and the Book of Revelation are attributed to John.

BY VALENTIN DE BOULOGNE, RÉUNION DES MUSÉES NATIONAUX/ART RESOURCE, NY

PHILIP

Like nearly all of the Apostles, Philip hailed from Galilee, the region in northern Israel where Jesus’ ministry was centered. He may have been martyred in Hierapolis.

BY POMPEO GIROLAMO BATONI, ILIFFE COLLECTION/ NATIONAL TRUST PHOTOGRAPHIC LIBRARY/JOHN HAMMOND/BRIDGEMAN ART LIBRARY

BARTHOLOMEW

Some believe he was Nathanael, who questioned the Messiah’s small-town origin: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” He may have gone to Turkey, India, or Armenia.

BY REMBRANDT VAN RIJN, FRANCIS G. MAYER, CORBIS

THOMAS

Though doubting Thomas needed to touch Jesus’ wounds to be convinced of the resurrection, he became a fervent missionary who is said to have proselytized in India.

BY EL GRECO, UNIVERSAL IMAGES GROUP/ ART RESOURCE, NY

MATTHEW

Jesus shocked Jewish society by dining with Levi, whose job as a tax collector had made him an outcast. As an Apostle, Levi was called Matthew and wrote the first Gospel.

BY GUERCINO, HANS-PETER KLUT, BPK, BERLIN/ GEMÄLDEGALERIE ALTE MEISTER, STAATLICHE KUNSTSAMMLUNGEN DRESDEN/ART RESOURCE, NY

JAMES THE LESSER

The Bible reveals little about this James—only that he was a “son of Alphaeus.” Most scholars think a different James wrote the biblical epistle of that name.

BY GEORGES DE LA TOUR, PHILIPP BERNARD, RÉUNION DES MUSÉES NATIONAUX/ART RESOURCE, NY

THADDAEUS

Several stories connect Thaddaeus, known also as Lebbaeus or Jude, to Persia. According to Eastern tradition, he converted the city of Edessa after healing its king.

BY ANTHONY VAN DYCK, FRANCIS G. MAYER, CORBIS

SIMON

The Bible calls him Simon the Zealot, perhaps a reference to his political affiliation. Later accounts depict him as a missionary to Persia, where he was martyred.

BY EL GRECO, ERICH LESSING, ART RESOURCE, NY

JUDAS ISCARIOT

Famous for betrayal, Judas (gold robe) was paid 30 pieces of silver for leading Roman soldiers to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Judas later repented and hanged himself.

BY PHILIPPE DE CHAMPAIGNE, ERICH LESSING, ART RESOURCE, NY

MATTHIAS

To replace Judas Iscariot, the Apostles chose Matthias, who was a disciple during Jesus’ ministry. Post biblical lore says he preached in the “land of the cannibals.”

BY ANTHONY VAN DYCK, ELKE ESTEL AND HANS-PETER KLUT, BPK, BERLIN/STAATLICHE KUNSTSAMMLUNGEN DRESDEN/ART RESOURCE, NY

MARY MAGDALENE

Mary, from Magdala, followed Jesus after he cured her of “seven demons.” She stayed near him during the Crucifixion and was the first to see him after his resurrection.

BY DOMENICHINO, ARTE & IMMAGINI SRL/CORBIS

MARK

Also called John, he was mentored by Peter—his likely source for writing the second Gospel—and traveled with Paul to Antioch. Mark founded the Church of Alexandria.

BY VALENTIN DE BOULOGNE, DANIEL ARNAUDET AND JEAN SCHORMANS, RÉUNION DES MUSÉES NATIONAUX/ART RESOURCE, NY

LUKE

A gentile physician from Antioch who joined Paul’s missions, Luke chronicled the development of the early church in the third Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles.

BY EDWARD MITCHELL BANNISTER, SMITHSONIAN AMERICAN ART MUSEUM, WASHINGTON, D.C./ART RESOURCE, NY

Paul PAUL Photograph by Lynn Johnson
Click the thumbnails to read more about each Apostle.

PETER

ANDREW

JAMES THE GREATER

JOHN

PHILIP

BARTHOLOMEW

THOMAS

MATTHEW

JAMES THE LESSER

THADDAEUS

SIMON

JUDAS ISCARIOT

MATTHIAS

MARY MAGDALENE

MARK

LUKE