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Note of the Day – February 21 (Mk 3:16-19; Lk 6:14-16; Acts 1:13ff)

By | Exegetical/Study Series, Note of the Day | No Comments

Today’s note examines again the tradition of the calling of the Twelve—specifically, the list of their names, and several details relating to them.

Mark 3:16-19; Matt 10:2-4; Luke 6:14-16; Acts 1:13

There is a list of the Twelve Disciples (or Apostles) in all three Synoptic Gospels, as well as the book of Acts. None of these lists are exactly alike, differing in some way from each other. However, it would seem that two distinct lines of tradition have been preserved—one in Mark/Matthew and the other in Luke-Acts. The lists in Mark (3:16-19) and Matthew (10:2-4) contain the same 12 names, differing only slightly in the order they are presented. There is also, however, a variant reading in Matt 10:3—some witnesses read “Lebbaeus” (Lebbai=o$) instead of “Thaddeus” (Qaddai=o$), or even a combination of the two names.

The list in Luke 6:14-16 shares nine of the twelve names with Matt/Mark, but differs noticeably in the 10th and 11th names:

  • Luke:
    Shim’ôn (Simon) the (one) called “Hot/Fiery” (i.e. ‘Zealot’)
    Yehudah (Judas) (son) of Ya’qob (Jacob/James)
  • Mark/Matt:
    Thaddaios (Matt v.l. Lebbaios)
    Shim’ôn (Simon) the Kananean

Most likely, the Shim’ôn (Simon) of each list represents the same person, on the theory that Kananai=o$ (Kananaíos) is a Greek transliteration of Aramaic an`a*n+q^ (Qan°¹nâ), from the basic root anq, referring typically to a hot/burning emotion—i.e., zeal, jealousy—similar in meaning to the word zh=lo$ (z¢¡los, from which comes the English zeal), and also zhlwth/$ (z¢lœt¢¡s, “zealot”). This would leave just one major difference between the two lists—Judas son of Jacob vs. Thaddeus (or Lebbaeus). The list in Acts 1:13 is essentially the same as that in Luke, except that Judas Iscariot has been left off, for obvious reasons (cf. below).

The variation in both order, and even specific names, is interesting considering the apparent importance of the Twelve in early Christian tradition. One would expect a fixed, well-established formula listing out the names—but this is only partly so in the Gospel Tradition as it has come down to us. It is perhaps an indication that, while the idea of the Twelve, and that designation, was fixed in the Tradition (to be discussed in the next note), the specific list of names for the persons who constituted the Twelve was less definite, remaining somewhat fluid, at the time the Gospels were written.

I have already discussed how the tradition of the calling of the Twelve (and the list of names) was more extensive in the Markan version (3:13-19, cf. the earlier note); especially with regard to the list of names, we see:

  • “he set [i.e. gave] a (new) name for Shim’on {Simon}—'(the) Rock [i.e. Peter]'” (v. 16b)
  • “and Ya’qob {Jacob/James} the (son) of Zabdi, and Yohanan {John} the brother of Ya’qob, he also set for them name(s)—Bene-Regez, that is, ‘Sons of Thunder'” (v. 17)
  • “and Yehudah Ish-Kerioth {Judas Iscariot}, who also gave him along [i.e. betrayed Jesus]” (v. 19a)

In Matthew and Luke (Matt 10:2-4; Lk 6:14-16), this is presented in a simpler fashion. There is no mention of the names given to James and John, and Peter’s naming is merely mentioned in passing: “Shim’on, the (one) counted (as) [i.e. called] ‘(the) Rock {Peter}'” (Matt 10:2). Similarly, the reference to Judas’ betrayal is preserved (Matt 10:4 par). Thus, in the list of the Twelve as it came to be passed down (i.e. at the time Matthew and Luke were composed), extra detail, of any sort, was included only for two of the names—the first and last in the list—Simon Peter and Judas Iscariot.

The Naming of Simon Peter

The giving to Simon (Shim’on) of the name Pe/tro$ (Pétros, “[the] Rock”) is a well-established tradition in the Gospels, being attested in multiple sources, both in the Synoptics and the Gospel of John, as well as evidence for it in the letters of Paul. The dual name “Shim’on (the) Rock” (i.e. Simon Peter), occurs frequently in the Gospel of John (15 times, 13:6, 9, 24, et al), but only twice elsewhere in the New Testament (in Matt 16:16; Lk 5:8). However, it is also worth noting that the tradition of Jesus giving the name Peter (Pe/tro$) to Simon occurs at different points in the Gospel narrative, indicating that it may represent a “floating” tradition—authentic and well-established, but not necessarily tied to one definite episode. Note:

  1. The context of Mark 3:16 par suggests that the name was given when the Twelve were called/appointed by Jesus.
  2. However, the use of the dual name in Luke 5:8 would indicate that it was given at an earlier point, at the call of the first disciples Andrew/Simon and James/John (compare Mk 1:16-20 par).
  3. In John 1:42, it is likewise associated within the initial calling of Simon (cf. below), but according to an entirely separate line of tradition (as discussed in an earlier note).
  4. In Matthew 16:16ff, it is set at a later point, at the time of Simon (Peter)’s confession of Jesus (cp. Mark 8:29 par).

The last two of these are given specific narration, and should be touched on briefly.

John 1:42

In the immediate context (vv. 40-42), Jesus’ words to Simon take place virtually at the moment he and Simon first meet:

“looking on him Yeshua said, ‘You are Shim’on, the son of Yohanan, (but) you will be called Kepha‘ [Khfa=$], which is explained (as) ‘(the) Rock’ [Pe/tro$]”

The idea seems to be that Jesus recognizes and identifies Simon without having met him (as in the case of Nathanael, vv. 47-48), and, at the same time, gives him a new name. The original Aramaic, presumably as spoken by Jesus and his disciples, is preserved here—ap*yK@, K¢¸â, transliterated in Greek as Khfa=$ (K¢phás) and, similarly, in English as Cephas. Paul refers to him also by this Aramaic name in 1 Cor 1:12; 3:22; 9:5; 15:5; Gal 2:9, 11, 14. If the Johannine tradition is accepted as authentic (and factual), then Simon was given his new name Peter at the very beginning. It was assigned to him by Jesus, quite before Peter had done anything to deserve it.

Matthew 16:16ff

The tradition in Matthew is quite different. Here it is localized at the moment of (Simon) Peter’s confession, which, in the version recorded by Matthew, has its most extensive form—”You are the Anointed (One), the Son of the living God”. Jesus gives the new name to Simon as part of a blessing (or, more properly, a macarism), in response to this confession:

“Happy [i.e. blessed] are you, Shim’on bar-Yonah… and (so) also I say to you that you are ‘(the) Rock [pe/tro$]’, and upon this (great) Rock [pe/tra] I will build the house (of) my e)kklhsi/a…”

It is not necessary to plunge into the many interesting (and controversial) details in this statement; only to recognize the close connection between Peter and the ones “called out” by God—that is, the followers of Jesus, the gathered assembly of believers (i.e., the Church). Peter (the Rock [Pe/tro$, Pétros]) is not precisely the same as the great mass (of Rock [Pe/tra, Pétra]) that serves as the foundation for the house (the Church). Probably the latter should be associated with the Twelve as a group, Peter being one stone—albeit the chief and foremost stone—of the rocky mass.

The Judas Tradition(s)

Finally, mention must be made regarding the tradition(s) associated with Yehudah ish-Keryoth (man [from] Kerioth?), or Judas Iscariot. Almost nothing is known of him from the Gospel Tradition beyond his role as the one who betrayed Jesus (lit. gave him along, i.e. handed him over) to the authorities. Otherwise, he is mentioned in the Gospels only in the list of the Twelve (cf. above), and in John 12:4ff, as the disciple who objected to the woman ‘wasting’ expensive ointment on Jesus (compare Mk 14:4-5 par).

The betrayal by Judas is one of the best attested traditions in the Gospels, the basic outline of which is unquestionably authentic (on objective grounds). Matthew has the most developed version, including the details of (a) the words of Judas in 26:15, 25, (b) the thirty silver pieces (v. 15b), (c) the suicide (hanging) of Judas (27:3-8), and (d) the Scripture (still problematic) cited along with his death (vv. 9-10). However, all three of the Gospels, those usually regarded as later than Mark in composition—Luke, Matthew, and John—have all developed and enhanced the Judas tradition(s) in various ways. This will be discussed in more detail when addressing the Passion Narrative in upcoming notes, as we draw closer to Easter.

As most informed readers of the New Testament are aware, the book of Acts records a quite different version of the death of Judas, in 1:16-20 (vv. 18-19). There are two basic elements in common between the accounts—(1) the tragic/unfortunate death of Judas, and (2) the piece of land called Akeldama[x], presumably a transliteration of the Aramaic „¦q¢l D§mâ, “Field of Blood”. Otherwise, the details of the two narratives differ considerably. Traditional-conservative commentators have sought to harmonize them, but such efforts have not been especially convincing. We seem to be dealing with variant traditions which have been preserved separately, in Matthew and Luke-Acts, respectively. For a summary of the critical questions see K. Lake, “The Death of Judas” in The Beginnings of Christianity, Volume 5 (1933), pp. 22-30. Later traditions, which describe Judas’ demise in more repulsive detail, seem to be influenced primarily by the Acts account.