Home > D. Religion: Received and Interpreted > Andrew and the First Seven Disciples

Andrew and the First Seven Disciples



RT has been puzzled by questions surrounding the lists of disciples (or apostles) contained in the Gospels.

And there are many questions regarding the precise roster of the twelve men chosen as Jesus’s inner circle. The synoptic gospels each offers a list of the disciples, but none of these three lists agrees with each other. So RT thinks it advisable to concentrate on the first seven disciples listed, about which there seems to be broad agreement.

1) To begin with, all of the synoptic gospels list the following names: Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, and Bartholomew. Matthew is listed as the seventh in Mark and Matthew, while Thomas is given in that place in Luke.

2) Of these seven, five have extant gospels written under their names: Peter, John, Philip, Bartholomew, and Matthew. From RT’s perspective, these disciples are well documented (especially Peter and John) and are likely to have been among Jesus’s first followers.

3) The two who don’t have gospels attributed to them–Andrew and James–are a bit more mysterious. RT will limit himself to discussing Andrew.

4) Andrew presents several difficulties: a) unlike the other three men called by Jesus on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Andrew has no nick-name; b) no surviving gospel is attributed to him; c) In Mark, Andrew is not listed immediately after Peter, but after James and John; d) the Gospel of Mark makes virtually no reference to him; and e) in particular, Andrew is missing from the list of disciples who accompanied Jesus to his curing of the daughter of the synagogue official in Mark 5 (Peter, James, and John, but no Andrew). 

5) The mystery deepens when we discover that a Gospel of Andrew is listed as a rejected book in the Decretum Galasianum (mid-4th cent). Surviving in fragmentary form is the Acts of Andrew, which dates to the mid-second century and apparently espouses “a distinctive” Christology.

These considerations suggest to RT that there was an early, quite sharp, break between the brothers Peter and Andrew. One can imagine that in addition to the normal sibling rivalry between the two, they were also vying for the status of being Jesus’s favored disciple. Whether the break was permanent is unclear, but it may be that the two ended up embracing quite different understandings of Jesus’s mission.

And at the back of his mind, RT is wondering if James, son of Zebedee composed a gospel of his own…  RT


RT’s Related Posts: 1) Bartholomew: “Minor” Apostles and Women


ImageSt. Andrew: 5th century fresco, Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. WikiCmns; Public Domain.


  1. September 22, 2013 at 12:17 am

    Your suggestion that Peter and Andrew were “vying for the status of being Jesus’s favored disciple”, I am reminded of another intriguing controversy: Who was “the disciple whom Jesus loved” – John or Lazarus?

  2. September 22, 2013 at 10:50 pm

    xties: jesus’s relationships with his closest followers must have been intense, to say the least…i suspect that this is the reason that, in the gospel of thomas, he names his brother james as his successor; that way the decision was made & none of the disciples chosen as his heir…from any sensible point of view, jesus must have been trying hard to *avoid* having a favorite. RT

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