The first disciples

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Who were the first disciples Jesus called to follow him and be his special witnesses? When and where did he choose them? Which ones were brothers?

The apostle John records who were the first five people called to follow Jesus. John and Andrew were the initial two people called to be disciples by Christ (John 1:35 - 39). Then came Peter (also called Simon or Simon Peter, verses 40 - 42), followed by Philip (verses 43 to 44) and then Nathanael (Bartholomew - verse 45). The book of Matthew then records that James (a son of Zebedee and brother of John) was called (Matthew 4:21 - 22) followed by Matthew's own calling (Matthew 9:9).

It is Biblically unclear in what order the remaining five of the first twelve disciples were specially called. These remaining followers of Jesus were Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Judas brother of James, Simon the Canaanite (Simon the Zealot) and Judas Iscariot.

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Jesus seems to have called his innermost or first twelve apostles (disciples) in at least seven distinct time periods. Andrew and John were called together. Peter was then called after his brother Andrew told him about the Messiah. Philip was called to be a disciple the day after Peter.


Jesus commands disciples to cast net
Jesus commands disciples to cast net
Duccio di Buoninsegna, 1308 - 11

Nathanael (Bartholomew) was called after Philip told him about the Lord. James (son of Zebedee and John's brother) was called as he was mending nets inside a boat on the Sea of Galilee. Matthew received his calling as Jesus was leaving Capernaum. The remaining disciples were called at another time.

Amazingly, out of the original twelve apostles there were three sets of brothers. They were Peter and Andrew, James and John (the sons of Zebedee) and James the son of Alphaeus, Judas brother of James (also called Lebbaeus or Thaddaeus) and Simon the Canaanite (Simon the Zealot). This means that seven out of the twelve disciples had a close relative who was ALSO a close follower of God!

Several of the apostles were known to live in or very near Capernaum. Jesus first moved from Nazareth to the city when he began his public ministry (Matthew 4:13 - 16). The disciples who lived near each other were were James, John, Matthew, Andrew, Peter and Philip.

It is also interesting to note that in the New Testament there are four separate lists of Jesus' first twelve disciples. Three of these lists are found in the Gospels (Matthew 10:1 - 4, Mark 3:13 - 18, Luke 6:12 - 16) while the fourth list (which excludes Judas Iscariot) is found in the book of Acts (Acts 1:12 - 13).

Additional Study Materials
The Greatest Events in the Bible!
Why did the disciples train in pairs?
What is the first resurrection?
What is the Great Commission?

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