Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Followers of Jesus in Matthew

I am reading through Matthew right now, preparing for a popular-level presentation near the end of the February on the depiction of Jesus in this Gospel. I'm trying to pay attention to the different characters in the text, and how Matthew presents them. Followers of Jesus are, of course, important characters, and this post gives some basic summary of the titles Matthew gives to this group. These are just basic impression arising from a little use of an electronic concordance.

10:2: "the names of the twelve apostles are"

That's the only appearance of this word in Matthew. Mark uses it in 6:30 (and in a variant at 3:14); Luke in 6:13; 9:10; 17:5; 22:14; 24:10 (cf. 11:49); John never uses it in direct reference to Jesus' followers (though cf. 13:16).

This of course became the technical term for Jesus' specially appointed emissaries. Luke attributes this definition to Jesus himself (6:13; cf. the variant at Mark 3:14). Acts uses the word 28x, all in reference to the Twelve, it seems to me, except for 14:4, 14, where it refers to Paul and Barnabas. Elsewhere it frequently encompasses a wider group than just the Twelve. Paul uses it of himself frequently. He also distinguishes the Twelve from the apostles (and from himself) in 1Corinthians 15:5-8. Paul might not always use it as a technical term for emissaries specially appointed by the Lord. See Romans 16:7 on Andronicus and Junia; 2Corinthians 8:23 on Paul's "brothers"; Galatians 1:19 on James; Philippians 2:25 on Epaphroditus; Hebrews 3:1 on Jesus. He also questions the legitimacy of some who call themselves apostles (2Cor. 11:5, 13; 12:11, 12; cf. also Rev. 2:2).

The Twelve
10:1: "Jesus summoned his twelve disciples"
10:2: "the names of the twelve apostles are"
10:5: "these twelve Jesus sent out"
11:1: "giving instructions to his twelve disciples"
20:17: "he took the Twelve [disciples] aside by themselves"
26:14: "one of the Twelve, named Judas Iscariot"
26:20: "he took his place with the Twelve"
26:47: "Judas, one of the Twelve"

That's 8 times that Matthew refers to the close followers of Jesus as the Twelve, whether as a substantive itself or as an adjective modifying "disciples" or "apostles". Mark does this 11x, Luke 7x, John 4x. In the rest of the NT, it appears only in Acts 6:2; 1Corinthians 15:5; Revelation 21:14.

Matthew uses this word 72x. I have previously offered some reflections on the use of this word in the Bible. As to the question asked in that post--whether Matthew uses the term of a wider circle of Jesus' disciples after he has named the Twelve as his apostles (10:2)--I have now looked through all of Matthew's use of the word and I can't find any such references. That is, all the references to Jesus' "disciples" after 10:2 seems to be in reference to the Twelve. Actually, before 10:2, the only reference that seems to encompass a wider circle of disciples is 8:21.