APOSTLES AFTER THE DEATH OF JESUS
Jesus and the Apostles by FedorZubov After Jesus's death, the Disciples became known as the Apostles and Matthias was chosen by lot to replace Judas Iscariot. Peter, James the Elder and John are regarded as the Apostle inner circle. They were present during many of Jesus’s miracles. Paul is often included in the Apostles, because it was said that his deeds and passions equaled that of the original twelve. The title Apostle has also been given to Barnabas, Paul’s traveling companion, Luke, the author of one of the Gospels.
The remaining 11 original disciples that became Apostles were: 1) Peter (originally known as Simon and Simon Peter); 2) Andrew (Simon’s brother); 3) James the Elder (the “disciple that Jesus loved”); 4) John (James the Elder’s brother); 5) Philip; 6) Bartholomew; 7) Matthew (or Levi); 8) James the Less (or James the Younger, possibly Jesus’s brother); 9) Thaddeus (or Jude or Judas, brother of James the Less); 10) Thomas (“Doubting Thomas”); and 11) Simon Zelotes. The original 12th, Judas Iscariot, committed suicide after his betrayal after the Last Supper.
The Acts of the Apostles describes the arrival of Holy Spirit at a meeting of the disciples after Jesus’ Death and Resurrection: “Suddenly there came from heaven a sound as if it where a violent wind...and there appeared to them tongues as of fire, these separated and came to rest on the head of each of them.” The Holy Spirit gave the disciples the ability to speak a number of different languages, allowing them to spread the words of God and Jesus, and thus ushering in the Christian era. This is regarded as the day of the inception of the Christian church.
See Disciples of Jesus.
Websites and Resources: Britannica on Christianity britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/115240/Christianity ; Religious Tolerance religioustolerance.org/christ.htm ; History of Christianity history-world.org/jesus_christ ; BBC on Christianity bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity ;Wikipedia article on Christianity Wikipedia ; Historical Jesus Theories http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/theories.html ; Wikipedia article on Historical Jesus Wikipedia ; Britannica britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/303091/Jesus-Christ ; Early Christian Writing earlychristianwritings.com ;
Websites and Resources with Christian art and images: Princeton Index of Christian Art ica.princeton.edu ; Early Christian Art oneonta.edu/farberas/arth/arth212/Early_Christian_art ; Early Christian Art arthist.umn.edu ; Early Christian Art University of Oklahoma ou.edu/class ; Early Christian Images jesuswalk.com/christian-symbols ; Early Christian and Byzantine Images belmont.edu/honors/byzart2001/byzindex ; Space and Motion Article spaceandmotion.com/christianity-christian-jesus-christ. ; Online Icons MIT mit.edu:8001/activities/ocf/icons
Book: History of Christianity by Owen Chadwick; The Faith: A History of Christianity by Brian Moynahan
Apostles Spread Christianity After the Death of Jesus
The Acts of the Apostles describes the arrival of Holy Spirit at a meeting of the disciples: “Suddenly there came from heaven a sound as if it where a violent wind...and there appeared to them tongues as of fire, these separated and came to rest on the head of each of them.” The Holy Spirit gave the disciples the ability to speak a number of different languages, allowing them to spread the words of God and Jesus, and thus ushering in the Christian era. This is regarded as the day of the inception of the Christian church.
The Apostles spread Christianity from Jerusalem to Damascus, to Antioch, to Asia Minor, to Greece, and finally to Rome. Although there is little evidence to back up the assertion, some people believe that James the Elder went to Spain, St. Thomas went to India, Saint Matthew went to Ethiopia and Saint Bartholomew to Armenia.
After Jesus’ death John was busy winning converts in Jerusalem. For his missionary efforts in the Aegean Andrew was said to have been crucified on an X-shaped cross in Patras Greece (the source of St. Andrew’s Cross). Little is known what to happened to the others, There are stories that James the Younger was stoned to death, allegedly for proselytizing among Jews, and Bartholomew was tortured and crucified while on a missionary trip in India.
Little is known about the lives of the Apostles. The New Testament has only fragmentary information about them. Traditions have grown up around them, the most well known of which is the Apostle’s Creed, a short profession of faith said to have used by the Apostle, which began to be used in the Roman Church in the 3rd century.
St. Peter is the most well known Apostle. Described by Jesus as “a fisher of men, “ he was a fisherman by trade and was with Jesus from the beginning of his teachings. According to Matthew, Peter was the first to believe in the divinity of Jesus. He said: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Peter was present at most of the important events described in the Gospels.
After Jesus was arrested by Roman police after the Last Supper a violent struggle ensued in which Peter drew his sword and sliced off the ear of one policeman. When Jesus was grabbed, the fighting stopped and the disciples ran away. When the Romans asked Peter if he knew Jesus, Peter denied he did (three times) just as Jesus predicted. Peter “went outside and wept bitterly.” He later repented his denial.
Peter is often portrayed as the closest disciple to Jesus and the leader of the Apostles. According to Mathhew Jesus appeared first to Peter after the Resurrection. Among the Apostles he is often described as the first among equals.
St. Peter’s Work After Jesus’ Death
Peter Codex by Egberti St. Peter was selected by Jesus to carry on his teachings after his crucifixion. At the Last Supper Jesus said, “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my community. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven.” Peter then told Jesus, “Even if I fall from you, I will never fall away.” When Jesus was resurrected he appeared to Peter, and said, “Feed my sheep, feed my lambs.” Peter was shocked that Jesus still trusted him even though he had betrayed him.
Peter reportedly became a great teacher after Jesus’s death and worked tirelessly to spread his word in the early days of the church. Peter worked in Palestine and is said to have worked in Rome. Catholics regard St. Peter as the first bishop of Rome and the first pope. There is no historical evidence this back this up.
The First Epistle of Peter is believed to have been written by Peter. The Second Epistle is often attributed to him although it isn’t clear who wrote it. Many of the events in the Gospel of Mark are believed to have been derived from Peter’s accounts.
St. Peter’s Death and Burial at St. Peter’s Basilica
Peter by Caravaggio According to the traditional story, in 67 A.D. St. Peter was hung upside down and beheaded at the Circus Maximus during a wave of brutal anti-Christian persecution under Emperor Nero, after the burning of Rome. His brutal treatment was partly of the result of his request not to be crucified, because he didn’t consider himself worthy of the treatment of Jesus. After Peter died, it is said, his body was taken to a burial ground, situated where St. Peter's cathedral now stands. His body was entombed and later secretly worshiped.
The Teimpietti at S. Pietro in Rome marks the spot were St. Peter was supposedly crucified. The Cathedral of St. John Lateran, the oldest Christian basilica in Rome, founded by Constantine on A.D. 314, contains reliquaries said to hold the heads of St. Peter and St. Paul and the chopped off finger doubting Thomas stuck in Jesus' wound.
St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, the world's largest and arguably most famous church, sits on the place where St. Peter purportedly was buried. The roof of the dome and the main alter are all said to line up exactly with his grave site. There is even archaeological evidence to support this. During the construction of a tomb in 1939 for Pope Pius the XI an ancient burial chamber was discovered. Later archaeological work uncovered the words "Petro eni" among some ancient graffiti, which could be interpreted as "Peter is within."
In 1960 some bones were discovered that belonged to a robust man between 60 and 70, a description which matches up with the traditional profile of St. Peter at the time of his death. The Vatican conducted an investigation. In 1968 Pope Paul VI announced publicly that bones confirmed what the Vatican knew all along that Peter was in fact buried under the cathedral. The evidence is certainly not beyond reproach but it is plausible the bones belonged to Peter. When the bones were re-interned the bones of a mouse that had wandered into the repository and perished there sometime in the last 1,800 years were also reburied.
Sant Chaime o Mayor St. James was one of Christ's 12 apostles. According to legend he sailed to Spain to preach the Gospel and then returned to Jerusalem, where he was beheaded in 44 AD. for preaching and converting on the orders of Herod Agrippa and was thought to have been buried in Jerusalem. Because St. James was the first apostle to be martyred after Christ's crucifixion, many consider him the most senior and most important of all the martyred disciple-saints of the Roman Catholic Church.
In Spain, St. James is variously as Jacobus, Iago, Jacùme, Jaime, Diego, Jacques and Santiago. According to legend, when St. James first came ashore onto Spanish soil he stepped on a thorn which he took out with the help of an angel holding a lantern. Santiago de Compostela (in northwestern Spain), one of Europe's most enduring and famous pilgrimage destinations, became a major pilgrimage center after the discovery of the body of St. James in 810 in field not far from town. The shrine and cathedral built to house the tomb became one of the holiest churches in the world.
So how did St. James end up in Spain. There are three theories. One is that James was never executed in Jerusalem and died in Spain. There is little evidence to back up this assertion other than a vague hint in Book of Acts. According to second theory, St. James body was exhumed in Jerusalem by disciples who had followed James from Spain. They reattached the head and carried the body in a ship made of stone from Jaffa (in present-day Israel) to the Galician harbor of Padrón in Spain. He was then reburied in a Roman burial ground several miles inland.
According to a third story, Charlemagne had a dream shortly before he died in the 9th century in which he saw a star-lit road leading from France and Spain to the as yet undiscovered tomb of St. James. In the dream, God told Charlemagne it was duty to lead his army across the Pyrenees to free northern Spain from Moorish-Muslim rule. Carrying banners with the scallop shell symbol, Charlemagne's armies marched to Spain threw the Muslims out of Castile and León, Galicia. Navarre and La Rioja. This assertion isn't backed up by any historical evidence.
Discovery of St. James’s Body and the Santiago de Compostela Pilgrimage
James by Albrecht Durer In A.D. 812, after Charlemagne's victory, the story continues, a normally-reclusive hermit-monk named Pelagius emerged from his cave to collect grasses and honey to eat and noticed a bright star hanging over a spot in a field. He reported the phenomena to his superiors, who then gave him permission to dig up the spot. Pelagius dug and unearthed a perfumed body with a reattached head and a note attached to the body that read: "Santiago, son of Zebedee and Salome, brother of John, whom Herod beheaded in Jerusalem."
The phenomena was reported by King Alfonso II of Asturias to the Pope, who endorsed the finding of St. James body as an inventio (the discovery of a tomb or relic after a miraculous revelation) which is similar to an apparition (miraculous vision) like the ones that took place at Lourdes and Fátima. The Vatican then ordered a translation (the removal of a relic a suitably holy site). The bones were placed in a crypt in a chapel called Campus Stella ("Field Star") built on the field. Later the chapel was ensconced inside a huge cathedral that was built up over the centuries.
Since the early Middle Ages, millions of pilgrims from all Europe, have converged on Santiago de Compostela to pay their respect to St. James. They have traveled on foot, on horseback, in carriages and in donkey carts. Today, around 100,000 pilgrims and tourist each year follow the same route on foot, on horseback, with donkeys and on bicycles. Slightly more than half say they are walking for "religious reasons" and most are Spaniards or Germans.
Pilgrims are often identified by a talisman or badge bearing a scallop shell, the coquille St. Jacque, or symbol of Saint James. No one is sure why the scallop shell was chose as the symbol for St. James and his pilgrims. Many pilgrims claim the shell was first used by Charlemagne's armies but scholar it may have originated with a pre-Christian Venus cult of sexual gymnast who used to hold orgies at Stonehedge-like standing stone temples.
Mary Magdalene by Correggio Mary Magdalene stands out as the one individual who loved Jesus deeply while he was alive, stood with him to the end and was embarrassed to express her love for him. She became one of Jesus's most devout followers after hearing him speak. Some think Mary Magdalene may have been a close adviser of Jesus with perhaps the same status as an apostle. The word maudlin is derived from her reputation as teary-eyed penitent. He name comes from the village of Magdala on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee.
James Carroll wrote in Smithsonian magazine, “The whole history of Western civilization is epitomized in the cult of Mary Magdalene. For many centuries the most obsessively revered of saints, this woman became the embodiment of Christian devotion, which was defined as repentance. Yet she was only elusively identified in Scripture,and has thus served as a scrim on to which a succession of fantasies has been projected. In one age after another her image was reinvented, from prostitute to sibyl to mystic to celibate nun to passive helpmeet to feminine icon to matriarch of divinity’s secret dynasty...Christians may worship the Blessed Virgin, but it is Magdalene with whom they identify.”
Mary Magdalene is often described as a prostitute although there is mention that was her trade in the Bible. All it says is that she was a person of means, and a follower of Jesus who was once possessed by seven demons that Jesus cast out. The prostitute label grew out of description of her in the Gospels as having "certain ways about her a little freer than modesty allows.”
Book: Mary Magdalen: Myth and Metaphor by Susan Haskins; Mary Magdalene : A Biography (2006) by Bruce Chilton, a professor of religion at Bard College; Mary Magdalene, the First Apostle: the Struggle for Authority by Ann Graham Brock (2003); the Mary Magdalene Tradition: Witness and Counter-Witness in Early Christian Communities by Holly E. Hearon (2003); The Resurrection of Mary Magdalene by Jane Schaberg, a professor at the University of Detroit Mercy.
Mary Magdalene, the Gospels and the Resurrection
Mary Magdalene at the
Crucifixion by Signorelli- In the New Testament Mary Magdalene is mentioned 14 times but is not a major figure. Her importance is based on the fact that when Jesus rose from the dead Mary Magdalene was the first person he appeared to and the fact he told her to tell the others which effectively made here “the apostle to the apostles.”
Luke and Mark described Mary Magdalene as the subject of one of Jesus’ exorcisms—“seven devils” are cast from her—and one of several women who followed him. She is also assumed to be unnamed “sinner” in Luke who bathes Jesus’ feet with her tears dries them with her hair and, kisses them and anoints them. “Her many sins have been forgiven, for she loved much,” Jesus says. In Matthew’s telling of the same story, “ a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of the most expensive ointment, and poured it on his head as he sat at a table. When they saw this, the disciples were indignant, ‘Why this waste?’ They said. ‘This could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.’ Jesus noticed this. ‘Why are you upsetting this woman?’ he said to them...’When she poured the ointment on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. I tell you solemnly, whoever in all this world this Good News is proclaimed what she has done will be told also, in remembrance of her.”
Mary Magdalene, according to Matthew, was the first to see that Jesus’s tomb was empty and the first to see his resurrected body. After Jesus died, she and other women refused to leave Jesus’s tomb and remained there long after the men had left. On the third after his death she returned to the tomb (either by herself or with some other women depending on the Gospel account) ready to embalm the body with spices.
According to Matthew 28: 1-6: "After the Sabbath, and towards dawn of the first day of the week, Mary of Magdalene and the other Mary went to visit the sepulcher. And suddenly there was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled away the stone and sat on it...The angel said to the women, ‘There is no need for you to be afraid. I know you are looking for Jesus...He is not here, for he has risen.’"
In John she encounters an empty tomb and then tells Peter and an unmamed disciple. Only the latter seem to comprehended the significance of the find and then they leave. According to John, while Mary Magdalene was weeping and looking for the body of Jesus in a garden near the tomb, Jesus said to her, “Why are you weeping?” She looked at him and mistook him for a gardener, and said, “Sir, if you have taken him away tell me where have put him.” Jesus then said, “Mary,” and suddenly she realized she was talking to the risen Lord. She tried to touch him but Jesus told her not to. He said he had not yet ascended to heaven and to tell the disciples that he was going to the Father.”
Even though Jesus said while he was alive that he would resurrected his disciples clearly did not believe him. In Luke and Mark, Magdalene and other women try to alert the men but “these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.”
Mary Magdalene, the Da Vinci Code and the Catholic Church
Mary Magdalene, Monte_di_Domodossola The Catholic church has long portrayed Mary Magdalene as a prostitute who redeemed herself . Pope Gregory I (540-604) is credited with raising the status of Mary Magdalene. He became pope in a time when of the plague was ravaging Europe and emphasized penitential forms of worship, and linked Mary Magdalene to that, as a way of warding off disease. In 1969 the Vatican acknowledged that she was not a fallen woman and formally apologized for giving her a bad rap.
Among those that believed Jesus and Magdalen were married were Martin Luther and Brigham Young. The notion that she was pregnant when Jesus was crucified was very popular in France, where several kings promoted the notion that the child founded the Merovngian line of European royals.
The book and film The Da Vinci Code popularized the belief that Mary Magdalene and Jesus were married and spurred an interest in all things related to Mary Magdalene and the various theories and conspiracies associated with her. The ones chosen by Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown included: 1) that Mary Magdalene is the Holy Grail; 2) that she not the disciple John is at Jesus’ right in the Da Vinci painting The Last Supper ; 3) the descendants of the child she had with Jesus founded France’s Merovingian dynasty; and 4) the aforementioned “truths” were deliberately suppressed by the Catholic Church. The book Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln was the source of many of these ideas.
Mary Magdalene and Gnostic Gospels
Mary Magdalene Lanfranco Some of claims made Mary Magdalene are based on ancient texts that were written around the time of Gospels. The Gnostic Gospel of Philip described Magdalen as “the one who called [Jesus] companion” and claimed that he “used to kiss her on her [mouth].”
A key passage from Gnostic Gospel of Mary depicts Jesus preaching to his disciples after the resurrection, and telling them there is no such thing as sin and they should follow no rules or authority and simple look into themselves. After delivering this he quickly departs, leaving the disciples confused and in fear. Mary Magdalene then turns them and says, “Do not weep or grieve or be in doubt.” She then describes a private vision she received from Jesus. On hearing this Peter says, “[Did] Jesus really speak with a woman without our knowledge?” The disciple Levis comes to her defense, saying, “Peter you have always been hot-tempered...If the Savior made her worthy, who are you to reject her? Surely, the Savior loves her very well. That is why he loved her more than us.”
The Gnostic Gospel of Mary was not written by Mary Magdalene . Rather it emerged from a community that recognized her importance. It had been lost and forgotten for centuries when an incomplete 5th century version of a 2nd century version was rediscovered in 1896 in Cairo. Later other fragments of text were found and the all the know pieces were put together and translated and analyzed in The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle by Karen L. King
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: World Religions edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); Symbols of Catholicism by Dom Robert Le Gall, Abbot of Kergonan (Barnes & Noble, 2000); Encyclopedia of the World Cultures edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994); Newsweek, Time and National Geographic articles about Jesus, the Bible and Christianity. Also the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
© 2009 Jeffrey Hays
Last updated March 2011