Exhausted Thoughts on Paul’s Twelve

For I delivered to you 1as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. (1Co 15:3-5 NASB)


After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; (1Co 15:6-7 NASB)

Peter, James and John are the pillars of the Church in Jerusalem (Gal 2.9). It is in Galatians that we get the best picture the Jerusalem Church at Paul’s time. James, the brother of Jesus, led the Apostles in Jerusalem. Peter is mentioned, but he is always  apart from the Apostles in a rather unique leadership role. James is not one of the Twelve. Well, James the brother of Jesus isn’t. James the brother of John is. Of course, during this time, the word apostle were not exclusively used to designate the Twelve. After all, Junia is an Apostle, but not of the Twelve.

Peter is connected to the Twelve; James is connected to the rest of the apostles.

Now, some idgit could see this as two different groups of early Christians, but that would be wholly unsupportable, unless you use some fanciful math. They aren’t. The Twelve represent the inner circle while the apostles represent the outliers, at least in the Gospels.

Of course, I have to wonder if The Twelve here could not be the Twelve Tribes, but I could find no real reference to that being the case unless you consider James 1.1 who writes to the Twelve Tribes. Paul never mentions them by name and of course, various lists are given in the Gospels (which I date after Paul).

There is a two-stage appearance here of the post-resurrected Christ. First, Jesus appears to Peter and then to the Twelve. He then appears to James and then to the all of the apostles. Not rest of, but all.

There you go. Some random thoughts. It has been a long week and I haven’t had a chance to really work on my book.

I think that Mark has taken some liberty with the names in his list.

I still find it odd though, that Paul doesn’t mention Judas. Yes, he mentions a night in which Jesus was delivered up to be crucified, but Judas is not mentioned. No need really. You can still have Jesus being taken by the Romans without Judas. Of course, you really can’t have the Twelve without Judas. Which gives me pause about considering Paul’s Twelve as the same Twelve in the Gospels.


I’ve got a long day ahead of me.

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4 Replies to “Exhausted Thoughts on Paul’s Twelve”

  1. One would think that Paul would be meticulous in relating anything prefixed with: “as of first importance what I also received” so a close parsing of this passage is warranted. Hope to see more on this in the future.

    1. Paul was a name dropper, which leads me to suspect that The Twelve could be something different. Of course, the twelve could have been an alternating group of people too…

  2. Although I understand the logic behind this theory I diagree. The Twelve isn’t a fixed number of individuals but rather an eschatological group, their main purpose is to symbolized a unified Israel under God’s heavenly rule. So even if there were technicaly only eleven at the time of Jesus’ resurrection that doesn’t mean that the Twelve mentioned by Paul is different from the twelve mentioned in the Synoptic and Johannine gospels. If I may make a similar analogy [and no analogy is perfect] is the whole debate on whether or not Jesus died on a Passover or on the day before it when the lamb’s where being slaughtered. Even if John’s chronology is wrong it doesn’t stop Paul or John of Patmos from using passover imagery in describing Jesus’ death. Dale Allison wrote that the memory of the event was close enough to associate the death of Jesus with the various sacrifical rites going on around the time he died. So I think the same applies for the memory of the Twelve even though Judas may have died before Jesus appeared to the eleven remaining disciples the memory of the twelve as an eschatological group called by Jesus left a deep impression on the early Church’s memory even if it wasn’t entirey accurate.

  3. Revelation 21:14 similarly mentions “the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (written on the “twelve foundation stones” of the New Jerusalem) with what looks like an implicit assumption that its reader understood the reference. Like James 1:1 (as you note), Revelation also mentions the twelve tribes elsewhere. Perhaps it’s best to consider the twelve apostles (in 1 Cor 15:5 and Revelation 21:14) as being a concept developed on analogy with and in symbolic replacement of the twelve tribes.

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