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Mark 3- Naming the twelve

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Mark 3- Naming the twelve

Postby Milo » Tue Nov 22, 2011 4:29 pm

13 And he goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him.


Mountains are signal from Mark that something important is happening.

14 And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach,
15 And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils:

The choosing of twelve disciples has two references in the Old Testament.
Exodus 18:18-27
Moses delegates his duties to underlings which is what Jesus does in these verses.
Joshua 4:1-8
Jesus also chooses twelve like Joshua did: Then Joshua called the twelve men, whom he had prepared of the children of Israel, out of every tribe a man.

Twelve is a symbolic number. It stands for, among many things, the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve zodiac signs. I would submit that Mark did not base twelve disciples on historic fact but invented this because of the meaning twelve has for his audience.

16 And Simon he surnamed Peter;
17 And James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder:
18 And Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Canaanite,
19 And Judas Iscariot, which also betrayed him: and they went into an house.


Different gospels have different variations on the list of apostles. Mostly the differences have been attributed to name variations. Thaddaeus is listed as Jude of James in Luke and Acts. The Gospel of John does not give a formal list of disciples but speaks loosely of the "twelve". John mentions a Nathaniel but not Bartholomew.

Of all the apostles, Judas is the one thought to be most likely fictional. The story needed a villain and Judas was invented for that role. There is a similarity between the words "Judas" and "Jews" which may have been intentional although Mark is the least anti Semitic gospel. The connection was surely made during the long years of Christian persecution of the Jews.

Another interesting tidbit. Boanerges translated as the sons of thunder might have been a mis-translation of "boas" which means oxen and would refer to this passage in 1 Kings 19:19-21 where Elisha is plowing with twelve oxen when he is chosen by Elijah.
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Re: Mark 3- Naming the twelve

Postby Chaplain Entrekin » Wed May 15, 2013 6:33 pm

The choosing of twelve disciples has two references in the Old Testament.
Exodus 18:18-27
Moses delegates his duties to underlings which is what Jesus does in these verses.
Joshua 4:1-8
Jesus also chooses twelve like Joshua did: Then Joshua called the twelve men, whom he had prepared of the children of Israel, out of every tribe a man.


The passage in Exodus is about appointing able men to help Moses judge case laws. So while it is an example of delegation, there is not good connection with a group of 12 (other than there being 12 tribes of Hebrews). Moses appointed men to be chiefs over thousands, over hundreds, over fifties, and of tens. We don't get the impression from any of the gospels of similar numeric responsibility for Jesus' 12.

The passage in Joshua is instruction that the Lord gave to Joshua in regards to ceremonially building a memorial. Since the 12 tribes of Hebrews had crossed the Jordan, God instructs Joshua to have 1 person from each tribe have a hand in building the memorial. In this way, each tribe would have a memory of what had happened in the past, and a stake in what they should be doing in the present/future. While the number of 12 is present, I am not sure that saying Mark used this story as a reference is any more accurate than saying that any story involving the 12 tribes is a reference.

That being said, I believe that Jesus (not Mark, by way of Peter) chose 12 of the large group that was following him and appointed them to be apostles (messengers) probably to be representative of the 12 tribes of Israel. Initially, Jesus proclaims the kingdom of God to the descendants of the 12 tribes (the Jews) and these 12 probably represent them. These 12 will form the basis, or foundation, of the new Israel.(Rev 21:14) Their experience being under the direct oversight of Jesus will be important as they will soon oversee the ministry of others after Jesus' death, resurrection, and ascension.

Of all the apostles, Judas is the one thought to be most likely fictional. The story needed a villain and Judas was invented for that role. There is a similarity between the words "Judas" and "Jews" which may have been intentional although Mark is the least anti Semitic gospel. The connection was surely made during the long years of Christian persecution of the Jews.


The idea that Judas Iscariot is fictional is not strong when we consider his inclusion in the other gospels, but especially in Luke/Acts. Luke is writing as an investigator working off of interviews with witnesses. IF Judas was invented later by Peter and then written down by Mark, countless people would have had to agree to the deception and all of them agree on all the details when Luke seeks to write his account. It also would be hard to reconcile the appointment of Matthias (Acts 1:26) as Judas' replacement if Judas did not exist. Also, in John 6:71, Jesus claims to have called all of the 12, including Judas Iscariot. If the idea is that Judas is a fictional villain invented to play a role in the story, it seems that Mark (and others) would have removed Jesus role in Judas' appointment. Maybe Judas could have just been a stalker; an apostle wannabe, who screws it up for everyone.

Remarkable to me is the diversity of the group of apostles, including fishermen (Peter, James, John), a tax collector (Matthew), and a zealous revolutionary (Simon the Zealot). Apart from Jesus' call and influence on their lives, Matthew and Simon would have had deep animosity toward each other, with Matthew working for Rome and Simon seeking to overthrow Rome. The qualifier, "Iscariot" probably means man from Kerioth (Ish Kerioth), a town in Judea

In this passage, Mark spells out the twofold task of the apostles: 1. to be with Jesus in a special learning capacity, and 2. to be sent out by him. They are to do what Jesus did and taught them: preach, cast out demons, and (as we will see in chapter 6) heal.

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