Friday, August 30, 2013

A Taste of Friday: The Apostles by Tom Spoonts

The Apostles by Tom Spoonts

 This book came out of a Bible study I once did on the lives of the apostles. From my study for that class I decided to do more research on their lives. I discovered they preached the Gospel throughout the world of their times and died, most of them martyred for their belief in Jesus the Christ. I was compelled to put what I had learned into the pages of this book. It is the story of men who believed in something so strongly that they were willing to die for it.
I believe this book could be used effectively in Bible studies as a text book. I wrote it however, as an inspirational book to be read and savored to confirm our faith.     --The Author 

Editor’s Note: The book text contains the author’s research resources, as well as artwork to accompany the text.


I believe this to be an interesting study on fourteen of the apostles, (the twelve plus Matthias and Paul). This is not an exhaustive study as there are writers who have better qualifications than I, who have done studies on the subject of the twelve apostles. However, I know of none who have placed in one book the story of the lives of these fourteen apostles from where they were born to where they were buried.
The Bible lists other men as also being apostles, Barnabas (Acts 14:14), Andronicus and Junias (Romans 16:7) and the “70” (Luke 10:1). Jesus is also said to be an apostle (Hebrew 3:1). This book, however is concerned with only the fourteen mentioned in the paragraph above.
I have included what we know about them from scripture and then have added details of their lives from history and tradition. I think it is especially interesting to see what history tells us about their faith and dedication. I have tried to place in this one volume the lives of the apostles who were “men just like us” with hopes and fears, but who were men with a burning desire to serve the Master. Mostly, it is a collection of research of others made during 2,000 years of controversy and opinion. I do not intend to impose my views of tradition on the reader, but only to place facts and fiction together as a story of what was and what may have been.
I have tried to put my Bible knowledge, my research and the works of others into this volume so that the reader may find these various works in one place. I have taken what we know from Scripture on the lives of each of these spiritual men and added what writers of the first, second, and third century tell us from oral accounts which were passed from one generation to the next that I believe to have merit. Then I have added tales and tradition that I believe have much less veracity than history. I have tried to note that these are not facts, but in some cases fiction. Both tales and tradition have a tendency to grow with time and are questionable.
Nonetheless, the stories are fascinating and the fact that all the apostles but Judas spent their lives believing in what they were teaching to the point of death itself, is worth our consideration.
It is believed that only one apostle lived to be an old man and died a natural death. 


Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia on the Internet says this about the word “apostle”: “The term apostle is derived from the New Testament Greek noun apostolos, meaning ‘one who is sent forth’ as a messenger in contrast to a disciple who is a ‘student’ who learns from a ‘teacher.’”
We know that Jesus appointed twelve special apostles during his ministry. After his resurrection on Pentecost they started preaching and spreading the Gospel. During their lifetime most travelled extensively and carried the Gospel to the ends of the known world. He had many disciples but only appointed twelve to be apostles to be “sent forth” after his resurrection as messengers to spread the Gospel, thus the term, “apostle.”
The Bible tells us very little about the lives of the apostles, but that is as it should be as the emphasis is on Jesus, the Son of God. We have to search history to find out more about what they did after their Master ascended into heaven and left the Gospel in their hands.
These are the twelve he called: Matthew10:1-8, He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.”
God sent his Son into the world to preach and teach the “lost sheep of Israel” (Hebrews). I’m sure God knew that the Jewish leaders would not listen to his message and that they would reject Jesus as the Messiah. It may be that he went to them first and repeatedly so they would have no excuse for not accepting Jesus as his Son. Acts 13:46, Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you (Jews) first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.”
We all learned the apostle’s names when we were children in Bible School, and probably memorized them. There was a little song we sang to remember their names. Do you remember the song? Can you name them?
James (the greater)
Nathanael (Bartholomew)
James (James the less)
Thaddaeus (Jude, Judas, Labbaeus)
Judas Iscariot (who betrayed Jesus) 

Matthias (who took Judas’s place)
Then there was Paul (the apostle to the Gentiles) 

He was the first apostle picked by Jesus. But did you know that in every instance of Peter being named in the New Testament that he is always named first? (Peter, James and John; Peter and Andrew, etc.) 

What do we know about Peter from the Bible?
He was a native of Bethsaida: John 1:44, Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida.
His real name was Simon Peter: Matthew 4:18, As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers; Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.
He was the son of John (a common name, also called Jonah in the King James Version of the Bible): John 1:42, Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter).
He was the brother of Andrew: John 1:40, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus.
Peter and his brother Andrew were fishermen: Mark 1:16, As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.
His was married: 1 Corinthians 9:5: Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas? (See John 1:42, Cephas when translated from Aramaic means Peter or “Rock.”)
He walked on water: Matthew 14:28-29, “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.”
He performed miracles: Acts 3:6, Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”
He was with Jesus at the transfiguration: Mark 9:5, Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters--one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.
He was with Jesus in Gethsemane: Mark 14:32-33, “They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled.
He was in Jesus’s inner circle (Peter, James and John)
He cut off the high priest servant’s ear: John 18:10, Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant's name was Malchus.)
He was one of the two apostles known to have carried a sword (see above). We are not sure who the other apostle was that carried a weapon, but at least two of them did. At the last supper Jesus said to them, “If you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.” And they answered, Luke 22:38 (RSV), “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “That is enough.”
He denied Jesus three times at the high priest’s palace, John 13:38, Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!
After Peter denied Jesus three times he reaffirmed his love for Jesus three times at the last supper: John 21:15-17, When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”
In “Do you love me,” verses 15 &16, Jesus uses “agapan.” Peter answers in “philein,” two Greek words for “love.”  “Agapan” expresses a higher type of devotion. Peter refuses to use it. The third time, in verse 17, Jesus comes down to Peter’s word, “philein.” Just a little word play!
Jesus gave him the keys to the kingdom: Matt 16:19, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be  bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
He preached the first gospel sermon on Pentecost after the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus: Acts 2:14, “Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: ‘Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.’”
He wrote 1 & 2  Peter: 1 Peter 1:1, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, . . 2 Peter 1:1, “Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours.”
He was an elder in the church (probably in Rome as some believe he wrote 1 Peter from there): 1 Peter 5:1: To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder.                 

I really identify with Peter. He was human; so impatient, so apt to do the wrong thing, so immature as a disciple. However after less than three years at the Master’s feet he became the “rock” that his very name signified, a mature Christian who teaches us by his example the way to become mature Christians.
In the book of 2 Peter penned by him and inspired by the Holy Spirit of God, in chapter one he tells us how to make “our calling an election sure” by blending certain good things  together with our faith, 2 Peter 1:5-7: For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.
Take a closer look at these verses. He starts by telling us that we must add to our “faith.” Now faith is basic and Peter is speaking to Christians whom he expects to have faith. Then he says to add to our faith “goodness,” for God is good. Then he says to add to goodness “knowledge,” for without knowledge (through the study of God’s word), we cannot know how to be good. Then he says to add to knowledge “self-control,” for without being able to control ourselves our knowledge is useless. And to self-control add “perseverance,” for without perseverance we can not wait for the answers to our prayers. And to perseverance add “godliness.” Now this word is a contraction of the words God-like-ness and if we are to become mature we must become more like God. And to godliness add “brotherly kindness,” for if we are not kind to our brother we have not learned to care for one another. And to brotherly kindness add “love,” for God is love.
Notice that the apostle Peter is not telling us to add to our faith, goodness and add to our faith knowledge and add to our faith self-control . . . He knows that maturing is an ongoing process and that we must add all these things to our lives. I believe a good way to add them is in the order he lists them. We should not be “like newborn babies, always needing milk.” We are to desire that milk so we may be able at some point to take on more hearty foods, “so that we may grow thereby,” 1 Peter 2:2, Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.
In fact we know a lot about the apostle Peter from Bible accounts. You have probably also heard from history that he was put to death by Nero and that he requested being placed on his cross upside down as he felt unworthy to die as his Master did.
Jesus predicted Peter’s death in John 21:18-19: “I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go,” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God.
It was Jesus who gave Simon the name Peter for we find in Mark 3:16, These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter). As I mentioned before the Greek name “Peter” means “Rock.” I believe Jesus knew that Peter, who failed at nearly everything he attempted such as walking on water, denying his Lord three times, etc., would become a stable rock as an apostle. His life is an example of how a Christian must mature and become a “rock” in the kingdom of Christ.
We know that Petros was his Greek name and Cephas was his Aramaic name. (Both names meaning Peter) and was the new name given him by Jesus. We also know that before he was called Peter, his name was Simon for in Matt 4:18: As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers; Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.

What does history and tradition tell us about Peter? 

Tradition says that Peter along with Paul worshiped in the church at Rome and Peter may have served as an elder there (see page 13). He authored two books of our New Testament (1 & 2 Peter), and then met martyrdom in Rome as did Paul.
There is a book pretending to be the third epistle of Peter of which we know very little except that it was supposedly found with other old manuscripts among the ruins of an ancient city by a wandering Monk. It was a French copy presented by the Monk himself. It has little veracity.
There is another book written in Greek probably before the year 200 AD, The Acts of Peter, which was most likely written by a resident of Asia Minor as he knew little of Rome. It is a short book, about the length of the Gospel of Mark, however many words may be missing from the found documents.
Still another book, The Gospel of Peter, was supposedly written about the middle of the first century. If that is true, it would predate the other four Gospels. It contains the passion of Christ.
Yet another book, The Apocalypse of Peter, was found in a tomb at Cairo and may be a part of the Gospel of Peter mentioned above. (These writings are not to be construed as written by the Apostle Peter or as an accurate account of his life.)

Peter in Antioch: 
Later accounts expand on the brief biblical mention of his visit to Antioch. The Liber Pontificalis (ninth century) mentions Peter as having served as an elder of Antioch for seven years and having potentially left his family in the Greek city before his journey to Rome. It is possible he may have suspected his death in Rome and wanted to spare his family the spectacle of his crucifixion.
There are claims of direct blood lineage from Simon Peter among the old population of Antioch that existed in the first century and continues to exist today, notably by certain Semaan families of modern-day Syria and Lebanon. If this is so (we know from Scripture that he had a wife), 1 Corinthians 9:5 says, Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas? (Peter). Then, as a married man, he could have had children and now have living descendants there today. 

Peter’s Death: 
In the Gospel of John, Jesus predicted the kind of death Peter would have. As we mentioned before: (John 21:18–19), When you are old you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and take you where you do not want to go. Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God.
The death of Peter is attested to by Tertullian at the end of the second century, and by Eusebius quoting Origen (see on page 9), in a book of Church History III.1. Origen says: Peter was crucified at Rome with his head downwards, as he himself had desired to suffer. This is why an upside down cross is generally accepted as a symbol of Peter who would not have considered himself worthy enough to die the same way as his Savior did.
History and tradition tell us that the twelve apostles (probably scattered by the oppression at Jerusalem) went into the entire known world at that time and preached the Gospel, establishing churches of Christ.
In this book about the apostles, we will look at what the Scriptures say about them and especially the writings of Luke who wrote Acts of the Apostles. John, himself an apostle, will give us insights into some of their lives in the Gospel of John. We will also examine some of the history found in ancient writings and some traditions of early Christians.
Tom Spoonts is a Christian teacher, missionary, and author. At age 87 he puts his knowledge and experience into writing Christian history, non-fiction and genealogy books. He retired as a transportation engineer to do self -supporting missionary work in foreign countries. His books may be found at:




1 comment:

  1. I love to study people's lives. I need to get this book.