The Thirteen Disciples

“Why have I remembered these things? In order that it might be possible to compare our precise and certain judgment on each point with the lightheadedness of the Christians. For on the one hand we think that the one [Apollonius] who did such things is not a god but a man favored by the gods, but they proclaim Jesus god on the basis of a few prodigies.” -Sossianus Hierocles, proconsul under Emperor Galerius, 300 A.D.

Who Carried the Torch?

What happened to the first followers of Jesus after his death and resurrection? That’s usually where the story ends, but let us look into the question of who inherited Jesus’ mission. The Acts of the Apostles paints a picture of complete apostolic unity, yet the rest of the New Testament tells of major divisions without very much background to go with. As such, the best course is to isolate each source and try to determine alliances and divisions in ideology. I’m going to do this by going through categories of scripture and listing who is described in a positive and negative fashion and tallying up the points. When coming to the question of whether Paul is the author of the early Pauline Epistles or whether Peter is Cephas, I will go with the common scholarly consensus and assume they are. But I will also be including the Semi-Gnostic Gospel of Thomas and the earlier gospel that Cerinthus used authored by who Prof. Helms calls “John 1.” Some of gospel determinations will have to be done using exegesis, but the only other recourse would be to eliminate all the gospels except Luke-Acts due to the limitation of the time frame within the narrative. However, we should be able to assume that the author does not want to give us a false impression of their current inclinations towards the figure they‘re writing about. For example, the last we see of Peter in the Gospel of Mark, he’s breaking down and weeping after having denied Jesus three times in the 30s (14:72). From that, a deduction can be made that the author of Mark, when he wrote his gospel, was not currently reconciled with Peter. Otherwise, Mark’s author would have ended it in a way that was more like the two fake endings that were later added on to his gospel, or more like the Gospel of John, where Jesus reinstates Peter three times (21:15). Upon looking at each of these, I will ask the question, “Who was meant to carry on the torch of Jesus?”

1) Early Pauline Epistles: Paul, Timoty, Epaphrus, Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke; not Cephas (Peter), who refused to eat with Gentiles in hypocrisy; not James “the Brother of the Lord,” who sent Peter to the Gentiles from Jerusalem (although most Jewish Christians seem to identify as their leader); not John, nor any of the Jews who refuse to commune with Gentile Christians

2) Gospel of Mark: Mary Magdalene, another Mary, Salome, and a Roman centurion who calls him Son of God after crucifying him; not Jesus’ mother Mary, nor his brothers, James, Joses, Judas, and Simon, who all thought he was crazy; not Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him; not Simon (whom Jesus called Peter), who denied him; not James, nor John (whom he called Sons of Thunder), nor anyone else who would exercise authority over people like the Gentiles do

3) Gospel of Matthew: his father Joseph, who is told by an angel in a dream that Mary conceived of the Holy Spirit; the Virgin Mary, and the Three Magi of the East; Simon (who is already called Peter), the “rock” on which Jesus will build his church; but also the other 10 Apostles (minus Judas Iscariot), Mary Magdalene, the other Mary, Mary the mother of James and John, and the Roman centurion; not Judas Iscariot (who hangs himself), and not those who teach Jews to break the Laws of Moses (which implicitly includes Paul, though he is not mentioned by name)

4) Luke-Acts: the Virgin Mary, who is told about the greatness of Jesus by Gabriel before he is born, and Mary’s fiancé Joseph; Paul for the Gentiles, Peter (Shimeon) for the Jews, although important decisions are made in Jerusalem by “James” (who apparently is not James the brother of John, since he is killed before that); also Barnabas, Mary Magdalene, the other Mary, Salome, the Roman centurion, and 12 disciples, now including Matthias; not Judas Iscariot (who falls off a cliff), and not Simon the Magus, because he thought he could buy the gift of God with money

5) Gospel of Cerinthus (John 1): The Beloved Disciple; not Peter, who denied him

6) Gospel of John (John2; Johannine Community): The Beloved Disciple, who Jesus asks to take care of his mother; Peter, who Jesus reinstates three times, and who defends the Presbyter interpretation of Paul‘s epistles (2 Peter); and Mary Magdalene; not Judas Iscariot, not Thomas Didymus, who doubted his physical resurrection, nor anyone else who does not accept that Jesus rose in the flesh

7) Deutero-Pauline and Pastoral Epistles: Paul, Barnabas, Mark, Silas, Timothy, Titus, Artemas, Tychicus, Zenas, Apollos; not Demas, who deserted Paul for Thessalonica

8) Coptic Gospel of Thomas: Thomas, Mary Magdalene; not Peter, who hates women

If we tally up the points, we get:

Paul: 2 ; Not Paul: 1
Peter: 3 ; Not Peter: 4 (Known by Paul)
James: 2 ; Not James: 2 (Known by Paul as “Pillar” of Jerusalem)
John: 4 ; Not John: 2 (Known by Paul)
Virgin Mary: 2; Not Mary: 1
Mary Magdalene: 5 ; Not Mary Magdalene: 0
Judas: 0 ; Not Judas: 4
Thomas: 1 ; Not Thomas: 1

There seems to be a strong amount of positive criticism for Mary Magdalene, even stronger if Magister Ramon Jusino is right about her being the original “Disciple whom Jesus loved” in John. But it looks as if the male disciples started fighting amongst themselves to the point where only Mary Magdalene escaped without mud in her eye. It reminds me of a snippet out of the German novel, The Never Ending Story, when a great prophet shows his followers the face of God and they all begin fighting with one another because they each saw their own form in the vision. So how are we to reconcile this mess? One assumption might be that later groups of Christians just came to know one disciple of Jesus as the founder of their group and then later came into conflict with other groups who, true or untrue, had a different disciple as their legendary founder. Maybe the Coptic gospels say Peter was a sexist because the Copts wanted to make fun of the Church of Peter for being oppressive to women.

But can we try and connect any of the disciples with outside historical sources? There are in fact some interesting correlations that can be found. These names I will set in bold have good evidence for having a large number of Christians who presume they are the ultimate authority on Jesus.


1. Simon, Called Peter
1b. Simon the Magus
2. James, Son of Zebedee
3. John, Son of Zebedee
3c. John of Giscala
3b. John the Elder
4. Andrew
5. Philip
6. Bartholomew
6b. Nathanel
7. Matthew
8. Judas Thomas, Called Didymus
9. James, Son of Alphaeus
10. Thaddaeus
11. Simon the Zealot
12. Mary Magdalene
13. Judas Iscariot
13b. Judas of Galilee

1. Simon, Called Peter:

Both Peter and Cephas names are found in the Epistle to the Galatians making scholars question whether “Peter” (1:18) the apostle and “Cephas” the pillar (2:9) of Jerusalem. Unlike Paul, who believes Jesus’ death freed them from the bonds of Moses’ law, Peter still followed kosher eating habits and so wouldn’t eat at the same table as Paul’s Christians in Antioch. However, 2 Peter makes him out to be a companion, friend, and defender of Paul’s words as scripture, although they “contain some things that are hard to understand.” (3:16). The gospels say he was a Galilean fisherman and the Gospel of Matthew has Jesus tells Peter that he will be the “rock” on which Jesus would build his church. Many early Christian writings make the bishop of Rome the ultimate authority by virtue of Peter’s throne, but Syria has a rival tradition placing his authority in Antioch, which is backed up more by canonical scripture. He is portrayed as misogynistic in Gnostic literature recovered from the Nag Hammadi library. A tradition which may have originated from the apocryphal Acts of Peter says that he was crucified upside down, supposedly by his own request because he didn’t feel worthy of dying the same way Jesus did.

Simon the Magus:

Simon the Magus was a Samaritan who lived in the city of Gitta, in Samaria (in between Galilee to the north and Judah to the south). He is said to have studied Arabic-Jewish magical medicine in Alexandria. An ancient Proto-Gnostic sect called Simonism believed that he was God in human form. Irenaeus says Simon portrayed himself to the Jews as the Son, the Samaritans as the Father, and to the Gentiles as the Holy Spirit. This probably means that like the Modism of Montanus, Simon claimed that being filled with the Holy Spirit made him one with God the Father and God the Son. He traveled with a consort named Helen of Tyre, who was identified as a blazing torch, a pillar of fire, and the Sophia. Her Greek name means “brightness.” There are small fragments of a work supposedly written by Simon called the Apophasis Megale, literally, “Great Pronouncement.” He is also said to have written two lost treatises, named The Four Quarters of the World and The Sermons of the Refuter.

Eusebius said that Simon called himself “the Standing One,” implying an unchanging principle, but was also referred to as “the Pillar.” Justin Martyr said that all Samaritans had great respect for him. Origen says that he taught his disciples not to fear death and to treat it like idolatry. In the Gospel of Acts, the disciple Philip converts him to Christianity, although when he tries to buy the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter admonishes him saying, “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right with God. Repent of your wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.” (8:20). Because of this, the sin of Simony, paying for church influence, was named after him. Presumably, he doesn’t repent, since his Christian sect is the first on Irenaeus’ list of heretics, which has led to him being called “the first heretic“.

In the Pseudo-Clementine literature, which modern scholars believe were written by the Ebionites, Simon is said to have been preceded by an Arab named Dositheus, who is also said to have claimed to be a manifestation of “the Standing One.” In the “Homilies” version of Pseudo-Clementine, Simon was himself the favorite disciple of John the Baptist. After the Baptist’s murder, his disciples went to Alexandria, but because Simon was not present, Dositheus was chosen to head the school. In the “Recognitions” version, John the Baptist is not mentioned and Dositheus is made to be leader of the sect. When Simon returned to Alexandria, it’s said that he at first accepted Dositheus’ leadership over him but later challenged Dositheus because of Simon’s superior knowledge. Dositheus is said to have tried to strike Simon with his staff, but that it only passed through Simon’s body like smoke. Seeing this, Dositheus became Simon’s disciple. The followers of Dositheus are said to have continued into the 500s, and an Arab historian named Aboulfatah, writing in the 1300s, said they continued into his day, but also placed Dositheus 100 years B.C. Aboulfatah, however, does not explain how he could be a disciple of John the Baptist if Simon preceded him.

Like the Gnostics, he is said to have taught that there were many gods, or Aeons, but that the Unknown God ruled was above them all. He also taught that the God of the Torah was imperfect and not the same as the Unknown God. He is quoted as saying, “My belief is that there is a Power of immeasurable and ineffable Light, whose greatness is held to be incomprehensible, a power which the maker of the world even does not know, nor does Moses the lawgiver, nor your master Jesus.” In the Pseudo-Clementines, Simon Magus is opposed by Peter, who follows him everywhere. Peter challenges Simon to back his claims with quotations from the Old Testament, from the Greeks, or even his own scriptures. Simon points to places in the Old Testament that speak of multiple gods, shows that the scriptures contradict themselves, and accuses Peter of using magic and teaching doctrines different than Jesus, and that that Jesus is not consistent with himself. He then declares himself to be the Unknown God, which Peter of course repudiates.

There is also a tradition that Peter and Simon met in Rome, both of them proselytizing to the same people. The apocryphal Acts of Peter tells how he enacted a spell for the Roman Emperor Claudius (ruling from 41 to 54 A.D.) in the forum and flew into the air to prove himself a God. Peter and Paul prayed to God to stop his flying, causing Simon to fall to his death. This is uncharacteristic of Claudius, who although refused to be worshipped as a god, is known to have expelled all foreign magicians and soothsayers in order to replace them with Roman ones. After being defeated in Rome by Peter and Paul, he is said to have returned to Gitta where he had a grave dug for himself, prophesizing that he would be raised in three days. This would mark his end as the prophecy never came true.

In the Acts of Nereus and Achilleus, Simon fastens a great dog at his door to stop Peter from entering. But Peter comes and makes the sign of the cross, causing it to become tame to everyone except Simon, who leaves the city in disgrace. In Rome, Simon pretends to allow his head to be cut off while the executioner really decapitates a ram. At the end, a wooden tower is constructed in the Campus Martius and Simon begins to ascend to heaven in a chariot of fire until Peter’s prayers cause him to fall. Dr. Salmon, the Regius Professor of Divinity in Dublin University, suggests this was inspired by the Emperor Nero constructing a wooden theatre in the Campus after which an actor playing the part of Icarus fell to his death, close enough so that Nero was spattered with his blood.

2. James, Son of Zebedee:

Jesus calls him and his brother John the name Boanerges, meaning “Sons of Thunder.” His mother Salome was also said to be a follower. The Gospel of Mark says that Jesus first found them fishing on the Sea of Galilee and called them to be “fishers of men” (1:19). In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus reprimands both him and his brother for wanting to be his “right and left man,” telling them the lowest servants will be the greatest in heaven, and predicts their deaths (10:38-40).

3. John, the Son of Zebedee:

Traditionally the “Beloved Disciple,” he is given credit for the fourth gospel, all three epistles, and the Book of Revelation. All five works show some similarities in theology but are different enough so that most scholars attribute them all to a “Johannine Community,” which centered in Ephesus, Turkey. There are also an apocryphal book called Acts of John, dated some time between 150 and 200 A.D. The book is a Christian romance with a theme very similar to Paul and Thecla, in that John works to help a Christian convert Cleopatra stop her arranged fiancé from violating her dedication to chastity.

John of Giscala:

Originally a poor native of the small Galilean village of Gascala, he was said to have endeavored to keep his city loyal to the Romans. When the city was attacked and burned by invading Gadarenes, Baraganeans, and Tyrians, he armed the citizens of his village, conquered the invaders, and rebuilt the village better than it was before. Using money from selling oil, he appropriated some 5,000 Jewish soldiers, and became friends with Rabbi Gamaliel. Following the revolt in Judea against Rome in 66 A.D., he asked permission from the governor of Galilee and future historian, Joseephus, to seize Emperor Nero’s grain store. When Josephus refused, he got permission from some of Josephus’ fellow ambassadors and built walls around Giscala with the money. Josephus then allowed John and his companions to use the warm baths of Tiberias, but John used the opportunity to persuade the people of Tiberias to secede from Rome and march against Josephus, who subdued Tiberias with an armed force, bringing his rebel force down to 1,500. When the Emperor Nero sent Vespasian and his son Titus to put down the revolts in Judea and Galilee, Titus came to Tiberias with 1,000 horsemen, and John was able to have Titus grant him a one-day truce because of the Sabbath, which he used to escaped to Jerusalem, although his village was burned to the ground. Josephus was one of the few generals who surrendered instead of committing suicide, and for giving them intelligence on the revolt, he was released in 69 A.D. By his own account, Josephus went to Jerusalem with Titus, where he gave an impassioned plea to convince John, now a tyrant fighting two other rebel parties, to surrender, telling him that he could be like King Jehoiachin, who prevented the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar from burning the first temple by surrendering. John, however, refused to surrender, and in 70 A.D. the Temple was burned, and John once again escaped to the upper city where he was eventually arrested after being forced to surrender due to starvation. Following the comparisons of Rome to Babylon and the well-known association with the number 666 to the name Nero Caesar using the Hebrew numerology of Gematria, some recent Italian studies have suggested this was the same John who wrote the Book of Revelation.

John the Elder:

A teacher of Polycarp, who in turn taught the Apostolic Church father Irenaeus. He wrote five volumes called “Exposition of the Sayings of the Lord,” which was quoted by Irenaeus and Eusebius of Caesarea, but has subsequently disappeared. Eusebius of Caesarea differentiate from the apostle John and the Elder who authored of 2 John and 3 John, and St. Jerome spoke of two Johns, but the Roman Catholic Chruch has traditionally considers this to be an error.

4. Andrew:

The Greek Orthodox Church honors him as Protocletos, or “First Called,” since the Gospel of John describes how he was previously a disciple of John the Baptist, and ran home to get his brother Simon when John identified Jesus as the Lamb of God. Strangely, the gospel implies that both Peter and Andrew were following Jesus at the same time and spent the whole day with him (1:37), but all of the sudden there is only Andrew there and he must go and fetch his brother and tell him that they found the Messiah (1:40). The Gospel of Mark on the other hand says that Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee and happened upon the brothers fishing, at which point the calls them to be “fishers of men” at the same time. Andrew was said to have been born in Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee, but in the Gospel of Mark, he and Simon live in Capernaum. He is present with Peter, James, and John, during the Signs of the End of Age (13:1) and in the Gospel of John, when Greeks come to see Jesus but have to get through Andrew and Philip first (12:20).

5. Philip:

He plays no real role in the gospels of Mark and Matthew, but is mentioned quite often in the Gospel of John and the Acts of the Apostles. As I argued in the previous chapter, I believe Philip’s identification as one of the Seven Evangelists caused the Apostolic editor of Acts to re-identify him as another Philip of Caesera, and that he was actually part of a group of seven table-waiters to minimize the relevance of the heretical sects associated with the apostles, including Nicholas of Antioch, who founded the much-despised Nicolatian sect. An unnamed Coptic Gospel from the Nag Hammadi Library has been dubbed after this disciple since he and Mary Magdalene are the only disciples to appear in it. The speech that’s given between Jesus and the disciples has no context but is rather like a Sayings Gospel, such as Q. The gospel seems to fit the Gnostic mold of a spiritually resurrected Jesus that reveals hidden mysteries. These sayings are aimed at both Jews and Christian rulers. The book starts with the words “A Hebrew makes another Hebrew, and such a person is called a proselyte,” meaning a convert, “But a proselyte does not make another proselyte.” This seems to touch on the sensibilities of equality that Christianity gives over to that of Judaism. Salvation is described as being pretty relativistic:

“A Gentile does not die, for he has never lived in order that he may die. He who has believed in the truth has found life, and this one is in danger of dying, for he is alive. Since Christ came, the world has been created, the cities adorned, the dead carried out. When we were Hebrews, we were orphans and had only our mother, but when we became Christians, we had both father and mother.”

The Hebrew “mother” in this case is the Torah, the social laws of “this world.” Those who have come to know Christ have both community laws (earthly mother) and moral laws (heavenly father). From this we are able to interpret a very confusing verse from the gospels of Matthew (11:11) and Luke (7:28), saying, “Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom if greater than he.” That is to say, John taught his followers to obey the earthly (feminine) law, but even those who follow the Torah to it’s fullest extent are not as righteous as those who follow the universal morality inscribed in people’s hearts from heaven (masculine). The Roman Catholic Church as such dubbed itself “Holy Mother Church” to reflect the power that Christ had given them to judge over this world. In the Gospel of Philip, the spiritual feminine is represented through the Holy Spirit, which explains why it could not have been the cause of Mary‘s conception:

“Some said, ‘Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit.’ They are in error. They do not know what they are saying. When did a woman ever conceive by a woman? Mary is the virgin whom no power defiled. She is a great anathema to the Hebrews, who are the apostles and the apostolic men. This virgin whom no power defiled [...] the powers defile themselves. And the Lord would not have said ‘My Father who art in Heaven’ [Matthew 16:17], unless he had had another father, but he would have said simply ‘My father.’”

“Before Christ came, there was no bread in the world, just as Paradise, the place where Adam was, had many trees to nourish the animals but no wheat to sustain man. Man used to feed like the animals, but when Christ came, the perfect man, he brought bread from heaven in order that man might be nourished with the food of man. The rulers thought that it was by their own power and will that they were doing what they did, but the Holy Spirit in secret was accomplishing everything through them as it wished. Truth, which existed since the beginning, is sown everywhere. And many see it being sown, but few are they who see it being reaped.”

“’Jesus’ is a hidden name, ‘Christ’ is a revealed name. For this reason ‘Jesus’ is not particular to any language; rather he is always called by the name ‘Jesus.’ While as for ‘Christ,’ in Syriac it is ‘Messiah,’ in Greek it is ‘Christ.’ Certainly all the others have it according to their own language. ‘The Nazarene’ is he who reveals what is hidden. Christ has everything in himself, whether man, or angel, or mystery, and the Father.”

The gospel says that although Christian rulers had been “sowing” Christianity, the Semi-Gnostic author did not expect them to “reap the rewards” because they knew they were only using it to gain power in this world, and were not following the true teachings of Jesus. Other sayings appear to be far more mysterious:

“The apostles who were before us had these names for him: ‘Jesus, the Nazorean, Messiah,’ that is, ‘Jesus, the Nazorean, the Christ.’ The last name is ‘Christ,’ the first is ‘Jesus,’ that in the middle is ‘the Nazarene.’ ‘Messiah’ has two meanings, both ‘the Christ’ and ‘the measured.’ ‘Jesus’ in Hebrew is ‘the redemption.’ ‘Nazara’ is ‘the Truth.’ ‘The Nazarene’ then, is ‘the Truth.’ ‘Christ’ [...] has been measured. ‘The Nazarene’ and ‘Jesus’ are they who have been measured.”

“When the pearl is cast down into the mud, it becomes greatly despised, nor if it is anointed with balsam oil will it become more precious. But it always has value in the eyes of its owner. Compare the Sons of God: wherever they may be, they still have value in the eyes of their Father.”

“If you say, ‘I am a Jew,’ no one will be moved. If you say, ‘I am a Roman,’ no one will be disturbed. If you say, ‘I am a Greek, a barbarian, a slave, a free man,’ no one will be troubled. If you say, ‘I am a Christian,’ the [...] will tremble.”

“Blessed is he who is before he came into being. For he who is, has been and shall be.”

“Echamoth is one thing and Echmoth, another. Echamoth is Wisdom simply, but Echmoth is the Wisdom of death, which is the one who knows death, which is called ‘the little Wisdom.’”

“Those who say they will die first and then rise are in error. If they do not first receive the resurrection while they live, when they die they will receive nothing.”

“The eucharist is Jesus. For he is called in Syriac ‘Pharisatha,’ which is ‘the one who is spread out [for crucifixion],’ for Jesus came to crucify the world.”

A great amount of public interest arose when the words of the Gospel of Philip being introduced through Dan Brown’s fictional novel, The Da Vinci Code, issuing forth an uncountable number of small, reactionary refutations by irritated Bible Fundamentalists. This is the complete saying:

“And the companion of the [Savior is] Mary Magdalene. [But Christ loved] her more than [all] the disciples [and used to] kiss her [often] on her [mouth]. The rest of [the disciples were offended] by it [and expressed disapproval]. They said to him, ‘Why do you love her more than all of us?’ The Savior answered and said to them, ‘Why do I not love you like her? When a blind man and one who sees are both together in darkness, they are no different from one another. When the light comes, then he who sees will see the light, and he who is blind will remain in darkness.”

A great amount of speculation has been made as to whether “companion” means wife. Regardless of whether it does nor not, the saying insinuates a special love that Jesus has for Mary Magdalene over that of the disciples, and Jesus is largely believed to have a universal love that transcends the romantic love of a single person. True, the gospel is dated very late (180-250), and as a sayings gospel it provides almost no historical context, there is good reason to question whether a more important role of “the Beloved Disciple” was censored due to political correctness of a patriarchal world. However, in the next chapter, we will see reason to believe that Mary Magdalene had a different role prior to the Gnostic gospels.

Taking aside for now the question as to whether the historical Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, the Gospel of Philip does give good evidence for many Gnostic Christian sects of the early centuries looking at Jesus and Mary Magdalene as a spiritual union, the marriage of Word to Wisdom. The marriage of opposites had been introduced by the pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus when he defined the Logos, and the later Gnostic Valentinus spoke of the creation of the world through the union of angels. Roman Catholic theology instead made the Holy Mother Church the bride of the Savior. Taking this all into context, might the Marriage at Cana be seen in an entirely different light? In this story found only in John and is believed to have originated from the earliest “Signs” stratum of the Gospel, Jesus is invited to the wedding of an unnamed friend where he changes water into wine. His mother somehow gets involved with the problem of there being no more wine, and Jesus seems just as confused as to his involvement when his mother asks him to do something about it. “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” He asks (John 2:4). A good question: how does this involve Jesus? The only reason Jesus would have any responsibility towards the guests if he and the bridegroom were one and the same. Even though Jesus says that “it’s not his time,” he goes ahead and does it anyway and this becomes the first of what was originally 7 signs. Regardless of the historicity of the issue, Jesus entering into the marriage of Mary Magdalene, symbolizing the Sophia, would have been more poignant to Gnostic symbolism.

The Gospel of Philip also talks about the Holy of Holies, a chamber within the Temple of Jerusalem which the high priest would only enter once a year. The Gospel of Philip speaks of it as a spiritual bridal chamber:

Indeed, one must utter a mystery. The Father of everything united with the virgin who came down, and a fire shone for him on that day. He appeared in the great bridal chamber. Therefore his body came into being on that very day. It left the bridal chamber as one who came into being from the bridegroom and the bride. So Jesus established everything in it through these. It is fitting for each of the disciples to enter into his rest. Adam came into being from two virgins, from the Spirit and from the virgin earth. Christ therefore, was born from a virgin to rectify the Fall which occurred in the beginning. There are two trees growing in Paradise. The one bears animals, the other bears men. Adam ate from the tree which bore animals. He became an animal and he brought forth animals. For this reason the children of Adam worship animals. The tree.... God created man..… men create God. That is the way it is in the world - men make gods and worship their creation. It would be fitting for the gods to worship men!

6. Bartholomew:

Bartholomew literally means “son of the plow trench”; he is mentioned only in the Synoptic Gospels (Mark, Matthew, and Luke). In the Syrian tradition, his original name was Jesus, which caused him to adopt another. Tradition also says he went on an apostolic journey to India and left behind a copy of the Gospel of Matthew. Interestingly enough, there have in modern times been some books written about evidence of Jesus going to India. The Armenian Apostolic Church, one of the Oriental churches that split after the Council of Chalcedon, holds a tradition that he and Thaddeus brought Christianity to Armenia, and was martyred there by being flayed alive then crucified with his head upside down.


Literally “Gift of God,” Nathanael is referred to as the first angel created by God. He only appears in the Gospel of John and seems to be the disciple “doubled up” with Philip, the same way Bartholomew is in the Synoptic Gospels, so he’s commonly identified as being the same person as Bartholomew.

7. Matthew:

Rival traditions have Matthew martyred in Ethiopia (Africa), Hierapolis (Turkey), and Parthia (Iran). Epiphanius said that Matthew was martyred in Hierapolis, and that the 13th disciple Matthias died in Ethiopia. The Gospel of Matthew is largely believed to have been written some time in the 80s and aimed at converting Jews to Christianity. It’s quite noticeably the most kosher of all the Gospels, arguing that even the smallest of Moses’ Laws can not be overlooked. The Jewish background is plain. Jewish customs are familiar to everyone (15:5), the debate about the law is a central question (5:17-20), and the Sabbath is still observed (24:20). Matthew supports the authority of Phaerisic teachings, telling followers to “do what they say, not what they do” (23:2). Although it decries the Pharisees for being hypocritical in their following of the Law, the gospel tells its reader to follow the Law even better than they do. Matthew also wants to make sure not to offend the “kings of this world” (17:24).

There are several of Jesus’ sayings that are found in both the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, which both gospel writers have set up in different contexts and who interpret their meanings differently. Scholars have dubbed the “inner” sayings, free of gospel interpretation, as “Q,” coming from the German word Quelle, meaning “Source.” In 1985, 100 academic New Testament scholars that met in California to vote on the historic sayings of Jesus, chosen from the verses from the four canonical gospels and the Gospel of Thomas. This was called the Jesus Seminar. Four shades of black-red were used to gauge the possibility ratio of each historic saying, and the sayings that got the most votes by far was the Q material. By scholarly consensus, the Q Sayings are as close to Jesus’ words as it gets.

They can probably best be summed up with these sayings:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” -Matthew 5:43-48

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, Oh, you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” -Matthew 6:25-34

“Judge not, so that you will not be judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” -Matthew 7:1-5

“Do not think I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but the sword. After all, I have come to pit man against father, daughter against mother, and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law. A person’s enemies are members of the same household.” -Matthew 10:34-35, Luke 12:51

Matthew tends to interpret the Q sayings more exclusively, to give the impression not all Jewish Christians will be able enter the Kingdom of God while Luke tends to interpret the sayings more inclusively, especially towards Gentiles, women, and slaves. For example, in the parable of the wedding feast, Matthew has the king throw out one of the guests for not wearing some metaphorical “clothes,” (22:12) while in Luke the king finds more room and so invites even more to enter (14:22). The violent image of the sword in the last of the aforementioned quotes is toned down with the word being changed to “division” in the Gospel of Luke (12:51).

St. Papias, a “hearer of John,” mentions a document called the “Sayings of Matthew,” which, assuming Q existed, may very well be same document. There is a large oral tradition of Matthew’s gospel being the “first” gospel, and that the earliest historic evidence shows that it has always been considered the most heavily attested of all the gospels, which was why it was accorded the status of appearing first in the New Testament canon.

The author of Matthew’s gospel cleans up Mark in several different ways. Jesus is portrayed as more powerful and self-confident, and Mark’s sour outlook towards James and John is cleaned up. Matthew softens Mark’s polemic against James and John by making it their mother who asks Jesus to let James and John be on his right and left hand, turning it from a story criticizing their egos into an endearing scene about motherly love (20:20). This gospel writer must have felt more loyalty towards James and John than Mark did. Mark’s Greek is also completely rewritten in a much higher form with far less spelling and grammatical errors, so much so that although Matthew uses 90% of Mark’s material, he only uses 51% of his words, even less than Luke's 53%. Also, compared to the more Communistic Luke, Matthew wanted to show that God’s judgment was not so much based how poor and desperate you were:

“Blessed are the poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God.” -Luke 6:20, Thomas 54

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for yours is the Kingdom of heaven.” -Matthew 5:3

“Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.” -Luke 6:21

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” -Matthew 5:6

Certain elements point to the Gospel Matthew having come from Antioch, the place Acts says people first began calling themselves "Christians." In Matthew, Peter is asked if his master pays the two drachmas as part of the Temple tax (17:24), after which Jesus tells Peter to go fishing and use a stater found in it‘s mouth to pay the tax for both of them. Commentators have said that only in Antioch and Damascus was the official stater (17:27) exactly equal to two drachmas. The earliest commentary on Matthew comes from Ignatius of Antioch. The apocryphal Didakhe, which was promulgated through Syria and northern Palestine, also holds correlations with the Gospel of Matthew. Lucian of Antioch, writing in the early 300s, also shows similarities to citations made by Matthew. Unlike Alexandria, the Jews from Antioch were more devoted to the Laws of the Old Testament. And if the above comparison gives latitude to estimation made by many scholars that Matthew’s community was prosperous, Antioch would be a more likely place of origin than Palestine, which was financially devastated after the First Roman-Jewish War. Most of all, Matthew undoubtedly identifies Peter as the community’s Apostolic leader, since it’s the only gospel that has Jesus say Peter will be the rock unto which his church is built, which matches with the oral tradition that Peter was the first bishop of Antioch:

“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’

“‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’

“Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’

“Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon, son of [John] Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 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.’ Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.’” -Matthew 16:13-20

“Simon, son of John” was changed to “Simon, son of Jonah” at a later date. The Gospel of John concurs that Simon’s father was John (1:42). I will come back to this later.

When Matthew’s editor got to the part in the Gospel of Mark where it says “if a man or a woman gets a divorce and marries someone else they’re committing adultery,” he changed it to “if a man divorces a woman and marries another woman, unless the woman cheated on him, then it’s adultery.” This is pretty good evidence for Matthew’s gospel being written for Jewish Christians since the Torah does not allow women to initiate a divorce. In this gospel, Jesus is pictured as a new Moses, who specifically tells his disciples not to preach the Kingdom of God to the Gentiles (Greeks or Romans) or even the Samaritans (10:5).

This allowance to let men divorce matches up with what Joseph’s initial response to “divorce her quietly” since he was a “righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace” (1:19). Later, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Iesous [“to save”], because he will save his people from their sins.“ Although there is a family line descending from David to Joseph, it ends there as Joseph is not Jesus’ real father. Jesus’ family is said to have escaped Herod‘s slaughter by fleeing with his family to Egypt as a child. Yet Jewish history has no record of such a slaughter ever occurring, not even from Josephus, who went into great detail recording the atrocities that King Herod inflicted on the Jews.

From the Gospel of Matthew, we can see that Peter’s Christians believed they were an extension of the Church of John the Baptist, even though they no longer took part in the Nazarite vows of secluding oneself out in the desert. It seems that, even though Peter’s Christians were a little too Jewish for Paul (at least when James‘ apostles were around), they also felt the need to defend their roots to John the Baptist:

“After Jesus had finished instructing his 12 disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee. When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”

Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”

As John's disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: "What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings' palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written:

‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’

I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully [plundered] advanced, and forceful men lay hold of it. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. He who has ears, let him hear. To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:

‘We played the flute for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge
and you did not mourn.’

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and ‘sinners.’ But Sophia is proved right by her actions.’” -Matthew 11:11-14 (Luke 7:31-35; Luke 16:16)

It seems that part about the Kingdom of Heaven being “plundered” was changed to “advanced” at a later date. This alteration would change the meaning of the verse to regard the general spread of Christianity instead of it‘s co-option. That original meaning seems to indicate the church, or “Kingdom of Heaven,” was being taken over by “forceful men.” The second part of this story in which compares that generation to children can be found in Luke’s 7th chapter, while its 16th chapter reads, “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.”


In the Gospel of Matthew, he is identified as the tax collector from Mark‘s gospel, and he becomes a disciple while Jesus is still forming the Twelve. But in Mark, Levi is a completely different person Jesus meets after forming the Twelve. In the earlier gospel, Levi doesn‘t join him at all, let alone become a disciple. It’s often assumed that that Levi and Matthew were the same person, but a seemingly more appropriate identification would have been with the disciple “James son of Alphaeus” since the Levi in Mark’s gospel is also called son of Alphaeus.


Matthias: Another Matthew, this one in the Acts of the Apostles, who replaced Judas after the apostles watch the Ascension of Jesus and then pray before drawing lots to decide whether Matthias or Barabbas (also called Justus).

8. Judas Thomas, Called Didymus:

Referred to only as Thomas (literally “twin”) in the Synoptic Gospels. The Gospel of John refers to him as “Thomas Called Didymus.” The Syrian Church holds that he was the twin of Jesus. The Coptic Gospel of Thomas found in the Nag Hammadi library has a list of sayings, some of which bear heavy resemblance to sayings in the canonical gospels, but speaks in a far more esoteric language:

“These are the secret sayings that the living Jesus spoke and Didymos Judas Thomas recorded.

[1] And he said, ‘Whoever discovers the interpretation of these sayings will not taste death.’

[2] Jesus said, ‘Those who seek should not stop seeking until they find. When they find, they will be disturbed. When they are disturbed, they will marvel, and will reign over all. [And after they have reigned they will rest.]’

[3] Jesus said, ‘If your leaders say to you, ‘Look, the kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will precede you. Rather, the kingdom is within you and it is outside you. When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will understand that you are children of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you live in poverty, and you are the poverty.’

Here the Coptic gospel is challenging a Literalist view of the “Kingdom of God,” substituting it as a form of knowing oneself. The Orthodox church was aware of this gospel at the time and spoke against it:

“Let none read the gospel according to Thomas, for it is the work, not of one of the twelve apostles, but of one of Mani's three wicked disciples.” -St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Cathechesis V (300s A.D.)

Mani came from Babylon, and although is said to have been born from Persian parents, his mother and father had Syrian names. He is said to have originally belonged to the Elcesaites, a Semi-Gnostic and markedly Jewish sect of Christianity, and wrote 7 holy books in Syriac. The religion he formed, Manichaeism, which spread from North Africa to China, taught self-denial and the abstaining of meat, alcohol, and sex. Like Muhammed, he was said to have been visited by angel, identified himself, with the Paraclete, or Comforter, mentioned in the Gospel of John, and was supposed to be the last of the prophets. Manichaeism was also said to have tried to elements from every known religion.

One of the most interesting references to Thomas and Philip in the Gospel of John seems to predict that they will be the ones to form Semi-Gnostic churches:

“Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’

Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.’

Philip said, ‘Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.’

Jesus answered: ‘Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.’” -John 14:5-14

The Gospel of Thomas focuses much more on Jesus as the hidden mystery, and even includes a “Confession” story much like the one in the Gospel of Mark (8:27) in which Jesus asks his disciples who they think he is:

[13] “Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Compare me to something and tell me what I am like.’

Simon Peter said to him, ‘You are like a just messenger.’

Matthew said to him, ‘You are like a wise philosopher.’

Thomas said to him, ‘Teacher, my mouth is utterly unable to say what you are like.’

Jesus said, ‘I am not your teacher. Because you have drunk, you have become intoxicated from the bubbling spring that I have tended.’

And he took him, and withdrew, and spoke three sayings to him. When Thomas came back to his friends they asked him, ‘What did Jesus say to you?’

Thomas said to them, ‘If I tell you one of the sayings he spoke to me, you will pick up rocks and stone me, and fire will come from the rocks and devour you.’

This “Confession” (where Jesus asks his disciples who they think he is) is actually far more detailed than any of the ones in the Synoptics, which generally only say what Peter and “other people” think about him. In the Synoptics, Simon Peter is the first one to see Jesus as the Christ, but in this gospel he calls Jesus “a Just Messenger.” Other sayings include:

[6] His disciples asked him and said to him, ‘Do you want us to fast? How should we pray? Should we give to charity? What diet should we observe?’

Jesus said, ‘Don't lie, and don't do what you hate, because all things are disclosed before heaven. After all, there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed, and there is nothing covered up that will remain undisclosed.’

[15] Jesus said, ‘When you see one who was not born of woman, fall on your faces and worship. That one is your Father.’

[18] The disciples said to Jesus, ‘Tell us, how will our end come?’

Jesus said, ‘Have you found the beginning, then, that you are looking for the end? You see, the end will be where the beginning is. Congratulations to the one who stands at the beginning: that one will know the end and will not taste death.’

[29] Jesus said, ‘If the flesh came into being because of spirit, it is a wonder. But if spirit came into being because of the body, it is a wonder of wonders. Indeed, I am amazed at how this great wealth has made its home in this poverty.’

[30] Jesus said, ‘Where there are three gods, they are gods. Where there are two or one, I am with him.’

[36] Jesus said, ‘Do not be concerned from morning until evening and from evening until morning about what you will wear.’

[37] His disciples said, ‘When will you become revealed to us and when shall we see you?’

Jesus said, ‘When you disrobe without being ashamed and take up your garments and place them under your feet like little children and tread on them, then will you see the son of the living one, and you will not be afraid.’

[38] Jesus said, ‘Many times have you desired to hear these words which I am saying to you, and you have no one else to hear them from. There will be days when you will look for me and will not find me.’

[39] Jesus said, ‘The Pharisees and the Scribes have taken the keys of knowledge and hidden them. They themselves have not entered, nor have they allowed to enter those who wish to. You, however, be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves.’

[40] Jesus said, ‘A grapevine has been planted outside of the father, but being unsound, it will be pulled up by its roots and destroyed.’

[41] Jesus said, ‘Whoever has something in his hand will receive more, and whoever has nothing will be deprived of even the little he has.’

[42] Jesus said, ‘Become passers-by.’

[43] His disciples said to him, ‘Who are you, that you should say these things to us?’

[Jesus said to them,] ‘You do not realize who I am from what I say to you, but you have become like the Jews, for they love the fruit and hate the tree.’

[44] Jesus said, ‘Whoever blasphemes against the father will be forgiven, and whoever blasphemes against the son will be forgiven, but whoever blasphemes against the holy spirit will not be forgiven either on earth or in heaven.’ [Mark 3:28]

[50] Jesus said, ‘If they say to you, ‘Where did you come from?,’ say to them, ‘We came from the light, the place where the light came into being on its own accord and established itself and became manifest through their image.’ If they say to you, ‘Is it you?,’ say, ‘We are its children, we are the elect of the living father.’ If they ask you, ‘What is the sign of your father in you?’, say to them, ‘It is movement and repose.’’

[51] His disciples said to him, ‘When will the repose of the dead come about, and when will the new world come?’

He said to them, ‘What you look forward to has already come, but you do not recognize it.’

[52] His disciples said to him, ‘Twenty-four prophets spoke in Israel, and all of them spoke in you.’

He said to them, ‘You have omitted the one living in your presence and have spoken (only) of the dead.’

[53] His disciples said to him, ‘Is circumcision useful or not?’

He said to them, ‘If it were useful, their father would produce children already circumcised from their mother. Rather, the true circumcision in spirit has become profitable in every respect.’

[54] Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven.’

[60] [They saw] a Samaritan carrying a lamb on his way to Judea. He said to his disciples, ‘That man is round about the lamb.’

They said to him, ‘So that he may kill it and eat it.’

He said to them, ‘While it is alive, he will not eat it, but only when he has killed it and it has become a corpse.’

They said to him, ‘He cannot do so otherwise.’

He said to them, ‘You too, look for a place for yourself within peace, lest you become a corpse and be eaten.’

[62] Jesus said, ‘It is to those who are worthy of my mysteries that I tell my mysteries. Do not let your left [hand] know what your right [hand] is doing.’

[108] Jesus said, ‘He who will drink from my mouth will become like me. I myself shall become he, and the things that are hidden will be revealed to him.’

[114] Simon Peter said to him, ‘Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of life.’

Jesus said, ‘I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven.’

That last saying has been quoted as proof that Gnostics were more male-chauvinistic than the contemporary Presbyter (Elder) Chruch. Setting aside theories that the last entry may have been a late addition, as well as a general consensus that Thomas is the least Gnostic of the Coptic gospels, the author of the saying is clearly attempting to paint Peter’s church as being far more sexist than Jesus actually was. Although this particular saying may fail to give the impression of marked sexual equality for Gnostics, there are other sayings that critics tactically ignore that do suggest that a state of gender neutrality was to be desired:

[22] Jesus saw infants being suckled. He said to his disciples, ‘These infants being suckled are like those who enter the kingdom.’

They said to him, ‘Shall we then, as children, enter the kingdom?’

Jesus said to them, ‘When you make the two one, and when you make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside, and the above like the below, and when you make the male and the female one and the same, so that the male not be male nor the female, female; and when you fashion eyes in the place of an eye, and a hand in place of a hand, and a foot in place of a foot, and a likeness in place of a likeness; then will you enter the kingdom.’

9. James, Son of Alphaeus:

By tradition, he is identified with “James the Just” and the “Brother of the Lord” that Paul meets in Jerusalem. This, however goes against the natural assumption that the “James and John” from the Synoptic gospels is the “James and John” spoken of along side "Cephas" in the Epistle to the Galatians. Acts of the Apostles confuses matters by listing James without a “last name,” or identifying title, saying one James is killed in Jerusalem before having another James decide a matter in Jerusalem. Hegesippus (by mention of Eusebius), Pseudo-Clement of Rome, and the apocryphal Gospel of James identify him as the a son of Joseph and Mary. This “infancy gospel,” which is dated to about 150 A.D., purports to have been written by Jesus’ half brother despite a lack of knowledge on Jewish custom. James is considered to be a cousin to Jesus, or another member of his extended family by the Roman Catholic Church. The 12th saying of the Coptic Gospel of Thomas reads:

“The disciples said to Jesus, ‘We know that you are going to leave us. Who will be our leader?’ Jesus said to them, ‘No matter where you are you are to go to James the Just, for whose sake heaven and earth came into being.’”

10. Thaddaeus:

He is traditionally identified with “St. Jude“, the son of “the other Mary,” but the apocryphal Acts of Thomas, written in Syria in the 200s instead identifies him with Thomas, even though Thomas appears before Thaddeus in Mark’s list of disciples. Along with Bartholomew, he is credited by the Armenian Apostolic Church for bringing Christianity to Armenia. Hegesippus, a Christian chronicler from the mid-150s wrote 5 now-lost commentaries on the Acts of the Church, from which Eusebius, in his Historia Ecclesiae, quotes from the book a story set during the reign of the Emperor Domitian (81-96 A.D.):

“There still survived of the kindred of the Lord the grandsons of Judas, who according to the flesh was called his brother. These were informed against, as belonging to the family of David, and Evocatus brought them before Domitian Caesar: for that emperor dreaded the advent of Christ, as Herod had done. So he asked them whether they were of the family of David; and they confessed they were. Next he asked them what property they had, or how much money they possessed. They both replied that they had only 9000 denaria between them, each of them owning half that sum; but even this they said they did not possess in cash, but as the estimated value of some land, consisting of 39 plethra only, out of which they had to pay the dues, and that they supported themselves by their own labor. And then they began to hold out their hands, exhibiting, as proof of their manual labor, the roughness of their skin, and the corns raised on their hands by constant work. Being then asked concerning Christ and His kingdom, what was its nature, and when and where it was to appear, they returned answer that it was not of this world, nor of the earth, but belonging to the sphere of heaven and angels, and would make its appearance at the end of time, when He shall come in glory, and judge living and dead, and render to every one according to the course of his life. Thereupon Domitian passed no condemnation upon them, but treated them with contempt, as too mean for notice, and let them go free. At the same time he issued a command, and put a stop to the persecution against the Church. When they were released they became leaders of the churches, as was natural in the case of those who were at once martyrs and of the kindred of the Lord. And, after the establishment of peace to the Church, their lives were prolonged to the reign of Trajan.”

11. Simon the Zealot:

Nothing in any of the gospels is ever said about him, or how he is related to the first century political movement to overthrow Roman domination. According to Josephus, the Zealots were what he called the “fourth sect” of Judaism, next to the Saducees, the Pharisees, and the Essenes. They were originally formed under a Jewish Revolutionary named Judas of Galilee, but were put down around 6 A.D.. After the Romans burned the city in Giscala in Galilee 60 years later, a man named John of Giscala used his money to rebuild the city and then start another revolt which the Emperor Vespasian put down. Josephus referred to the Zealots as bandits and blamed John for the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.

The name “Zealot” comes from a verse in the Book of Numbers (25:13) in which Phineas kills a Jew and his Midianite lover for walking a foreigner right in front of the eyes of Moses. When Phineas drives a spear through both of them, while they are in the unique position to where the spear was able to go through both bodies at the same time. The word for “zealous,” or “jealous,” comes from the Hebrew word Kanai, which shows up multiple times in the concluding verse in which Phineas is rewarded for being “jealous for Yahweh“:

“Phineas, son of Eleazar, son of Aharon, the priest, has turned away my anger away from the Israelites, for he was zealous [jealous] as I am for my honor among them, so that in my zeal I did not put an end to them. Therefore tell him I am making my covenant of peace with him. He and his descendants will have a covenant of an everlasting priesthood, because he was zealous for the honor of his Elohim and made atonement for the Israelites.” -Numbers 25:10-13

12. Mary Magdalene:

In all four gospels, she is the first one to see the risen Jesus when she comes to his tomb. Various traditions identify her as being the same as Mary of Bethany, the unnamed woman who anoints Jesus before his death (Christ literally meaning “Anointed“), and the adulterer of the “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” which is an “orphan tale,” a story that has been appended into different locations in the Gospel of John and has even found it’s way into some copies of the Gospel of Luke. The Nag Hammadi Library contains a Coptic Gospel of Mary Magdalene, of which the first 6 pages (3 chapters) were destroyed:

….Will matter then be destroyed or not? The Savior said, All nature, all formations, all creatures exist in and with one another, and they will be resolved again into their own roots. For the nature of matter is resolved into the roots of its own nature alone. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. [Mark 4:9; Rev. 13:9] Peter said to him, Since you have explained everything to us, tell us this also: What is the sin of the world? The Savior said There is no sin, but it is you who make sin when you do the things that are like the nature of adultery, which is called sin. That is why the Good came into your midst, to the essence of every nature in order to restore it to its root. Then He continued and said, That is why you become sick and die, for you are deprived of the one who can heal you. He who has a mind to understand, let him understand. Matter gave birth to a passion that has no equal, which proceeded from something contrary to nature. Then there arises a disturbance in its whole body. That is why I said to you, Be of good courage, and if you are discouraged be encouraged in the presence of the different forms of nature. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. When the Blessed One had said this, He greeted them all, saying, Peace be with you. Receive my peace unto yourselves. Beware that no one lead you astray saying Look here or look there! For the Son of Man is within you. Follow after Him! Those who seek Him will find Him. Go then and preach the gospel of the Kingdom. Do not lay down any rules beyond what I appointed you, and do not give a law like the lawgiver lest you be constrained by it. When He said this He departed.

Chapter 5 But they were grieved. They wept greatly, saying, How shall we go to the Gentiles and preach the gospel of the Kingdom of the Son of Man? If they did not spare Him, how will they spare us? Then Mary stood up, greeted them all, and said to her brethren, Do not weep and do not grieve nor be irresolute, for His grace will be entirely with you and will protect you. But rather, let us praise His greatness, for He has prepared us and made us into Men. When Mary said this, she turned their hearts to the Good, and they began to discuss the words of the Savior. Peter said to Mary, Sister we know that the Savior loved you more than the rest of woman. Tell us the words of the Savior which you remember which you know, but we do not, nor have we heard them. Mary answered and said, What is hidden from you I will proclaim to you. And she began to speak to them these words: I, she said, I saw the Lord in a vision and I said to Him, Lord I saw you today in a vision. He answered and said to me, Blessed are you that you did not waver at the sight of Me. For where the mind is there is the treasure. I said to Him, Lord, how does he who sees the vision see it, through the soul or through the spirit? The Savior answered and said, He does not see through the soul nor through the spirit, but the mind that is between the two that is what sees the vision and it is [...]

The story behind the Nag Hammadi library, which was discovered in 1945 in a town in central Egypt named Nag Hammadi, is an little adventure unto itself. Two Egyptian peasants were digging at the base of a cliff looking for fertilizer when they came upon a jar. Fearing a djinni, they didn’t break it immediately, but then realized it might be gold inside, but found scrolls instead. Thinking them worthless, one of them, Mohammed Ali Samman, just threw them in with the straw to be burnt with the fire, but at some point, he and his brothers went off on a blood vendetta to kill their father’s murderer and left it with a cleric, and that’s how the gospel finally came to light. So, for all we know, this break may have been from when some pages were ripped out for a peasant’s fire. The canonical Gospel of John talks of a mysterious Comforter, that the final editor of John seems to be have identified with “the Sprit of Truth” (14:16-18; 15:26; 16:7). Both Mani and Muhammed claimed to be the Paraclete, but the Gospel of Mary Magdalene bears strong witness to the Comforter originally being identified with Mary Magdalene.

The Gospel of Luke says that Jesus exorcized seven demons out of Mary Magdalene and many have questioned whether this was edited in by a patriarchal church copyist in order to denigrate her as a legitimate disciple. The number is significant in both Pagan and Monotheistic numerology, representing the highest God, who ruled on the seventh heaven, with seven corresponding layers of the netherworld, as exemplified in Sumerian mythology and Enochian literature. In the Sumerian Descent of Inanna, the fertility goddess goes down into Kur to conquer it from her sister, Ereshkigal, the Queen of the Netherworld. As she passes through each of the seven gates of Kur, she was forced by a gatekeeper to remove one piece of her radiant clothing, which probably symbolized the morning star dimming as it descended out of sight. After losing all her clothing, her sister Ereshkigal is able to kill her and hang her on a stake, but she is resurrected with the help of Enki, the Lord of Wisdom. The story of Enlil and Ninlil also tell of a goddess consorting with her lover, Enlil, at each of the seven gates of the netherworld while he is disguised as a gatekeeper. As such, my opinion in regards to the seven demons exorcized from Mary Magdalene is that the author of Luke was relaying a metaphysical allegory from Gnostic mythology as a historic exorcism.

The Coptic Gospel of Mary Magdalene speaks of seven powers of wrathful wisdom:

And desire said, I did not see you descending, but now I see you ascending. Why do you lie since you belong to me? The soul answered and said, I saw you. You did not see me nor recognize me. I served you as a garment and you did not know me. When it said this, it (the soul) went away rejoicing greatly. Again it came to the third power, which is called ignorance. The power questioned the soul, saying, Where are you going? In wickedness are you bound. But you are bound; do not judge! And the soul said, Why do you judge me, although I have not judged? I was bound, though I have not bound. I was not recognized. But I have recognized that the All is being dissolved, both the earthly things and the heavenly. When the soul had overcome the third power, it went upwards and saw the fourth power, which took seven forms. The first form is darkness, the second desire, the third ignorance, the fourth is the excitement of death, the fifth is the kingdom of the flesh, the sixth is the foolish wisdom of flesh, the seventh is the wrathful wisdom. These are the seven powers of wrath. They asked the soul, Whence do you come slayer of men, or where are you going, conqueror of space? The soul answered and said, What binds me has been slain, and what turns me about has been overcome, and my desire has been ended, and ignorance has died. In an aeon I was released from a world, and in a Type from a type, and from the fetter of oblivion which is transient. From this time on will I attain to the rest of the time, of the season, of the aeon, in silence.

Chapter 9
When Mary had said this, she fell silent, since it was to this point that the Savior had spoken with her. But Andrew answered and said to the brethren, Say what you wish to say about what she has said. I at least do not believe that the Savior said this. For certainly these teachings are strange ideas. Peter answered and spoke concerning these same things. He questioned them about the Savior: Did He really speak privately with a woman and not openly to us? Are we to turn about and all listen to her? Did He prefer her to us? Then Mary wept and said to Peter, My brother Peter, what do you think? Do you think that I have thought this up myself in my heart, or that I am lying about the Savior? Levi answered and said to Peter, Peter you have always been hot tempered. Now I see you contending against the woman like the adversaries. But if the Savior made her worthy, who are you indeed to reject her? Surely the Savior knows her very well. That is why He loved her more than us. Rather let us be ashamed and put on the perfect Man, and separate as He commanded us and preach the gospel, not laying down any other rule or other law beyond what the Savior said. And when they heard this they began to go forth to proclaim and to preach.

The Pistis Sophia, or “Faith of Sophia,” is an ancient text bought by the British Museum in 1795, after acquiring it from a Dr. Askew, who got it from an unknown source. Scholars date it to the late 200s. Four other different versions of the Pista Sophia are known to exist, including an early one from the Nag Hammadi library. It is densely filled with Gnostic terminology, but makes no mention of a Demiurge and quotes the Old Testament, and so is technically Semi-Gnostic. It is the only text of it’s kind that is known to have survived intact before the find in Nag Hammadi; everything else had come from quotations in other sources. In it, the transmigration of souls from heaven is explained through the unification of Christ and Sophia:

“The perfect Savior said: Son of Man consented with Sophia, his consort, and revealed a great androgynous light. Its male name is designated 'Savior, begetter of all things'. Its female name is designated 'All-begettress Sophia'. Some call her 'Pistis'. “

It also speaks of Sophia being saved by Christ from demons. Although in this story there are 12 evil Aeons that pursue and oppress the divine Wisdom, the number seven

“And when that light-power had come down, the emanations of Self-willed which were in the chaos and oppressed Pistis Sophia, took great courage and again pursued Pistis Sophia with great terror and great alarm. And some of the emanations of Self-willed oppressed her. One of them changed itself into the form of a great serpent; another again changed itself also into the form of a seven-headed basilisk; another again changed itself into the form of a dragon. And moreover the first power of Self-willed, the lion-faced, and all his other very numerous emanations, they came together and oppressed Pistis Sophia and led her again into the lower regions of the chaos and alarmed her again exceedingly…. It came to pass then that there looked down out of the twelve aeons, Adamas, the Tyrant, who also was wroth with Pistis Sophia, because she desired to go to the Light of lights, which was above them all; therefore was he wroth with her. It came to pass then, when Adamas, the Tyrant, had looked down out of the twelve æons, that he saw the emanations of Self-willed oppressing Pistis Sophia, until they should take from her all her lights. It came to pass then, when the power of Adamas had come down into the chaos unto all the emanations of Self-willed,--it came to pass then, when that demon came down into the chaos, that it dashed down Pistis Sophia. And the lion-faced power and the serpent-form and the basilisk-form and the dragon-form and all the other very numerous emanations of Self-willed surrounded Pistis Sophia all together, desiring to take from her anew her powers in her, and they oppressed Pistis Sophia exceedingly and threatened her. It came to pass then, when they oppressed her and alarmed her exceedingly, that she cried again to the Light and sang praises, saying:

“‘1. O Light, it is thou who hast helped me; let thy light come over me
“‘2. For thou art my protector, and I come hence unto thee, Oh Light, having faith in thee, Oh Light.
“‘3. For thou art my saviour from the emanations of Self-willed and of Adamas, the Tyrant, and thou shalt save me from all his violent threats.’

“And when Pistis Sophia had said this, then at the commandment of my Father, the First Mystery which looketh within, I sent again Gabriel and Michael and the great light-stream, that they should help Pistis Sophia. And I gave commandment unto Gabriel and Michael to bear Pistis Sophia in their hands, so that her feet should not touch the darkness below; and I gave them commandment moreover to guide her in the regions of the chaos, out of which she was to be led…. And Pistis Sophia beheld with her eyes her foes, that I had taken their light-power from them. And I led Pistis Sophia forth from the chaos, she treading under foot the serpent-faced emanation of Self-willed, and moreover treading under foot the seven-faced-basilisk emanation, and treading under foot the lion- and dragon-faced power. I made Pistis Sophia continue to stand upon the seven-headed-basilisk emanation of Self-willed; and it was more mighty than them all in its evil doings. And I, the First Mystery, stood by it and took all the powers in it, and made to perish its whole matter, so that no seed should arise from it from now on.”

The Book of Revelations contains a vision of a nearly identical cosmic struggle:

A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days. And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. -Revelation 12:1-9

While the “woman clothed with the sun” has been identified with such things as the Church or Israel, the most rational identification would be to identify her with the mother of Jesus. Some Roman Catholics have suggested this as proof of the apocryphal story of Mary’s bodily assumption as the “Queen of Heaven,” but some Protestants have been hostile to this interpretation due to a heavier focus on the anti-goddess themes of the Old Testament. However, a comparison with the Pistis Sophia and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene shows that the most likely identification would be Mary Magdalene playing the role of the divine Sophia, and in fact, as we will see in the next chapter, the name Mary Magdalene has been used to refer to the mother of Jesus.

According to early church fathers such as Irenaeus and Epiphanius, a heretical Christian sect from Turkey that denied the Trinity, called the Alogi, believed that the Book of Revelation to have been originally written by the Gnostic leader, Cerinthus. The argument was seconded by Caius, a Presbyter in Rome who also lived in the late 100’s to early 200’s. And, as we have already seen, Certinthus is also the likely author of an earlier version of the Gospel of John, which itself has shown good evidence to have originally been dedicated to Mary Magdalene. An immediate problem that identification comes from the Book of Revelation itself, which claims to have been written by “John of Patmos.” One theory that could answer this comes from Eberhard Vischer, a German scholar from 1885, who argued that the Apocalypse of John was originally a Jewish book that had been redacted into a Christian one. Vischer pointed out that while the first three chapters are decidedly Christian, chapters 11 and 12 focus on the Temple and the concept of the two witnesses in Jewish law is particularly Jewish. That this kind of editing was common at the time can be seen in the warning at the end of Revelations that those who added or took away from the book would be subject to its curses (22:18). The New Advent Roman Catholic Encyclopedia mentions this theory at the bottom of its entry on the Book of Revelation, saying: “From a doctrinal point of view, we think, it cannot be objected to. There are other instances where inspired writers have availed themselves of non-canonical literature. Intrinsically considered it is not improbable. The Apocalypse abounds in passages which bear no specific Christian character but, on the contrary, show a decidedly Jewish complexion. Yet on the whole the theory is but a conjecture.”

If Revelation was originally a Jewish document in the vein of the Books of Enoch and Daniel, this would help explain why it is why it is the angel Michael, not Jesus, who leads the angels against Satan (12:7). As we have seen, the Signs stratum of the Gospel of John is a particularly Jewish gospel that, like Matthew, envisions Jesus as a new Moses. Therefore, it seems highly likely to me that both Signs and Revelation were originally Jewish documents, and that Cerinthus re-edited both of them into Gnostic writings, so that the Sophia would make an appearance in the Gospel of John as Mary Magdalene and in Revelation as the “woman clothed with the sun,” which would explain how both of them became credited to Cerinthus. John the Elder then went to Ephesus and re-edited both of them according to his own doctrine, emphasizing the necessity of Communion and changing the “Beloved Disciple” into a anonymous male in the Gospel of John and adding the rebuke against the Nicolaitans in his prefaced greetings to the seven churches of Turkey.

13. Judas Iscariot:

The name “Iscariot” seems to be a Hellenization of the word “Sicarii,” literally “dagger” or killer, as many scholars have noted. Working with and against different factions of Zealots, the Sicarii were underground terrorists bent on freeing Judea from Rome and taking power for themselves. Much like the Muslim Hasshashin (literally “hash-smokers,“ and root of the word “assassin“) of the later medieval period, they were notorious for assassinating anyone who didn’t back their suppliers/religious leaders.

In the Gospel of Judas, which Ireneaus identified as belonging to the heretical Cainite sect, Judas is the 13th, not the 12th disciple. The Cainites were said to be Gnostics who believed that Jesus’ death freed Christians from required obedience to any set of laws and that salvation is attained through faith. Referring to the Cainites, Irenaeus wrote, “They declare that Judas the traitor was thoroughly acquainted with these things, and that he alone, knowing the truth as no others did, accomplished the mystery of the betrayal; by him all things, both earthly and heavenly, were thus thrown into confusion. They produce a fictional history of this kind, which they style the Gospel of Judas.” Like most Gnostic gospels, the Gospel of Judas is nearly all dialogue with little action. It’s not meant to provide historical details about the life of Jesus but rather uses gospel characters to form an explanation of the Gnostic sect’s theological views.

The gospel begins with Jesus finding the disciples offering a prayer of thanksgiving and laughs at them. The disciples ask why he’s laughing, and Jesus answers that he is laughing at them because they are not doing it of their own will but because it’s through this that their god would be praised. They answer that he is the son of their god, to which Jesus answers, “How do you know me? Truly I say to you, no generation of the people that are among you will know me.” This makes the disciples angry and blaspheme Jesus in their hearts. Jesus senses it and asks why this agitation has led them to anger and tells them that any one of them who deems himself strong enough should face him. Each of them thought they had the strength, but when they tried, none but Judas was able to stand up to him, although even he couldn’t look Jesus in the eyes and had to turn his face away. Judas then said, “I know who you are and where you have come from. You are from the immortal realm of Barbelo. And I am not worthy of the one who has sent you.” Barbelo is the first emanation of God in Sethian branches of the Gnostics, an androgynous Mother-Father and Eternal Aeon. Aeons were beings of light who formed a heavenly hierarchal system similar to that of archangels. Seth is the third son of Adam in the Book of Genesis, but was also the name of an early and popular Egyptian god of chaos.

Jesus asks Judas to step away from the other disciples to describe to him some of the “mysteries of the kingdom,” in the same way Jesus was said to have stepped away from Judas Thomas. But when Judas asks Jesus when he will tell him these things, Jesus simply turns and leaves. Jesus then leaves and returns, telling the disciples that he went to go see a “strong and holy generation,” presumably the Cainite sect who wrote the gospel. Jesus says “Truly I say to you, no one born of this aeon will see that [generation], and no host of angels of the stars will rule over that generation, and no host of angels of the stars will rule over that generation, and no person of mortal birth can associate with it, because that generation does not come from….” but the reasons why are cut off by the damaged text.

The disciples then have a vision of a giant temple in which 12 priests oversee a crowd of men sacrificing their wives and children, having sex with other men, and committing a multitude of other sins in Jesus’ name. To their horror, Jesus tells them that they are those priests and the crowd are the people they will lead astray. Then Judas tells Jesus he has his own vision to which Jesus replies, “Thirteenth spirit, why do you try so hard? But speak up and I will bear with you.” Judas then tells Jesus that he saw the 12 disciples stoning him and persecuting him severely. He then came to a great house whose size he could not comprehend. The house had a roof of greenery and there were great people surrounding it. Judas wanted to follow Jesus inside, but Jesus told him that no person of mortal birth could enter the house because it was reserved for the holy.

When Judas asks about his own fate, Jesus tells him that he will be cursed by other generations but that he will rule over them, and they will curse his ascent to the holy generation. “Come,” said Jesus, “that I may teach you about the secrets no person has ever seen. For there exists a great a boundless realm, whose extent no generation of angels has seen, in which there is a great invisible Spirit, ‘which no eye of an angel has ever seen, no thought of the heart has ever comprehended, and it was never called by any name.’” A cloud appeared there and a great angel, called the enlightened divine Self-Generated emerged from the cloud, bringing 4 other angels into being. Adamas is said to be in the first cloud that no angel had even seen among all those who were called “God,” and it’s said that he made the incorruptible generation of Seth appear. From this generation, came 72 luminaries, which in turn split into 360 luminaries. “The multitude of those immortals is called the cosmos- that is perdition- by the Father and the 72 luminaries who are with the Self-Generated and his 72 aeons. In him the first human appeared with his incorruptible powers. And the aeon that appeared with his generation, the aeon that appeared from his generation, the aeon in whom are the cloud of knowledge and the angel, is called El.” (a name used for God in the Old Testament.) El then creates 12 angels to rule over chaos and the underworld. “And look, from the cloud there appeared an angel whose face flashed with fire and whose appearance was defiled with blood. His name was Nebro, which means ‘rebel’; others call him Yaldabaoth. Yaldabaoth is identified in other Gnostic sects as being the Demiurge. The Gnostic Apocryphon of John identifies Yaldabaoth with both Saklas and Samael, the second one being the devil’s name in the Book of Enoch. In this gospel, Nebro creates 6 angels, including one named Saklas, and each receives a portion of the heavens. After some broken text, it lists 5 angels who ruled over the underworld: Seth, “who is called Christ,” Harmathoth, Galila, Yobel, and Adonaios (a common title for God among Jews and Syrians). Saklas then creates Adam and Eve (who, in the cloud, is called Zoe, a.k.a. Sophia, or Wisdom, which is the feminine form of the Logos).

Judas asks how long a time humans will live, but Jesus asks him why he should worry about this. Judas asks if the human spirit dies, and Jesus replies, “This is why God ordered Michael to give the spirits of people to them as a loan, so that they might offer service, but the Great One ordered Gabriel to grant spirits to the great generation with no ruler over it- that is, the spirit and the soul.” Jesus tells him that when Saklas finishes the time allotted to him, then they will fornicate in his name and slay their own children. At this Jesus laughs, and when Judas asks why, he says, “I am not laughing at you, but at the error of the stars, because these 6 stars wander about with these 5 combatants, and they all will be destroyed along with their creatures.” Judas asks what those who are baptized in his name will do, and Jesus tells him that they are only making sacrifices to Saklas. Jesus tells Judas that he will surpass them, “because you will sacrifice the man that clothes me,” that is, Judas will be sacrificing the body that clothes his spirit and soul. After this happens, the great generation of Adam will be exalted. “Look, you have been told everything,” says Jesus, “Lift up your eyes and look into the cloud and the light within it and the stars surrounding it. The star that leads the way is your star.” Judas then looks up and see a luminous cloud, which he enters. There’s some more broken text before the end, where Judas meets with the high priests, receives some money, and hands Jesus over to them.

Although the gospel is very confusing at times, which is only compounded by missing text fragments, many themes from the gospel can be identified from other Gnostic texts: the concept that the highest god being completely unknowable, that rituals like prayer and baptism are unnecessary and are only done because it’s believed that God wants it, and that humans were created by the Demiurge, not by the highest god.

Judas of Galileee:

According to Josephus, Judas of Galilee founded the Zealot nationalist movement, along with Zadok the Pharisee, which revolted against Rome, preaching that God alone was the ruler of Israel. The rebellion began when when Quirinus came into Judea to take an census of the Jews in 6 or 7 A.D., which the Gospel of Luke marks as the reason for Joseph moving the pregnant Virgin Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem (2:2). Judas led an assault on the Roman garrison in Sepphoris, which was brutally crushed, and helped bring about the destruction of Second Temple in Jerusalem. His sons James and Simon were said to have been executed by Tiberius Julius Alexander in 46 A.D., although Josephus does not mention his own death. In the Book of Acts, Gamaliel uses Judas as an example of a failed Messianic leader and suggests that he died during the revolt (5:37).

Apostles vs. Disciples

Quite noticeably, many of the disciples seem to have a twin or alter ego, even Jesus! Speculation abounds as to who should be identified by who, and which disciple was Jesus’ favorite, but there really is no single conglomerate theory on which disciple, if any, is supposed to be the one acting as the central leader or official judge of Christian doctrine. All sources being equal, let’s try and make a general description of the disciples Jesus has surrounded himself with:

1) The founder of the Catholic/Orthodox church, antagonist and companion of Paul, first to identify Jesus as the Christ and a just messenger, and who would deny him, but then get reinstated by the risen Jesus
2) One “Son of Thunder” who wanted to use Jesus for authority over people rather than servitude
3) His brother “Thunder,” a Gnostic who also wanted authority over people and the power to stop other Christians from preaching Jesus, but who, after Jesus’ death, turned out to be the most effective tool for quashing Christian heresy
4) “First called,” brother to the first disciple, and last of these top four disciples to learn the Signs of the End of the Age; often paired with the 1st disciple
5) A Gnostic who believed Jesus, Christ, and Nazarene were inner mysteries and spoke of Jesus as having a human father and who witnessed Jesus kiss Mary Magdalene
6) A farmer
7) A tax collector who saw Jesus as a wise philosopher, produced an early Aramaic sayings Gospel of Jesus, and later helped Peter’s church edit it into the Gospel of Mark for Jewish Christians
8) Jesus’ own twin brother, a Semi-Gnostic who was given several secrets that he feared would make the other apostles want to kill him
9) A Nazarite and relative of Jesus admired by the 8th disciple and the Ebionites, and who judged over doctrinal matters of Christianity in Jerusalem
10) Another relative of Jesus who labored the land
11) An Anti-Roman nationalist
12) A female Semi-Gnostic who Jesus kissed, exorcized, and gave divine mysteries to, which would upset the 1st and 4th disciples
13) A Gnostic and an assassin who betrayed Jesus either for money or as part of a divine mystery

How can we have such a varied score of followers? No one source is responsible for this list, and yet the companions of Jesus resemble those of Dorothy’s from the Wizard of Oz. Names seem to be freely interchanged between gospels, yet the number is always kept at 12 in the Synoptics, and yet in the Gospel of Judas, Judas is the 13th disciple. There were 12 Olympian gods in the Greek pantheon until Dionysus was added. There were also 12 gods in the Norse pantheon, excluding the trickster Loki, who kills the wisest of the Aesir, Balder, by tricking Balder’s blind brother into throwing a dart made from mistletoe poison at the wise god. Balder’s mother had previously made every plant vow not to harm her son except for the mistletoe because she thought it was harmless (it‘s poison normally only causes a small rash). In some legends, Balder is said to have been resurrected by his mother’s tears, which caused her to kiss anyone underneath the mistletoe, which is where we get the Christmas custom. Other legends say that the goddess of the netherworld, Hel, promised to release Balder from death if every creature on earth cries for him, which every creature does except for Thokk, a giantess who is possibly Loki in disguise. For killing Balder, Loki is captured, tied up, and tortured by the gods, causing him to writhe, bringing earthquakes. The death of Balder is considered to be the first in a chain of events that will bring about the Norse Armageddon, called Ragnarok, resulting in a new order when Loki will be released and Balder reborn. The number 13 has been considered unlucky for thousands of years. It was skipped on the Code of Hammurabi, written some 3800 years ago, and is today a number often skipped when naming building floors. There are also 13 circles drawn with one line in Metatron’s Cube, a geometric figure said to hold the soul in Kabalistic literature. Considered to be a holy glyph that warded off demons, it was inherited by Christian art and later became an idea in alchemy.

Metatron’s Cube

It’s also been noted that Epiphanius and Aboulfatah recorded that Dositheus had 30 male disciples and one female disciple, Simon Magus’ companion Helena. Tradition says the same about John the Baptist. In the Pseudo-Clementine Romance, it says:

“Simon’s contact with the tenets of religion came about in the following way. There appeared a certain John the Baptist, who according to the syzygies was at the same time the forerunner of our Lord Jesus. And as the Lord has 12 apostles according to the number of solar months, so also there fathered about John 30 eminent persons according to the reckoning of the lunar month. Among there was a woman Helena by name, and herewith a significant disposition prevailed. For the woman, who makes up only the half of the man, left the number 30 incomplete, precisely as in the case of the moon, the revolution of which is not altogether a month in duration. Of these 30 Simon counted with John as the first and most distinguished.”

Cosmologically, this seems to connect Jesus with the sun, representing the 12 months, and John the Baptist with the moon, representing the 30 and half days of the month. This also seems related to the same calendar conflict that provided a contention between the Essenes and the Pharisees. The Essenes used a solar calendar, as attested to by the Dead Sea Scrolls as well as the Book of Enoch, as opposed to the other Jews, who up until today still use a lunar calendar. Just as the Pseudo-Clement suggests, the revolution of the moon, which divides the months, is unrelated to the revolution of the earth around the sun, which divides the years. As such, the Gregorian calendar sets months at artificial lengths to make up for it, while the lunar cycle was coordinated by the Sanhedrin using the testimony of two witnesses who would watch the sunrise to determine the new moon. To compensate for the drift, a 13th month is sometimes added to the calendar, called Adar II, during what it called a “pregnant year.” In Revelation, the pregnant woman who is “clothed in the sun with the moon under her feet” had 12 stars on her head as the seven-headed dragon positions itself to consume her child at birth.

The most significant association of the 12 disciples, however, is with the 12 tribes of Israel, represented by the 12 sons of Jacob from Book of Genesis. Each son was named after one of the tribes and was considered the father of that tribe. Jacob was the son of Isaac, who was himself the son of the Abraham. Now, if you look at the ages of the patriarchs, they’re far too long to be real. Abraham lives 175 years, Isaac lives 180, and Jacob lives 147 years and doesn’t even marry until he’s 90! The ages are even longer than the maximum age of 120 set by Yahweh in Genesis (6:3). Although too long to be taken literally, they work pretty good on the genealogical level because historically, it might take 175 years for the Hurrians to spread out across the Near East or 180 years for Israel and Edom to form their own communities. The ages have been spaced out so that important ethno-centric icons are put in their proper time in history. The most noted difference between the Greek Septuagint, the Jewish Torah, and the Samaritan Torah are the ages of the patriarchs. Each version has different ages systematically subtracted at various mathematical intervals so as to fit the early Old Testament “ages” within an agreed timeline. In other words, all the numbers were predetermined by the copyist’s understanding of human history, not because of competing biographical details. If the Gospel of Luke had given a more accurate account of the number of people it would take to go from Adam to Jesus (3:23), it would number at least 160 people, but because of these huge ages from the age of the patriarchs, it only numbers 74. The author of Matthew’s gospel also took a shortcut when measuring the descendants from Abraham to Jesus, purposely arranging it so there would be an equal number of people from Abraham to King David, to the beloved King Josiah, then to the Babylonian Exile and Jesus. The Bible authors weren’t the only ones to increase age lengths to phenomenal levels either; even the patriarchs are short-lived compared to cosmic ages listed on the Sumerian King Lists, which have their own kind (including the Sumerian Noah), reigning for tens of thousands of years!

The stories in Genesis can be read on two different levels. On the surface level, it’s the story of a family; one of intrigue, deception, sorrow, joy, hatred, sibling rivalry, and reconciliation. It isn’t part of the primary law code interplayed within Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, or the secondary (Deutero-) law code of Deuteronomy. The stories doesn’t teach on a “Do this” or “Don’t do this” level the law codes. The reader has to read it, conceptualize it as a historic event, compare the character’s actions to the consequences it brings about in the story, and then consider how they relate and one’s own way of life. Jacob steals Esau’s birthright by dressing up in his twin brother’s very best goatskin robe, pretending to be Esau for his half-blind father puts his hand and pronounces him to be “lord over your brothers.” The trick seems to work because even when Isaac finds out the truth, he tells Esau he can’t take it back, which forces Jacob to flee to his uncle in Laban. The trick comes back to haunt him, but not until he has his own children, and he himself gets tricked into thinking his son Joseph is dead by another special robe… dipped in goat’s blood. What seem like blessings can come back to haunt you, even after a generation has passed.

The second way to interpret Genesis is genealogically: each patriarch from Abraham to Joseph represents a group of people. Abraham is said to come from Ur of the Chaldees and then have migrated down from Harran. Harran itself was the capital of the Hurrians before the formation of the Hittite Empire around the same time as Abraham. The fact that Abraham became the “father of many” may have to do with large amounts of displaced Hurrians migrating south after being defeated by the Hittites. Isaac and Ishma’el symbolize the Levant and Arabia respectively. Jacob and Esau represent the twin nations of Israel and Edom, separated along a mountain ridge running along the west side of the Dead Sea. The fact that Jacob comes out of the womb clasping Esau may mean that Israel started out as a wandering tribe that sustained themselves by way of raiding Edom. It’s conceivable that the story of Jacob stealing Esau’s blessing might even have been a reference to Israel taking Edom’s sovereignty.

In the story of Cain and Abel, “Abel kept flocks and Cain worked the soil,” making Abel represent nomadic herdsmen like the Hebrews and Cain emblematic of city-dwelling farmers. When Cain sacrifices crops and Abel sacrifices the firstborn of his flock, “Yahweh looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor.” (4:5). The Sumerians have a similar myth with the gods of winter and summer making similar sacrifices to their father, Enlil, but in that version, the sacrifice of crops were looked on with more favor. Japheth was Father of Europe, Ham of Africa, and Shem the Middle East. The sons of Shem were Elam (Iran), Asshur (Assyria), Arphaxad (Iraq?), Lud (Lydia/Lullubi?), and Aram. Anyone with a slight grasp of historic reality knows that these patriarchs did not immediately spread out, marry their sisters, and propagate incestuously in synchronized isolation. Rather, the names act as caricatures of broader cultural movements. A modern example would be that “Britain” is the son of “Angle” and “Saxon,” who in turn fathered “America.” “Spain” and “Aztec” in turn gave birth to “Mexico.” Similarly, Ishma’el (Arabia) is said to be the son of Abraham (Hurrian) and his Egyptian maidservant Hagar (Egypt).

Could the same caricatures apply to the 12 disciples, only instead of the names symbolizing tribes of men they symbolized different Christian sects? In Johannine literature, John and Peter are “Elders.” Papias, Ariston and the Elder John are described as “disciples” while Andrew, Peter, Philip, Thomas, James, and John are separated as “Elders.” In early Pauline literature, Peter and James are Apostles (“Messengers”). Acts of the Apostles uses “disciples” and “apostles” interchangeably. When Jesus comes upon the first disciples fishing on the Sea of Galilee, he calls them to be “fishermen” in an allegorical sense, that is, that they were to become “fishers of men.” But the fish symbol holds far more relevance as the Greek word for fish, IXTYS, transliterated as Ichthys or Ichthus, which forms as acronym for “Iesous Christos, Theou Huios Soter,” or “Jesus Christ, God’s Son is Savior” than for any historical heritage to historical fishermen. The phrase 8th Book of the Sibylline Oracles, written in the mid 100’s, uses the phrase followed by the word “Stauros,” meaning “Stake,” and most commonly translated as “Cross.” Neophytes, that is, new converts, were known to have been referred to as fish in ancient times, similar to how high school freshmen are today. As such, the disciples’ occupations as fishermen were likely creations used as a literary device, symbolizing the ability of the messengers to “draw in” new converts. The miracle of catching 153 fish as described in the Gospel of John (21:11), might seem like a banal detail written by an eyewitness of a historical feat to those who read the story literally, but it is better explained as an allegory for “catching” 153 new converts.

As mentioned earlier, Roman Catholic tradition identifies James, the “brother of the Lord” as the 9th disciple, the son of Alphaeus. The Gospel of Mark is notably antagonistic towards all of the disciples, most especially the top disciples, Peter, James, and John, and notably reprimands James and John, the sons of Zebedee, for wanting to be the leaders of some instead of servants of all. The author of Matthew tries to downplay this, and instead elevates them. But both gospels make reference to the death of the son of Zebedee in Jerusalem, which corresponds to a long-held (and likely partially forged) tradition found in Josephus that James, “the brother of Jesus” was killed by Jewish zealots in Jerusalem. As we‘ve seen, the gospels make absolutely no connection between James the brother of Jesus and any of Jesus’ disciples, but rather seems to imply they were different people. But the comparative prominence of James, son of Zebedee, in the Synoptic gospels similarly matches up with the prominence of James the Just found in “Josephus,” the Ebionites, and the Coptic Gospel of Thomas. Since an allusion is made to James’ martyrdom in Jerusalem by Mark, it seems reasonable that the John listed next to James in Papias’ list of Elders. Perhaps the reason Ariston and “John the Elder” are “disciples” as opposed to “elders” like James and John is because Papias knew them personally and considered their beliefs to be more Christian than that of the Jerusalem elders to which Mark and the Pauline epistles are hostile towards.

As mentioned earlier, the Gospel of John seems to imply that Peter was a disciple of John the Baptist, but suddenly makes it look as if only Andrew was. In the Gospel of Matthew, Peter calls himself “the Son of John,” which was perhaps originally meant as a reference to him being disciple (either literally or spiritually) of the Baptist, but this too was changed to make him the “Son of Jonah.” This would certainly fit the context as it happens right when Peter gets into an argument with the disciples of John the Baptist. I believe both of these gospels edited out Peter’s connection to the Baptist because both verses could be used to argue that Peter was never the literal disciple of Jesus. The name Simon is notably not connected with Peter in any of the epistles except for the very late 2 Peter. Rather than “Simon” being coined “Peter,” it seems more likely that Peter, the “pillar” of the 50s was coined “Simon” to correlate him with another Simon that was already a known traitor. One possibility is that it references Simon the Magus since Pseudo-Clementine portrays a rivalry between Peter and Simon. Just as Peter appears as chief among the disciples of Jesus, Simon Magus is said to have claimed himself to be chief of John the Baptists’ disciples. Church fathers also make Simon the Magus out to be the fountain of all heresy and possibly the first Gnostic. From analyzing the rivalry between Peter and Simon the Magus in Pseudo-Clementine, it has been argued by scholars like F.C. Baur that Simon was a literary construct invented to replace Paul as the enemy of Peter because Paul was originally considered an enemy of the Jewish church but was later “rehabilitated” as being anti-Gnostic through the epistles forged in his name. However, another explanation could be that the construction was made to prove that “Simon Peter” and “Simon Magus” were two different people.

Simon the Zealot, who is otherwise unknown even in Christian legend, symbolized the Messianic Zealots who were looking for the Messiah to overthrow the Roman Empire. Judas Iscariot in turn symbolized the Sicarii party which, along with the Zealots, had brought the First Roman-Jewish War down upon the kingdom of Judea in 66 A.D. to horrific results, in a sense betraying all of Judea just as Judas was known to betray Jesus. Reading the disciples as symbolically representing sects can also helps explain similarities between Judas “the twin” and Judas Iscariot. Both seem to be Gnostic heroes and both are “taken aside” to be told mystical secrets. Muslims hold the tradition that Judas was crucified in Jesus’ place, but how could that happen unless Judas looked just like him? If Jesus had a twin in Gnostic lore, wouldn’t it only make sense dramatically that he would be the one to betray him? Consider this strange passage:

“At this she [Mary Magdalene] turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize it was Jesus. “Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means Teacher).” -John 20:14-16

Why doesn’t Mary Magdalene recognize Jesus? If the original story held that Jesus’ twin Judas was the gardener, then “she thought he was the gardener” would make sense. Cainites felt a mystical connection with the betrayer because it was by his act that he threw heaven and earth into confusion, so it could be that they or a sect like them were represented as “Thomas” in the gospels. If Thaddeus symbolized a similar “Thomas” sect, it might explain why the Acts of Thomas identifies Thaddeus as being the same person. But is there any other reason for Judas being identified with the gardener? In fact, there is. It’s found in Talmudic writings, records of some of the only known ancient text written about Jesus by unbelieving Jews, collectively referred to as the Sepher Toldoth Yeshu. The same text addresses the biggest problem with this theory as well, namely, if the disciples spoken of in the gospels are all really apostles, what happened to the “real” disciples, and how could so many different religious sects appear around one man in so little time?