What Were the Professions of the Twelve Apostles?

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr

Jesus called 12 disciples to serve as his closest helpers and companions. John 1:37-49 relates the calling of Andrew, Peter, James, John, Philip and Nathaniel. Matthew threw a party after he joined the group. Philip brought Nathaniel, also known as Bartholomew. Thomas, a twin; James, cousin to Jesus; Simon, the zealot; Thaddaeus and Judas round out the original 12.

Fishermen

Andrew, Peter, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, worked as fishermen. Matthew 4:18-22 relates that Andrew and Peter were fishing, plying their trade when called, and James and John were mending nets with their father. The Bible states that these two men weren’t just fishermen, but business owners, along with their father, for they employed others in the business. Thomas, Nathaniel and Philip may have also worked as fishermen, for they were all together and fishing when Jesus appeared to them in John 21:2-8, following his resurrection.

Tax Collector

Matthew, called Levi in Luke, worked as a tax collector for the Roman government. He would have acquired some education and reputation to achieve this job. His job provided him with considerable wealth, because tax collectors earned a portion of what they collected, as noted in the story of Zacchaeus, another famous tax collector who followed Jesus. Matthew invited Jesus home and threw a party that included many of his sinful friends. Matthew’s wealth may have helped fund Jesus' ministry.

A Zealot

Simon was known as the Zealot, not strictly a profession, and as a Canaanite. Zealots engaged in politics and anarchy, attempting to overthrow the Roman government. He may have been a politician or a revolutionary. When he joined Jesus, he remained zealous, but with allegiance to Jesus rather than political revolution.

A Thief

Judas served as the treasurer in Jesus' band, and John 12:4-6 identifies him as a thief and an embezzler. The Bible doesn’t tell us what he did prior to becoming an apostle. Each of the Gospels identify him as the one who betrayed Jesus. Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 27:3-10) notes that Judas suffered remorse over his betrayal and hung himself after he tried to give the money back to the high priests. They used the 30 pieces of silver to buy a burial site for the poor.

The Other Apostles

The Bible provides no information on the professions of Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Thaddaeus or James, the son of Alphaeus. It does provide information about Paul, who became an apostle after the death and resurrection of Jesus. He was a Pharisee and may have taught religion or worked in political office. During his missionary journeys, Paul supported himself as a tent maker according to Acts 18:1-3.

About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

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