Why are there differences in the four lists of the disciples?


There are four lists of the disciples found in the Bible — one each in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Acts. Though the ordering in some cases may differ, the lists are essentially the same. Matthew, Mark, and Luke contain a list of twelve disciples, while the book of Acts contains only eleven, which is because Judas Iscariot committed suicide after betraying Christ. He was later replaced by Matthias (Acts 1:21-26). Thaddaeus (Matt. 10:3; Mark 3:18), the disciple with many names, and Judas the son of James (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13) are the same individual:

The name Thaddaeus (meaning "large hearted") appears in the list of disciples given in Matthew 10:3 and Mark 3:18, between James and Simon. Luke does not include him in either of his lists (Luke & Acts); but Luke includes Judas the son of James (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13). The two names - Thaddaeus and Judas the son of James - never appear in the same book. So, this adds credibility to the fact that the two names refer to the same person. Because of the treasonous act of Judas Iscariot, the name "Judas" was probably unpopular (it's last in 3 lists and not in the 4th) so this may be the reason for Judas the son of James alternate names (Thaddaeus, Lebbaeus, etc.). The Pulpit Commentary states, "There is no doubt that Lebbaeus and Thaddaeus were surnames by which James's Jude, or Judas, was known generally in the Church." (Luke 6:16). [1]

The list below follows Matthew's list order:

Matt. 10:2-4
Mark 3:16-19
Luke 6:14-16
Acts 1:13, 26
Simon, who is called Peter Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter) Simon, whom he named Peter Peter
Andrew, [Peter's] brother Andrew Andrew, [Peter's] brother Andrew
James the son of Zebedee James the son of Zebedee James James
John [James'] brother John [James'] brother John John
Philip Philip Philip Philip
Bartholomew Bartholomew Bartholomew Bartholomew
Thomas Thomas Thomas Thomas
Matthew the tax collector Matthew Matthew Matthew
James the son of Alphaeus James the son of Alphaeus James the son of Alphaeus James the son of Alphaeus
Thaddaeus Thaddaeus Judas the son of James Judas the son of James
Simon the Zealot Simon the Zealot Simon who was called the Zealot Simon the Zealot
Judas Iscariot Judas Iscariot Judas Iscariot replaced by Matthias

So, there are no discrepancies.


[1] Spence, H.D.M. Excel, Joseph. S. Pulpit Commentary, (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1950), Luke 6:16 ( Last Accessed 15 Nov. 2018.

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Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).