This Week's Focus Passage

This Week’s Focus Passage: Matthew 10:3 ‘Thomas, Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, Th

This Week’s Focus Passage: Matthew 10:3

‘Thomas, Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus.’

    We may read, in “The Gospel According to Matthew,” the calling, by Jesus, of the twelve disciples who were to becomes the twelve apostles, found elsewhere on numerous occasions in the Newer Testament, simply referred to as the Twelve. These twelve are enumerated for us, in the gospels and the book of Acts, no less than four times; once in each of the gospel accounts, referred to in the post-resurrection account provided in the book of Acts, and, at 1:12-14:

Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is nigh unto Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey off. And when they were come in, they went up into the upper chamber, where they were abiding; both Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. These all with one accord, continued steadfastly in prayer, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren. 

The Matthean account, under our notice this week, as our focus passage, is somewhat different from the Marcan account, as well as from the Lucan account, and that in Acts cited above. In Matthew 10:2-4, we read as follows”

Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.

The reason for the omission of Judas Iscariot from the list given in the book of Acts is, or course, because Judas Iscariot, we are informed just a little further on it that same book of Acts, in the words of the apostle Peter, saying:

Brethren, it was needful that the scripture should be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spake before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who was guide to them that took Jesus. For he was numbered among us, and received his portion in this ministry. (Now this man obtained a field with the reward of his iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. And it became known to all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch that in their language that field was called Akel-dama, that is, the field of blood.) For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be made desolate, And let no man dwell therein: and, His office let another take. 

Luke has then recorded the manner of their determining upon another to take the place of Judas Iscariot. They then put forward two, namely, Joseph, called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. After having prayed, they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Matthias to replace Judas Iscariot. So it was.

    But our curiosity, this week, is with one of those men named in the list given us by Matthew, which includes the name of one Thaddaeus. There are many, and novel, suggestions by commentators as to just who this person was. Just who was Thaddaeus? This name is to be found only in the accounts given us by both Matthew and Mark, and the only two occasions in the entirety of the Bible where it is found; the two synoptic gospels that are often agreeable in their content. But, still, who was this man named Thaddaeus? 

    Searching for an answer, we consulted, with much hope, “The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible. We were given the following information from that source; telling us that, Thaddaeus was:

    “One of the twelve apostles (Matt. 10:3; Mark 3:18). In Matthew 10:3 KJV the reading is ‘Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus.’ Omitted from the lists of Luke 6:14-16 and Acts 1:13, the name of Judas, son (RSV) or ‘brother’ (KJV)  of James is inserted instead. Luke probably gives the true name. Thaddaeus (Aramaic; ‘breast-nipple’?) and Lebbaeus (Aramaic ‘heart’) may be descriptive designations of Judas introduced in the gospels to avoid confusion with the traitor and because of the odium attached to his name. Judas (not Iscariot) of John 14:22 is possibly this disciple.” So much for any very great help from Zondervan’s Encyclopedia.

    Perhaps, there is more insight to be found in the “International Standard Bible Encyclopedia,” published in 1947, by Eerdmans, with James Orr being the General Editor. They do provide some greater amount of  information at any rate. They have offered from, “The Genealogies of the Twelve Apostles,” the following notice, that, in fact, [their facts, we suppose] Thaddaeus was of the house of Joseph; he was of the tribe of Judah. There is abundant testimony in apocryphal literature of the missionary activity of a certain Thaddaeus in Syria, but doubt exists as to whether this was the apostle.” 

    “Jerome however, identifies this same Thaddaeus with Lebbaeus and ‘Judas….of James’ of Luke 6:16. Hennecke surmises that in the original form of the Agbar legend Thomas was the central figure, but that through the influence of the later ‘Acts of Thomas’ which required room to be made for Thomas’ activity in India, a later Syr recension was made in which Thomas became merely the sender of Thaddaeus to Edessa.” “The burial place of Thaddaeus is variously placed at Beirut and in Egypt.” How many places is he buried? Very interesting, at least. Our comment upon these dictionaries:

    My son, be admonished; Of making many books there is no end.

                                  --Ecclesiastes 12:12


David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church


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