When it comes to the number of disciples Jesus had, there is no clear consensus among scholars. Different sources give different numbers, and there is also debate about what constitutes a “disciple” in the first place. In this article, we will explore the various accounts of Jesus’ disciples and try to reach some conclusions about their total number.
The Twelve Disciples
The most well-known group of Jesus’ disciples is undoubtedly the twelve apostles. According to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus chose twelve men to be his closest followers and gave them authority over evil spirits and diseases (Mark 3:13-19; Matthew 10:1-4; Luke 6:12-16). The names of the twelve apostles are:
- James son of Zebedee
- Bartholomew (also known as Nathanael)
- Matthew (also known as Levi)
- Thomas (also known as Didymus)
- James son of Alphaeus
- Thaddaeus (also known as Judas son of James or Lebbaeus)
- Simon the Zealot
- Judas Iscariot (who later betrayed Jesus)
So according to these accounts, Jesus had twelve apostles who were with him throughout his ministry. However, it’s worth noting that not all scholars agree that these lists are completely accurate or historically reliable.
The Seventy Disciples
In addition to the twelve apostles, there is another group of disciples mentioned in the Gospel of Luke. According to Luke 10:1-24, Jesus appointed seventy people (or seventy-two, depending on the manuscript) to go ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.
He sent them out in pairs and instructed them to heal the sick and proclaim the kingdom of God. This group is sometimes referred to as the “seventy disciples” or the “seventy-two disciples.”
Apart from these two groups, there are also several other individuals who are referred to as Jesus’ disciples in the Gospels. For example:
- Mary Magdalene, who is often described as a close follower of Jesus (Luke 8:1-3)
- Joanna, Susanna, and other women who provided for Jesus and his disciples out of their own means (Luke 8:1-3)
- Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy man who asked Pilate for Jesus’ body after his crucifixion (Matthew 27:57-60)
- Nicodemus, a Pharisee who came to Jesus at night and later helped bury him (John 3:1-21; John 7:50-52; John 19:38-42)
Total Number of Disciples
So how many disciples did Jesus have in total? Depending on how you define “disciple,” the answer could be anywhere from twelve to several hundred.
The twelve apostles were certainly among Jesus’ closest followers and played a key role in spreading his message after his death and resurrection. The seventy disciples were also important figures in their own right, carrying out Jesus’ mission by healing the sick and proclaiming the kingdom of God.
Beyond these two groups, there were many others who followed Jesus during his ministry and beyond. Some were women who provided for him and his followers out of their own resources. Others were men like Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, who may not have been as prominent but still played a role in the story of Jesus’ life and death.
Ultimately, the exact number of Jesus’ disciples is less important than the impact they had on his message and legacy. Whether there were twelve or twelve hundred, these followers helped to spread the word about Jesus’ teachings and continue to inspire millions of people around the world today.