Was Thaddaeus Jesus’ Original Drummer, or his Secretary of Housing and Urban Development?

Was Thaddaeus Jesus’ Original Drummer, or his Secretary of Housing and Urban Development? March 2, 2012

In my historical Jesus class yesterday, one of the topics was the twelve apostles. When the fact came up that there are discrepancies between the names listed in various Gospels, I suggested that one explanation might be comparable to the bands many of us love, but from which we can name the lead singer and lead guitarist, but are prone to get stuck on the others.

The band analogy also brings to mind the possibility of a change of lineup. I actually went to college with a fantastic drummer who was in a band in his school years. Eventually the band split to form two separate bands. One of them became Genesis. The other…well, let’s just say it didn’t.

Could the “lineup” of the Twelve Apostles have changed over time?

In the class discussion, a student also mentioned as a possible comparison to the first scenario the situation of governments, in which people know the names of the president, vice president, and Secretary of State, but are liable to forget the name of the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

That led to some reflection on whether the Twelve could indeed have been Jesus’ “cabinet.” The saying about them sitting on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel is likely to be authentic, since it would probably not have been invented after Judas came to be viewed as a traitor and apostate – who would have made Jesus predict that he would occupy one of the twelve thrones after that? The saying, taken on its own, is compatible both with an apocalyptic view in which God was expected to install Jesus as Messiah and his representatives as judges/emissaries, and also with an expectation that they would set up a government and take control. And so this saying illustrates well why individual sayings, taken in isolation, cannot serve as a sound basis for reconstructing the historical figure of Jesus, without taking seriously the gist of our earliest sources as well, as Dale Allison has helpfully emphasized.

So which analogy seems most apt to you, or do you think the individuals whose names appear on some lists of apostles but not others ought to be accounted for in some other way? Was Thaddaeus the original drummer for “Jesus and the Twelve Apostles,” or Jesus’ Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, or just a guy whose name was hard to remember, a bit like…what’s his name?

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  • Michael Wilson

    My Suspicion is that the tradition of the apostles spreading the gospel beyond Jerusalem is true. Paul only recounts Peter being In Jerusalem, and Acts seems to indicate that it was only the inner three that remained in Jerusalem, the rest aren’t mentioned. I suspect that they did try to at least replace Judas to maintain the 12, but after that the positions were fixed. They thought the world was ending, not establishing a lasting earthly institution. Anyhow, the rest of the twelve off in parts unknown would not have made as clear an impact as the fellows at the home office, so I suspect there may have been confusion in remote corners.

  • Michael Wilson

    To clarify, I don’t think the 12 would have switched out members except for apostacy. They are promiced 12 thrones in the eternal kingdom, so  i think only 12 apostles total forever, is Jesus’ intention, not twelve at a time. Otherwise mutiple people would be trying to claim their seats to rule Israel and we would have some heavenly musical chairs.

  • Pat & Jim Barton

    I like the drummer analogy best because I want to think of Jesus as a charasmatic leader of a movement like the Beatles rather than the head of an administration bound to disappoint, like say Lyndon Johnson. 

    Of course, I’m not sure whether what I like is actually a good criterium on which to evaluate analogies.

  • Just Sayin’

    It’s as if Doctor Who had twelve assistants.  There’s no way you could remember them all.

  • Gary

    I have a feeling that the numbers are the only thing that matters, not the names…except the heavy hitters. Seems to be a Jewish thing, and a hold over from the Jewish bible. But then again, I may be influenced by a book I just finished…”What are the Dead Sea Scrolls and Why do they Matter”, David Noel Freedman. First thought, 12 tribes, twelve stations of the cross, 144,000 (12 squared X 1000), completeness. Don’t quite understand it, but Freedman says about the Jewish bible (pg64) “If we remove Daniel, here is the Bible at 400B.C.:first half 150,000 words; second half, 150,000 words…..difference between the two totals is less than 300 words….Each of the Bible’s two halves is also internally divided:five books plus four; then four books plus five. The first half (The Primary History) has the Torah (five books) and the former Prophets (four): the second half has the Latter Prophets (four books – remember that the Minor Prophets, since they all fit onto one scroll, count as only one “book”) and the Writings (whose five major books are Chronicles, Psalms, Job, Proverbs, and Ezra/Nehemiah, which again count as one “book”) …All that’s left in the Writings, is the five Megillot, or “little scrolls”: Ruth, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, and Esther. That brings us to 23″.
    “The whole structure is full of mirroring patterns”…then he goes on to talk about Hebrew alphabet, acrostic Psalm, first letter Aleph, Peh, Lamed, Elohim and Tov of Genesis, Elohai and tovah of Nehemiah, complimentary wholes that signify totality and perfection, male and female, east to west, A to Z, Alpha and Omega in Revelation….then when they got to the Council of Jamnia, Greek was the predominate language, with 24 letters….and maybe they added in Daniel to bump the total canons to 24. Don’t quite get it, except that numbers/balance/mirroring may have been more important than names. Of course, this could be a bunch of BS…I’m not smart enough to know. So everyone in those days remember the numbers, not the names…except the big guys, Jesus, Peter, Paul, and “what’s his name” and his cousin, “who’s on first”..

  • Gary

    Forgot to add Freedman’s sense of humor quote “If this doesn’t show “intelligent design”, then I don’t know what does!”….grain if salt not included.

  • Ian

    It is important to note that there are significant differences in the manuscript tradition around the twelve, within one gospel. I think it much more likely that, by the time the books tht later became the NT were written, folks remembered (or had traditions that said) Jesus had 12, but nobody could agree exactly which of the many followers of Jesus they were.

    The problem with both the drummer and the cabinet analogies is that they are fixed roles. The “Twelve” were a bunch of guys. I also blogged on this a while back: http://irrco.wordpress.com/2011/01/11/who-were-the-twelve-mark-316-19/