“The Twelve”: That is the designation commonly given to the first followers of the historic Jesus. The original 12 followers, or Disciples, are listed by name in the New Testament account written by the Evangelist Matthew. Following the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, they would be known as Apostles, Greek for witnesses. Among the apostles were fishermen, a farmer, a tax collector, and a revolutionary–all somewhat ordinary men.
One of these disciples, Judas Iscariot, betrayed Jesus the Christ, and handed him over to be crucified. Devastated by his conscience, Judas subsequently took his own life.
The Biblical Book, Acts of the Apostles, states that in the aftermath of the crucifixion, lots were cast by the disciples to decide who would replace Judas. Two candidates emerged: Joseph Barsabbas and Matthias. Matthias won the coin flip. He joined the others in continuing the mission given them by Christ: to proclaim the Good News of salvation for all men.
But does the story of the 13th Apostle end there? Hardly!
With the popularity of current fictionalized works of literature and films, controversy and questions still arise. Quite a few individuals emerge as the possible 13th Apostle. It seems Matthias’ claim to this title is challenged by both Biblical and fictional characters.
There are certainly references to a “mysterious” 13th Apostle in the accounts of the Gnostic Gospels or the “forbidden gospels”. These writings are accepted by a few, but challenged by many. Others cite another controversial source: The Gospel of Judas, a text from the second century which was found in Egypt in the 1970s.
Among the fictional characters is a youthful Gamaliel. He sees his role as the one who will warn Jesus of the plots against him. Another fictional work depicts the hidden life of a child born on the same day as Jesus: Marcus Titus is considered the 13th Disciple because, like Jesus, he survived the purge of young males during the reign of Herod.
Moving onto the historical figures, we have the title of The 13th Apostle designated to (Saint) Paul, or Saul of Tarsus. Paul, in fact, never met Jesus. Some believe there is proof for Paul’s claim by what is written in the Biblical Acts of the Apostles (New Testament).
Was King Constantine of Constantinople the 13th Apostle of Christ? Some believe so. It is said that Constantine himself laid claim to this title.
Some have considered Mary Magdalene as the 13th follower. She was the repentant sinner who washed the feet of Jesus with her tears and dried them with her hair.
A more likely choice of a female disciple of Jesus following his death would be Mary, his mother. In Catholic tradition, the mother of Jesus is mentioned as being present in the upper room when the Spirit of the living God came down upon the Apostles. (Apostles and Disciples by this time have become interchangeable words.) In the Glorious Mystery meditations upon the Rosary prayer, Catholics accept that the “Holy Spirit of God descended upon Mary and the other Apostles.” Was she the 13th Apostle? Some would place credence in the number 13 as perhaps a clue as to why Mary, the Mother of Jesus, chose the 13th day of the month to appear to the children at Fatima. Here she warned the children of the tragedies which would befall mankind. The 13th Apostle connection may be reflected in the title of a currently popular religious film, “The Thirteenth Day.”
Surely this cast of characters–both authentically historical and Biblical ones and the purely fictional ones–will settle the question as to who was the 13th Apostle of Jesus.
Our very own Carl Michaelis is offering his version of who the 13th apostle may have been. In his Story of Jesus book titled: “…and it was as if he walked on water” Carl introduces Theodor, a young man of German origin, as a major player in the events leading to the Crucifixion of Jesus.