All of Jesus' apostles were Jews

Were the 12 apostles all Jewish?

The original 12 apostles / disciples of Jesus were all Jewish. By Jewish I mean you "of the twelve tribes of Israel" / Israelites. Since Jewish can be interpreted as a religion and there are non-Jews who accept Judaism and are sometimes viewed as Jewish from a religious point of view, one has to be careful with the term. But from a Hebrew / Israelite / racist point of view, even the two understood substitutions for Judas Iscariot (Matthias replaced by a process of the other 11 and / or Paul as a replacement directly from Jesus) were Jewish. Only very late in some of Paul's letters are apostles mentioned who are not Jewish (mentioned with the title / description of the apostle), such as Apollos.

If you go to the Wikipedia entry for the Apostles of Jesus there is a list of the Twelve with a link to a biography of each, but I struggled to find a reference to their Jewish heritage. It's like all articles on the subject that I've found to be true with no evidence to show. I know some of these scriptures explain this directly, but not for all.

I naturally know this is true - all 12 students were Jewish, but I have a hard time finding references to prove this.

Thanks to a comment by Mr. Bultitude addressing the Jewish of the names of the apostles, assuming that Thaddeus is indeed Judas, as most scholars believe:

  • Each of their names has Hebrew origins, with the exception of Andrew (Greek name but Peter's brother) and Philip (Greek name but from the same town as Peter and Andrew) and the possible exception of Thaddeus (probably Aramaic name) still evidence of this that he is Jewish, and he has also identified with an apostle known as Judas (which is absolutely a Jewish / Hebrew name).

I saw a quote that Judas Iscariot was the only Judean and the rest of the Galileans. This can be confirmed at Pentecost in Acts 2:

1 When the day of Pentecost came, were all in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like a violent wind came down from heaven and filled the whole house in which they were sitting. 3 And tongues spreading like fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 All were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues than the Spirit allowed them to use.

5 Now there were righteous Jews from every nation under heaven in Jerusalem. 6 When the sound came out, a crowd gathered and was confused because everyone heard them speak in their own language. 7 In astonishment they said: “Aren't they all who speak Galileans?8 And how is it that each of us hears it in our mother tongue? [Acts 2: 5-8 (NET)]

If there is a way to show that all 12 (or 11 + Matthias) of the apostles were present at Pentecost (this follows from the narrative ...) it may be evidence, although it feels a little weak. The problem is that Galileans may or may not imply Israelites / Hebrews / Jews.

A completely different way of approaching this might be to examine how the apostles behaved at the beginning of the question about spreading the gospel to gentiles.

While Jesus brought the gospel directly to the Samaritans (see the story of Jesus and the Samaritan women in John 4 - which completely surprised the disciples that he even spoke to them), it wasn't until long after the Church in Jerusalem began that they even officially came to the Consider the possibility of extending the church to the Gentiles. Although Philip spread the gospel fairly quickly to the Ethiopian eunuchs (Acts 8: 27-40) and others, apparently not the apostles, spread the word to Gentiles (Acts 8: 19-22):

19 Now those who had been scattered over Stephen because of the persecution went as far as Phenicia, Cyprus and Antioch and spoke the message only to Jews. 20th But there were some men from Cyprus and Cyrene among them who came to Antioch and also began to speak to the Greeks and the good news from the Lord Jesus to proclaim. 21 The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. 22 When the church in Jerusalem heard something about them, they sent Barnabas to Antioch. [Acts 8: 19-22 (NET)]

In fact, it was so bad that God had to send a vision to Peter and send him straight to Cornelius, a gentle man, and pour out His Spirit on them, to finally make it clear to the church that the good news was for everyone, even though He was to them right in the Grand Commission said. In fact, this was so against their teaching that Peter had to go back and defend / declare his actions, even entering a Gentile home, which was against the purification laws of the Jews:

1 Now the apostles and brothers who were all over Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. 2 When Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers took up problems with him and said, "You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them." : 1-4 (NET)]

Even after that the Gentiles were accepted, but then many said that the Gentiles would essentially convert to Judaism and obey all the Mosaic Laws - leading to the "Jerusalem Council" in Acts 15, where it was decided that this line of reasoning was wrong. Paul would fight this position for the remainder of his career, with the evidence found generous in his letters.

So what is it about? If one of the original apostles were not Israelites, how could the Children's Church take a position that initially excluded non-Jews?

Mr. Bultitude

Good answer. I wrote one myself, but it doesn't add much substance to yours, so I'll just leave it here: each of their names has Hebrew origins, with the exception of Andrew (Greek name, but Peter's brother) and Philip (Greek name, but out same city as Peter and Andrew) and the possible exception of Thaddeus (probably Aramaic name so still proof that he is Jewish, and he also identifies with an apostle named Judas who is absolutely Jewish / Hebrew name).


@ Mr.Bultitude I've added your attribution comments to the answer - good point.

Kadalikatt Joseph Sibichan

Incidentally, we may never know the real name of Thomas the Apostle. Both his nickname Didymus and the name Thomas (from the Aramaic Ta'oma) are literally translated as "the twin".

Ralph M. Rickenbach

I would your interpretation of the Jewish as of the 12 tribes argue. It really would Judah mean that is not only the tribe but also the southern kingdom. There could have been representatives of all two tribes in this kingdom (so your interpretation could be taken to be true). We know that Paul came from the tribe of Benjamin and was born outside the kingdom of Judah, so strictly speaking not jewish, if he as Judah is interpreted.


@ RalphM.Rickenbach My interpretation of "Jewish" is an answer to the question, not a general interpretation. that is, I assumed what the questioner was up to when he used the term "Jewish" was actually "Hebrew".