Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Twelve, Knowing the Apostles

Shimon Kefa bar Yonah- Shimon bar Yonah was a fisherman who lived and worked in kafar-Nachum a city positioned on Lake Kinneret in northern Israel. Yeshua called him Kefa, meaning “stone.” He was one of The Twelve who had previously followed Yeshua’s distant relative, a mystic called Yochanan Hamatbil. Kefa traveled into the wilderness to learn under this prophet, whose foremost concern was to prepare the nation for the arrival of Mashiach.

Tradition remembers that Kefa spoke both Hebrew and Aramaic but never learned to speak Greek; because of this, a young disciple named Markus (author of the book of Mark) worked as his scribe and translator. Scripture informs that Shimon Kefa was a married man; the apostolic fathers add that he immersed in the sea every morning, and that he carried a sword under his belt. At the time of Yeshua’s arrest he removed one of the guards’ ears with this weapon.

Shimon Kefa bar Yonah taught for one year in Antioch, this is the city where the followers of Mashiach were first derided by the Romans, being called Chrestians (a Greek word meaning little kings). Shimon built a synagogue there in the house of Cassianus, whose son Kefa brought back to life. He later traveled to Rome where he taught the Roman Jewish community for the next twenty-seven years. Kefa was martyred while the Roman emperor Nero was murdering Jews on crosses. Viewing himself as unworthy to die in the same manner as his King-Mashiach, Kefa was crucified upside-down, upon request. His Yahrtzeit (anniversary of departure) is kept on Tamuz 29.

Andreas bar Yonah- Andreas bar Yonah was born in Beit-Tzaidah. When he first began to follow the Mashiach he was living with his brother Shimon Kefa in a house they owned in Kafar-Nachum. Like his brother he was a student of Yochanan Hamatbil, it was studying under The Immerser that he first became acquainted with Yochanan ben Zavdai and his older brother Ya’akov. Although he wasn’t aware of it at the time, he would be spending the next three and a half years with these guys building friendships that would last a lifetime. Andreas bar Yonah became a sage who taught in South Eastern Europe. He built a Synagogue in Byzantium, but was eventually murdered by the Romans being hung on a cross. In order to prolong his sufferings the Romans did not nail him to the structure but only tied him to it. Being hung from your arms in this way makes it increasingly hard to breath. He died not of inflicted wounds but of asphyxiation. Andreas bar Yonah was buried in Byzantium.

Ya’akov ben Zavdai- Ya’akov ben Zavdai helped run a prosperous fishing company owned by his father. He and his little brother Yochanan were standing on a fishing boat with their dad when our Mashiach called them to be his students. Ya’akov’s family was very religious. His father was honored that Yeshua had called them as students. They had not only been hearing Yeshua speak in local synagogues for some time, but were his cousins through their mother Salome, Miryam’s sister. Salome also traveled with the followers of the Mashiach at times. The two brothers had so much zeal for G-d that they once asked Mashiach if they should call down lightning from the sky to destroy a Samaritan who had paid a disrespect to him. After correcting the brothers with the stern explanation that he did not come to destroy people’s lives but to save them he began to affectionately call them by the name Benei-Regesh meaning “Sons of Thunder.” Ya’akov taught in Beit-Tzaidah and built a synagogue there. Herod Agrippa put him to death by the sword in the year following the ascension of the Mashiach.

Yochanan (Hayedid) ben Zavdai- Yochanan ben Zavdai was also from Beit-Tzaidah. He was the youngest of the shlichim. Besides being one of the Mashiach’s cousins, he was also dearly loved as one of his most devoted students. Yochanan ben Zavdai never left the Mashiach’s side. Even during his execution, Yochanan remained in the crowd at risk of being recognized as one of Yeshua’s followers. Before Mashiach gave up his life he made sure his mother would be taken care of. Battered and bleeding, hanging from a cross, he explained to his mother that her nephew would now take his place as her son. He told his cousin to take care of his mother as if she were his own. Yochanan looked after his Aunt until she died an old woman. Yochanan ben Zavdai is the author of what is perhaps the most mystical of the four besorot. He first taught in Asia, and afterwards was sent into exile to the island of Patmos by Tiberius Caesar. During his exile he recorded a vision he experienced, one that took him from Hashem’s throne in Heaven and the coming of the Mashiach to the end of time. The record of this vision is what we know today as the book called Revelation. After being freed from Patmos he traveled to Ephesus, and built a synagogue. Yochanan ben Zavdai was the only one sent out by the Mashiach who would live to an old age. He was buried at Ephesus by one of his students. By the command of their teacher Ben Zavdai’s disciples hid the location of his grave,

Philipos- Like some of the other shlichim, Philipos was a Beit-Tzaidah local, growing up on Lake Kinneret. He was one more of Yochanan Hamatbil’s students. The Mashiach met Philipos and called him as a sheliach with the words, Lecha Harai (Follow me). Philipos did follow, and a little later brought Natanel as a new disciple. He preached in what is now Turkey and died in Pamphylia a city near the Northern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Philipos is known to have immersed Luke the author of the Besorah. He lived as a sheliach for twenty-seven years.

Toma- Toma was also called by the Greek version of his name Didymos. He was born and raised in Jerusalem. The only Besorah that reveals any insight into his life is that written by Yochanan ben Zavdai. As the story goes, a man name El’azar, a zealot who was close friends with the Mashiach died. He lived and was buried in a town near Jerusalem (a place of increasing hostility toward Yeshua’s presence). Nevertheless, Yeshua wanted to go to the place and bring him back to life. Some of the shlichim were a little hesitant about returning to the area, fearing for Yeshua’s life. Toma spoke up and is recorded as saying, “Let’s go so we can die with him.” He had courageous devotion. He was comfortable with the possibility of martyrdom. Life from the dead proved more difficult for Toma to deal with. After the Mashiach died reports came back to the shlichim that he had raised from the dead. Yeshua’s death was too devastating; Toma couldn’t believe he was alive. He said he would never believe unless he could physically touch his wounds. Eight days later the Mashiach came to Toma and demanded he do this. Toma eventually traveled East to ancient Jewish communities located in present day Pakistan and India bringing the message that the Mashiach had come to free the world from its failings. Toma enraged a king by making proselytes of his wife and son and was executed on a hill top outside the city. Till this day there remain Jewish followers of the Mashiach in these regions because of his work.

Levi (Mattai) the publican- Levi was the son of Chalfai and Miryam a couple who were related to Yeshua’s family and lived in Natzeret where he was brought up. Chalfai was the Mashiach’s Uncle, Yosef’s brother. Yeshua’s cousin Levi was also known by the name Matai which is a shortened form of Matityahu. Before becoming a student of the Mashiach Levi was a tax collector or publican, collecting taxes on behalf of the Roman government in Kefar Nahum. This was not a respectable occupation. Levi left this corruption filled way of life to devote himself to learning Torah at the feet of our Mashiach. Some say Levi traveled to Persia others say Ethiopia. Those who hold that he went to Ethiopia also maintain the tradition that he eventually gave his life for his teachings being burned to death. Levi is remembered best as the author of the original Hebrew Besorah commonly referred to as the book of Matthew.

Ya’akov ben Chalfai- Ya’akov was Levi’s brother and lived along the Jordan. He is sometimes referred to as Ya’akov the younger to distinguish him from Ya’akov ben Zavdai. According to tradition, Ya’akov ben Chalfai was arrested on trumped up charges and was eventually sentenced to death. Ya’akov ben Chalfai was martyred on a Roman cross in the city of Ostrakine in Lower Egypt after his death his body was sawed to pieces.

Yehuda (Lebbai) Taddai- Yehuda Taddai was from Jerusalem and was the son of Ya’akov. This means of coarse that he was also a relative of Yeshua. He died as a martyr when he was stoned in Arvad. He is buried there.

Shimon the Zealot- As reflected in his name, Shimon is remembered for one thing, his amazing passion for Torah. He ended his work in Georgia. Shimon was tortured and crucified by the pagans in Abkhazia Georgia.

Natanel Bar Talmai- Natanel bar Talmai was from a town called Endor. While taking the messianic message to India, an early non-Jewish believer named Pantaenus was told that the sheliach, Natanel Bar Talmai, had made students there before him and had given his disciples the besorah of Mattai (Levi) written in Hebrew. This book had been past down and was still treasured by the messianic community there. He continued to travel lived and worked as a Sheliach for 30 years, until Sanatruk Hursti, king of Armenia, crucified him in Urbianos. He is buried in Armenia.

Yehuda Iscariot- Yehudah Iscariot will forever be remembered as the student who gave his Master over to the Roman authorities. Traditionally his name Iscariot has been interpreted as referencing the town of Keriot. However, in more recent times some have speculated that the name implies an involvement with the Sicari. Perhaps most well known for their involvement with the standoff against the Romans at Massada, the Sicari were a group of extreme zealots. For the Sicari, G-d was the only ruler and they were willing to go to violent lengths to prove it. The name “Sicari,” “knife-men” is derived from the name of a small weapon carried under the coat. The Sicari were assassins, their single minded goal of freedom from Roman oppression lead members of this group to even kill other Jews whom submitted to Roman rule. Yehuda may have been so busy looking for redemption he couldn’t see what was right in front of him. Mashiach despised Roman leaders lording over his nation; nevertheless, the world was not ready for His rule. Yehuda Iscariot conspired with Sadducee priests and for a price of thirty pieces of silver handed Yeshua over to those who sought his life. Filled with remorse Yehuda hung himself. The place where he died became known as the field of blood.

2 comments:

Pastor Steven said...

Very interesting to hear about the lives of The Twelve, I enjoyed learning their Jewish names, not that I will remember them all. John (Yochanan) held a special place in the hearts of the Celtic church. He is often known as John the Theologian, I have always loved the mystical quality of his Gospel (besorot). Hope I used the word correctly.

Peace,

Steven

Tim Layne said...

I'm glad you liked it. I'll try to post about Miriam Magdala sometime soon.

I didn't know that about the Celtic church, although of all the churches they seem to have a pull towards the mystical.

PS. You almost got it. "Besorot" is the plural "besorah" is the singular, but now you'll know it forever :)

-Tim