Comparing the three verses below reveals a wealth of information about more than just who they were. List them and then match them up and this is what you will find:
Mary, mother of
James and Joses
Mary, mother of
James the Less and Joses
Mary, wife of
the Mother of
the sons of Zebedee
His mother’s sister
We learn that James and John’s mother was named Salome, and that she was Jesus’ aunt, his mother’s sister. This helps explain why John was so special to him (probably the baby cousin), and why James and John, and their business partner Peter, were so often by his side when the others were not. (But it leaves us wondering why Andrew, Peter’s brother, was not!)
It also shows that Aunt Salome wasn’t entirely out of line in expecting that her two sons, Jesus’ only blood relatives among the apostles, might be his first and second (lieutenants? Vice-presidents?) in the kingdom, and why Jesus gave the care of his mother to his youngest believing cousin. And that points out that Jesus considered the spiritual connection more important than the physical because at that time he had at least four brothers who could have cared for their mother, but none of them yet believed.
Try this one now: Look up every list of the apostles you find, even partial lists. Look up the meaning of names. It is amazing that Matthew the publican and Simon the Zealot could tolerate one another, and that points to the unifying power of the gospel. The apostles varied from blue collar fishermen to the more urbane Nathanael, who looked down on anyone from Galilee.
Almost all of them had two or even three names:
- Simon, Peter, Cephas
- Thomas, Didymus (“Twin,” which leaves you wondering where his brother was)
- Matthew, Levi
- Bartholomew, Nathanael (a presumption)
- Simon, Zelotes (more a description = Zealot)
- Thaddeus, Judas, Lebbaeus
Some of those names were Aramaic, some Hebrew, some Greek (I’ll let you look that up yourself). The Aramiac names were mostly translations from common Hebrew names.
- James = Jacob
- John = Jonah
- Simon = Simeon
- Judas = Judah
- Mary = Miriam (which explains why there were so many Marys.)
It’s actually pretty amazing what you can learn about those men when you gather the meager facts together, a whole lot more than you think, like where they came from, who their parents were, etc. I'll leave that one to you.