Q. What were the occupations of the 12 Apostles?
A. An apostle is one who is “sent forth.” Jesus called 12 men who were sent forth to continue his three-fold ministry of teaching, governing and sanctifying.
He commanded the apostles to preach the Gospel, which in its essence means for them to preach Jesus Christ, the fullness of revelation to the world. Jesus told these closest companions of his to “go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation” (Mk. 16:15). The apostles were given this privileged, unique relationship with Jesus, but they were not to keep it merely for themselves: they were to share the good news of Christ’s salvation with the whole world.
And the apostles did indeed preach the gospel, at the cost of their very lives. The apostles saw the risen Lord, and they preached Christ’s promise that those who follow him will share in his resurrection. Neither the sword nor the enticements of world would deter the apostles from what that knew and saw; that Jesus truly is risen!
The majority of the apostles were most likely fisherman. When Jesus was walking along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon (Peter) and his brother Andrew. Jesus even used fishing imagery as he called them saying, “Come after me and I will make you fishers of men” (Mt 4:19). Thereafter, Jesus called two other fishermen, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, as they were mending their nets. Thomas, Nathaniel, and Philip were also probably fishermen since Jesus, after the resurrection, appeared to them while they were fishing.
Matthew was a tax collector, an occupation that was often scorned because they sometimes charged taxpayers beyond what was required. They were also disliked by many because they were working for the Roman government. For Matthew to be a tax collector he would have needed considerable education. He was presumably a wealthy man given this high-level occupation.
Simon was known as the “zealot.” A zealot was not a profession, but a political group that wanted to overthrow the Roman government. Little is known of the occupation of Jude Thaddeus, James, the son of Alpheus, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus.
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